Monday, February 20, 2017

Breezing Through Charleston...

For some reason known only to the Powers That Be...In Charge and Whatnot...our school system elected not to observe President's Day this year, and so deprived the students of their usual 3-day respite from the academic rat race. Now, this wouldn't normally have been too big a deal...except that Riley's soccer coach entered the team in a Charleston, SC, with games on both Saturday and Sunday. Oh well, so much for "restful and relaxing time off", yeah?

More so than with a local event, this involved some logistical considerations. For example, whether to leave the older brother at home alone (which to this point has never been done before, so it poses a bit of a parental dilemma) or drag him along for very special Family Togetherness Time. In all honesty, I'm sure...pretty sure...say, 85-90% sure...Derek would have been fine on his own. But I, personally, just wasn't completely ready to abandon him to fend for himself this time (maybe in May--when the next out-of-town tournament comes up--I'll feel differently. Check back later...).

Then there was the fact that--as much as I love watching my son play--my soccer threshold definitely has an upper limit. To be specific: two games in a weekend is hunky-dory; three is pushing it. Besides, there would be shuttling back and forth to the fields, and the Male Trio would be attending an exhibition MLS match as part of the team's bonding experience...all of which is to explain why I lobbied for it to be a two-car operation. That way Husband and Riley could head down on Friday night, with Derek and me joining them for the second contest on Saturday afternoon.

With all that being worked out, we bid the early delegation of Team WestEnders farewell on Friday when Riley arrived home from school. Then Derek and I packed ourselves up first thing Saturday morning and hit the road as well. Husband had texted me about a nasty construction zone they encountered--which had proved both slow and annoying the night before--and provided a suggested alternative route to avoid the problem. Armed with this information, we set out on roads that were much more rural than the 95 South corridor I'd originally planned to take. As such, it was most assuredly more scenic, but also had its share of irritants, such as stoplights...pokey drivers impeding our progress on 2-lane byways...and a distinct lack of viable outposts where a gluten-free vegan could obtain acceptable sustenance.

Despite all these...minor obstacles...we managed to make it just in time for kickoff--so I'm gonna go ahead and call that a Travel Win. After the action on the pitch wrapped up (a hard-fought contest, but resulting in a 2-1 loss for Riley's squad), we all caravan-ed to the hotel, to get cleaned up and prepared for the evening's agenda. For the guys, this meant the aforementioned Bonus Soccer; as for me, I opted to spend a couple of my free hours driving into the city and exploring on foot, since I can't even remember how long it's been since the last time I visited Charleston. Therefore I parked my car near the waterfront (which was admittedly difficult to appreciate since it was, you know, DARK by this time, but whatever) and strolled up and down King Street, through the bustling retail district.

I don't know if it was the holiday weekend, or the balmy temperatures, but the town was absolutely hoppin'--a constant stream of people wandering in and out of the many stores, restaurants, and pubs. There were families juggling ice cream cones (yes, in February--I wasn't exaggerating about how mild the weather was), couples enjoying their date nights, groups of friends discussing where to eat or hang out, packs of uniformed students (I had forgotten that Charleston is home to the Citadel) walking along and quietly chatting in an impressively polite and dignified manner. All-in-all, it was the perfect people-watching and window-shopping extravaganza.

Back at Comfort Suites HQ, the group consensus was to turn in on the early side, since Riley's Sunday game was scheduled for 8 a.m. (meaning their coach wants them at the field for warmups at 7:30...all together now: "Ugh". And by the way, what sort of borderline-sadist makes these arrangements? Oh, right...some people actually are naturally "early risers"...or, as I like to call them..."weirdos"....but that may just be the severe coffee-deprivation talking...)

So in the morning (far too soon, if you ask me) we hauled ourselves out of witness 3 police cars out front...and a body being removed from the premises on a stretcher. (SEE? It just goes to show you that nothing good happens at that time of the day. Sheesh.) Anyway, after a hasty breakfast (or in my case, cup of java) Derek and I joined the rest of the fam at the field for the conclusion of the sports portion of our getaway. It was already sunny, warm, and gorgeous, so when the final whistle blew, we formulated a scheme to venture into Charleston one more time for lunch and a scenic tour of the market and harbor area. (The understandably exhausted Riley took a little coaxing, but the prospect of being FED finally convinced him....barely...)

We had ruled out an excursion to Fort Sumter--although I was definitely interested--because it required a boat ride...and a time commitment we just couldn't afford on this whirlwind adventure. Instead we browsed the open-air market, filled with stalls selling a dizzying array of items--from fresh flowers to artwork to cheesy souvenir t-shirts to jewelry to handcrafted one-of-a-kind home decor. Then, after at least making a token effort to stop by and admire the water, we realized we'd better drop everything else and focus on getting Riley some food, since he was noticeably flagging by this point.

Typically we struggle with finding a place that both meets (my) dietary requirements AND is also appetizing to all four of us...but this time Husband went straight to Google and in a remarkably short while pulled up an eatery that sounded intriguing to everyone. The Brown Dog Deli offered plenty of meat-based sandwiches for the carnivores, as well as entire sections of the menu devoted to vegetarian and vegan dishes (and gluten-free bread, if one needed it). Sold!

When we got there they told us there'd be about a 20-minute wait--which turned out to be much less, so we were glad we stuck it out...especially when our delicious meals were placed in front of us. Can I just say: YUMMMM. It wasn't just me, either: everyone's palates were pleased, and their stomachs satisfied, with their choices. And looking back, I think fortune must have been favoring us when we stumbled upon this cute little cafe, since the line for a table had grown until it extended out the door and down the sidewalk, by the time we were finished and leaving. (Whew!)

After that, there was nothing left to do but get back in the car...AGAIN...and navigate northward. It had been a fun--albeit jam-packed and tiring--jaunt, and 3/4 of our crew had to return to work...and the hallowed halls of learning...on Washington and Lincoln's Day. Oh, that's right--did I neglect to mention that I was the ONLY one who actually got to take advantage of the recovery Monday? Yep, lucky me! (Okay, we all know that in reality this simply means more time for errands and chores--but since I was also able to squeeze in a NAP, it's all good!)

So all that's left to say is: "Is it time for another couple of days off, yet?" Because I suspect it's gonna feel like a looooong week...but here we go!

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