Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tybee and Savannah Trip

Beach walkWhile it’s not my first time to Savannah, it was my first stay at Tybee. Tybee is adorable! Now if your idea of a beach vacation is to walk on the beach, tan, go up a lighthouse, drink and eat ice cream, we have found a vacation spot for you. That said, if you prefer water slides, putt putt, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and fine dining restaurants, keep looking. You will be miserable. Fortunately, we weren’t miserable. In fact, we loved it.

It didn’t hurt that Savannah is a 25 minute ride away, which fixes the fine dining problem. The rest of those things ain’t problems, at least in our book. Maybe the swimming pool, but if you stayed at a hotel instead of a house, you’d probably be OK.

So, thumbs up and down on the following:

Mermaid Cottages: thumbs up

Sea Glass

The fence outside our cottage

We went to spend a little time with my parents over my daughter’s spring break and my mother found a rental place online. We ended up at this little house built in 1930, so amazingly cute. Whoever owns it had all these very sweet pix of their young girls on the beach in white dresses, so properly southern beach. My room was called the Starfish room and had some nice starfish touches in it, but not enough to be obnoxious. Bella’s room had two twin beds with grass skirts! Silly. TWO bathrooms in this teeny house, a very nicely equipped kitchen (even had spices and coffee and tea and sweeteners, wow.) My poor sister only has ONE bathroom in the house that they live in full time! (They have three kids too.) And, it was right on the main street, around the 700 block, which happens to be pretty damn close to right smack in the middle of the island (which is only like 3.5 miles long.)

Tybee Social Club: thumbs up

Not a lot of choices on Tybee for dinner. When you look it up on Yelp, you get 20 places and one of those is really a description of the whole island. And the reviews on most of those places is iffy. A menu for this place was at the cottage and we were pleased. They had “tacos” which by tacos they meant “nice fillings in a flatbread folded in half.” (This was OK.) Our waitress was a very sweet high school student getting ready to take a year off to work at an organic farm, then go to college. The kid and I, with our new diet, had the shrimp tacos (very good, could have used more shrimp, but what was in there was tasty) with veggies. My mother enjoyed the meal enough that she declared a desire to go back the last night. She kept talking about the duck taco, but ended up with the steak. Bella and I tried the veggie taco and thumbs up on that one! A very yummy tangy pesto sauce on roasted veggies is always a winner.

IGA: thumbs down

Very few choices at this teeny beach grocery store. The yogurt, for example, gave three options: Yoplait, Activia, generic. No natural peanut butter. Limited produce. Your best bet? Buy in Savannah before you get there.

The Beach: thumbs up

Nice beaches, mostly void of social clubs and the like. There is one spot that has that sort of thing and it’s OK, the pavillion. They have a good pier that you can walk out on, about 15 stores that qualify as your tacky beach souvenirs/bars/ice cream spot. Not much to see, but if you wanted that, go to Myrtle Beach already.

Marlin Monroe’s Surfside Grill: thumbs kind of up

Sonic takes a vacation

This is OK. The tilapia I had was solid to be certain. The fried plantains were super sweet plus they came with an even sweeter dipping sauce. And I like sugar! My mother had a solid chicken dish but it was waaaay too much to even consider eating all of it. The black beans that came with the fish were … nothing exciting. I don’t even remember what Bella got, to be honest. It’s part of a hotel and so for a hotel restaurant, excellent. Even decorated in massive faux beach and very relaxed. But otherwise, eh. We did enjoy drawing on the paper table clothes.

The Breakfast Club: thumbs up

Next time, share with a friend!

Well, if you’re going vegetarian, it’s OK. They make a lot of their own sausage, etc so if you like meat, add this to your list. I went with the veggie omelet which was not bad. The eggs were good, but the veggies were only OK. YUM grits to be sure. Kid got an amazingly good pecan waffle. But the real piece de resistance? My father’s Chicago burger. It was the size of a small child’s head, with a very large piece of meat sandwiches between some sort of onion, green pepper cheese mix and put on a roll that could be used as a flotation device. He ate half, stuffed full. The guys two tables down were laughing at him. Definitely a local place with a lot of character.

