Category Archives: South Carolina

Days 3 & 4 – Sea, sun, & salt

South Carolina is not a bad place to be in the winter time, especially if you’re from New Hampshire and have a generous notion of what constitutes “warm”.   High temperatures have been around 70 degrees yesterday and today, which is just fine by us.  The sun is unexpectedly strong too – as evidenced by my bright red lobster legs.
Seagull & pelican
We are staying at the Sea Pines Resort way out at the end of Hilton Head Island.  It covers a large amount of territory, all of it crisscrossed with bike paths and surrounded by ocean.  Our first order of business, upon arriving yesterday, was to hop on the bikes and find our way to the beach.  It was high tide and there was only a thin ribbon of sand down at the tip of South Beach, but we had a nice walk to the breakwater and the girls were able to work on their shell collections.

We’re staying near the South Beach Marina, which is a quaint little village (“Just like New England!” the reservations lady gushed) way down at the end of Sea Pines, and home of the famous Salty Dog Café.  I thought it would be nice to have a little town with shops and restaurants within easy walking distance – but had not reckoned on how quiet this place is in February.  We were almost the only people out and about when we walked down there after dinner, and found much of it was closed.  We did get to see some cool tropical birds inside Jake’s Cargo, and luckily found that the Salty Dog ice cream parlor was in operation (though I can’t imagine why since I think we were the only customers all night).
Macaws and parrot in the middle of a souvenir shop
Today was a wonderful day.  Bob and I went for a run along the beaches and bike paths, then we all headed out for the day.  Based on the weather forecast this was to be the warmest day, so we headed for the beach.  This time it was low tide, and there was a huge strip of exposed beach.  The beaches here are very hard-packed, and so are wonderful for bike-riding.  The bikes they rent down here have fat tires and a single gear, and are just right for riding on the flat sand.  Within five minutes of arriving we were watching a dolphin swim just a short way offshore.
Of course, after a few miles of riding, the girls had worked up a sweat and it didn’t take them long to dive into the water.  The locals, dressed in their sweatpants and windbreakers, looked on in horrified fascination.  I could only shrug and say, “We’re from New Hampshire”.  At fifty degrees, the water wasn’t much colder than Hampton Beach in midsummer.

We rode home on the inland bike paths, making a stop at Lawton Stables.  Nadia’s dearest love is horses, and the stables also has a petting zoo with various farm animals – plus a friendly deer that’s free to roam around.  (Helpful tip: if you are going to a petting zoo and want to get lots of attention (in the form of licking) from the animals, it is a good idea to go for a swim in the salty ocean first.)  We also spied several gators lounging around the various lagoon and canals, but we did not attempt to pet those.
Our package here included a $50 coupon for a fancy restaurant.  We did some research and found that they had a children’s menu, so spruced ourselves up as best we could and headed over to Harbour Town, the center of Sea Pines.  The Topside Waterfront is on the second floor at the base of the iconic Harbour Town lighthouse, and we got a corner table looking out over the ocean in both directions.  We needn’t have worried about the kids, since we were pretty much the only people in the restaurant – also, kids don’t get to antsy in restaurants if they can watch a beautiful sunset and frolicking dolphins while waiting for their food.
Air temperature: 68.  Water temperature: 50.
From Bob:
This was a pretty predictable day.  The Sea Pines employee sitting on the rocking chair outside the Welcome Center yesterday proved it.  He overheard this conversation between me and Lanie as we sat on another two rocking chairs outside the Welcome Center:
Lanie: Do they have oak trees here?
Me: I think so. They have a special kind of oak tree here that grow really big and have lots of branches.
Lanie: Do they have maple trees here?
Me:  I’m not sure about that one.  We’ll have to keep our eyes open as we ride around and see if we spot any maples.
Lanie: We’ll have to see if they have any ferns, too.
Local fauna
Me: Yep.
Lanie: Do they have any pines?  Oh yeah, it’s Sea Pines!
Me: We can see some pines right here. And palm trees.
Lanie: I love palm trees.
The man looked at me and said, “You’re going to have a good time here.”
And so we have, looking at all the kinds of trees (not a lot of maples, though).  We’ve rode our smooth Beach Cruisers up the beach this morning, picnicked, rode across to the horse stables/petting zoo, then rode home on among the forest bike path.  It all got better as the day went on.

Friendly, salt-loving deer
Other things we could have told you yesterday:  the girls would go In the water, no matter how cold it was (of the hundreds and hundreds of people we saw on the beach today, only one person not in our family got in over their waist – virtually no one else went in even up to their ankles); we would cover a lot of ground (Jen hit her fitbit steps goal by early evening, even though fitbit does not recognize cycling as a worthy activity); we would wind up needing something we wished we brought from home (aloe lotion for sunburn — $8 a bottle).  

