Thursday, June 16, 2016

the great, big, long vacation post

'maggy and milly and molly and may'

maggy and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day) 

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and 

milly befriended a stranded star 
whose rays five languid fingers were; 

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and 

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone. 

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
its always ourselves we find in the sea 

E. E. Cummings

 We may not exactly be Maggie, Milly, Molly and May, but we know how to vacation at a beach.  Accidentally stumbling into adventures may become the theme for this summer as last week's vacation sure seemed to have it's share of awesome surprises.  As our plans changed within 24 hours of departure, we just went with it and flew by the seat of our pants.  

We got up Friday morning and planned to head out as soon as I ran and had my coffee.  G's car turned out to lack about 2 cubic feet of space we needed, so before we could leave, we had to unpack everything and throw it all in my truck.  A minor setback in what would be a wonderful week.  

Friday was National Doughnut Day and everyone knows McAbees love doughnuts.  We also love Nick's BBQ so since we were going to the coast anyway, we decided to spend the day in Charleston and eat at Nick's before driving up to Dirty Myrtle.  This meant that after a nice walk downtown, we drove to Krispy Kreme and enjoyed free doughnuts and free KK hats!

With our bellies full and smiles on our faces, we drove north.  Along the way we realized we were going to be driving past another Krispy Kreme.  Bingo!  We parked, got more free doughnuts and continued our journey to our night's accommodations.  Friends of friends rented us their house for the bonus vacation night.  We've stayed there a few times and the kids love it because they have a pool table.  
 Watch out for these two in your local pool hall.  They'll take all your money.

 Starting vacation a day early gives us a bonus beach day, so while most everyone else is leaving or arriving, we were beaching.  Inspired by the generosity of Krispy Kreme, we made their old logo in the sand that day.

 Our vacations are as much about eating as they are anything else.  After a good, full day on the beach, we knocked the sand off and ate at Russell's in Murrells Inlet before moving into our place for the week.  The timing of dinner, getting groceries and moving in was not at all what we planned, but by accident, it all worked out perfectly and we got our night walk on the beach in before bed.

 The place we stayed was perfect.  We've stayed there a few times recently and we love it.  There are many things to love but the balcony is my favorite.  It's huge and well furnished and I had my breakfast there every morning.  G and I may have spent more time there than on the beach.  

 Every day was an opportunity for sculpting on the beach.  I'm planning to teach a class on sand sculpture next summer so I wanted to experiment and see what was possible.  Lucky for me, the kids were all about boogie boarding this year, so they were more than happy to let me work alone while they played in the water.  They were happy to pose for photos, but it took some convincing to get them to not destroy the sculptures each day.  The tide was very high each night so the first couple only lasted a few hours anyway.

 Monday was overcast and a little drizzly.  Blue and I stayed out and I worked on the big bird head and Blue helped me make the pizza slice in it's beak.  

 Once we worked up an appetite, we decided to try a new place, The Grilled Cheese and Crabcake Company.  We chose wisely.  Probably the best thing we ate all week.  Sure, you can get a grilled cheese sandwich and it will be the best grilled cheese sandwich you've ever had, but you can also get a beautiful Maryland style crabcake INSIDE your grilled cheese.  Or shrimp.  Or lobstah!  This place is amazing.  So amazing that we unanimously chose to eat there again later in the week.

 I hate the news and refuse to watch it.  I'll check the weather when I'm making plans but in the summer in the south it doesn't take a meteorologist to predict the weather.  It's gonna be hot and there's a chance for a storm later.  But when I made a comment to G about the clouds not lifting and wanting to go walk on the beach later, she informed me that there was a tropical storm passing over us.  Oops.  But no big deal.  A few years ago we stood outside in a tropical storm to get Mean Joe Greene's autograph.  I've ran in a couple of passing tropical storms since then.  By the time I knew it was a named storm, it was pretty much over.  

 There were even a few peaks of sun for my run the next morning.  But the storm was nice enough to wash a lot of little sticks up on the beach overnight.  Since my back was hurting from all the shoveling and bending over to sculpt the sand, I decided that this was going to be a day off from the heavy stuff.  After my run the kids joined me on the beach and we stacked sticks as high as we could.  It was a nice change. 

 I made that awesome balcony my office/headquarters for the week.  I was nice enough to let G share it with me.  

 By 11am the sky was clear and the humidity was gone.  We grabbed brunch at our favorite brunch spot, Tupelo Honey and then decided to go on an adventure.

 Blue and I got dropped off at a marina in Murrells Inlet and we rented a tandem kayak to go exploring and treasure hunting.  We put in at Goat Island, where there are actual goats living along with a couple of peacocks.

 This was Blue's first time in a kayak but he was excited about it and he took to it very well.  He got the hang of paddling pretty quickly and when the big boats went by and threw giant waves at us, he absolutely loved it.  I thought we were going to die, but he loved it.  

 He said he liked how peaceful it was out on the water.  He kept asking me to stop paddling so it would be quiet and we could just drift.  

 I was joking about the treasure hunting but we did find some treasures.  We found a cool shell on one of the islands.  Then we found an even bigger one.  Then we found one and just as I tried to grab it, it crawled away from me.  We also found an old glass bottle buried in the pluff mud.  We washed it off and it appeared to be a weird named cola made by Pepsi.  The bottle looked cool so we kept it.  Later we found out it was a "Patio Cola" bottle produced around 1970.  Very cool.

