on journey: a drive from richmond to charleston

Getting underway with my daughter is not always easy, so we started our 8-hour drive to Charleston an hour later than I hoped, close to 10:00 a.m. While she got ready, I talked to my husband about our son’s meltdown the previous night; the details put a black mood over me for our upcoming trip.  I would have to work hard all day to get out of my distress and my funk.

We took I-95 almost the entire way from Richmond to Charleston, so it was an incredibly boring drive landscape-wise.  The only interesting things that happened were inside the car: conversations with Sarah and songs from her eclectic playlist.

An hour after leaving Richmond, we were welcomed to “North Carolina: Nation’s Most Military Friendly State.”

We were soon driving past exits for Lake Gaston, a place I spent many happy summer vacations with friends when I was a teenager. My friend Melissa’s mother had a family-sized permanent tent set up on her lakefront property, and another open-air awning sheltering a picnic table and cooking area.  Melissa lived there with her mom and siblings for much of each summer and we outsiders were sometimes invited to stay a week or so.  We spent many happy hours water skiing, lounging on the floating dock, diving and swimming off the dock, and even skinny dipping in the evenings. The mother had a lot of friends who congregated around the picnic table in the evenings, drinking, playing cards and joking around, and I remember learning my most famous card trick from one of the men who hung out at that lakefront. I can still picture the set-up at Lake Gaston and the carefree times we had there.

We drove along the highway, cotton fields stretched out on either side of us.  A sign said “Real Christians Forgive Like Jesus.” We passed the Roanoke River and signs for Roanoke Rapids.  A car whizzed past with a a Harley Davidson sticker and a license plate: PSYCHWARD. As we passed Rose’s, about 103 miles north of the South Carolina border, a sign reminded us that “When You Die You Will Meet God.” We passed Selma, Goldsboro and a sign for the Cape Lookout National Seashore.  We would come to the the famous roadside attraction, South of the Border, in another hour and a half; signs started popping up telling us how far we had to go and what attractions we’d find there:

  • Reptile Lagoon: South of the Border
  • ¡Caliente! – South of the Border
  • ¿Where the Hell is South of the Border?

We passed Black Ops Paintball and more cotton fields.  Sarah mentioned that her friend Daniel used to live in Rocky Mount, N.C. and he said there were a bunch of “podunks” there. A Confederate flag flapped in the wind along the highway and we both expressed our disgust.

  • Pedro’s Sombrero: Observation Deck – South of the Border
  • No Shoot Ze Bull – South of the Border

We passed the Cape Fear River, Fayetteville, Elizabethtown, the Lumber River and Lumbertown.  A pink sign promised “Fantasy Video and Novelties.”

  • Take a Walk on the Wild Side – South of the Border
  • Too Much Tequila – South of the Border

At 2:45, South Carolina welcomed us and we saw the 100-foot-tall Pedro statue sporting a huge sombrero.  We kept on driving.

  • Back Up – You Missed It!

We passed the Lynches River, Lynchburg and Shiloh — such southern (& racist) names.

We finally checked in to our Airbnb at 65 Vincent Drive, Mt. Pleasant, by 5:55. It was a very nice duplex in a huge yard in a quiet neighborhood.

After unpacking our stuff, we headed into the city of Charleston to Poogan’s Porch.


Poogan’s Porch

Sarah treated us to a bottle of wine, Poggio Torto: Toscana Rosso 2016, bringing back memories of Tuscany for both of us. She had gone to the region several years earlier than I had, with her father and stepmother and their family.


Sarah at Poogan’s Porch

We shared an appetizer of fried pickled okra. I enjoyed Lump Crab Cakes, cream corn, local greens, and grilled asparagus with a lemon herb vinaigrette.  Sarah had Pan-Roasted Duck Breast, “Country Captain” style rice, duck confit, tomatoes, golden raisins, bell peppers, almonds and curry broth.  My crabcakes were excellent.

This is what I would love in Charleston, good southern home cooking. As my daughter is an avid foodie, we would try many eateries during our stay here.


Fried pickled okra


Lump Crab Cakes, creamed corn, asparagus and greens

Out on the street, the sky and palm trees imparted an otherworldly feel.


the street outside Poogan’s Porch


mural in the parking lot of Poogan’s Porch

We were tired after our long drive and our big dinner, so we went back to our cozy Airbnb to relax. Sarah introduced me to some of her favorite shows, but I didn’t care for some of them. She seemed offended that we didn’t share the same taste. One we finally settled on was This Is Us. This was the first time I’d seen this show, and I’m still watching it today.

The next day, we’d begin exploring Charleston.

*Drove: 455.8 miles.  Steps: 3,234, or 1.37 miles*

*Monday, November 11, 2019*