Coffee and ghosts

I was up early…well early for me anyway.  It was almost cold compared to the day before and there was the constant threat of rain so the dogs had a really quick pee break outside before I wandered down to the breakfast.  Notes were plastered everywhere that said food couldn’t be taken out of the dining area.  Ugh.  I scanned the offerings and was rather disappointed with the selection.  There wasn’t even a banana or peanut butter for a waffle-wich.  I wasn’t too upset since I had better breakfast plans anyway (insert excited giggling and hopping here).

While I was tempted to stop in Charleston, I decided on a different course and booked a room through Airbnb before we left while I had access to wifi.  It was going to be the first time I stayed at one, though not the first I had ever booked which I will explain later.  I’ve never been a big fan of B & B’s but once I looked at the cost of hotels where I wanted to spend the night, well the choice was a simple one.

The dogs had long since finished their breakfasts by the time I got everything packed up and we were soon back in the car.  But not for long.  I was being pulled towards my destiny.  And in that destiny was a MOTHMAN!!!  If you’re new to this amazing beverage, it’s one of the specialties of The Chocolate Moose in Beckley.  I got HOOKED on them when we passed through earlier this year.  It’s coffee and chocolate and cinnamon and cayenne pepper and whipped cream and O!  M!  G!!!  I’ve been experimenting with making them at home but this…this is just soooooo good.  It must have looked like I was in one of those old coffee commercials once I sat back in the car.  Just picture it: both hands wrapped around the cup, that happy little smile with eyes closed as I took that first tiny little sip.  And the whole wheat berry muffin was really good too.  But really it was just filler.  The mothman was the main star.

We didn’t do too many walks since Piper and Jack were both a little sore from all the hiking the day before.  We stopped at a few rest areas to stretch out before we were back in the car.  That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of photo ops and of course they met with their legions of adoring fans.  I am always surprised at how many people had boxers or pugs and how many think Leo is a Frenchie (he’s a Boston Terrier by the way).

It was a little after 5:00 pm by the time we rolled into our Airbnb in the Rincon area at the top end of Savannah, Georgia.  I met with one of our hosts, unloaded some of the gear, and drove downtown.

We wandered a bit to kill some time and stopped at Zunzi’s for a sandwich.  They have a massive patio and not only are the dogs allowed on the patio, when I went to the walk-up order bar, they were actually allowed inside just as long as they stayed on my side of the counter.  Wow.  But that’s not all.  They got a container of chicken for themselves and I got some of their rooiboos iced tea on the house.  Wow wow wow.  I ordered the conquistador sandwich which is their roasted chicken on on bun with sauce and lettuce (hold the tomatoes please).  When I took my stack of containers to the patio, I had one woman sit down with me so she could feed the dogs and another gave me a half of her sandwich that she was going to throw out to feed to the dogs.  All the attention was a little overwhelming.  Finally they left and I was able to eat my sandwich.  It was good but the food was far overshadowed by the customer service.

Then we went to Chippewa Square.  We were going to do another ghost tour.  I mean the one in Charleston was so much fun, and Savannah is supposed to be the most haunted city in the United States so we HAD to go on a tour.  I didn’t sign up before we left so I just went to the square as per the website for 9:00 and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  I left after some other people that were looking for their tour group but it turned out they were with another tour operator.  On a hunch, I went back to where I had been and saw a bunch more people waiting so I guess what was on the site was off by a bit.  I also noticed they were carrying cups.  Hmmmmm I didn’t know this before but Savannah lets you carry drinks in plastic containers.  That may have had something to do with all the drunken shenanigans I heard going on.  There’s nothing quite like that alcohol-fuelled squeal echoing off building walls.  There were also these bizarre contraptions that were being driven around.  The only way to describe them is as a covered bar with people seated around it and they pedal it.  It’s like those long tandem bikes but around a table with a cover.  And even those drunkards would yell “puppies” when they saw the dogs.  Ugh.

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Waiting for the tour.

Unlike most cities I have been to, Savannah has squares all over the place.  It seems like there’s a different square complete with statues or monuments every few blocks.  They are pretty but if you’re used to only having to navigate by one or two, it can throw you off.   It has a very different feel from Charleston; a grittier, partier version.

The tour guides from Blue Orb Tours showed up and had no problems with letting me tag along.  Because it was such a large group, their were two guides and I went with Adam.  First, he was a great guide and had lots of interesting stories and was a very good speaker.  His style was dramatic but also with a good bit of sarcastic humour.  At some stops, he would show a tablet with photos or video or audio.  Whether you believe or think it’s just the power of suggestion, I would definitely recommend taking the tour, if only for the juicy stories from the past.

