As we were cruising up I-95 on the way to Myrtle Beach, we kept seeing huge billboards for a roadside attraction called South of the Border. Some signs were stupid, some were cheesy, and some made us laugh out loud much longer than they should have. I think we were delirious from all the time in the car. We don't have many billboards in Washington and probably saw a hundred signs for this place. When we were leaving Wilmington, we decided that we had to adjust our route so we could stop at this crazy tourist trap on the way to Charleston.
South of the Border's main purpose is gas station and rest area, but since it opened in 1950, it has grown to a square mile in size and now has restaurants, a motel, a campground, fireworks stands, many shops, a small amusement park, and a reptile zoo. You can even take a ride in the glass elevator to the top of the Sombrero Tower. It's totally campy and kitschy and ridiculous. I think we would have enjoyed it a lot more if it wasn't completely dead. The lack of other customers gave it a real creepy vibe, especially with the mariachi music echoing in the background. It was also really cold and windy outside, so we didn't spend as much time as we could have checking out this place.
After a three-hour drive, we ended up at Mt. Pleasant Memorial Park, under the Ravenel Bridge. Again, it was only 45 degrees, so we didn't spend too much time outside. We power walked to the end of the pier to see Charleston Harbor and strolled through the war memorial. It was a really pretty park that would have been awesome on a sunny day.
We crossed the bridge, went into historic Charleston, and walked through Waterfront Park, which I fell completely in love with. The 12-acre park has palm trees lining the boardwalk, a huge lawn, oak tree lined sidewalks which create a canopy for the benches, a few wading fountains, and a pier with porch swings! It was adorable. Again, I wish it was warmer because we could have spent all day there, but we were in pain from the wind and rain so we left.
We walked downtown a little ways to get out of the wind and realized nothing was open. It was only four o'clock in the afternoon and we couldn't figure out why it was so dead. We finally came across signs on the doors of various museums, galleries, and restaurants that said they all closed early due to inclement weather. What weather? It was cold and sprinkling, but it wasn't dangerous! Nothing was open. We were perplexed.
We got in the car and drove to the Citadel. It's a state-funded university and one of the six senior military colleges in the country. The campus is made up of 27 buildings surrounding a 10-acre grass parade ground, and it's always open to the public. It was so cool to walk around and take in historic buildings, like the Summerall Chapel and Howie Bell Tower, as well as the monuments to the armed forces on the parade ground. If you ever visit, try to go on a Friday to watch the parade.
After the Citadel, we grabbed food from Ye Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Sandwiches, then checked into the hotel to defrost. When we turned on the TV there were constant emergency alerts, saying there was a freezing rain watch and schools, government buildings, and offices would be closed the following day. But...but...the weather reported a low of 38 degrees. Didn't they realize it has to be 32 degrees for ice? We were still so confused.
The next morning, we enjoyed free breakfast at our hotel where they had a South Carolina shaped waffle maker! Then we took a Gray Line tour from a heated minibus. (By the way, there was zero ice. Our tour guide explained that they had a major ice storm last year and they were paranoid about a repeat). The houses we saw throughout the city were unbelievable. After the tour, we wandered around some historic churches and cemeteries, walked through the French Quarter, then made our way to Rainbow Row to see the pastel homes of the 1930s. We ended the day with a stop at City Market, which was totally empty. No one wanted to sell their goods in the cold, open-air buildings. Bummer.
As we walked down King Street, looking for a snack and hot cocoa before heading to the airport, I got a text telling me our flights were cancelled. Apparently Atlanta had some ice and that's where our connecting flight was. We were rescheduled for the following morning. We ducked into an ice cream shop so I could call the airline, hotel, rental car company, my mom, and Jacob to figure out this change of plans. After that was settled, we really couldn't figure out what to do. Nothing was open! We couldn't visit a plantation, the ferry to Fort Sumter wasn't running, and most museums were closed. Plus, we were too cold to wander around outside. So we grabbed an early dinner at Brown Dog Deli then checked into our hotel. We ended up going to Target and a movie that night. Ha! We set our alarms for 4:30 am so we could spend the following day traveling back home. Thankfully none of our flights were cancelled or delayed.
All in all, I had a really good time on this trip. I got to see parts of the country I've always wanted to see. Every single person we encountered was super friendly and kind. I wasn't counting on such cold temperatures, but it was a freak weather incident and nothing I could have planned better for. The normal range is 65-70 degrees this time of year! Carrie and I had fun driving around in our teeny red rental car and made some good memories.