It was the most excellent of adventures; it was the most bogus of journeys.
Mom and I set out today, along with two of her friends, to take a one hour tour of Charleston, SC. If you are humming a little parody of the Gilligan's Island theme song, well - don't stop. You're not 100% on track, but it was a three hour tour - I mean - a one hour tour - gone terribly awry. Plus - it's fun to parody the Gilligan's Island theme song under any circumstances. Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...
That's Momma of Mommakin on the far right. <3
Mule-drawn carriage tours are a very popular way for tourists to get a feel for Charleston. I have never shied away from acting like a tourist when I am one. We bought our tickets and awaited our carriage. Kind of like Cinderella, except with mules instead of white stallions. And that damned fairy godmother must've been sleeping something off when she was supposed to be turning me into the belle of the ball. Other than that, though - well - other than that it's STILL not that much like Cinderella. You do get the picture, though, right?
Our carriage arrived and our tour guide was a retired college professor - Hey! The professor! Maybe the Gilligan parody has legs! - with a smart sense of humor and a tremendous amount of knowledge abut his city. These are good traits for a tour guide to have. He introduced us to the mules who would be pulling our carriage today: Hit and Run. These are not fortuitous names. I'm sure someone thought they were being very clever, but it's honestly just a little bit unnerving.
Not fifteen minutes into our tour, we were making our way down a narrow street with cars parked along one side. A woman in a van approached us and was clearly not going to let us pass. We could not back up, so this woman drove around us, passing us on the wrong side. This forced our professor/skipper/tour guide to pull the mules over far into the left lane. Farther than they should have been - because when this silly woman passed and we started moving, the top of the carriage snagged on a tree. Before our noble leader had a chance to correct this, the mules ran scared - bolting, a few mere feet from the next busy intersection. My mother grabbed my arm and for a slight fraction of a second I saw terror in her eyes.
It WAS scary.
For a fraction of a second.
The professor was skilled at his craft, though, and immediately gained control of the noble beasts.
Not a single person, mule or car was hurt.
Our carriage, though? Had not fared quite as well.
When it snagged on the tree and the mules bolted, a lot of damage was done to the canopy. It had been held in place by heavy metal rods, which had actually bent in several places and poked through the fabric. The rear supports were completely shot. The folks in the back of the carriage had to hold it up manually to keep it from falling on their heads. We were in the front. We were unscathed. In case you might have been wondering.
The buggy was still functional, so, after a quick call to his employers, our guide informed us sheepishly that we would be embarking upon the ride of shame. People were snapping pictures and taking video as we rode our ramshackle carriage through the streets of Charleston. "Damn", our hero said, under his breath, "this is going on YouTube for sure." I haven't checked, but I'm sure he was right. I was already pretty sure, in that moment, that it was going on my blog. He waved at the chuckling passerby exclaiming, "It's a handyman's special!"
He remained poised and continued to indicate points of interest as we took our ride of shame back to the barn - although a distinct tone of humility and self-deprecation had snuck into his voice.
When we returned, the staff first determined that we were all ok. (And weren't going to sue. Nobody said that, but the implication was there. Oh yes. It was there.) Once it was determined that we were ok and that we were not a litigious mob, he did get a little ribbing. But it wasn't brutal. Frankly, I think he might have been a little disappointed if he hadn't.
In an effort to keep everybody happy, we were given a full refund and then were told that if we wanted to, we could take another tour.
Which we did.
And it was fun.
But not nearly as fun as the first one.