Friday, March 31, 2006

April Fool's Prank: Grace Span Replaced....partially !

Click to enlarge for better view.
April Fool's Prank: Grace Span Replaced....partially !

Here's a little reminder to all the good folks who are in Charleston today to participate in the annual passion play which is our Cooper River Bridge Run. This is also a reminder to anyone not planning to run the bridge tomorrow to think about eating out somewhere other than downtown Charleston. Primarily, this is a reminder to not run up THIS bridge. It is the proverbial Bridge Too Far and the Cooper River way too fast.

With all carbo loading, high energy beverages and all that hot air the runners will be expending this evening, it is not unlikely that some will be disoriented in the early morning. Just under Fifty-Thousand souls will be queuing up to make the Cooper River Bridge Run in the early hours of Saturday morning, April 1, 2006. BEWARE.

As a very dangerous April Fool's Joke, some pranksters, drug crazed urban youths or Citadel Engineering students gone stir crazy or Clemson Architectural students trying to out-ugly their disaster on George Street..or some such brace of boneheads has reattached the Mt Pleasant approach to the old John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, but...just over the rise they forgot the rest of the bridge. Whoops ! So, it's into the drink for all who charge up this bridge and you get to meet Mayor John P. Grace in person at YOUR finish line.

As a public service, Windveil is providing complementary security to prevent any deadly dunkings. We realize that some runners will become impatient with the mass of humanity in their way and just go for the next available bridge.

Just remember, if you see us out there, you've got the wrong bridge. And...what's the rush? That fellow from Kenya is going to win it yet again anyway.

What in the Sam Hill is This ?

What in the Sam Hill is This ?

Sliding up Hwy 78 not long ago, we encountered a structure which puzzled and challenged us. The proper form of inquiry in these parts is, " What in the Sam Hill IS that ?" The prospect of passing something like this, whatever it might be, is not an option for Windveil.

As nearly as can be determined, this is some sort of shrine. After calling out politely for a bit, we learned that we were the guests, perhaps the prisoners of mannequins, the female model and uniformed in our nations armed services. The (US) Army, Navy, Air Force are well represented within. We even have one mannequin administering an IV to a mannequin confined to a wheelchair. We don't know if this is a depiction of an injured service person or whether they needed the legs to keep one of the others on her feet. The Highway Patrol does that with their cars so why can't a roadside patriot do the same ?

The white header on the structure provides a good contrast to the two suspended items which are, on the left, a helicopter and on the right, a " Super Fortress " from WWII. They are suspended on thin rods to simulate flight. The nice little picket fence is trimmed in Christmas bunting.

So, someone's erected a covered stage, set up a picket fence and laid out one of the nicest concrete pads, a flat, smooth, level tarmac which any airport would envy. It seemed as if they had intended that the GT be displayed in that arena so we obliged. No sooner did we trip the shutter than a neatly permed lady in a 1991 Ford Crown Victoria begin circling. This looked the beginning of the movie, " Blue Mustang Down " and I could sense that there were hidden natives about to drag us from the vehicle. A hasty retreat found the lady following as a discrete distance, but clearly shadowing us. We pulled in for fuel around 5 miles up the road and she entered the parking lot, circled and wrote down the tag and was gone. Our days may be numbered so if we don't post again in a week, call the Blog Squad to recover our remains.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Early Retirement

We don't care much for this urban sprawl which we hear so much about these days. Those who don't know what it is probably haven't left the confines of an urbanly sprawled area long enough to know the difference. While we're busy not liking sprawl we might as well admit to not liking those big box nationwide one-in-every-town chain stores which snuff the life out of friendly little local independent businesses.

Our travels allow us to both de-sprawl and de-chainstore ourselves in one fluid motion. Given sufficient motion fluid (gasoline) we have little trouble escaping the gravity of those harsh realities. Of course, these forays into the hinterlands are a bit wearing where the rubber meets the road. We thought it prudent to re-tire before our tires get tired and retire us.

