South of the Border

img_1352-1If you’ve traveled up or down the East Coast of the United States on Interstate 95, and crossed the North Carolina/South Carolina border, you know about South of the Border!  Famous for it’s mascot Pedro, and for their advertising signs up and down I-95, it’s been a staple of our trips, as children, as parents when our 3 kids were young, and as retirees running away from the northern winters!  What you may not know is the history of this long time fixture at the North/South Carolina border.

Located in Dillon, South Carolina, like me, it was born in 1950 as South of the Border Depot. It was originally a beer stand adjacent to what was, at that time, one of the many dry counties in North Carolina.  Known as the halfway point between Florida and New York in the early days, as the years went on, the business was expanded with Mexican trinkets, and then added a cocktail lounge, gas station and souvenir shop and, and in 1954, a motel.  In 1962 they added a firework’s store, capitalizing on the fact that fireworks sales were illegal in North Carolina!  By the mid 60s, South of the Border had a barber shop, drug store, a variety store, a post office an outdoor go-cart track and other outdoor recreational facilities including a miniature golf course. 

In 1964 it was announced that the route for the under construction Interstate 95 would pass right by South of the Border, and its place in Americana History was assured.  From as far away as 200 miles, you see billboards alongside I-95, many featuring the South of the Border mascot, Pedro.  

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While many have called the SOB mascot Pedro culturally offensive, politically incorrect or racist, South of the Border has dismissed the criticism , saying that Pedro is a light-hearted joke. An interesting fact….today all South of the Border employees  are referred to as Pedro.  

As you approach the 350-acre compound along the east side of I-95, the first thing that you see in the distance is the 200-foot observation tower with the sombrero shaped observation deck .  

img_0031

As you come upon the site, the miniature golf course, truck stop, 300-room motel, multiple souvenir shops, campground, multiple restaurants, amusement rides, and Fireworks stores come into view.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unfortunately, in recent years South of the Border has fallen on hard times, as less and less families travel via car, and many, more modern facilities have opened along I-95.  Every time we’ve driven by in recent years, the place has looked very empty, as opposed to the times we visited in the late 80s and early 90s when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little kids.  Times change, and perhaps in the near future, South of the Border, mascot Pedro, and the roadside billboards will go the way of Berma Shave signs….just a memory of a time when we all were younger.  

PS – In 2016, shortly after I retired, we made our first retiree winter trip down to Florida. On the second day of our trip, we passed the North/South Carolina border, and South of the Border.  In that blog, I told the story of a much earlier trip to Florida, with three little kids, and of our adventure at SOB.  Check it out….

https://wordpress.com/post/rnewadventures.com/44

 

Those People

5d6e7088-f979-4248-bb04-8c53e3cb688a

FYI…we’ve become “those people” who lunch at Costco (come on..two huge hot dogs with sauerkraut and all the toppings, plus 2 sodas for $3.20 including tax…why not?) and who run off to Florida in the winter!

Susie retired in 2013, and in just a couple of weeks, it will be three years since I left WABC on January 29, 2016.  In February of 2016, we headed down to Florida for a few days at Disney World, and to catch a couple of the Mets Spring training games.  It was a real treat to experience a bit of a preview of the Summer of 2016, and I guess we got bitten by the bug!  In February of 2017, Susie and I participated in the  southern swing of the “Kenny and Chris Relocating to LA Tour”, and spent some time in Disney World with the boys, and then New Orleans with the boys and Krissi and Mike, before they headed off to California and we headed back to winter.  Last year we toured a large part of Florida, heading down in February and starting at Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast, traveling down the Gulf Coast, then across the state, down the Keys to Key West, up to Hollywood, then to my cousins in Barefoot Bay, and we ended up with 5 nights at the Boardwalk Hotel in Disney World!  All told, a little over 3 weeks away from the winter!

7f1f1824-9607-489f-918d-ec37648d17b6

23d34fcc-bfe6-455b-98e7-d47076bcdfa0So, this year, we are being pigs!  We leave this Saturday with our first stop being Raleigh, North Carolina, the home of our oldest and his wife, and our 2 grandchildren!  It will be Christmas #3 for Susie and I, this time complete with Christmas Eve traditions of Shrimp Sauce over Linguine, and Lobsters stuffed with Baked Clam Stuffing!  After a couple of days there, we start slowly making our way to the Sunshine State, with stops in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and Darien, Georgia and our favorite shrimp place, B&J’s Steak and Seafood!  

