With the car packed, we began our two-day trek from Sarasota to Ramsey, NJ. Unfortunately, after a delayed start, we left at 11 am. Driving 18 hours on I95 can only be described as boring. So, we look to play mindless games to occupy our minds. On this trip, we decided to count billboards for adult lounges, with extra credit for adult toy shops, video stores, and bridal registries.

When we crossed the border into South Carolina, I stopped at the visitor center to use the facilities, and to get some information about where to stop for the night. Given the travel time we had left in the day, the travel advisor suggested an area about five miles before the North Carolina border. She pulled out a coupon book and suggested one of the motels along that stretch of the highway. Sara checked out that motel on one of the travel sites and found it had good reviews. As we drove through the state, we realized that we could probably make it into North Carolina before breaking for the night, so we tossed the coupon book when we stopped for gas.

Unfortunately, we didn’t take into account the fact that we had been driving for eight hours, and it gets darker much earlier in South Carolina than it does in southwest Florida. And after travelling an hour in the dark, we opted to take a room at the recommended hotel rather than continuing into the next state. The hotel was located on the nearly uninhabited west side of the highway, while all the lights and activity was on the east side. The immediate neighborhood was reminiscent of the bombed out sections of Raqqa in Syria. The hotel’s lobby, which also doubled as the breakfast room was actually smaller than our bathroom. With the AARP discount, plus the Triple A, and veterans discounts applied, the room cost $30 more than the coupon price. But we were tired and hungry, and didn’t want to drive around this dreary town in search of one of the other hotels, all of which were rated lower.

After checking in, Sara asked the clerk if he could suggest the best restaurant in town. He handed us a list of 20 restaurants and said every one was good. Except for the Mexican restaurant the others were all fast food chain franchises. So, we decided instead of fast food which is bad for you, it would be Mexican, that hopefully wasn’t bad.

The room had its own ice maker.

The $7.50 Grey Goose on the rocks.

We drove into the parking lot of Del Sol, which was jammed with pickup trucks, and that was a good sign. It’s always better to eat with the locals when you travel, although this place turned out to be the exception to that rule. The oversized senorita that greeted us in her southern drawl, proudly told us that they had a full service bar, and asked if we would like a cocktail. When we requested two glasses of red wine, she explained that the full service bar didn’t include wine. I ordered a margarita, and Sara asked for a vodka on the rocks. Honey Pie suggested Grey Goose at $6.50. When she brought the drinks, she apologized that the Grey Goose was actually $7.50. Sara smiled and said that it was no problem. (The water glass of vodka easily held three shots. My margarita was beyond horrible. It tasted like it was made with white vinegar and cough syrup. The waitress nodded knowingly, and said, “Yes, a lot of people have trouble with the taste, but that’s how we make it.”

And the food wasn’t much better. My medium-rare, ribeye was really burnt slices of brisket that had been scraped off the bottom of the frying pan. The refried beans had been refried so many times that they truly tasted good. Sara’s beef nuggets turned out to be fat and gristle nuggets that were barely edible.

We walked out smiling because we had just spent Saturday night in the best restaurant in town . . . a town we would never visit again.