There’s something to be said about location and development. As a youth, I had many fond memories of various places: climbing the crab apple trees in our backyard, watching our fathers paint soccer field lines at the local fairgrounds, the Christmas lights at Clifton Mill, playing a night game against friends at Alt Field, painting the driveway (with water) at my Grandmother’s house, the timeout bench at Hilliard East Pool, and last but not least, Myrtle Beach.
The south has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember; whether it be losing my treasured blue and white Nikes at the spry age of four in a Florida hotel or feeling myself grow two inches (outward) in a single meal at the Texan, there’s a sense of home in the pack, the drive and the sandy grit of the southeastern coast.
Not just exclusive to us, the east coast has been a hotspot for the vanilla masses of the Midwest for ages, so much so that even the French Canadians have hopped on board (albeit in much smaller swimsuits).
From Columbus, you’re looking at about a five hour trip to DC, six hours to Virginia Beach, ten hours to Myrtle Beach (sorry Dad, but you could use some foot weights), and twelve hours to Kiawah, Seabrook and Hilton Head. For you Southern Californians reading this, think of it as Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, and Reno, respectively. It’s not a fun hike, but it’s right in that should-we-fly or should-we-drive range.
For me, half the fun was always the night before. The butterflied anticipation of jellyfish-taunting was enough to make me pre-sharpen a chasing stick the night before, much less the giddiness that stemmed from knowing that I would be taunting girls…get this…in bikinis. What can I say? I was a little Romeo. A little Romeo with a sharpened chasing stick covered in jellyfish.
Needless to say, it’s funny how things change. Little known fact: Did you know that if your car has 15.2 cubic feet of trunk space, 15 out of 15.2 cubic feet of said space will be filled with diggers, dumpers, swimmers, sippy cups, sun lotions, after sun lotions, and pre-sun lotions? Not much room for chasing sticks. Alas. Seriously though, our trunk was ridiculous. Had we been in an accident on the way to South Carolina it would’ve been the result of a lube leak. That car was packed to the gills with lotion, lotion, and more lotion!
Anywhoo, we left the house happy. The child in me still got to take his 6’2” skateboard, two cases of beer and copious amounts of firework repatriation money - so I can’t say that I wasn’t pleased. It was just different packing a car for two thirsty adults, versus packing an itsy bitsy bag for an anxious, stressful set of parents getting ready to flop their way through a TSA gate check. This was our *first* long drive and it was it was a hell of a lot more interesting. While the TSA might restrict you from bringing an entire basement into the cargo hold, a father looks at an automobile as a volume-challenge. I’m used to packing as light as the metal on my body and now I have THIS MUCH ROOM? Game on.
After the tugboats pushed our rent-a-Mazda out of Ohio, I was amazed. We had planned on leaving at 7:00pm(ish) and driving through the night, but somehow --we’re not sure how-- we were on the road by 7:03. Granted, packing took a little bit longer than expected and we forgot to, say, feed our son dinner prior to getting in the car, but we were southern-bound with the Columbus skyline at our backs…and only THREE minutes late! Take that Clark Griswold!
The drive was a wonderful success. Tenzin slept the whole way and Rachel, in her slumber, neglected to see my white knuckle driving. West Virginia’s mountainous turns make you feel like you’re half-blindfolded in the dark, and while we might have arrived two hours ahead of schedule because perks like limited traffic, I think I shaved 14 years off of my life. All in all I was quite proud of myself. I made it 9 of the 11 hours before I felt my eyes sagging. Rachel happily took the wheel and finished the rest of the trip.
We got to the beach, shoeless, at 6:00am. Don’t ask me how, but my Rainbow sandals --the sandals I was married in-- got kicked out at one of the many gas station stops. This would be one of three sets of sandals lost on this trip, but that’s a different story all together. It was just a big bummer to lose your wedding flops.
The problem with making good time and arriving at dawn is, well, our room wouldn’t be ready until 3:00pm - did I mention I’m a scheduling genius? Funny enough, it couldn’t have worked out better. We unstrapped my skateboard from the roof (in case you didn’t know, they’re hotter than car stereos) and walked down to the beach.
Tenzin wasn’t sure what to make of it. As you can see from our previous posts he’s been in the ocean (kind of) and been swimming plenty of times, but this was his first I-can-recognize-what-I’m-doing, big sandbox experience. He took two cautious steps and was feeling his way around, then began laughing and giggling as he scooped up the ground around him. Only 20 seconds, and we had already busted out our first, “We don’t throw sand.” Nothing is better than watching discovery, and following it up with never-do-that-again-isms.
Due to some bribery at the front desk (a promised 6-pack of Bud from the nearby package store), we were able to check-in by 9:00 am. This was the first of many amazing experiences for me. Let me remind you that I haven’t set foot in Myrtle Beach since I was 15-years old. The last “James” to visit MB was a James that lied about his age, snuck out of windows and made out in sand dunes with poorly supervised tourists' daughters. Fast forward to now, where I bought beer (legally) as a bribe from the same store where we had tried (to no avail) to bribe people to buy us beer! Like I said, our families have been vacationing here for a while, but I don’t think I truly grasped how much I would remember some of this. It was all very surreal.
This time around we were going with our friends, the Bilek’s. Times are tough and money is tight, so as much as we had hoped to make it down with family (who were down there a week prior), we asked the Bilek’s if they’d split cost and start a new tradition. They happily jumped on board and met us down there for a week of fun in the sun.
We settled in and had a really great time. It was nice because of everybody was able to go at their own pace; some days we wanted to relax on the beach, others we just wanted to relax with a nap. There wasn't any pressure to do anything,and it felt great.
[Part II to follow. Seriously. C'mon, be patient.]
I was quite proud of our beach set-up. I had raided the Pointe Tavern before we left and comandeered two massive Miller light umbrellas, in addition to a massive sun tent compliments of GaGa and Pa. It was a royal pain in the ass to set-up and tear down, but it was nice to have all the ammenities to keep us on the sand as long as possible. We were on a mission to stay ocean-side for 8 hours a day and I think we did just that.