Lighthouse: thumbs up

The view back towards the marsh from the lighthouse

Interesting place! We didn’t get to see as much of the grounds as I would have liked, but we did manage to go up all 178 stairs. Windy up there! Apparently this played a role in the Revolution AND the Civil War, although it’s been rebuilt. It was burned by the Confederates when they realized they were going to lose, so the bottom 60 feet are original, the rest rebuilt. And the view is amazing. You can see Hilton Head Island. I bet you can even see it better if you brought your glasses. Lots of cool artifacts too.

Sugar Shack: thumbs down

Bella and I walked all over the place and she needed a break after 2.5 miles (wimp) so we stopped here. Ick. I got the key lime pie, what a disappointment. So much so I didn’t even bother to finish it.

Seaside Sweets: thumbs way up

They could say they are the world’s best gelato and I would believe it to be true. Caramel that looked gooey and yummy in a frozen treat? Wow. Gelato running over with nice big chunks of chocolate. And! a delicious mango sorbet. Plus, a selection of candy by the pound, which I am a sucker for each and every time. I know I should never eat it, but man I adore candy.

And that actually sums up what we did on Tybee. Not a ton to do, but I ran twice and we walked our feet off, which I always enjoy. We also spent a little time in Savannah. Now I’ve spent some time there and boy I love that town. A little funkier, a little hipper than Charleston. I highly recommend spending some time in downtown, so much fun. However, we never go north of Bay Street. River Street is a tourist trap. Here’s what we got to do in Savannah for this trip:

Zunzi’s: thumbs up

High flying flags

This was my insistence that we eat here. I ate here three times when I was in Savannah for the UCDA conference and it’s really hard to find a bad place to eat in this town. It’s a little take out spot with about 7 tables sitting at the edge of the parking lot. I went with the falafel (wishing I’d done vegetarian curry oh well) and it was still delicious. Kid had “something like pizza” which was a pita pizza that they created on the grill. Mom had the gyro. Everyone was happy. If you go during lunch, expect a long line, but it’s worth it.

E. Shaver’s: thumbs up

I didn’t actually need any books, but this is a unique little spot and we always have fun. We were looking for vegetarian books, but they mostly had cookbooks. Still, we got talking to someone in the store whose daughters ended up switching and she said they are all healthy and look amazing, so that was fun.

Wild Fibre: thumbs up

A very small yarn store, but they sell good stuff. They seem to be an Alchemy brand shop, which is this really expensive and beautiful yarn. I ended up getting a summer pattern with a nice Blue Sky Cotton yarn. The owner is a sweetie and expressed disappointment that we were leaving. We’d be unable to come back and knit together.

Home Run Video and News: thumbs up

Bella found a plethora of Sonic comic books, which was a thrill. They are filled to the gills with all sorts of nerd fun, from videos to books to comics. (Not so much news, not sure that’s in the name.) And the guy manning the counter was nothing like the comic book guy from the Simpsons.

The Book Lady  Bookstore: thumbs up

Imagine a used bookstore in an old space. This is it, down to the musty old chair and the books stacked on the staircase going to nowhere. Books are shoved in every nook and cranny here. New unique titles? E. Shavers. Rare or used? Definitely here.

Broughton Street: thumbs up, way up

One of my very favorite streets anywhere, period.

Savannah Bee Company: thumbs up

Free taste testing! And it worked, we bought honey.

Nourish: thumbs up

Handmade soap flavored with your traditional rosemary and lavendar, etc to chocolate or hippie soap or even local Savannah beer soap. They make about 90% of what they sell in there. The things they aren’t making are things like the Badger foot cream.

Paris Market: thumbs up, way up

Hot type sweet

The upstairs is fun, sure. You can get some funky candy or a coffee, lots of books, letterpress cards and jewelry and the like but the downstairs is nuts! You probably didn’t realize that you wanted burned out flash bulbs or old Zippo lighters or slides or photos or hot press type.

Clipper Trading: thumbs up

Fun place, lots of fair trade imports. Some really nice, expensive Asian pieces too.