On one stop at a square, Adam told us how they used to talk in front of a staircase to the house across the street but there were times when women, always women, described getting “groped” and said they would wait if anyone wanted check it out.  There were nervous looks around the group and a lot of feet shuffling.  Aw heck so I took up the leashes and we walked across the street where we were joined by almost every woman in the group.  We waited but no one got groped.  Or no one admitted to getting groped any way.

The dogs were amazing for the entire tour.  At every stop, they would flop down and wait patiently until we headed out.  They had so many compliments about how well-behaved they were I could not have been prouder.  They still got lots of attention on the tour and I think some people that were really uneasy would sit by them to either ground themselves or to be distracted.

Did we see anything?  Not really.  There were a few places where I had bit of tightening in my chest but I just chalk that up to the stories that say there’s something going on.  The last stop on the tour was at the Sorrel Weed House which is supposed to be the most active house in the United States.  One window on the second floor was open and a ceiling fan inside was turning very slowly.  Then it would stop and turn again.  I was taking photos and noticed that sometimes the fan was spinning very quickly.  The logical part of my brain said that since the window was open, the fan was spinning because of warm air rising from the hot concrete.  The not so logical part of my brain…well that was coming up with all kinds of other stories.  The dogs hardly reacted to anything so they are either really lousy ghost hunters or nothing was there to hunt.

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Love the Spanish moss. Oh and the super haunted square.

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Lonely streets

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See that open window on the top left? That’s the one with the fan…

After such a busy day, it was all we could do to get to our place for the night.  I was so tired I just fell into bed and passed right out.

Southward Bound

Starting Mileage: 994.0 km

I had a very good sleep.  When I woke up I had Jack on the pillow next to me, Leo had slipped under the blankets and was tucked up against my legs, and Piper’s head was laying on my chest.  Somehow we almost always end up snuggling and when I try to get up, Piper pushes me down with her head and sometimes puts her leg across me as well.  I try to oblige the cuddles for as along as I can but eventually the road, and a rumbling tummy, forces us up.

As the Travelodge had a free breakfast, I did not have to go looking for food but I know from experience that hotel coffee is usually horrendous.  So I collected the dogs for our morning walk which somehow took us down the road to the Chocolate Moose.  As we walked past the embankment from last night, I had to shake my head.  It looked so much worse in the day light.  And then we were past the slippery slope and soon found ourselves at the Chocolate Moose.  Not only is it a coffee shop, but there’s also a climbing gym and mini golf.  Awesome.cm

I stood and stared at the menu for a while making small talk with the gentleman that I can only assume is the owner.  Finally I decided on The Mothman.  One sip and I knew I was hooked.  For life.  Coffee and chocolate and cinnamon and cayenne and whipped cream and OH MY!  I greedily gulped it down as the dogs sniffed this way and that on the way back to the hotel.

Oh and the back door that I had mentioned the night before?  Still unlocked.  The latch was embedded inside the lock so it could not be secured even when I hauled on it (which I had done last night as well).

I poured food out for the dogs then went to the breakfast area.  It was actually slightly better than I had expected but still your standard breakfast set-up: a waffle station, cereals, muffins, bagels, oatmeal, spreads, and juices, coffee, and tea.  I was disappointed that the only fruit offered were apples so I had to forgo my standard peanut butter and banana waffle-wich.  Oh well.  I made up a waffle, grabbed some grape jelly and an apple, then went back to the room.

On a side note: I love the waffle machines that hotels have.  You dispense a measured quantity of batter into a cup, then spray non-stick spray onto the waffle iron.  Pour out the batter, flip the iron and wait for the beep.  That beep tells you that your waffle is golden brown and waiting for whatever toppings you have.  For some reason, the flip makes it fun.

As I ate, I charted our route.  I’ve never been to Charleston, South Carolina so I figured that this trip, I would change that.  When I left home, I hadn’t decided if it was our end point but it would definitely be a stop that we would make.  I had heard of an app called BringFido, and for some reason, this trip was the first time I actually remembered it.  It lists dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions, parks; all kinds of things to do with dogs.  So when I looked up Charleston, I noticed that there were plenty of things for a girl and her dogs to do.  One item in particular called to me and I booked my spot for that evening.  I also booked a hotel for not just one night but two.  We were going to stay put for more than one night!  And in a city!  How out of character.

