Thursday, January 31, 2008

South of the Border

US 15/501 between Aberdeen, NC and South Carolina is a pine-lined rural route dotted with wooden produce stands (closed for the season) and hand-pained signs offering "collards".

Unique names along the route are the Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee Rivers. Personally, I prefer my river names not to have "pee" in them, but that's my own bias.

Turns out that we might all have been able to sing about the Pee Dee if Stephen Foster had stuck with his original plan. The first draft of his famous song went "Way down upon the Pee Dee River." By the way, the official name of that song is "Old Folks at Home," not "Way down upon the Swanee River." I think he made the right choice. (Foster never saw the river in Georgia/Florida that his song commemoriates, which may be why he spelled it Swanee and not by its real name Suwanee.)

We also passed Scotland and Florence, continuing the ever entertaining tour of European place names.

But the most notable roadside sight was "Pedro's South of the Border," a destination advertised by billboards for miles, burma shave fashion.

It harkens back to the days when people went "motoring" and when Standard Oil created heritage trails to encourage people to burn up gasoline driving from one Abraham Lincoln historical marker to another.

It's a quirky and very American spot with souvenir shops, camping, amusement rides and miniature golf. We know all this simply from driving by-- the way we experience most of America. It was impossible not to look in its general direction when confronted with a 200-foot tall sombrero.

Apparently the sombrero ride was featured in the movie "Forces of Nature" with Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck. I learned this fact on line and have never seen the film, so please don't send me hate mail if this is untrue.

The border that Pedro is just south of is the one between the two Carolinas. [I recommend renaming every state relative to Carolina. Georgia would become West Carolina, Florida would be Southernmost Carolina and Alaska- Outer Carolina]

We are making out first visit to Columbia, South Carolina for a 6:30 PM class at Dance Theater of Columbia.

When Valery heard the name of the studio director-- Carrie Kirkland-- he said, "I know Kirkland who danced with Baryshnikov," referring to Gelsey Kirkland of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater.

This Kirkland teaches tap and ballet at a large and busy studio with a focus on musical theater and Broadway. Along the turquoise walls were posters from Guys and Dolls, The Lion King and other productions.

The studio itself was twice as large or more as many of the spaces we visit. Before he began, each of the girls shook his hand and introduced themselves to him. It was a warm and cordial atmosphere and the students focused all their attention.

Today we drive to Georgetown, SC, which was included in a book on the "100 Places to Visit Before You Die." Our schedule will, unfortunately, be too tight to do much in the way of sight seeing. We drive three hours to the studio, have two classes, and then drive another three hours to our next destination as we head towards Georgia. With any luck it will not be pouring rain all the way. Fingers crossed.