At a mere 12,000 miles we don't expect to be riding on slicks, but it's never too soon to prepare. Accordingly, we sought the products and services of a non-chain store many miles from the high priced spread. This put us on the doorstep of the Amos Tire Center just outside of Ridgeville, SC. Ford specifies high traction tires rated at a maximum speed which we'd rather not reveal in case the Highway Patrol is reading us. The maximum speed rating of the Amos offerings would probably keep us under the posted limits....even in Ridgeville. When asked about tire rotation, we were informed that they continue rotating until you bring the car to a stop. Time and money was saved on that. We were assured that we had plenty of residual tread. Some mechanics use sophisticated treadwear gauges, but Amos says that we should use the logo on his sign as a guide. Not until our tires get that worn or out of round should we be concerned.

We rolled off the lot with no small sense of pride in having foxed those chain stores yet again.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Real Car vs. Rail Car

Owing to recently instituted fraidy cat pursuit policies, those exciting car chase episodes are fading from local TV news programs. To fill in those pieces of the artistic pie, we've been hired to engage other game vehicles in some high minded chase episodes.

We suspect that some of the old chase scenes were staged with toy model cars. Ever notice how the action is blurred and the vehicles often out of focus not unlike those UFO exposes. How about the ghastly chroma crawl and wretched resolution of those police car cameras ? It all seems rather like a put up job.

In the first episode Windveil encounters a Norfolk Southern hopper car of the " wood chip service " just off of Shop Road in Columbia, SC. The cargo is thought to be infected with pine beetle flu and it's up to Windveil to stop the shipment before it infects a paper mill many miles from Charleston.

Windveil's mission is to derail de rail car with de real car. Onward and upward in the arts. No animals were inconvenienced in the making of this series.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Beach Music

We've cut clear across South Carolina in our last three posted photos. We've come from the rarefied air of the Poinsett Club in Greenville to the open air of Jaco's " Spit and Argue " Club in Columbia to the salt air at Edisto Beach.

The dark irregular formation forward of the car is a groin which runs into the ocean to prevent erosion of the sand which continues apace. Our ocean view is courtesy of dunes which are no longer with us. There is always someone perched out on the distant reach of a groin in a wistful manner. They are volunteers dedicated to preserving wistfulness on the beach since there's very little else we can retain of this sand on which we sit.

One of the wonderful aspects of Edisto is that the beach can still be found almost vacant at times. There are moments in which nothing is going on, no tourists cruising, no rowdy groups passing through, no traffic. This past Sunday was such a day on which we could only hear the sounds of the surf, its breeze and the shore birds chattering. This is our definition of " Beach Music ". Would that we had a jukebox which could deliver this anytime for a quarter.

Monday, March 20, 2006


The expression, " Clubable ", might seem like a mugger's estimation of potential victim, but in the present case we look back to Samuel Johnson's application of the term as a measure of an individual's fitness to belong within a select membership. With this in mind we pulled confidently up to the Poinsett Club in Greenville, SC, expecting an appropriate welcome.

We roused not even the parking valet. We wondered if the domination of the parking lot by Mercedes, Saab and BMW had displaced us. We suspected that it had something to do with regional discrimination. We guessed that Windveil Blue was not their favorite color.

We never imagined that the Poinsett did NOT have a reciprocal with JACO'S SPIT AND ARGUE Club ? Go figure !

Sunday, March 19, 2006

We're Welcome Here

Here at the Spit and Argue Club we don't have valet parking and it appears no reciprocity with the Poinsett Club, but then we don't have half the overhead.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Blackville Captured! Invasion by Body Snatchers

Our recent visit to Blackville was a little mysterious. The town appeared to be fully shut down on a nice bright Saturday afternoon. It reminded us of one of those " Twilight Zone " episodes in which everyone in some small town had gathered in some strange conspiracy against an intruding visitor from "outside'.

