Over the years, I’ve written several “arm-chair traveler” columns, inviting readers to join me in places far from Los Banos without leaving the comforts of their homes.
Today I’m writing about an old mill town now with an expansive college campus, a five-story river-front restaurant and a nearby thrill-inducing amusement park.
Last year, I wrote columns about two large southern cities – Savannah, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C. Today I thought I’d write about a much smaller, nearby city in South Carolina.
Rock Hill, S.C., is easy to get to, just a half-hour drive across a state line from Charlotte, N.C. The best and most popular reason to visit is to walk around Winthrop University, a small liberal arts college with about 6,000 students.
The campus has acres and acres of well designed and maintained green space, with trees, gardens and walking paths. It offers visitors opportunities to stroll and relax or to get revved up in the large gymnasium, which the college calls its Coliseum.
Rock Hill also has a notable river-front restaurant – the Pump House. It’s right on the Catawba River, and for a good reason.
This tall building once housed the pumps that pulled 5 million gallons a day over its wheels to power a textile mill. The original concrete pump house, dating back to the 1880s, had to rise high over the river to direct all that water for the mill’s use.
The mill stopped operating long ago, and all its other buildings have been torn down. The pump house was set to meet the same fate, until a businessman thought the dilapidated structure could become a landmark.
Two years, and millions of dollars, later he had reinforced, renovated and remodeled the building, which opened as a restaurant in 2016. The investment was rewarded in August when Forbes Magazine reported that the Open Table application listed The Pump House as one of “The 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America.”
Along with my granddaughter Hanna, who attends Winthrop, I enjoyed both the food and the ambience. I also felt good being in a building saved from the wrecking ball and repurposed as a landmark that both locals and visitors enjoy.
The Pump House is the ultimate in recycling.
For those who prefer excitement to tranquility, Rock Hill provides another destination – the Carowinds amusement park, spanning 400 acres on the border of North and South Carolina.
Hanna, along with the rest of her family, convinced me, against my better judgment, to join them at the amusement park on the way from Rock Hill to the Charlotte airport.
Agreeing to even enter the park was a sign of my good sportsmanship. I am not a fan of fast rides that twist and turn. I’ve gotten sick on simple county fair rides when I was younger and had no desire to go any similar rides. At Disneyland I prefer “It’s a Small World.”
I passed on Carowinds rides with high “thrill indexes” like Nighthawk, Vortex and Scream Weaver. But my granddaughter Kaila, a high school senior, said, “C’mon, Papa. Try this one with us, the Carolina Goldrusher. It’s a roller coaster that doesn’t go very high at all. Even A.J. (her 7-year-old brother) is going on it.”
Kaila was persuasive. The Goldrusher, built on wooden beams to replicate old-style coasters, only 15 feet high at its peak. So I joined the family, stood in line and, when my turn came, buckled in.
After the ride I told the family they had witnessed an historic event – the last roller coaster ride of any kind that Papa would ever attempt. Everyone else thought it was pretty mild. But I became woozy about half-way through, just when it took a quick dip and sharp turn. After the ride my stomach needed another 3 hours to settle.
If you crave a spacious green campus, an aesthetic dining experience or a frightening ride, Rock Hill is worth visiting.
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email email@example.com.