Columbia Cool

I said it before and I’ll say it again. If you think you’ll have the time, you won’t. Before embarking on my journey, I wanted nothing more than to journal my travels and keep you up-to-date with the thoughts, feelings and experiences  of my adventures. However, I’m finding it difficult to find the time. Ironic, seeing as though that’s all I have. There’s simply just so much out there and far too much curiosity along the way!

So although my intention was to give you a daily digest of the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s and occasional why’s, I realized that it would be narcissistic (and borderline selfish) of me to break it down like that. Too trivial.

So, now that I have made it from Orlando to Columbia and on to Pisgah National Park just outside of Asheville, NC, with a day trip to Charleston, SC in between, I thought I’d catch you up on my time in Columbia as I recharge my batteries (both literally and figuratively) before I head to Alpharetta, GA on Wednesday for Phish.

Here are the highlights in chronological (but no particular) order:

Columbia, South Carolina:  They say People make the place and my time in Columbia proves it! My “friends-who-I-met-at-Wanee-that-became-family” extended Southern hospitality like I’ve never seen it before. Sure they showed me around and probably stepped outside the norm (and maybe their comfort zone?) to acquaint me with the area, but spending time, catching up, sharing laughs and meeting their friends were by far the best! The rest was just icing on the cake. Second to them (and their best friends Katie, Brian and someone who goes by the alias Maximus Omega), honorary mentions include:Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park: This low-lying flood plain and forest was the first of what I hope to be many National Parks I get to visit. Still searching for the Cooter (aka Pseudemys) though! HAHA!

 

Me on the Saluda River in Columbia, SC.

Me on the Saluda River in Columbia, SC.

Saluda River: One of three rivers that flow through Columbia, the Saluda was one of the cleanest and coolest white water rivers I’ve ever seen – perfect for sitting on the cool, rocky banks and reflecting. I should’ve braved it in a kayak.

 

 

 

Cock N' Bull Pub.

Cock N’ Bull Pub.

The Kraken Gastro Pub / Cock N’ Bull Pub: Two of my friends’ favorite watering holes, they exuded both local color (or lack thereof, if you know what I’m saying?) and charismatic charm of the people that frequent them. Good food too, like a duck quesadilla at Cock N’ Bull and a brined and braised Pork Belly accompanied with a micro-green and crab salad as well as the local favorite, proper Poutin, at The Kraken were welcomed indulgences.

 

 

 

The "STP" at Groucho's in Columbia

The “STP” at Groucho’s in Columbia

Groucho’s Deli – This not-so-New York-style deli, has been curing hangovers with its “dipper-style” subs since 1941. If you’re ever there, don’t skimp; Go for the STP (roast beef, turkey, smothered in Swiss Cheese) or The Apollo Dipper (hot ham, turkey and swiss cheese), both served with their famous Formula “45” dip. YUM!

 

Hunter-Gatherer, Columbia's only Brew Pub. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse: Hunter-Gatherer is one of two breweries in Columbia, and the only brew pub that offers a well-rounded selection of craft beer (brewed on site) and an impressive compliment of food pairings. Starting out, I ordered their IPA and Pimento Cheese Spread, followed a pale ale paired with the Smoked Chicken Ravioli. Their burgers looked legit too! It’s warm, cozy and unrefined. My kind of place!

 

Beer flight at Conquest.

Beer flight at Conquest.

Conquest: Conquest Brewing Company is the only tap room in Columbia. Only about 6-months into their production, they (I mean, humbled brew master) offered a balanced portfolio of regular and dry-hopped pilsners, a Pale Ale, regular and dry-hopped IPA and a Stout. Located just across the street from University of South Carolina’s Gamecock stadium, this is one to keep your eye on! Cheers, guys! Keep up the good work.

 

Pearlz Oyster Bar: What a night! Definitely a place to make it rain! Their seafood-focused menu is something to explore. We sampled a variety of oysters, regional catches like Tile Fish and Barrel Fish, dusted corn fritters and a few too many lively libations, like the Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail (Myers rum, limeade, and ginger) Holy hangover, Batman!Pearlz, where Brian and I made it rain! Did I mention it was the best send-off ever?!

Pizza Guy: This is a locals only joint, but still friendly for a visitor – but then again I was accompanied with regulars? Anywho, it’s one of the few (only?) bars in Columbia that serves up liquor starting at 7:00 a.m. Mike, the man behind the bar, makes a tasty bloody mary, but I had a mimosa (or two or three) and a stacked bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, both of which put me behind the power curve for the day.

Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal :)

Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal 🙂

If you know me then you’re probably not surprised that the highlights of this part trip are food-focused, and I haven’t even gotten to Charleston yet! But, my absolute favorite food experience during my stay in Columbia was the home-cooked meal my hosts made for me: Bacon-wrapped Venison tenderloin and kale chips. For a game-meat starved Florida boy, this was a real treat. Thank you, both! Delish!

 

So, aside from the state building, which still flies the Confederate Flag in the front lawn, an inside joke about neighborhood called Cottontown and a bike ride to Five Points, which is home Bone, Rugs and Harmony, a vintage consignment shop full of all kind of cool digs, this pretty much sums  up my stay in Columbia.They moved the "stars and bars" from the top of the capitol to the front lawn. WOW!

Next time, I’ll breakdown our time in Charleston, SC and fill you in on the fauna I found in Pisgah National Park. In the meantime, thanks for baring with me. If you need to live Vicariously Through.Me more often, find me on Facebook.

See ya there!

 

 

Early Insights

Traveling is an eye opener…in more ways than one. In addition to the sights, sounds and surprises that find you along the way, you’d be surprised how quickly you can learn in just the first couple of hours of being on the road. So no matter how prepared you think you are, you might want to think again.

In this post, I’ll share what’s caused me to think twice. First though, I want to let you know that I made it to my first destination: Columbia, South Carolina. And what a great time it is! But, before I recall the experiences this awesome southern city has offered me over the last few days, I want to take a step back and share with you a few of insights I’ve gained in just the first few hours of my first, open-ended road trip adventure.

What I was able to consolidate down to in just three weeks.

What I was able to consolidate down to in just three weeks.

You need more time. If you think you’ve allowed yourself enough time to prep and pack, you haven’t. Although the idea of journeying had been brewing for a year or more, I’ve been running through the logistics in my mind ever since. Before I left, I was fortunate to have almost three weeks of uninterrupted time to focus on closing out in Orlando. Ridding myself of most material possessions. Checking out of the house I was renting. Moving. Paying off any remaining balances on bills and utilities as well as preparing for my upcoming trip. I’m an intricate planner, live by to-do lists, do my best to schedule and anticipate as many eventualities as possible, but it didn’t prove to be enough.
Intending to leave at 8:00a.m. on a Monday, I found myself up extremely late the night before and running three hours behind the next day due to trivial to-do’s – things I was meant to do but just didn’t have the time. My miscalculation caused me to skip Savannah, Georgia, one of the first planned stops along the way, which brings me to my next point:

Farewell fare at Mom's favorite fast food place. WaWa, I will miss you.

Farewell fare at Mom’s favorite fast food place. WaWa, I will miss you.

Flexibility is the ticket. Unless you’re away on business and have to literally schedule every meeting, meal, networking event and “must see,” I say stay fluid. I’m finding it’s helpful to have a rough sketch of where I want to go, what I want to do and when, but marrying yourself to an itinerary really only seems to impose limits and cause stress. That’s not what traveling is all about. So, out the window it went, and here are the realizations that took its place: Don’t over-plan and remember to take your time! Before you go, say your “goodbyes” and “see ya later(s)” over a meal (no matter how casual it may be) even if your timeline doesn’t allow for it. You’ll miss the people you’re leaving behind and having face time with them before you leave gives you something to remember and hold on to. Skip a stop along the way to provide more time (and consideration) for the people you are going to see – in-so-far you can come back and see it at a later time. Stop often and don’t rush along the way as long you stay in touch and keep your peeps up to date.

You won’t get to it all. Naturally, you’ll want to look into and plan the time you’re going to spend at your destination. Must sees, highlights, historical and natural landmarks are all very important in ensuring you get to experience the destination and everything it has to offer. If a week (plus or minus a few days) seems like plenty of time to do and see it all, it’s not. A few days can’t kill curiosity, but don’t sweat it. As I said before, stay flexible. The people you’re traveling with and those you’re going to see will want to contribute to your experience, and it’s important that you allow them to. I, personally, was flattered to see the care and concern my friends put into my time with them. More often than not, they’re right, and the list you made as an outsider was based on commercial interests (Food Network and Travel Channel) or other travelers’ reviews (TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Local, etc.) who may or may not share the same interests and values as you. So, stay open to it all, and don’t be afraid to substitute one activity or point of interest for another. Chances are you won’t “miss out” and might just be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

The other thing that will keep you from being the Energizer rabbit that keeps going and going and going is down time. Everyone needs it, but few pencil it in. By not allowing yourself to relax and just be, not only will you run yourself ragged, spend more than you may be able to afford, or worse, put things-to-do in the way of the personal connections you’re there to make. Seek to find the balance between entertainment and the human need to build relationships and just be. You (and hopefully those you’re visiting) will be grateful you did.

