MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. — Before sharing our Monday marathon, let me wrap up our Sunday Freedom Ride activities.
Charleston, S.C., has to be one of my very favorite cities in America. It is drenched in history, yet has a truly modern vibe uniquely its own. I was fortunate to spend some time here over a few years when my former advertising agency serviced the national Scout Boats account. And so, when we decided we’d be pulling into Charleston, I called my bud James Pate at Scout for a dining recommendation.
Bikers enjoy breaking bread and sharing stories, along with a good meal, after a long day in the saddle, so I wanted to make sure our Charleston culinary experience delivered. Suffice it to say, James scored mega-points with his recommendation of Tavern & Table at Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Despite a dusty, loose gravel parking lot with plenty of opportunity for two-wheeled disaster, we navigated the potholes and rocks with aplomb. And I’m pretty confident everyone would agree it was well worth the hassle. Our meals were superb, the service was outstanding and the premier catbird position on the lively waterfront at sunset was an extra bonus.
Besides a terrific meal, we also had a very impactful special event in keeping with the theme of The Freedom Ride. We took the afternoon to visit the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, home of the celebrated USS Yorktown and a host of naval warships, along with an impressive collection of naval aircraft. As the 10th aircraft carrier in the Navy, commissioned in 1943, this behemoth was a strategic player in the Pacific fleet offensive.
It accommodated a crew of nearly 3,500 and carried 90 planes and was an integral player that helped lead the United States to victory against Japan in 1945. After years of valor and service, the ship was decommissioned and dedicated as a museum in 1975.
As the proud daughter of a U.S. Naval aviator and career officer of 27 years, this expedition was particularly meaningful to me. My father, Cmdr. Howard B. Kenton, piloted a Lockheed Constellation “Connie,” which was used for military transport, before serving as commander of the VW-1 “Typhoon Trackers” in the Pacific fleet.
As I walked the ship, from the lower bowels to the flight deck, I felt dad’s spirit and his love of country in every step. I sat peacefully on the top deck for a while, staring out at the water and surrounded by many of the storied planes he loved. It was a moment to quietly reflect and give thanks for my dad and his honorable service to our nation, along with all of those men and women who have given their lives for our freedom.
On the great suggestion of 2015 Freedom Rider and marine/power sports PR maven Marilyn DeMartini, whose father also was a Navy veteran, we decided to return to Patriots Point early Monday morning prior to departure. Our idea was to shoot a salute we hoped our fathers might think was pretty special. Several Freedom Riders joined us as we parked our bikes in front of the USS Yorktown in a demonstration of true American power!
Following the shot, we respectfully rode from the park and headed for our first stop about three hours away at North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Paul and Chris Speckman, owners of the “Grand Strand” Freedom Boat Club franchise with four area locations, along with their club manager, Karen Berry, and other members of their crew, really threw out the red carpet to welcome our riders.
As we approached the club by the swing bridge on the banks of the Little River, we immediately spotted a large, colorful truck wrapped with Freedom Boat Club graphics, staged next to a specially designated parking area set aside for our bikes. A bright purple Freedom Boat Club tent had been erected with several tables for our crew, adjacent to the docks where the Freedom fleet is housed.
The most amazing thing was that commanding aroma of Carolina barbecue wafting from the flames of a red-hot grill that really got our attention! Our host, Chris Speckman, had taken the time to personally cook and serve a mouth-watering meal that included a half chicken each, the best homemade baked beans I’ve ever eaten, crunchy coleslaw and a specially decorated cake for the Freedom Riders, topped off by delicious, icy-cold sodas!
If that weren’t enough, two members of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce had been invited to our cookout and took the time to officially welcome our group and join in the good-natured banter.
With full stomachs and big smiles, we bid our wonderful hosts a fond farewell and started the afternoon leg to Morehead City. We rode with an easy breeze under warm, sunny skies and at a nice, brisk clip with zero traffic issues. In just a few days’ time our group has become extremely comfortable riding together, as though we have been doing it for years.
I have to give props to our road captain and my good pal, Jim Krueger of Regal Marine, for the herculean job he’s done organizing our route and keeping us moving. His lovely wife, Carol, is also along for the ride this year and was recruited to drive our chase vehicle. She's become a real truck-drivin' mama, and we’ve all become a well-oiled machine.
All told, we spent about 7-1/2 hours in the saddle on Monday, with another 1-1/2 hours for the cookout. We were all a bit road-weary and ready to hit the hotel here in Morehead City. Upon arrival, several folks took a refreshing dip in the pool prior to our group dinner in historic Beaufort, N.C., where we claimed an upstairs deck overlooking the active harbor.
Three riders joined us Monday night, all of whom rode in the first Hull of a Tour, so it was a very happy homecoming! We rode back from dinner together under a velvety blanket of twinkling stars, the perfect ending to an equally perfect day. It just doesn't get much better than this.
It was time to call it a night and get some sleep. After all, today we tackle the Outer Banks!