Saturday, March 31, 2007


In an ever expressive world, the automobile increasingly becomes the medium for the message. Bumper stickers ranging from the vain to the profane seemed to satisfy that need to show the world where you've been, how you feel, for whom to vote. The need for such expression has now consumed much more of the automobile. We have moved from the quaint customs of self expression to those of the Avant-Garde designs.

Of the two cars pictured (we're on the left) the customized ride in no longer a regulation make of automobile except on the registration. The transition from bumper stickers to radical customization is analogous to tossing the name tag you wear at work, getting your name tattooed on your chest and going into the office shirtless. It's not a casual step.

Two forces seem to be working this corner. Obviously the wish to be expressive is present, but there seems a need to remake the entire automobile in one's own image. There may also be a sense of deeper owner ship of the car after the operation. It is no longer a Honda or Chevrolet or Jeep, but it becomes a one of a kind car, an owner specific vehicle. One has revoked the car's birthright from the manufacturer and reanimated it into another life form. We resist further temptations toward the Frankenstein metaphor.

As customizing goes, this is miles apart from the breathtaking beauty of the candy apple red / metalflake paint era and seeks to knock the breath out of the beholder. The alterations are not all cosmetic. The careful eye will follow the gas pump hose as it snakes its way into where the back seat may once have lived. Whoops, no smoking in this car.

When we sat down with Jones Ford to order the Mustang, not only did we like this new blue color, but expressed some concern that red might cause the police to notice and perhaps stop us more than a milder color might. Now that we have a look at neighbor at the gas pump, we figure that red would not be much of an issue.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

HOT Coffee: Alternative to Starbucks

As Baby Boomers croak as croak they shall and sooner that later these days, who will pick up their indulgent ways? More to the point, who will pick up the tab along this self-indulgent path? It is said of this generation that it has demystified sex and invented the Five Dollar cup of coffee. They ( We ) have also reversed the prudent lifestyles which were bequeathed to us by the previous, often called the Greatest, generation.

We have come to a point of allowing places like Starbucks to force us to use fanciful expressions ( not large, but Grande ) for the privilege of paying exorbitant prices Yes, good, perhaps great coffee and better coffee than our parents drank, but coffee. Not caviar, not V.S.O.P Brandy of Napoleon, not even a good Schedule II narcotic, just coffee for your fist full of dollars. Will the emerging generation reverse these foolish ways or ours ?

Ever in search of alternative fuels, we've located a reasonable Java vendor in an undiscovered ( not yet exploited ) area of Savannah, GA. Obviously these folks are not paying the lofty lease prices as, say, Starbucks often will. There is no fancy neon celebrating the vendor nor massive plate glass allowing the customers to celebrate themselves drinking coffee before the public.

We like the tricolor transom panels over a door which presents with dual deadbolts offering a certain symmetry to security. We greatly admire the stunning linear vertical orientation of the siding. Mostly we love the logo which suggests coffee, hot, but without fancy floral patterns of cream afloat. It further suggests that they can interpret small, medium and large in accepting your order. Enjoy.

Monday, March 26, 2007

We Got It For a Steal !

Not all buildings in need of saving are majestic, historic or significant in the life of a community. They need not necessarily bear the plaque of some preservation group nor must they possess the last remaining work of a long dead master craftsman. Some are modest structures in the rearview mirror of progress and in the sights of the bulldozer.

Gentrification is, of course, the process by which disused or neglected lands are converted into modern, useful commercial or residential applications. Building go where no building has gone before. The problem we face in most communities is re-gentrification, the sweeping away of existing buildings which are in the path of developers and speculators.

The quaint, the curious, the funky buildings of character seldom stand up to the pressures of re-gentrification. They just don't pass the bang-for-the-buck test. There are cynics who claim that developers make their money the old fashioned way: they steal it. Accordingly, we decided that the best way to save this insignificant little place was to steal it. This is little tough on the clutch, but Ford gave us enough muscle to do the job. Heck, the developer won't mind, but we just hope that we don't encounter the Highway Patrol as we tow this little prize to greener pastures.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Swansea Milling Company

Cruising through Lexington County, SC, we encountered the Swansea Milling Company at Swansea, SC. Swansea Milling was founded in 1947 and is today still engaged in milling operations. They formulate the VERIBEST brand of animal feed.

