2015 Running Trip – Day 2 – Charleston, South Carolina

Monday morning started at 6am. Rain was in the Charleston forecast, so our goal was to arrive in Charleston before 11am in order to give us some flexibility. As I was writing my Savannah blog post the evening before, Brad was in search of a great breakfast place where we could refuel before the 2 1/2 hour drive, and he found bliss in the Clary’s Cafe. Clary’s has found its way onto many best breakfast in America and the South lists, and it reached national acclaim thanks to its role in Clint Eastwood’s film adaption of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I watched the film leading up to the trip, so it was fun to visit Clary’s.

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And if the novelty of the restaurant wasn’t enough, Brad and I agreed that their corned beef hash was dynamite. We agreed to call each other when either of us finds better corned beef hash. Both of us will be waiting a long time for that phone call. Paired with an egg, grits, a biscuit and wonderful coffee, we were in heaven.

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Pictures on the wall as you enter from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

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As we made our way north through the land of boiled peanuts roadside stands, we headed towards Beaufort, South Carolina. My good friend Sparky Reardon challenged me to find the house used in the movie The Big Chill. After coming to a dead end, and being a bit confused amongst the flooding in the area, we found the house below. I’m still not convinced that this is the house, but trespassing will cloud your judgment. Sparky or “The Dean” as we like to call him is enjoying retirement in Oxford, Mississippi following his tenure as Dean of Students at Ole Miss. Sparky is now on the General Council of Phi Delta Theta, and it’s a great thing to see him more often. I sent the picture of our breakfast to Sparky, and his reply summed it up perfectly – “Lard have mercy.”

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When we were with the Fabritius’ in Savannah, Heather recommended that we stop at the Angel Oak just outside of Charleston. Heather has already claimed the #1 spot for amazing recommendations during the trip! Reportedly the oldest thing — living or man-made — east of the Rockies, Angel Oak is a live oak tree aged approximately 1,500 years. You don’t see trees like this everyday. A must-see for anybody passing through this area. I thanked Debbie Smith, a colleague of mine at Phi Delta Theta. Disclaimer – While this stop was a Runner’s Choice, and I generally like to find parallels to that donor, I just wanted to note that Debbie is definitely not near the top of any oldest thing east of the Rockies list. Having said that, her roots do run deep at Phi Delta Theta (see what I did there), and I love having Debbie as a colleague. 

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Charleston definitely holds a special place in my heart. Tillie and I honeymooned in the area and our amazing friends, Joe & Sarah Wechsler, live in the city now. Brad and I were set to stay with the Wechslers that evening, so we headed to their house to change for our upcoming run. Waiting for us were the Wechsler girls – Sarah, Genevieve (their one year old) and my old girl Zoe. Zoe was technically my first dog. Tillie and I watched Zoe for six months or so when Joe & Sarah were living abroad. She is truly one of the greatest dogs around, and as Brad told Joe and Sarah that evening – “I think Steve was really excited to see you guys too, but he’s been talking about the dog the entire trip.”

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One of my favorite pictures of Zoe and my dog Lex from years back. As you can tell, they were big fans of each other.

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Joe’s sister Catherine and her husband Merrit transported Brad and me to the east side of the Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge to begin our run. It was fun to hear about their personal chef and catering company on the way. Tillie and I had an amazing dining experience thanks to these two during our honeymoon.

It had been raining all day in Charleston, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. My hope was that we could get across the 2 1/2 mile bridge dry.

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That hope was crushed during the first 10 minutes. As we trudged up the steep incline of the bridge, the Charleston weather gods said, “Hey ya’ll, welcome to Charleston. Watch this.”

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We hid under a pillar for a bit until the rain slowed down. At the crest of the Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge, I thanked Mike Hyatt. Mike has been on of my greatest supporters on these trips, and he is a wonderful volunteer for Phi Delta Theta. We’re both Big 12 guys, and Mike’s OSU Cowboys are having one heck of a ride this season. Over the years, Mike has been involved with Sister Cities International and has some amazing travel stories. I truly enjoy my time with Mike, and my bucket list always grows when hearing about his travels.