 After a while, Blue got good at steering and he could get me where I wanted to be for photo opportunities.  

 He got really good at sneaking up on the egrets.

 G and Violet got pedicures and went shopping before coming down to the Marshwalk to find us.

 After a day off for my back, we had to go big the next day.  I made a giant happy monster type thing.  The tide had me working too far back at this point and the sand things were starting to survive.  Eventually the little sand groomer guys stopped running them over each morning.

 That afternoon we went to Brookgreen Gardens.  They were having a special Lego sculpture exhibit along the zoo trail and we wanted to make sure Blue got to see it.

 It took me a while to remember where it was, but I made everyone go see my favorite Brookgreen sculpture first.  (The Thinker by Henry Clews Jr.)

 The Lego sculptures were created by Sean Kenney and they were amazing.

 Most were 5 feet or so in size and were comprised of tens of thousands of individual Lego bricks.  Each sign told the actual brick count.  Blue has always wanted to be a "Lego Tester" when he grows up.  Now that he knows there's work for a "Lego Sculptor" he has a new dream job.
Although I'm not so sure it would be fun to stare at that many Legos all day every day.

 It was hot and we had walked a LOT but I didn't get to see the labyrinth.  I didn't remember it from my last visit and I imagined it was created by hedges and would be cool to see and photograph.  I kindly left the family in the air conditioned gift shop and raced to the back corner of the plantation only to find the labyrinth was not what I expected.  Cool, but not as cool as hedges.  Lesson learned.

 Violet is currently obsessed with horses.  She had us pause here behind the well known horse sculpture at the entrance so she could marvel at it.

 The sand sculptures create a weird dynamic for me.  As I'm building them, people will come by and as the week goes on, they'll get more comfortable talking to me about them.  My favorite thing to do is build one and then leave G under the umbrella with it while I go play in the ocean with the kids.  Then everyone asks her if she built it.  Lots of people stopped this week to take photos of the sand things and I realized the sculptures were bringing other people joy.  Or at least they were weird enough that people needed photos of them.  This is the first year I didn't let the kids destroy them seconds after I was finished.  I left them there because people seemed so interested in them.  After the tide started leaving them, we would watch from our balcony perch as late afternoon families would view them and sometimes let their kids destroy them.  Some nights under the bravery of darkness, we'd see kids run full speed up the beach and jump all over the sculpture and then retreat just as fast as they came.

 Did I mention how in love we were with the balcony?  

 My morning run on vacation is always so cool.  It's nice to run in a new location, especially when the views are stunning.  I didn't find any beach treasures because of the timing of the tides but the morning light at the seaside is transformative.  

 Around Thursday as I was returning from my run I met the rest of the family walking toward the pier.  I had just hit my 5K distance so I stopped and cooled down with them on a walk.  The long morning shadows gave us a nice family portrait opportunity.

 Then we took a few glamour shots at the pier.

 Everyone seems to take their photos under the pier.  A couple of mornings I saw a teenage girl with a fancy camera and tripod taking photos.  She set up under the pier and was attempting a complicated selfie with a timer and as a wave came in it knocked her tripod over and she caught her camera just a few inches from the water.  

 These are our fun beach faces.

 We also got to dine oceanfront at The Conch Cafe.  For the last several months G and I had been eating clean.  Or at least cleanish.  We were avoiding fried foods and trying to avoid processed things.  I've pretty much stopped even buying sugar and if you know anything about my diet, you should be absolutely stunned by that fact.  But vacation week was cheat week and by the end of the week all the fried, greasy, sugary things were catching up to us.  I was feeling slow and gross.  Even with shoveling tons, literal tons of sand through the week, I was feeling the pounds.

 Mid day photo of the skull castle

 Evening photo with lots of kid footprints

 I'm sorry mountain people.  I just don't get it.  These views simply cannot be topped.  I realize mountain people feel that way about mountain views but I'm hardwired to appreciate salty scenery.  

 I'm also hardwired to wake up when the sunlight peeks in that oceanfront window.  Normally I'm up late every night, but we vacation hard and all of us were wiped out every night around 10pm.  Probably had something to do with why I was up with the sun each day.

 The last beach day brought our largest sand sculpture.  We were missing our dogs by this point so I decided to pay tribute to them by mixing them all together (chihuahua, weenie mix and lab) into one strange beach dog.

 We seem to have our last beach meal at River City Cafe pretty often.  The kids love to draw on the table covers.  This is Violet's rainbow skull.  Along with her peace sign.  We may be raising a hippie.
 The last day is an awkward blend of emotions.  This was a perfect week in every way.  We had a blast.  Every day we heard "Best day ever!" from the kids.  But after 7 days away from our own beds and our own showers and our dogs, there was a part of us that was ready to check in at home for a while.  So we took some time on the balcony to tell the beach how appreciative we were, we took a goofy family pic and then we piled in the truck for the trip home.

All during the week we pick up sharks teeth and slip them in a zip lock bag stuffed inside the beach bag.  It's not until we get home that we see the entire week's collection.  This year's haul was not as plentiful as last year's, but both Blue and Violet each found their very first sharks tooth on their own this year.  I feel in some way that this is a parenting success.  I truly think there's a series of life lessons that can be drawn from learning the patience, determination and concentration it takes to find them.  But it's summer and I don't have to think again for a couple of months.

On to the next adventure.