Backroads Exploration: Una Adventure

As I recently detailed in the post “Routine Maintenance,” I managed to get my old 2006 Dodge Caravan running again thanks to an $80 battery.  I finally hooked up the battery maintainer, too, so hopefully the old girl won’t drain down due to neglect.

After installing that battery, it reminded me of how fun driving a busted up minivan can be.  Readers might scoff at that notion, but that van and I share an intimate connection (well, at least I do with it—it can’t really think about who is driving it).  After fifteen years, I’ve learned that machine inside and out.  Sure, after driving my tiny Nissan it takes some adjustment (I still reach for the gear shifter in the wrong place occasionally, and briefly forget where the lights are), but it’s surprisingly nimble.

Aside from the maintainer, I’ve been taking the van for weekly drives to keep the battery up.  My girlfriend and I took it to Lee State Park a few weekends ago, loading our small bit of supplies and her faithful German Shepherd into the cavernous interior.  Since then, I’ve only done a few small jaunts with it, with the exception of last Thursday night.

I got home after a long day and realized my precious van had been sorely neglected since the Lee State Park excursion.  Not wanting another dead battery (and another $80 replacement), I decided to take the old girl for a short spin around Lamar.  My grandfather recommended a fifteen-to-twenty-minute drive every week to keep the battery juiced, so I figured I’d tool around a bit and revisit some of the destinations I’d seen during my brief tenure working with Public Works.

I’d taken the van out a few weeks earlier to Main Street heading east out of town.  On that trip I’d made a large square, turning south, then west, before linking back up with US 401-N, which leads back into town.  It was mostly wide open fields and some ramshackle country homes, though I did spot a beautiful horse grazing languidly in a field.

Deciding against a repeat of that short drive, I ultimately took the opposite direction out of town.  I first headed south, though, past one of our water towers, and cut past a local t-shirt factory.  On a ride-along with a former Lamar Town Councilman, who is now under contract to help us repair and maintain our water and sewer systems, he pointed the water tower out to me, as well as the factory.  He also took me by a residence where some shoddy workmanship resulted in the sandy embankment near the road to collapse into the ground.  A temporary, gas-powered pump had been installed.  A month later, it’s still there, and the underlying problem appears not to have been addressed.

From there, I cut back west, then north, linking back up with Lee State Park Road.  By this point I’d figured out my destination:  the tiny, unincorporated community of Una, South Carolina.  I’d always seen the road sign—“UNA 6”—on Lee State Park Road, and had wondered what this little place might be like.

So, with the windows rolled down and the classic rock station blaring, I set out down Una Highway.  There are a large number of swamps surrounding Lamar—a boon, as it turns out, as the swamps absorb most of the rainfall in the area, making flooding in the town very rare—and I saw several of them on my trip, as well as wide open fields.

The homes in the countryside always impress me, too.  They range from the most dilapidated (but still inhabited!) trailers to elaborate—even garish—country manors.  There are also many respectable, modest homes, of every shape and design.  Rural areas closer to civilization are being gobbled up for subdivisions, and I passed a few such places on my drive, but for the most part it was a series of private plots, often many acres in dimension, all in various states of upkeep.  Most people out in the country maintain their yards far better than I do mine, I will saw—mowing is a favorite pastime, it seems.

I live in a rural town, but I’m only twenty minutes or so from most amenities, and can walk to Piggly Wiggly or Dollar General for most anything I need in a pinch.  I’ve always wondered about folks who live way out—not within walking distance of anything, and thirty minutes or more away from most shopping, amenities, services, etc.  I always imagined if I were in that situation I would make one big trip a month to Sam’s Club or the like, load up on everything I needed, and head home.  But what about work?  What about a commute?  The rise of telecommuting makes living such a remote existence more appealing, but the drive to and from work every would dissuade me from living that far out—and I love the country!

But I digress.  After about ten minutes, I finally reached Una—and realized I had been there before, tooling by in passing.  It is, essentially, a few houses, situated right on the border between Darlington and Lee Counties, a t-shaped crossroads.  There is an old Masonic Lodge there, but even it is the “Paxtonville Masonic Lodge,” not the Una lodge.  That leaves me to wonder:  how small is this place?  Was it literally the house across from the center of the “T” at which I was stopped?

From there, I turned right, cut through some backroads to SC-403, then linked back up to US-401 South, taking me back to Lamar.

All in all, the trip was around thirty-five minutes—much longer than I intended, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.  I was also famished, as I’ve been cutting back on my portions to lose some excess portliness I accumulated this dinner, so that drove my lead feet ever downward.

Here is a map of my route:

Una Adventure

Happy Trails!

—TPP

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