Carolinas: The Whole Biscuit

Posted May 30, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
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The Carolinas are puzzling, especially the coastal areas along the barrier islands. Everything is shifting, impermanent – even the things that are set in stone.

All aspects – weather, culture and geography – has a flip-side.

For every expanse of glistening turquoise beach, there’s an impenetrable mysterious swamp; for every perfectly cinematic picnic beneath a blooming saucer magnolia, there’s the threat of a tornado or copperhead or tick; and for every outrageous hissy-fit there’s an earnest casserole apology.

And when the dense, muscular summer heat takes up residence – backing you into the cool corner of the porch where you and your computer submit to a cane lounger to try to attend to urgent business – the ceiling fan on a low, slow thrum, conspires with a distant thunderstorm to lull you off into the best nap of your life. You wake up, wipe the drool off your chin and mumble, “I needed that” to no one in particular.

And that’s what I’m talking about. Contradictions abound.

Like commiserating with the local residents about the particular cruelties of their insect population – it becomes a kind of morbid bonding experience. By the end of the conversation you feel like blood relations… and maybe you are.

Even the embarrassment of asking Southerners to repeat themselves can be delightful … “Now, Darlin, there’s only two ways to say it: BOOF-ay, as in, ‘all you can eat,’ and buff-IT, as in Margaritaville. I have no idea what this ‘buff-Ā’ is you’re talking about.”

But some things don’t change. In the South, one religion holds greater power over all others. Fried Chicken – and her divine consorts, Okra, Field peas, Green Beans and Biscuits and Gravy – delivers. And, for food and Southern culture, we are satisfied converts of the Carolinas.

Now, North Carolina and South Carolina are equivalent but not the same.

From the moment the Spanish and French got involved they were doomed to split – and when the English and Scots put down roots, things started heating up and it was D-I-V-O-R-C-E time.

But it’s all good, like two sides of a biscuit.

Let’s say this biscuit is The Carolinas. Pull it apart with your hands – because using a knife is heresy …

And notice how it sorta looks like North and South Carolina. 😊

Now, when a soft, fluffy buttermilk biscuit is pulled apart, the interior looks like a hot mess. That crazy dividing line between the two resembles the 290-year boundary dispute between the neighboring states which was ultimately settled (after 20 years and 20 million dollars) in 2017 give or take dozens of pending lawsuits.

The bottom of the biscuit is North Carolina and the top of the biscuit is South Carolina. Both are delicious, but the subtle differences are of monumental importance. Take the North Carolina half. The bottom is decidedly firm – a weighty surface to support gravy …

But, the South Carolina side of the biscuit is delicate, soft and crumbly. I like my South Carolina side drizzled with Steen’s syrup and melted butter.

So my North Carolina side of the biscuit is dense and smooth and salty as the Crystal Coast, and my South Carolina side is as light and sweet as a Charleston Sunday morning.

Our last Georgia breakfast

In early March, we pulled out of Jekyll Island for a 200-mile journey to Charleston. But Georgia kept hanging on – so, just before we crossed the border near Savannah, we pulled over in Pooler for brunch on the screened porch of Another Broken Egg. Jim had the best seafood omelet of his life and the grits are so good I almost wept.

Charleston

That afternoon we pulled into our suburban campground headquarters, James Island County Park, early enough to check out the bike trails, walking areas and the large pond.

These recreational amenities fortified our master plan to eat out every single day for the next two weeks. We were already in training. Focused and determined. Sure, we were still unvaccinated and dining only in outside locations … but this is Charleston, the Holy City, with an abundance of patio dining choices. We would not forsake the assembling of ourselves together around the table.

And, if we got in over our heads, we had help.

Southern family. Southern appetites. Food, proudly crafted, consoles the pain of colonialism, slavery, earthquakes, piracy, civil war and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. As Jesus, famously said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Here, eat a biscuit …” or something like that.

Our chops were in position, ready for action.

Okay. Let’s do this.

Charleston City Market, a tradition since the early 1800’s.

Then, a rewarding lunch up on the deck at Charleston’s Crab House

After a walk in Battery Park, the location of mass pirate executions.

We sat down for supper at Fam’s Brewing.

Next day, we had breakfast at Page’s Okra Grill

… to fortify ourselves for the ferry ride to Sumter Fort where the American Civil War formally began.

