Solace at the Sea, and Travel Planning

Even though I had meetings that went until almost 6 pm yesterday, Lee and I vowed to have at least a little fun at the beach. And the late afternoon is a wonderful time to go out and enjoy the water. We even went in! I had on a hat and t-shirt, so I didn’t go deep, but I got soothed by the salt water, anyway.

This is an unusual place to wade, thanks to the weird currents that keep the red flag flying at the lifeguard station. It alternates between being very shallow, then there’s a trench a foot deeper. If you successfully negotiate the trenches, you can get pretty far out and not even be waist high.

You can see how far out the people behind Lee are.

We had a wonderful stroll down the beach, where I had a good time looking for little beach fish (the water was crystal clear today, not all churning with stirred up sand and shells like it was earlier). It was fun watching the patterns of water as they flowed from low areas.

I think there are people prints, bird prints, and dog prints here by the outflow area.

As always, the gulls were entertaining. They seem unafraid of people, but not as obnoxious as some of the ones I remember in Fort Lauderdale. They enjoyed the little pools, too.

They flew all around Lee, too, which made him laugh a lot. We’ve been laughing a lot this week. This time alone together without the stresses of day-to-day chores has been really great.

That’s our building reflected in the shiny Sea Glass building.

After our nice, long walk we managed to get to the pool bar just before it closed, where I got a hard-earned beverage with dark rum and ginger beer, and Lee got two Cuba Libres. Well, we don’t have any Coke in the room, now that we’re trying to use up everything, and what we had was Coke Zero (my vice). So, to get two drinks, he had to buy them both. He got some funny looks in the elevator.

This should get me through the elevator ride; it’s a long way up!

We enjoyed our final relaxing evening at the condo, and I made the most of the chaise-lounge (however you spell that) part of the couch, and cozily knitted away at the Lines and Lines shawl. I got through my fourth pattern repeat, and now that I see how it works, it’s a very relaxing and satisfying project.

I can’t stretch it out any more than this, but you can sure see the lines!

I have a good amount of yarn left on my first skein, so I’m sure I can get at least one more repeat before switching to the border that makes up the second half of the shawl.

We Have a Plan

I was sitting around last night, thinking about going home and not looking forward to the same interstate highway scenery, when I got to wondering how much longer it would take if we went on state and local roads? I plugged it into the Maps app and here’s what I discovered:

Two travel options

We were going to take three days, anyway, so this adds less than two hours to each day of travel. We will get to see Montgomery and Selma in Alabama, which are historically interesting, plus we go through the center of Louisiana, where I’ve never spent much time. I brought the idea up to Lee, and he was sold immediately. We both LOVE looking at small towns.

By taking this alternate route, we will have a fun weekend of driving, and I won’t have to do too much work tomorrow, since I got so much of my writing stuff done already. I’m looking forward to heading back to Texas and seeing new things. Then I’ll be home and get to see both familiar and new things. Hooray for the weary travelers.

Thanks for reading, and for those of you who give it a try, thanks for listening to the podcast version.

I May Have Become Boring, But I Have Updates!

It appears that I have become extremely boring, or maybe I’ve always been, but people figured it out. I’m just joking around, but I was sad to see only 11 people looked at my post yesterday. I don’t think I’ve had so few hits since I was first starting out! It’s okay, because I found the information on black folks and swimming useful, and I’ll have all the links shared on the blog so I can find them again!

Honestly, I find myself boring right now, since I work until so late that there’s no way to go do much interesting afterward (because work is an hour behind me, so their 5 pm is my 6 pm). You can only post so many photos of the view of the ocean. It’s still there, though. Lucky for us, we went back to the German/Austrian restaurant last night, so I can share how pretty our beer glasses were. Lee appears to be in love with his beer. I got the same dark Hefe that I had last week. I think that may be my favorite kind of beer now.

I love my beer.

I ate some brats and sauerkraut, which was darn good comfort food, and splurged on an apple strudel dessert. That’s the only dessert I’ve had since we’ve been here (other than a little ice cream from the grocery store)! Lee says we’ve become old people, because he was displeased to miss the news and Jeopardy last night. We’ve become the people all those drug ads are aimed at. Help!

