Tag Archive: South Carolina

A November Paddle on the Savannah River

Savannah River from Stokes Bluff with LCU Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM Nov 8, 2014, 2-058

Cypresses at Kennedy Lake on the Savannah River

It was a second Saturday, and we were long overdue for a Lowcountry Unfiltered paddling trip. We missed last month, and the two months before that our schedule had been somewhat off. I really needed to get back on the water and it seemed that the Savannah River was just the ticket.

Savannah River from Stokes Bluff with LCU Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM

I drove down Friday afternoon and stayed overnight in Walterboro. Alan and I met up for breakfast there, then we headed on toward our put-in at Stokes Bluff in Hampton County. The section we would be floating wasn’t as long as some of our other trips, but we would have opportunities for several side excursions.

Savannah from Stokes Bluff (more…)

Paddling to Andersonville

Paddling to Andersonville Island

Andersonville Island, Lake Hartwell

Ever since I found out about it I’ve wanted to visit the location of Andersonville. I was finally given that opportunity this week, as fellow paddlers Alan Russell and Jim Leavell joined me for an early week trek out to the island. With this week’s paddle I was able to add another check to my list of South Carolina ghost towns.

Stephen and I had done some previous scouting in this area. Stephen’s brother-in-law, Jim, owns a barbecue place nearby, and he provided some valuable information about the area. Since that time I had been looking for the optimum launch site for a trek over to Andersonville. (more…)

Great Scots Parade in a Mini Convertible

Great Scot Parade Minis-008

Great Scot! Parade in front of the Westin Poinsett Hotel

This Memorial Day weekend actually started Thursday morning, and it’s just barely getting started. So far I’ve been kayaking, gone to a midnight movie to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, attended a history lecture on old maps, looked for mythical meteors, visited an Irish pub, and had coffee and a great visit with old friends – and it’s only Saturday. The highlight so far, though, has been our participation in the Great Scot! Parade through downtown Greenville with the Upstate Minis.

A couple of weeks ago Jeff Goodman had posted on the Upstate Minis Facebook page about the group participating in the parade. I asked Laura if she were interested, and she jumped at the chance. So, Friday afternoon a little after 5:00 we lined up with ten other Minis on Townes Street. We would bring up the rear of the parade.

Great Scot Parade Minis-6 (more…)

Lake Oolenoy and Panoramas

Lake Oolenoy Panorama HDRish

Lake Oolenoy and Table Rock

Lake Oolenoy is one of my favorite local paddling destinations. It’s relatively close, has great scenery, and is perfect for beginners. Thursday morning I headed up there with two of my favorite professors emeriti from Furman, Jim Leavell and Tony Arrington, and Tony’s son, Caleb, who is a chemistry professor at Wofford.

We met at Tony’s house and headed on up, planning on a quick morning paddle. The sky was slightly overcast, but it was still a great day for paddling. Jim and I were in two of my boats, and Tony and Caleb were in Tony’s tandem.

Lake Oolenoy-2 (more…)

Lower Richland and the High Hills of the Santee – Part Two


High Hills of the Santee Baptist Church

Dwight Moffitt and I were out exploring parts of the Cowasee Basin area. This area encompasses the river basins of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers where they come together to form the Santee. The basin name is an amalgam of the names of three rivers.

The area is rich in history and nature, and includes several plantations, ghost towns, and forgotten communities in Lower Richland, Western Sumter, and Southern Kershaw Counties. I’ve spent a fair amount of time kayaking its waters and hiking trails through here, but this time we were after ghost towns.

Earlier in the morning Dwight and I had explored the areas around the Eastover and Hopkins communities. We had already covered a LOT of territory, but our day was just getting started. The morning’s rambles had been confined to Lower Richland, but now we would be crossing the Wateree to explore the High Hills of the Santee area. (more…)

Lower Richland and the High Hills of the Santee – Part One

Eastover Tilt-Shift

Downtown Eastover

Dwight and I had a day available in common, so we decided to do some exploring. I’ve been trying to work through my list of locations of ghost towns, seeing if there is anything of interest at these locations – ruins, an old church or cemetery, or some actual buildings. I had several possible sites in Lower Richland, Sumter, and Kershaw Counties.

As is typical with one of our expeditions, we didn’t get to all of the spots we had marked on the map, and we found a few new interesting places along the way. Plus, I got a chance to try out my new GPS (which is basically a larger version of my old GPS.)


