Friday, June 8, 2012

South Carolina ~ May/June 2012

We recently returned from an 11 night trip that took us 1,600 miles from Lakewood, OH to Marietta, OH to Mooresville, NC to Winnsboro, SC to Columbia, SC to Myrtle Beach, SC (back to) Columbia, SC and finally returning home to Lakewood, OH on Monday night. We spent a total of $50.00 on hotel rooms, slept in six different beds, visited with so many of Steve’s friends from USC, their wives and kids AND actually got to spend time at the pool and beach…Oh, we also managed to fit in Game 6 of the NCAA baseball Regional’s as well. No wonder I’m so tired!!

Taking our time to get to our vacation destination is a rarity for us, but with Memorial Day weekend occupancy and traffic, we decided it was in our best interest to arrive in Myrtle Beach on Monday.

And so it begins…

On Thursday night (5/24), Steve and I departed home and drove about 2 hours and 45 minutes on 77 South to Marietta, Ohio…the last exit before you enter West Virginia. We stopped at the Marietta Brewing Company where we enjoyed a quick dinner, a pitcher of beer, and witnessed Phillip Roebuck performing as the One Man Band! It was a pretty cool performance with an interesting audience.

With the use of only 7,500 Marriott points we checked into the Fairfield Inn for the night. The hotel is a mere one month old, so everything was notably nice and new…especially the treadmills! 

They were so nice; we couldn’t resist using them :) So we both ran a few miles in the morning before our spectacular free breakfast, complete with Belgian waffles, breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, etc.

 On Friday morning, we made the 4.5 hour trek on 77 South to Mooresville, NC. With another 7,500 Marriott points we checked into the Towneplace Suites. It was another nice hotel with a full kitchen, which we didn’t need other than to keep our snacks cold.

I had researched places to eat and found a good BBQ place just south of our hotel. Unbeknownst to us, there was a huge race in town at the Mooresville Raceway, so traffic heading south was not good and required patience, which I did not have :) When asked if we were in town for "the big race" I simply associated it with a marathon of some kind...Steve got a bit of a laugh out of that. I guess I don't have race car driving in my blood.

Anyway, as a result of my extensive research, I knew there was another place just North that would suite our needs just fine. Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse was where we enjoyed a beer sampler, chicken wings and a cheese steak wit onions and whiz…surprisingly very good, but will never compare to Jim’s in Philly.

On Saturday morning we enjoyed another run in the hotel fitness center and another free breakfast before heading to Charlotte to stop at a few places, including a second Duckworth’s location.

Now, why would we visit the same restaurant (although different location) twice? A free beer tasting of course! Yes, through my stupid (yet awesome) research, I read that the Duckworth’s in Charlotte offers a free beer tasting every Saturday at noon.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but decided to give it a try. We’re happy we did! We were given ten samples of a variety of craft beers from all over the world, including four from local North Carolina breweries. The “beer geek” simply chose several of his favorites and let us taste them. There was only one other patron taking part in the tasting, so we were happy with the individualized attention!

Next we stopped at the VBGB beer garden, voted Charlotte’s best new bar with a huge outdoor patio. A little bit of background on this place...Very few people have heard of the show “Drinking Made Easy” on HDnet. For obvious reasons, it is a favorite of mine and Steve’s. It’s a TV show where two friends travel around the country and go to popular or historical bars in different cities. We always talk about visiting the same bars they visit and now we finally have!!

As an avid follower of the show and it’s hosts of Facebook and Twitter, I gave it a try and tweeted this picture of Steve (wearing the shows t-shirt) in front of VBGB. Why would I tweet this? To be retweeted, of course! It worked and Zane Lamprey (the show’s host) retweeted my tweet to 45,000 other followers…I guess that makes Steve Schur famous or something.

Not only does VBGB feature 30 craft beers and imports on draft, their tap system guarantees beer delivered to your pint glass at 32 degrees…they also set your beer on a “frost rail” that’s 5 inches of ice going down the bar to keep that beer extra cold.