Since I didn’t do much other than work and knit yesterday, let me be more interesting and share that, despite a week of rain and more rain, the fencing for Apache and Fiona is moving along. It appears that the fabrication stage of all the fence posts is over, and the installation stage has begun. Apache will have a larger place to hang out than he’s in now, but one that will be easy to keep free of lush grazing.

This picture tells all. It’s rainy, Carlton has stayed glued to the nephew all week, and soon the portable round pen will be a round pen, not cattle fencing! In the far background by the RV, you can see a LOT of fencing material ready to be used.

One good thing about all the rain is that indoor activities had to be done, so all the burned-out can lights throughout the downstairs at the ranch house got replaced. Kathleen says it’s like the sun’s shining in there now. That has to perk everybody up! I’m so grateful to see how well things are being cared for in our ridiculously long absence. I guess it’s our turn to leave and never get to come home. (I assure you, we are GOING home on Friday; gas situation is good now.)

Here’s another H-brace that’s up. Looks like we have yellow flowers blooming now. Sniff. I miss my ranch.

Other than that, I’m happy that all’s well with our business. Since the restrictions are lifting, we seem to be getting more clients, and we got some new caregivers, too, thanks to an amazing job fair that Kathleen, Meghan, and I’m sure some others put together last week. The Hearts Homes and Hands team is a bunch of incredible people, and Lee and I are so grateful for the very hard work Kathleen and the crew are doing. I did my part by explaining how personal assistance services work to a coworker who needs one for his mother. He can’t be our client, but maybe he can recommend us to someone else!

It’s off to work for me, and apologies for being so dang boring! It’s not boring at home, though, because yesterday’s sunset was beautiful. I’m so glad people posted lots of photos on Facebook. Here’s the one I was sent from the ranch. Thanks to the family for sending it! I miss you!

Sunset May 18

Pivoting…Again

I don’t have a lot of perky photos for this post, but I have to say I am proud of me and Lee. We had to pivot again, because we are still worried about finding enough gas to get back to Texas. That pipeline is only going five miles per hour, and the situation where we are and between here and home is still getting worse.

Early morning beach view with footprints.

So, here we will be, looking at the ocean, but not getting to do much, since I’m working this week. I’m glad, in a way, that we delayed, because I was not looking forward to three days of trying to get stuff done from a moving vehicle, no matter how nice that vehicle is. And this way we will miss the flash flooding at home (yay for rain, though).

Lee is restocking the food for me while I try to figure out how to do the work I’m supposed to be doing. At least I have a challenge to put my mind to! That will keep me from missing the dogs, Apache, Fiona, and the chickens so much. Oh, and the humans at home, too. I’m sure glad we have them to help out!

Even the sky is appearing to pivot today. Will it rain or will it be sunny?

My meager update is that yesterday we went for a walk on the street behind the beach. We won’t do that again. It’s pretty darned scummy, dirty, and a bit like one long, bad, carnival midway. Every other shop offered henna tattoos, which seem to be very popular with black teens. The other shops alternated between CBD stores, regular t-shirt stores, air-brushed t-shirt stores, and unappetizing foods. I don’t think they designed this stretch of entertainment venues for me, but lots of people seemed to be enjoying it.

Lee points out one advantage of being here. You can put a bag of chips on the floor and NOTHING happens to them!

Most of yesterday I hung around the pool in the shade, with hot tub visits when it emptied out. It was all quite fine and quiet. That let Lee concentrate on business, finances, selling properties, and such. He’s always working, just like Kathleen, at least when she’s not injuring herself, the poor dear!

Looking forward to more walking around after work, until then, it’s a Monday, all right?

Knitting My Way to Calabash

In addition to all that reading, I’ve been knitting the last few days. Today, after playing on the beach and hot tubbing (it was finally empty), Lee and I decided to explore the area north of us. I brought my new Lines and Lines project along with me.

Proof I actually sat on the sand.

We didn’t have any destination in mind, but when I saw Calabash, NC on the map, I suggested we go there. You see, the number of restaurants here in Myrtle that advertise Calabash seafood rivals the number of pancake restaurants (well, there are LOTS more pancake places truth be told). We figured we should see what all the fuss was about at the source.