My Mazda. My mode.

My Mazda. My mode.

What can go wrong, will. It’s Murphy’s law. While I’m happy to report that nothing has gone “wrong” (yet), I anticipate something will. Things break and mishaps happen. It’s all a part of the journey, and it’s all good! As a traveler, it’s important to anticipate them but not let less-than-ideal situations cloud your perception or stand in the way of appreciating an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For me, my 2008 Mazda 3 is my one and only mode. With approximately 70,000 miles on it prior to my departure, I had it checked out before I headed out. The dealer gave it a “green light go” and said everything was perfect. It wasn’t. And although its not the mechanics fault, nor does it effect its running condition, no sooner did I get to Columbia and started running around town with my hosts – who I must say have not only accepted me as family but shown me Southern hospitality like I’ve never experienced before. Love you guys, really do! – the passenger-side door / lock mechanism broke. Now closed, the front right door will not open, but it’s no big deal. I could’ve worried, stressed and paid out the ass to have it fixed, but I didn’t…at least not yet. My mates will just have to play Dukes of Hazard by hopping in and out of the window or climbing across the console from the driver-side door. Worse things could have (and probably will) happen.

Yesterday (Thursday, July 11th) was testament to that. My Wanee music family and I were on our way to Charleston, South Carolina to eat, drink and beach our way through this quintessential coastal town. About three quarters of the way there, we hit heavy traffic and had to play “stop and go” for several miles. As we did, we noticed the car would not coast. Something was hindering the front right wheel from spinning freely. We could smell the brakes, and we could see smoke. So, we pulled over onto the shoulder, let it cool down and tried to loosen the caliper. No sooner did we stop; we were on our way. What was most telling (and an insightful embrace of the nature of exploring) was my friend’s – an experienced road tripper – post on Facebook: “It’s always an adventure.” And that’s exactly what it is. It’s just a matter of how you accept the unexpected.

Gas goes fast. This fact needs no explanation except to say that when you’re driving to and from work and running errands around town, a full tank seems sufficient. Locally, it may be, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised by how fast gas goes and how little a full tank really is when you’re going the distance. Even with decent gas mileage (32 MPG highway), I burned through about one and half tanks just getting to my first port of call. Maybe it is the wind resistance caused by my mountain bike I’m toting on the back of my car?

Anyway, I’m just five days into my trip and feel like I’ve already learned more than I ever could in the “race” I used to run. I can’t wait to see what else comes to light along the way.

Have you learned a lesson you’d like to share? Please do. Just put it in a comment below. I thank you, in advance, as it will help prepare me for what might be next.

 

Gearing Up

Gearing Up

What do I pack?  Am I bringing too much? Will it fit?

Anyone who has gone anywhere has surely asked themselves these same questions. After all, packing woes are just a part of travel. So, with less than 12 hours to go before I hit the road, I thought I’d share with you what I’m bringing and how I’m going about it.

Before we dive into the packing lists below, it’s worth noting that my road trip is not your average weekend getaway or  a week’s vacation. This in itself presents a few challenges that a suitcase won’t fix, but it also provides a little wiggle room that airlines don’t.

In an effort to keep my expenditures low, I am camping quite a bit along the way. But, this doesn’t mean I can just prepare for the woods. I’m also staying with friends and have a handful of hotel reservations along the way as well. This means that not only do I need a fair amount of gear that will keep me self-sufficient when I’m off the beaten path but that the clothing I bring has to be flexible and occasion appropriate for a variety of social situations.

The other consideration that I had to keep in mind when prepping is that the first leg of my trip will likely last at least three months and spread the gap from the peak heat of summer to the cool-down of mid-fall.  Additionally, I will experience varying geography, from the beaches of South Carolina to the mountains of Vermont. So as much as I’d love to just throw t-shirts, shorts, a swim suit and flip flops into a duffle bag, I can’t. But, I can afford to bring a small wardrobe of clothes for every occasion,  understanding that the longest I plan on going without the convenience of a washer or dryer is about seven days, plus or minus a few?

