Traveling South

The weekend travelogue continues. We checked into the Holiday Inn in Beaufort and were really impressed with the lodging. The only minus was the lack of a continental breakfast, something that used to be considered a frill and is now looked on as an expectation.  Still, the room was clean and pretty…loved the marble bathroom floor.

On the recommendation of the staff at the Holiday Inn, we went to the Dockside in Port Royal for dinner.  A little off the beaten path, the restaurant is on the water and provides a magnificent view of the harbor and the shrimp boats. We arrived right at sunset, and I took several photos of the beautiful setting sun and the surrounding area. During our wait, we chatted with a couple from Kentucky, and I enjoyed listening to their travel agenda for the next several days. I also enjoyed extolling the virtues of Savannah…love that place! I volunteered to take their picture, and they returned the favor.

The meal at Dockside was superb! We loved the ambience of the restaurant, the friendliness of the wait staff, and the scrumptiousness of the food. The prices weren’t that bad either. Truly, I’ve seen higher prices in other seafood establishments whose food can’t compare in taste, variety, or quality.

The next morning we headed out of Beaufort towards Hunting Island State Park and stopped for breakfast at the local Huddle House. What a microcosm of Americana!  A HH diner can always expect to be among the high and the low, the rich and the poor. On this particular morning, the noise level was deafening, and we soon determined the reason for it: two men trying to outdo each other with their stories. Finally one of them, the one dressed in his Sunday duds, got up to pay his bill, and we sighed a sigh of relief. “He can’t talk to himself,” reasoned my husband about the gent who was still sipping his coffee. WRONG! Not only did he talk to himself, but he also crooned a few melodies, and after a few moments we sort of succumbed to the situation and began enjoying the music. I also enjoyed seeing several mother/child combos sharing waffles bacon together.

Breakfast behind us, we drove to Hunting Island State Park, and I loved loved loved loved the scenery along the highway.  So green and tropical. At last we went over a very narrow bridge, and within moments we were at the entrance of the park. Ever since seeing a documentary on Hunting Island, I’d wanted to visit it, and we were both excited to finally be there.

Once inside the park, we first visited the beach. It was awesome! The beach was wide, the sand was white, and there were numerous dead tree limbs and trunks. People used the latter for hanging their bags, clothes, and other personal belongings. A few of the smaller limbs were decorated with shells. I loved it so much that not even the dozens of dead jellyfish dampened my mood. After leaving the beach itself, we walked a 1.4 mile trail through the maritime forest. The forest was on our right, and a lagoon was on our left. We were in heaven…or I was. I took picture after picture with my iPhone so that I could relive those moments in the months and years to come.

Although we were beginning to tire a bit, we couldn’t leave the park without visiting the lighthouse. I had read about it at the visitor’s center and wanted to see this special landmark “up close and personal.” In fact, I decided to climb to the top, and I’m so glad I did because the views were spectacular.  A young girl who was struggling for breath ran past me and declared that she was trying to beat the girls’ record of 15 times up and down in two hours. The boys’ record was 17 times. When I descended, she was still huffing and puffing. Hope she made a new record.

My hubby and I then decided to sit in the shade and eat a huge chocolate ice cream cone. It was divine, both the refreshment and the relaxing experience. Before leaving, we walked down once more to the beach. He says if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all. I say, “No way, Jose.” They’re all different, and the one at Hunting Island State Park is one of the most unique I’ve seen yet.

My friend Christy is looking for the perfect spot for a special weekend getaway. I hope I’ve convinced her to visit Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hunting Island. I know I’ll be back.

Low Country Getaway

In my next life, I’m thinking of becoming a travel writer or something. I love visiting new places and telling other people about it, not in a bragging sort of way but in an informative way. I want everyone to experience the same wonders that I do and avoid some of the pitfalls. In this blog, I’m going to tell you the best place to visit for a sunset and the hotel to avoid if you’re all about “free” continental breakfasts.

Last year we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a weekend in the Big Apple, and although we LOVED it, this year we wanted to stay a little closer to home. Trying to decide between the coast of SC and the mountains of GA was a difficult decision, and the #1 deciding factor was the price of gas. Gee whiz! It still cost a small fortune to do the little bit of traveling that we did, but it was worth every gallon.

