|The Gullah Grub Restaurant - our St. Helena Island focal point - Country Hearth Inn in background|
My last post on this Road Trip was just a brief note about the final day in Gullah country. This is the detailed report of the day and includes lots of photos. Frankly, I was really tired by the end of Day 5, a Friday night. We had made our way over to I-95 for the trip back north to Virginia and ultimately my base camp in West Virginia. We slipped out of character as far as our evening repast and found a local Mexican Restaurant in Walterboro, South Carolina near a Super 8 Motel we pulled into for the night. All I wanted to do was catch some shuteye, so I didn't take any time to truly journal the day.
Day 5 began as a beautiful sunny day as compared to Day 4 when we experienced rain most of the day and night. We actually got quite wet on Day 4 so the warm sun was very welcome. We decided that since we were within about 15 minutes of the Parris Island, U.S. Marine Recruit Training Camp and there was a free museum there, that we'd start our day off visiting "The Few and The Proud." It just so happened that Day 5 of our road trip was graduation day for a class of recruits who had just completed the 13 grueling weeks of basic training. Believe me, these young men and women have every right to be proud after they complete this first phase of their Marine Corps career. There are a substantial number who wash out during this first phase of training - which is why they also are "the Few."
I didn't take a lot of photos while there, but at first glance, you'd think this was some kind of semi-tropical resort as we drove onto the base. But, it's not what the visitor sees on the surface that is the reality of this base, it's what they don't see including the swamps, jungles, desolate areas, obstacle courses and so on. When I went through Air Force Basic Training during the Vietnam era I had about a half day on the rifle range were I learned to field strip, clean and reassemble an M-16 automatic assault rifle. The Marines still use that rifle today, 44 years later. During my half day of firearms training I learned to fire the weapon and qualify as a trained killer. That meant I could hit the targets down range and preferably in a tight pattern in the "kill zone." That was it. If I qualified, I had completed my firearm training. The Marine recruits spend as much as a week or more on that firing range and know more about their weapons and utilizing them than I could imagine. It seemed that every Marine I saw on Parris Island had an "Expert Rifleman" badge proudly displayed on their uniform.
The museum was very interesting. It had the complete history of Parris Island, a very informative video presentation about the recruit-training program at the camp and the three phases every Marine has to complete and pass before he or she is may be called a Marine. There were displays of uniforms dating back to the early days of the Marines in 1775, weapons, battles, campaigns and other information that truly gave me a much better understanding about this group of warriors. We also met many families who were visiting their young men and women (most who arrived at Parris Island as teenagers). It was inspiring to see the young recruit graduates in their uniforms and with their stiff, military bearing. The parents were proud mothers and fathers. There were some families that may have had three or four generations of Marines there for the graduation. One gentleman we met had been out of the Marines for decades, but he was there in his uniform, standing straight and proud as could be of his grandson. His son, the recruit's father, was still actively in the Marines, in uniform, of course and equally as proud.
|The bridge to Parris Island - the green signs on the right|
are pointing the way.
|Isn't this lovely. This is a Marine Boot Camp. I feel more like|
I'm in a beautiful park. But, looks can be deceiving.
After we left Parris Island, we had learned about Hunting Island and the Hunting Island Lighthouse. Hunting Island is a South Carolina State Park and the island is uninhabited. Actually, it's very tropical. Another of the South Carolina barrier islands, its beach is right on the Atlantic Ocean, which, of course, is why a lighthouse was built there to help steer ships away from the shallows and shoals. The woman who owned the Country Hearth Inn motel we stayed at the previous night told us about the island. She also said to stop back if we had any other questions. So, we did. We said tell us where we can get some more good "grub," it's lunch time and we're starving. She directed us toward Hunting Island and said we'd find a few isolated places on the road to the island including the Shrimp Shack. Boy! That sounded perfect! So, off we went east toward Hunting Island to climb to the top of the 132-foot structure (167 steps in all). The photos and captions below tell the story of the afternoon's adventures.