With food in our bellies, I packed the dogs into the car then went to check out.  Remember that bit about the door?  OK here’s where it gets important.  I’m checking out with the assistant manager and first mention that when I booked the room, there was both a pet fee and pet deposit listed.  She told me that it was a fee.  I suggested that someone should fix that and she seemed confused until I explained that it’s conflicting information.  And then I mention the door being left unlocked.  Well she insists that it’s always locked.  Noooooooo and then I tell her that it’s open right now.  Well she calls the maintenance man to tell me that it’s locked.  I’m thinking to myself (thank goodness for the inside voice although I guess typing it now is kind of an outside voice) that it’s unlocked now and she can go and check if she wants.  No she insists that it’s always locked.

Well the maintenance man comes around and says that it’s unlocked until he locks it with a key.  This goes back and forth for a while because I think we’re all trying to explain something different.  Then finally he says that it’s unlocked until around midnight but he wasn’t working last night so he can’t say for sure but the person working last night would have locked it.  Then assistant manager makes it sound like that was what she was trying to say all along and I just shrugged my shoulders and left.  Was it a horrible place to stay?  No.  Would I stay there again?  After the song and dance routine I had to go through I would rather avoid it.  Granted if someone really wanted into the hotel, they will find a way but let’s not make it so easy.

Fighting the urge for another Mothman, I jumped back onto the interstate and headed south.  I had business in Charlotte you see.  Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I LOVE Alton Brown and his series “Feasting on Asphalt”.  If you haven’t watched it, you have to watch it.  Long story short, there are two seasons to the show: the first where he and his cohorts drive across the United States to see if authentic road food still exists.  The second season, they follow the Mississippi River.  So in the first season, one place they stopped at was the South 21 Drive-In in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Well we were going through Charlotte so I figured it as a no-brainer.

After taking a quick peek at BringFido, I found a dog park in Charlotte so the dogs could have a romp and we ended up at Frazier Park.  There are two spacious, and fenced, areas.  In fact, one area was huuuuuuuge.  There were a few other dogs in there and I brought then dogs into the space between two gates and let them sniff through the fence to see if there was going to be any tension.  Piper can be a bit…let’s say…difficult sometimes when meeting new dogs.  With lots of tail (and stump) wagging and excited licks through the fence, I let them loose.

If you’ve never watched dogs run loose in a new area, it is something that will make you smile.  They ran and jumped and chased around.  OK Jack didn’t really do that.  He waddled but it was still fun to watch him explore this new area.

I walked back and forth a few times until the dogs stayed close to me.  Jack pretty much went to where the gate was and waited for us to get close.  There were lots of balls left in there and I threw them for Leo and once he picked one up, I would grab another to throw and he’d chase after that one.  It’s a game that gets him tired quickly.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, a new dog came into entry area.  She was a little pitbull with the most stunning colour pattern I have ever seen: like a tan harlequin but different.  Anyway, when the owner opened up the inner gate a bunch of dogs rushed in, Piper being one of them.  The poor new dog ended up getting squished between the gate and fence and she protested, and rightfully so.  Well Piper decided to yell back at her and when Piper barks and kind of pounces, well she looks vicious.  When I saw the crush of dogs, I started moving to the gate but I wasn’t fast enough to call Piper back before the tiff started.  I was worried that with so many dogs in such a small space it would escalate into a full-on dog fight.  Fortunately it did not.  I tried to chat with the owner of the other dog but she wasn’t having any of it.  I get it and I don’t blame her.  On another side note: I love pitbulls.  They are wonderful dogs that unfortunately have gotten a bad name because of some bad owners.  Yes they can be aggressive and yes there are a certain kind of person that will bring out all of the negative aspects of the breed  And yes part of what makes them awesome is also what makes then (potentially) dangerous.  But I have never met a pitbull that was aggressive to humans or dogs.  I’ve been bitten by lots of other breeds from tiny chihuahuas to German Shepards.  In fact, my brother has a massive scar on his face when he was bitten by a Doberman/German Shepard cross.  I have one from a St. Bernard cross right underneath my eye.

So once everyone calmed down and had one more lap around the park, I took the dogs back to the car.  It was hot.  It was so hot.  I was glad that I had worn my convertible pants as I unzipped the lower legs and changed from my Blundstone boots to short socks and running shoes.  So this is what summer feels like.  I had forgotten what summer felt like.  Hello summer my old friend.

