Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quiet Roads

“I do it for the joy it brings, cause I'm a joyful girl. 'Cause the world owes us nothing, we owe each other the world.”
~ Ani DiFranco

Some weeks, you just have to pinch yourself.

I traveled to South Carolina a few weeks ago to photograph several custom homes for a client. It was a great trip and great job. Both the weather and "it's all in the details" angels were along for the ride. The job went very smoothly, I met many great new folks, got to spend time with a dear friend, and the rain held off until I left. Who could ask for more?

Ashton Model
Lakes at Plantation Pines
Little River, SC

The days were all just fun. I did my scouting and detail work in the mornings, along with a few of the exterior shots I needed. Then took off until late afternoon to explore the area on my own. Little River, SC, is just north of Myrtle Beach and spittin' distance from the North Carolina border.

It's also home to the most confusing road system I've been on in a good long while, and so, after getting lost way too many times just trying to find job sites, I passed a West Marine store, put on the brakes, pulled in, and bought a nice little Garmin Nuvi 750 GPS for the car. I set it to Daniel, a nice, deep, English accent voice and off I went.

Daniel and I traveled many back roads and explored the lips of quite a few beaches during my stay. He was a wonderful traveling companion, speaking only at the most appropriate times, always reassuring, patient and nonjudgmental about my erratic "drive-by photographer" driving, and he never seemed to get lost. Didn't hog the iPod either.

I especially loved exploring the back roads of both South and North Carolina. Life was quiet there. Traffic was minimal. No one seemed in very much of a hurry and neither was I. Old barn, old cows, old fields, old fences, old roads. I even found an old roadside stand selling boiled peanuts, stopped to buy a scoop and called a friend in California who has family roots in these parts and always misses the boiled peanuts most of all. We had a good laugh, me in the car with Daniel and boiled peanuts, telling her stories about all the crazy signs in front of churches that dot every corner. Life doesn't get much better than this.

Preaching To The Choir
Hickman's Crossroads, NC

Wide stretches of tobacco fields gave way to marsh land as I made my way west, then east again. I drove around most of Lake Waccamaw, then back to the coast, Daniel guiding me gently with suggestions for places to eat and fuel up. If only he knew a bit about photo ops in the area, he'd be more than perfect.

Spruce Trees Behind Tobacco Fields
Old Dock, NC

I passed one old barn that made me back up and pause alongside it. I was intrigued by the weathered wood next to a slapped-on, newer lean-to. And the GW Bush for President sign next to a lonely red lawnmower for sale for just $200 was almost too much. I have a secret love of tractors and lawnmowers. I want to drive them all. The scene seemed such a sad statement, somehow, all things considered. But the next church sign put it all back into perspective.

Old Barn
Somewhere ouside Whiteville, NC

And then I was off to the beach! Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Long Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach. At Caswell Beach, I stopped to visit with a couple of grungy old locals sitting on the boardwalk, trying to make an equally old pair of camo binoculars work. They'd just bought them at a garage sale, they told me, and were just figuring out that the ten bucks they paid was about ten bucks too much. We talked about storms and the history of the place and politics. I told them Alaska stories and they told me NC shrimpin' stories. Fair trade, I'd say.

Caswell Beach
Oak Island, NC

Beach Cross
Sunset Beach, NC

Marsh Walk - Vereen Gardens
Little River, SC

And then the job was done and it was time to leave. I had two days ahead of me and only a 12 hour drive. After much deliberation (and consulting my near-constant companion Daniel, of course), we turned south, stopping in Murrell's Inlet to tour Brookgreen Gardens, then we headed for a plantation I'd read about near the Ace Basin in the South Carolina Low Country. This plantation, sitting in the heart of some of the most enduring southern plantations AND the live oak tree made famous in the movie, Forrest Gump (of course, Daniel guided me there but I was the one to play the movie soundtrack), is an oddity. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Oddities intrigue me, and I was very anxious to see it. But aside from an awkwardly leaning fence and some outbuildings that resembled Forest Service cabins, it was hidden from sight.

No matter. Tunes and hours of episodes of "This American Life" were playing and the sky was clearing and there were dirt roads lined with stately live oaks to explore and good light to play with.

Stocks Creek Road
Ace Basin in Green Pond, SC

Wild Grasses
Ritter Road, Ritter, SC

Then, just like that and all too soon, it was time to join the river of southbound travelers on the interstate. A few tributaries and pit stops later, I was home.

And that was a very good thing, too.

All photos: Nikon D2x, Nikon 18-200 VR

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