0bf25120-f163-4568-8aa6-c23d09bd313d

Last year we fell in love with Indian Rocks Beach, Florida and we’ve decided to return to the scene of the crime.  We’ve rented a condo right on the Gulf Coast for 3 weeks, and we look forward to a lot of warmth, sun, surf, pool, and fun!  During the course of our time there, our cousins Jeanne and Walt will come to visit, as will Krissi and Mike for a long weekend!  We only hope our favorite Florida bartender Lindsey, who we met at our hotel bar last year, is back on her feet and we can spend some quality time with her!

After that, it’s off to the East Coast and a 3 day stay at the lovely Doubletree Resort we really didn’t take advantage of during our stay there last year in Hollywood, Florida.  More pool, sun, warmth, and Tiki Bar time we hope!  Then we are off for 5 nights with our cousins Jeanne and Walt at their place a little further up the coast in Barefoot Bay, Florida!

ecd4ddab-326a-46a8-be2e-29fe49333cac

Although a stay at Disney World has been a part of our last 3 escapes from winter, we decided to pass on it this year.  Even with my Disney  Retiree benefits and discounts, it’s still an expensive stay, and that 3 week condo rental is costing us enough.  Plus, we were so disillusioned by all the crowds there last year, and the attractions that broke down, that we think we’ll take a year off, and decide again next year.

So that’s it.  If you did the math, you’ll have come up with five plus weeks away this year.  We hope to be in warm weather for the better part of 5 weeks, only dipping out of shirts and flip flop weather on the way down and back up.  I told you we were being real pigs, but there is nothing like that Summer Preview you get from spending some time in warmer climates, when it’s snowing at home!

Ahhhh…RETIREMENT!!

We’ll Follow The Sun

Well, we promised, and we always try to live up to our promises, so welcome to the Quality Inn, right on the side of I-95, in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina!

After stopping at the Acme on 8th and West to buy 4 weeks of Lottery Tickets, (you gotta be in it to win it, right?) we drove over the 9th Street Bridge, and left Ocean City about 10:30 this morning. In the course of traveling today, we drove through New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and ended the day in North Carolina. We stopped for lunch a little after noon at an Arbys in Maryland, which was a real treat for us, because there aren’t any close to Ocean City. About 7 hours after leaving, and having traveled just under 400 miles, we exited I-95 at Exit 173, just south of the Virginia/North Carolina border. The drive was good, traffic was not bad at all (even passing Washington, DC), and now the temperatures are in the 50s, not the 30s or 20s!! Definitely a good day on the road for us!

25E51C3A-80C8-4E73-9CEC-6D02B67D05D8We’re in the last room on the left side of the Quality Inn, and what to our wondering eyes should we see, but a Cracker Barrel restaurant just across the parking lot! Sorry if you don’t agree, but when we are on the road, eating dinner at a Cracker Barrel is one of our guilty pleasures! What could be a better way to start our journey!

 

So after a short walk, we joined folks from Roanoke Rapids, and refugees from I-95, for some iced tea, and a great Cracker Barrel meal! Perfect way to start the first day of this road trip!

Candle Light Cracker Barrel style, and Chicken Fried Steak

and Chicken Fried Chicken

Now we’re back in our room, Susie is in her jammies, I’m writing a few lines for today’s blog, and we are celebrating this first successful night with a little vodka on the rocks! We are nothing, if not predictable!

So, to paraphrase the Beetles, “But tomorrow it’s still winter up north, so we’ll follow the sun!” Night, night.

 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Happy April Fool’s Day to you all, and welcome to my first blog post in about 3 weeks! I trust you haven’t had any “pranks” played on you today, and you are all still diligently watching April the Giraffe, as she moves closer and closer to Motherhood for the fourth time! I know that Susie has been watching on and off for the past month or so, and with much more regularity the last 48 hours. Things look like they’re moving along slowly, and it doesn’t look like April and Oliver (her “husband”) will be having an April Fool’s Baby!

So, tonight’s blog post finds us on the road again! As I write this, Susie and I are sitting in room 352 at the Hampton Inn, in Wake Forest, North Carolina! You may remember one of my blog posts back in February, when I talked about big changes ahead in the D’Elia Family. Well, Susie and I find ourselves in Wake Forest tonight because of one of those changes. About a month ago, oldest son Billy, his wife Lori, and our two Grandkids Layla and Henry, moved from Long Island to Raleigh, North Carolina. Tomorrow is Layla’s 3rd birthday, and Gramma and Grampa are here for the celebration!

