Sunday, July 7, 2019

Buzzing Around Myrtle Beach with Team Crabby

Ah, the beach! Ms. B. and I have had some mighty good times at the beach in recent days. And once again, our good friends BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry) & Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget) invited us, as well as friends Terry & Beth, to spend the Fourth of July weekend with them at their condo in North Myrtle Beach. We had intended to make the trip down at Memorial Day, but circumstances didn't allow for it at the time. I was a little leery of hitting Myrtle Beach over July 4th because... well, you know... 18-million-billion people, but in our undaunted wisdom or foolishness, we decided to brave the onslaught of humanity and sally forth. So, last week, Ms. B. and I packed up the necessary beach and geocaching gear, left our respective animals in very good hands, and, on Thursday at the ass-crack of dawn, hit the road in the Damned Rodan mobile. Heading down, we didn't stop for all that many geocaches, but at least I found a handful of nice ones. I took some serious back-back roads, so except for a short stretch around Chadbourne, SC, holiday traffic turned out to be a non-issue.

We arrived just about lunchtime, so after settling ourselves into Gerry & Bridget's condo, we hauled ourselves over to the nearby Ultimate California Pizza for... wait for it... pizza, and then across the courtyard to one of our favorite places ever, Coastal Wine Boutique for... wait for it... wine. It's pretty much the only place for a rather ridiculous radius where one can actually get very good (non-local) wine, and they do have some very nice wines.

In the same area, we have The Pepper Palace, home of the Wall of Flame Challenge, where one is given a little shot of super-hot sauce followed by a little shot of super-super hot horseradish. Well, of course I did the damned thing (I actually did this once before, I believe on my first visit to Barefoot with Gerry & Bridget). It was pretty hot, but nothing I couldn't handle with relative ease. Certainly not as painful as my favorite burger in the world—the Welsh Dragon Burger at The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville, not too far from here. Anyway, I enjoyed the heat, and I picked up some good hot BBQ sauce for my own good hot cooking.

After our outing, we made mellow at the condo until later in the evening, when we ventured forth to check out Barefoot Resort's fireworks extravaganza. Here, we did have to suffer a fair crush of humanity to procure a viewing space, but this we did, and our vantage point turned out to be pretty good. The show was fun, if not spectacular (earlier in the evening, someone in area had put on a show of their own, and, ironically, it was superior). We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and a regular application of wine kept our gears turning smoothly.
The Wall of Flame Challenge: before and after
Do not feed these beasts!
Friday morning, before the sun had climbed much above the horizon, I was awakened by a voice that sounded remarkably like Bridget's whispering, "Mark... Mark... Mark... Do you want to go geocaching?" About ten seconds later, I was dressed, with GPS in one hand and coffee in the other. Thus armed, I set out with BigG and Suntigres, and we rambled all around North Myrtle Beach, snagging caches wherever we might. Fortune failed to smile on us at a handful of them, so we ended up logging DNFs, but the good ones more than made up for the failures. The highlight of the outing was at Heritage Shores Nature Preserve along Cherry Grove Marsh, where we went after an exceedingly cool cache called "What's Up Dock?" (GC1M62B). Here, we encountered entertaining critters of all sorts, including fiddler crabs (by the thousands), a snake, cranes, egrets, cormorants, and kingfishers. The cache itself turned out to be a prime example of ingenious craftsmanship, and the preserve is one of the most striking in the area. Since we ended up mingling with so many crabs, we decided to call ourselves Team Crabby. Well, okay, so I decided to call us Team Crabby. Not that any of us are crabby. Ever. Nope.
Fiddler crab
View across Cherry Grove Marsh
Boardwalk that leads to the cache
While the three of us were caching, Brugger, Terry, and Beth remained at the condo to lounge at the pool. On our way back, a storm blew in, and a lightning bolt that was probably visible all the way to Barcelona struck quite nearby. We calculated at that point that our friends had just vacated the pool with all haste. Upon our return, they told us that when a lightning bolt that was probably visible all the way to Barcelona struck quite nearby, they vacated the pool with all haste. We understood.