|Lunch is served at the Shrimp Shack|
|Yes! It is literally what appears to be a shack.|
|No waitress service here! Place your order and come|
and get it. Great Eats! And it's inexpensive, too.
|On the bridge to Hunting Island. The island is a state park|
and is uninhabited. It gained it's very practical name because
this is where the early settlers to this region came to hunt
the abundant wildlife on this island.
|We're on the island and are paying our $5.00 per person|
admission charge. Very economical for the beauty and
nature on the island, not to mention the lighthouse.
|We were told the island was like a tropical jungle and they|
weren't kidding. Now I know how Gilligan felt. Loving it.
|Believe it or not, this is the Visitor Center - it's actually very|
modern with all the modern conveniences inside, but I
really wasn't sure that we might not see Jungle Jim here.
|Yeah! And not to mention that it's DANGEROUS, too!|
|And here's Junior sunning himself right next to the small, low|
bridge we crossed to get to the Visitor Center. He's really not
all that far from me, and no, I'm not that brave. He couldn't
come up on the small wooden bridge very easily.
|"I've got my eye on you." And, yes, this is another view of|
Junior from another vantage point and yes, that is his eye if
you look closely and he is watching me.
|Here's a photo (obviously I was using my telephoto lens)|
of the top of the lighthouse. The objective is to climb the
167 steps to the top and take some photos from the
|This is a view looking back over Hunting Island in the|
direction of St. Helena's Island. The sky is beautiful on
this day we chose to explore this neat place.
|If you look carefully, off on the horizon in this photo is|
Edisto Island and the community on that island. The
small white dots are actually homes along the shore.
This is about ten miles from Edisto.
|Okay! Nothing exciting here. But the day and the clouds|
were just so right for taking photos, I had to take one.
|This was a lovely old home, I guess this would be considered|
and antebellum style home. There were lots of them in
Beaufort. I caught this one as we were driving by.
We left Beaufort as dusk was approaching and made our way on U.S. Highway 21 to where it merged with Rt. 17 and finally over to I-95. We went north for a few miles until we came to Walterboro and decided it was a good place to fill up the gas, fill up the stomach and catch some shuteye for the approximately 500 mile trek back to northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, where my travel buddy, Dave, lives. We found the Mexican restaurant, checked in at the Super 8 and that ended Day 5.
Here's one interesting side note. Last night I caught some of the latest American Idol qualifying performances on the Fox Network and as I was watching the screen, they were putting up captions with the contestants' names, age and where they came from to be in the Hollywood try-out portion of the contest. One of the young women was from St. Helena Island, South Carolina. It was just great to see this young woman, most likely from the Gullah culture and island I had just visited less than a week before. It may sound strange, but I felt a kind of connection and a certain pride to see her make it this far in the contest. This is one of the main reasons I've chosen my living free, nomadic lifestyle. It's a fantastic way of connecting with history, the people and cultures that make up our great melting pot and the places in our country that provide such diversity.
I'm going to do a very short Day 6 recap as the last entry for Day 5. No photos - it was interstate all day and nothing interesting to see. They all look alike. On Saturday, Day 6 of this road trip, buddy, Dave, and I got up, grabbed our stuff, had a free breakfast at the Super 8 motel and hit the road. Dave set the cruise control at 65 mph and we headed north making one stop for a Subway sandwich for lunch (I brought half of my foot-long back to base camp for dinner that night). We arrived at Dave's place just a few moments before 5 PM.
After a quick pit stop, I was back on the road by 5:18 PM. I ran into a bit of traffic on I-66 heading out of the Washington, DC area and probably lost about 15 minutes. I stopped in Front Royal, Virginia to fuel up "My McVansion" because I know that's where I can get the least expensive gas in the region. That cost me about another 15 minutes. I arrived at base camp in Keyser, WV at 8:45 PM, approximately 3 1/2 hours after leaving Dave's, including the 30 minutes lost in traffic and refueling. This ends a short, but very interesting, educational and enjoyable road trip - the first of 2013.