Monday, April 30, 2007

Fayetteville, NC to Clinton, SC

Hampton Inn and Suites, Clinton, South Carolina

1:00 a.m. (Tuesday)

Back in Fayetteville this morning, we started with bagels for breakfast (the "free hot breakfast".)

We formally decided this morning that Key West is out. Jeff is running low on vacation time. Our progress has been slow. (My strut problems, and the unanticipated stops in West Chester, and Williamsburg were contributing factors. The barely tolerable heat is also a persuasive influence.) We would instead head into the Appalachians (Deal's Gap and Cherohala Skyway among other possible destinations.) But Jeff wanted me to get to South Carolina, the only state I hadn’t “touched”. (I just barely touched Georgia the last time I was back this way.)

First we would visit Fort Bragg. Drove down Bragg Boulevard and onto the Army base. It seemed so casual compared to my military experience. Civilian security guards at the main gate. Lots of contractors building new structures on base. Dormitories and apartments have replaced barracks. Jeff shared a few memories of his time as an MP (military policeman) here. There are even fast food franchises on base. At the BX/PX, Jeff bought an 82nd Airborne ball cap for Kellie. He encouraged me to buy a laptop computer – “it’s tax-free!” (Oh, great, another "interest group subsidy"!) But I'm not ready to concede defeat in my laptop war.

It seems we’re driving less each day. Jeff is ready to go home, I think. It’s hard on him (harder than on me.)

We had the "good fortune" to find a "Cracker Barrel" at Lumberton, North Carolina. (They are actually not difficult to find, given their very prominent billboards along interstate corridors.) We enjoyed a huge breakfast. (A remarkable value – less than last night’s "snack". One can see how people get fat here!)

We had a long, and meaningful, discussion about the "Inn and Suites” moniker used by many hotel chains these days (especially Hampton, Holiday Inn and Quality Inn.) What's the difference between a property labeled "Hotel" and one labeled "Inn and Suites"? I am angered by what I see as deceptive marketing practices, in that despite sporting the same brand name, the features at a "Hotel" are usually inferior to the same brand "Inn and Suites". But the price may be the same. The Hampton Inn last night being another example of my falling for the "deception". ("They snookered me again!")

South Carolina seems very lush, green, rich with pine forests. So it is especially painful to see swaths of forest being cleared for development. It is still relatively pristine compared to other states, but how long can it resist the pressure?

It was hot this afternoon, about 85, but thankfully not humid. A relative dry wind blew from the north. (This is a problem for those fighting forest fires in Georgia, to the south.) We stuck to the interstate all day, first 95, then 20 and finally 26. In Columbia, SC we hit the afternoon rush hour, though not much of a jam.

My front brakes are in bad shape; probably due to warped rotors (the default response from technicians.) I don’t however understand why cleaning the discs provides momentary (5 or 10 minutes') smooth operation.

As a result, I was quite irritated each time Jeff, out in the lead, didn’t provide adequate warning that he was making a turn. Whenever there's a need to brake hard, I have to deal with a shuddering front end.

After our discussion, I was insistent,that if we were to stay in a major franchise hotel, it be an "Inn and Suites" property. So, when we saw the billboard for this one in Clinton, South Carolina, I deigned to stop. After checking in and unpacking, we headed downtown, in search of a supermarket.

Clinton is home to the Presbyterian College and the town has a certain grace and charm. The area seems poised for a development boom. We passed one huge tract of forest land that had been cleared, burn piles still smoldering.

We found a new “Bi Lo” grocery and stocked up on snacks and beverages.

Though after "Cracker Barrel", we vowed “no dinner tonight”, we of course found ourselves going out to eat at 9:30 at "Fatz Café" right next to the hotel. (We have to try these things!) It was considerably better than “Ruby Tuesday’s”. I sampled their "Calabash Chicken".

***

Stayed up posting a few photos, and watching TV tonight. Looks like no early start in the morning. (It’s "problematic" shifting back and forth from hotel to camping modes - though there hasn't been much "camping mode" on this ride!)

The Hampton last night was pretty crummy, but $60 (with Jeff’s government discount) versus $91 here (no discounts.)

We’ve been driving about 200 miles a day lately.

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