But wait, you’re saying: You seem to have some Ocean City anger, but I thought you liked tacky.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER, S.C. — I do like tacky. But I like a very specific kind of tacky. I loved – loved! – South of the Border.
This South Carolina tourist attraction spitting distance (literally, if you’re a skilled spitter) from North Carolina wants desperately to be Wall Drug of the East. And I want to be fair: Maybe it was, once. Maybe it was earlier this summer. But when we pulled into the sprawling complex, we had our choice of parking spaces.
Most importantly, this meant we could park in the shade. Two years ago, when I was waiting for my Charleston Gullah article to be published, the travel editor told me no one wants to holiday in the South in the summer. I shrugged, because I love the heat.
This Deep South heat is like nothing I’ve experienced. Getting out of the air-conditioned Joe (here, they call it an “economy truck” and “truck” has at least two syllables) is like stepping into Hades. The heat pushes against you like a succubus. It throbs against your temples. It slides up your back and under your hair, making your head heavy. Within 90 seconds, fatigue drains your will to breathe.
And so we were well pleased to be the only tourists at South of the Border, because we could park in the shade.
Its emptiness gives it a shabby feel, but many of the buildings were freshly painted. It was the dinosaurs and hippos and horses and Pedros (which I found off-putting and offensive) that suffered the most neglect. They were all chipped and peeling.
Against my better judgment (I have a fear of elevators), we paid a dollar each to ride to the top of the sombrero. There was no wind, nothing to break the heat. It was spectacularly quiet, so we jumped when the air cracked and vibrated. We couldn’t follow the sound – we had to train our eyes before the thunder to find the fighter jet that roared into the distance.
And that was it. An impromptu air show, an eerily quiet amusement park, a decaying arcade and a bumper sticker that says S.O.B.
Thank you, America.