We left Myrtle Beach and headed to McClellanville for the Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet. I’ve always had a hankering to visit that historic site, and reading about the events of the weekend in Southern Living gave me just the impetus I needed. We finally found a place to park, and as we were wondering about the shortest route to the water, a man who was directing traffic pointed to a short bridge and told us to follow the yellow brick road and that we’d end up in Kansas. Loved that. I saw it as a harbinger of good things to follow.

I wasn’t disappointed. Right away we fell in love with the little town beside the sea. The trees, the water, the houses, and the people all combined to make the experience a sweet and memorable one.  We particularly liked the booths set up under the trees, and we ended up buying a couple of cool t-shirts as souvenirs. Since jewelry is one of the traditional gifts for the 11th anniversary, my hubby bought me a beautiful bracelet from a woman selling creations of recycled sea glass. I’m wearing it today; it shimmers like the ocean.

Just about everything in life has good and bad, an upside and a downside, and the festival was no exception. The blessing of the fleet was nice, but the microphone wasn’t working, and we couldn’t hear anything that the three speakers said. It was kind of funny because no one told them. Everyone was too mannerly, including us. There seemed to be a reverence in the scene that prohibited anyone from yelling at the speakers who were standing at the end of a long dock. So basically we watched them and the numerous ships that went by.

The food was yummy, but skimpy. Sorry but it’s true. I know they were probably making money for the town, but festival-goers will be more inclined to come back if the food portions are generous. One of the highlights of the afternoon was listening to the band and watching people dance.  I’d expound on this, but it’s time to move on to the next leg of the journey.Suffice it to say that the various dancers reminded me that life is to be relished and LIVED.

We left McClellanville and, following the directions of the GPS, rode through parts of the Francis Marion Forest. At some point, we ended up on 526 and later the Savannah Hwy. The farther south we rode, the more obvious the low country foliage and “feel” became.

I just realized that this blog is getting far too lengthy so you’ll have to stay tuned to read about the hotel without the continental breakfast and the best place to view a fiery orange sunset.I’ll even recommend a lighthouse perfect for climbing.

February Insight

It’s no wonder Friday with its perfect weather conjured up the blues. The wonder is that I didn’t connect the dots earlier.

It’s been a beautiful weekend. Friday was especially delightful. It was sunny and a little cool but nice, very nice. Still, for some reason I couldn’t shake a mild case of the doldrums. I even ate lunch with a good friend, the kind you can jump from topic to topic with, and neither of you get confused or lost. Still, the feeling lingered.

My sister and her husband Allen came over to bring a table, and when I saw her walking away, there it was again, that twinge of something. I visited the Red Door Thrift Boutique and then headed to the eye doctor’s office for some contacts. When I walked out into the sunshine and felt the moderate temperature and the gentle breeze, I thought of how weird and wonderful it was to be experiencing this kind of weather in February.

Driving out of the parking lot, I had a quick impression of my parents and of how they had lived in Camden all of their adult lives. They had both visited this very office and driven the city streets day after day, year after year. Had they too enjoyed looking at the parks on either side of Laurens Street as they left Dr. Moore’s office?

Then it hit me, the reason for my melancholy. 15 years ago on an identical February day I made the trip from Conway to Camden to see my mother who was coming home from a four-day stay in the hospital that day. She’d been receiving her first round of chemotherapy for the cancer that would take her life nearly five years later. I recall feeling nervous, anxious about how I’d find her. Would she be too weak to walk? Would she still have her beautiful silver hair?

I arrived at the same time her sisters drove up with Mama in the car. She seemed fine, just tired. As I recall, I took her bags in, and her sisters left. There we were, the original family, just Jayne and her parents. The difference was that this time they were both in need of care from me and not vice versa. It was weird, and I was jumpy.