Civvies: thumbs up

Definite retro vibe to this consignment store.

Primary Art Supply: thumbs up

Nice, kind of pricey, art supplies as well as a selection of snarky merchandise from favorite vendors such as Accoutrements, Blue Q and Knock Knock. My mom is not an artist and even she approved of this store. Bonus! Next to Civvies.

24e: thumbs up

Fun funky home decor store in a great space. Love the exposed brick wall in the middle of the front of the upstairs, with the mural still on it.

Firefly Cafe: thumbs eh

I used to adore this place. LOVED it, would go way out of my way to go. And it is out of the way too. But this time? It just felt … different. The menu seemed shorter. The only options for pescatarians were either sold out or salads. It was still a good salad but … it’s lost the charm for me.

Wright Square Cafe: thumbs up

We haven’t tried the cafe, but I was less than thrilled by what I saw in the cafe. Nice collection of chocolates and truffles though! Worth the stop. Still, had I been closer (and not with an 11-year old?) Lulu’s Chocolate Bar! That is divine.

Mable’s Cupcake Emporium: thumbs up

Yum! And they are not so huge either. They are what a cupcake should be: a nice little treat. I got the banana nut with vanilla frosting and it was gone in a matter of minutes. Bella got the Mable with buttercream frosting, which she heartily approved. Mom got chocolate with strawberry, also good. They make 800 cupcakes in the off season, more like 1,000 during high season. Once they are sold, they close up shop.

This is only what we visited this time. Savannah is an endless treasure of great places to discover.

What did I miss? Any excuse to go back people!

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Rediscovering Ms. Jane Brody

Two weeks ago, my daughter declared she would be a vegetarian. She has always loved animals and she also has a passion for good food. She found “Don’t Eat This Book” by Morgan Spurlock on my shelf several years ago and became so obsessed with it, we finally had to hide it. In a way, I guess it was inevitable, but it was brought about by watching an Upton Sinclair video at school. Apparently watching how they made meat back in the day was simply too much to bear. It didn’t help that the very next day NPR decided to air a story about not being able to photograph chicken farms.

We did manage to convince her to go pescatarian. And so if she would go pescatarian, I would too. I’m so close to it anyway and it seemed like a good way to make sure she was getting all the nutrients she needed.

Her father was extremely unhappy about this news. I love him, but there are times I feel we are eating incompatible. While we do share a love of good food, I prefer sweet … and he prefers savory. Especially meat savory. The thought of no more coq au vin or meatloaf … well … he was very worried.

And so he was very concerned about Easter dinner. Ham was certainly not on the list. A roast chicken was out, as he refused to eat it all by himself. (“But you could freeze it!” I said. “No, I don’t want to do that,” he replied.)

So, armed with our new books (“The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone and “You Are What You Eat” by Gillian McKeith), we looked for some ideas. In the end, I went with an old friend: “Good Food Book” by Jane Brody. This is really old too. I bought this book in 1987, one of my first cookbooks I ever bought. I think I actually just read more than I actually made, and when I did, I usually did it wrong. In fact, I was marveling how quickly I was able to chop veggies this time than the last time I made this entree, 20 years ago. There are some GREAT vegetarian options in this book and I think I’ll be opening it up a lot in the future.

So, here’s what I made tonight, and my husband grilled a lamb chop, which he and the cats loved. Oh, and the kid ate two servings too! The rest is for dinner tomorrow. Husband was VERY skeptical and kept telling me that it wasn’t properly Irish. Once he got past the lack of lamb or Worstershire sauce or the fact that it has broccoli and black beans in it, and the like, he declared it fine.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

      Baked Potato (baked potatoes), 2 pounds
      Butter, unsalted, 1 tbsp
      Milk, 1%, .25 cup
      Kraft Chunk 2% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 2 oz
      Soy Sauce, 1 tbsp
      Olive Oil, 1 tbsp
      Onions, raw, 1 large, chopped
      Carrots, raw, 1 pound, chopped
      Garlic, 3 clove, chopped
      Broccoli, fresh, 12 ozs (I bought a bag of chopped)
      Green Beans (snap), .5 cup, chopped
      Del Monte Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes, 28 oz can
      Beans, black, 15 oz can
      Spinach, fresh, 2 cup (Again, I bought a bag of chopped)
      Oregano, ground, 1 tbsp
      Basil, 1 tbsp
    Adobo, 1 tsp (or garlic salt)