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We made it to the end of the bridge. A little damp, our spirits battered a bit, but it was awesome. A view looking back on the bridge.

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I had planned a stop that would help us take a load off a bit, but it ended up being closed. The Palace Hotel is a bar that I had found on a number of lists for Charleston. I’m not even sure if the place is open any more, but I got my picture nonetheless. I had planned to cheers to my Canadian fraternity brother Michael Curry inside, but I had to adapt. Michael is a volunteer for the Fraternity in British Columbia, an area of North America that is at the very top of my must-see travel list.

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We tried another established, but found little luck again. The Bay Street Biergarten has rave reviews, but a 4:00pm Monday open time. However, they had a wooden bear, so it was tough to be upset. I thank Rich Hansen who is Sarah Wechler’s father. I always like thanking Rich on my runs, because he is a charity runner himself. Rich has done a number of Team in Training events, and I love that he supports the cause.

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Ironically enough, we found an open establishment in a place called Closed for Business. Despite looking like a couple drowned rats, they let us in. What a great place! Great beer, fun art, warm ambiance and a killer location – King Street. Brad and I took a load off and waited for Joe Wechsler who was going to be joining us for the remainder of the run.

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Joe arrived and we headed out. I thanked Meghan Tallakson just outside Closed for Business. Meghan, #1 is hilarious, #2 a cool Minnesotan, and #3 is really fun to work with as Phi Delta Theta and The ALS Association work to build its partnership. Meghan joined us in Oxford for our Emerging Leaders Institute this summer, and I’m pretty sure she had an amazing time. Meghan, you would love this place. It completely made me feel like I was in Minneapolis.

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Closed for Business is on King Street, one of the main commerce areas of Charleston and a people-watching haven. I always get a kick out of Southern menswear stores, and King Street has many. So many bowties. I thanked Tillie’s Aunt Jan and Uncle Carl who live near Orlando. I get to see Jan more than Carl, as she flies back and forth to Iowa a bit, but I admire both of their zest for adventure.

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We ran through the College of Charleston, which is just off King Street. If you like visiting colleges and universities, you will find great joy in a stroll through the College of Charleston. It’s beautiful. I thanked Keith Lopez who is a campus guy himself. Keith is a Phi Delt who I see at many of our educational conferences. He works at Colorado State University and has a passion for higher education and learning. We need more people like Keith Lopez at our colleges and universities.

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Our next stop was Charleston City Market. Four blocks long, and filled with vendors and opportunities to pick up a Charleston-famous sweetgrass basket, the City Market is a bustling venue. I love city markets, because they are such a great hub to see the uniqueness of each city. I thanked Leigh Thiedeman, a friend from Iowa State, and a native of the great Westside, Iowa. I believe Leigh has supported all four of my trips, and she is now an assistant dean at Stanford University!

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Churches are everywhere in Charleston. I mean everywhere. I had to capture one for a Runner’s Choice, so I thanked Tyler & Brooke Cronk. Another Iowa State Phi Delt, Tyler is an Iron Phi himself and lives in Minneapolis with his wife Brooke. I run into Tyler every few years at a football game, and it is always great to see him. Ironically enough, Tyler’s wife worked with Brad at Ernst & Young.

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Charleston architecture is the best.

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A fun house + car in Charleston’s Historic District.

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Another beautiful church.

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Our next stop was the Nathaniel Russell House Museum. It is widely recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical dwellings. The Historic Charleston Foundation purchased the National Historic Landmark in 1955 and the interiors are restored to their original 1808 grandeur and surrounded by formal gardens. I thanked Nancy Brannon, the mother of a fraternity brother, Jason Brannon.

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More historic district architecture. The pictures don’t do it justice.

