In 1976, when I first drove my coach into the Southland, I was captivated by the live oak trees and the beautiful magnolias that appeared along the road as I drove into the Carolinas. The approach to Charleston, SC on this trip, was south from Florence, SC, and as we motored along, we began to drive through overhanging branches of huge live oaks (called oak allees).
It seems impossible that the outstretched limbs can support the tremendous weight of solid oak, but there they are…reaching out for the sunshine….and old!
I remember consulting an AAA Tourbook of the area, and described therein, was a listing for a point of interest called The Angel Oak. It was out-of-the-way, on Johns Island, south of the city of Charleston. We camped at a small campground called Oak Plantation, and the name said it all. We were one of less than five other RVs staying among the big trees. Roaming free at this site was a small herd of cattle!
Route US 17 (The Ocean Highway) was little developed in this area at the time. The next morning, after departing the campground, I inquired at a small convenience store just down the road about The Angel Oak. Sure enough, the proprietor knew of it, and directed me down the adjacent road, and after a few miles of travel east, we came upon a small park, and before us was this TREMENDOUS behomouth of a tree, the likes of which were simply hard to imagine. It was one tree, not several trunks together, and it spread its branches a good 60 to 70 yards.
We took a lot of pictures that day, so long ago. It was damp and rainy and cold. This was late January, but we were astounded by this huge living thing. A rustic sign indicated that it was old enough to have been growing at the time Jesus lived. I doubted that it could be that old, but who knew?
Last year, as I was traveling down US 17, I passed the Oak Plantation Camping Resort. It has become a very popular place to stop, with a gatehouse/office just off the highway….and no more cows. I wondered about our little diversion almost 35 years before, and on a whim, I took the next left turn at at traffic light. It was Main Road. The convenience store had become a large gas station with a market. I was pretty sure it had been this turn I took in 1976.
A few miles down the road (a well-paved two-lane, now) I came upon the Angel Oak Shopping Center. This must be the place, I thought…duh. A sign just past this intersection pointed to the big tree. It is now surrounded by a chain-link fence, and there is a small attended store on the premises. Nothing else has changed. The Angel Oak (named for a family that once owned the property), spread out before me, and I was again humbled by this natural specimen. The picture above really does not do it justice…if there had been another visitor there, he could have stood near the trunk, and he would have been dwarfed by the height and girth of the bole. If he had lain on the ground,and if he was tall, he might be long enough to stretch across its width.
Now that it is protected, I suspect it will be still more immense in 30 more years. I hope you will stop to marvel at this sight.
Some of the most interesting things for RV’ers to experience on the road are the many events held all around the country dealing with American history.
I have toured many battle sites for instance; from the Boston Tea Party and Bunker Hill in Charlestown, to Lexington and Concord. Places that help us remember the price of freedom, like Fort McHenry and Fort Sumter, or the many battlefields of the Civil War. Places of infamy such as Andersonville, and sites dipicting the Trail of Tears, when the Cherokee Nation was forced into the West. Little Big Horn. We celebrate great victories in Yorktown and Washington’s raid across the Delaware.There are docked naval vessels of all conflicts, from the Constitution (Old Ironsides) to the Nautilus atomic submarine.
All across the United States, whether your family were Confederate sympathizers or Yankee die-hards, there is a panoply of history in myriad locations, in every state; places and things that interest most of us.
Old west mines and ghost towns like Virginia City, Nevada, Deadwood, South Dakota and Langtry,Texas where Judge Roy Bean dispensed the law west of the Pecos River. Wherever you travel there is something to remind you of the way things were, and often how far we have (or have not) progressed.
Museums abound in all parts of our nation that memorialize the progress of our industries, our arts and all aspects of our culture. The struggle for equanimity, for civil rights….you name it. Every sojourn in your RV can find you in a place of rich enlightenment for the whole family. The privilege of being able to bring your kids to the actual places is something we, with recreational vehicles don’t think of as a luxury…but it IS truly that!
This week found me in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, where their second annual Living History Event took place on Saturday and Sunday. At four distinct sites around this town, which dates back to 1735 and is located north of Manchester and west of the capitol city of Concord, volunteers and townspeople remembered the 14th president Franklin Pierce, who was born here. There was a French and Indian war re-enactment and encampment true to the ways and customs of that time. A mounted cavalry performed a Civil War drill. The old center of Hillsboro (as it is often now known, thanks to the U.S.Postal Service) boasts an old schoolhouse, historic architecture, an old cemetery, and a work shop operated by a second- generation pewterer of great skill. His facility is like stepping back to another time in many ways, as well. Downtown, in the section once known as Hillsboro Bridge (There were mills along the Contoocook River), stands an old firehouse which has been converted to a Heritage Museum, with artifacts from the town’s colorful history, including theater screens from the old movie house. Incidently, this town was also the birthplace of B.F. Keith, who built theaters across the country, and with his partner E.F.Albee, presented the country’s first moving pictures at their Bijou Theater in Boston. They went on to become the fathers of vaudeville, which captivated the American audience for fifty years (and until Ed Sullivan). They took over the Orpheum chain of ornate theaters and vaudeville circuit, and later, with Radio Pictures, became RKO (Radio/Keith/Orpheum). For many, Hillsborough is most famous for it’s stone arch bridges. Both single and double arches! There are six in all, along Beard Brook and the Contoocook River (one is submerged, but still intact),all built originally without mortar.
Lots of activities for young and old marked this wonderful two days in just another New England town (but……NOT just any other….for so many) !
The first colors are beginning to show on an occasional tree in New Hampshire. I will be back to see some Fall leaf tints later, but first I must fly to Nevada to get my car. Plans can change quickly, and instead of taking the RV out West to join my car, I came to New England and got a new wrist! Recovery and rehab are proceeding quite well, so I have booked my flight, and I hope the heat abates somewhat in the next few weeks in Las Vegas where I have the Saturn stored. I’m planning to stay awhile in Vegas, and to meet a friend there. I will take my time traveling back to New England, and take advantage of the fact that I will be in the car, to do more mountainous driving, and to visit a few places that I might not take my RV.
Since my surgeon wants to see me at 3, 6 and 12 month intervals, I will be staying on the East coast in my class C for the winter. After some “leaf-peeping” and visiting my family in October, it will off to Florida’s warmth.
Cannot wait to get back into my RV to move down the road some more !
But in the meantime, I am recouping from wrist surgery in the Granite State. With dense woods, quiet roads to walk, streams to meander and waterfalls within earshot, it doesn’t get much better.
My cast will come off and the stitches will be removed next week, Then I can begin the rehab and use of my new metal parts. I’ll be grabbing my steering wheel like “Jaws”.
When you are attended-to the way I am, by my daughter Andrea, it makes this whole episode a lot less harrowing.
The surgeons have been great and the entire staff at The New England Baptist Hospital has been friendly and cheerful. A truly remarkable experience all the way through from last December when I first learned of the possibility of relief.
I had a capacious single room with bath, and a room service menu to choose from. Four pages of really good selections for every meal…and breakfast all day! This was not at the Ritz Carleton, downtown, but at NEBH Room 554 !
I had a wonderful view of the Boston skyline, however, from atop Parker Hill. Andrea and I have had some memorable times in The Hub, though less auspicious ,and we will probably have more before I get back on a flight to resume my RV lifestyle and travels.