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.  

 

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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 .  

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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.

 

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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

 

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Then there are the bumper stickers you see on cars…

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And the trucks that serve as rolling billboards for their brands

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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!

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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….

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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…