Giddy up and Go . . . to Aiken
The wife and I made a jaunt down to Aiken SC this weekend. It’s only 120 miles from our home in Greenville County. It took us seven hours to get there.
We started by letting GPS take us through Pickens County to Powdersville. I’m sure we could never duplicate that first leg on our own but it was entertaining. We made note of several junk yards we could return to if we are ever in need of parts and we even passed a bona fide rodeo arena. Powdersville afforded us a quick stop at the Kolache Factory for a cream cheese kolache. My one-quarter Czech DNA said dekuji mnohokrat (thank you very much).
From there we ventured to Williamston and the incredible old textile mill now selling bulk fabric at All About Fabric. Guys, you get extra credit for making this stop!
When one travels backroads, which is about the only way TO GET to Aiken especially from our last stop, one cannot simply bypass or zip through a small town that has their own rainbow row of buildings on the town square. Abbeville’s shaded town square was also lined with American flags trying their best to catch a breeze on a sweltering summer day. It begged us to stop so we complied.
Fun fact, if you ask the internet for the tallest building in SC, it will probably lie and say it is in Columbia at 26 floors and 349 feet, when in actuality it is just outside Abbeville and clocks in at 373 ft and 30 floors (Prysmian Group’s copper wire tower). I took a picture to prove you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
My reasons for going through Abbeville were two-fold. Since my ancestors lived there in the 1790s I wanted to see if I recognized anyone on the street. I did not. Second, I wanted to see an old abandoned church outside the city. I found it hidden in the woods but since it was devoid of any signs of graffiti I’m not going to disclose its location in hopes of keeping it that way. I will tell you that when I pulled off the road, my wife looked at me and said “I’ll wait for you.” I thought about taking the keys with me just to be sure. Although abandoned, it still felt like a holy place. There were several butterflies trapped inside beating against the windows. To me, they were the stained glass of the church.
From there it was a blur of pine trees, fading radio stations, and declining towns until we reached Aiken.
We made the Hilton Garden Inn our base and began to explore the city. Some people describe Aiken as a railroad town because of its rich history in that industry (check out the free railroad museum at the City’s visitor center). Others say it’s a horse haven which is supported by no less than six Kentucky Derby champions having trained at the Aiken Training Track. (You’ll find DIRT streets in front of fine houses because of the horses that get moved around the tracks.) But what probably impressed us the most was just the design and architecture of the city. Many streets are divided by luscious green belts, some are lined with oaks that reach across the street to each other forming a tunnel, and the architecture of the homes, churches, and businesses are candy to the eye. Aiken has every indication of a thriving little city ready to entertain the world.
Some of you may know that my wife and I have a 3 U-turns per day rule when traveling. That was thrown out the window on the way to Aiken. On the return, I maxed out the rule (because pull-overs don’t count) and we made it home in about three hours. I see this weekend as dress rehearsal for a coast to coast drive this fall (with UNLIMITED U-turns!).