Travel Update: Charleston, South Carolina

When last we left you, we had just arrived at our campground in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Our first day in Charleston didn’t involve any exploring. Our whimsical lack of reservation-making had finally backfired on us, and we had to relocate from our Wednesday night campground (James Island County Park) to the Mt. Pleasant/Charleston KOA. Thursday afternoon I grocery shopped and food prepped, and when evening rolled around we headed to the movies to see Spectre, the new James Bond movie.

So by Friday we were ready to explore Charleston! First stop: Lunch. While we were pleasantly assaulted by many delicious smells from the restaurants on King Street, we decided to keep it healthy at Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe.

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We had a lovely window seat and enjoyed watching the people go by as we ate.

Our plan for the afternoon was to explore as much of the gorgeous city as we could on foot. We headed south on King Street toward the water, taking in all the charming shops and gorgeous architecture on the way.

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At the end of King Street we paused to enjoy the beautiful shady trees in White Point Garden.

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Next we walked along the battery, through Waterfront Park, then through City Market. After all that walking we were ready for a treat and we each enjoyed a scoop of ice cream from The Fudgery. After a little more walking back to our car, we were more than ready to spend the evening enjoying a campfire back at the campground.

The next day was Saturday, and my plans included checking South Carolina off the list towards my goal of running a race in all 50 states. I’d be running the 16th Annual Old Village Harbor 5K, conveniently located in downtown Mt. Pleasant not far from our campground.

Ryan was sweet enough to get up early and join me … and snap a few before and after pictures!


It was a beautiful morning — sunny and 50 degrees — and I couldn’t have asked for better weather to check state #11 off my list!

Saturday afternoon involved more sightseeing. This time we were off to see Fort Sumter National Monument.  Fort Sumter, famous as the location of the first shots of the Civil War, is a sea fort located on a sand bar — built up with New England granite! — in Charleston Harbor.

We were a little disappointed that even though Fort Sumter is a national monument, we weren’t able to use our America the Beautiful park pass for the fees. Because it’s located on an island, trips to Fort Sumter are managed by a private “concessioner” providing ferry service to and from the island.

The round trip is about 2 hours long — a half hour ferry ride, and about an hour to explore the fort. We took the ferry that leaves twice daily from Mt. Pleasant (there’s also a ferry that leaves from Charleston 2-3 times a day). The ferry ride included helpful historical narration and some lovely views of the harbor.

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When the ferry docked at Fort Sumter, we enjoyed a lively telling of the history of Fort Sumter by a park ranger, then explored the fort on our own. It’s fairly small — less than 200 feet across — and we were able to explore the entire fort and its small museum with plenty of time to spare.


After taking the ferry back to Mt. Pleasant, we headed over the bridge once more, this time to check out some of the beachy island towns surrounding Charleston. We even stopped for a quick walk on Folly Island, although the sea breeze was chilly and I didn’t last long!


That was our last night in Charleston, and we left feeling like there was much, much more we could have explored.  But we were headed south: On to Savannah!

Panerathon & Goodbye to Kat (Day 4)

Sunday morning I was up at 7:30am and ready to run again! My Ohio race was the Panerathon 10K/5K – I had opted for the 5K in light of all the running and driving happening this weekend. The race was only about a mile from the hotel, so Kat and I walked there to stretch my legs and avoid having to park.

When we arrived at the race start, my immediate reaction was “best.race.ever.” They had Panera coffee and bagels available at the start, real bathrooms available (yay, no portapotties!), and lots of vendors and fun games like “bagel tic-tac-toe” for the kids. I was also pretty excited about the gender-specific tech tees, which I thought were really nice for a smallish, fairly inexpensive race.

My legs felt so good when the starting gun went off, I almost wished I’d signed up for the 10K instead. The course was a simple out-and-back through a neighborhood behind the shopping center, with a steady decline on the way out and an incline on the way back. I knew we had a big driving day ahead of us on Monday and I’d regret it if I pushed too hard, so I kept at a comfortable, steady pace with a finish time of 31:07.

Panerathon finish line

After the race we stuck around long enough to grab coffee refills and a couple of the finish line Panera sandwiches (like I said, best race ever) and headed back to the hotel.

Meanwhile, Ryan had planned another day of rafting, but the friend leading their weekend’s adventures had hurt his back the day before and they decided to cut the fun short. He enjoyed another Cracker Barrel breakfast with the raft crew, then headed our way. Kat waited until he arrived, then she headed home to Illinois.