First on my list of places was Minervaville. It had an interesting, but somewhat brief history in the early 1800’s. I really didn’t hold out a hope of finding anything there, but wanted to check it out anyway. (more…)

Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part Two

Ellenton Sign

Ellenton Sign

“It is hard to understand why our town must be destroyed to make a bomb that will destroy someone else’s town that they love as much as we love ours. But we feel that they picked not just the best spot in the US, but in the world.”

Sign created by Bonner Smith
December 1950

I was out on a photo expedition, looking for several ghost towns in the Savannah River Basin. Earlier in the day I had visited the lost town of Hamburg, South Carolina. Now I was after several of the towns that had been displaced by construction of the Savannah River Plant.

Earlier this year my friends Tara and Robin from Sciway.net sent me a DVD on the history of the “Atomic Towns.” “Displaced: The Unexpected Fallout from the Cold War” was a Southern Lens production from SCETV, and told the story of Ellenton, Dumbarton, and several of the other farming communities in the area. I knew about the towns and had them on my list of ghost towns for inclusion in my book, but didn’t thing there was a reason to visit because of lack of access. Watching the video changed my mind, though. Since I was already down here I had to check it out. (more…)

Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part One


Millet, South Carolina

Laura is out of town for a couple of days, so I figured it was the perfect time to check out some more of my ghost towns. The plan was to leave out very early in the morning and head to the eastern part of the state. But…

I overslept. I tend not to sleep very well when Laura’s not in town. So, the plans had to be altered. Instead of the eastern part of the state, I decided to check out some of the locations in the Savannah River Basin near Augusta.

Since the change was somewhat spur of the moment, I didn’t have all the prep work I usually do for one of these treks. I grabbed my cameras, my DeLorme atlas, and a copy of “South Carolina One Day at a Time” and headed south on highway 25 toward Augusta.

I really should have taken the Interstate. The problem with rural roads is that i pass through so many distractions that could keep me from my target. The towns and communities of Greenwood, Kirksey, Edgefield, Saluda, and many others passed by, and I had to resist the urge to stop and shoot. The Field Trip app on my iPhone kept pinging with nearby historical markers, but I kept going. (more…)

Shinola and Java Fix


Art, Antiques, Funk

I had been working around the house most of the day and needed to get out and about. I decided a cup of coffee was in order, but I didn’t just want Starbucks or Atlanta Bread Company, my usual haunts. Then I remembered Java Fix, a coffee shop in a tiny weird building on Wade Hampton Boulevard. That simple decision turned into an afternoon’s adventure.

I’m a sucker for weird angled buildings. These are usually built to take advantage of a limited footprint where roads intersect at a sharp angle. Often there will be an entrance at the narrow end, then the place widens out. There used to be a really cool building at the intersection of Poinsett and Highway 183, but it was torn down when the Pete Hollis Boulevard was build. That was a shame.

Located where Mohawk Drive veers off of Wade Hampton, Java Fix is in a tiny little angled building. I think it started as a car service place. For awhile it was a record store, and I remember stopping in to browse. It’s also been a hairstyle saloon and several other things before the Fix people took over.

Java Fix-009 (more…)

Bocca Pure Italian


Bocca Pure Italian

I must have driven by it a thousand times – an old Pizza Hut with the distinctive architecture now converted into another restaurant.  However, this time it caught my eye.  Laura and I were on our way back from a paddling trip.  Later we would be back up this way for a play at Furman, and we needed a place for dinner.  The sign read “Lobster Stuff Shells” and my mind started pondering the meaning of “Lobster Stuff” and what that might entail.  From those musings we decided to give Bocca Pure Italian a try.  A grammatical error caught my attention and got our business.


I really couldn’t find much substantial background online. The information on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page is rather sparse. Bocca has been here a number of years, but I don’t remember exactly when. Oddly enough, I don’t remember any of our friends or Furman colleagues mentioning the place as a dining destination. We had absolutely no point of reference.


The folks at Bocca have done a fantastic job given the restrictions of old Pizza Hut architecture. The exterior has been redone in gold tones, and those same rich tones with wood accents grace the interior. The wall spaces between the unusually angled windows have been outfitted with shelving for the restaurant’s extensive wine collection. The dining area is relatively small, and the counter is in the same location as the old Pizza Hut cashier counter.