That night we had dinner at Graze.

Food and sight-seeing, sight-seeing and food … It went on like that until my folks went back home. But, snowball-effect had set in and Jim and I continued protocol.

Slightly North of Broad (SNOB)

Three Little Birds Cafe

Poogan’s Porch

We parked in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Charleston and toured on foot. The sideways mansions were our primary fascination …

and the fine wood craftsmanship and window boxes …

and iron work, old cobblestone streets, and fascinating shops

On sunny days, we visited Folly Beach

And, on cold and rainy days, the breweries, taverns and sports bars offered refuge.

Low Tide Brewing on John’s Island

The Lowdown Oven and Bar on James Island

Lost Dog Cafe in Folly Beach

Even with twelve days of Charleston time, we weren’t ready to leave. But due to so many campground closures, we had to hold onto reservations (a travel buzz-kill) up the coast.

Caw Caw

But Jim and I made a pact to return and spend an entire year. So, with only one day left our Airstream friends, Julia and Gary, who are regulars to this area recommended we drive about thirty minutes south to view the Caw Caw Interpretive Center.

Well, sure. We’re always ready for a stroll through the swamp …

But the swamp followed us home …

Then, on to Wilmington, North Carolina.

As we passed through Myrtle Beach, we were engaged in a come-to-Jesus dialogue …

about curbing our diet toward healthier, plant-based choices and, as if on cue, Big Daddy’s Pork Skins “It Ain’t Food If It Ain’t Fried” drives by …

Well, that set off our appetites, so we pulled over at Pawley’s Island for a bite at Chive Blossom Cafe.

Carolina Beach State Park

That afternoon, we pulled into Carolina Beach State Park on Cape Fear.

With half of the campground closed for repairs, we were lucky to get the most private site in the park …

which we enjoyed for thirteen days.

This campground is basically a sandbar with quiet hiking paths.

The well-marked trails which began right from our campsite made us feel like the lord and lady of the manor.

This park is surrounded by a suburban neighborhood, but the quiet hammock shielded us from view.

It was like wilderness with all the conveniences. Good Hops Brewing – a family and community friendly establishment – is a five-minute bike ride from our site.

This small neighborhood served as our launching pad for fascinating day trips to the lovely and historic city of Wilmington.

Marina Grill

Waterline Brewing Company

Cape Fear is a wonderful area for paddling.

When adventure called, Mama Smurf and I went for a ride and, together, we successfully navigated the dreaded Cape Fear.

Carolina Beach

We love to visit beach areas on shoulder season.

It’s give and take. The ice cream shops are still closed, but dogs are allowed on the boardwalks and sand.

The beaches were not formally open.

So, without crowds and heavy traffic we were free to explore and chat with the locals and watch them spruce up for season business.

Many of the areas seafood restaurants are only open for season, but that’s okay, because Michael’s Seafood is open all year and is highly rated as the best.

And Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, just a block from the beach, was excellent.

Venus Fly Traps

On the final day at Carolina Beach State Park, we snagged coveted free spots for the “reservations required” ranger-guided Venus Fly Trap Tour. This is the only place in the world where these exotic plants flourish in the wild under the protection of armed guards. Poaching endangers the entire habitat, but crime-rings persist.

At least twelve people were waiting for us to arrive, hoping we would give up our spots. Maybe if poachers just scalped reservations for the tour, they’d break even and the preservation efforts would be more successful and less weapony.

I’m not saying the tour was a disappointment, but it was very short and involved about twelve square feet of space. After parking and checking in with the ranger who I.D.’d us to prove we were on the list, we took a walk down a short trail. The ranger gave a quick talk about the habitat, then stepped out on a boardwalk, pointed to a bed of flytraps … and that was it.

We all huddled together to get hasty pics of the carnivorous plants … then walked back to our cars and drove away.

The next day, we had an unusual 448 mile journey ahead so, we made an overnight “comfort” stop at Walton’s Distillery in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

On that very day, my niece, Monica, and her family were moving into their brand new house near Swansboro. So we met them for dinner at Boro Low Country Kitchen, for a hearty seafood boil.