Days 1 & 2: Escape from the snow

This seems ill-advised.  Fortunately, I was not there to
spoil the fun.
We’re settled in here at the Sea Pines and we’ve started to get the lay of the Hilton Head.  As nice as it is, it may not live up to Watkinsville, GA, and our friends the Byers.   Of course the value of good friends is difficult to quantify, and the Byers’ hospitality was top-notch.  But it really was Abby the puppy who stacked the deck. 
Unlike Lanie, Zoe and Nadia managed to successfully
clear the stream.
The girls spent the last day and a half frolicking in the woods behind our hosts’ home with their friends Riley, Cole and Connor, and with Abby the dog.  The tree house and trampoline were barely touched, but the stream and ravine were thoroughly explored and the grove of bamboo was harvested for building materials.  At some point Riley offered up an “arcade” with real prizes (Lanie garnered a fistful of candy and Nadia is taking home a prized ice cream scoop with a handle fashioned like a pig).  They seem to have developed a few new types of tag along with a game that consists of jumping from the six-foot bank of the ravine over the river onto the sandy shore beyond.  Lanie does not seem to have the leg strength to carry her all the way over the stream.  Luckily, she took her sisters’ advice and put on her bathing suit for this game.

Saturday was devoted largely to travel — including a 6 am bus ride from Portsmouth to Logan, a two-hour flight to Charleston and a four hour drive into Georgia.   We appreciated seeing Tyra, Jeb, and their kids, and we definitely took to maneuvering around outside without stepping over snow banks, or without the need for boots, or even shoes in general.   We agreed when Zoe pointed out that the green grass and blooming trees gave us signals of May even though there’s a week left of February to go.
Sunday’s highlights included a trip to a small Zoo in Athens, then to the University of Georgia’s main campus, where all the kids spent about an hour climbing up inside a gigantic magnolia tree.  Athens is a true college town, with a beautiful campus and an active downtown offering many appealing lunch options.  We decided on pizzas at the Mellow Mushroom.
One highlight from the zoo was watching a bunch of ill-fated
crickets being fed to hungry frogs.
The big adventure of the day (perhaps it will eventually stand as the biggest adventure of the whole trip) was a walking excursion along and in the creek that runs through the Byers’ back yard.  Jeb said they had once before completed the trip from their house downstream to the junction with the Middle Oconee River.   It seemed like a fine idea until Lanie’s teeth started chattering.  She and Cole started running out of gas about two-thirds of the way to the big river, our way made more difficult than Jeb expected because of multiple trees that had fallen in the creek during last week’s ice storm.  We managed to follow the creek to the junction and then hike back via the high country (including some time walking on train tracks and a few cross-country treks across private property) and make it home in time for everyone to have a hot shower, eat some dinner and collapse into bed.

Lanie caught an escaped cricket, whom
she named “Hoppers” and carried around
for the rest of the day.  She was very
disappointed that I would not allow
 Hoppers in the car for the ride home.
Monday is an early morning for the Byers – 6:40 school bus for Riley and Cole.  As a result, we were on the road early and had a relatively uneventful four-hour drive to Hilton Head (second biggest adventure of the trip so far – lunch at Estill, SC’s China Town restaurant).   Without too much navigational trouble we made it to the Sea Pines resort and are ready for the good life.
From Jen:
When we realized our friends the Byers lived only four hours from Hilton Head, we gave our kids a choice.  We had promised them a week at a beach resort with very little driving.  We told them that instead we could spend the first couple of days with our friends, but it would involve 4+ hours in the car each way and NO COMPLAINING.  They didn’t hesitate for an instant – the unanimous decision was to detour to Georgia.
How many kids can you spy in this tree?
So, we’ve added another state to our list.  I think this means that the kids have now been in every state on the eastern seaboard except for North Carolina.  And due to Google’s very creative maneuvering (I think I must have accidentally checked off “Avoid towns of more than 1000 people” or something), we saw a fair amount of Georgia (and South Carolina) countryside. 
At the Mellow Mushroom.  Much less sketchy than China Town.
The “NO COMPLAINING” part didn’t entirely work out, but this was partially due to the fact that on both driving days we hit the lunch hour with nary a restaurant in sight.  Saturday, having stupidly passed up the Chile’s that was right outside the airport gates, we found ourselves, hours later, gratefully staggering into a combination Subway/Domino’s/gas station in some nameless small town.  En route back to South Carolina today, we had almost resigned ourselves to a gas station Blimpie’s when we spied a sign for a Chinese restaurant just off the main road.  This place appeared extremely sketchy, with a single employee eyeing us in a puzzled and suspicious manner and a single restroom with an “Out of Order” sign on it (which fortunately turned out to be a lie).  Zoe, who was starving and loves Chinese food, took one look at the place and said, “Maybe we should keep going.”  However, in the end it seemed to work out pretty well – there was no food that was actually prepared since there were no other customers at the time, so everything we got was fresh made.  It took a little longer, but I think improved the quality.  Also, no negative digestive repercussions as of this point.

In any case, all are agreed that the detour was well worth it.  Even if we had done nothing more than sit outside in the sunshine in short sleeves, catching up with friends and listening to the kids frolic in the stream out back, it would have been worth it.  And now, relaxed and invigorated, we can plunge into Phase II of this trip and hope it goes equally well

I could get used to this.