Friday, July 10, 2020

2020 summer vacation

If ever there was a year when a vacation was needed, right? 

Our annual family vacation is normally scheduled months in advance around school and work calendars.  This year we didn’t actually make our reservations until much later than usual, but even then we were not sure what we were getting ourselves into.  Just weeks earlier the beaches were closed by the Governor's order.  One week earlier all the restaurants were closed.  Ultimately we decided that as long as we were allowed on the beach, that would be enough for us so we packed up and left town.

Sort of at the last minute, we decided to leave a day early and spend a night in Charleston.  We looked up some of our favorite restaurants and saw that they were open and we decided we’d start in Charleston and work our way up the coast.  When we arrived at one of our favorite BBQ places, we were surprised to find that “open” actually just meant ordering from a limited menu and drive-through only.  This barely slowed us down and we enjoyed our food in the parking lot while trying to keep the sauce off our shirts. 

We drove down King Street and saw that the few stores open for customers had long lines out the doors.  Knowing this was not for us, we drove on down to the waterfront and parked for a leisurely stroll.  The benefit of having no plans is that you can happen upon things and just relax.  It was nesting time for herons and all along the live oaks in White Point Gardens were large nests with feisty heron moms standing guard.  We made a quick trip to the beach on Sullivans Island and had a nice, spacious dinner at Page’s Okra Grill. 

Sullivan's Island.

The next morning I drove to the bridge for my morning run.  It had been a while since I ran the bridge and it was very nice.  We found some breakfast and some coffee and decided to culture the kids by taking them to the Angel Oak on Johns Island.  I’ll just say it’s hard to impress a 13 year old.  After that adventure there may have been a second coffee and we decided to start making our way toward the Grand Strand.  Not long after we took Hwy 17 to the bridge, protestors assembled and blocked traffic.  We unknowingly dodged that situation but slowly became aware that civil unrest was spreading across the country.

The angel oak.

We arrived at our place for the week and had to do some adjusting.  The place we’ve stayed for the last several years was rented out just a day or two before we made our reservations.  We found a place farther south and thought it might be nice to be around even fewer people on the beach each day.  The location was perfect but the room was a tad smelly.  I think the scientific term for this particular smell would be “funk”.  It was a mix of “someone has been smoking in here”, “there’s rotten fish in here”, and “it smells like someone’s butt in here”.  The rental agency sent someone to spray and we decided to deal with it.  Violet and I made a grocery run and our vacation was officially under way. 

Fabulous Mr. Fox

One of the highlights of the week made it’s introduction fast.  Our balcony overlooked the dunes and the sea and one of my favorite things about a beach vacation is sitting on the balcony.  G and the kids caught a glimpse of something in the dunes and it turned out to be a fox.  There was a little fox family living nearby and all week they made surprise appearances.  After catching a glimpse of a fox from the balcony, we walked up on him at dusk when we went out to walk in the sand.  He skirted around us and down the beach before hopping back over into the dunes.  Later we saw the spouse but I wasn’t lucky enough to see the children.

The Rose

We saw Rose!  After meeting Rose last year during this same week we’ve kept in touch and visited her a couple of times.  This week she met us for pizza and we got to go over and see her garden and her new beach treasures.  We also got to hang out with her dogs a bit.  Sadly we did not see Yun this year.  I hope she’s well. 

I decided to make sand sculptures each day.  The different location gave me a different type of audience and I had some lovely interactions with people while sculpting.  There was a tiny boy with blonde curly hair who came over to me several times and shouted “GREAT JOB!” and then walked away.  Once he even gave me a thumbs up.  After the first sculpture many of the adults started coming over to ask what I was making and trying to figure out what compelled me to do this.  One afternoon as I was washing the sand off my feet with the kids, an older lady motioned to me and said “Hey look! It’s the professor from Lander!”.  Apparently she knew someone who had talked to me that morning.  But Carlee was one of my favorite supporters.  (I’m choosing to spell her name this way in honor of the Carlee I taught at Winthrop ages ago, although Blue assures me I’m spelling it wrong.)  Carlee smiled at me one day.  The next day she walked over and told me I was “amazing” and asked what I was going to make next.  I honestly didn’t have any ideas yet so she offered hers, “You should make a pelican and an ice cream”.  I love pelicans and I love ice cream so there was my inspiration. 

A pelican ice cream cone.

When Carlee came out with her sisters and grandmother the next day she was overjoyed that I had taken her suggestion the day before.  She and her sisters all sat down in the sand next to me and asked me to teach them how to make sand sculptures.  I gave them a quick lesson as I was starting my own larger version.  I had a vague idea of sculpting a cartoonish man holding a heart (as love and unity was my personal theme for the week).  As the man’s head and the heart were starting to emerge from the sand, Carlee thought it would be better if I sculpted a mermaid and a heart.  I’ve never tried to sculpt a mermaid but how could I say no to my biggest fan? 