Directions

1. Prepare potatoes: peel and cube, boil for about 7 minutes. Drain and mix with the butter, milk and soy sauce, along with spices of your choice. I added some rosemary and garlic. Set aside.
2. Prepare veggies in a large skillet while the potatoes boil. Heat the oil and add the garlic. Stir fry for a minute, add the onions and carrots. Let those cook for a while and add all veggies except the spinach and the beans and tomatoes. After about 5-10 minutes, add the beans and tomatoes and let simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add the spinach and simmer 5 more minutes.
4. Put the veggies in a large casserole dish (3-4 quarts) and spread the mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top and then sprinkle some paprika on top.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 oven or until topping is lightly browned.

Serving Size: Makes 8 servings

  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 281.3
  • Total Fat: 5.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 9.3 mg
  • Sodium: 638.9 mg
  • Total Carbs: 50.2 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 10.6 g
  • Protein: 11.1 g

My kid swears she isn’t missing meat yet (although we’ve had our share of fish!)

I was going to blog about all we saw and did in Tybee, but this came first. So, be patient; I will bring you all my recommendations about Tybee. That is to say, not a lot. The whole island is tiny and there’s a grand total of 19 restaurants to choose from and about 17 of them ain’t so great. (Still, Tybee is fabulous.)

Any vegetarians out there got any advice on how we should proceed? Thoughts? Am I crazy to let my 11-year old try this?

Spaghetti Love

More squash love from the Prado household! I’ve discovered spaghetti squash. I feel a little late to the game, but I’ll brag on what we’ve done with this gourd anyway.

Again, while I’m checking out, questions from the Ingles clerks, who are sweet and friendly, but young, about what the heck am I buying. And again, I start out with they are DELICIOUS and AMAZING and LOW IN CALORIE and SO TASTY and again they are smiling nicely and waiting for me to pay and leave so they can get back to scanning in sodas and chicken nuggets and the like. (Am I being snotty and elitist? Damn right.)

And again, as I’ve said before, if you’re going to to eat gourds in the quantity that we do, don’t bother to put away the Halloween cheapy knife you bought one year on a whim because it was on clearance. That sucker cuts through acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash as good as any knife in my kitchen, including my now favorite Cutco knives I bought on impulse, only because I desperately wanted the scissors and this spreader. (I bought the smallest set they had and I LOVE that spreader.) But I use the $2.95 knife to fly through a gourd and I swear by it. I bet it’s even as good as these crazy expensive, beautiful, hand-crafted knives made in Charleston that I will never be able to afford as long as I work for the state.

But I digress. We took the spaghetti squash, cut them in half, spread them with olive oil and baked them for an hour in a 375 oven. And while that was going, I made a simple tomato sauce: saute 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped, in hot oil, add some oregano and a little red pepper (unless your sister is coming over and she is allergic to pepper, then omit this.) Add a pound of seeded, chopped tomatoes and cook those for a few minutes. Then add a big can of crushed or diced tomatoes and let that boil down for a while. Oh, and fresh basil. Then, in the last 20 minutes, toss in a pan full of old veggies in your fridge. We had: green pepper, baby carrots, onion, green beans and mushrooms. Let them roast with some olive oil, garlic, oregano and basil and Adobo.

Pull the squash out, shred into spaghetti, top with veggies, then sauce, then add mozzarella OR parmesan OR both and eat up!

Today, the squash was gone but we still had some veggies and sauce. So I made bruschetta. Or at least a semblance of that. I took some evil delicious Italian bread my husband bought at the store, sliced it up and brushed each side with a little olive oil. Then I topped them with the leftover veggies, topped that with a bit of the tomato sauce and put a slice of the mozzarella. The husband bought a very nice slab from the deli, yum. Baked that for 10 minutes until the cheese melted, pulled them out and put basil leaves on them. DELICIOSO!