I took lunch orders, thinking it’d be nice to have burgers and fries and ice cream, but Mama opted for saltines. Daddy agreed to a kid’s burger from Mickey Dee’s. Sitting at the kitchen table where we’d gathered literally hundreds of times, I felt awkward and on the verge of tears. My father managed to eat half of his burger, and my mother forced down a couple of saltines. Then she went to bed, and he went to the den to read. I tidied up and then went outside to clear my head and get a breath of fresh air. The house seemed stifling. It wasn’t. My frame of mind just made it seem that way.

Some visitors came by later, and I went for a walk with one of them. As we walked, both of us remarked on the gorgeous weather. As we sauntered up the block with my parents’ little Dachshund skipping along in front of us, it was almost (but not quite)  possible to forget my parents’ state of health. Despite the sun dappled sidewalks, the upbeat conversation, and the antics of Eva, the dog, my heart was heavy.

I didn’t know what was ahead at that time, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I sensed that it was the beginning of the end, the end of their lives and the end  of my life as someone’s child. The juxtapostion between my frame of mind and the gorgeous February afternoon was a stark contrast.

It’s no wonder Friday with its perfect weather conjured up the blues. The wonder is that I didn’t connect the dots earlier.

Galloping and Prancing Along

Had you rather look at the neighborhood mums and pampas grass or walk on the beach and look at hundreds of beautiful prancing, trotting, galloping horses? You never know what awesome sights you’ll behold if you don’t get outside and “just do it!”

Quick post about the wisdom behind “Just do it!” I went to the beach this past weekend, primarily because I wanted to attend a baby shower of a friend’s daughter. Plus, my better half was “in the woods” on the hunt for that elusive deer, and I think he’s happier when I’m engaged in something fun. Less guilt on his part, less nagging on mine.

I woke up Saturday morning with tons of things to do before the shower at one. The event was in Shallotte, NC, and I hadn’t even bought a gift yet. It was chilly outside, and I thought, “I think I’ll skip walking this morning and aim for this afternoon. “  Who was I kidding?? I knew good and well that if I didn’t put the miles in that morning, then I wouldn’t be doing it that day. I had plans with one of my lovely daughters that afternoon, and they didn’t include walking.

“Okay,” I thought. “I’ll just walk around the neighborhood. It won’t be that bad (boring), and I can always get landscaping ideas.”  While lacing up my shoes, I had change of heart and decided to go to the beach. It’s only couple of miles from my front door. How could I justify letting such an opportunity pass?

Folks, I’ve been going to Myrtle Beach for decades, and I have NEVER seen the sights I saw Saturday, at Myrtle or any other beach.  At first, I saw three horses and their riders and thought of how cool and unusual that was. Then a couple more passed me. Looking into the distance, I could see perhaps a dozen more trotting towards me.  Before the hour was over, I had seen hundreds of them. I’m not too good at estimating numbers, but trust me when I say HUNDREDS. Some were galloping, some were prancing, and others were just sauntering along. Some liked the surf and ran right through it; others were more skittish and raised a ruckus when their riders tried to steer them in that direction.

Not only were the horses an enjoyable sight to behold but so were their owners. All were smiling and reveling in the sheer beauty of the morning and of the opportunity to be on the strand. I responded “Good morning” to dozens and dozens of greetings. I began to wonder if perhaps there was a certain personality type (extraverted and friendly) that gravitated towards horseback riding, but when I asked a horse owner at church yesterday, she said, “No, they were just all happy to be allowed to ride on the beach.” Sadly, she missed that ride but will be there with her hat and boots on next year.

Apparently, Myrtle Beach allows horses to be on the beach one day per year, and Saturday was that day. It was an awesome sight, one that I would’ve missed if I’d walked around the neighborhood admiring mums and pampas grass. Just do it! You never know what you’ll see right outside your door.

Lunch, Scrabble, and a Poem

I’m wondering if making a conscientious effort to look for the good stuff has made a difference in my attitude of gratitude.

Yesterday was a stupendous day. Actually, I’ve had a lot of those days lately, but yesterday was exceptional. Maybe I’m just a tad more observant because we are, after all, about to enter the month of Thanksgiving. Then too there’s the fact that I love love love this time of the year. My parents got married in November, and since I was born nine months later, I like to think of it as the month I actually began my life. Oh, and two of my children were born in November too.

