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Thanksgiving Charleston 2007
(Click on the images for a larger version.)
Charleston SC amtrak station
We arrived in Charleston, SC early in the morning on the overnight train from Washington DC. As you can see from the station's train schedule, this is quite a busy station. Two trains a day going north and two trains a day going south.
Charleston SC amtrak station outside
Ilaria and I were only spending the day in Charleston, because we had a train in the evening to take us to Savannah where my family would pick us up.

Our first mission was to find a place to stash our bags. They didn't have a proper place for storing baggage, but in typical kind Southern fashion, the amtrak employees at the station found a nice secure location where we could store our bags for free. They also told us that the bus into town left from a sketchy neighborhood so we should wait at the train station until light before walking to the bus stop (unlike European cities and large US cities, the train stations in these southern towns are often way outside the city center for some reason).
Don Charleston SC train
So we sat and waited; and before long we met Don.

Don was one of many friendly Southern folks that started long conversations with us on our journey. Since we had a couple hours to kill it was nice to have someone to chat with.

Don was an interesting guy. He seemed to spend an extremely large amount of his time hanging out in this Charleston, SC train station. Don took a liking to me because I was from the South and because my family is all Lutherans like he is. He was a bit too far on the old Southern racist side of things as far as that goes (you can see he's wearing civil war pants), and some folks might find him a little strange, but he and I got along real good for those two hours in that small place in the world to the point where Don offered Ilaria and I a ride to downtown Charleston, so we wouldn't have to take the long bus ride.

I was a little nervous about the idea, but decided it would be alright.
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So we went out to Don's old beat up Camry. I was slightly nervous about the whole thing; mainly I was concerned with how this dude would drive, but he warned us that he drived real slow. So I figured if he was a bad driver and hit something, at least we wouldn't be moving fast.

However, both Ilaria and I both got a little more nervous when we got inside the car and realized there weren't any door handles to get out! That's right, for some reason this car had all of the inside door handles ripped out.

With my growing concern, I decided I'd better bring this fact to Don's attention before he started the car and drove us captives away. With my old southern accent I said, "ya know, you ain't got no door handles in this car"? Don said, "Oh, you just got to reach out the window and open the door from the outside". I made sure I could actually open my window, and we were good to go.
Don charleston SC ride
Don took us to downtown the long, scenic route stopping in front of every church he'd ever sat in to show it to us. He was certainly truthful in telling us that he drove slow. He also had a strong sensitivity to the morning sunrise that caused him to drive chaotically whenever the sun wasn't hidden by a building or trees. I'm not sure how he's driving around these days when I'm not in his car to let him know he's about to drive off the road.

After a long while, we were in downtown Charleston and it was time to say goodbye to Don.

Thanks for the ride and all the stories Don!
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Charleston, SC -- founded way back in the sixteen-hundreds -- was the fifth largest city in America. The city rose to prominence as the largest port in the South.

Since the South's defeat in the civil war, the city has transitioned into its new role as a tourist town that allows folks to come see the old Southern style.

My first goal in Charleston was to find a good
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Southern breakfast (umm, you can't get ham for breakfast in them Yankee states).
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Not much was open, but the place we found open did have a good breakfast.
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Everything was closed in the morning. While walking around the ghost town of Charleston, we bumped into Tom who convinced us to go to one of those timeshare dealers that will give you free tickets to stuff if you listen to their spiel about why you should buy their time share.

In retrospect, I was stupid and should've said no to his offer of free stuff in exchange for time, as we only had one day in the city. But everything was closed and we fell for the pitch, and the next thing we know we're sitting through 2 hours of blah waiting to say "no thanks we don't want a time share, we just want our free tickets".
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As our free tickets, we chose a carriage ride, a boat ride to Fort Sumter (which we didn't have time to take), and a VISA check card. We got a time slot for the carriage tour and went to walk around the market, which had just opened for the day.
bubble gum telephone pool Charleston
Outside the market was this telephone pool covered in chewed bubble-gum; how nasty is that?
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We then went
Charleston Carriage tour
to hop on our carriage.
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Let's go.
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Seeing the city by carriage is a nice
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comfortable way to go.
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But when you walk through a cities streets
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a lot more of what you saw sticks in your head.
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All I really remember from the tour was
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a lot of
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other carriage tours (giving the impression that tourism is really the only industry left in Charleston),
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and a
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lot of
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big houses.
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I also remember these yellow balls with the red flags.

In order to keep Charleston nice despite having horse carriages walking all over the city, the carriage driver has to throw one of these flags down every place their horse pees.
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They have a cleaning crew that goes along the carriage routes and washes all of the pee spots and takes back the flags.
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One thing that's hard not to notice in Charleston
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is that
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most of the houses
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are sideways.
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The side of the house faces the street. Supposedly this was to maximize the breeze from the harbor. But it would also make it harder to see the harbor from your porch.
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One thing you also see a lot of in Charleston are
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"earthquake bolts". Charleston had a large earthquake in 1886 that destroyed a large part of the town. Many of the houses left standing were strengthened with these large bolts
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that run into the building structure and tighten everything together.
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This was my favorite street in Charleston. It was like Charleston's version of Georgetown or Murano.
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I'd like to sit on that deck and drink a cup of tea
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while looking at this fence wrapped around a tree.
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But the carriage tour is over and we have to go grab something to eat.
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But lets not eat at Wet Willies, brings back bad memories of when Bart Bruce used to give out Wet Willies when I was a kid.
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We ate at Hyman's Seafood Co.
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Yummy fried green tomatoes
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and some seasoned fish.
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These Southern towns all seem to have a place where the duels used to happen. Here's the alley were people used to duel to solve their problems in old-time South Carolina.
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As the lights went down on Charleston, it was time for us to go catch our bus back to the train station.
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Ilaria photographed some boots in the fire station
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and we walked back to catch the long bus ride back to the station.

The bus drops you off pretty close to the train station but not so close that you can see the station; the road to the station is really dark (particularly given that it's not a good part of town)
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so we were happy when we saw
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the entrance to the train station.

We were on the train for an hour or so of our 2 hr ride when all of a sudden the train stopped
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and the lights went out.

It's pretty common for trains to stop in the middle of nowhere to let freight and other trains keep their schedule; it's also not completely uncommon for the lights to go out in the train. But we sat in the dark for 10 minutes or so, and then the conductor came into the car and announced that our train had hit a truck.

Turns out a truck driver hadn't pulled up far enough for his trailer to clear the tracks and we our train cleared it for him. No one was hurt, except our train. The power wouldn't go on in the train.
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So they brought us some emergency glow sticks to try and calm the many kids on our train that weren't keen on sitting in the dark.
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We even got some stale emergency food to hold us over.

It really got toasty in the train and the air was pretty rough with no open windows or air circulation.
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After a couple hours we had power and were ready to go.
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We arrived in Savannah around three hours late; thankfully Scott and my dad were there to pick us up,
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and we all drove to the condo in Hilton Head
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where Ilaria instantly feel asleep.