Bargains galore

We went the scenic route, which means we were accompanied by our Bike Week friends. There were so many cool bikes, trikes, and Can-Ams. As long as we weren’t trying to converse, it was fine. And we enjoyed seeing some residential areas, golf courses, and boats. North Myrtle Beach is pretty. We bypassed the Little River blue crab fest, which was crowded, but it looked like a nice town. (Milam County humor: we couldn’t find an Academy store, which would have been a good photo op. You see, we have a place called Little River-Academy in our county.)

Calabash

And Calabash was everything I’d hoped it would be. It’s cute, quaint, small, and friendly, with much shopping if I can go there with Kathleen or Anita. There are fishing boats everywhere, which explains the concentration of large seafood restaurants. We lucked out, though, and I found the oldest of the restaurants, the Dockside Seafood House.

The dock, as viewed from the restaurant patio.

This place has been open since 1955, in contrast to the big new ones nearby. And in line with us waiting for it to open were mostly locals, not tourists. Suna for the win!

I enjoyed watching birds while we ate our seafood. A bald eagle flew by. Red-wing blackbirds were feeding babies. Gulls were fighting, while pelicans majestically flew back and forth.

Oh yes, Calabash is a way to lightly fry seafood. My oysters were quite good, but the scallops (not fried) were better. I’m glad a local guy recommended it. Lee liked his clam chowder so much he ordered a pint to take back. And the oyster stew I had reminded me of my mom’s.

We left with huge smiles on our faces, and took the quieter route back so I could enjoy my knitting. I’m through two pattern repeats, and am impressed how the same stitches make horizontal stockinet stripes on one side, and vertical on the other.

Interesting pattern.

It will be more obvious once blocked. Here are close-ups of each side.

Yeah, maybe the wrong yarn, but I like it.

Now that I have the hang of the pattern, it should go pretty quickly. I guess this shawl is for Kathleen, since it’s her yarn from Blue Mule Fiber. This will be way nicer than what I originally started.

Evening beach.

I’m so glad that I am easily amused. I always have a book, a craft project, or some nature I want to look at!

What’s keeping you going?

Nature Is the Best Medicine

I’m feeling a little better, and it’s for two good reasons: I got out in nature AND I got to eat something, finally, at 2 pm (oops, one should remember to eat). I should have known spending all day cooped up in the condo yesterday wasn’t the best thing for my delicate sensibilities.

Seeing a real beach bunny would cheer anyone up!

We finally drug ourselves out of the house, and I told Lee I had to eat before we went to a park. That was harder than you’d think, because most of the restaurants on the west side of the main road closed during COVID. We eventually did a U-turn and decided it was about time to eat at one of those pancake restaurants.

A trip back in time.

The first open one we found was the Plantation Pancake House, which made me just as uncomfortable as attending Plantation High School did, but, to be honest, the restaurant IS on a former plantation. What a charming, nostalgic place this was. It opened in the early 70s, and I don’t think there’s been any redecorating since then. However, it was sparkling clean and had lovely healthy hanging plants throughout.

Not pancakes

Our food was all freshly cooked by the very nice cook (I know this, because he was chatting with customers and hugging the servers). But what made me feel like I had gone back in time was how the staff interacted. They were so incredibly cheerful and helpful, toward patrons and each other. They seemed to truly like working there, like each other, and have pride in the restaurant. Watching the servers all cleaning and straightening the restaurant at the end of the day was a real pleasure. This was simply a nice, family place who treats the staff well (and they were old, young, black, white, and Hispanic).

After the victuals, we headed just a couple of miles down the road (not wanting to waste gas) and arrived at Myrtle Beach State Park. We had a blast at this place, which is the last piece of natural beach left on the Grand Strand. We first checked out the nature center, which was very entertaining, with aquariums and terrariums, plus a real friendly volunteer to chat with. We got to see a whelk out of its shell trundling along, a couple of types of crabs, and a beautiful rat snake. We spent a LOT of time at their really nice bird feeders, too. Click to see larger and uncropped photos.

Lee and I then embarked on a tour of all the heavily wooded nature trails. I was reminded of how incredibly varied the native hardwood forests on the east coast originally were. There were oaks, pines, cherries, sycamores, magnolias, dogwoods, hickories, and even native olives. It smelled so nice and woodsy. Click to see the pictures larger.

