One irony of The Age of The Virus is that while every event and institution found itself shuttered, I got out and did way more than I would have in The Before Times. The constant demands of The Before Times—the sheer tempo at which I forced myself to operate—also prevented me from getting out and doing the sorts of things that make life worth living.
Indeed, I was bitter about it for a time. I spent most of my twenties working and hustling, sacrificing many of the social opportunities of those salad days in order to store up my acorns for the future. Now in my mid-thirties, I’m beginning to enjoy some of the fruits of those sacrifices, though most of the acorns are locked up tightly in my HSA, 403(b) and IRAs.
That’s all to say that The Age of The Virus forced me to slow down a bit, and granted me the time to do some exploring. I will hasten to add that the misery and death of The Virus was not a cost worth paying just to grant me some more free time; rather, I’m acknowledging the silver lining, and stating the reality of the situation. It’s not an endorsement of The Virus to take advantage of some it’s few, more positive consequences.
All disclaimers aside, here are three posts for this Lazy Sunday, detailing some of my adventures over the past year:
“Road Trip!” – I filed this post while heading to my second of fiveUniversal Studio trips (which consumed a lot of acorns) since February 2020. The primary focus of the post, however, was to detail a trip through the backroads of South Carolina, an off-the-beaten-path excursion from Columbia to Aiken that took me through Pelion and New Holland. It was a beautiful drive; New Holland’s vast swaths of cattle pasture were particularly beautiful to see on a summer’s day.
“Backroads Exploration: Una Adventure” – I own an aging, dented, dirty minivan—a vehicle I love dearly, even if I don’t always give it the TLC it deserves. To keep its battery charged, I like to take it for short excursions, little jaunts around the backroads. One recent Thursday evening I took a longer-than-planned trip to the tiny community of Una, South Carolina, just to see what’s there. Turns out it’s not much, but it’s all about the journey, not the destination—right?
The weather is getting warmer and the days are longer. It’s a great time to go out and enjoy some adventuring. Let me know about yours in the comments!
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.
Seeing as it’s TBT, I figured why not look back at the Lazy Sunday dedicated to my first two Universal Studios excursions of last year (you can read about the fourth trip, too)? When I go out of town for a long weekend, I try to file posts in advance, and a catch-all Universal Studios TBT seems like a good way to go.
Against all odds, I recently took an unprecedented fourth trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. The occasion was visiting my girlfriend’s family, and to take advantage of an Orlando Informer meetup.
Apparently, Orlando Informer is a blog dedicated to the major theme parks in Orlando—Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.—and various deals and special events in the parks. In scrolling through their website on our trip, I found, for example, a post about a one-day-only Beetlejuice haunted house that Universal slapped together for Halloween (I was able to get to the other two, longer-running houses on my last trip). For theme park enthusiasts, it seems like a great website.
The publication also organizes vacation packages, as well as twice annual “meetups,” special after-hour events that give guests extended park time and—and this one is huge—unlimited concessions. We had passes for the 12 December 2020 meetup, which meant we could stay in the park until 1:30 AM. Access with the passes began at 3 PM, so we used our Seasonal Passes to enjoy the park beforehand.
It truly made for an unforgettable—and long—park experience. We hit Islands of Adventure around 9 AM Saturday morning, and did a long stretch there until we went to get our meetup passes (we did manage a late lunch at Mythos, a must-visit on any trip to Islands of Adventure). As we were essentially in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for fifteen hours—essentially two park days—we managed to hit up almost everything we wanted to ride and see on Saturday (other than the ever-elusive Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is virtually impossible to get into via the Virtual Line feature).
My uncharacteristic year of travel continued this weekend with a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, the hipster capital of the Southeast. After our family trip to Burnsville, North Carolina, my girlfriend was itching to get back to the mountains, so we decided to come up and spend a day exploring the area.
It’s the first weekend in a few weeks that’s it actually been cold, and we reveled in the cold mountain air. The high was around 60—perfect autumnal sweater weather. It also made the hike up Bearwallow Mountain more pleasant and endurable.
It was a very rushed trip, with my girlfriend and I departing around 11 AM Sunday to take in some sights before rushing back to prepare for our busy workweeks. We managed to spend a little time in Burnsville, which is named for Captain Otway Burns, a sailor and hero of the War of 1812. A statue of Captain Burns, erected in 1909, stands in the town square, with an inscription that reads, “He Guarded Well Our Seas, Let Our Mountains Honor Him.”
From there, we headed into the mountains, eventually reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our destination was Mount Mitchell State Park, which provides easy access to the summit of Mount Mitchell. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, and the highest in the eastern continental United States.
Well, we’re headed back from Universal Studios after a fun-filled visit (I’m assuming as such; I’m actually writing this post before the trip, so it may very well have been a disaster, but I prefer to be optimistic). It seemed like a good time to review some of my road trip posts.
Back in Fall 2019—in The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus—I was on a festival kick. Every small town has some obscure but beloved festival (here in Lamar it’s the Egg Scramble), usually dedicated to some local foodstuff or cultural group. Most of my recent road-tripping has been on those kinds of excursions.
As such, this edition of Lazy Sunday will have a good bit of overlap with “Lazy Sunday XXXII: Festivals“—I mean, it is Lazy Sunday, after all.
“SubscribeStar Saturday: Aiken Amblings” – This post is about the annual Aiken’s Makin’ crafts festival, which my hometown hosts every September. It’s a huge draw, bringing tons of vendors and visitors to downtown Aiken’s parkways. I have many fond childhood memories of running around at the festival, though it’s shifted its location (to its detriment, I think) and its spot in the calendar (because it’s earlier in September, it’s hotter). It’s still a great deal of fun, and I always manage to find some fun gifts for my train-loving nephew.
“SubscribeStar Saturday: Yemassee Shrimp Festival 2019” – Since I was a young boy, I’ve been riding through Yemassee and past Old Sheldon Church on my way to Fripp Island, which is out past Beaufort, South Carolina. Yemassee is an old railroad town that straddles the line between Hampton and Beaufort Counties. The Shrimp Festival is fun, sweltering festival with—you guessed it—lots of friend shrimp (and fried everything, for that matter). I highly recommend making a day of it for reasons stated in the full post.
“Road Trip!” – This post is about heading down to Orlando (a nice bookend to today’s post, while I’m heading back) and some of my meager backroad explorations around rural South Carolina. There are a lot of hidden gems if you’re willing to get off the Interstates and look around.
That’s it! I should probably stop typing while driving (just kidding, just kidding). This return marks the beginning of the end of summer vacation—the tempo of back-to-school preparation will just pick up from here.