Next day we were on our way to Ocracoke Island for another bite on the salty side of the Carolina biscuit.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


41 thoughts on “Carolinas: The Whole Biscuit

  1. I so enjoy reading your postings. We are recently retired and new owners of our first RV. After reading your review of the Chassowitzka River Campground, we decided to include this in our first winter camping trip in 2022. Enroute home, we have reservations at James Island campground. I am looking forward to reading your Charleston restaurant reviews closer to the winter months.

    1. Thank you, Kathy. We would love to hear your review of both campgrounds. We still make mistakes but over the years we’ve made progress in deciphering campground maps to try for the best sites. We would be delighted to consult with you any time about Charleston restaurants. We’re not big spenders, so most of our dining out is accomplished in the morning and afternoon. Best of luck with your retirement plans and thank you for being with us.

      Carmen @ LIB

    1. Hey Kathy! It looked better on the platter than it does right now on my posterior😆

      Thank you so much for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

    1. Hey Brenda! We are smitten by both Carolinas. We really need to dedicate a full year to exploring both states. But, hopefully, the weather will be a better when we return. The locals all said it was an off year – just like the whole country this year. But, fortunately, the weather was most lovely in Okracoke and Assateague.

      Thank you for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

      1. The only time I’ve really spent in the Carolinas was a trip out to the Outer Banks which I absolutely adored! It’s on my list to do one of these days!

    1. We LOVE BiscuitHead, Frank! Unfortunately, we are heading north for Summer. Grab some biscuits and come with us! Big hugs to you and Debbie.

      xoxo,

      Carmen @ LIB

  2. Thank you so much. I enjoy your posts almost too much. I dropped my iPad in the bathtub laughing at the nature walk with the ranger. 😂 it survived.

    1. Hey Moni!

      The Venus Flytrap walk was one of those surreal moments 😀 Thank goodness for water resistant tech!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  3. We lived in Mt. Pleasant, SC for 20 years before we became full timers. It was wonderful place to live and cannot begin to buy back the house we sold. We made a tidy bundle when we sold it and prices have only gone up since.
    Like

    1. Mount Pleasant is a place we should check out more. We LOVED eating at Page’s Okra Grill there.

      We are not currently in the mood to settle down, but we’re taking notes and the Carolinas are way up there on the list. We want to spend a full year in the Charleston area. We also love Asheville. I was looking at a shack … I mean a shack with no kitchen, no bath, no plumbing at all (I think it was a thousand years old) but beautifully situated on a half-acre of the bay in Okracoke. I asked about the price … $850,000!!! And the land will probably be mostly underwater in twenty years. Jim says I have expensive taste, and I guess he’s right.

      We couldn’t afford either one of the houses we sold when we began full-timing either. But we love the lifestyle and liquidity. We have more $ now than when we started and we don’t have to deal with property, rent collection, property maintenance, plans, permits, contractors … Life is good!

      How long have you been full-timing?

      Thanks for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  4. Great Review- if you ever get the opportunity do the South East Wildlife Expo in Charleston. always around Valentine’s Day. Great Culinary review- I walk to eat 🙂 Try the Olde Towne Grill & Seafood, its still around –Greek food! Its been there since at least the mid 90’s. Thanks for the Carolina(s) review.

    1. Hey Margo! Thanks for the tip about the Expo.

      We love Greek food! Olde Towne Grill sounds like our kind of place – especially if they do lunch. We’re at the age where we don’t appreciate big evening meals.

      Thanks so much for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  5. We have been living in our RV full time since November, traveling since March. We recently spent 5 nights at James Island, we were there to visit family so our visit was mostly about that. We did visit the amazing historic area of Charleston and Patriots Park. We limit our dining out due to being retired and sticking to a budget but it was a wonderful visit, we would like to come back and stay longer.

    1. Hey Laura!

      Yes! There’s so much to see in Charleston that is completely free. Like our hometown of San Diego, Charleston is a walking city with plenty of public areas to enjoy. But the food is so much better than in SoCal. Even the vegetarian and vegan cuisine is tastier in the south. When we eat out we keep it to breakfast and lunch. It’s rare for us to dine out for dinner. But Charleston is now our favorite foodie destination. Love that city!