With clothing all sorted out, we drove to the South 21 Drive-in which was less than 15 minutes away.  I’ll admit that I had never been to a drive-in diner before but it was just like I had seen on TV: car stalls with little speakers and a tray table. Some of the stalls had picnic tables in them.  Perfect.

I hurriedly studied the menu that was posted and then pressed the button to place my order.  I thought that a Super Boy (double patty with no tomato or onion and yes I would like cheese please), an order of onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake, oh and a big cup of ice water, would be a good way to experience this establishment.  I brought the dogs out of the car and was just getting their bowl when the food appeared.  I dumped out some of the ice water into their bowl before I tucked into my burger.  It was good in an old-school diner kind of way.  And what I mean is that it is like the giant fast food chains but it actually has flavour to it.  Now I have quite the appetite so I hardly felt that it was “A meal in itself” as the menu had promised but it was good.  I will say, that while the milkshake was thick and chocolately, the best part were the onion rings.  I was a little disappointed that there were only, like, six to an order, but they were a very good six onion rings.  I’m sure they were fried but there was none of the greasiness that usually comes with fried food.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were baked.  And of course the dogs had tiny pieces of the patty just to see if they liked it.  They did.  Then back in the car.

Because we didn’t have to be in Charleston until later in the evening, I decided to take the back roads between Charlotte and Charleston and it was almost 8:00 pm before I checked into the Red Roof Inn in North Charleston.  The dogs had some water and were offered food, which they ignored, and we took a quick stroll.  Some places have designated pet areas with poop bag dispensers and garbage cans.  Some just have a sign on a grassy place for pets.  This had neither.  Narrow strips of grass surrounded the property and in some parts, you could barely see the grass through the poop.  It’s not the hotel’s fault but it is unpleasant and makes me mad that people can’t clean up after their pets because it looks bad on the rest of us.

Back in the car for the drive downtown.  I plugged the address into my phone and let it tell me where to go.  The directions were simple but for some reason, what the phone calls streets and what the signs on the streets say are sometimes different.  And I missed a turn somewhere.  I wasn’t sure about it until I noticed that I was driving through a somewhat sketchy area.  Hmmmmmm dark parking lot and several high-end cars parked in an industrial area…It took me a little bit to figure out where to go but soon, we were in downtown Charleston.

My first impression?  Gorgeous.  Historic buildings, clean streets, just lovely.  I parked the car and since we had an hour to burn, we walked around a little.  I was a bit peckish and was looking for somewhere to grab a snack.  Then I got distracted looking at the scenery and forgot I was hungry until it was time to go back to Washington Park for our Ghost Tour.  That’s right.  We went on a Ghost Tour.

Our walk was through Old Charleston Tours and was 90 minutes of walking around downtown Charleston with our guide, Mike Brown, who also has a podcast series.  It was highly entertaining and he is a very engaging speaker.  For $20.00 USD, it was a great way to spend time with the dogs.  And they were so well behaved, sitting or laying down at our stops, when they weren’t getting attention from others on the tour or passersby.  We didn’t see any ghosts but we did have a wonderful time.

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Jack is not possessed. I hope.

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Did anyone tell the ghosts that?

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I love iron fences.

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No filter needed.

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Yup iron and trees.

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A theatre we passed.

After the tour, I walked around for a few more minutes to take some photos.  I was surprised at how empty the streets were even for a Tuesday night.  I think we were the only ones left out.  I drove back to the hotel (without taking the scenic route) and realized that I was STARVING.  I set out trying to find something within walking distance that was not a chain restaurant but to no avail.  Turns out, there was a diner back down the road that we had passed on the way to the hotel.

So back in the car we went to Nick’s Gyros and Philly’s.  I decided to go through the drive thru and when I got to the speaker, I ordered the chicken gyro.  Anything else?  My brain said a salad but my mouth said “shrimp po boy” before I really even knew what a shrimp po boy was.  Well it’s a sandwich roll with provolone cheese, lettuce, and sauce.  Oh yes.  When I pulled up to the window, the man working there saw Leo looking out the window and started talking to him: “hey buddy this isn’t for you” with a big smile.  OK anyone who talks to my dogs like they’re people gets big respect from me.

I tried eating the gyro in the car but it was a bit soupier than I normally like.  It was still almost gone by the time I got us back to the room.  I wasn’t sure if the po boy was a good idea but after the gyro, I was still hungry so I was glad that I got it after all because I was stuffed by the time I finished.

With the dogs sprawled out around me, I slid and twisted my way under the blankets after a very long and fun day.