Here it is 2018 and I still have pages of the 2017 Charleston Magazine Bucket list of things to do taped to the back of my office wall. My bucket list at the end of these waning days of summer, is more the size of a beach pail. But — I did cross a few off of the list last weekend.
I call my jaunts "Day Tripping," places to go that are no more than 4 to 5 hours from home. I've enjoyed some awesome adventures that have landed me on mountain crest's, in posh hotel's, tiny reclusive cabins by streams, floating down a river and even staying a few nights in a tree house in Atlanta on a Alpaca farm. This day trip kept me close to home, but it was no less desirable.
It started at the end of a two week gully washer that had us doubting the downtown excursion would occur unless we rented kayaks at Shem Creek and floated into Charleston. But, the skies parted and all of the peninsula said AMEN!
Well, at least they parted for a little while. My hubby was apprehensive about going at all, he was sure that the roads would be flooded. BUT— I assured him that I had problem-solved everything! Instead of taking my car (which is a low riding glorified golf-cart) we will take the truck. BUT—we can't park in any of the parking garages because of it's tall ladder racks, (we almost got stuck in a garage a few years back.) So, I found a metered lot about a half mile away from our first stop. When we arrived downtown, the bottom dropped out. Lightning, thunder and torrential rain started after we were about 2 minutes into our trek. BUT— We had umbrella's! Mine broke, I could feel water running down my back. BUT— I didn't dare turn around to look at Don, I could hear the exasperation with every squish of his shoes and socks behind me. There were places we just sloshed through. By the time we got to 5Church restaurant, we were a hot damn mess. BUT— so was everyone else.
We slid (literally) into our seats and ordered Bloody Mary's and wine while waiting for our friends Ladonne and Glenn to arrive. We watched soaked after soaked patron walk in and settle into their 5Church (pews) seats. The pour of wine was graciously more than communion and lifted our spirits (pun intended). About half-way into brunch, the beautiful stained glass church windows lit up and the cathedral windows shined some hallelujah on the crowd.
Next stop was a short jaunt down S. Market Street to Escape60. What is Escape60? Think board game come to life. It is an awesome puzzle and riddle adventure experience. There are 4 themes. Davy Jones Locker, Ransom, Prison Escape and Ancient Adventure. I opted us in for the Ransom Room, which was the most difficult. Our guide took us to the room, gave us flashlights and instructions and told us that the clock would start ticking down as soon as the door closed. A monitor over the door showed the minutes tick off. We worked our way around the room trying to solve puzzles and enter codes that opened boxes and locks for clues to where the little abducted boy could be found, therefore releasing us from the room. Whew, it was a challenge and we did not escape in time. But, we enjoyed it immensely and will definitely go back!
"Escape 60 was formed in 2014 and opened to the public in January 2016. In 2014, we traveled to Europe with our three kids. We had been doing so much history, museums, etc. that we were looking for something different that our kids might enjoy. We found an escape room (never heard of) but we decided to give it a try. It was so much fun – we all loved it! (even our finicky teenager). We thought that an Escape Room would be a perfect, challenging, and entertaining option for the Charleston area so we went out on a limb and decided to open one ourselves. We are not a franchise and are proud to design and build everything in house. I would estimate our customers are around 60% tourists and 40% locals. We are excited about our fourth room, The Egyptian Chamber, which just recently opened. While we have tweaked things in our rooms and upgraded them, we have not changed themes completely yet. It takes so much time for the planning, the designing, the building, the staging that we haven’t done a complete re-design yet, but Davy Jones’ Locker is about to be renovated. It is a much loved room and is perfect for families and groups who have never done an escape room before." - Amelia, overner of Escape60
We put our (Almost Escaped) stickers on our shirts and headed out the door for another jaunt. Next, Kaminsky's for dessert. Glenn told us it was amazing, and since we had time to kill before our next adventure, why not? Don and I had the Mandarin Orange cake and LaDonne and Glenn got Tollhouse Pie. Oh my, my!! What wine did for the aggravation of being soaked, Kaminsky's cake did for consolation.
Afterwards we strolled the steamy streets of Charleston ogling wares here and there and critiquing art. Don and Glenn marched on while LaDonne and I stood at Gucci's show window staring slack-jawed at the high end shoes.
Next stop was Bulldog Tours Haunted Old City Jail Tour. We arrived at the front gates early. Thankfully the sun was beginning to drop to the west and it was a cool 90ish degrees after the rain. We were told it would be 10 to 15 degree's warmer inside. We walked around the building, checking out it's structure. I would like to say that the jail doesn't look so bad for being 216 years old, but it does — It looks every bit of it. I had a hard time writing this piece. It was rather emotional, even more so after the tour when the culmination of all of the suffering that went on around and inside that building sunk in. Hubby said it best. "There is no need to add the word haunted to the tour." I agree, it's horrors seeped up from the soil and from across the walls of the prison courtyard that led to the potter's field. Thousands, maybe many thousands, of Charleston's poor were laid to rest (or not) in the potter’s field.
But, that jail. Our tour guide Sean has been guiding locals and tourist through the stairs and rooms of the old jail for a decade. In our 45-minutes with him, he described the infliction of torture, inhumane living conditions, and disease that led to death in these walls. I was glad that he didn’t expound upon the legendary stories of some of it’s famous occupants and sympathized more with the masses who had passed into the jail’s gate never to leave.
Not long after the settlement of Charleston, the acreage around the jail was designated for les miserables. The acreage we stood on has been everything from a Revolutionary hospital, poor house, sugar mill turned slave workhouse, and jail. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that this area was designated to keep what the city felt were undesirables away from the pomp and circumstance of Charleston. I feel confident in saying that if there ever were any ghosts in Charleston, they would be on these grounds. I will leave the rest of the details for the tour guide to fill in. If you haven't been and you are looking for a macabre experience, you have found your place. Don and I have discussed going back after honing up on some more of it's history.
The sun was setting when we left the jail, we were walking back to our vehicles and talking about the experience when we passed a van with an elderly man halfway underneath. He was sweating profusely and had a bloody bandage on his arm. After we passed on an afterthought I decided to ask him if he needed us to call anyone. He replied "No, what I need you to do is mind your own damn business." I don't know why I found his response both fitting and hillarious. When we pulled up to pay for parking at the kiosk, we found that it cost more to park for 5 hours than for all of us to eat cake at Kaminsky's.
As we headed rounded the curve on Lockwood to cross the bridge by the marina, the last blanket of heavy clouds drifted to the north and closed the day with a glorious orange sunset. What a grand day, despite the rain, parking, heat, and irate old fart. When we got home, I pulled my shoes off and waddled to the shower, my feet were webbed. As I washed the Charleston off of me I thought, Charleston, it's all good, even when it's not.