This is impossible. I can't seem to get started -- so much to tell, so much to show... All the while knowing there's no way I could ever do our trip justice. I know it sounds cheesy, but this really was the trip of a lifetime, and it was almost a lifetime coming. Sara and I have been talking about going to Athens for nearly two decades, and not only did we finally do it, we totally did it up by adding on other stops that relived our youth and all the fun and crazy times we've had together. And we know it's really special just to us, but maybe that's what makes it even more special.
Wilmington, not the town we expected. Myrtle Beach, a mere shadow of what it was in the era of beach music and Bermuda shorts. Athens we hardly got to know ya. But it was all still perfect, little slices of exactly what we hoped for, a step back in time, plans for the future. It really was the perfect way to celebrate turning 30. Sara, I’m honored to have made this journey with you, and I am so happy we can look forward to another 30 years together!
Can't Get There From Here
So this was a road trip, right? Well, let me tell you about the road in the south. It sucks. Thank god for Sara, our trusty navigator, and our multitude of maps. Didn't you print out directions, you ask? Why yes, we did. For each destination. Did it matter? NO! Not only were the mapquest directions insanely confusing and not totally accurate, every highway has 10 names, exits and turns aren't marked, and did I mention there's like one freeway in all of the south? Hello 400 stop lights! So while us Michiganders know you can chop at least 10 minutes off any mapquest time estimate, in the south, add an hour. And sometimes, when you accidentally go north instead of south, it may be 10 or 20 miles until you can turn around. Nonetheless, we always made our destination (eventually), never got totally lost, and somehow managed to amuse each other, even when our 5.5-hour trip turned out to be closer to 7 hours. Thank goodness for Road Trip Mad Libs, wherein we learned that you should always make sure your windshield butts are functioning wrongly and that you have some bottled whiskey and an emergency scab kit in your glove rooster before hitting the open road. Luckily, we didn't even think about getting behind the motel of the car without getting a hot night's sleep of at least 44 hours.
So guess what? Wilmington isn’t a beach town. Who knew? Ha! But, lucky for us, there is a beach town very nearby. Being the true explorers we are, we saw “beach” on the map and took a risk and just headed down the highway. The risk paid off, as there’s a really cute beach town (Wrightsville Beach) not too far down the road, so we still got our Dawson’s beach fix. As luck would have it, at the end of the town (yes, the town literally just ends!) we found a marshy/creeky area. We christened it Dawson’s Creek. While still in town, though, we had a lovely lunch at the waterside café that appeared as the Leery family’s restaurant. Now, we all know my gut issues, and know I should NOT be eating fried food. Especially on vacation. Especially at the start of vacation. BUT… I simply cannot risk a po’ boy… especially an oyster po’ boy. Do you think I have an iron will? Sheesh! I risked it… and boy did it pay off. So incredibly delicious. And I didn’t even get a stomach ache. Thanks for letting me enjoy Capeside, belly!
I’ve already posted about the main reason we went to Myrtle Beach… Shagging! And I’ve already hinted that MB just isn’t what it once was… BUT it was still fun to explore the Strand and find minor gems, like the Gay Dolphin (selling crappy souvenirs since the ‘40s), the original MB boardwalk, the cruisin’ strip from Shag, and, of course, the very much still alive shaggin’ scene. We are both inspired to learn some shag moves and cut a rug on the dancefloor someday. A helpful travel tip – don’t go to Myrtle Beach unless you want to shag and search out the Shag locale. Sara and I decided it’s the tackiest city we’ve ever visited – although Matt pointed out that we haven’t been to Virginia Beach. :)
What can I say? Athens was perfect. A smaller Ann Arbor, also a college town, intensely focused on music and art, a little more hippie and a little less yuppie. An adorable downtown, with lots of cute shops, cafes, and music clubs. People all around, not an abandoned storefront to be found. And, of course, oozing with REM history. It was also the Athfest last weekend, a festival to educate the masses about music and art, and believe it or not, the local art they were selling was reasonably priced. This was no outrageous AA art fair. Live bands for free on a big main stage, and nonstop shows at all the clubs all night. All local, and all awesome. For $5, we visited the legendary 40 Watt club and watched three of four scheduled bands perform. And did I mention all the REM history? Chock this up in the no-one-cares-but-us category, but it was SO COOL to photograph ourselves with the REM trestle from the Murmur back cover, eat BBQ at Weaver D’s and put a tip in the “Automatic for the People” tip jar, and order at the counter of the former Walter’s bbq where the band was photographed for one of their early magazine interviews. And we totally stalked some poor college kid trying to hang out on his porch with his girlfriend – but doesn’t he realize Michael Stipe once lived there? I texted Brad immediately and told him to plan on heading to Athfest with Matt and Sara next year. That is, if I don’t quit my job and move down there to be a rock star first.
Color me a 13-year-old Beatles fan. Sara, too. We clapped. We squealed. We giggled. We yelled. We sang our hearts out. Sara described the concert perfectly, so I won’t even try to top it. Check it out! It was completely and totally 100% perfect. It was like they knew we were there and wanted to make it as special of an experience as they could. I mean, come on… They sang “Fall on Me!” My love is renewed for the four, er, three funky dudes. I’m so sorry I ever strayed, guys. I heart you forever.
See, I told you I couldn’t do it justice. But hopefully I’ve made it clear how much fun we had, how perfect everything turned out. And hopefully we’ve inspired you to take a dream trip – trust me, you won’t regret it.
To end this, a few amusing leftover scraps…
“Daddy! I could work at Joe’s Crab Shack!” – young southern girl pleased with her crab-catching ability at the marsh
“You two are very attractive for 30!” – alleged 22-year-old Georgia boy trying to flatter us
“We went to the strip club last night. Those girls loved us!” – suspected high school boys trying to impress us
“CRACKER” – lovely tattoo across nazi boy strolling Myrtle Beach
Sam Adams is apparently an “import” beer in MB.
And, of course –If you’ve ever met me, you know I’ve got photos and captions to boot. So if you want to see the results of our REM tour, the locals shaggin, or all the yummy food we ate (most notably at Watershed, the Indigo Girls’ restaurant in Decatur [also see Sara’s blog for a full review!]), let me know and I’m happy to inundate you with photos.