Susie and I left Ocean City about 7:30 this morning, and the GPS estimated a little over 7 hours for us to get from there to here. The real time was closer to 8 hours, when you factor in stopping for breakfast, the bathroom, to change drivers, to ffed the car, and some traffic we ran into, but all in all, not a bad drive. Of course, after 12 years of making the three hour drive to and from Ocean City a couple of times a month, 9 weeks and 9700+ miles on the road last fall, and 3 weeks and close to 4,000 miles of traveling just about a month ago, the front seat of our Hyundai Sonata is both familiar and comfortable! Honestly, when we figured out the time it would take us to drive from Ocean City to the Philly Airport, to park the car, go through security, wait at the gate, board the plane, fly to Raleigh, get off the plane, get a rental car, and then drive to our hotel, we probably invested perhaps 2 more hours today by driving, and did it on one $30 tank of gas rather than $500 in airplane tickets! Plus, we didn’t have to take our shoes off!! As we all agreed tonight, flying just isn’t fun anymore!

So after some issues checking into the Hampton Inn (more on that later), we were off to Billy and Lori’s new home. It’s about 15 minutes from the hotel, and is a beautiful 4 bedroom townhouse in a planned community. The space is marvelous, they have already done a wonderful job decorating it, and it really has already turned into a home! Nice work on Lori and Billy’s part! Lori’s Mom came over, and we had a very nice dinner where Layla enjoyed her favorite food, French Fries!! Layla and Henry are adorable, have totally made themselves at home, and are enjoying their new lives. I marvel at the adaptability of my son and his wife, but perhaps it’s not so much adaptability, as the nerve to take a chance and make a major change in your life! I really envy their courage and positive attitude, and look for nothing but great things to come out of this new home! They had the strength to make a major change in their lives, for the good of the entire family, and I applaud them for it!

So tomorrow at 11:15, we will join the rest of the family (virtually all of Lori’s Family lives in the area) to celebrate Layla’s 3rd Birthday, with some real Carolina Bar-B-Que! I for one, am bringing a back up shirt!!

So, before I leave, let me get back to the Hampton Inn. We have stayed at Hamptons across the country, and because we like the Hilton standards they uphold, and are willing to pay a few dollars extra for them. Because we were going to be here two days, I decided to spend a few more dollars and reserve a suite. I walked into the lobby about 3:20, and it was a mad house. Apparently, they had a busy week, many checkouts this morning, and little idea which rooms were cleaned and which were not! Top it off, there was one experienced girl working the desk, and one newbie, who kept double swiping people’s credit cards and charging them twice! So un-Hampton Inn like! I got the experienced girl, but it sounded like they didn’t have enough cleaning staff, and were way behind schedule! The girl who was helping me was very nice, and tried her best, but I stood at the desk for close to a half hour! She was very sorry, reduced our room rate, and eventually asked if I’d mind moving to another room. As we’d been waiting close to 35 minutes by this time, and really wanted to get to the kids, I said fine. Well, we got to the room, discovered it wasn’t a suite, but honestly didn’t care at that point! We hit the bathroom, changed clothes, and headed out.

Tonight, when we returned about 8 PM, Lani was still at the desk, and I thanked her for the rate reduction, but told her that the room I got was NOT the suite I reserved, so did I really get anything for nothing. She was very sorry, said that she thought the two rooms were identical, realized we were less than pleased, and said the since Hilton has a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, and she knew we weren’t satisfied, she was going to call her manager and get our room comped for both nights! She also gave us a choice to pick one of 5 $25 gift cards. we chose the Olive Garden! I told her that mistakes and problems happen, and it’s what happens after the problem that counts, and that if she was able to do that, we’d be more than satisfied! Let’s hope this does work out, because we will definitely be back to Raleigh multiple times per year!

So that’s how our April Fool’s Day went. How was yours????

Friday, March 10, 2017

 

Tonight finds us in our last hotel of the trip, as tomorrow we will be home in Ocean City, and our road trip will be over. Today was a traveling day, with us covering 436 Interstate miles between our morning in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and our day end in Fredericksburg, Virginia. During the course of the day, we were on I-40, I-85, I-585, I-77, and ultimately I-95. Earlier this week, when we made our plans sitting in our room in Bossier City, Louisiana, our plan for tonight was to stay at a Hampton Inn in Emporia, Virginia. We did that so we had options on how we wanted to head back to Ocean City. At that location, we could head up I-95, or we could take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel and small roads up through Maryland and Delaware, or we could catch the ferry in Lewes, Delaware, and use that to get to Cape May. Mother Nature, however, decided that the winter of 2017 wasn’t over yet, so this morning we re-evaluated our plans, discounting the ferry and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel, and opting for the more direct route up I-95. That being the case, we decided to head a bit farther north tonight, and are in a Hilton Garden Inn, about 100 miles farther north than Emporia. Tomorrow, the GPS says we could be in Ocean City in a little over 4 hours, but we’re going to make a slight detour to Total Wines in Claymont, Delaware to pick up some tax free wine!

As I said, the road trip is almost over, and today the Interstate Highways were our home. We started in South Carolina and then crossed into North Carolina, but no South of the Border this time.

