Its finally time for our getaway to Florida. This has been such a long, cold snowy winter. I’m very tired of it all and can’t wait to be somewhere warmer without snow and ice.
Lee has to do some serious planning/packing of the car because this time we will be down there for a month, and instead of two dogs we have three. We have two bikes, the dog trailer, and we decide to bring a crate, because we don’t know how Heather will behave in a hotel room. I’m a little worried about her. She has been on a long car ride before, but when Diane goes to Florida she drives straight through, and we like to stop and take our time. There are a lot of new experiences in store for Heather!
We leave New Hampshire on Wednesday, February 25th. Our plan is to take three days to drive to Charleston, spend a couple of days there, and then drive the rest of the way to Safety Harbor. The car is packed, the dogs are in their halters and secured in the back seat. Lee starts car, nothing happens. He turns the key again and this time it starts, sluggishly. It acts like the battery has been drained. It needs a few minutes to get going, and there is a faint electrical smell. Now the check engine light is on. Shoot, what is going on? But we drive over to our wonderful BMW mechanic at Cars, Inc. in Salem. He is really nice, plugs the computer diagnostic machine into the car right away. It doesn’t show any faults. He resets it, turns car off and back on and everything is fine. He thinks its from it sitting around a couple of days while Lee was packing in very very cold weather.
Relieved, we get on the highway and resume our journey. Lee’s elaborate saran wrap protection for the bikes comes unraveled almost immediately and starts flapping madly behind the car. So we stop a couple of times, first for him to try to get it to stay better, and finally to give up and cut it off.
Finally we’re on our way. We stop once to give dogs a break, eat lunch in the car, and make it to Philly by 4 pm. We stay at the Monaco Hotel again. Kimptons are so nice, and very dog friendly. We walk the dogs in the park by Independence Hall, and then tuck them into our room before we go to dinner at Kannella’s again. So far Heather is doing great. She is interested in all the people and has no problem with the traffic, not even the city buses, which Harper still dislikes.
The next day its on to Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It is still very cold, in the 20’s, and there is still snow on the ground, just not three feet of the stuff. We stay at a Residence Inn, the same place we stayed last year. The people are really nice but the hotel is pretty worn out. But who cares, we just need a dog-friendly place to stay.
After a quick run in the morning its on to Charleston. There is still snow on the ground at least 50 miles into South Carolina, and then suddenly it seems, the ground is bare. When we stop for lunch I put my keys on top of the car while getting the dogs back into the car. As we are driving off I hear a clunk. “What’s that?” I say. Lee says “I don’t know.” Then we hear a rattle and another clunk. Lee says “did you leave anything on top of the car?” and I remember.
Damn! We circle around to see if we can find the key. We know approximately where it was lost since we heard it fall off the car. Lee is upset and so am I. We park and walk along the rest area exit ramp. Lee finds my keyring but the key is gone. Rats. He thinks it probably got picked up in the tire of an 18 wheeler and flung God knows where. Nothing to be done, and BMW keys are expensive. Unfortunately my Hong Kong keyring is trashed.
Its still cold, 30’s and low 40’s. We’re looking forward to the b&b where we will be spending the night, Cabell House. We stayed here last year and it was fun, dog friendly, with free wine. We arrive, park the car, walk up to the front door and ring the bell. No answer. I ring it again. No answer. I call their phone. No answer. I walk around back. There is some kind of construction going on. I look at the house more closely. The place is EMPTY! Cabell House is closed, gone. We stand there for a few minutes in shock, unsure what we should do. A nice man walks by and we talk to him. Yep they sold it, took our deposit money and fled the coop. So strange! Now its 4 pm on a Friday night in Charleston, South Carolina and where are we going to stay with 3 dogs???
The neighboring b&b lets us come in, and tries to help. They don’t have any vacancies, but they try to make some suggestions. We call places but either they don’t have a room, or they don’t take dogs, or both. We finally give up and end up at a La Quinta across the river from downtown. Its old and worn; not the experience we were looking for but at least we’re not sleeping in the car.
Unfortunately the La Quinta is not walkable to downtown so we have to either take a taxi or Uber every time we go into Charleston. For dinner at Magnolia’s that night, we take a taxi recommended by the hotel. He’s a nice guy that seems to have a fleet of drivers at his beck and call. Sometimes calling him works great and sometimes he doesn't have anyone available. Sometimes Uber is a good option, and sometimes their surge pricing kicks in and they are suddenly twice as much as a taxi. We still end up saving a lot of money over what the b&b would have cost even with all the taxi/Uber rides. I call my credit card company to dispute the charge for the deposit on the b&b and eventually we’ll even get that back.
|A Very Good Manhattan at Magnolia's|
The next day I’ve signed us up for a walking tour of Charleston. There are many many options, but I end up choosing The History of Charleston Walking Tour with Anne Middleton, http://www.charlestonwalkingtours.net. Anne is a lot of fun. She really knows the city. She comes from 13 generations of Charlestonians and can tell all kinds of stories about growing up in Charleston and playing along their streets when she was a little girl. The tour is great, but unfortunately it is FREEZING, barely in the 40’s with a howling wind. We learn about the founding of the city, the original walls, the alleys where she played as a little girl. We learn about how the city was bombarded during the civil war. and see the beautiful antebellum houses along the coast. She walks us past the slave trade center. She says that up until about 10 years ago tour guides would go out of their way to avoid talking about slavery. She said that the change in attitudes has been helpful for both the descendants of slaves and descendants of slaveowners. Facing the truth is always better than silence and shame. It made me think of Germany and how the Germans have confronted their collective guilt and moved beyond it.
It takes a large hot chocolate to warm us up afterward. Dinner is at Slightly North of Broad that night, otherwise known as SNOB. I think the food is better than Magnolias, and the room itself is beautiful, but the service isn’t as good. Or maybe its just that I'm hungry, who knows.....
The next day we pack up the car and head south one last time. We agree that we are glad we’ve seen Charleston, but have kind of gotten it out of our system. Its time to get to Florida and some real warm weather!