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South Carolina Railroad Museum Easter Bunny Eggspress, Winnsboro: 28 March 2015   1 comment

Posted at 1:08 am in events,out-of-area

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I last visited the South Carolina Railroad Museum about seven years ago for one of their steam train excursions and it was definitely a fun trip. When I saw the ad in The Free Times for this year's Easter Bunny Eggspress, I thought it looked like time to go again (although the Express is not a steam train).

The museum is easily accessible from I-77 and has a variety of interesting rolling stock on exhibit, most of which I did not get a chance to take pictures of. Obviously the highlight of the current event is a ride down several miles of the museum's own track (technically part of their railroad, Rockton, Rion and Western Railroad which extends several miles from the museum. The trip includes a gate crossing across a fairly major road, some nice rural scenes, a view of the abandoned Mack plant (which used to be served by the line) and a terminus at a small grassy recreation area near the old school.

On hand to great the train were the Easter Bunny, face painters, fair food and some Easter themed arts and crafts.

The terminus includes a switch and spur so two trains can pull in at once. There is no turnaround, so the return trip is in reverse. The rolling stock was rather interesting. As you can see, there was an open air car, which was supposed to be the attraction, but as the weather turned so cold was actually not as practical as it might otherwise have been. The enclosed cars had done service in Canada, and though I barely had time to read the plaque, I believe they were Budd Rail Deisel Cars. I had wondered about the high voltage warnings under the cars, which didn't seem to make sense for a non-third-rail train, but it turns out that Budd cars were intended for low volume routes where the car would be its own engine. I doubt that hardware still works on these cars, but its an interesting bit of history, which is why, I suppose, one has a railroad museum..

Anyway, the Eggspress will be running next Saturday, 4 April 2015, and its a nice little trip. Also, the steam train will be back in April.

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Written by ted on March 30th, 2015

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Fleetwood Mac, Time Warner Cable Arena Charlotte NC: 7 March 2015   25 comments

Posted at 1:18 am in entertainment,events,out-of-area

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Falling, falling, falling..

It may seem strange to the under 50 crowd at this remove, but it's pretty much impossible to overstate what an incredible influence Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album had when I was in the last years of high school. Almost every track was on the radio at one time or another, and everybody had a copy. I would have had one, but I was dead broke at the time, so I somehow convinced my sister to spring for it. I taped her copy to cassette and it was in constant rotation with my Beach Boys albums in my jury rigged car player (which would reverse the tape and start playing the other "side" every time we hit a bump).

Rumours was the followup to the also very successful eponymous album Fleetwood Mac which established the band's "classic lineup". It was also the lead-in to the rather experimental Tusk which no doubt confused their legions of fans.

Over the years the band went through a lot of acrimony and romantic imbroglioes, with the fact that it was coed giving even more scope for feuding than even the Beach Boys "enjoyed".

Still, after all the dust settled, and after a sixteen year absence for Christine McVie, the classic lineup is back together and making music again.

I took the opportunity to see them in Charlotte, and everybody was in fine form, and looking and sounding pretty good for a bunch of 60 and 70 year olds. They played everything you would expect, and added a few new songs that, if not instant classics, were pretty good. As you can tell from the video and pix, I was *way* up in the nosebleed section, something I did not appreciate in the least while inching towards my seat like an action movie hero sidling along a window ledge over a twenty story drop. It was somewhat better once I actually had a seat, though as you can hear in the video, I fell in with a bunch of Chatty Cathys..

Anyway, it was a great show, and you should definitely catch them if you can.

As just a few random observations: It's amazing how bad a shape I-77 is in. It seemed like I was dodging huge ruts all the way to Charlotte. I don't remember that from my last trip in June, but it can't have gotten that bad that quick. Also, the parking garage at EpiCenter is the worst I've ever been in, like the old text based computer game "You are in a maze of twisty little passage all alike": It was amazingly hard to find the level changes rather than just driving by the same packed spaces again and again. Maybe I was "Over My Head"...

