Before I went on my recent birthday road trip, I scoured sites like Roadside America and Atlas Obscura looking for oddball stuff to do that wasn’t too far out of the way from my intended route. I found lots of great strangeness in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, but when I spotted South of the Border in Hamer, SC, I knew it was going to be a stop — it was required.
To make things better, it wasn’t out of the way at all — it’s right off the interstate. You actually have to drive through it. And you’re actually going to want to.
Tacky, kitschy, loud. Honestly, kind of racist. South of the Border is a tourist trap with a few restaurants, shops, an alligator petting zoo, an amusement park, a truck stop, hotels and a few other strange things. I showed up just after sunrise so only one restaurant was open and I didn’t eat there. Each of the stores seemed like the same store just on opposite sides of the road, the petting zoo was closed and the amusement park looked like it hadn’t been operational in a decade.
But it was still amazing.
Enormous statues litter the quarter mile of Mexican culture stereotypes. Cows, chickens, alligators, cheeseburgers and … Pedro. Pedro is everywhere. When you show up, you drive between Pedro’s legs. Two Pedros flank the entrance to the gator petting zoo. Pedro is on every t-shirt, magnet and souvenir cup. Reportedly, every employee goes by the name Pedro while they’re on the clock despite the fact that all the employees I saw were black women.
Anyway, South of the Border is real and I’m happy it is. If you find yourself crossing the Carolinas border via Interstate 95, do yourself a favor and be drawn in by the 30 or so billboards with Pedro’s mustached mug painted on them.
I also spotted what appeared to be an abandoned restaurant nearby with some great graffiti and grime scattered about and had to take a few photos because that’s just what I do.
As always, here’s a few photos. If you want to see more pictures of the high-quality variety, you can find them on my Flickr account.
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