It's nice to be back here in Illinois again after months in the Carolinas and days on the road. True to our best instincts, we, of course, took the long way, heading from North Carolina to illinois via Florida in a roundabout journey that saw spring warm to near-summer before shifting back to something colder and whiter as we moved closer to home.
I suppose we might have put off our return a little longer, as spring has really just arrived in the southeast. We hope, however, that we will manage to drag some sunny days this way, just as winter followed us when we moved down last January.
But while the weather attracted my attention, dictated my mood and affected my wardrobe as we went down the coast and back up through the heartland, there were other stops and sites along the way worth remembering.
As usual, we didn't have a real plan or timetable.
Nor did we include any interstate highways in our route.
So, like always, we found a few off-the-beaten-track places that I'm glad we saw.
Like Pawleys Island, a tiny South Carolina barrier island that has been a laid-back vacation and resort community since the 1700s (yes, 1700s!), when nearby plantation owners and farmers moved their families away from the mosquitoes and malaria that infested their riverside rice plantations and onto the breezy coastal isle. The historic district is still there, complete with narrow, sandy streets and authentic antebellum beach bungalows that even include, in a couple of cases, slave quarters.
We discovered another middle-of-nowhere treasure in the South Carolina countryside called the Hampton Plantation, a colonial settlement that is tucked away deep in the woods, displaying a well-preserved Georgian mansion that was a both a hiding place for Francis Marion, "the Swamp Fox," and hosted General George Washington during the American Revolution.
We traveled through and over the marshes, rivers and rice fields of the South Carolina low country, then spent an evening and a morning in beautiful
Charleston, where only Ash Wednesday and the beginning of lent prevented us from eating our way through the South in a self-indulgent campaign more dramatic than Sherman's march to the sea.
Forsythia and azaleas bloomed and burst forth with the resonating blaze of springtime in the deep south, as we visited family and walked the banks of the St. John's River.
We could have stayed forever in that splendid springtime.
But it was time.
Time to go home.
A lazy drive through Georgia found us near the Tennessee border Sunday night, and a longer, harder day on the road got us close to Illinois by late Monday afternoon. All the while, radio reports on the tragic, dangerous events in Japan haunted our thoughts and kept us thinking and praying. It was getting colder now, both out of doors and in our hearts, as well, as the news continued to get worst and worst.
We crossed a flooded Ohio River into our home state and started the last, long stretch.
"That's snow out there," she exclaimed as we spied some suspicious-looking stuff on the grass near the banks of the flooded Kaskaskia River as we drove through southeast Illinois.
Late that night, we finally got there.
The cat was waiting, impatiently, as if we had just stepped out and were finally coming home for dinnertime.
His, that is.
"We're home, Max. Did you miss us?"
He didn't say, though I think he did.
But it was good, anyway.
Good to be home.