This past Saturday I joined up with the Upstate Minis for a run. Don Western from the group had put together an “Old South Tour” that would take us down through Laurens, Abbeville, Edgefield, McCormick, and Saluda Counties.
Several of us met at Century Mini and caravanned down to Laurens. There we met up with the others that would join us. There would be fourteen cars in all making the run.
Don met with the drivers and handed out our instructions. These were three typed sheets front and back, with mileages for each turn. In an age of GPS it was completely old school, but Don had it organized extremely well.
All cars had FRS radios, and we tuned to a specific frequency. One car was designated as the sweep, to make sure the entire group stays together.
From Laurens we headed north back up Highway 14. Just past Barksdale we took the Old Laurens Road on into Gray Court. We drove through the town and turned west onto 101, just south of my old homeplace. From there we drove to Dials Methodist church.
It was at this time that the drive took an unexpected twist. Don turned right onto a country road that runs past Dials. From that point we took a series of zigzags through the country, most often at speeds quite a bit higher than the posted speed limit. Here’s a bit of video from that stretch…
We eventually made it back to Highway 101, and turned toward Hickory Tavern. Here we found our first stop. There’s an old country store/gas station just north of Hickory Tavern. I think it might be part of the Mahon Family property. The building had an old Gulf sign and other signs like the ones American Pickers are always trying to buy of of some unsuspecting farmer. Our entourage pulled off to the side of the road and we posed for our first official photo of the trip.
It didn’t last long, though. Soon again we were off, zipping through the countryside. We passed through Hickory Tavern and passed the school where I taught my first year of teaching. I started to say something to that effect into the radio. I’m a storyteller at heart, and I like sharing bits of info like that. However, it occurred to me that these people didn’t really know me and wouldn’t really care – I’d be unwanted chatter when they were listening for info on the next turn.
I almost opened my mouth once again. Instead of turning onto Boyd’s Mill Pond as I would, they continued straight. Before saying something about how cool that road would be, I realized that Don had this thing planned down to the minute, and even the slightest suggestion or deviation could cause problems down the road. I was new to these rallies, but I was coming to an understanding. There would be more revelations down the way.
We connected with Highway 252 and crossed the Saluda River into Ware Shoals. From there we turned west toward Shoals Junction. We turned toward Greenville Presbyterian Church, and I thought, “Oh Great! We’re going to stop!” Uh, no. We weren’t.
I had to make some mental adjustments. Unless it was on the schedule, we weren’t going to stop. These folks were here to drive their cars, not stop and take photos. I lost track of the number of times I wanted to say, “just over there is..”, or that I had to bit my tongue as we flew past places I would have normally stopped and photographed.
There was more zigzagging through the country and soon we were entering Abbeville. Our group had done a great job of staying together, and all of us pulled into the square and parked. We got out and took a few photos.
The old bank building has been converted into a welcome center and offices for the Chamber of Commerce. Don had made contact with the chamber, so they were supposed to be expecting us. When we first got there the building had a “closed” sign, but when they saw that we had arrived they opened up for us. We walked on in and looked at the exhibits.
“Ya’ll are on a Mini Cooper run? My brother does the Cooper River Run every year. Is it like a short version of that?”
I did hear the funniest thing at the Welcome Center. A woman there said, “Ya’ll are on a Mini Cooper run? My brother does the Cooper River Run every year. Is it like a short version of that?”
We mounted back up and headed out of town. I spotted a set of Coffindaffer crosses on Highway 72 west of Abbeville. I spotted them too late, and there was no way I could stop and take a photo. I had to hope the GoPro had captured them.
We turned onto 823 toward Mt Carmel. Here my frustration level just about hit its peak. We zipped over an old steel girder bridge, blasted past Calhoun Mill without acknowledging its existence, and blew through Mount Carmel, barely registering all of the historic buildings there.
We took more zigzags through the communities of Willington and New Bordeaux, then eventually wound up in the town of McCormick. Here we stopped for lunch at Michelle’s Pizza, a biker bar off of the main square.
The food was great, and the fellowship was excellent. The group talked about past runs and upcoming events. A monster truck rally played on the bar’s TVs.
One of my new-found friends asked me to take her photo in front of her car with her iPhone, and offered to do the same for me.
We loaded back up, this time heading back east across the country. By this time I had resigned myself to not being able to stop at all of the cool places we had passed. I had pulled out my audio recorder and was making notes to myself as we drove of places I wanted to check out later.
We reached the town of Plum Branch. As we made the turn I was trying to remember if I’d ever visited this town. There were some interesting buildings. We had gotten a bit strung out and separated in traffic at McCormick so had pulled over long enough to make sure everyone was with us. That gave me a chance to catch a couple of quick photos.
More cross-country zig-zagging, and we wound up in Edgefield. We drove through the town center and out to Oakley Park. This Antebellum mansion is now open to the public. We pulled into the circular drive.
We posed for a few group photos out front, then headed inside for a tour. At first I was disappointed at the No Photography signs, but our guide said we could take as many photos as we wanted.
The home is now maintained by the Daughters of the Confederacy, so there are Confederate artifacts and memorabilia all over the place. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many Confederate Battle Flags in one place. I understand the historical significance, but it still felt a bit…weird.
Apart from all the Confederate items, there was quite an array of period pieces – furniture, artwork, clothing, etc. It was quite the collection.
Some of our group parted ways and headed on. The rest of us headed north from Edgefield through the Fruitland community. I made notes on my recorder of a couple of potential schools. We entered the town of Saluda and pulled into a truck stop for a break. More of our group bailed, and the rest of us headed back toward Laurens. I was so tempted to stop and view the old buildings at Chappells, but I kept going.
Rather than drive back to the Ingles I broke off from the group and made my way back toward Greenville. I said my goodbyes over the radio.
The lesson I learned was that these trips are about driving, and aren’t about stopping and seeing stuff. Even so, I had lots of fun, and the people were great. Zipping around in a little Mini, especially once it warmed up enough to put the top back, is an absolute blast. I just have to make sure that I’m in the proper frame of mind next time I head out with these guys. …and there WILL be a next time.
I do have to commend Don Western. Even though his methods are old school, our group stayed together, and everything was organized marvelously. Don had contacted folks at each of the stops, so they were not only expecting us, but looking forward to our visit. It was a good day of motoring.
One thought on “Old South Tour with the Upstate Minis”
I used to be part of this group and LOVED the runs. Way more inventive and fun than almost any other car club I have belonged to. I still make a point to chat with Don when I see him out at car shows!