It was not unlike the " Invasion of the Body Snatchers " in which everyone becomes a mouth breather without ambition, energy or individual ideas. Each body snatched into this communal funk is arrayed against the last uninfected holdout.

We probably stood out a little since we were the only blue vehicle in town and the only car which had wheels that stopped when the car did. We got... looks.

Nowhere were things more creepy than in the reddish building pictured above. Apparently they did not want us to intrude. Moments before we arrived someone or some thing had slapped on a new sign which covered the original wording, " Blackville Feed and Seed ". They must have known that we were after blog fodder and decided to throw us that curve ball. This, no doubt, is where they incubated the pods.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Generic Nowhere

OK, here we are. We're right in the middle of.....well, it's some town, somewhere. Who knows, but we know that we were there since we have this photo, but can't quite place it at the moment. But, how could anyone place this place ? It's....nowhere. Don't for a moment think that forgettable store fronts such as these just happen. Heck no, there are rules and specifications to be followed to become a Generic Nowhere place.

A minimum of at least 3 distinctly different brick patterns are required to qualify as in our book. If the mortar is also dissimilar then you have some bonus points coming. Of course, the sign over the door must have lost its letters and even their outline should be faded to give no clue as to what it might have been. This keeps 'em guessing and it's well on its way to becoming legally Generic Nowhere.

It's your choice of fuel as long as you don't need any. Notice the shrewd placement of the gas pump cleverly blocking visitors from entering the front door. People who live in the Generic Nowhere just love a blasted old spent gas pump. They'd rather stare at one all day than gain entry to essential goods, that is, if such goods were available which they clearly are not. Either bent, broken or never used articles and implements must be stored barely within view of windows which should be a bit too dirty to see through. Visitors should be tempted, but never visually satisfied.

The building on the right is coated with that wonderfully unmemorable green. Where one camouflages the senses, an artistic amnesia obtains. Where windows cannot be kept sufficiently dirty, the view may be blocked using any textile goods which are faded enough to exude dinginess. In keeping with code, they have employed the classic standing seam tin roofing which is found on every out building in every nowhere place and undistinguished in every way. The glass door should be clean, clear, but the interior totally empty and dark so that motorists mistake it for a viable enterprise, pause, exit the vehicle then peer into the nothingness only to become vexed.

Whoops, now that we think of it you cannot find the make of the car written anywhere on the visible exterior surfaces of the vehicle. Neither " Ford " nor " Mustang " appear on the car. It came that way. { Note: Some V-6's do have "Mustang" marked on the rocker panels, but we don't know nuttin' 'bout no V-6 }.

Oh well, we are the other side of the coin we think. When your design is that unmistakable, when your style is so individualistic, who needs a label, 'eh ? Don't you just hate our arrogance ! Don't you just want to key our finish ! Don't you even want us to get a parking ticket ?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Healing Springs of Blackville

We welcome tips from readers about interesting places to visit. A faithful reader gave us the idea to visit Healing Springs in Blackville, SC. This, we are told, is a "Lourdes for automobiles", but we saw mostly human stock partaking of the waters. Just on instinct we feel that it might not be what you want in your radiator, battery or even in the windshield washer.

Highway 78 took us up through Branchville, Bamberg, Denmark and into the Not-Yet-Ready -for-Gentrification, Blackville, SC. The first thing noticed was that everything was closed and on a Saturday, too. We almost ran out of gas looking for a station and once found, we had to sniff the pump to make sure that it was gasoline. It is not trying to be the new Atlanta.

We flagged down a puzzled police officer who seemed to search of the words to tell us that it was for him to stop us and not the reverse. His directions took us quickly there. We fully expected the waters to be running out of a marble edifice or at least some sort of shrine to be in place, some icons of faith: Lee on Traveler, King on the Mountain Top, Biblical figures cast in stone, but all we saw is what you see in the photo: a pipe in the ground with constantly flowing water. How unceremonious and graceless it was and looking more like an ode to plumbers than anything spiritual.