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Written by ted on March 9th, 2015

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Island Cafe & Deli, 10683 Ocean Highway Pawleys Island: November 2014   no comments

Posted at 1:11 am in grand-strand,out-of-area,restaurants

The Island Cafe & Deli was for many years a dependable choice for lunch and dinner at Pawleys Island. Landolfi's is my favorite restaurant in the area, but the Deli had a nice front porch for outdoor dining, and sometimes you just want a grilled cheese or burger with black bean soup instead of pizza. Apart from those options, the menu had a number of quirkily named signature items like the Aristotle Salad or the Strom Thurmond, which the description assured us was "an illustrious member of our menu" and featured "young turkey breast".

Some years ago the place had a bad fire and was closed for an extended period, and I believe that after that, someone once drove a car through the front window. Given that history, I was very surprised when I went down in December for the candles to find the place closed.

It appears that the next tenant will be Rustic Table.

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Written by ted on February 11th, 2015

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Brookgreen Gardens Nights Of A Thousand Candles 2014, Brookgreen Gardens: 13 December 2014   no comments

Posted at 2:19 am in events,grand-strand,out-of-area

I got to Brookgreen a bit later than I had planned this year, and so did not hit all the spots I usually hit, but it was still a very nice evening out in the cold and lights. Actually, the weather was relatively moderate compared to some prior years -- I was able to hold my camera and adjust the controls without my fingers going numb. There is still an official ban on tripods, and I decided this year I wouldn't go for much in the way of "set the camera on something and do a time exposure" shots, so I cranked the ISO way up and took what I got, so I have to admit I've gotten better shots in previous years. I did play around with the in-camera HDR setting, and that's where some of the freaky green-lit exposures come from. Sometimes it did quite a good job of capturing both the lights and normal objects, and sometimes it didn't (I haven't used those spoiled shots here, obviously).

Getting in was a little quicker this year as they did not bring back the suboptimal secondary dirt road route they tried last year, although there was still quite a jam on US-17 (where I witnessed a fender-bender just as I finally got waved through). You still have three more chances to catch the lights this year on 18 December, 19 December and 20 December, and you really should if you are anywhere near the area.

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Sub Station II / Laundromat, US-601 St. Matthews: 2000s   7 comments

Posted at 1:50 am in business,out-of-area

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I noticed this pair of co-located derelict businesses driving US-601 through St. Matthews towards I-26 this Spring.

I wasn't sure at first what the restaurant was, but a close look at the menu board pretty well pins it down to a Sub Station II.

I can't think of any obvious reason why both businesses in this building would have failed at what seems to be more or less the same time. While the restaurant market is fickle, laundromats are places where you must go. I'm guessing early 2000s for the timeframe here, but the building does seem rather enthusiastically vine encrusted, and if the realtor posting the sign does succeed in selling the place, I doubt there's much that can be done beyond knocking the place down and starting over.

Written by ted on November 8th, 2014

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Carolina Renaissance Festival 2014, Huntersville NC   no comments

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Celtic band Cu Dubh.

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So, I thought at first I had made a big mistake heading up to the Carolina Renaissance Festival last weekend. It was a cold and rainy Halloween when I hit the road, and I awoke Saturday to find out that Snowpocalypse had hit the Midlands while I was gone and that it was cold, rainy, wet and miserable in Huntersville.

Fortunately, although I had to use the wipers driving out to the festival grounds, but the time I got there, it had stopped raining and was just cold and miserable. Obviously the crowds were thin, but the performers gave it a good go and the sun finally did peek out during the late afternoon giving them (and me) some relief. Sunday, however was gorgeous, and all these pictures date from then.

It seemed to me that a good portion of the performers were back from last year, but there were some new faces as well. As before, everybody had a very polished and entertaining line of patter and were quick to improv as circumstances demanded. There are plenty of kid centric and family friendly shows as well as more ribald "loose cannon" performances for those of us a bit longer in the tooth.

The festival continues on weekends through 23 November and it's a great way to spend a (hopefully sunny!) Fall afternoon.

