My mom frequently tells my dad “Peter, you would walk across the street to say you have been somewhere today.” The travel gene was passed down to him from his mother, Pauline Schmitt.
Grandma Schmitt loved to travel. There wasn’t a slot machine in Las Vegas that she didn’t think she should play, but only penny slots because she was frugal. Because my mom was busy at home with the six kids, my Grandma Schmitt frequently went on trips with my dad. They traveled coast to coast and even came to my boot camp graduation at Fort Dix in New Jersey. On that trip, we went to Philadelphia for the day. She wanted to see the Rocky statue.
My mom was happy that my dad was able to travel with my grandma. One of the mom’s favorite stories involved a spring-time trip the three of them took when my parents were getting close to retiring. During the trip, my grandma told my mom “Wilma we sure are glad you could come along with us this weekend.” My mom just smiled and laughed.
I inherited the travel gene as well. I love day trips. When I first discovered Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz, California a few years ago, I hoped someday I could take my parents there to walk or ride bikes. I would love to see my Grandma’s face when she saw the cliffs. The scenery is breath-taking and it’s free! On one side of the path are the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. On the other side of the paths are rows of crops: Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, onions, artichokes, corn, squash, and tomatoes.
My Grandma Schmitt and my Grandma Ashline have both passed away. They were wonderful role models in different ways. Grandma Schmitt was wide open and Grandma Ashline was conservative. I asked my mom recently if my Grandma would have liked my husband and she laughed and said “Eddie Haskell (she calls Nick that as a joke)? Of course they both would have loved him because he is such a giving person.” It brought a tear to my eye thinking about them and the love they for us growing up.
My husband and I celebrated out fourth anniversary in South Carolina. One of the days, we drove down to Kiawah Island to meet up with Kim and Glenn Williams for lunch. After we ate, we took a long walk on the beach. Kim and I traded a few Gamecock Volleyball glory day stories and hugged goodbye. Then we hopped in the car and drove north to Charleston to spend the night.
Charleston was recently named by Conde Nast’s the No. 2 small city in the world after being named the No. 1 tourist city in the US four straight years! Leaving Kiawah, we drove through John’s Island. It was set to close in 10 minutes, but I talked Nick into stopping at one of the most amazing places in the world: the Angel Tree.
Reportedly the oldest thing — living or man-made — east of the Rockies, Angel Oak is a live oak tree aged approximately 1,500 years. Some locals simply call it The Tree. It stands in a wooded area along Bohicket Road of John’s Island outside Charleston, South Carolina. You won’t find a lot of stuff like tee shirt shacks around there, because basically the attraction is a single tree standing in a park. So keep an eye out for signs and drive slowly.- Duane Spurlock
The trees branches are so old and heavy and many are propped up with large 2 by 4s. It is a can’t miss sight if you are are near Charleston. Even better, it’s free!
I write about this tree when reflecting back on my parents and my Grandma Schmitt for a reason. When my parents came to visit me after I left home, whether it was in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, or California – we always visited a place filled with history. We would go someplace I have never been before, even if I have lived there for years! I have my parents to thank for introducing me to a number of historic places in D.C. and a couple museums in Columbia and California. And many of them had free admission!
My Grandma Schmitt would have loved the Angel Tree in Charleston. When I was younger and told her about a problem, she would say, “Oh Smiley (her nickname for me), I will pray for you.” She would love the Tree’s spiritual vibe. She would probably say a prayer to a saint standing under it, praying for someone she had met that day. And because it’s free admission, she would walk to the car smiling – knowing she had saved a few more pennies for the slot machine in Vegas.