And to think we nearly ate out. What a loss that would have been!

Charleston, revisited

Thought I’d review where we went and what we saw. Most people know that I adore Savannah as much as anything, but this time, I got to see some of the charm of Charleston I’ve missed in the past.

So, the good, the bad and ugly, in order of our visit.

Radisson. Serviceable. All I can say is if you’re going to do the Bridge Run, try to avoid staying in North Charleston. This was just a bed and a shower to us, no less no more. I can’t even talk about the breakfast, as we left at 5:10 and it wasn’t served until 6:30. The room was clean, beds were nice but I’m left with two memories. One was the somewhat greasy hair dryer handle left by the person before us who apparently used a lot of hair gel or grease. The other was the clerk who checked us in. I had two sets of directions to the hotel, so I went with the one I got off the hotel web site. Alas, that was a mistake. There’s road construction going on that made our trip from the highway to the hotel go from .3 of a mile to about 5 miles. When I checked in, I mentioned that they might want to change this to which I was told “yeah, that happened three days ago, so we haven’t had time to get to it.” I heard a quote on the radio this morning regarding customer service that I thought was really terrific: “if you’re going to pay peanuts, you’re going to get monkeys.” I think it’s safe to say the Radisson is paying peanuts. C+

Hominy Grill

Bella loves shrimp and grits

Hominy Grill. I’ve been here before, so this was a return visit. They managed to squeeze us in, which I was beyond appreciative, having had a bit of a rough start in Charleston. The host was kind enough to get us in, the waitress was a sweetie and the food is always good. Bella thoroughly enjoyed her shrimp and grits, and later her coconut cake. I loved my salad and the chicken, black bean and sweet potato soup. Since I couldn’t eat the cake, well, I ate her cornbread. Also very good. No, we didn’t drink the sweet tea, but they served us anyway. We left with a smile on our face. A very busy evening, but they were professional in every way. Plus, we got a nifty postcard to take with us: Grits Are Good. And how! (Oh and since Bella didn’t order the buttermilk pie, I found the recipe on their web site and yum!) A-

RUUUU-BEN!

Marion Square. A lovely spot! This is where the party was held and I can’t say enough about what they do here. Unbelievable. Plus, walking around freely, right up to the stage and seeing Ruben Studdard sing, well, kind of cool in a cheesy kind of way. He does have a beautiful voice. Plus, we enjoyed the fruit, Clif bars, bagels and muffins and chocolate milk. We passed on a lot of other stuff, including the Johnsonville Brats. Later, we walked through and lots of students sunning and playing soccer. Like a Bowman Field for the C of C crowd. A+

SC Aquarium. Bella’s choice. Now I’ve been here before, but I’ve always been with Keith. This time, we could go at a slightly quicker pace, and so I was happier. This is a cute aquarium and we were finished within 2 hours. $18 is a little steep for what you see, but if you flash your AAA card, you save a $1. The aquarium tries to focus on SC aquatic life, which I like. A big albino alligator positively glows in the water. There were volunteers walking around with some small birds of prey (a sparrow hawk and a screech owl) and a baby alligator, which we got to touch. There were also manna rays and horseshoe crabs, and a nice bird exhibit. A big tank had some sharks and other very large fish. It appears some of the signage has aged too much. I suspect funding is tight. B

Caviar and Bananas. A market/deli/coffee spot. I got a nice little salad and Bella got sushi, both solid. They also sell a fair amount of local stuff and have a terrific selection of chocolate. The chai tea was delicious and hit the spot. There looked to be nice sandwiches too, but we were still full from the free goodies at the party. A

Sweeteeth. OK, this is something we bought at Caviar and Bananas, but it deserved its own comment. The story here is so cool. This guy used to work at EVO as a bartender, started to play with chocolate and now it’s him, a bunch of volunteers and a marketing person in Greenville. I’ve sampled the Peanut Butter and Chipotle, delicious and the Ginger, also quite good. That’s saying something because I’m not the biggest milk chocolate fan but it’s gooood. You can also buy it at O’Cha in Greenville, FYI. A

