South Carolina has always been a state that keeps its taxes in check. And their gasoline taxes are among the lowest in the country. But that also means their road budget is lower than most states. But despite that, the roads in South Carolina are certainly better than the third-world-country roads found in the northeast states. New Jersey’s roads, for example, are what you’d expect to find in Syria or Iraq, including the bombshell-size craters that swallow cars whole.
To help alleviate road conditions and deliver the most bang for the road-tax buck, the Palmetto State hired Rex Happen, a traffic engineer with some radical ideas. His first directive was to eliminate grids in street layouts, the kind you would find in New York City, Los Angeles or Sarasota. His theory was without grids, you can’t have gridlock. Roads intersect at anywhere from 70 degrees to 240 degrees, and usually end at an intersection making for very few crossroads. So, there are less traffic lights, but lots of stop signs. However, stops signs, traffic lights and speed-limit signs are all suggestions, none of which are followed.
As a result of the no-grid theory, there are no straight roads in SC. They are the original horseback trails that had been formed back in the 1700s. They follow the terrain, winding along stream beds and wrapping around trees and rocks. They are about the same width as they were during the Revolution, with the only improvement being asphalt paving.
And here’s the trade-off. My son’s house is a 13-mile drone flight from me. By car, I have at least three options, the shortest being 30.5 miles, requiring travel on 16 roads and one interstate highway. The scenic ride takes me through the City of Greenville, several small towns, and a couple of outposts where they have a washing machine on the sagging front porch, and are still learning to play banjos.
Not all the roads have signs, and those that do present some creative names. Sure, there are Main Streets, and Broadways, along with some real tongue-twisters. Our street is called Limberlock Way. I think the developer was a former wrestling coach. Most streets are named after people, who I expect were important. General Calvin W. Corncob Avenue. Private First-Class Reginald Anthony Bullion-Cube, Jr. Parkway. (That street sign was longer than the street itself.)
You’ll pass 10,000 square-foot single-family hotels, and mobile homes that were condemned in Florida after WW1. There is no zoning here. Where we live, there are a series of deed-restricted communities, beautifully landscaped and maintained. And in between, you’ll find sheetmetal-clad warehouses, junk yards, used-car lots, and small farms that raise chickens, goats, cattle, or collard greens, whatever they are.
Everyone drives a pickup truck here. And every truck has at least one flag snapping in the wind. You’ll find Trump flags, American flags, Confederate flags, Blue Lives Matter flags, and of course, Clemson Tiger flags. If you pull into a restaurant parking lot, and there are no trucks, leave immediately. You can bet it’s a tourist magnet.
People here are genuinely polite and friendly (except when they’re driving). They greet you warmly, and treat you like family, even if you sound like you’re from Brooklyn, like me. And they are always ready to help you out if you are in distress. And it’s why we love living here.