In early November Jack messaged me: “Hey. Want to spend a weekend in Greenville?”
Both of our children inherited our wanderlust, good for them. But, Greenville?
Jack went on to message that Amtrak had a great overnight fare from DC to Greenville, and that he’d always wanted to take an overnight train (I learned something brand new about our 20-something!) and that Greenville sounded cool, and did we want to meet him for the weekend? I responded that I would make a decision closer to the date once I had checked the weather and confirmed the start date of the contractors (this 1989 interior has been crying out desperately to be bought into the 21st century).
On that Monday I skimmed my Fodors “The Carolinas & Georgia” guidebook given to us by friends who live in S.C. as a, “Welcome Back to the U.S./Come Visit Us!” gift along with the Greenville tourism site and found plenty of things to do on a long weekend. And perhaps more importantly, plenty of things to eat on a long weekend.
I checked the weather: 40-60% chance of showers for Saturday, the full day we would have. Meh. Pack an umbrella and duck into a brewery or café if necessary. Then I scouted around for lodging, finding little that fit what we consider true “dog-friendly;” that is, does not charge more for the pet fee than the room itself. Not really wanting a hotel for its lack of sitting area (Jack would obvs bunk with us for a night); and with no airbnb available, either I put the project away for the day.
Tuesday morning a place called, “Kasa Apartments” popped up on Expedia. “Pet-friendly” with a mere $15 pet fee per night. Having long since learned to read the fine print on pet-friendly lodging I scrolled their website and noted that they have “Breed Restrictions.” Doubting that the American Foxhound is a restricted breed, I called them nevertheless. The usual suspects (Bull Terriers, etc.) were restricted, but The Father of Our Country’s breed, from which CTF is descended, was not. I also asked about “Weight Restrictions” as that once reared its ugly head at check-in, too. Nope, no weight restrictions.
Thinking I’d cleared that “Pet-friendly” hurdle I checked the forecast one last time before making our non-refundable reservation: 50-60% chance of showers for Saturday. So be it. I pushed the, “Reserve” button and messaged Jack that we would meet him in Greenville.
Late Tuesday an email with the virtual check-in requirements from Kasa arrived. Mostly standard stuff: upload a selfie and an official ID and indicate an approximate time for check-in; and declare you won’t smoke or hold an event/party.
And then came the MICROFINE print: DECLARE THAT YOUR PET WILL NOT BE LEFT UNATTENDED.
What the living…? Who travels with their dog and at some point doesn’t leave them in the lodging? Fearing I had missed something, I went back to both the Expedia site and to the Kasa site and searched every single page. NOT ONE WORD about leaving pets unattended anywhere on either site. I screen-captioned each page, just in case.
Now what to do? The newly identified dog-sitter was not available, so that option was out. Should we scrap the weekend? We couldn’t take CTF everywhere with us, like the Greenville County Museum of Art (on my list); and dining out meant dining outside, not a pleasant prospect if the forecast rain actually happened. The contractors were whirling about the house and I had to turn my attention to paint colors and tile squares and the day just slipped away.
Give yourself 10 points if you suspected the forecast would change for the worse. On Wednesday morning I checked again to read: “90% chance of rain. Rainfall of up to a half inch.”
But the real problem of the day is that the color I had selected for the great room was entirely wrong. Way wrong. Even the design consultant I had (necessarily) splurged on agreed that the color had failed us. Back to the drawing board for a new color, putting out little design fires around the house and otherwise accomplishing nothing of substance. The clock was ticking closer to departure and I still had no solution for the not-so-pet-friendly issue.
On Thursday morning the forecast was downgraded to the pre ark-building stage. “100% chance of rain. Rainfall of possibly over an inch. Locally heavy rain at times.” The forecast for Knoxville (home) was the same. Now there were two choices: stay at home with the rain (and the contractors) and leave the Greenville apartment to Jack; or drive 3+ hours across the mountains to do…what, exactly?
Finally the light bulb turned on: why not call Kasa and find out what they really mean with this restriction. I blame this processing delay on the paint and primer fumes affecting my ability to multi-task. It turned out that this particular restriction is in place to avoid the “hyper puppy” who will tear up the place. CTF’s tearing up the house days are long over. Problem solved.
Tony and I clinked our wine glasses on this evening with both a, “Why did we buy a big house again?” and a, “Let’s get out of here for the weekend.”
On the road. The scenery along I-40 East is marginally interesting from Knoxville to the Smoky Mountains. The drive through the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests, though, was resplendent even on a cloudy and late November afternoon. Traffic was light and everyone seemed to be more or less driving at tempo, rather important along this winding stretch through the gorge.