Robot Candy. Wow. A wall of gummies of all sorts. Peach Penguins. Strawberry cream gummies. Mango gummy bears. Brains! Plus the always delicious jelly bellies. Oh, and toys. Bella really wanted the Darth Vader alarm clock, but I wouldn’t bite. Instead, she bought the robot arm (basically a gripper arm that makes noise) and some sort of Mario Bros. thing full of mints. Lots of Japanese candy and just a lot of utter silliness. Bella said she wanted to move in. Oh, and kudos on the nice design! A++

Blue Bicycle Books. Nice! You gotta love used bookstores and this one is a good one. Long and narrow, with side rooms for some privacy. A cat resides there, so still we almost thought he was dead or not real. Lots of good books from the area and a room full of kids’ books. We picked up Judy Blume’s Superfudge, which Bella devoured. A

Any of you been to any of these places? Do you agree?

Bridge Run!

Like I said in my previous post, I did just about everything wrong that you could do on this race. So, if you want to read the unhappy news, go to that post. This is the post about what did go right.

We left Clemson around noon, with sandwiches from the always delicious Pot Belly Deli. Bella got the usual St. Stevens (turkey and swiss on a croissant) and I got the Healthy Club (not THAT healthy as it has cream cheese AND cheddar cheese) and off we went. The drive was easy. Getting to Charleston from the upstate goes like this: get on 385, which dead ends on to 26. Go straight for 200 miles.

After a clusterf*k of traffic in Charleston, we finally got to the Expo, which was insane. INSANE. Not sure I’d go back to the Expo. I’m not one to seek bargains or giveaways at those events. Maybe I’ve been in the business too long, but I really don’t want most of that stuff they hand out. We saw people walking out with these enormous bags of stuff. I think people just … grab, without care or thought. It feels like there’s this mob mentality and the lizard brain kicks in and people just start grabbing whatever they can find.

Hominy Grill

Bella loves shrimp and grits

Now my daughter can’t stand crowds or difficult situations like not finding parking. I mean, who does, right? But it makes her stomach hurt, can make her physically ill, even. This is why we don’t plan to go back to DisneyWorld. She pretty much cried through the experience. So, once we survived the parking, survived the packet pick up, I told her she could eat wherever she wanted. She picked Hominy Grill. We’d eaten there two years ago plus she’d seen it on Man vs. Food, a show that she and my husband really enjoy. Here was the first thing in Charleston that went right for us. We managed to find parking on the street (the lot was full) and there we are, on a Friday night before a big event, 40,000 people running a road race the next day. The host says “well, we are booked, but we have someone coming in at 8. It’s 7:05. If you can eat in 55 minutes, you can have the table.” YES! I had a delicious salad of greens, pumpkin seeds, feta and I’m sure other stuff I’ve forgotten and the chicken, sweet potato and black bean soup. Bella had the shrimp and grits.

Hominy Grill 2

Bella has the coconut cake all to herself!

And then she turned evil on me. It came time for dessert. And she chose the coconut cake. Not the buttermilk pie, which is legendary, the cake. And if you folks follow me in any way, you probably already know I gave cookies and cakes for Lent. So Bella had it all to herself, which is why she used two forks. We finished up at 7:45 and gave up the table in great shape, very full and content.

Back to the hotel and we tried to get to sleep early. I did not sleep well at all. My husband could not go as he was in Orlando, so I had a huge concern about my daughter. I couldn’t well leave her by herself in Charleston for three hours, and my Jazzer-buddy Jessica and her husband Stanley had graciously assented to him hanging out with Bella for that time. But we had to meet up with them to make that happen, and this meant I had to be on time to do that. And since I hadn’t booked my hotel earlier, we were a good 20 minutes out. We woke at 5 am (ouch), spent 10 minutes getting ready and hopping in the car, and then cruising back down what Bella was now calling eBay Street aka East Bay Street. Fortunately, Jessica and Stanley were easily found. One concern resolved. Now we would just have to find them at the end of the race. More than 40,000 racers and I knew that might be a challenge as well.