We enjoyed the smaller plants, too, and were happy to see ducks, turtles, skinks, and a lot of different kinds of dragonflies and damselflies. There were wetlands as well as drier parts, which gave me a chance to see so many new and familiar things. And the park is so well done! They have signs on the trail marking many of the common plants, with some facts about them. That really adds to the enjoyment, I think.

This was exactly what I needed for healing: nature to touch, feel, hear, see, and smell. You could still hear the motorcycles, but you could also hear dozens of kinds of birds. I did get surprised when fighter jets took off from the nearby airport. Those things are loud.

We are two happy campers now, and I happen to know Lee is going to get even happier later tonight! Stay tuned…

Time to Pivot!

It’s been gloomy and uncharacteristically cold over here on the Eastern Seaboard today. I think it’s a record cool day. But, that’s okay. We always have something to do. One of the things I had to do today was pivot on our plans and see if we can stay here at the ole condo longer than planned, to allow for the issues with fuel in this part of the country to settle down a bit.

People are so weird. They are lining up for gas, including putting dangerous amounts of it in their cars! We have the Gas Buddy app, so we’ll be able to find it, but still, driving a little later sounds like a good plan. I’m sort of ready to be gone, but this means maybe I can go to that state park later in the week, after all.

I’ve been working a bit today (you know, things come up), so I won’t feel too bad trying to work while driving again. At the moment, I could only get two extra days, but the guy at the desk said he bets people will be canceling their arrivals and we can maybe get another couple of days in. It won’t cost any more money up front, just cut down on future vacations. I’m glad I have a lot to knit and a lot of reading material!

Lee and I made it through the drizzle to get to eat at a seafood place on the pier near the condo for a late lunch, so at least we got outside.

Oh, look, a Ferris wheel.

I later wandered around the building to get some exercise and had a long talk with the bartender (who had no business at all). She’s going to graduate with an MA in education, and is all set to teach English at the local high school. It felt so good to be able to tell her how proud I am of her for choosing that career path and how much of an impact she will have on young people. It’s the kind of thing I wish I could tell my son. I love it that she said she never wants to be wealthy, just have meaningful work. Ahhh. A young woman after my own heart.

Oh look, a Ferris wheel.

The only other fascinating observation I have today is that this place is crazed for small and large amusement parks. I can see three Ferris wheels from this building! I’ll go into that more later, but did want to share all the amusements I can see without going outside.

This is the small but shiny amusement park they’ve been working on behind the condo. Looks like they are trying to get it open for Memorial Day. By the way, we better be LONG gone before then; apparently it’s wild then.

I hope your life is good, and that if you need to pivot, you’re able to do so with grace and good humor.

Another Post about Birds, Beaches, and Beauty

Judging from my stats, people are getting tired of my beachy posts about nature in South Carolina. Unfortunately, that’s all I have right now, since the rest of my brain is in total shutdown mode, which has not made me popular with folks who want me to do things. But, I needed a break.

So, today was a real vacation day! Lee and I went on a long boat tour to North Island, an uninhabited place an hour by boat from Georgetown, from where we embarked. It was most definitely NOT a fancy boat, but it did the job.

It’s ocean worthy!

We were promised lots of bird sightings, and we did get those, though on the way out to North Island, the water was a bit choppy for photography. I did learn my lesson last time, and got a seat near the front of the boat. That meant a bit of splash got on us, but if you’re on a small boat, you need to expect to get wet at some point!

These guys were holding still, though.

They had a naturalist doing the narration, and she was not as cheesy as the previous tour guide was. She did have a few ghost stories, since she’s written three books on it, but really had a lot of interesting history of the area to share. There’s some old stuff in this area! She also shared a lot of information about rice plantations, so I feel full of the knowledge.

We eventually got to the island and embarked on an excursion on the beach. I found one really nice shell, then got sort of dazed by how many colors of oysters they have on that beach, and I did get a few of those.

A variety of oysters, cockle shells and a whelk or something. I am not a shell person.

I was there more to look at living things, and I was not disappointed at this interesting beach. I’m glad I wore my sandals, because the beach was littered with jellyfish, but also had a lot of fascinating patterns of water, since it was low tide. The most beautiful things I saw were blue crabs, though. We had a lot of fun looking for them among the rocks in the jetty. There was lots of seaweed, barnacles, and other interesting stuff. The weirdest thing, though, was this area of clay, really slippery clay. I am going to have to look up what’s up with that.