      Where are you now Laura? It would be great to meet up sometime.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  6. Carmen and Jim, simply stunning photos. My mouth is watering. What an assortment of photos. It must take you forever to put these fabulous blogs together. Keep ’em coming.
    Mark Miller
    South Coast California Airstream Club
    President-2019
    2019 30′ Classic

    1. Hey Mark!

      Thank you for awarding LIB your presidential vote of confidence. That means a lot to us.

      Jim’s skill with information and image storage, filing, and retrieval is our blogging secret. He is also very knowledgeable about WordPress and their many features which make blogging on-the-go a breeze. Our cell booster maximizes the tiniest signal so we can blog in semi-wilderness areas. It takes about a day and a half put together a blog we are satisfied with so we wait for bad weather – and, this winter has had more than enough of that.

      Safe and Happy Travels, Mark!

      Carmen @ LIB

  7. As always, a gem. We do the Carolinas every other year and stay for a week or so. Loved the pictures of food, not a bad dish in the bunch. If you didn’t try the She-crab soup with a dash of brandy, it should be reason enough to return. Safe travels. John Bloemendal

    1. Hey John!

      Oh the She-crab soup! We tried it in Maryland. So delish!!! But we didn’t have the dash of brandy – so thanks for the tip. Another culinary adventure awaits!

      Thanks so much for your encouragement, John, and for watching out for us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  8. Hi there! I’ve been following you guys on your adventures for a while now and I really enjoyed the Carolinas jaunt. I’ve never been there and hope to visit someday soon. Question: On your advice I bought one of the Qualisport’s e-bikes like you guys have. I plan to use it the same way you do, i.e. visiting places away from camp. Have you found a quick and easy, yet safe and secure way to lock your bikes when you’re in the establishment?

    1. Hey Craig! Thanks so much for following LIB.

      That’s the one advantage of our old bikes. We were fine to lock them on a public bike rack and shopping or dining indoors. But we don’t feel confident to leave the Dolphins out of our sight. The loss would be too great if they were stolen.

      So, no, we have not found a way to lock or to leave our bikes out of sight when we go inside. But so far, it hasn’t been a problem. We acquired the bikes during the pandemic and have been dining outside ever since. Most outdoor patio areas have a place where we can put the bikes close – even if just on the other side of a low fence or roped off area. And, sometimes, we’ve found that management is friendly about allowing us to bring them up on decks or inside patios with high fences.

      If you wanted to try, you could fold the bike and roll it like a suitcase in front of you which makes it more appropriate to bring into a store- it would be no different than a stroller – and is makes it very convenient when riding on public transportation. I’ve considered folding the dolphin and putting it in the shopping cart like moms sometime do with a baby stroller, but haven’t tried that yet.

      Our current security solution is to just keep them with us – under our eye – but that’s easy for us to say because there’s two of us. One waits outside with the bikes while the other makes a quick run into a shop, visitor center or grocery store.

      But if you find a solution for locking them, please let us know.

      How do you like your Dolphin?

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  9. What a scrumptious, culinary journey! Yum! It’s been a while since we’ve traveled through the South and this leaves me wanting to go back sooner rather than later. Fried green tomatoes in Georgia at the Callaway Gardens is a fond memory…As always, great story-telling!

    1. Thank you, for the Callaway Gardens tip, Sabrina. I hope we are successful in conveying the truth that everyone’s journey is rich in epochal moments and in the south it’s the small things that usher in the drama … thunderstorm naps, a walk in the park, a biscuit and bowl of grits. I love the South!

      Thank you for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  10. Good Grief my friends I gained 30 pounds just reading this very long but beautifully narrated journey of The South!!! Your photos are as usual breathtaking!! Your family is beautiful, every last one of them!! The food!!! The food…..!!!! Well done! Bravo! Y’all don’t own a scale do you!!! Haha! I’m always looking forward to your next adventure!! PS… when you go back for that one year stay let us know, would love to come out!! May even gain a few pounds!!

    1. Hey Margie! Yes we have scale and we’re not happy with it’s behavior – we might have to wash it’s mouth out with soap.

      NOTHING would be more fun than cutting up with Charleston with you and Uly. Let’s make plans.

      xoxo,

      Carmen @ LIB

  11. Holy crap, I need a walk after reading all this. So. Much. Food. Glorious, glorious food!! Wowza!

    We are heading back to Charleston this fall and I will be following your food plan to a T… and then walking….a lot.