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We entered the Charleston Battery and the park at the tip of downtown. You can see the effects of the rain and recent flooding.

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I thanked Melanie Clayton in only a fashion that she would appreciate. Melanie and I have a weird love for seeking out cannons and taking pictures looking into them. There’s really no explanation, but it’s quite fun. Melanie is a colleague of mine, and is just an amazing human being. Melanie and her husband Scott are the best, and I admire their love for awesome vacations and the simple life at home.
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Running along the Battery.

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Charleston’s Historic District is filled with colorful buildings that will leave you in awe. The popular Rainbow Row is behind me in the picture below, and is quite the site. I thanked my wonderful mom and dad. The two of them were in town just a few months ago on their retirement tour. I know that they enjoyed their time in Charleston. I always struggle a bit to try to thank my parents in a few sentences during these trips. They are simply the best, in all ways, and I’m a lucky dude to have them as my parents.

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The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, also known as the Custom House, and The Exchange, is a historic building that has served a variety of civic institutional functions, including notably, as a prisoner of war facility operated by British forces during the American Revolutionary War. I thanked Rob & Julie Waltz again for their donation.

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We ended over by Waterfront Park where I thanked Mike and Deb Selacek. I was supposed to thank them at the Charleston Marina, but with the rain, we cut off the first mile that included this stop. I really enjoy the docks at Waterfront Park and the views of the water and city. Deb and my dad worked together for years and I remember always stopping by to say hi when we visited the office as children.

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We celebrated the end of the route at the Griffon Pub. This review probably explains it best.

“UNAPOLOGETICALLY AWESOME”

˜Southern Living Magazine “BEST BARS OF THE SOUTH”

I thanked my old pal Andy Tomka. I witnessed the nuptials of Andy and Elizabeth this summer in Chicago and had a blast. Andy is a Phi Delt and we like to call him Baby T. During their wedding weekend, they took the crowd to an amazing little bar in Chicago. This reminded me of that, taxidermy and all.

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The coolest thing about the Griffon is that the entire place is covered with $1 bills. The entire thing.

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We walked back to Joe’s office, a really cool loft-style environment that houses the Knowledge Capital Group. Joe recently changed management consulting jobs, moving from PwC to a smaller firm in Charleston. It was fun to hear about the company and Joe’s role in it. Joe has been an incredible friend in my life since I met him in 2003, and I’m always in awe by his drive and determination to do the things he loves. As an example, in his early thirties, Joe was upset that he hadn’t made the Olympic team, so he got in shape, and decided to try skeleton. You know, the crazy guys, who do the luge head-first. Well, he made the U.S team, spent some time in Lake Placid, and proved to himself that he could complete his goal. Pretty awesome.

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A special thanks goes to Christine from Chick’s Fry House for sending us home for the evening with a full chicken and four amazing sides from her new restaurant. If you know Charleston, you probably know The Hominy Grill. It is a staple in town and the owners have opened their second restaurant – Chick’s Fry House in an area of town that will be seeing great growth over the next few years.

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I love the restaurant’s branding work. So simple and clean, and very fun. The restaurant itself is really cool. Very sleek, modern and clean. I was introduced to my first Boylan Soda, the best root-beer I think I ever had.

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As far as the food goes, I’ll let the image below do the talking. Because we wanted to spend some time with the Wechlser kids, we took the food to go. Deliciously fried chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, stewed greens, limas and rice and mac ‘n’ cheese. YES PLEASE!! So good.

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As mentioned, Uncle Brad and Steve needed some kid time, as we’re already missing ours. We truly enjoyed hanging with little Genevieve and our new main man (excuse me, Lion) Ben. Ben cracked us up for two straight hours, and the guy is really good at starting a rugby scrum. He was on fire. Tillie and I are flying to Hawaii in January to spend a week with the Wechlers. I can’t wait to see our kids interact. It’s going to be a blast.

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A look at the route – approximately.

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On to Myrtle Beach. No rain in the forecast!

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