I really enjoyed watching the crabs crabbing along and interacting with each other. They are so blue! I also found a number of hermit crabs in moon shells, but I put them back in the water before taking any photos. I sure hope no one picked those up thinking they were empty, because they are in for some bad smells, and bad karma, I guess.

Blue crab under ripples. So beautiful

Of course, I wanted to find birds. I don’t think I ever saw so many pelicans in my life, and they were a lot of fun, splashing, diving, swimming, and flying.

Brown pelicans having fun

There were also many gulls, particularly laughing gulls, who were also swooping, diving, and swimming. They were quite loud. They are entertaining and beautiful birds.

Whee, gulls on patrol.

There were also many beautiful shore birds, but we didn’t see egrets and herons on the island (there were plenty on the beaches near the old rice fields, though). I think there were sandpipers and plovers, including another black plover.

There was one more bird we were promised a sighting of, and that was the bald eagle. You can sure tell they are on the comeback trail, because we saw multiple birds (plus a couple of ospreys and one juvenile bald eagle). No, these are not great pictures, but that’s all the ole iPhone X can manage.

It was nice to just ride along and look at the scenery, even though it wasn’t a really beautiful day or anything. I haven’t been on boats in the ocean but one other time, when Anita and I took that tour of marshes. I enjoyed the relaxation aspect of being on the water as much as anything else.

Oh wait, I forgot we got to see this lighthouse, which is still doing its duty, and has for hundreds of years. There is a lot of OLD stuff here.

Even the loud motorcycles didn’t ruin my mood. Going to the island was a really different and pleasant activity. I’m going to share a couple of more photos, just because the island was so ruggedly beautiful.

Driftwood

I hope this day brought you some peace and focus.

Weathered beach

Dolphins and Mother’s Day Wishes

My patience paid off! I have been scanning the ocean from our room every day since we got to Myrtle Beach. I mentioned before that it was oddly empty of…anything. Slowly, but surely, more things have showed up. I saw a couple of yachts, a kayak, and sailboats yesterday, and today there are parasailing boats, sailboats, jet skis and all sorts of activity. Maybe today is the first official day of “the season” or something.

What I was actually looking for all that time was dolphins. I knew they were there, but all I saw was a glassy sea. Today, though, I saw something black out there. I figured it was a sea duck or something, so I grabbed the binoculars (so glad I brought them) to check.

This time, there are dolphins in that glassy expanse.

There was at least one, and maybe two pods of dolphins out there, playing and jumping. At one point, three of them were jumping together. It was mighty fine entertainment! I had a blast, and I felt like it was my Mother’s Day gift from my Mom and Mother Nature. What a full heart I had watching those families playing together!

The black dot in the center is a dolphin heading down. Obviously I couldn’t get a real photo, since they were way out there.

It’s Mother’s Day in the US as I mentioned. It’s been hard since my older son stopped speaking to me, but I think he knows I love him anyway. Maybe I’ll hear from the other one today! I liked the new Facebook background that showed up today, of love cactuses. That’s how family is; you love them, even if it’s prickly.

My sentiments.

Sometimes you lose loved ones, they don’t appreciate you, they don’t understand your motives, or they have challenges that make loving hard for them. I’m sending love to all of them, as well as to my own loved ones I don’t understand. I’m no saint about it, myself!

I did enjoy mothering my kids!

Hug someone you’re allowed to safely hug today, and enjoy whatever gift Mother Nature brings to you, my friends!

Who Hates Changing Email Addresses?

Um, that would be everyone, right? I’ve known I’ve needed to do it for quite a while, since we downsized our real estate work and parted (as good friends) from our Hermit Haus Redevelopment partners. Eventually all that internet stuff will get retired, though I need to figure out a way to archive our blog and photos of our work.

My reward for boring as heck work.

I’ve never liked using Gmail but it’s the best option for right now. My presence at Hearts Homes and Hands is very minimal, since I’m not beloved in all parts of our community. I’m no longer too concerned about it. Life at the ranch is good, and that’s what counts! Anyway, I’d only use that email account for business.

