|As we had explained to everyone earlier in the trip, our
vacation was not going to start - officially - until Tuesday. At that point,
all of our family obligations were over, and we no longer had to be somewhere
at a specific time. We could now sit back, relax, and spend quality time
together, with just the three of us. After all, vacations are better with
smaller groups, because you don't have to coordinate with the others on where
to go, what time to be there, and so on. |
Tuesday morning, soon after we awoke, we bid farewell to Janice and Danny, who left for Washington, DC around 8:30 a.m. Soon after they left, John and I packed up our suitcases, loaded them in the car, and prepared to embark on our journey to Myrtle Beach, SC - the next stop on our itinerary.
The night before, John and Richard had sat down with the road atlas and tried to figure out the most scenic route for us to take to Myrtle Beach. Richard gave us two very lovely options - a longer, more scenic route, or a more direct route that cut an hour off of the trip while avoiding the interstate. When it came down to it, though, we decided to go with the more direct route, to minimize the amount of time that Mary would have to sit in the car seat.
Our route to Myrtle Beach took us along US 378 to the town of Lake City, where we would stop for lunch, then to US 501 in Conway, which would take us right to Myrtle Beach.
We left Lotte and Richard's house around 10:00, on what was going to be another very cold day in South Carolina (though not nearly as cold as the day before). After getting through a minor delay caused by a fire at a shopping center, a mile down the road, we headed out of the city and into the beautiful countryside.
Like Georgia, the South Carolinian countryside was full of old plantation-style homes, interspersed with newer brick homes. Among the ruins of old homesteads were new red barns and grand farmhouses, with pillared porches and shutters on the windows. Each little community that we passed through had churches of every denomination, with tall spires reaching into the sky and little graveyards behind them. And yes, each little community had its "used car lot" - the one piece of property in which the owner keeps a junkyard of old, rusted out cars from which he sells parts to those who need them.
Okay, so it wasn't the most picture-perfect scene, not like our little drive outside of Athens on Saturday, but it was still very beautiful.
There was one thing in particular about the landscape that fascinated me. As we drove along the highway, we noticed that there were dense forests of tall pine trees, packed in so close together that it seemed impossible for any light to touch the forest floor. These forests alternated with smaller forests that were equally dense, but the trees were only a few feet tall. We guessed that these were logging farms; when the trees were mature enough, they would be chopped down, and a new forest would be planted in its place.
We reached Lake City around 11:30 a.m. - and just in time, too, because Mary had awakened from her nap and was hungry! We stopped at the local McDonalds, where we ate a hearty lunch then let Mary wear herself out on the playground outside.
It took us another hour and a half to get to Myrtle Beach after our stop in Lake City, during which time Mary slept a little bit more. It was a good thing that she did, too, because we got stuck in traffic as we entered the city! Driving on US 501 is not much different that driving in Prescott Valley, because the speed limit is sixty, but there is a traffic signal located at every mile…and we hit every single one of them red! Then, to make matters worse, we had to pass through a construction zone, too! What a relief it was when we finally emerged from the heavy traffic and arrived at the ocean!
We parked the car near the Pavilion, the amusement park near the ocean. John had been telling me about the Pavilion, that he had spent a lot of time there with his family when he was younger and that he hoped we would be able to go there during our visit. At first glance, it looked like a lot of fun…but when we looked closer, we discovered that it was closed. Apparently, it was a seasonal operation, and it was not due to open until March 9! We were four days too early.
Though we were a little dismayed, we did not let that ruin our visit. After all, this was the first time that Mary and I had ever seen the Atlantic Ocean. As soon as we parked the car, we put Mary in the stroller, and the three of us walked across the street to the beach. Even though it was cold outside - and Mary does not like the cold - she immediately perked up as soon as she saw where she was. Suddenly, she couldn't wait to get out of the stroller, so that she could go and play in the sand! We took her out of the stroller and let her walk down to the beach by herself, and she did so eagerly, laughing as she went.
We only spent a few minutes on the beach - just long enough for Mary to get sand in her diaper. Then, we went for a walk along Ocean Boulevard, where we did a little bit of souvenir shopping. We bought tie-dye T-shirts for both Mary and Joshua in one shop and looked at gifts for Lotte and Richard in some of the others. By the time we were finished, it was time for us to check into our hotel, so we got back into the car and drove away.
We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, where we had an oceanfront room with a nice view through the huge picture window. Once were settled into our nice room, I suggested that we go down to the beach, so that Mary could play with her shovel and bucket, a gift from Aunt Lotte. After gathering up our stuff, we took the elevator down to the lobby and went through the back door, towards the beach.
Even though the wind was blowing and it was even colder outside, Mary didn't seem to mind at all as she sat down in the sand and shoveled sand into her bucket or tossed it up into the air. Each time she did so, she laughed out loud, for she was having the time of her life! To Mary, there was nothing finer than sitting in a gigantic sandbox, crushing sandcastles with her bare hands and eating fistfuls of sand, just to see what it tasted like.
When she got bored of playing with her bucket and shovel, she and John decided to play catch. John tossed her a red plastic ball, which flew right past her and landed a few feet behind her. Mary turned around to look for it, and as she went to go get it, the wind caught it and caused it to roll down the beach, away from us. For the next five minutes or so, she chased that ball as it rolled away from her. Each time she caught up to it, she would either accidentally kick it, or another gust of wind would catch it, causing it to roll away from her again. The scene was so comical that all three of us were laughing hysterically before she finally caught the ball and brought it back to John.
John and Mary spent about an hour on the beach, playing in the sand. As for me, I was only able to stay down there for about thirty-five minutes before I had to rush back up to the room, because I had forgotten my jacket. My arms were frozen by the time I reached our room, so I stayed up there and watched the ocean and John and Mary playing from the window. It was only a few minutes of downtime, but it was just enough to relax before they returned to the room.
That evening, we ate dinner at Restaurant Row - a group of restaurants located off of the Interstate, about eight miles from our hotel. We chose a nice steakhouse, where we enjoyed a prime rib and lobster dinner with a nice bottle of wine. Quite satisfied, we then returned to our hotel to take advantage of its amenities - namely, the indoor pool.
I had, of course, prepared for all kinds of weather, from rain to shine, and had even packed our swimsuits in case we had a chance to use them. Obviously, it was too cold for us to wear them on the beach, so we were in luck to learn that the Sheraton had an indoor pool. Upon returning from dinner, we changed clothes then headed downstairs in search of the pool.
We took the elevator to the second floor, and from there, we followed the signs down a flight of stairs, to the pool. When we arrived, we found that the pool was already occupied by a woman and her two and a half year-old son. The woman was from Tennessee, as she told us, and she had been taking her boy to swimming lessons since he was six months old. She told us a lot of other stuff about the child, too, which lead us to believe that some people are just too friendly.
It took some time before we could get Mary to feel comfortable in the pool. As soon as we entered the pool with her, she became terrified of the water and cried - that surprised us, because the pool was like bath water! It was wonderful! Eventually, we were able to get her to calm down. John began bouncing with her in the water, which she completely enjoyed; and, after that, she started splashing and laughing - all was okay.
Just before bedtime, we left the pool and returned to our room, where we all settled down for the night. Unfortunately, it was the first of several restless nights in a row for Mary, as she started coughing in her sleep...
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