However, the counter was radically different from PH days. I didn’t get a chance for a photo, but a split in the counter allowed access to a room with a larger collection of wine and what was apparently a small wine bar. I did spot a couple of patrons there during the course of the meal. The proprietors have added additional cooking and storage space to the original building. Apparently there is a studio kitchen which can be used for cooking demonstrations.


As for clientele, it was definitely an older crowd, with ages averaging in the 60s. I guess the best description could be “relaxed affluence.” This was obviously not the spot for high schoolers and Furman kids to casually drop by for a pizza. Even so, as we dined, two young prom couples arrived.

When we arrived we were asked if we had reservations, which we didn’t. Apparently we got the last non-reservation table. We watched several others get turned away over the course of our meal. The place was packed the entire time.


Traditional Italian dishes dominate the menu. There are several antipasti selections, including Bruschetta, Ensalada Capresse, and some more unusual dishes such as Scallops au Gratin, Italian Rope Sausage, and Mussels Piccata. All of these are reasonably priced from $6-$9.

There are quite a few specialties with seafood, chicken, veal, beef and Italian sausage. These include Rigatoni, Shrimp Carbonara, Cheese Tortolini, etc. These run from $16 – $24.

In addition to these specialties there were several classic veal and chicken dishes priced at $18.50, and several specialty pizzas for $14.50.

One innovative menu item is the “Personalized Pasta” selections. You pick the type of past, the type of sauce to go on it, and the meat (if any.) Prices vary according to selection.

And if that weren’t enough, there are the daily chef specials, of which the Lobster “Stuffed” (corrected on the display board inside) Shells and a Surf and Turf.

As mentioned, there was an extensive wine selection. Prices overall were more expensive than a casual dinner out, but are in line with a nice Italian meal.


The menu was almost overwhelming. We were on a time limit with the the theater date, so we made choices quicker than we might. We both selected dishes from the veal and chicken selections. Laura ordered Chicken alla Piccata and I ordered Chicken alla Capresse.

Since we ordered chicken dishes, we ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio to go along with the meals. These came out first, and were quite good. However, I should have ordered something else. The lighter Pinot didn’t hold up well to my heavier dish. More on that later.

Salads arrived first. These were simple beds of Romana with a slice of tomato, some onion, and dressed with vinagrette. They were quite good.


It took a bit of time, but our dishes arrived. Laura’s dish had a light lemon piccata sauce with capers, garlic chunks, green beans, and angel hair pasta. She let me have a bite, and it was fantastic – light and flavorful.


My dish was heavier, but no less delicious. My chicken was covered with sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, spinach, and mozzarella. It was accompanied with linguini covered with a light marinara sauce. Mine also had the ever-present chunks of garlic. Again, my Pinot Grigio was a bit light for the dish and I would have been better off with something red.


In places such as Olive Garden they grill up a bunch of chicken breasts and toss on whatever sauce is needed to create the dish. Not here. Even though we both had two thin (but large) slices of chicken breasts, each was prepared specifically for the dish.

The flavors were marvelous, and both of us cleaned our plates. Unfortunately, we had saved neither time nor space for dessert.


There were just a few problems, but none that greatly upset the course of the meal. First off, two waitresses arrived for duty about a quarter after six. Apparently one of these was assigned to us. Also, as “non-reservationists” we seemed to fall in the cracks. Other tables were told about specials and brought bread, but not us. I might have tried the “Lobster Stuff” otherwise.

We never really knew who was supposed to be serving our table, and none of the serving staff seemed very friendly. It was if we were intruders. My feeling was that from the point we were seated we were customers just like any other patron in the place. Laura made mention that we were “taking up one of their tables”, to which I replied, “Well, they seated us, and they had the choice NOT to do that,” so I didn’t worry about it.

In fairness, the place was busy with a couple of larger groups. There were several servers for the small place, but it seemed to lack…friendly efficiency, I guess. We got our food in time, and we eventually got our bread, but timing was always beyond the point where we were starting to wonder. I would hope that isn’t the case on a less busy night or when the staff shows up when it should.


The quality of the food was excellent. The dishes seemed to have an innovative flair, but with a basis in traditional Italian cuisine. It made me want to come back and try one of their specialties. Service was so-so, but I’m hoping that’s not par for the course. Bocca Italian is a bit pricy, but not out of line for a nice evening out with food quality this good.

This was quite a surprise, and it’s nice to know that food of this quality is so close to Furman. I’m sure we will be back.

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