Speaking of the ranch, this will grow up to be the arch going over our cattle guard or second gate. It’s happening!

Still, it has boggled my mind when I realize how many logins, sign-ins and account names are tied to your email address! I spent hours this morning changing things, and I’m nowhere near finished. But, it had to be done, and I certainly don’t have many expanses of unbooked time at home!

After I at least got my major accounts and lists switched over, I tediously went through my Gmail account and deleted spam and ads from 2015 until today. 20,000 plus emails. Fun times. I didn’t want to delete them all, since there might be personal email in there. Yep, my sister, my friend Pamela, and two others had been sending me things I never saw.

I’d rather have been at the pool!

Actually, that’s what prompted moving at this exact time. My sister, who is the latest person to say they are going to the Farm in Yorktown for a weekend and not returned, texted me to “check email.” Nothing like a cryptic text to get me concerned, you know? But I couldn’t find anything on my work or personal accounts. Was something wrong? Did I mess something else up? Finally I looked at Gmail. Whew. There was a message there. I’d forgotten to send some money in our confusing travel stuff.

All, right, I said, it’s time to start using that account and phasing the other one out. Once I figured out how to delete everything from a particular sender, it was only slightly unbearable. And at least I could look out at the ocean while deleting. It was fun mass deleting email from presidential candidates who won one and l0st another election. Quite a trip through time.

I’d rather have been in the ocean. Yes I went in. No jellyfish got me.

Now I have that account organized and set up to store email right. Still, I have to figure out what stuff I get on Hermithaus I want to keep getting. And I have to figure out why the new signature I made refuses to show up. This is why I didn’t want to embark on this task. Ugh

But, I’m at the beach, in the shade, and drinking a drink out of a bucket. And my ranch family is busy planning a swimming pool.

Everyone is saying my obligations can wait, so today is just Beach Day. Hope you’re doing well and handling what can be a hard weekend for some of us.

Pancakes: The Odd Thing about South Carolina Dining Out

Yeah, many towns look exactly alike, with the same stores, same shopping areas, and same restaurants. But, still, you can find interesting local differences if you pay attention. Here are some random things we’ve been noticing in South Carolina.

A Pancake and Waffle Obsession

Apparently, these are most beloved. Photo by @lorenklein via Twenty20

There are many restaurants around the US that specialize in pancakes and waffles. However, I’m pretty sure this part of South Carolina has the most pancake/waffle eating options of any place, or at least of any place I’ve been. The Waffle House chain has been around a long time (why, since 1955, according to the website), and you see them at many highway exits and such. But, here, in a 30-something mile stretch of one highway, I saw five of them. Then I looked on the Google Maps. Whoa.

That’s a lot of waffle houses.

You don’t have to go far for a waffle anywhere in this region. And by the way, this is making a person who hasn’t had breakfast really hungry. Too bad I’m tied to my headphones (I started this post while waiting for no one to show up to my early book club AGAIN).

So, waffles are made in a waffle-maker appliance, while pancakes (or flap-jacks or many other names) are cooked on a griddle or large pan. Thus, “pan” cakes. I get it now. The people of northern South Carolina, or perhaps it’s the tourists coming TO northern South Carolina) apparently consume a lot of these.

MMM, absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, the perfect American food. Photo by @shanti via Twenty20

Usually in the US, you see IHOP, which used to be the International House of Pancakes, but modernized its name, just like KFC is no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken. Fine, try to hide your roots! I can recall my brother really liking chocolate chip pancakes from there, while I always wanted some exotic “international” crepe or something. I actually still like to eat there once in a while, because I like their coffee and breakfasts, which come with a small number of pancakes that won’t kill me.

Heavens, that’s a lot of pancakes.

Here, though, there are so many pancake options you could eat at a different one for a couple of weeks without repeating. People here must really love pancakes, or maybe they just eat breakfast a lot, since they’re all on vacation.

I also notice that other restaurants, like Cracker Barrel, focus on pancakes in their local signs, though I keep missing my photo ops.

Closest pancake to where we are staying.

I’ll probably never figure this one out. But it’s got me looking for pancake and waffle restaurants everywhere! Austin has taco places on every corner. Cameron has Mexican restaurants. What’s overly abundant where you live?