Return to the Road: A Lowcountry Landmark and Coastal Cuisine

When I’m on the road visiting Minor League ballparks, time is short and the days are long. I do my best to document as much as I can, but inevitably much of the non-baseball related content gets lost in the shuffle.

But my pledge, as always, is to get to it eventually. After all, one of the joys of going on Minor League road trips is that they provide a reason to explore towns large and small that one otherwise not think to visit. In this regard, Minor League Baseball serves as a portal to a near infinite array of distinctly American experiences.  I just wish I could experience more of them!

With all this in mind, here are some leftover observations and images from my recent trip through the Carolinas.

Day One — Charleston

As mentioned in my post on the RiverDogs, I was fortunate enough to fire my first shot of the road trip at Fort Sumter.

I was only able to visit for about 20 minutes, but obviously this a must-see for American history buffs. The first shots of the Civil War were fired on this waterfront locale, by Confederate troops seeking to drive the U.S. army out of the fort.

That was 150 years ago. Here’s what the fort looks like today.

That was all I was able to do when it came to extraneous Charleston excursions. That I night I attended the game, getting stuffed with hot dogs before dressing up as one, and the next day it was off to Myrtle Beach.

For those who have actually explored Charleston — what places would you recommend visiting, and why? Feel free to send pictures, if applicable.

Day Two — En Route to Myrtle Beach

Always in a rush, I am, on these trips, but, regardless, I greatly enjoyed the comparatively leisurely paced drive to Myrtle Beach. As opposed to an efficient but homogeneous interstate route, the trip is made onl Route 17 aka “The Coastal Highway.” The road is awash with basket vendors and BBQ joints, and I stopped for lunch here.

Welcome to  Hog Heaven BBQ, possessing an exterior brandished with this unforgettable image.

The restaurant’s motto is “Where it’s not just BBQ”, and I took that to heart. While the $6.95 lunch buffet was reasonably priced and well-stocked, I couldn’t resist the chance for some fresh crab. The meat contained therein tasted heavenly, leading to a level of contentment comparable to that felt by a heavy-lidded pig cannibalizing itself in the afterlife.

Before

After

But as for Myrtle Beach proper, what I’ve written about the experience is all I’ve got. What’d I miss?

Onward, to North Carolina!

Day Three — En Route to Kinston

Traveling from Myrtle Beach to Kinston meant another strong dose of Route 17. On this leg of the trip, the lunch stop of choice was Bart’s BBQ.

A BBQ pork plate (vinegar based sauce), hush puppies, cole slaw, crinkle cut fries, and a pitcher of tea for under $10. A truly excellent bargain.

While this is all I have from Day 3, things picked up considerably over the following four days. Still to come: two classic stadiums, a baseball museum, fast food joints, a massive low-brow shopping emporium, and various incarnations of Cheerwine soda.

I’ll get to it eventually,

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

7 Comments

Excellent!! The first thing you need to know is this: BBQ is a food, not a cooking device (a grill) or an outdoor social (a cookout). I lived in Texas briefly as a child, and I’m well familiar with beef BBQ. That’s not real BBQ, it’s beef that’s barbequed. I love beef BBQ, but this is the home of BBQ. Kansas City ribs aren’t BBQ. Whlie Memphis, KC & Texas “BBQs” are delicious, real BBQ is chopped or sliced pork that’s been slow cooked. In HS I had a geography teacher who started the class by teaching us the seven regions of BBQ in the Carolinas. People are as protective of “their” brand of BBQ as they are of their children. Arguments can and do get quite heated, but here’s what I’ve found: it’s all delicious. My dad likes to say “BBQ is like sex, its all great.” As far as I’m concerned, 1) the places you stopped are pretty much the same kind of ‘Q, and 2) you don’t order crab at a BBQ restaurant. If you’re going to stray from the pig, though, seafood in the low country is a pretty good route to take, and I’m not a huge fan of seafood. I put some quick(ish) thoughts below on where you went. Remember I’m NC born & raised so my opinions on some of this are set in stone. :)

Charleston – The only city in SC worth visiting if you’re not there for sports. It houses a massive amount of American history. Most people don’t realize how important Cton was during the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War. One touristy place I’ve visited recently was the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon (http://oldexchange.org/). It was the center of communication and transport during the Revolution. If you take a few minutes to read over the history section of their page, you get a great feel for how things were. One of the biggest attractions in Cton is the architecture. Down by the Battery at the sea wall there are tons of beautiful old houses. Just walking aimlessly through the neighborhoods is a great way to spend an afternoon. If you’re a foodie, Charleston is a bit of a mecca. From southern cuisine to very fine dining, they do food well.

Myrtle Beach – This is where you go on vacation when you’re a kid if you grow up in the Carolinas. You want an airbrushed t shirt with a ridiculous saying and some silly caricature? This is the place, you can find a shop on every corner and in between. I don’t like MB, and now that the Braves pulled their affiliate out I’m happy to say I have no reason to return. It’s what I imagine Tri-Staters get when they go to the shore. It’s cheesy, everything is too expensive, and the souvenirs are worthless. Want an example? Stop by the Gay Dolphin (http://www.gaydolphin.com/). Yes, it is as bad as it sounds unless you’re looking for ugly sea shell wind chimes, a bicycle license plate with your name on it, or switchblades that produce a comb instead of a blade. I will say they have an excellent minor league facility if you can get past the gimmick of the city on the whole.

I’m looking forward to the rest of your non-baseball thoughts from your Carolinas trip. I made my first visit to Wilson while you were down here, and will make my first trip to the park in Kinston this Tuesday. After following the disaster that is the North American League (http://goo.gl/giEhM) the past few weeks, I’m really glad I live in the hotbed of minor leagues. From my home just outside of Charlotte I can reach no fewer than 16 parks in four hours or less, and that’s not including the big Braves and college wood bat leagues. Here’s to road trips and baseball!

Thanks for the input, Matt.

I wish I had the time for deep explorations, especially within and around Charleston. I should be back in Myrtle Beach in September for the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar, though. Gay Dolphin, here I come!

That’s Stella Maris Church right next to Fort Moultrie, the place I was baptized and spent many Sundays acting anything but angelic. It was built around 1850, and is a simple, beautiful Catholic Church.

– from the guy that hooked you up with the Dog Abides shirt
Michael DeAntonio
Charleston RiverDogs

Thanks for the info, Michael, as well as the shirt! I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on “The Dog Abides,” I think you guys should put that one on sale in the team store. Only a nihilist could resist such an item.

Thanks Ben, glad you enjoy the shirt! (had a feeling you would like it). They are for sale in the store, and do pretty well. Maybe we’ll come up with a black nihilist shirt for the umpires.

Pingback: Return to the Road, Part 3: Local Landmarks and Regional Delicacies « Ben's Biz Blog

Pingback: The Year in Ballpark Food, Part II « Ben's Biz Blog

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