Thanks to the generous help from our dear friend Matthew Whitenack, travel advisor at GothamGuru (www.gotham-guru.com), Russ and I just returned from a fabulous four-day mini-vacation at Surfside Beach, South Carolina. Situated just south of Myrtle Beach, Surfside bills itself as “The Family Beach” (which was completely ironic, as we used to vacation about an hour north of there with friends in Holden Beach, NC, which bills itself as the same thing). It’s not a party beach. No groups of motorcycles roaring up and down the strip at all hours. Actually, not much of a “strip” to speak of, either. But that’s what we loved about it. So laid-back!
We arrived around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday at our destination – the Surfside Beach Oceanfront Hotel – which we learned from friends, used to be a Best Western, and was the only hotel at Surfside for many years (now there are a couple of other hotels at the opposite end of the beach, too). The Surfside Beach Pier used to sit beside the hotel, but was damaged sufficiently enough a few years ago to warrant the building of a new pier, which is now in progress, and projected to take about three years according to one restaurant server we overheard on our trip. Our room became ready while we were checking in, so we were able to get checked in and on the beach for some late-afternoon fun in the sun before dinner that evening at Crabby Mike’s, a seafood buffet spot in town. It was a great buffet and I loved the fun-themed “storefronts” painted inside the restaurant. While we waited, the customer base entertained itself with hula hoops and karaoke. Fun for all!
On Monday, we hit the beach out back of the hotel by about 9:30, making a trip into town to secure beach chairs from the Family Dollar. Because, on Sunday evening, while we were stretched out on towels on the sand, we came to the important realization that our bodies do not adapt well to beach towels on sand, anymore, lol! (We are almost 50, and we were reminded of it on this trip!) Armed with chairs and with the essays for my class for Hindman, we stayed on the beach for quite a while that morning. We had found out on Sunday evening that a couple of friends from home were visiting family in Murrells Inlet, the next beach over, and they found us on the beach that morning and we made plans for dinner that evening. Russ and I decided to grab lunch a little later, and made our way next-door to Hyena Pizza, for some tasty, unique themed pizzas. Afterwards, we went back to the room to rest a bit before heading back out to the beach for some afternoon sun and fun. As a side note, that morning, we had lotioned each other’s backs and took care of our own fronts – what became painfully obvious is that we take better care of each other than we do ourselves! We could feel the radiating heat on our fronts the longer we sat out and decided that it wasn’t worth it to be miserable later, so we headed back up to the room after about two hours of playing in the water and drying off. We met Bram Massie and Christie Lawson-Massie in Murrells Inlet at a diner-type place called Highway 55 for dinner and had a great time catching up and hanging out. Bram and I graduated from high school together, and he was our senior class president, therefore in charge of all class reunions forever and ever (a running joke), and we worked on our 30th Reunion, together with a great committee in 2019. We talked about people neither of us had thought of in years, incidents past, and things probably best forgotten – and enjoyed every moment of it! When we got back to the hotel, we applied aloe vera liberally (and every time I got up for anything throughout the night, I repeated vigorously), and turned in after watching some illegal fireworks out on the beach.
Tuesday dawned cloudy, but we were down on the sand by 8:30, anyway, sitting in our chairs. Russ went for a swim while I read in discomfort. As the sun climbed higher in the sky, each of us sat, trying to shield our fronts from the heat’s source. After Russ put his shirt back on, I proposed that we pack it up and call it a day. It was supposed to rain later and I hated giving in to the burn, but again, we’re almost 50, and we’re coming around to the notion that it’s better to try to be comfortable than to seek adventure every minute of every day. We had lunch across the way at River City Café, which also had great atmosphere, and a wonderful breeze blowing through the second-story restaurant, out on the deck. Unfortunately, my stomach was upset – no fault of the food, just my stomach being weird because I haven’t eaten much friend food for so long – and I took my sandwich back to the room with us. We went back to the room and I fell asleep hard for about three hours. When I woke up, it was looking like the storms that had been forecast for the day, and there was some pretty lightning out over the ocean. So the beach was out. Instead, we opted to go back into town and tried our hands at bowling. Our first game, I bowled a 51; Russ beat me with 60. We both did a little better the second game – I started out with a strike, but it was still nothing stellar – and Russ won again. When we left the bowling alley, it still hadn’t really rained, so we went to a miniature golf course – Gilligan’s Island – where I finally won at something: I beat Russ by one stroke, with scores in the same neighborhood as our bowling scores, lol! We skipped going out to dinner, as we had leftovers from both Hyena and River City, back at the hotel. I tried to do most of my packing that night, so I could have the next morning down on the beach, if weather permitted.
I woke before dawn on Wednesday and watched the sun rising over the water from our balcony overlooking the pool and the hot tub at the hotel. Russ took a pass, but I needed to stretch my toes in the sand for a little bit longer and wade back out into the water a while before we left. I took my essays for class, too, due diligence in that department dictating that I try to finish before we left to come home. (I almost made it – I read the final essay in Rupert on the drive back.) I took more pictures that morning on the beach than I had taken the whole time, I think, because it was less crowded, and just absolutely stunning out there that early. Check-out was at 11:00, and we made it out before then. We stopped off at the post office to mail out a few post cards to family, and decided to have lunch before hitting the road. The first two places we tried were closed, but we finally hit it lucky the third try and popped in to Surfside Beach Pizza, where I had some of the best spaghetti and garlic bread I’ve had in a long time! We got home around 7:30 last night, ate our lunch leftovers for dinner, and that way, still held on to the magic of Surfside a little bit longer.
I have a deposit at the same hotel for August 1-4 with a friend. I’m hoping that all goes according to plan with that trip. Until then, I’m not shaking the sand from my water shoes because it makes me happy to think about going back. And to reflect on the fun that we had making our first memories together in a new place. Thanks again, Matt!