Sort of a mermaid with the note for my friend.

Carlee and her family had to leave well before I finished the sculpture so I wrote “for Carlee” on the back of the sculpture before heading inside for the day.  When we came back out that evening for a walk she had left a response.  She wrote “thank you!” in the sand.

Carlee's response.

The different location for our stay brought some fun daily adventures.  We were 1.5 miles from the point, the actual inlet at Murrell’s Inlet which was perfect for my 3.1 mile morning runs.  The first couple of mornings the timing of the tide was just right for me to run on dry sand all the way down and back.  That third morning, though, things started to get more adventurous.  There are several jetties in that 1.5 miles and the walk-through for two of them was covered by the higher tide from the third morning on.  This meant climbing up over a wall a couple of times.  One morning I had to scale a 6 foot tall concrete sea wall to keep my shoes dry.  I only bled a little. 

Sunrise view at the point.

But the views at the point were so worth it.  The waves thundered over the rock jetty at the inlet on the ocean side and the marsh side offered it’s own beauty and treasures.  I found lots of cool shells, saw hordes of horseshoe crabs doing what I can only assume was mating, and even saw a lady doing yoga headstands around there.  Every day was a new adventure.  It was sort of magical. 

The magical marsh view.

Violet wanted to walk down to the point a few times during the week.  Blue ran down there with me the day we got to run with Rose.  That was also pretty cool.  Rose used to be a regular runner, running up to 7 miles a day.  For various reasons she had to stop and she had not run at all in 18 years.  She kept saying she wanted to run with us, so we told her to come on out.  Blue and I dropped what we were doing and took off running with Rose all the way to the point.  We alternated walking and running but she still did 3 miles and boy was she happy about it.  It was great.

Another fun thing happened when we decided to try a new restaurant G passed earlier in the day.  It was a burger and hot dog joint and we saw we could eat inside so we stopped.  The parking lot was packed.  When we got near the door we figured out why.  It was karaoke night and the place was packed with older folks doing really bad karaoke.  Really bad.  I mean, take whatever bad karaoke you’ve heard and multiply by at least 5.  It was bad.  So bad that we laughed a lot while we ordered and waited for our food.  Violet and I had kept up our quarantunes/summertunes song every day during vacation and perhaps she was emboldened by the lack of singing ability in the room, but she said she might want to try karaoke.  It seemed like a good opportunity so we all encouraged her.  Within a few minutes she was holding a microphone and blowing the place away with a Taylor Swift song.  People stopped talking and listened.  Waitresses kept walking by me while I videoed it telling me how great Violet was doing.  It was pretty awesome.

Violet with the $5 a stranger gave her for singing.

I also got to run a virtual 5K race at Brookgreen Gardens.  Because of cancelations this year, I didn’t get to go to Brookgreen for my annual visit with students on the Sand Sculpture trip.  However, the cancelations also turned the Memorial Day 5K into a virtual race stretched out over a couple of weeks which allowed me to participate during my vacation.  I got free entry to the gardens and was able to create my own 5K course through the beautiful plants and sculptures.  Brookgreen is one of the most beautiful and magical places I’ve ever been and I loved every step of the run.  


I stopped several time to take photos of my favorite sculptural friends and after the run I was drenched in sweat so I decided to walk through more of the proper gardens while I cooled down.  I rarely run with a shirt when the temperature is over 50 degrees Fahrenheit so I was shirtless and I was leaving a puddle everywhere I stood still.  I felt a little weird shedding my shirt when I got out of the car to start running but during the normal race, this is expected.  As I walked through the gardens cooling down I spoke to at least 7 different garden employees about the location of artwork.  Every single one was kind, respectful, and helpful.  A couple even stopped their work to help me find what I was looking for. One nice lady commented that I must be so hot running in this humidity and sun.  After I stopped sweating enough to not ruin the upholstery in the car on the way back to the room, I headed to the car.  As I neared the car at the very end of the parking lot, a man on a golf cart swerved off the road toward me and in his most unkind voice he let me know that the garden had a dress code and that I was going to need to put on a shirt or leave.  I thanked him for the information and let him know that I had just finished the virtual 5K run and that I was, in fact, about to get in my car and leave.  I would have appreciated a slightly different tone but I don’t fault the guy for doing his job.  We can’t have shirtless people looking at nude statues!  I guess I should have kept my shirt on. 

 Shirtless sculpture not asked to leave.  Also, "The Thinker" by Henry Clews, my favorite sculpture in Brookgreen.

Some other notable things about the week:

We were across the street from a marina with perfect sunset views every evening. 

Blue channeled his inner Karen.

 We had lots of family time.
Lots of family time.

Blue had his first experience with pot.  (Obviously not marijuana, just a decorative plant at Broadway at the Beach)

We saw a big shark almost eat a dude.

And Grilled Cheese and Crabcake Company!

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