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I am the Chicken Queen.

Despite drmellow's hectic work week causing us to shorten our vacation, we were still able to head to Charleston for an enjoyable weekend. He was able to run in the Cooper River Bridge Run and I was able to visit with my parents and catch up with them after their recent vacation in Venice.

Friday afternoon, we stopped at Gaillard Auditorium on the way into town to check out the race expo. Having orchestrated it so that we would arrive mid-afternoon, we were hoping to avoid both the lunch and after-work crowds. However, I still think we wound up battling a large portion of the 38,000+ runners vying to pick up their race packets. After a few circles around the block, we were lucky enough to score a (non-metered, at that!) parking spot right across from the auditorium. (If you know anything about parking on the Peninsula, you know what a minor miracle that was.)

The Expo was fairly well-organized, utilizing all three floors of the concourse, plus the auditorium itself. We followed the arrows and actually managed to pick up the race essentials in about 20 minutes. Then we headed into the expo center to check out the vendors, stock up on free energy bars, coffee and Chick-Fil-A coupons, and look at some race gear. Fortunately, we arrived when we did; some of the vendors were already starting to pack up and leave. drmellow was sad that we missed the Jelly Belly people.

Later, my parents treated us to dinner on the patio at the Hominy Grill, where our bug-repellent kept the no-see-ums at bay and we lingered on a sultry spring evening to enjoy the best "chocolate pudding" (pot du creme) that I've ever had. Yum. I was reading later on the restaurant website and found it interesting to note that the chef, a native North Carolinian, gets his grits from The Old Mill of Guilford... Well, that's right down the road from me!

After returning home, we had "show & tell" over coffee; Mom and Dad brought us some neat items from Murano (including a glass frog for my collection), a big wheel of truffle cheese (the standing request), our own deck of Italian playing cards (to which I'm now addicted), and some more sterling steak knives (late birthday present). Then, everyone went to bed early in preparation for the race. Well, most everyone. Mom and I stayed up to translate the rules for Scopa and played a game or two.

Saturday morning: Up at 5am to drop drmellow off in Mt. Pleasant and get back across the bridge before it closed at 7:00. We were able to drop him off a mere block from the starting line, though he apparently had to walk a great distance to find the purple group. Dad and I headed back toward Charleston (a 10 minute drive), making it to the bridge at 6:50am, and leaving a long line of soon-to-be unhappy drivers behind us.

Once home, we dug into some ham biscuits and watched the pre-race coverage on TV, hoping to spot drmellow. At 8:00am, we cheered for the start, and 27 (and 31) minutes later, the finish, by Kenyan runners Robert Letting and Leah Malot. People were still crossing the start line!

Dad and I gathered up our things and had Mom deposit us near Mile 5, shortly after the course exited the bridge. Our timing was excellent; we had been there about 5 minutes when my Associate Pastor ran by. We cheered for her, and drmellow, when he came along about 10 minutes later. Then, Dad and I walked to the finish line while the Doctor ran his last 1.2 miles.

After a mini photo session at the finish, we headed north a couple of blocks to Marion Square to check out the post-race festivities. The Doctor collected free muffins, bagels and bananas, while I took pictures of furry, life-sized cows. We listened to the band for a while, then crowded around the stage for the race results. Here's where the story gets really good.

Immediately before and after the race results, Chick-Fil-A (one of the major race sponsors) was launching hundreds of small, stuffed cows into the crowd via slingshot from a crane above the stage. They were also firing parachute cows off the rooftops of buildings surrounding the square. Some of the cows had a ticket attached for a free chicken biscuit. Dad and Greg caught a few of those. Two of the cows had a golden ticket attached--worth a year of free Chick-Fil-A. I caught a golden ticket cow. I am the Chicken Queen*.

Guess where we all went for lunch.



Saturday afternoon, we wandered through a few of the area's better antique stores; my prize find was a sterling sugar caster with cute cabriole legs. Later that evening, we dined at FIG, just at the end of the block from where Mom and Dad used to live. Very tasty; I really enjoyed the Farro & Collard Greens we ordered as a side.

Sunday, we lounged around and played more Scopa, trying diligently to distinguish spade from bastoni every time we totaled our cards. The Trevigiane deck is notorious for its confusing artwork. Finally, Mom fixed us a delicious mid-afternoon meal of Shrimp & Grits (my favorite), we loaded up our bags, and were on our way. We stopped at the waterfront on the way out of town, found a geocache, snapped a few bridge shots from afar, and headed home, arriving about midnight.

In all, a terrific visit. And I think I'm going to sign up for the run next spring.

*Props to Jim Morrison.

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The Inimitable Miss M

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