    Also….”“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Here, eat a biscuit …” or something like that.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    You crack me up.

    Stay safe out there!

    1. Hey Laura! Right now, we’re off-grid – pulled off highway milking a weak signal. Thanks for checking in. Soon, we should be in Bandwidth Land again where I will have a blast catching up on Thor’s marvelous adventures at Chapter3Travels.

      xoxo,

      Carmen @ LIB

  12. Lovely read. We have family in Wilmington and enjoyed seeing the sights again. Safe travels!

    1. Thank you, Becky! We love the picturesque village atmosphere of Wilmington and the surrounding towns, beaches and countryside. This area makes a perfect off-the-beaten path one-to-two week get-away.

      Thanks so much for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  13. What a beautiful post! The writing and the photographs are terrific. I think I gained a couple of pounds just looking at the pics. I’m so glad I’m following LIB!

    1. Hey Carmela! Like most southerners, we do enjoy our meals – and maybe a little too much so. But we’re paying for it up the road. If we must count calories, we’d rather do it north of the Mason Dixon 😉

      Thanks so much for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen @ LIB

  14. This was so enjoyable to read, as always. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the lower half of the biscuit and Savannah. Next time your in Carolina Beach check out the Worlds Smallest Bar and take your pup.

    1. Hey Lindy! Thanks for the recommendation. We will look for that bar. It doesn’t jump to the top on my search, so I might have to ask you for more info. Thanks also for the encouragement. Someday, when we can’t travel anymore, this blog will be our favorite read – that’s our goal. At this point in life, it’s all about the memories.

      Thanks so much for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  15. I Love listening to your beautiful voice using lots of wonderful adjectives when you describe everything. Sending you big hugs and lots of love 🤗 😘

  16. Argie! Sorry it took me so long to respond. For the last two weeks, we’ve been in Shenandoah National Park with 0 connectivity at our campsite.

    Thank you for listening. I hope you know that you have a gorgeous voice that would be any voiceover’s dream. If you ever decide to take voiceover lessons, my wonderful coach, Beverly Bremers, teaches online. http://beverlybremers.com

    Safe and Happy Travels!

    Your cousin, Carmen @ LIB

  17. It sure looks like you two enjoy… food! 🙂 And I do think food photography might be in your future if you ever decide to start a new freelance career. Thanks for taking us on this attractive and scrumptious journey. We haven’t eaten out in such a long time (being frugal as always) that I double-enjoyed the virtual tour and travels.

    1. Hey Liesbet! Food is our hobby and makes travel such a delight. However, we prefer our own cooking most of all.

      Lately, we’re into making bowls of savory mixed grains with greens dressed in lemon and anchovy sauce topped with medallions of warm crusted goat cheese and capers. Yum. Now I’m hungry … and it’s midnight.

      Lovely to hear from you. I’d like to know more about van cooking. The best kitchens in the world are tiny and mobile beginning with The Orient Express.

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Hi Carmen,

        We cook all our meals at home – a breakfast of banana, cereal, and almond milk. Sometimes topped with blueberries if they are in season and affordable. Mark makes his own granola, which incorporates honey instead of sugar. He’s mostly cut sugar out of his diet.

        For lunch, we always make sandwiches on whole wheat bread. On our sailboat we made our own bread. Now, we buy it. Hard to find bread without sugar. Trader Joe’s and Aldi have it at a good price. Our sandwiches contain cheese and veggies (and mayo) for me, hummus or goat cheese and veggies for Mark.

        For dinner, we cook plant-based meals. This involves lots of veggies, brown rice or pasta, or potatoes or quinoa, with a piece of chicken once in a while. 🙂 We’ve managed with a two-burner stove for ages.

        1. Thank you for the primer on van cooking, Liesbet! Van campers are our heroes.

          We’ve mostly eliminated sugar from our diet as well – I only use a bit when I make yeast bread – and at home we eat a mostly plant-based diet. Lately we’ve been into breakfast smoothies. Since we have a small freezer I keep it full of bananas, berries and kale. We always buy the local honey and try to buy local produce when available, but the farmer’s markets still haven’t gotten back into full swing. Fortunately, up here in Michigan there are small roadside family farms offering eggs and produce. These days we’re happy to “make do” as they say in the south.

          Safe and Happy Travels!

          Carmen@LIB

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