For the first year or so that I lived in Charlotte, I rarely ventured farther south than the Carowinds exit. Now I call York County, S.C., home.Those of us who live south of the state line enjoy the advantages of living in Charlotte’s backyard, but with some bonus attractions: some of the largest parks and green spaces in the region, and some of the most highly regarded public schools in South Carolina.Come on down past the Carowinds exit, and you’ll come to Fort Mill, one of the region’s fastest-growing cities and home to Baxter Village, a “new urbanism” development with its front porches, shops and walkable neighborhoods. Nearby you’ll find the Anne Springs Close Greenway, a green oasis of horse trails, footpaths and lakes given to the community by the Springs-Close textile family in 1995.Cross the Catawba River, and you come to Rock Hill, home to Winthrop University and to recreational sites such as Cherry Park, with its softball fields, and Manchester Meadows, home to a soccer complex that hosts championship events.Rock Hill also puts on one of South Carolina’s most popular spring festivals, called Come-See-Me, which features a fun run and 5K races, fireworks, tours of the azalea-filled Glencairn Garden, and – I’m not making this up – the Mayor’s Frog Jump contest.A bit farther to the west, you’ll find York, the county seat, known as the “Charleston of the Upcountry” for its historic homes and charming downtown. Farther north, you’ll find the towns of Clover and Tega Cay, and the unincorporated community around Lake Wylie – home to Lights on the Lake, the annual holiday parade of boats.For those of us who live in York County and commute to Charlotte, it’s smoother sailing than your average city commute. For more than 10 years now, Interstate 77 has been four lanes each way between Rock Hill and the state line. It narrows to three once you hit Charlotte. When my uptown Charlotte co-workers complain about their commute from the northern suburbs, I usually just smile quietly. From the overpass at Fort Mill, you can see the office towers of uptown Charlotte. But you do run into reminders that this is a different state.For one thing, the college sports rivalries are different – centered on the fierce loyalties of Clemson and University of South Carolina fans. One November day at the YMCA, I heard a white-haired gentleman explain: “Here in Rock Hill, we always get along despite our deep differences.” Republicans and Democrats? I asked. “No,” he said. “The Tigers and the Gamecocks.”And there’s this, about South Carolina: It has, by most accounts, the cheapest gas in the nation. As I write this, a gallon of regular on Rock Hill’s Celanese Road is a full 40 cents cheaper than in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood. So while you’re down here, fill up. You might decide to do as I did, and stay awhile.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
Beauty and history combine with fun
‘Must’ list 1. Cyclists at all levels will love the Giordana Velodrome (1000 Riverwalk Parkway, Rock Hill), a 250-meter, 42-degree banked bicycle racing track built to Olympic standards that opened in March. 803-326-2453. 2. Old Town Bistro (135 E. Main St., Rock Hill) has a place in civil rights history. On Jan. 31, 1961, nine civil rights pioneers staged a sit-in at the lunch counter at what was then McCrory’s five and dime. McCrory’s closed years ago, but today the Old Town Bistro operates on the site, complete with the historic lunch counter. The names of the sit-in participants are inscribed on the lunch counter seats. 803-327-9222. 3. Historic Brattonsville (1444 State Road S-46-165, McConnells) features more than 30 historic structures from the 1760s to the late 19th century. Living History Days are held nearly every weekend. 803-684-2327.