Swansea Milling is joined by Champion International, Culler Holstein Gin, G & H. Paulownia Plantation, Heartsease Farm Rental, Manuel Forest Products in related industrial fields. It's a small town, but clearly not without multiple enterprises. Swansea seems poised for the downtown renovation which has come to other towns in rural South Carolina. Many of these towns had more or less died at their downtown center. The atrophy caused by commercial suburban sprawl and large discount retailers is more than obvious in the majority of our smaller towns.

Swansea has partially renovated several rows of commercial buildings in its downtown area. They are ready and seem almost like passengers waiting on a train. There are signs of previous attempts at recusation of the district, but changes in layout suggest that they've learned from these mistakes. Unlike the fatalism of so many fully dead small towns, Swansea seems in strong hope of a revival. Part of the downtown has been made most hospitable and pedestrian friendly. There is a nice pharmacy with an old fashioned motif. Lots of benches and tables have been put outdoors. We even encountered a small pack of skateboarders which is something you don't see often in the dead towns.

We may see a lot of recovery in Swansea, but it's a fairly sure thing that Swansea Milling is not going to spring for a full makeover with cute landscaping and a new high-rise corporate center with anodized aluminum window frames. Whether the break the bank or go bust trying, they seem unlikely to radically alter the design or appointments to their current building. We love to see new life come back into small communities, but cherish such old places as Swansea Milling which preserve the character of the town.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Welcome to Wolfton

On our list of BUILDINGS WE'D LIKE TO SEE REUSED in the category of SERVICE STATIONS, RURAL, in the subcategory of HISTORY OF WHICH CANNOT BE GOOGLED, we add this nice old place in Wolfton, SC. It is situated on Hwy. 178 in Orangeburg County at the edge of Bull Swamp making this technically or at least seasonally waterfront property.

We love these covered entrances which were a courtesy to customers and protection from sun and rain for the fellow who pumped the gas, checked the air, oil and water of customers' vehicles. There was, of course, no self service at those gas pumps a few decades back. The cover also helped preserve the integrity of the store front from the elements. The gem of the place is the very well preserved Gulf Oil Company sign. Around 1984, most of the Gulf stations became BP affiliates.

We know nothing of the history of this building and architectural clues are slim. It's a practical construction with side and rear windows made too high and too small for unauthorized entry. There are no nonfunctional concessions granted to design. It's still a right nice little place and we wonder why this and so many other equally nice little places are abandoned even along busy rural highways. When we consider how precious every square inch of land is in places like Charleston, the great struggles over their development and the outrageous sums they command, we're amazed that any piece of land can remain unmolested for such extended periods. This, too, will change.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Not So Fast Food

Since the beginning of roads, those who travel them have sought places to eat at or very near them. The history of roadside dining parallels that of the American automobile itself. It became immediately clear that a driving public in a rush to get from place to place would not mind and if fact did demand to be fed in like manner.

Drivers were more than willing to step down several levels in ambiance and food quality to be able to eat and run. Drive in restaurants allowed folks to eat in their own cars and with motor running at the ready to roll. The inevitable upshot was the birth of the fast food industry. Fast food has, however, become a bad pot hole on the road to proper nutrition.

We're in Lexington County, SC, where we found this very interesting diner. This does not appear to be a fast food joint. In fact they only seem to have slow food, that is, food which can't make it across Why 302 fast enough to avoid being run over. In the giant burger featured on their sign, one can clearly see a Possum tail hanging out of the sandwich. The Possum is to road kill what the sturgeon is to caviar.

Bon apetite.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When it's all over, Who'll be in Clover

When it's all over, Who'll be in Clover
Say, when this is all over
You'll be in clover
We'll go out and spend
All a your (blue money)
Blue money (blue money)
Your Blue, Blue, money.

It's all over at the Clover Inn. Anyone who has to check in here is just about to check out anyway. This is the definitive end of the line and all bets are off. The Clover lost it's wager for prosperity when it was dealt the I-95 card which took them and most of their neighbors on Hwy 301 out of the game.

