Friday, July 17, 2009

Pelzer 'Cut

I was reading an article about Happy Cow Creamery, a dairy located in Pelzer, SC. Interesting article about how they produce some excellent un-homogenized and lightly pasteurized milk and other dairy products.

I hadn't thought about Pelzer in a long time, probably since the last time I drove to visit friends still at Clemson back in 1998.

The road through Pelzer is a semi-famous shortcut to Clemson from all points south. Maybe it was just my group of people from the Charleston area who used it -- but it really saved us a lot of time, and kept us off of I-85 which was under construction for most of the mid-1990s when we were students at Clemson.

I have fond memories of that shortcut - Highway 418 exit off of I-385 near Fountain Inn, to Route 8/81 in Ware Place, to Road 88 near Liberty, to Highway 123 outside of Clemson.

Why fond memories? I have no idea. Most of the early trips along this shortcut were with friends from high school who attended Clemson. I didn't have a car up there until my junior year, so we would often car pool home for weekends or longer breaks. Lots of griping about school (courses, professors, football team, etc.), great music were always a part of these trips. Time flew by driving with a group, because that stretch of road is really boring. Especially from I-385 to Columbia.

My last two years at Clemson, which included one summer session (für Deutsch 202) I had my own car (well, trucks), so I would often drive alone. Lots of time to think about school, life after Clemson, and whatever else was going on.

I remember one fateful trip after Winter break, I was carpooling up with the son of one of the bakery's neighbors from King Street. He and I attended the same high school, but he was a few years younger than me - my brother's age, actually. He died tragically later that year in a single car crash. But I digress.

It was one of a handful of times in my almost 20 years in South Carolina that we had significant snowfall. Although I got my license in PA, it was during the I had no experience driving in snow. We decided to skip the Pelzer 'Cut because the main highways were barely plowed -- it turned out to be a good idea because there were several wrecks on that stretch of road that day. It took us about five hours to get to Clemson, more than 90 minutes longer than normal. At one point, I-85 had about half a lane plowed -- I drove 20+ miles at an angle, with the driver's side lower than the passenger side.

I remember driving through Pelzer in the Fall most predominantly, probably because Fall break and Thanksgiving break were fairly close together. The foliage was always pretty attractive through that area and if I recall correctly, there were several large pumpkin patches along the road.

Other highlights were the various mixtapes I would make for the trips -- yes, I had a cassette tape deck in both trucks. I can't imagine having the time to make mixtapes these days -- 100 minutes of real time recording from CDs! I don't even take the time to make playlists for my Zune! Nothing really special about the music on those tapes: lots of Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers Band, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, the Police, maybe some jazz or blues. I think I had a Sony Discman with a cassette tape adapter at one point, but mixtapes were always better for those trips home.

The last memory of the short cut (for now) is most significant because it didn't include the shortcut! Easter weekend, 1995. My 1985 Jeep Cherokee dies shortly after getting onto I-26 at Road 88 Jalapa. This piece of crap truck had been nothing but trouble since I bought it from my parents earlier that year. Probably deserving its own blog entry for posterity, but this was one lemon. Anyway, it died and I walked up the I-26 off ramp in Jalapa to call AAA for a tow.

The closest house, fortunately, was at the top of the ramp...but the woman wouldn't let me in. I was in my shaved head/goatee/ 270+ lbs phase, so I can't blame her at all. This was also before most non-wealthy people had cellular phones, too. I had to slide the AAA card under the door, and she made the call.

I waited back at the truck, and after 90 minutes the tow truck from Newberry pulls up. He loads the Jeep up, and we hop in the cab for the ride back to Clemson. On the seat between us, I notice he has an automatic pistol. Great. Apparently, I had a shocked look on my face and hereassures me it is for his protection -- he meets all kinds of people out here. He also comments that the poor woman who made the call should put a pay phone outside of her house -- his tow company gets 3-4 calls a week from her alone, not including the indirect calls from automobile clubs and auto manufacturer warranty tows.

EDIT: Looking at Google Maps StreetView, there is a broken down tanker truck at the top of that exit ramp. Amazing!