The drive once leaving the forests and into Greenville was b.o.r.i.n.g., much like the westbound stretch of Autobahn from the end of the Wachau until the first peaks of the Salzburg Alps. In fact, we almost missed the nondescript sign informing us that we had crossed the Eastern Continental Divide.
We motored along past a roadside store selling “Wedding Sparklers.” Is it a Southern thing to douse the happy couple with fiery metal shards, we wondered? We also wondered if South Carolina was more popular than its northern twin.
Our flat was lovingly designed by that Swedish furniture goddess and her slightly more upscale cousin and had a balcony on which to enjoy our morning coffee. The flat was located in the up-and-coming West End section of Greenville in a new construction building surrounded by lots of beautifully restored 20’s and 30’s Craftmans and bunglaows, all swoon-worthy for those with an architectural interest. Plenty of neighborhood vibe, too. A block or so away was Fluor Field, home to the single-A affiliate of the Red Sox and a full complement of hipster millennial restaurants, cafes, and organic shops. Thus far our brief glimpse of Greenville was all positive.
The week having caught up with us, rather than apply some lip color and go out to dine I suggested I walk with Cletus for carryout from the nearby tap room while Tony procure a bottle of wine and breakfast provisions from the grocery for the morning. (Jack’s Amtrak was due in at 0549; we advised him to Uber to our flat where breakfast would be waiting.) Dinner was not at all southern cuisine (a Reuben for me and the “Certified Angus Beef Meatloaf” for Tony), just a delicious supper on the balcony of our flat on a mild late autumn evening, the scent of rain edging closer and closer.
Saturday Morning. Jack would naturally message when he arrived, but I still set the iPhone alarm for 0545. On a Saturday. ‘Tis a good thing we love our children. The alarm sounded and I messaged, “Where be you?” Jack replied, “An hour out. We sat in Charlotte for some reason.” Aaahhh, back to snooze we both went. I noted that the rain had not begun to fall, and crossed my fingers that this was a good sign that the meteorologists had been wrong.
No. Roughly an hour later we awoke to the pitter-patter of rain, its sweet smell wafting in through the open bedroom window. Jack soon messaged that he was in an Uber, so it was time to rise. Within moments he tapped on the door, and after the hugs and greetings we set about preparing breakfast only to be thwarted by the “Mixpresso,” some knock-off version of the Keurig that not only brewed nothing but brown water but also spewed out messy grounds all over the counter. Thankfully by the time the mess was cleared up the hipster café across the street had opened. Real hot coffee to the morning rescue.
Breakfast accomplished and the rain now pouring down, we headed first to the Greenville State Farmer’s Market where I had a conversation about turnip greens with “Joe” so lively that I bought a bag to bring home and prepare with ham bones. So many interesting products tempted us, too, though we did resist the temptation to play in the beans or break the ginormous collard green stems.
From the market we turned to history. The Upcountry History Museum taught us much about this part of America, its textile past and its forward-looking future; and the Greenville County Art Museum that exposed us to the stunning basswood creations of South Carolinian artist Grainger McKoy and the dreamy watercolors of Andrew Wyeth. Hard to believe the art museum was free, and that the docents thanked us for visiting!
In between we stopped at a mini-market for something to drink, where we learned that the South Carolina “Quik Trip” might be the birthplace of diabetes. Look at the size of that cup! (For the record, we grabbed three bottles of water…)
In the charming Greenville downtown there is a whimsical hunt for the 9 brass “Mice on Main.” We only found two because, well, the rain and our spirits were falling rather hard. Good thing there were three spaces at the Dark Corner Distillery tasting bar. A flight of whiskeys, rums, and vodkas and once again we were all in good spirits. Pun fully intended.
Some light shopping here and there and then just as the rain began to fall even harder we ducked into Nose Dive for lunch, where I had made a reservation. That turned out to be a wise decision for the restaurant was packed. Craving a burger (I know, not very Southern. But remember, I have been deprived of a real American burger for the seven years we lived overseas, so slack can be cut.) I nom-nomed that perfectly medium rare patty topped with sautéed onions slipping out of the bun while Tony went Southern, with Mac and Cheese topped with Pulled Pork as did Jack with his Fried Chicken and Waffle. Happiness enveloped our table.
On the way back to the car we walked past a nod to Joseph Poinsett, an S.C. native and the first ambassador to Mexico. He brought back to America with him a red, pointed-leaf plant that we have all come to know and love: the Poinsettia!
Just a little bit water-logged, we called it a day in the late afternoon and retreated to the apartment to watch our alma mater whoop their opponent in college football while noshing on barbeque with a capital B. This evening’s feast was courtesy of Henry’s Smokehouse, a local favorite from a little roadhouse just a short drive from our apartment. I am a fan of vinegar-based barbeque sauces and Henry’s did not disappoint. Needless to write there was nary a leftover morsel.