When we describe an abandoned single story concrete block motel with plywood covered broken windows where the only life is weeds growing up through the cracks in the parking lot, everyone knows what that looks like. So we decided to show the great old 1960's vintage sign and let that fill in the colors. Imagine that thing in its prime with uncountable rolling lights the patterns of which played hypnotically into the eyes of weary travelers.

Today it couldn't hypnotize the drunks who flop at the Clover. While it was mostly the duller trash who busted out the windows, dispatching the lights, bulb by bulb, called upon the sharper eyes of Bubba's BB gun. Time and weather have oxidized the sign into a form worthy of worship by (American) Indians or at least a tempting renovation project for one of their casinos.

Now that it's all over, who will be in the clover ? Well, there's no such thing as unowned land and someone does indeed hold a deed to the Clover property. Unlike popular pyramid sales schemes, no one is actually left holding the bag, it's just a matter of whether one can survive the many years before the market again turns its favors your way. The surviving owner may have eaten cold beans from cans for many years, but when the developer drops the cold cash on the surviving owner, they will soon hear Van Morrison's little ditty...

Say, when this is all over
You'll be in clover
We'll go out and spend
All a your (blue money),
YOUR blue, blue money.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hell of a Way to Run A Railroad

Hell of a Way to Run A Railroad
Murals, railroads and preservation are favorite themes and we're three for three at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum. This is a site which was preserved and is maintained by The Coastal Heritage Society of Georgia at Savannah.

The Central of Georgia Railway dates back to the 1830's. From this site they developed a state of the art facility which combined the diverse support systems into one consolidated compound. This was a great improvement over the scattered sites and fragmented services which railroads had gathered along the way. It was the equivalent of a modern, efficient and punctual commercial airline hub if only we had such a thing with which to compare.

Around 1950 the Southern Railway had absorbed the Central of Georgia. By 1960 the neglected site was abandoned and became another urban relic of a decaying area in Savannah. The well worn expression, "IT'S A HELL OF A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD", was coined in a 1920's cartoon depicting a signalman calmly observing the absolute chaos of a massive railway system. It finds a place here.

The passenger market of the American railway system was eclipsed by the rapid growth of the commercial airline industry from the 1960's forward. There was diminished incentive to acquire new rights of way or lay more track as the traveling public took to the air. Forty years later the land is too expensive and the paths of potential tracks are boxed in by paved roads and dense infrastructure. Now travel by air has become so problematic that it is worse than not reaching your destination. It's a hell of a way to run an airline.

If we can't get there on these four tires, we ain't going.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Originally uploaded by PALMETT0.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

You Bet Your Bass

You Bet Your Bass
Originally uploaded by PALMETT0.
We prefer the off season. Most of our trips are to places where we would not go during their peak season. Here's a place you'd not find us on, say, the Fourth of July, but the bare trees show how far we are from the peak season. Sometimes the most rewarding solitude can be found at off times in places which would otherwise be teeming with a crush of people and the chaos which they will bring down upon this place.

It won't be on the first day of actual good weather, but on the day when their virtual world of TV weather drama gives them the green light to move upon such places that they will come. It will be as if one packed all the inmates of Bedlam into a tractor trailer, game them booze, boats and grilles and off loaded them right here. A good time to be had by all.

This is a beautiful spot in its own right, but it could also be the contrast between peak and off season conditions which charms us. It's the feeling you get when you see the world's worst behaved child sleeping sweetly as a puppy. It is similar to what you feel when you're the last car on the far side of the eight car pile up which closed down the interstate and you're all alone on three quiet empty lanes. It is that strange peace one feels when walking the beach at Normandy on a warm, still morning with the indelible memory of the terror of D-Day unavoidably in the back of the mind.

The lighthouse behind us looks good enough to be real. The pastel sky is more genuine than any camera will ever record. The sign on the shed brags that you can "Bet Your Bass" they're big fish to be caught here. There is another special feeling we have in such places. We are probably in that space between two worlds. In the not too distant future, the sign on the shed my well say SALES OFFICE.