The port-a-potty, very common

The name of the company was a source of amusement for Bella

We managed to park at the very top of the parking deck and to the buses right at 6:00. We got on a bus almost immediately. (Stanley told us we got lucky; the line got much much longer very quickly.) Bella noted that these buses seemed so new and shiny and that they didn’t have any writing on them. A sad statement on the SC Education system. We got on the bus and I immediately felt 10 years old again. It was really strange how that happens, the smell of the naugahyde and the size of those seat backs (which I’m presuming act as some sort of airbag with the lack of seatbelts in them.) Half an hour later, there we were in Mount Pleasant. A 20-minute stroll past a lot of port-a-potties and we waited — a long, long time. It was an hour and a half. It’s a good thing that I like Jessica and we found plenty to talk about, because it could have been miserable had I been alone.

Jazzerbuddies and now race buddies

Jazzerbuddies and now race buddies

Around 7:30, we got into our corral (an 11-step staggered start, no lie), listened to the wheelchair race start, stretched and listened to Ruben Studdard sing the National Anthem. Then we moved up every 3 minutes, until finally corral D was ready to start. And with that, Jessica and I along with about 4,000 others, trotted down the road. The first several miles were easy and the crowd broke up pretty well and we dodged and weaved our way up the street.

The start line

The start line

And then we ran up the bridge. Here was my first mistake. I just ran too fast. Add to what I’m realizing now was my second mistake: I didn’t drink enough water. I didn’t want to pee all over myself and I was afraid of running on a full bladder. So around mile 4, my innards started to cramp a bit. Those last 2.5 miles were very hard for me, even with the crazy easy terrain. I never run at an elevation of 2 feet. I had to take about four 30-second walk breaks.

Still, a gorgeous run and a stunning day to do it. And the bridge is simply gorgeous. It was hard to look over the bridge too much to the Cooper River; there were just too many people to dodge. But running up to it, wow. Beautiful. And the bands that played along the way were fun.

The after party at Marion Park is also just insane. I think this is where the organizers for this race really shine. There were free, well, everything. Bananas, pineapple slices, apples, oranges, bagels, muffins, slushies, ice cream, Clif Bars, massages, water. Mounds and mounds of food. HUGE piles of muffins, for example. People were taking boxes from the vendors and filling them up with the free samples. A big free concert going on, which Ruben was singing when we got there. We got ready to leave and we saw this HUGE line for Johnsonville Brats, all being cooked on the most enormous cooker you have ever seen. It was like the length of a truck rig, no lie. Oh, and chocolate milk. The most delicious chocolate milk ever. The wienermobile showed up. There was apparently an old Cadillac that Bella said she saw.

Outside the aquarium

Christine outside the aquarium, with the Cooper River Bridge behind her

So, this begs the question: will I do it again? I don’t know. It’s a lot of work to get down there and get ready for it. Having to get up and at it three hours before an 8:00 am start is rough. But it’s fun. I almost feel like I need to do it again so that I do it correctly next time. If my family is willing to walk it next year, I’d do it again. But I won’t raise money again, and I’ll plan to spend more time in Charleston.

Oh, and next year I’ll stay in Mount Pleasant! Maybe then I can just wake up at 6:30.

How Not to Race

My experience with the Cooper River Bridge Run (CRBR) was, at best, a comedy of errors. I think just about everything you could do wrong, I did. There’s much to say here, so I’m dividing my experience up into several posts.

So, here goes, how not to have a great race.

1. Wait until the last minute to book a hotel room. We ended up in North Charleston, away from absolutely everything. It’s true that we didn’t need a fancy room, but we would have been happier with a room not so inconveniently located from the action. Especially when the action requires that you be in line at 6 am. That 5 am wake-up call is going to suck, all day.

2. Book early and book often. I signed up so early that I totally forgot my settings. Normally I’m one to check out a website first and frequently, but for some reason I didn’t this time. I totally forgot that I had asked them to hold my packet. So when my friend got hers, I thought something happened to mine, and the lack of response from the race organizers (one email told me, basically, “you’ll have to find it” and it took 5 days for them to call me to straighten it out.) As a result, I panicked as they were closing registration and I reregistered. I ended up with two registrations.

