Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

Vacation. A word that strikes a chord of hope and a pang of fear in the hearts of humans. Vacation means seeing new things, or returning to things we love and want to revisit. Vacations mean eating out a lot and spending money a lot. It exceeds and falls woefully short of our expectations, but it is always over much, much too soon, and as soon as we come home we begin thinking about next time, next year, whenever we can get away again, and touch that sacred feeling again.

I think most people try to cram too much in to a vacation. Back when we had the beach house, we were just 'there'. We might go to Wilmington every once in a while, or Myrtle Beach, but pretty much being at the beach was it: you got up, you went on the beach, you swam, you sat in a lawn chair, your napped, you ate. It was relaxing and we all went home with faint, sleepy smiles and darker skin. Now, we take vacations that are destinations: something to do everyday. Go here, catch this bus or trolley or whatever, wait in lines, sweat, buy overpriced food, overpriced drinks, get lost, argue, shell out more bucks, trudge for miles in the Sahara heat. You come home needing a vacation to get over your vacation.

We just got back from vacation in South Carolina. We started off in Charleston, where we spent three nice days with Tripp's Aunt, Linda. She is a sweet, beautiful lady and we felt like we were in our own home. The house is straight out of Southern Living, with perfect decor and smells and a beautiful Himalayan kitty, and I felt like a huge slob! :) Tripp's Granny was 88 years old the day we got there, so we had a nice seafood dinner out with her. But after that, we got up and got out each day, going to the SC Aquarium, several historic graveyards (I am a card-carryin' Graveyard Rabbit which means I love to explore old cemeteries), Sullivan's Island to see Ft. Moultrie (not to see the First Lady of SC move back into her home, leaving her cheatin' husband the Governor back in Columbia), several trips across the awe-inspiring and steering wheel clenching Cooper River Bridge, and Gilligan's for weep-worthy seafood.

Charleston is a snarl of one-way streets and horse and buggies, narrow old houses with elaborate iron gates, historic markers, ladies weaving sweetgrass into baskets tight enough to hold water, desperate humidity and heat, and awesome atmosphere. I think I could write every day in a place as stimulating as Charleston. If you don't like the scenery, drive a few blocks. Don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes. It rained like Hellzapoppin' on us every day, but it was okay. The cobblestones fairly sizzled when the drops hit.

Tuesday morning we regretfully left and wound our way north. we went through places named things like Seewee and Awendaw, and stopped at a plantation called Hampton in McClellansville.
Situated on the Wambaw Creek, this is a gorgeous house that dates back to the 1750's, built by slave labor for wealthy French Huguenots and visited by old G. Washington himself! The chief export of Hampton Plantation is mosquitoes. As soon as you step out of the car, the Head Mosquito sounds the air raid siren (audible only to mosquito ears) and they descend upon bare flesh like piranha on a hapless gazelle. Left to one's own devices, I imagine they would find your deflated, bloodless body within a few hours. In any event, the floors in the old house were very uneven due to the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886. One has to brace one's feet to stay upright in a particular room. Tripp's ancestor Francis Marion hid out there sometime during the Revolution as well. On the staircase of the house, namely the second stair, John Henry Rutledge shot himself in the temple, lovesick for a girl his mother did not approve of. We went back to the slab of marble that marked his grave, and were immediately driven back by several battalions of mosquitoes. Suffice it to say that a desperate search for Tea Tree oil ensued back in the car and it still reeks of Campho Phenique lo these days later. On my scale of Mosquito Hell Levels, I rate it an 8, with the NC Outer Banks a solid 10 at the top.

Much scratching an aromatic-ising later, we reached Pawley's Island and our Holiday Inn. Here we had a fridge and a bathroom and freezing freaking cold AC and no blood - sucking, disease - carrying airborne pests. The next day, we went to Huntington Beach State Park, which at $5 a head is quite a bargain for your day-trippers. Thin crowds, showers, and bathrooms. Sugar sand beaches, life guards, and blessed boardwalks out to the beach so no slippery, hard-to-traverse searing hot sand. While we were swimming, our umbrella flew away, never to be seen again. It was small and cheap. Maybe it had dreams of something more. Dinner was late and had at Outback Steak House. A little Oz in Georgetown County.

Sunburned the next day, we shunned the beach and ventured into that Vegas-on-the-beach that is Myrtle Beach, Bryant loves this store at Broadway called RetroActive. It has 70's and 80's stuff and is located right next door to a Ben and Jerry's. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Dinner that night was at California Dreaming, which is a glorified TGI Friday's for those of you unfamiliar with it.

After dinner we went to Surfside beach and walked out into the water. It was my favorite time of day at the shore; twilight, and a few tears glittered in my eyes as I remembered my shabby old cottage and mourned it's loss. Surfside is very much a cottage beach as opposed to the high rise crap that is Myrtle Beach now days. Refreshing, but sort of heart rending for me.

And so, we came back home to NC, but not without my having a visit to the Krystal's my son spied in Surfside. Krystle lovers, be alerted: it's right on 17, Surfside Beach SC. You have been warned.

I slept 14 hours that night, recovering.

So it's nice to come home and pick the kitty up at the vets, to wash mounds of sweaty clothes and wonder where the toothpaste is after the mad dash to get out of the room by 11 am. But I find myself closing my eyes at night and seeing giant oaks with Spanish moss, and feeling the cool sea breeze on my face.

Maybe Labor Day...Huntington has a nice campground.