Now with AAA Plus, or whatever the name of the plan was, I got 100 miles of free towing. Beyond that, it was $1.50 per mile -- I was beyond broke at this point, and calling home wasn't an option because of the dire situation of the bakery. I knew I had driven about 80 miles or so to that point; the shortcut back would get me back to Clemson short of AAA's towing limit. Unfortunately, the driver didn't "trust no shortcut" and stayed on the interstates for the trip back. If he was going to drive all the way to Clemson, might as well get paid a little bonus, right? Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck all the way back, watching the trip odometer frantically. I had him tow me to the Death Valley Exxon station (wonder if that's still there?), which was closest to my apartment -- 97 miles. Whew. The Jeep's repair and drive home at the end of the semester is worthy of its own blog entry, believe me.

All of this outpouring because an article about a dairy farm. Yikes!

Also: thanks to Panoramio user bearden82 for the picture. She/he has some excellent pictures of the Pelzer/Ware Place area.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Family Vacation Roadtrip

We had our first lengthy roadtrip vacation as a family of four last week. We had a blast, although it was exhausting at times. We're actually all still exhausted, and Owen has actually come down with some sort of fever.

Briefly, we drove from H-ville to Toronto and on the return trip, spent some time in Pittsburgh.

Here are some things I learned:

  • The portable DVD player was the best $100 I've spent on Owen yet -- minus medical costs and food, of course. Even if he watched the 10 minutes of bonus features of Cars about 400 times in the 28 hours we spent in the van.
  • The engineers who blasted the West Virginia Turnpike out of those mountains way back in the 1950s deserve some sort of commendation. What a long and winding road. People really overlook the importance of the highway system and Eisenhower's leadership in this area. Shame we got the idea from Adolf Hitler...
  • We broke the drive up in two halves, staying in Morgantown, WV the first night. It was a perfect amount of time on the road -- around 8 hours or so, with frequent stops.
  • Speaking of stops, Owen did an excellent job with potty stops -- only a couple more than what Lisa and I would have done if we were driving sans kids.
  • Toronto is a wonderful city. Even with a city worker strike, the city was clean and most everyone was marginially friendly -- it doesn't help to have a cute baby with you either!
  • Canadians are proud of their country. We were there during Canada Day, and most everyone wore flags or red shirts -- even the skate punks at the coffee shop in the Beaches. Much more patriotic than in the U.S., it seemed.
  • One cool thing (and I wish I got a picture of it) is that the city of Toronto gives each household a larger recycling bin than garbage can! In fact, my sister-in-law informed me that the trash can has a false bottom, making it even smaller than it looks. How great is that? Darlington County is so far behind in recycling that it's pathetic. They don't even take office paper or junk mail unless it is shredded. Like public education here, it isn't a priority.
  • Wyatt learned how to crawl during the trip, which was amazing considering how little floor space we had at our hotels and in-laws. I rarely put him on the ground for fear he would have been trampled by his brother and cousins. But he is moving around pretty well, and he has four teeth in with two more coming in.
  • We tried to go see Niagara Falls. But traffic from Toronto to Niagara Falls was pretty heavy, and it was really crowded when we did get there. Owen saw the Falls, but wasn't impressed. On to Pittsburgh!
  • Owen called Pittsburgh "Rothelisberger"
  • We ate at a very loud and crowded Primanti Brothers Restaurant while waiting for the fireworks. It was excellent, but I don't think Lisa was impressed. Oh well. What's not to like with french fries and slaw IN your sandwich?
  • Our hotel in Pittsburgh was expensive, but very close to PNC Park and the fireworks. What a show! And only a five minute walk from our hotel down to the Allegheny River. I realized that this was the first 4th of July fireworks I'd ever seen in Pittsburgh because we were always on the Outer Banks that week.
  • We planned to go to the Zoo, but we were all out of steam by that point. A seventh night in a hotel room might have put us over the edge, so after a couple of stops (for food and formula), we decided to head back to Hartsville.
  • We borrowed a GPS, which made the trip a little more interesting. We changed the voice to French and British English for fun. It was nice to have a list of close hotels when we got to Pittsburgh, and we could find a Wal-mart with ease. It definitely was good to have, and if we travelled more often, we would buy one ourselves.
  • The GPS said it would take almost 11 hours to get home from Pittsburgh, but we made it home in under 10 with three stops.