By this time, hunger had reared its ugly head, so we decided to try out Greg Norman Australian Grill at Barefoot Landing. It's a nice enough spot, with classy ambiance and a reasonably upscale menu. Sadly, the service started out lacking, with no one attending to us for an unseemly long time. Apparently, none of the staff had informed the servers they had seated us. Anyway, they made reasonable amends. Our food proved excellent, the wine—Greg Norman's own label—fair. Overall, I'll give them a B, and I'd return when we're down that way.

At Coastal Wine Boutique, our personable and knowledgeable host had warned us that none of the nearby vino establishments served any serviceable dry wines—not that we really needed any warning, for this is Myrtle Beach—but we decided to gird our loins and try out Carolina Vineyards in Barefoot Landing, just because it was there and we are nothing if not dedicated and stalwart oenophiles. I mean, we have tried dry South Carolina wine before, and it is not to write home about, unless one is writing a horror novel. So... oh my lord... the dry wines here about sent us into hysterics because I don't know what that stuff was. In all fairness, most people around those parts prefer the sweet, refreshing wines, and if I drank sweet wines, I'd probably say Carolina Vineyards' sweets are more than adequate. I will admit that I quite liked their cherry chocolate wine slushy. And yes, I did, I did try a wine slushy, and you can just shut your mouth.

And after all that, although our lunch had been late, Bridget wanted us to head northward to Little River, where a haunted house-turned-restaurant/wine bar awaited our attention. Brentwood Restaurant, which supposedly has its share of ghosts, also has some fine alcoholic spirits and incredible food. We didn't eat much, but we did sample some excellent wine and what had to be the best escargot I've ever tasted (yes, I am a fan). We didn't see any ghosts, but I sure hope we have a chance to return in the not-too-distant future to sample a more sizable portion of their plentiful fare. It was easily my favorite dining establishment we experienced on this trip.
The mad photobomber strikes!
The haunted Brentwood Restaurant in Little River, SC
Our big ol' fun outing for Saturday was a Segway tour around North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex, which includes a lengthy and very scenic nature trail. Gerry and Bridget had ridden Segways before, but none of the rest of us had, so we had a trainer/guide named Garfield who showed us the ropes. Garfield did a fine job, to be sure. Even we tyros were up and going in no time, buzzing around the place with something like reasonable control of our machines.
Buzzing around the beach

Garfield led us around the park, first in the smooth, paved parking lot; then on grass, around the soccer field; and finally, on the nature trails, which in places turned out to be pretty rugged. I felt confident (not cocky) on the machine and fortunately handled the various terrain without mishap. Alas, a few other members of our party, including Ms. B., suffered a couple of damn-near serious woopsy-daisies. Happily, although a bit of blood spilled, the biggest casualty of the day was likely a few ounces of pride. I loved the whole business and, since Segway tours do run much closer to home, I hope our group can do one again (next time without anyone falling over).

To fill out the rest of the day, we had some vittles at Lulu's (owned by Lucy Buffet, Jimmy's sister), which was all right, and some later goodies at Filet's tiki bar, which was all right, and then we returned to the condo and dunked ourselves in the pool. Also all right. No lightning this time.

And today, back home. Early in the trip, we made out well, as I again took the backest of back roads to avoid traffic—again successfully. It wasn't until much closer to home that the trouble started. An accident in Rockingham, NC, backed up traffic for miles, and once we got out of that, thunderstorms began in earnest, and these were real gullywashers. Made driving some kind of treat. Regardless, although the finish didn't exactly make my day, we had such a good time in the overall that the unpleasantness of the drive shall quickly fade.

These outings with good friends are the things that make the best memories, and I will treasure these particular memories as long as the old brain deigns to allow. Hang in there, old brain!
L: Beth's pre-Segway glamour shot; R: buzzing through the forest on the nature trail
Team Crabby on Segways! Terry, Gerry, Bridget, Kimberly, Old Dude, Beth

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