Here are the events of yesterday for which I am quite grateful:

  • Waking up at least semi-rested. While I like to get at least seven hours of sleep, I can rock and roll on six.
  • Working all day on the Kershaw campus without having to drive to another location.
  • Eating lunch with some friends. While we were munching on our chips and salsa and discussing family idiosyncrasies, a couple we knew from church came in, and we chatted with them for a moment or two. When we went to the front to pay our bill, we discovered that the mutual church friends had taken care of it for us! Isn’t that amazing? Not to mention generous. Did I mention that while we were eating we got to look at the life-giving rain falling gently outside?
  • After lunch, I worked on online courses some more and chatted with Lisa and Lach, some colleagues whose conversation I always enjoy.
  • After work, I delivered some mums and visited briefly with the flower loving ladies.
  • When I left my mother-in-law’s house, it was with a big container of homemade vegetable soup for dinner.
  • I walked 50 minutes and enjoyed the changing autumn landscape of the neighborhood.  I even picked up a few hickory nuts and acorns with thoughts of using them in some fall craft or table decoration.
  • Speaking of autumn, I read and reread a beautiful Robert Frost poem (October) that Martha posted on FB.
  • I dined with my hubby, an enjoyable activity until he began reading the newspaper.
  • I checked Face Book and relooked at some pictures of Carrie, Amanda, and sweet baby Olivia. It makes me happy to think about the three of them spending some time together Saturday at Time Out for Women in Atlanta, especially when I consider the uplifting and inspirational messages they received.
  • Only one negative event occurred. Someone forgot to turn off the burner under the soup pot, and as I was doing my Susie Homemaker thing in the kitchen, I put a plastic container right on top of the burner. Later, I kept smelling something pretty awful, and when I walked into the kitchen, flames were engulfing the plastic container and its contents. Now we have a permanently damaged stove top and only three useable burners. I’m wondering if it’s time for a new stove. This one’s about 20 years old and doesn’t go with the updated kitchen.
  • At bedtime, I still had a slight edge in FB Scrabble.

Today’s been great too. So was the weekend. I’m wondering if making a conscientious effort to look for the good stuff has made a difference in my attitude of gratitude.

Top of the Rock

It’s amazing what a payoff can come from proper pacing and a little positive self-talk.

About Chimney Rock, it’s an awesome place. I’ve been there several times in my life, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually went to the top of the rock. That day we rode the elevator, and later we walked a trail at Hickory Nut Gorge. The waterfall was beautiful, just like everything else around us.

Last week when we visited Chimney Rock again, I was determined to walk the steps to the top.

 “You’re crazy,” my husband declared. 

“Yes, I already know that.  See you at the top,” I said.  “And don’t worry. If I feel like I can’t make it, I’ll turn around and get on the elevator.” He shook his head, probably wondering at my sanity (or lack thereof) and walked away.

Folks, it was quite a workout. I could feel AND hear my heart beating. Instead of being deterred by it, I tried to think of how magnificent an organ the heart is and how fortunate I was that mine seemed to be working so well. I met several people along the way up, among them a couple of young couples that I passed (loved that!). Okay, to be honest, one of the couples stopped to take pictures of each other posing along the trail, so naturally that slowed them down. I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and they were appreciative of that. Hope they like the way the picture turned out.

Heart working overtime, I paused to take some gorgeous pictures of the trees and birds and trail itself.  “A step at a time, Jayne. Just a step at a time. You can do it!” It’s amazing what proper pacing and a little positive self-talk can do. I also thought of something I learned from teaching Human Growth and Development: What most people in later adulthood say they regret are the things they did not do, not the things they did and failed at but the lost opportunities, the phone call never made, the hill never climbed, the trip never taken, the dance not danced, and the song unsung. When I’m in one of my children’s homes living out my last days (since none of them ever read my blog, it’s safe to say that), I won’t be saying, “If only….” It’ll be too late then to even get in the elevator at Chimney Rock, much less climb the stairway.