After a beer at VBGB, we drove about an hour South to Winnsboro, SC where we stayed on Lake Wateree with Cal, Keleigh, Caleigh and Dru Caldwell…along with John and Kerri Martin and their three girls. It was a full house with lots of great company.

Steve & Cal drinking O'Doul's and Busch NA...It was so nice of Cal to give Steve the superior of the non-alcoholic beers. What a guy.

Cal was kind enough to cook us his famous Beaufort Stew for dinner, which included lots of corn and sausage and eight pounds of shrimp…picked up fresh on Saturday morning in Charleston!



We went on a boat ride, watched the kids swim off the dock, sat around, shared stories (both old and new) and relaxed. It was a great time with great friends.

Our next stop was Columbia, SC where we stayed with Greg, Karen & Lauren Airasian. Greg & Steve grilled out and Lauren swam in the pool. It was great to catch up with them as it’s been over two years since we’ve seen them last.

On Monday morning, the Burritt’s (Steven, Edie, Kate & Sarah Jane) and Dietrich’s (Brian, Sandra, Sam & Aaron) stopped over for a fabulous breakfast prepared by Karen. It had been just as long since we’d seen any of them and the kids had a great time together.

Cal, Greg, Brian, Steve and Steven (Jon too...) all went to USC together, and although they live nine hours away, we are so happy to have the opportunity to see and catch up with them…even if it’s every two years!

I love this picture below.
Steve, Jon, Brian and Greg...University of South Carolina circa 1995

After several days of visiting with friends, it was time to hit the beach! Only 2.5 hours away from Columbia, we made our way to Paul & Sue’s condo in Myrtle Beach. We always love the time we spend there, regardless of when we go for how long. We were excited to visit some of our favorite places, sit at the pool & beach and RELAX!

Of course, our first stop was the pool. There was a lot of talk about tropical depression Beryl making it’s way up the Atlantic coast so we wanted to get as much sun as we could. For dinner, we went to The Flying Fish. We have visited this place on many occasions, but last year I had shrimp and grits that were incredibly memorable…so memorable that we haven’t stopped talking about them a year later. Just as we remembered, they were excellent!

On Tuesday, we woke up early with more talk of this tropical depression. This picture is what I found on Tuesday morning as it was approaching Savannah. We knew it was moving slow, but couldn't predict how much more time we we headed out to the pool at 8:30 am and decided to wait it out!

Time passed...we ate lunch...went back to the pool...and still nothing. By this time, we were both a little burnt, so we decided to head over to New South Brewing for a brewery tour. What better way to spend an afternoon than with a few beer samples?

For dinner we went to out favorite MB restaurant (California Dreaming) and enjoyed our favorite meal (house salad & wings) and as much as we talk about getting something more...we just can't resist and it's perfectly delicious and perfectly filling.

After dinner, we stopped in at the Embassy for a drink and watched as the waves started to come in from the storm, but still no rain. When we woke up on Wednesday morning, this is the rain forecast we saw. The storm was nearly through as was not nearly as big as expected. 

On Wednesday night, we ate another salad & wing dinner at California Dreaming before heading back to watch the NBA Playoffs and calling it a night.

On Thursday, we were expecting a very special guest to arrive. Our friend Jon left home (Alexandria, VA) at 4 am and was making the drive to stay with us. We had big plans for him during his stay, including another visit to the New South Brewery.

Since were now considered V.I.P., we had the shortened tour where we received samples and growler refills.

That night, we made our regular stops at Chuck's, Zulu Lounge and The Office.

On Friday we spent a lot of time at the pool. The question of the day... What exactly does this sign request? No martini's, bottles of wine or cocktails at the pool? Or simply no glassware?

Dinner took us to where else?? California Dreaming, of course!

On Saturday, Greg Airasian met us out for a couple of drinks as he, Karen & Lauren had arrived that afternoon to stay with family. Stops at Barons, Bimini's and Backyard were on the itinerary.

We thought oyster shooters at Bimini's were a great idea! By the way, am I really this short...really?

