Thursday, June 30, 2016

Columbia, South Carolina

We are heading north and west towards the mountains and some cooler temperatures. In the meantime, we made a two-night stay in Sesquicentennial state park just outside of Columbia, South Carolina. For those that don't use the prefix "sesqui-" in their day-to-day conversatiom, we looked it up and found that it stands for 150 years. So our new home was opened when Columbia was celebrating its 150th birthday.

Many of the camp sites are short and unlevel. But because we arrived in the middle of the week we got our choice of spots and found one that worked nicely. We started exploring our new home and found a nice bicycle trail that surrounds the park. We had to work a little going up and down the hills.

But the real challenge was the sand on the trail. We had to walk the bikes whenever we got bogged down in the sand. We thought we left all this sand when we left the ocean.

With temperatures forecast close to 100 degrees, the most popular part of the park is the splash pad. When the children left at dusk, we had the place to ourselves.

The next morning, we were out exploring the city of Columbia. Since we have gone to all the state capitols on this eastern journey, we wanted to make it to South Carolina's as well.

Those tall columns in front were each carved from a single piece of stone. For anyone keeping track, that makes them the largest monolithic columns on a public building in the United States.

The construction of the capitol started in 1855, but the Civil War slowed its progress. It was still an unfinished shell when the Union army under Sherman came through Columbia. One-third of the city of Columbia was burned before the army left, and the unfinished capitol building received damage from the union cannons. Today, there are six bronze stars marking the places where Union cannon balls hit the exterior walls.  There are two in the picture below.

It was like a civil war easter egg hunt trying to find all the stars. There's one more in the picture below.

The inside of the capitol is beautiful, with its blue granite columns and hand-made brick arches.

The capitol was renovated in 1995, and it is one of the grandest buildings we have seen since we started this marathon of capitol tours.

The legislation is out of session now, so we got to see the empty chambers. We used to think that all state capitols housed that state's legislators, but we are now finding that is not true. But it looks like South Carolina has a beautiful room for its representatives to work inside their state capitol.

Columbia is also home to the University of South Carolina, so that was the other stop of the day. The university mascot is the gamecock, and we were a little disappointed that we didn't find any live roosters on campus. What we did find were sections that felt more like a garden than a university. This shady area is known as "The Horseshoe." In the center stands the Maxcy Monument, designed by a famous South Carolinian (Robert Mills) who also designed the Washington Monument in D.C.

The Horseshoe is the original campus, and it is circled by buildings that were built in the 1800's. These buildings were saved from being torched by the Union Army because they were used as hospitals during the Civil War.

By this time the temperature has climbed to almost 100 degrees, and all those historical buildings were outside in that heat. We toured USC's new state-of-the-art School of Business. Then we headed inside to the air-conditioned McKissick Museum. One of our favorite sections was the collection of ornamental gamecocks inside.

When we were traveling in the dessert, we became acquainted with century plants. They are succulents that grow contentedly for many years. Then they suddenly sprout a once-in-a-lifetime tall stalk that will flower. Now that we know how hot it gets in Columbia, we are not surprised to see this desert plant on the USC campus. The bad news is that this big glorious plant dies after this flowering process.
After leaving campus, we drove several miles to see the Williams-Brice stadium, where the USC Gamecocks play their football games.

It would have been fun to stroll along the Columbia River Walk, or bicycle along the canal by the river. But when our car thermometer topped over 100 degrees we admitted defeat. It's amazing how the heat can zap our energy! When we signed up for this full-time adventure, we wanted to stay warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. This is not cool, so it is time to roll north out of South Carolina.

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