I was recently headed back to Columbia from the coast by way of that most gnarly and annoying of South Carolina thoroughfares, I-26.
What a mess it’s become. Orange cones have popped up like wild onions. Your car must straddle a divide between smooth pavement and that make-room-off-to-the-right construction lane that prompts your tires to sound like they’re running across roll bars. Not to mention 18-wheelers bearing down on you with those shipping containers that have names you can’t pronounce. Or, the bumper-to-bumper congestion of what’s come to be known as switchover-day traffic – excited folks going to the beach with every kind of beach tool and toy strapped onto their autos and, on the other hand (and headed the other way), those sunburnt folks exhausted by the inherent irritants of a family vacation and just wanting to get back home where they belong.
Anyhoo, taking a break from riding up the road the other Sunday afternoon, I stopped at an official Rest Area. As I was muddling around in the car searching for enough change to buy a Coke from a selection of coin-operated machines imprisoned by metal bars — otherwise known as the Soda Pop Penitentiary — I realized, first, that the machines were not so “coin” operated anymore since the darn things require real money — like dollar bills. And second, that all kinds of folks were not joining me at the vending area but instead were having picnics at picnic tables.
Really? Was I in the middle of the makings of a PG-rated film, or could it possibly be that I was witnessing the return to favor of the roadside family picnic?
I studied the situation at the rest stop a little more closely. There seemed to be no logical reason for all these people gathered at picnic tables. No family-reunion-at-the-rest-stop kind of deal, you know, with everyone wearing the same bright blue T-shirt saying CAMERON FAMILY REUNION — JUNE 22, 2014 — I-26 REST STOP — MILE MARKER 152. Nope, families in all sorts of array and disarray were pulling woven baskets and plastic coolers out of their car trunks, ambling over to picnic tables and spreading out picnic fare.
Now, I did not check to see how carefully prepared these picnics were — I mean, homemade vittles wrapped in wax paper and small brown bags versus the store-bought stuff in spiffy see-though containers.
And I did not check to see if what these folks were putting out on the concrete tables was standard, circa 1950s and 60s (what cholesterol level?) picnic fare – fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs and the like. Or if, in today’s tiresome era of being ever mindful of what we’re eating, picnic fare had gone green, so to speak. (Green as in things that are good for you, or at least not bad for you, but either way, don’t taste worth a dang.)
But as I made my way back to my car with my Coke in hand — even feeling a little sheepish that I didn’t have my own supply of homemade sweet tea on hand – I decided that maybe it didn’t matter what these families were eating.
And maybe, as in the way of all family picnics past and present, it didn’t matter that they were being buzzed by a particularly tenacious yellow jacket, or that one of the children stepped in some fire ants, or even that something in the cooler busted loose and spilled all over something else.
What mattered is these folks seemed to be having fun gathered together around a table — eating some food, chatting it up and just being family while the summertime traffic rolled by on the gnarly old interstate.
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New Downtown Dessert and Coffee Bar!
Tony’s Italian Eatery has teamed up with Southern Charm Sweets to bring you the highest quality dessert selection in the downtown area. 1120 Washington St., Suite 2. Find us on Facebook!
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Relaxation, Pain Management, and Stress Relief
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Columbia’s Largest Sidewalk Sale
Shop local this tax free weekend! Devine Street and Five Points are teaming up for a massive sidewalk sale featuring great in-store specials from all your favorite retailers and a Saturday art stroll. Read more hereand here!
A Healthy Happy Hour
4-7 p.m at Good Life Cafe on Main St. Try our $4 local draft beers, $4 organic wine, 1/2 off select bottles of house wine and $5 handcrafted house cocktails with juices cold pressed and made daily. Click here for more info.
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Real Estate Spotlight
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GABLE HILL APARTMENTS 1, 2 & 3 BR’s available with many amenities. Surround yourself with Southern comforts at Gable Hill Apartments! Bring in our ad in Free Times for $50 off your application fee. 310 Ross Rd, Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
ST. ANDREWS COMMONS APARTMENTS 1 & 2 BR’s available with many amenities. Close to everywhere YOU WANT TO BE! 1200 St. Andrews Rd., Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
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