Monday, March 31, 2008

More Mountain Climbing Ahead

We are headed for Asheville, NC, on I-26. Should be having more BBQ before noon. Then it is time to climb. We plan on taking the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smokey Mountains. Then we will decided if we should head to Atlanta for the night, or cross the western border and hit Chattaanooga, TN. We shall see

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Maurice's BBQ - Part Three

I met Maurice the Third (Maurice the First started this 55 year old BBQ tradition) when he asked, from behind the counter, how we liked the food. We got to talking, we took a photo together, and then he autographed my toothpick. I had to buy a bottle of the their mustard-based sauce, but it only cost $3.99. If we find better, we will be super-blessed.

Maurice's BBQ - Part Two

Steve: Mr. Matluck was so excited upon the chef’s delivery of the plate, it became necessary for a mop to be delivered shortly thereafter. Although he did not seem too embarrassed this little accident, I think it made for an uncomfortable ride to Columbia.

Maurice’s BBQ - Part One

I never tried the North Carolina mustard-based style of BBQ sauce until today. My platter included 4 giant ribs, coated in yellow sauce.

I began to indulge in these ribs as country music played loudly in the background. I am not a fan of country music, but I found myself swaying to the songs as I silently chewed a small piece of heaven.

Columbia to Spartanburg - Sunday Ends

The drive on I-26 from Columbia to Spartanburg, SC, was beautiful. While the roads we traveled from Georgia to Columbia, SC, traversed many swamps, I-26 slowly became a growing series of waves, waves of land moving in the slowest of motions, growing steeper and higher, undulating as we approached the Great Smokey Mountains, leaving sea-level behind and climbing higher and higher in elevation. We were the slowest car on the road, enjoying the great views of upstate South Carolina, and ascending and descending growing hills like a ship rolling upon the open ocean. Perhaps like the Yorktown in the Pacific. We did not take any photos then, but I believe you can imagine how it looked.

I find myself bonding with my car. He is finally getting to stretch his legs, to rev his engines again, after long servitude as a mere transporter of a lone commuter. 163,000 miles and the ride is still sweet. Purrs like a kitten. 1996 Toyota Avalon.

We finally arrived in Spartanburg and learned that one cannot buy alcohol in the state of South Carolina on a Sunday. But we did view a lot of downtown Spartanburg as we prowled half of its streets in search of this beverage. It appears that just about everything comes a stop on Sunday here. Just like we did. Tomorrow it is Asheville, NC, and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

I would love to hear some more comments. Thanks.

From Charleston to Columbia

Holly Hill, a town we passed though as we drove along SR 76, was a stark reminder of the effect the overseas-movement of manufacturing. Half of the downtown stores were vacant. Abandoned homes littered the roadways. Then we crossed the railroad tracks. On the other side, the right side of tracks, large mansions with manicured landscaping suddenly popped up.

The scenery in the rural areas was beautiful. Old fashioned farmhouses intermixed with green fields (of what we believed was rice) and lots of forests and swamps.

Our BBQ destination was Big T’s BBQ. It was tough to find, but find it we did, closed for Sunday. So we turned to Plan B. We continued driving towards Columbia, finally finding SR 76, when, lo and behold, Maurice’s BBQ appeared before our eyes! Plan B had been achieved thanks to the friendly ladies we met in the Hominy Grill. Now that is a road trip!

Patriot’s Point and the USS Yorktown

After breakfast we headed over to the Naval Museum. Steve and I have toured the USS Intrepid, the same aircraft carrier class as the Yorktown, in NYC, but this museum blew it away, especially the guided tour we took of the US Clagamore, the last class of diesel submarines. There was a lot of WWII information and a museum for the Medal of Honor. Nice.

Kiss My Grits!

Our day started off in a delicious way. We went to the Hominy Grill in downtown Charleston. Steve and I are familiar with polenta, but he was unsure which utensil one should use to eat grits. Luckily, three nice ladies were sitting at the table next to us. We shared a laugh at being seated immediately after them since we had just been sharing the cold, brisk weather while waiting outside. It was about 50 degrees. The nice women informed Steve that the fork, not the straw, was the proper way to eat grits, after adding some butter, salt and pepper, of course. I ordered the shrimp sautéed with scallions, mushrooms, and bacon over cheese grits. I never had a breakfast like it before, but I know I will again. I purchased a Hominy Grill T-Shirt as a declaration of my new found loyalty.