So I climbed to the top, and I was so happy to see the rest of my party and the beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. We hung around on the chimney taking pictures, relaxing, people watching, and exclaiming over the breathtaking views. Before descending the mountain, we visited the gift shop and the restroom, mainly so we could snap a couple of pictures of the murals there. Regardless of what direction we glanced, there was something majestic to see and remind us that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

 Before we got on the elevator (I succumbed to the not so subtle pressure of my sweet husband), we walked outside once again, and an employee of the park asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.

“That’s part of my job,” he assured us.

“Taking pictures?” I asked.

“Making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.

We did. And you will too. Put Chimney Rock on your “to do” list this year. Even if you don’t make the trip to the top, the town itself is charming, especially now that the river walk has been added.  And don’t even get me started aabout the quaint gift shops, restaurants, and streetscape.

Joann’s View

If you’re open to life and all it has to offer, all sorts of invitations, views, and people will come into your life…even mountain top home tours.

When I woke up this morning, the room was still dark. Even so, I could quickly visualize the tree right outside the bedroom window and the sloping front yard with its dogwoods and crepe myrtles. When my new friend Joann (not her real name) who lives in the mountains surrounding Lake Lure wakes up in the morning, she opens her eyes to one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen in my entire life. To say it’s awesome is doing her “yard” an injustice. Her house is built on stilts, and she has no yard as such outside of her bedroom, just mountains and a splendid view of Lake Lure.

Meeting Joann was just one of the many delightful events of the weekend, but I’m starting with her because our meeting seemed so serendipitous. Yet, was it really? My sister-in-law Karen and her husband had been staying at Rumbling Bald Resort in the Fairfield Mountains, and Karen had become part of a walking group that met at 7:30 each morning and walked for an hour. The walk had a tour guide who led them on a different walk each day, complete with tidbits of interesting information about the area. I joined them Friday morning, and it was both invigorating and educational.

While we were traipsing all over the Rumbling Bald property, I became better acquainted with the early morning crew.  They were all from other places in the United States whose paths had converged at Rumbling Bald, and I enjoyed hearing their life stories and the circumstances that led them to the mountains of NC.  As we talked, Joann pointed up one of the mountains and said that her house was up there somewhere and that she had the same view of the lake that we were currently seeing, only better. “Yeah, right,” I thought. She invited Karen and me to come  visit her and even said that if she happened to be out, she’d leave the door unlocked. We didn’t really take her invitation seriously until she proffered it once again at parting.

The menfolk were playing golf all afternoon, so Karen and I decided “what the heck” and went up the mountain, around and around and around, until we reached Joanne’s home. It was gorgeous. It looked like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs and seemed to fit right into the surroundings, partly because of the design and partly because of the materials. I’ve seen my share of lovely homes, but few have had the structure and the surroundings so beautifully matched.  Even the façade of the structure was partially stone, and the pillars looked like slim tree trunks. The inside floors were slate and wood, and pathways around the house were of skillfully laid stones.

Joann invited us in and took us on a tour. She allowed, even encouraged, us to take pictures, and so we did. She even asked us to “sit a spell” on her back porch, and we obliged her in that as well. While there, we discussed God and how He had led her to this perfect place. It was like a gift and one that she well appreciated. We also talked about decorating, children, careers, gardening, and the importance of friends. When we bid Joann adieu, Karen and I both felt that our mini-vacation had definitely been enriched by meeting such a fun, warm, hospitable, ditzy (her self-description) person. When we parted, the three of us expressed the hope that perhaps our paths would cross again.

After leaving Joann’s mountain top home, Karen and I went to Bat Cave and Chimney Rock where we spent a couple of wonderful hours. After eating a creekside lunch, we went back to Lake Lure for a boat tour, and as we were waiting for the tour to begin, we watched a wedding take place on the grounds. Nice. The boat tour was fantastic, and I have tons of stuff to share about that later. I mean, really, why does someone need a 7 and ½ million dollar home????? Boat tour complete, we joined the guys for dinner and a street dance. Fun.

That’s just Friday…and only bits and pieces of it. Later I’ll write a little about Saturday and our trek up to Chimney Rock.  The entire area is beautiful, and I’m wondering if anyone else has some tales to tell about your experiences there.