After we parted ways with Greg, we had to make one final stop...A trip to Myrtle Beach isn't complete without a car bomb at Finn McCool's.

Our original itinerary had us leaving for home on Sunday morning, but that changed at some point during the previous few days. Itineraries often change when we get together with Jon. It could be a great idea or a terrible idea, but it's always a fun idea!

The NCAA baseball regionals were being played in Columbia and the two-time defending champions (South Carolina) were hosting. There was a 4 pm game scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Jon and Steve really thought it would be pretty awesome to go (I didn't argue)...We pondered buying the $20 tickets, but what if USC lost the next 2 games (double elimination)?? We'd be stuck watching Manhatten, Clemson or Coastal Carolina. That would not be very awesome.

After a few drinks, Jon & Steve argeed there was NO WAY Carolina would lose two straight. So, we went ahead and bought the tickets. Carolina was scheduled to play Clemson on Saturday night at 7 pm. With a win, Carolina would be guaranteed to play in that 4 pm game. They were scared and they were really really scared when the game went into extra innings.

In the end, they were relieved and happy when the Gamecocks won with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th. We were headed to Columbia and we wouldn't be watching someone else!

I found an great rate at the Courtyard Marriott adjacent to the USC campus. It was very close to the game and I knew Jon and Steve would have a great time reminiscing about their college days. As we drove through their old stomping grounds, we found a newer place that Steve and I had seen on Diners, Drive Ins & Dives. We remembered hearing they had amazing burgers!

We were right. Jon ordered the Isle of Palms (burger with housemade pimento cheese and jalapeno bacon) while Steve and I shared the Fripp Island (burger with southern salsa, boursin cheese and a fried green tomato). While both were delicious, I'd go back and get the Isle of Palms every time.

As we ate, we watched as Clemson beat Coastal Carolina in the noon game, then knew it was time to head over to the field. We couldn't have asked for a better match-up. Carolina would be facing their biggest rival, the Clemson Tigers.

Most of you probably didn't know that South Carolina Baseball is the two-time defending National Champions. They are and Carolina Stadium opened in 2009 and is considered one of the best in college baseball. We were lucky to get tickets as we watched in front of a sellout crowd of 8,242.

The Gamecocks came out strong with 3 runs in the first inning and pushed it's lead to 4-0 in the top of the sixth. Clemson scored 2 runs in the bottom of the sixth and made things interesting in the ninth by pulling to within 4-3 on a two-out RBI single. Clemson panicked the crowd with a hit deep into right, but luckily it wasn't out of the park. It was a fly out to right to end the game and send the Gamecocks to the Super Regional.

Boiled peanuts? Guaranteed worst in town!

The victory was the Gamecocks' NCAA-record 19th consecutive postseason win. Carolina has now won 22 straight postseason games at home.

We were really happy to add this spontaneity to the end of our trip. It was great weather and we got to see the two-time defending champions win their Regional.
Good times.

After the game, we headed to Pearlz Oyster Bar to get some dinner and another oyster shooter. I'm not sure what got into us this trip...oyster shooters? Whatever. They were cheap and quite good.

When we woke up on Monday morning, we were so sad! Not only was our trip finally coming to an end, but we also had a 9 hour drive ahead of us...and we were tired. We stopped at the Mellow Mushroom for lunch before saying goodbye.

Steve and I have been at our jobs for 17 and 10 years, respectively. With years come more vacation time so we accumulate/earn our vacation days and never want them to go to waste :) We use the basketball off-season to our advantage! This wasn't a trip that we had planned for very long (on my standards) but we both had the opportunity to get away and some vacation days to burn. WE ARE SO GLAD WE DID! We can't say enough about how great it is to catch up friends, spend time together and relax.

It's truly a life that I love living.

It's back to work until our next trip...Live Aqua Cancun! My craziest trip planning & the best deal I think I'll ever find (hopefully not!) Beginning July 15th we'll be at the all-inclusive, adults-only, little piece of paradise for two weeks to celebrate our six-year anniversary. Thinking about that will surely make these next 5 weeks fly by!

Until Then...Stay Happy.

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