Striking up a conversation with fellow patrons of a superb and traditional Southern restaurant turned out to be a great help. We mentioned our road trip and destinations and we received excellent advice, including the suggestions of Maurice’s BBQ in Columbia and to tour North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway. More on Maurice’s in a later post.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One Long Day

We ate at Hyman's Seafood, a pretty good restaurant in the Historic District. Actually, I found it touristy and over-rated. Everything tasted salty. But who am I to complain? I forgot to replace the batteries in my camera and now lack the photographic record I desired. I had my first taste of she-crab soup, which was sweet but crabby. The alligator meat sausage sounded better than it tasted. But we quizzed our taxi drivers and believe we can't miss with our Sunday Brunch in Charleston. Either Jestine's or the Hominiy Grill (although part of me slightly suspects more tourist trapism).

BTW, would you believe that Matthew Broderick, Samuel Jackson, Pat Conroy (who the heck is Pat Conroy?), Itzhak Perlman and the NY Knicks all ate at the very same table as Steve and I did? I hear Perlman's favorite is the bacon-wrapped shrimp. Seriously, there were name plates bolted to the tables. Best of all, you were directed to exit the restaurant so as to pass through the "General Store," typical, cheap tourist ploy. To be fair, Steve said the tuna was good.

On Sunday, I believe we will check out the Yorktown Naval Museum. After brunch and the museum it appears we will head to the area of Columbia, SC, to sample more BBQ/Southern Food while on our way to the Great Smokey Mountains.

The photo was taken as we drove across the bridge in St. Simon's Sound, a euphoric moment as our decision to abandon I-95 for a county/state road, Route 17, began to bear fruit, err, BBQ. The upclose views of the low country were awesome. Until tomorrow . . .

As Usual, People Made It Difficult for Us to Join Them

After a harrowing ride on I-95, after feasting at the Georgia Pig (photo below), we discovered Route 17 and St. Simon's Sound. (5 tickets to whomever first identifies this rhetorical device) This is what a road trip is supposed to be. We took an alternate route that showcased the region as it truly is. No time for details know - we gotta eat! We're off to Hyman's Seafood. Hopefully more details late tonight (ha!) or Sunday morning.

Steve writes: Indeed the ride was fitful. My photo simply does not reveal my true age. I never saw so many motor vehicles. In my day, if you ahd buggy for your horse, you wre lucky. I was so out of my element, my teeth grew back, and poor Mr. Matluck lost his hair!

Now we off to some "grown up" adventures, I hope young dashing (now bald) Mr. Matluck brought his photo I.D.

Friday, March 28, 2008

And They're Off!

Steve is already at the aiport. I am leaving my home in Port St. Lucie at 8:30AM. The odometer reads 163,191, and my waist size is 34. It is 246 miles to the Jacksonville International Airport where I will pick up Steve around 1:00PM. From JAX, it is 52 miles to the Georgia Pig, our first swing on the vines in the BBQ jungle. Then it is about 3 hours to Charleston, SC, so I anticipate our check-in time to be about 6:00PM, at the Courtyard by Marriot Charleston (river view!). I hope to produce then the first real blog post about the actual roadtrip, which would be about the GA Pig and maybe some falsely interesting observations by a mind handcuffed to a steering wheel for far too many hours. I wish I could have the song "Low Rider" playing as my fans soak in my words. Yes, I want to ensnare you in a web of positivity! (Inside teacher joke from Friday's workshop) Man, I am really enjoying this and cannot believe how much more fun we will have throughout the next week! Thanks for joining us.

"Connecting with the Local Culture" Lodgings

I was able to locate a relatively unknown attraction outside of Charleston, SC for our first night's stay. It is quaint, has rustic charm, and is part of local history. While most people would defer when given the opportunity to lodge at an abandoned sawmill, intelligent roadtrippers see only potential, and we find genuine comfort in the knowledge that no one has been murdered at this site the past ten years.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Authenticity of Photos Answered!