We found small clusters of people drawing water into containers of various volumes. Some took the water almost reverentially, but a few went nervously for the water looking up frequently as if taking undeserved spoils. All worked quietly. At eight pounds to the gallon even free water requires some effort.

To the side of this area we found a sign declaring this to be " God's Acre ", consecrated ground after all and dedicated exclusively to this purpose. It declared this land to be free of any earthly consequence and off limits to the pandering of mortal schemers. We wondered whether this might be a message that not all fonts of faith are in the classic cathedral form.

The initial impression is that the waters from these flowing artesian wells are for the remediation of physical ills, but implicit in the dedication is the proposition that they are for spiritual healing as well. We bottled up a pint of the water to haul off to a lab for analysis. We expect to know a bit more about the chemical nature of the water shortly, but as to the spiritual assets we will have to leave that to the individual chemists of faith who understand such things each in their own way.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Station is Leaving the Train !

" BOARD ! " Anyone old enough to remember train travel before Amtrak will know that call as a last warning to climb aboard just before the train left the station. The station is leaving the train at Ravenel, SC. The old railroad depot at Ravenel has graced trackside for very many years in the heart of that little whistle stop town between Hwy 162 and Hwy 17-South.

If you happen to be in Hollywood, Meggett or Younges Island and want to go to Summerville, Columbia or anywhere other than Charleston or Savannah, you'd take Hwy. 165. That road passes through Ravenel and at a dogleg turn this well preserved station stood only about twenty feet closer to the tracks than where it is pictured above. It will be moved a little further back then down line a bit by the Ozwalt Company which seems to be able to move just about any structure, any place intact except our State House into the twenty-first century.

Not forty feet forward of the car is a double set of tracks. You can quickly tell when a train has not passed over tracks as they rust over in a matter of days. From a light oxide film to a thick and porous scale they progressively decay. These steel rails are polished to mirror brightness [See Photo Below]. The trains both freight and passenger stream north and south passing within feet of the station, but they no longer stop. The luster has left the station, but it's rescue is at hand.

The search for and recording of colorful old structures both proud and humble drives this journal down the line. We, like the trains, are just passing through Ravenel this Sunday, but we're very happy to know that the station isn't passing from the scene anytime soon.

[ Please Note: Photos are compressed and at times distorted. Click on the photo for a better view. ]

" Oh, They Looked to the Future....

" Oh, they looked to the future and what did they see, they saw an iron road running from sea to the sea..." so sang Gordon Lightfoot in his " Canadian Railroad Trilogy ". That was a song of hope for the future and praise for progress.

These are the polished rails which run past the old Ravenel Station where the trains don't stop anymore. Lightfoot seemed to be on the locomotive facing the future, but this looks like the view from the caboose.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Vertical Miles Per Hour

Milepost 431, the highest elevation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, seemed like a good place to pause and look over the Richard Balsam overlook. We have peaked our run some 296 linear miles from and 1.146 vertical miles above the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets at Charleston, SC, to arrive at this point on October 29, 2005.

Highway 176 begins at the outskirts of Charleston and winds a diagonal path through rural South Carolina to the north eastern boundary into North Carolina. Except for a few patches of festering urban sprawl, 176 meanders through vast stretches lovely countryside. What we have come to call " green spaces " in our desperately caged vernacular are actually vast areas of largely unspoiled territory. We are jealous of green space much as we covet Park Place on the Monopoly board. If one, but exits the interstate highway these are the paths they can follow.

The Saluda Grade was just the appetizer before sinking our teeth into the Parkway or perhaps it into us. The Parkway deals you ten, twenty, thirty gear changes in a linear mile and those miles don't just fly by, you earn them. Flat out speed, never our objective, isn't happening up there unless you plow through one of the frail guard rails and take the quick trip to forever. At times, 12 MPH is pretty thrilling. The hard charge up a grade provides the aggressive pleasures, but once a rise is crested, the descent calls in the defense which means down gearing and a judicious use of light braking. Frequently one encounters a steep down grade where water is running off the rock on to the apex of a very sharp curve.

