We left North Carolina pretty much according to plan, which was between 3 and 4PM Saturday. Jen woke me up at 11:30AM, having already started the laundry at her sister's place. We got our stuff ready, headed over there, and each had a piece of the top tier of our wedding cake, which had been frozen for the past year. It wasn't bad, despite Jen not sealing it properly (we didn't know...). Every now and then a bite would be kinda sour, but mostly it was good. Not as good as it was a year ago, but at least the frosting was still the same, if memory serves. We stopped at Hardee's (Carl's Jr., on the west coast) and picked up six 99¢ spicy chicken sandwiches - four for me and 2 for Jen.
Jen cutting the cake - Click this or any image to view it full-size.
At about 3:55PM, we were out of Chocowinity, NC (first chicken sandwich down, Jen ate her first one too) and on our way down Highway 17, which oddly enough, we stuck to the whole time. In New Bern, NC (before which I had my second sandwich), a turn was badly marked and we found ourselves on 70 heading west. There was only one exit, and our mistake was not revealed to us until after that, when we saw the first indicator we were on 70. With no place to exit and get back on, we took an emergency path. If they're not in your area (e.g. you have a lot of exits every so often) it's a dirt path connecting the two highways (north and south, or east and west). They're intended for emergency vehicles and illegal for civilians to use, but what were we gonna do? Go 60-75 miles out of the way? I don't think so. And it's real funny, if you ever have to do this... the other drivers get all vigilant and do their best to prevent you from getting back on, I guess hoping a cop will come along and see what you're doing. I mean, they'll slow down, speed up, change lanes, whatever to give you the hardest time getting back on. Had the third sandwich.
After New Bern came Jacksonville, NC, which we passed through with no hassle. I wanted coffee, so we came upon a Shell/Scotchman station (the latter is the name of the mini-mart), scored some coffee - best I've had from a machine (I get the French Vanilla cappucino - tastes better and I think it has more caffeine). Shortly after but well before Wilmington, NC, I turned the wheel over to Jen. My foot had been bothering me since we left, but I was hoping it would go away. Nothing major, but my driving foot just didn't want to stay steady, so I handed it over to the wife, who incidentally did most of the driving the whole trip. After this, fourth one down. Jen never ate her second one - it got thrown away Monday!
As such, Jen took us into South Carolina and North Myrtle Beach. It is important to note that we did not actually stay in Myrtle Beach itself. North Myrtle Beach is a whole other place, just like South San Francisco. It's a cheap trick, but there you have it. NMB and MB, as I shall call them sometimes, are tourist traps, although not as much as Gatlinburg, TN, where we honeymooned.
We were both very tired, so when we found our hotel, the Quality Inn & Suites, we checked right in. Jen booked the rooms on Travelocity via Yahoo! Travel one night while I was at work, so I had no idea how things would work. It was very easy. I gave them my name and they gave us the keys. I didn't have to show the card used... I might have had to show my drivers' license - yeah, probably - but I don't remember that I even took out my wallet. Room keys in hand, Jen and I hauled our stuff up. What we could carry, anyway. A lot of it stayed in the car, but that was fine. Jen hit the bathroom, I crashed on the bed. When she came out, we both decided we were hungry, so we looked at the information packets.
Me unpacking my shorts in the hotel room
While Jen was looking at restaurants, I examined the room. In the Gideon bible (which I was just looking over for the heck of it) I saw the coolest sticker; this is what it said: "Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life!" and referenced an organization called "Freethought Today", which upon searching for that on Google, turns out to be from the "Freedom From Religion Foundation", which supports the Constitutional separation of Church and State. I never thought I'd see a defaced bible (though such thoughts were in my head) but I do agree that the church and its ideas (not all of which are good) should be optional for the faithful, not mandatory for those who are more enlightened.
Sticker on the inside front cover of our room's Gideon bible
DINNER AND BEYOND
Of all the local and exotic restaurants, we settled on Applebees of all places, which had burned me once before with - you could call it false advertising or bait-and-switch. I knew they had good food, but the dishonest tactics of the Greenville, NC location and/or the chain's marketing department had turned me off. But we went, and though it was within walking distance of our room, we drove. The Walmart was about a mile down the road, and I like to walk off a meal whenever possible. Jen had a steak meal, and I had a chicken sandwich. I remember her steak came on an iron plate (still sizzling!) placed in a wooden plate, on something else, so it was a pretty impressive dish.
Jen at Applebees. Not eating but on the phone with her sister.
From there, we went to Walmart. Mostly just picked up some things, got some cash out (but I'm getting ahead of myself). I felt I had to ask about the alcohol laws in SC, and one guy told me they're available 24/7 (which turned out to be not entirely accurate, but we got what we came for anyway). We picked up some souveneirs as well. But when we went to check out, the line was halfway through the store. I noticed a cashier checking someone else out, and went over there, and was pretty much told that was the employee line, and that yes, only one line was open in the middle of the night. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the one cashier who was working, and she was pretty incompetent. It was almost funny how many of them were just standing around talking on the phone. We decided that Walmart sends its lowest-performing associates to the tourist trap towns as an alternative choice to termination.
We got back to the hotel late - close to 2am. We stayed up another hour or so, flipping channels on the TV. We watched a show on VH1 playing Web clips from YouTube and other sources, and I found out about something people were referencing on the Net but wouldn't explain when asked. This guy gets all emotional at a Q&A with WWE wrestlers, and all of a sudden blurts out "It's still real to me, dammit!". I about fell over, and I've been quoting him all weekend.
I think it was about 4am when we finally turned off the TV and closer to 5 when we got to sleep. Although Saturday the 7th of July 2007 was our actual anniversary, the actual celebration wasn't until the next day, when we visited Myrtle Beach Planet Hollywood.
TO BE CONTINUED...