FullSizeRender 5

Our next state was Virginia (it’s for Lovers, in case you didn’t know), and when we stopped at the Welcome Center, about a mile into the state, we discovered that we were returning to winter! From the 70s earlier in the day, to the low 50s, and that doesn’t even factor in the winds which were blowing to beat the band!

IMG_7018

As I’m typing this blog, Susie has the Weather Channel on the TV, and they just said that the local temperature was 35 degrees!! It’s 7:50 PM, it’s March 10th, and we’re in Virginia! WTF???

Thought we’d share with you today some of the things we saw along the road today, and some of the observations we’ve made during the past 2 weeks and 3500 miles on the road.

Our first thoughts have to do with the signs you see along the side of the roads, I know, that a long time ago, Lady Bird Johnson tried to stop the sides of the Interstates looking like a never ending ad fest, and perhaps what we see today does benefit from her efforts, but boy are there a lot of billboards. From the classical South of the Border type billboards (100 miles ahead, at Exit 23, 12 miles ahead, etc.), to billboards advertising national and local restaurants (I now know that breakfasts at Cracker Barrel start at $4.99, lunches at $5.99, and they have 7 dinners for only $7.99), to the price of Unleaded and Diesel fuel at hundreds of Interstate exits across the 11 states we’ve traveled. However, it seems to us, that the largest number of billboards seem to be for Fireworks and Adult Stores (called that, and so many other cute variations).

 

 

 

Then there are things you see along the side of the road…like this giant peach! I know you probably would associate it with Georgia, but no, we saw this today along the side of the Interstate in South Carolina!

FullSizeRender 4

While the vast majority of cars traveling the roads with us, have been newish SUVs, sedans, and trucks, there has been the occasional older vehicle. Today we saw this older Cadillac sedan and a very nice Buick Riviera. See the Cadillac below, I was driving when we passed the Riviera so decided that multi tasking wasn’t called for at 80 MPH!

IMG_7019

Then there are the bumper stickers you see on cars…

IMG_7017

And the trucks that serve as rolling billboards for their brands

FullSizeRender 2

And that’s how the road went today!

Tonight we had our last Road Trip Meal at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant. Sorry, but we like them, and we will not see one again, till our next road trip, so we unapologetically enjoyed our dinner tonight!

IMG_2435

Then it was time to feed the car. The Sonata is an incredible road trip car, today averaging 34.3 miles to a gallon, while still driving 70 to 80 miles per hour. A full tank of gas, will allow us to travel at least 465 miles according to the car, and the only time we buy gas twice a day, is when we want to fill up at the end of the day, after filling first thing in the morning. Tonight guess where we filled up….

IMG_7020

So that’s how today went for us….Oh, and by the way, Kenny and Chris told us that we had to name our GPS, so we’d like to introduce you to Georgia Peach Scott, our smart map reader!

 

PS – Tonights Hilton Garden Inn has one of the worst Wi-Fi we have experienced on this trip.  I’d expect this at a lesser hotel, but at a Hilton…NO!

Last Night on the Road

Well, this is it…our last night on the road for our first big Retirement Adventure.  Tonight finds us in an EconoLodge in Fredericksburg, VA.  Today we traveled 488 miles from Ridgeland, South Carolina, through North Carolina, and into Virginia.  We are now about 6 hours from getting home, and we probably could have done it today, but for the fact that we want to stop off at Total Wines and More in Delaware tomorrow before heading home.

So some highlights of today’s travels.  In a rest area in North Carolina, we were approached by a man trying the “I lost my wallet and have no money.  Can you give me some” scam.  Sorry, but need we remind you that someone already bought the cleaning products (if you don’t know about that, see blog post https://rnewadventures.com/2016/03/06/day-three-wdw/).  Then, as we got into Virginia and filled up with gas (it’s some 20 cents cheaper in Virginia as compared to North Carolina) we not only got a full tank of gas, BUT we also got the Sonata washed!  It is now red again rather than the bilious green of Florida tree pollen it’s been for the last week!

Other than that, just another day on the road.  We still like our lunches in the car, spending the day driving together, imageand our nightly hotel rituals as we unwind from the road!  All in all, another good day!  The only downside is that the temperature is going down (dropped almost 20 degrees from this morning to this evening), and as we get to the more urban area of the East Coast, traffic volume picks up!  New Jersey tomorrow, so for all practical purposes, we will be home!

Our plan for tomorrow is to leave here about 9 AM, stop at Total Wine and imageMore,  and then get home to Mineola in the afternoon, in time for our living room couch, take out Chinese food,  an extensive session with our DVR, including watching the last ever Downton Abbey and then sleep in our bed!  Simple Pleasures…