Saturday, 13 September 2014: Charleston, South Carolina, golf and adventure

For Saturday morning, we had a 9:42 a.m. tee time at Wescott Plantation golf course, in North Charleston. Because our visit to College of Charleston was officially over, we couldn't stay another night at the Faculty House, so I'd reserved for Saturday night at the Motel 6 North, located conveniently between the city and the golf course. We headed out early and had breakfast at a Waffle House near the motel on the way.

We got to the course in plenty of time to check in and warm up on the driving range—nice to be able to warm up on grass rather than the plastic mats at Seminole. Otherwise, the amenities weren't quite as good. They had 27 holes, each nine with a restroom (actually a clivus multrum, as the course was not plumbed except for sprinklers) at the 5th tee, but one of them had been burned down by vandals, so they put us on the other two nines. No lightning detectors, so we were on our own there. We finished warming up so early that the starter sent us off half an hour before our scheduled time, more or less on the schedule we play at home. Nice people.

The carts were like those used at FSU when we first played there; no GPS, but very clear and frequent distance markings on the sprinkler heads. They had no water coolers out on the course, but they solved the problem by giving out any amount of chilled bottled water. They sent you off with a couple of bottles on the first tee, barrel-shaped coolers full of ice and more bottled coolers stood at the 5th tee on each nine, and a ranger in a cart did nothing but cruise the course handing out more to anyone who wanted it. Nice, but seems as though it would be cheaper to install cooler huts like the ones at Seminole so they could give away tap water. Maybe their tap water doesn't taste good.

Good wildlife, too, although strangely each water hazard harbored exactly one interesting animal—a single wood stork, a single great blue heron, two little blue herons in separate ponds, etc. One marshy area did have six deer, who kept a watchful eye on us but did not panic as we played through. David scored better than I did, as is often the case.

burger cake After the round, we repaired to the club house, where we split a cheeseburger that was a dead ringer for the ones we routinely split at Seminole after our Sunday round. Very good indeed, and it came with the delicious option of sweet potato fries, which the Renegade Grill doesn't offer. I'll have to suggest that to the new management, as more and more places are offering them, and they make a nice change

The clubhouse was to close about an hour later and was being decorated for a wedding. To our left as we sat at the bar this lovely pyramid of cupcakes was being assembled. The top tier was a smallish round cake whose frosting gave a quilted effect. Each tier was decorated with ribbon bows and peacock feathers. I could see around the edges of the frosting that the cupcakes were of two different flavors. I was almost tempted to stick around to see the rest of the catering arrangements.

tables flowers To our right, the table decorations were appearing. Tall sprays of orchids alternated with dense pompoms of roses. Larger centerpieces waited their turn on the floor. I assume the lanterns had candles in them.

Next, we reported to our motel for the evening, intending to check in, but it was in semi-chaos, undergoing renovation, and it took a ridiculously long time for them to find suitable nonsmoking rooms, even one of which was ready for occupancy. By the time we checked in and cleaned up, it was too late to try to fit in a museum or tour, because everything seemed to close at 5 p.m. so we just took it easy until time to leave for our dinner downtown, at a restaurant called Circa 1886, which is located in the carriage house of the 1886 Wentworth Mansion, now a hotel. We were due there at 6:45 p.m., and it was supposedly a 20-min drive, so we left at 6 p.m., to allow plenty of time.

We got back up onto I-26, and were a mile or two along toward downtown when I smacked my forehead; I had forgotten to put the phone back in my handbag after charging it. We briefly considered going back for it, but we were unlikely to need it, right? Within 30 seconds of my saying that, our left rear tire failed catastrophically, and we had to drive on it for another couple of miles before we came to a place where we could pull off far enough to change it safely. At that point, the tire was in shreds. Changing it entailed unloading all our golf clubs, shoes, and whatnot to get at the jack and the spare, stored under the floor of the trunk, but we managed to do that, extract the spare, change the tire, and reload everything, all without getting our clothes dirty, although our hands were black to the elbows. Good thing we'd left a good cushion of time.