3. Register right after a stressful time, late at night. The beginning of my demise started as soon as I signed up. I signed up at the end of the holiday break, right after having my sister and her family here for three days, right after dealing with the family holidays. And I did it late. I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing at all. So not only did I not pay attention to what I requested, I put my address in for the Alzheimer’s Association (who I raised money for) and their address for my personal address. What a mess.

4. Tell them you’ll pick up the packet. Not only did this cause the confusion that made me register twice, but it turns out there’s some really important information in there that is helpful before you head down to Charleston. Like where to park (good to know before you try to park), or how to plan for your trip, or what expectations are on race day morning. AND, when you pick up your packet, they’ve supplied you with this cool little USB hard drive bracelet that has all that information for you. Great idea, as long as you’ve brought your laptop. I didn’t think I’d need it so I couldn’t use the hard drive until I got home.

5. Ignore the web site. Totally out of character for me on this one, but ignore it I did. Wish I’d spent more time out there so I would have realized that parking was at the aquarium (a left turn) instead of Galliard Auditorium (a right turn.) I would have also understood what was expected on race day.

6. Make it a short trip to Charleston. Some of this couldn’t be helped. I took Bella with me and she had school, including some school that would be hard to make up. So we didn’t leave until noon, which meant we got there at the height of packet pick up. Now I can deal with a crowd (even though it totally stresses my daughter out), but the traffic was ridiculous. It took us an hour to figure out where to park. And, since I spent most of the day working, driving, picking up the packet, I was utterly exhausted before the race began. By mile 4, my insides started to cramp a bit which made the last two miles extremely difficult. I barely finished in an hour, one of my worst times in a while.

7. Work a little before you take off in the afternoon. I should have come home and relaxed, preparing for a long drive in the afternoon, before an insanely early morning and a long drive back. But no, I chose to go in to work, hustle for 3 hours and have an emergency situation pop up an hour before I was leaving, causing me to feel guilty leaving the situation in others’ hands.

7. Spend your energies on raising money instead of training and preparing. Again, totally out of character for me not to be more prepared for this race, but I ended up putting a lot of time and energy into raising $1,000 for Alzheimer’s. I needed to focus on making the trip down there instead. I’m glad I raised money and that I was successful in meeting my goals, but I won’t do it again. Not only did it take far too much of my energy as I had to bribe people with hand-knitted gifts, I was left feeling somewhat bitter. I was pleased and surprised to see who did gave and am grateful to all of them. But I was saddened and disappointed by who tightened their purse strings on me, even from those who I have supported in the past. In the end, I suppose I learned much about people and money and generosity and friendship. I learned that there is a big difference between colleagues and friends. And like my friend Ann Marie, who works in fundraising, told me “you can’t take this personally.” Well, unfortunately, even though she is 100% right, I did. So, as selfish as it may be, next time I run, I run for me.

8. Run alone. Thank God this is not a mistake I made. I got to run with the charming Jessica Matheson and I thoroughly enjoyed her company. Her equally charming husband Stanley hung out with my daughter, in which she fell in love with their iPad. (This meant she pretty much ignored Stanley, sorry Stanley!) We had to get on a bus at 6 am, be driven to Mount Pleasant, and then stand around for two hours before we even started to run. Now imagine doing that alone. How terribly depressing!

9. Don’t pace yourself. I ran way too fast up the hill, being a cocky upstater and thinking “I can handle this!” It went up 100 feet in two-tenths of a mile. The last two-three miles were tough, to say the least.

10. Dash back home. OK, we did stick around for a little longer. (More on that in the next post.) But I still felt pushed to get out of there. I would have LOVED to sit and read my book with my daughter in Marion Square, but we needed to get back home. If you’re going to head all the way to Charleston, make sure to stay for more than 24 hours!

So now that I’ve vented my frustrations on this post, I promise the next post will be happier.