When you let out the clutch you can throw out Photoshop. The parkway is photographic endorphins, its colors need no tweaking. Windveil is pictured much as a dog which found a bone, stole away a great distance and is now chewing on the prize while resting. The other half of the bone awaits. From the peak of the Parkway, it's again as much fun going down the other side. The sights we've tucked away in our mind's eye only make us wonder what's around that next bend then the next.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pon-Pon Reconsidered

[PHOTOS ARE COMPRESSED PLEASE CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR BETTER RESOLUTION]>Some of the sites we have visited draw us back for the pure joy returning to places which caught our imagination. The old Pon-Pon Chapel is such a place. This historic structure survives as a facade only and located in what once was St. Bartholomew's Parish, organized in 1706, now Colleton County, SC. The Tri-Centenial of Colleton County is being celebrated now so it seems meet and right to retrace some steps.

It had been attacked by Yemassee Indians in 1715, was rebuilt and later burned around 1796 and was thereafter known as the " Burnt Church ". We have been informed that the church wasn't the only thing which had burned here.

A faithful reader took the time to comment on our original posting which showed a different view of the chapel. He had first wondered how we penetrated the steel pipe gate which protects this historic site. Simple: it was wide open and no person, sign or thing suggested much less posted against our entry.

He allowed as how this very site was used in modern times, perhaps around 50 or so years ago, for other than church meetings. This, he says, was a meeting place for the KKK and crosses had been burned on site. It is one chilling prospect and we have only this unsubstantiated account, but see no reason to dismiss it out of hand. If this is the case it only enriches the lore attached to this site.

We do not, of course, seek political dialogue. We do, however, feel cross burnings weren't exactly the forerunner of the " Welcome Wagon ". It doesn't quite sound like our cuppa tea. The only hood we have is that which covers that 4.6 Liter V8. That's not a fraternity which we've ever been asked to join and feel that we're much more AAA than KKK material

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


As haircutting made the transition from barbering to styling we found that more money was being demanded for tending what was becoming less hair. These days it's done by appointment and with considerable promotion of a hair care products...for men. An " appointment " in most cases means that one arrives at an appointed time to begin the long wait rather than dropping in to wait for service when you just felt like coming.

We've got to admit that these new schemes in business don't wash well with us anymore than the monstrous new buildings in which they are practiced. We long for the old time shops. We were making our way Through Berkeley County and ran right up upon such a place as we've long hoped to find.

We did a little sidewalk surfing and eased up next to the Fashion Barber Shop. What a great little building they've got. It's friendly and warm in appearance and is, in the developer's vernacular, "free standing". This means that it is not welded to a little strip mall. It just doesn't seem like the type of place which takes reservations so if you're going to wait anyway, there's a nice bench out front from which to watch the world pass by.

It's always a pleasure to discover an interesting little place which has not yet been seduced by modern devices or the developer's greedy hands. This is certainly such a place and we're pleased to have found it in our travels.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lime of Scrimmage

The structure in the background is the unmistakable form of Williams Bryce Stadium, home of the " Fighting Gamecocks ". It rises up between Shop and Bluff Roads in Columbia, SC, like a giant aluminum crab. Obviously, there is no game in progress or those items in the foreground would be somewhere around Olympia Mills. Getting this close to the Gamecock's home pit unimpeded is like having the run of the White House while the President's away.

Windveil is, as always, an observer of the scene and not a participant. This scrimmage was held in secret to guard yet another of Carolina's shrewd game plans. We slipped past the security folks to tap into the huddle.

It seems that Carolina is scheduled to play Alabama next football season. Being always ahead of the curve, they decided that if they are to face the Crimson Tide they would probably need at least two good boats. We think it's fine idea and so did the traveling boat salesman who left shortly the sale.

Go Gamecocks !