Back up on the freeway, we drove the remaining distance into town and were about six blocks from the restaurant when the spare tire went flat. Drat. We turned into Glebe Street, where we had frequently seen parking spaces in front of the Faculty House, but it was parked up solid. A couple of blocks further along, though, we found a space on Coming Street and pulled into it. A passing College of Charleston student helpfully pointed out, as we got out of the car, that our left rear tire was flat. We ground our teeth and thanked him politely before heading for the restaurant at the quick march, all while trying to figure out what we were going to do when we got there, stuck late on a Saturday night, in the middle of downtown Charleston with a flat tire, a flat spare, no phone, and 15 miles from our luggage. We'll ask at the restaurant, I said; at least they'll have a phone and a phone book.

We got there about 7 p.m. and, passing through the hotel lobby on the way to the restaurant out back, found that they had a concierge—that was encouraging, if the restaurant couldn't help. When the restaurant hostess asked me how I was, I replied "lousy!" and proceeded to relate the whole sad tale. The bartender overheard and consulted somebody in the kitchen behind the pass-through. When I finished, the hostess and bartender said, "I'm sure we can solve this. Let us work it for you while you have a nice dinner. Your table is this way."

plate green gazpacho So we proceeded to have a very nice dinner. The restaurant had it's own china, as you can see at the left. The only menu offered was the special $40/head restaurant-week menu, which turned out to be entirely satisfactory.

Amuse-bouche: Served in a sort of miniature Pilsner glass. A spicy gazpacho of green tomatoes with bits of Greek yogurt floating in it and a cilantro sprig on top.

escargots crêpe First course, David: A small chicken crêpe with squash pudding, butter beans, rosemary ham, and Burgundy red onion jam, which he pronounced delicious. First course, me: A brochette of snails, wonderfully tender slices of chorizo, and mushroom quarters with "horchata grits" (made, perhaps, of coarsely ground rice?), and mint chimichurri sauce. Delicious.

lamb trout Main course, David: "Cast iron lamb loin," cooked rare, with beluga lentil hash, smoked paprika, white cheddar eggplant purée, bell peppers, cilantro, and "cocoa demi," which last I took to mean a reduction of the lamb juices to a demiglace flavored with cocoa. Excellent.

Main course, me: A rainbow trout, boned, butterflied, and pan grilled. It was topped with arugula, a creamed corn and fava bean succotash, thinly shaved slices of cauliflower, duck prosciutto, sun-dried currants, and spicy pecan emulsion. Also excellent.

souffle room Dessert, both: Hot pear crisp soufflé. The soufflé itself was perfectly flavored with pear and probably had some pear liqueur in it as well. On the side were a tiny pitcher of caramel "crème anglaise" (boiled custard sauce), and a little dish of "crisp" nuggets, to be sprinkled on top. I personally didn't think the crisp added much, but otherwise, it was excellent—a little more alcoholic toward the bottom, I thought.

We chose a free-standing table, because David prefers a real chair, but another option were these cozy booths that allowed both diners to face the room.

At the end of the meal, when we emerged from the dining room back into the bar, the bartender put down the phone and said, "That was the tow-truck driver. He's just arrived at your car and will wait for you there. He'll take you and your car to the Firestone place on route 17. They're closed now, but we talked to them earlier, and they open at 8 a.m. on Sundays. The tow-truck driver will then take the two of you on to a nearby motel, where you'll be able to call a cab."

And he did. We dropped off the car at Firestone, put the key in the drop box with a note, then had a pleasant chat with the receptionist at a nearby Best Western while we waited for the cab she called for us. It took us back to our Motel 6, where we spent the night, had breakfast at the Waffle House next door, called Firestone when they opened, watched a movie on TV while we waited for their call back saying they'd finished, took another cab back down there, and hit the road for home at noon, just four hours later than we had originally planned! Nice town, Charleston.

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