Think Outside the State

American Tale: My 50-state Adventure

Tag: Adventure (page 1 of 2)

Mountaineers are Always Free: Charleston, West Virginia

Hey everyone! I know it has been quite the break since the last post, but with teaching and my new position at work, I haven’t had a chance to update in a while.  I recently flew for the first time, and visited Texas (everything was bigger!) so hopefully I will be able to update more frequently as I continue to plan my next adventures.

Over the Labor Day weekend, my best friend and I decided there was a long overdue road trip that needed to happen immediately. This led to a wonderful sprint up to Charleston WV.

This trip was a bit more spontaneous than many of my others, and being one day/one night, it’s a little easier to blog about than the other states that I’ve been to recently (those blogs are coming soon as well).

 

We started the four and a half hour drive by stopping at our favorite bakery in Charlotte, NC. Shout out to Amelie’s for providing sustenance and energy for the road ahead.

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The weather was impeccable, we couldn’t have asked for a better day to travel and explore this interesting capitol city. Through Virginia into West Virginia, I found myself constantly pointing out the scenery. Poor Taylor was tired of looking at rocks and trees, but she humored me.

 

Something neither of us had thought about, were TOLL ROADS. Being where I’m from, Toll Roads are a little foreign, and my least favorite (but probably funniest) part of the trip was frantically digging for change at each of the three booths. I had to sacrifice one of my favorite coins for the cause, but I know Charleston was worth it.

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We took our time on the relaxing drive up 77 to 64, and stopped several times at different rest areas and the West Virginia Welcome Center. This exit has a lot of offerings, so if you need a break or a snack, definitely stop here. (We stopped on the way in, and the way out!)

 

When we finally arrived in Charleston, I was immediately in love. It’s got the small town “slow down and relax” feel, coupled with the history of an interesting state capitol. Perfect storm for making me daydream of living there.

We shopped around for hotel to stay in (I told you this was a bit spontaneous) and we settled on the Hampton Inn . Shout out to the amazing receptionist DESIREE, who helped us get a comfy room and gave us many suggestions for sight seeing. Coupled with free breakfast and the softest bed I’ve ever slept on, I’d definitely suggest staying there!

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Our next stop, and one of my personal top priorities: Lunch. We had looked on Trip Advisor and other sites suggesting good eats in the area, and settled on the Tricky Fish for our culinary needs. They specialize in fish tacos and a very chill vibe. The weather was perfect to sit on the porch and watch the world go by, as we planned our next leg of exploration. I had the mahi-mahi taco blackened, and Taylor had the shrimp taco blackened. We split an order of their hushpuppies, and realized early in that we had ordered FAR too much food. We left stuffed to the gills and ready for the rest of the city.

Our next stop was the unbelievably must-be-out-of-a-fairy-tale capitol building. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the gold gilded dome, and the area surrounding it. I regret not being able to go inside, but there was a wedding party taking pictures and we didn’t want to photo bomb someone’s special day!

 

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Across the street from the capitol building was a lovely overlook, where there are stairs leading down to the river. Every turn on the beautiful streets of Charleston led to more things to look at and more to explore.

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Our next stop was Capitol Street. We parked and walked the span of it, starting around the library. You can see the age of the buildings as you pass, but they are well kept and utilized.

Our first stop was Taylor’s Books. First, let me start off by saying this place has the perfect vibe.

There are various greeting cards sections (with very funny takes on several celebrations), a wonderfully laid out “new” books section, and a very diverse “used” books section. They have a great kids area, and art gallery off the side of the main store.

 

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As if all of these things are not setting you up for the most perfect bookstore in the world, they have the precious commodity that keeps us American’s going: Coffee. And if that’s not enough, they have an array of different desserts and timg_1124reats. I had an Emerald City iced coffee, and it was the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, and coffee. Jaime at the counter suggested it, and I was far from disappointed. She also gave some great suggestions for places to see and check out in the city. Rachel, who also works at Taylor’s, added in a lot of helpful local input. (Thanks Ladies!)

 

Our next stop, and Jaime’s first suggestion, was Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream.

 

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Taylor had delicious black raspberry, and I tried the delectable Heath bar. The place was relaxed and inviting, and we stopped in for a bit to plan our next moves and people watch. From talking about their weekend plans to their next pokemon adventure, you could tell the people in the store were happy, ice cream in hand, in this amazing atmosphere and town.

We drove around a good bit after that, and took pictures in different areas of the city. We decided to check out a local

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print shop, Kin Ship Goods . If you’re looking for a place to pick up some very creative, locally printed, interesting mementos of the city, this is the place to be. I was impressed at the offerings, but fell in love with my “West Virginia vs The World” shirt, and some interesting sunglasses. I loved the shop so much, I went home and ordered a sweatshirt from their website. While we were there, they were being interviewed regarding the shop, and it’s awesome to see treasures like this while traveling.