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Holding Pattern

When a photo opportunity presents itself we rejoice for the good luck and light which puts that picture on your screen. In certain urban areas where the car may be welcome, but the camera is not, we do not tarry. We keep the motor running. In our more pastoral scenes we shut it down to preserve the hush of those spaces which abide in peace.

The tract pictured above would seem to be a pastoral place, but we kept the motor running just the same. We are just past the " Receiving Tomb " at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. While we were happy to be there, we were not interested in being " received " in that particular manner. While not superstitious, we are well into the nine lives which those who tempt fate parcel out along life's rocky road. This fate we did not wish to tempt.

Like Satchel Paige we don't much like looking back for the rearview mirror reminds us of what might be gaining on us. Seldom good news. It shows where we've just been: no news at all. What we really love is a clean windshield, an open window, the road ahead. Good news.

It seems that the " Receiving Tomb " was a holding pattern for those who had finished breathing, but were not yet ready for planting. It must have been a bit then like getting stuck in the Atlanta Airport now. Many of us would rather be IN the ground than to languish ON the ground in that Purgatory.

No " Receiving Tomb " for us and the only holding pattern we can abide is that required at the gas pumps. So, would you move to the right lane please? There's something coming up behind us, but so much ahead that we have yet to see.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Meet Me At The Rocket !

Here we are blocking the entrance to the S.C. State Fair Grounds in Columbia, SC. The Fair Grounds are used to accommodate the massive parking needs of Carolina fans. Some seasons you could park pretty close to the stadium, but in recent years they've done a little better. Unless you're plugged into some high cotton these days, you're pretty much parking with the pickers.

They have the biggest and best fair in the state each year. They still judge cattle and canned goods, quilts and corn, pies and photography. The rides were great, the food was rich and the beer went well with everything except cotton candy. The fair draws people from a wider radius from Columbia than anything other than Carolina football. Many features draw folks to the fair, but nothing unites them more than it's central feature: "The Rocket", that which seems to have grown out of our roof in the photo.

It appears to us be more of a missile, but " rocket " has a nicer, more friendly sound. Rockets send up satellites which tell our GPS gizmos how to tell us how to get from Five Points to the Statehouse ( Windveil has, but a hand held compass). Rockets send up our Astronauts and made Tang what it is today. " Missile " has that troublesome suggestion of war. Most kids now think that silos are hiding places missiles rather than grain. When we hear "MISSILE " we always think " CRISIS ". When we hear " rocket " we think of New Year's Eve or Daddy's old Rocket 88 Oldsmobile.

Over the PA system lost children are coaxed to the Rocket to be claimed. Game fans who can't find their cars can at least gather at the Rocket. Couples have even got married under the Rocket. The " Missile " we feared would change life as we know it. Some of those who got married under the rocket ( and elsewhere ) realize that the Rocket, too, can change life as we knew it. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6...............

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gatekeeper - Gatecrashers of the Arsenal

Windveil appears to have grown bat wings on breaching the gates of the Beaufort Arsenal and bounding into Craven Street. This is a great old structure which was built in 1798 then rebuilt in 1852. That certain patina which settles into anything which ages well came long ago to the Arsenal. We admire the rough tabby mortar which is revealed by decaying paint and shown through fissures in the surfaces. We fear that some well meaning soul will regard the building as blighted and work it over with Clorox then paint it some bright trendy color.

This may be considered to be the Arsenal of Endurance. It shows how a special place can play important roles in our history and with some luck survive, endure and prevail.

The Arsenal has become a museum both literally and figuratively. It is admired by a steady stream of visitors. It houses many rare and wonderful artifacts several of which are in the trunk hence our hasty launch through the gates. We nabbed the bronzed termites which ate George Washington's teeth. We're heading to E-bay with those babies.

One either respects and admires the joyful decay about the Arsenal or wants to buff it up with a lot of artificial window dressing to put that tourist spin on the place.

The password from a faithful gatekeeper is, " Who goes there? Friend of Faux ? "

The Long View

Here's the expanded or " letterboxed " view of the Beaufort Arsenal.