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Written by ted on November 5th, 2014

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Atlanta Bread Company, 8966 University Boulevard (North Charleston): 6 April 2014   no comments

Posted at 12:40 am in out-of-area,restaurants

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I wonder a bit about how Atlanta Bread is doing. They had their category to themselves for a number of years, but nowdays, it seems as though I see new Panera stores opening more often than ABCs. In fact the opposite seems to be true. ABC has left the Grand Strand with the closing of the North Myrtle Beach and Socastee stores, and here in Columbia, they have closed Sandhill (which was *directly* replaced with a Panera) and Lake Murray Boulevard (twice!).

This ABC, off I-26 exit 205, is one I would sometimes stop at on my way into Charleston if I wanted a cookie and spot of wifi before heading downtown. The last time I tried that, in June, I found the place closed for some time and already on the way to becoming a Firehouse Subs.

Written by ted on October 16th, 2014

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Brookgreen Gardens Harvest Home Weekend, Brookgreen Gardens: 5 October 2014   no comments

Posted at 12:32 am in events,grand-strand,out-of-area

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It's a few months until the candles, but what better way to spend a gorgeous Fall weekend than out in the sun at Brookgreen Gardens Harvest Home Weekend? You can build a scarecrow, paint a pumpkin, make a birdfeeder, see butterflies up close and personal, gawk at extroverted otters and cruise past basking alligators.

If you don't happen to have children in tow, you could even look at some sculpture,

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Written by ted on October 10th, 2014

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Fazoli's, 1205 Highway 17 North (Surfside Beach): November 2010   2 comments

Posted at 11:40 pm in grand-strand,out-of-area,restaurants

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OK, this one is all about the sign rather than any deep attachment to a closed Italian fast-food chain outlet.

That said, this building was a Fazoli's until November 2010, and with this closing, Fazoli's has no locations on the Grand Strand. In fact, the closest Fazoli's to the Grand Strand would seem to be either the Two Notch Road location or the Fayetteville NC location. I'm a bit ambivalent about the chain. I like the breadsticks, but it always seemed to me that every time I found a main menu item I liked, they would change the menu..

Written by ted on September 26th, 2014

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Amelia Con 2014, Fernandina Beach Florida: 6 September 2014   2 comments

Posted at 7:23 pm in events,out-of-area

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Well, I don't really need much of an excuse to visit Fernandina Beach, one of my favorite places, so when my sister noticed that there was an Amelia Island comics, steampunk, gaming and anime convention, , I decided to check it out.

Compared to the Charlotte Heroes Convention, Ameliacon was quite small. There was one exhibit hall, in the park on Atlantic Avenue which houses the municipal swimming pool, with gaming and presentation events in the town womens' center behind the park. It seemed to me also that the convention focus was definitely more on gaming, costuming and cosplay than on comic books, though there were some authors and artists there.

I certainly felt out of the loop on some issues! Magna/Anime character design generally hurts my eyes, so I was pretty clueless about one of the properties that seemed to be a very big thing Attack on Titan. There were a number of costumers basing their characters on that. I was also completely in the dark about what is apparently a very popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale, something the contest winning cosplayers based their presentation on.

I missed the morning presentation on Steampunk, having somehow convinced myself that it was in the afternoon, but did catch an interesting presentation by Joshua Johnson on doing video special effects on, basically, zero budget.

The audio for the presentations was the most problematic facet of the convention. I got the impression from listening to one of the organizers talk during the costume contest that someone had promised the convention a PA system and then left them totally in the lurch. I could follow ok during the effects presentaion, and parts of the Marvel/DC artist's presentation, but I gave up during the Homestruck panel where the panel were all using their indoor voices, and where I was only sitting in to try to figure out what Homestruck actually was anyway.

The costumers were out full force in the exhibit hall, and then at the closing costume/cosplay contest.

During the costume contest, it was announced that the convention would be shifting out of the fall and into February, so there will be no Ameliacon 2015. The next will be Ameliacon 2016 though they did announce a sequence of local get-togethers in advance of that. I certainly enjoyed myself -- I don't know that I would have driven that far for a convention of that size in a place I didn't have other motives to visit, but in the event, it was a nice trip.

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Written by ted on September 9th, 2014

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