 

After shopping and exploring, we went back to our hotel, and settled in till dinner. The beds/room were so cozy that we both accidentally snoozed until past dinner time, changing our initial decision for dinner. After wandering around for a while, we found the Recovery Sports Restaurant  was open, and had great reviews. I had a delicious Gorgonzola burger, and Taylor had grilled chicken.

img_1182The real stunner of the dinner was the appetizer: BBQ Nachos. One of my favorite foods, and this place had it going on!

 

 

I speak for the both of us when I say that the night at the Hampton was the best rest I’ve had in months. To be able to relax and not worry about work, cleaning, or cooking was a great break, and the bed and pillows welcomed me with open arms.

 

After we woke up, had breakfast, and got ready for church, we said goodbye to our lovely room, the sweet receptionist, and the city itself. We went to church in Danville (about thirty minutes outside of the city) with some old friends, and headed home afterwards. The church was welcoming and had a variety of age groups, and if you’re looking for a place to worship, I definitely suggest Danville Church of Christ . Say hello to David and Patty for me!

 

Being such a quick, short trip, there were a few attractions that we wanted to get to that didn’t work out, including:

Kanawha State Forest

Clay Center

Limelight Theatre

The drive home was much curvier and full of back roads, since we left so far from 64, but provided even more gorgeous views through the mountains and valleys.

 

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Our quick trip was exactly the break that I needed, and it was a great time to spend with Taylor and discovering a new state.

If you’re planning on traveling to Charleston in the future, definitely check out the Charleston Visitors Page, they are a great resource for all there is to do in the city and surrounding areas!

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Sweet Home (Anniston) Alabama

Another stop on our whirl-wind 4 state adventure was Anniston, Alabama

Though you probably haven’t heard of it (like many of my other stops), it is a small town steeped in history, brewed with culture, and has plenty of room and plans to grow.

We picked Anniston at first, because a dear friend of ours had recently moved down there (Hey Josh!)

We drove through Birmingham (which I will post about separately), and arrived at the bed and breakfast formerly known as The Victoria Inn.  (Edit: I have recently discovered that they are under new management/in the process of change.  I will post with the updated information as soon as they email me back!)

 

 

We started the day off with a HUGE breakfast selection in the main house, which was absolutely delicious.  Afterwards, we drove around the small town, discussing what we should do first.  We made a stop by the Chamber of Commerce and asked about there favorite things to do in the area.  They were very helpful, and led us to a bunch of things we wouldn’t have found otherwise!

We stopped by the Calhoun Pickers antique mall, which was INCREDIBLE, to say the least.  Mom found some real gems, and we even found a box from Hickory NC!  This is a definite “have to” when you come to Anniston.

Next, we walked around downtown, peering into shop windows and trying to figure out where to eat.  Ultimately, we went with the suggestion of the Chamber workers, and headed down to The Peerless Saloon and Grille.

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The food was so amazing, I didn’t stand a chance at getting a picture before it was gone!  The atmosphere is very unique and interesting, and it has a great history.  The service was excellent, and I suggest the chicken tenders!

After having such a great lunch, we headed out to a place we had read about, and were eager to check out: The Berman Museum of World History

Here are just a few pictures of the exhibits they had, I went absolutely nuts and took probably 700 pictures, and they are all poor quality because I was so excited I couldn’t stand still long enough for the camera to focus.

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They had quite a few (incredibly impressive) artifacts, and they had a wide range of exhibits.  When we went, there was a World War/weaponry area, an American West section, an Asian history exhibit (where they let me run around in a kimono), and a rather peculiar section with torture devices and secret/easily concealed weapons.  Above are two of my favorite things: The Gatling gun and a set of Napoleon’s vanity kit.  They also had a set of Hitler’s silver tea service, but I got over excited (again) and got a great picture of the floor by accident.  For $5 a person, it would be foolish to not stop by during your visit and experience history through such an extensive collection.  But then again, history is my “thing” so I might be biased.

After spending multiple hours in the museum, we met up with our friend and had dinner….at Peerless again!  It was too good to pass up.

We also checked out the Anniston War Memorial, which we had driven by multiple times on the way to and from The Victoria. We spent quite a while here, and it was very touching, covered in the names of those who have served in the various wars/military  actions.

After long goodbyes and a last great night at the B and B, we checked out and set the GPS for home.  On the way out of town, we discovered an AMAZING treat for the road at Daylight Donuts!

We had an amazing time in Alabama, and mom has been asking me with increasing regularity when we will be coming back….so, Anniston, be on the look out for us!

 

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On the Boardwalk: Myrtle Beach SC

Recently, I went on a vacation alone.

That words scares a lot of travelers, especially women.