But before we get to what I’ll be wearing along the way (sorry fashionistas), let’s start with what I love most. Gear.

Camping Gear: While my car-born road trip will cause be to break from my preference of being an ultra-light minimalist, much of the gear I have acquired along the way will still come in handy. The following items will keep me going during the camping leg of my trip and help me get through even the most unexpected situations:

Gear, glorious gear

Gear, glorious gear

  • Kelty Redcloud 90 liter, internal frame backpack with detachable lid that doubles as a waist pack
  • Camelback 30-oz reservoir
  • Ascend ultra light 2-man tent
  • Mummy bag (Sleeping bag rated to 20 degrees – although that is questionable base on previous experience)
  • Travel pillow and lightweight flannel blanket
  • Ascend hiker tapered sleeping pad
  • Eno double nest hammock with suspension straps
  • Collapsible camp chair with
  • MSR MicroRocket backpacking stove
  • BioLight wood-burning CampStove with thermo-electric rechargeable battery
  • Primus Micron Lantern with replacement mantels
  • 5 canisters of Iso-butane fuel for stove and lantern
  • Head lamp and flashlight
  • Black Diamond Apollo LED lantern
  • Gerber hatchet and knife
  • Collapsible camp shovel
  • Oh Cool camp fan
  • FroggTogg’s Ultralight 2 rain suit
  • Flint and steel fire starter, Fatwood, dryer lint
  • Waterproof matches, lighter(s)
  • 1 liter Nalgene wide mouth water bottle with water purifying tablets

    The essentials

    The essentials

  • Compass
  • 5-piece mess kit, stainless steel cup, spork(s), can opener
  • Griddle
  • Portable grill
  • Cooler
  • Spatula, kitchen knife, sheet-style cutting board, heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Bungee cords
  • Emergency blanket
  • First aid: Tweezers, scissors, medical tape, gauze, non-stick pads, assorted band aids, moleskin, ace bandage, hot / cool pack(s), alcohol / cleansing wipes, antibiotic ointment
  • Medicine locker: ibuprofen, Benadryl, acetaminophen, sleep aid, Nyquil, Pseudoephedrine, Tums, vitamin C, Emergen-C, wet wipes
  • Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, travel-size body gel and shampoo, shaving cream, razor, Q-tips, lip balm, lotion
  • Arctic chill towel
Tools of my the trade

Tools of my trade. Camera not shown for obvious reasons.

Technology: These days, no packing list is complete without tech, and as a social media guy portable communication technology is the name of my game. Here are the essentials I’m bringing with me:

  • Acer Windows 8 touch screen laptop with 1TB of storage
  • Google Nexus 7 Android tablet
  • Microsoft Wedge Keyboard
  • Olympus TG-830 camera
  • External hard drive
  • Google Nexus 4 Android Smartphone with essential weather, maps and GPS apps
  • USB thumb drives
  • NOAA Emergency Radio

Clothes: Next to all the fun survival and tech stuff above, clothes are distant second. But for those of you who are curious, I included my wearable packing list below.

  • 6 pair of shorts
  • 3 pair of  jeans / pants
  • 3 polo shirts

    The clothes on your back

    The clothes on my back

  • 8 long-sleeve / short sleeve t-shirts
  • 2 Columbia PFG tactical nylon shirts
  • 3 dress shirts
  • 2 hoodies
  • Windbreaker
  • 8 pair of underwear
  • 14 pair of socks (why so many? Because clean, dry feet are key!)           
  • Hiking shoes, tennis shoes and flip flops – all with arch support
  • 3 baseball caps
  • Sunglasses
  • Belt
  • Towel (Technically, it’s a bath sheet if you wanted to split hairs?)
  • Aftershave bag with many of the toiletries mentioned in the camping list section, but nicer 😉 

So, there you have it. My next three months in a bag…literally. I’m sure there are a few, non-essential items that I’m leaving out, like a journal, pens important life documents, sunscreen and bugspray but you get the gist of it.

The question still remains, “What am I forgetting?” Leave a comment and let me know. Or, just wish me luck! I leave tomorrow around 8am EST and will update you from the road. First stop, Savannah, GA then through to Columbia, SC to see my Wanee Family.

P.S. – This just in: Thanks to two very loving and concerned parents, I now have a plethora of gift cards that will keep me happy, fed and fat along the way. Anything that keeps the expenditures down is key! Thanks Mom and Dad. I love you!!

Thanks Mom and Dad! I love you!

Thanks Mom and Dad! I love you!