|We awoke to a most beautiful morning in Myrtle Beach. The
winds had calmed down overnight, and when the sun rose that morning, it
finally warmed up. Too bad we had to leave.|
Although we had a long drive ahead of us to North Carolina, we could not leave Myrtle Beach until we had a chance to enjoy at least a little bit of the warm weather. Immediately after breakfast, the three of us went down to the beach, where we gave Mary one last opportunity to play in the sand. Once again, she squealed at the top of her lungs as she tossed sand all around her and crushed all of the sandcastles that we made for her. She was having so much fun that I almost didn't want to leave Myrtle Beach - I almost wished that we had had more time to spend there.
After checking out of the hotel, we did a little more souvenir shopping then headed out of town. We took the US 501 out of Myrtle Beach and soon found ourselves back on the open highway, driving through the beautiful South Carolinian countryside.
Originally, our route to North Carolina was going to take us along state highways only, avoiding the interstate for the most part. However, by the time we reached Florence, we knew that it was time to get off of the backroads, because Mary just wasn't going to last during a seven hour car ride. She was already getting antsy before we even reached Florence.
We arrived in Florence around lunchtime, so we decided that we would stop there to eat lunch and to do a little grocery shopping for our trip. As we entered the city's main drag, we found a good number of restaurants - none of which sounded appetizing - but it took us some time before we found a grocery store. Of course, there weren't any Fry's or Safeway stores there, so we really had to look close. Eventually, we found a Harris-Teeter grocery store, which was a good choice because they had free balloons for the kids. That little pink balloon kept Mary entertained for miles!
Then, we had to find a restaurant. A block down the street, we found one, called the Starfire Grill & Bar, that resembled Applebee's inside and out…except for its menu! Most of their menu items had a sort of Greek flavor to them. John had a salad that was topped with Feta cheese, and his meal was served with a cucumber dill sauce, similar to what would be served on a gyro, and a side of pita bread. The pizza that we ordered for Mary was also prepared on pita bread. It was a delicious meal, and when we left, we were quite satisfied.
We were able to merge onto I-20 West in Florence. Although we had wanted to avoid the interstates during our trip, we found that it was much easier - and certainly much faster - to be able to drive seventy-five miles an hour on a four-lane interstate, than it was to go sixty miles an hour on a two-lane road. At that rate, we were certain to arrive in Lenoir, NC before dinner time…and before Mary began screaming in protest to being in a car seat all day long.
We made several stops along the way. About twenty miles from Columbia, we pulled off onto an exit so that we could get gas and stretch our legs. There, we let Mary run around in a grassy area, in hopes that she would finally take a nap. It worked, and she remained asleep for the next hour of our journey.
Instead of going through Columbia to get to the I-77 North interchange, we decided to take a shortcut that knocked about ten miles off of our trip: US 601 to SC 34, which took us to I-77, north of Columbia.
We managed to make it through Charlotte, NC, before rush hour (we had been warned about that), and by 3:00 p.m., we were in Gastonia, where we turned onto US 321, going north towards Lenoir - our journey was almost over! By the time we reached Lenoir, though, we were all very tired and cranky - too tired to go out to look for a restaurant to go out to eat. Instead, we stopped at a Bi-Lo grocery store and purchased steaks, green beans, and baked potatoes to prepare at the mountain house.
The mountain house is located about seven miles north of Lenoir, just off of NC 268. The directions that Lotte and Richard had given us were easy enough to follow, so we managed to find it with no trouble at all. Of course, it helped that we knew what we were looking for - "Just look for Babe," Richard had told us. Sure enough, next to the house, parked in the driveway, was "Babe", Lotte and Richard's old suburban, which they use for off-road travel and camping. They had left "Babe" there for us, in case we wanted to use it.
It was perhaps the cutest, coziest little cottage that I had ever seen, with a large front yard and stone steps leading up to the front porch, where Richard had left us wood for the fireplace. Inside, it had all of the comforts of home: a small living room with a fireplace, a country kitchen, two small bedrooms, both with comfortable beds, and a bathroom. In addition to all of that, there was a deck attached to the back of the house. John and I spent several minutes looking through all of the rooms, ooh-ing and aah-ing over it (this was the first time he had seen it, too).
But John was quick to point out that the elevation of the mountain house was only 1300 feet. "Some mountains," he scoffed. "Our house [in Phoenix] is at a higher elevation than the mountain house!"
After eating a delicious steak dinner, the three of us settled down for the night in front of the fireplace. John built a nice, roaring fire that warmed the whole place up, and, after we put Mary to bed, he and I sat down with a glass of wine each to enjoy it. We were both quite grateful to Lotte and Richard for allowing us to stay there - it was just perfect.
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