Once she left, Ryan and I used the evening to prep for the next day’s drive. We ran a few errands, got a car wash, and had a just-okay dinner at Abuelo’s, a Mexican chain restaurant. Tired from the weekend’s activities, we headed to bed early, excited to hit the road for real the next morning!

Beckley Half Marathon & Rafting the Gauley River (Day 3)


For some reason I always sleep terribly before a race, and the night before the Beckley Half Marathon was no exception. I tossed and turned and finally got up at 6:45am. Kat had been planning on joining me to cheer me at the finish, but she also slept poorly and decided to get a little more sleep before another day of driving.

I arrived at the starting line with plenty of time to spare, and feeling pretty good despite my lack of sleep. The weather was cool and comfortable, although I could tell it was going to warm up quickly. My legs had been a little stiff all week after running the Surftown Half Marathon in Rhode Island the previous weekend, then spending eight hours in the car, but the foam rolling seemed to have done the trick. I was ready to run!

Start line Beckley West Virginia Half Marathon.
(Photo from Appalachian Timing Group.)

It only took about a mile for me to realize the West Virginia hills I’d been worrying about were about to kick my butt. I settled in for the long haul, determined to enjoy the scenery and the beautiful morning.

I felt good until about mile 10, at which point I was getting pretty warm, my traitorous left leg was starting to flare up, and the hills seemed to grow exponentially. My mile pace slowed to a crawl, but I powered up the final hills to a Journey soundtrack and ended up finishing in 2:34:22. I’ve never been so relieved to see a finish line!

I returned to the hotel to where Kat seemed much happier with the extra sleep she’d gotten. Then it was back in the car – this time, another five hour drive to Mason, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati where I’d be checking another state off my goal of running a race in all 50 states.

We made good time to Mason, and I knew I’d chosen a good hotel when the exit had signs for both Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle. Our room at the Best Western Mason Inn was small but modern, clean, and comfortable. We scoped out the location of my 5K the next morning, then picked up dinner and headed back to the hotel. Tonight’s plans included a hot bath for my grouchy legs and another round of Lifetime movies. (I know, I’m not sure how Kat handles having such an exciting big sister.)


By way of background, I spent this summer as a raft guide on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, which top out at Class 3 rapids. Class 3s are awesome and exciting, but not overly huge or dangerous.  My trip today was on the Gauley River during one of their annual dam release days during which the Gauley becomes a Class 5 (and sometimes even Class 6) river.

And it. Was. Awesome. Miles and miles of Classes 3,4, and 5, fifteen foot waterfalls, huge rocks — it was amazing. If you ever get the chance, you should do it.

Today was the perfect capstone to my summer: Rafted huge rapids with my friends/fellow raft guides from this summer, made some new friends, saw some insane boats doing insane things on the river, and only thought I was going to die once! I’ll call it a win/win.

Hitting the Road for Beckley, West Virginia (Day 1 & 2)

We officially departed for Road Trip 2015 on Thursday, September 17 – characteristically, later and less prepared than planned. My sister Katharine was traveling with us, and ended up needing some work on her car to make sure she got home safely to Illinois. I packed and cleaned while Ryan took Kat to the mechanic and tire shop – but it was still after 6pm by the time we loaded everything in the Tahoe, safely stowed the camper (which looked a little lonely all by itself!), and hit the road.

We miss you already, Turtle Home!

The plan had been for Kat and me to make the five hour drive to to Beckley, West Virginia, while Ryan met up with his rafting friends at the house they’d be staying at. But halfway through the drive Ryan called sounding exhausted. I suggested he might be more comfortable at the hotel with Kat and me instead of sleeping on the floor, and he quickly agreed.

We arrived at the Microtel Inn by Wyndham Beckley at 11:30pm and were so tired we all slept right through the hotel’s free breakfast the next morning. Feeling groggy and a little cranky, Cracker Barrel seemed like the perfect option.

breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Beckley, West Virginia

My agenda for the afternoon was registering for the Beckley Half Marathon — the race that would let me check West Virginia off my list. I also wanted to make a stop at Beckley Running Supply, which ended up being a little hard to find but totally worth it, with a great selection and open, modern space. I chatted with the owner, Terry, and picked up a swanky new pair of Swiftwick socks.

Next we found the race registration, in the basement of a WVU-Beckley building, where I quickly registered for the race and picked up my race shirt (long sleeve tech, woohoo!).

Race packet in hand, we headed back to the hotel where Ryan packed up his stuff and departed to meet his rafting crew … while Kat and I settled in for a rowdy evening of the Lifetime Movie Network and Dominos pizza “room service.” With my half marathon starting at 8am the next morning, I was ready for some carbs, hydration, foam rolling, and an early bedtime.