I have received one comment and some email messages regarding the authenticity of the photos presented in this blog's initial post. A request was made for before and after photos not only of me, but also of my great friend and traveling bud, Steve.

The first photo is a "before" of Steve. While I was unable to obtain any accurate mug shots, I believe the first photo will do as an example of Steve during his more youthful days (see photo from first post).

The second photo is of me, Mark Matluck (!)
(;-p). While I no longer proudly sport a healthy mane, keeping what remains well maintained ("manetained"?), this photo should in no way be perceived as deceitful. Some of you may not recognize me without a tie, but the resemblance is undeniable.

Lastly, I just want to remind everyone that I have invited several students to follow and comment upon this blog. And then there is the fact that I have also done this with many colleagues, co-workers, and, worst of all, supervisors. Please be sure that your comments are appropriate. Thanks.

If You're Going on a Road Trip, You Better Have a Vehicle!

Logic dictates that if one is to embark upon a road trip that one will have an appropriate vehicle for this undertaking. The gods have blessed Steve and me. We shall be voyaging in a classic Tatra Motokov. I can hear everyone already - what the heck is a Tatra Motokov? The Tatra Motokov is a masterpiece of Soviet engineering. The Tatra Motokov is world-renowned for championing many Siberian road trips. What makes this historical relic ultra-modern is that it runs on biofuel! This Soviet sucker gets 50km per liter of vodka! A photo of our ride's exterior has been provided.

What is incredibly remarkable about the Tatra Motokov is the interior. Its external appearance betrays the magnifience and volume that lies within. I have also provided a photo of the Tatra Motokov's interior for your viewing pleasure while you peruse the remarkable detail and craftsmanship that is presented in words too feeble to capture a first-hand experience.

"The entry steps are rare Inca marble bull nosed by Featherlite resident stone artist Francesca J. The risers are hand-made glass tile with imbedded copper, courtesy of Sadie H. The ceiling and AV cabinet in the helm are covered with pearlized Italian leather while the veneer on the dash and steering wheel are sapele Pommele from Africa, the unparalled work of Keagen S. The helm is equipped with an Avic N-2 global positioning system with real-time traffic and weather alerts. The salon features a custom Italian sofa with double electric recliners, handcrafted by Anna B. The Platinum Plus also has a private lavatory with one of a kind glass sink and countertop of fused glass by Seattle artist Jordan S."

I do not believe that I can express the joy inherent in commanding such a vehicle better than Kenneth Grahame, an acclaimed British author of whom I have never heard until today: "Glorious, stirring sight! The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here today -- in next week tomorrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped -- always somebody else's horizons! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!"

Yet, as Flava Flav famously declared: "Don't believe the hype!" We shall be touring in a 1996 Toyota Avalon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The venerable Steven Epstein, Esq., (pictured left) and the youthful Mark Matluck (pictured right), will embark upon a challenge the first week of April, a challenge known to many, a challenge that might lead them to food Nirvana or to a pharmacy for lipitor, a challenge that will be an intense indulgence of the culinary art of BBQ in the southern states of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina beginning this Saturday, March 29, 2008. Extensive and, at times, maniacal research has yielded us twain a smorgasboorg (sp? yet interesting word choice) of potential BBQ hot spots throughout the southeast region of the United States. "BBQ three times a day" appears to be a short-lived rallying cry for this pursuit of some of the seven deadly sins, but I am confident one motto or another will stick like BBQ sauce, literally and figuratively, to the spirit of this endeavour. Expect photos of pork and its glistening fat. Expect images of varying sauces, puppies, platters, and surprises. As I write this I am ignorant of whether viewers are permitted to post responses or comments. If so, I will publish that information here, on this blog, this kick ass, BBQ, road trip blog!

I am unable to satisfactorily answer inquiries about Mr. Epstein's ability to consume BBQ with only a few teeth. Stay tuned to the blog to satisfy your curiosity!

To my students: Thanks for checking in with me. I cannot help but analyze anything I do through the lense of benefitting all of you! If you can respond to this blog, then I cannot wait to hear (or read) from all of you. Otherwise, have a happy spring break and leave me alone.