Sunday 23rd November. Wilmington, North Carolina -> Charleston, South Carolina, USA
When Alex and I woke up, we bundled into his car and took off on a small road trip. I had a challenge to take care of, and Alex was kind enough to offer his chauffeur services to help me complete the challenge and make myself fifty bucks. The challenge was to drive to Topsail Island, half an hour north of town, and take three specifically requested photographs.
It was a perfect day for a road trip. Definitely shorts weather, and I even had a chance to wear my gawdy 'Las Vegas' shirt. In fact, if we'd had time it would've been a good day for a swim. As it was, we got the necessary photos and cruised back to Wilmington in time for a football game that Alex wanted to watch on tele. He said that rather than hitchhike to my next destination- Charleston, South Carolina- if I wanted to wait until the game finished, he'd drive me down there. It was a long way, but he seemed like he'd enjoy the drive, so of course it was an offer I couldn't refuse. I don't think he had any classes the next day... I hope not anyway.
Why would a reader want photos of Topsail Island?I think this beach was a childhood vacation destination for her and her family. I guess this is a way for her to relive those memories. While we're on the subject of challenges, I'm still taking challenges for Florida, and also for the return trip to New York next month, following the east coast back up, probably via the same route I've come down. Or if you've got any challenges for the UK, I'll be in London over Christmas and New Year. Post your challenges on my messageboard and I'll transfer them to the Challenge Steve page. You know the only way this project can continue is with the support of its readers.
Alex and I got away at about five-thirty. I phoned David, my host in Charleston, to let him know I'd be arriving quite late. Estimates of the driving time to Charleston varied from two hours to four, depending on who we asked. Highway 17 which connectes the two cities, isn't an interstate. It's a minor highway which weaves it's way through every beachside community along the way. It took close to four hours, by the time we had a minor run-in with the law. It seems Alex's plates had expired. In April, when he bought the car, he'd inadvertently registered it for six months instead of twelve.
"Use your Aussie charm" he whispered, when the cops asked us both to step out of the vehicle. I would've felt awful if he'd copped a fine while he was doing me such a huge favour, so I launched straight into the "G'day mate". I told the cops all about my project, and the great adventures I'd had in their country, barely pausing for breath as I went on to tell them about the book I'm writing, one chapter of which is devoted to talking about what great sports the American police are. One officer said he'd be interested to read my story when I'm done. I gave them my card, and offered them a ten percent discount on the retail price of the book. They wished us safe travels, and told Alex to sort out his registration when he had the chance. Phew!
Alex stopped at a Hampton Inn hotel along the way, used the bathroom and helped himself to two cups of coffee and a newspaper from the lobby. He learned from years of working at a hotel, that the night clerk rarely knows- and seldom cares- who is a guest and who isn't. As long as you look like you belong there, you're as good as home. We met David in a bar in downtown Charleston, and Alex turned around for the long trip back to Wilmington. He left me with a gift of a couple of CD's he'd put together for me. One of them is titled 'Wilmington Mix' and the other is a compilation of southern classics. In fact as I'm writing this journal, I'm playing the Southland Songs disc on my laptop.
David works full time selling top-of-the-line home stereos and also studies full time. He rarely goes out on a Sunday night, but made a small exception tonight. Neither of us were keen to make it a real late night. I met several of his friends at a nearby bar, and then we all migrated to another bar. David offered me the option of staying behind with his friends after he went home. One of them would bring me home, he assured me. I was enjoying myself and his friends were really cool, but I was due for a decent night's sleep. If I could stay awake long enough, I'd try to catch up with my journal updates as well.
David rents a small 'efficiency' in what he describes as the worst part of town. I thought the old building had a lot of Southern charm. David's apartment is just a single room, with the shower against the wall, and a toilet behind a curtain. He and the other tenants in the building also have access to a shared kitchen and living room, and a communal bathroom upstairs. I sat up in the living room writing my journal, and didn't need rocking to sleep when I turned out the light at two o'clock. The past few days have been quite tiring, especially trying to find time to edit all my photographs and write journal updates. I've got two more one-night-stays before I get to Talahassee, where I hope to chill out for a few days and put the plans together for the last leg of my North American adventure.
I didn't write much about Charleston, because I intend to come back through in a couple of weeks, and have a better look around town then. These southern cities have a real colonial charm, and it makes me wish I had more time to spend in this area.