Stepping off the plane in Atlanta, Ga., I was overwhelmed. Not by the heat, but rather by the humidity.
Tropical storm Beryl had just hit the right coast and it was driving the moisture content in the air above anything I'd ever experienced as a lifelong resident of the left coast.
It wasn't horrible, just different. My skin was constantly sticky, and I spent the majority of my time in Georgia and North and South Carolina in shorts.
Now here is the Brookings-ite in me. I packed a pair of slacks, andndash; in addition to the pair I was wearing andndash; a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, just in case the weather got a little chilly.
I never unfolded the sweatshirt or the pants. I spent every minute I could in a pair of shorts and various T-shirts.
My best friend from college got married on June 2, and I went out a week early to spend time with him before the ceremony, and to enjoy a bit of time in the south.
Before I left, I had a couple of goals: swim in the Atlantic Ocean and eat Southern food.
Despite the tropical storm that was creating crazy currents in the water, I jumped in with both feet and couldn't believe how warm the water was. It was like taking a bath in an eternity pool with a built-in loofah.
I loved the time I spent in North and South Carolina for my friend's wedding, but there is one Southern rumor that I have to put to rest.
I'd heard before I went that people in the South are more polite than anywhere in the states.
It proved true anytime I was in a restaurant, market or store, but on the road they were just crazy.
Perhaps it is all the time I've spent driving amongst the "no hurry in Curry" set, but they drive fast, cut other people off and don't use their turn signals. It was crazy.
I did find myself saying, "yes, ma'am" and "yes, sir" even when talking to complete strangers just because I heard it so much in all of the shops and eateries.
Speaking of eateries, I had a number of firsts with regard to food while I was in the South.
I tried fried grit squares, grits and cheese, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, Chik-fil-A chicken, Bojangles chicken, soft-shelled crab, hush puppies, and I had my first meal at a Waffle House, all while trying to stick to my Primal Blueprint as much as possible.
I'm not sure I can forgive Longhorn Steakhouse for the deliciousness of its rolls, but I used plenty of butter to slow the breakdown of simple carbohydrates in my system.
One item that got my friend's brother and I thinking is whether or not there are foods that are required eating in Oregon.
I found out that eastern North Carolina has a different style of barbecue than western North Carolina, and that shrimp and grits andndash; as well as all "low country" foods andndash; are best served in South Carolina.
I couldn't come up with a food that is specifically Oregon based. There are things that taste better here andndash; strawberries and blueberries, Voodoo Donuts and dungeness crab, but nothing that is unique to Oregon.
Texans have barbecue, Maine-ites have lobster, Philadelphians have steak sandwiches, Chicago-ites have deep dish pizza, and even Californians have In-N-Out Burger.
Is there anything that is unique to Oregon, that people just have to eat when they come to visit?
I don't know, but after experiencing the amazing world of the South, I can honestly say that if I was a millionaire, I would have a vacation home in South Carolina. I couldn't ever abandon my ol' Oregon home, but I'd sure take a sabbatical from it to enjoy the laid-back attitude and the unique food of the South.