I read and researched best tactics for safety, made a very clear schedule, checked in with friends regularly, and had all of my reservations sorted before leaving.  I decided to go somewhere that I had been hundreds of times: Myrtle Beach, SC.  November is the off season on the coast, and one of my favorite times to visit.

I have to say, though it was pretty lowkey and very familiar, this trip was the best of my life.

It started off rocky, with the GPS on my phone refusing to load, and going a different way down than I was used to, I had to flounder around in the twilight, fighting frustration and the thoughts of “maybe this is a bad idea, going alone…”

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I finally found my route, after about 3 hours of driving through unwelcoming areas and big stretches of road with very few cars, and I met my darling young cousin at my favorite restaurant: The PIT, in Pawley’s Island, south of MB.

The PIT has amazing character, and thousands of other people agree with me, as you can tell from the dollar’s stapled to the walls, littered with signatures and hearts and doodles.  I suggest starting out with the Pimento cheese, and following it with a PIT burger.  It’s my favorite meal in the entire world, and the live music/people watching add to the experience.

Knowing that I was arriving at my hotel after dark, I had already called ahead, and when I arrived there was no problem at check in.  I stayed at the clean, affordable, and conveniently located Bayview at Boardwalk.  Part of my overall plan was to stay in a place where I could walk everywhere I wanted to go. My only hesitance with this hotel was its parking deck.  It was well secured and I wasn’t worried leaving my car there for several days, but it was a block away, and walking back from it at night made me nervous.  Luckily, the hotel provides a transit service to and from the deck to the hotel, and the kind and helpful security guard made sure that I unloaded my stuff, checked in, and was back safe and sound.

I had a deluxe, ocean front king room, and everything was clean and up to date. The view was priceless, and they’re constantly running specials!

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Another selling point for me: There was a Starbucks in the lobby.

Yes, predictable, I know, but when you can stay in your jammies and still get your Egg Nog Latte and eat your blueberry muffin on the beach, you know that you’re in my kinda place.  I woke up for the sunrise, got my coffee and had an amazing breakfast on the beach.  This trip was 100% for me, and I was going to do my favorite things.

After enjoying God’s amazing sunrise, I got dressed and started off down the boardwalk.  They aren’t faking it when they say that its “Bayview AT Boardwalk”.

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A slow, picture-filled 15 minute walk down the newly built (read about its history and what the upgrades have been here) boardwalk leads you right into the thick of the action.

And what’s the first thing I do?

Get coffee.

As much as I love Starbucks, there is something to be said about local ‘joe shops.  And this boardwalk gem is my absolute favorite in the world: Boardwalk Coffeehouse.

The ladies inside are incredible nice, and their coffee-making skills are absolutely next level.  I had the white “Mocha Lisa” and had to stop myself from chugging it.

When I showed up to the shops, I quickly noticed that I was mostly alone, and that was in part due to the time (9am), the season, and….the lack of power?  The electric went out on the entire block, so instead of walking back to the room and waiting around, I went exploring on the pier and surrounding areas.

I talked to strangers, took pictures, and wrote a few stories while sitting on the dock.  I made friends with this fisherman (though we didn’t talk, I could tell we were friends).

After the power switched back on, I decided a mid-morning snack of the best fries on the coast was 100% necessary.

Doused in vinegar, dipped in ketchup, they were incredible.  I shared them with a one legged man on a bike named Cliff.  After our snack, I walked around boardwalk for a bit, popping in and out of shops, and people watching.

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I went to the Fun Plaza Arcade and played quite a bit of Skeeball and Galaga (and not to brag, but I had the high score for the day….)

I decided to try something I could never get other people to do: Myrtle Beach Skywheel.  For $13, it didn’t disappoint.  The views were great, the cars were comfortable, and overall, it was very relaxing.

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From the skywheel, I saw the perfect next stop: Moe Moon’s.  The fish tacos were delicious, and the people watching from the outside seating was supreme!  I even saw a guy interviewing people for a TV show!

After hours and hours of exploring and people watching, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel.  It had been warm and sunny all day, and sticking to family tradition, I jumped into the ocean (in the very very very cold ocean).  I was absolutely exhausted, so I ordered out Hungry Howies later for dinner and spent the evening watching movies from the free movie rentals in the hotel.

The rest of the trip, I indulged in too much coffee, great food, and a few more adventures.  Later into it, I met up with my friend and her family, and we shopped at Broadway at the Beach, played Captain Hook mini-golf, enjoyed a great dinner at the Liberty, and I introduced the fam to Krispy Kreme.

I look forward to my next solo trip, and my next trip back to Myrtle Beach.  If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced, and tasty trip, I would definitely suggest this getaway!

Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for my next state post!

For all of your trip planning needs, I highly recommend the Go to Myrtle Beach website!  They have the best collection of information on the places to stay, play, shop, and best of all, eat!

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