Sunday, January 2, 2022

Dirty Myrtle Madness

Actually, "Dirty Myrtle" is the name of an IPA I tried while at the beach, and I quite liked it. But it kind of fits the motif of this most recent visit, which was both intensely fun and something between unsettling and infuriating.

Three years ago, Ms. B. and I had spent our New Year's holiday with friends and frequent traveling companions, Terry & Beth, at Myrtle Beach, SC, and have been hoping to do it again. This year, since we've all had our three COVID-19 shots, we figured we'd give it another go. We traveled halfway around the world together without issue, and domestically, almost everywhere we've been in recent days, the populace has been pretty good about taking the proper precautions. So, even with Omicron variant rearing its ugly head, we decided to go forward with our plan.

After work on Thursday, 12/30, Brugger and I hit the road for the beach, roughly a four-hour drive. Severe rainstorms along the way slowed us down a bit, but we still arrived at our lodgings — the Carolinian Beach Resort — by mid-evening. We spent a few pleasant hours in our suite with wine and good company until quite late, when Brugger and I went walking on the beach. A beautiful evening it was, and I procured information to complete an EarthCache ("Shark!" GC5ADB4).
The old dude about to wail on
a hapless golf ball

Friday morning, I got up fairly early and hoofed it after a nearby geocache (one of the few in the area I hadn't claimed on previous trips). Then Terry & I girded our loins and headed over to Whispering Pines Golf Course to indulge in some masochistic fun on the links. It was here that we really began to get the feel for how little heed anyone — anyone — in Myrtle Beach is paying to the realities of the pandemic. While our group, without exception, religiously wore KN-95 masks anywhere and everywhere we went in public, all too rarely did we see another mask or even any attempt at social distancing. Now, on the golf course, we had plenty of open space to work with, so it was literally a breath of fresh air. We ended up playing with a couple of nice gentlemen — brothers — from Kentucky, both of whom were vaccinated and respected social distancing. And to be sure, the round was fun, if a bit frustrating, since it was only the third time in the last decade that I've picked up a golf club (the other two being with Terry in the past year). To say one of the foursome was still way out of practice is one hell of an understatement (though I did manage to make a few marginally spectacular golf shots). Fortunately, our companions, while competent players, at least did not completely and utterly put me to shame. Terry played a generally consistent round, with a respectable score (the kind I used to have when I played on a far more regular basis, and that I almost hope to achieve again).

Being New Year's Eve, we knew that, without having made prior reservations, finding a decent restaurant for dinner might be problematic. It kind of was. Eventually, we ended up at an okay Italian restaurant (Toscana Italian Kitchen), which had a limited (and very expensive) menu for the evening, but I'd say we made the best of it. The dishes were all way heavy on the cheese, even on such selections such as Veal Saltimbocca, which in my experience generally are not nearly so dairy-laden. The available wines were nothing to brag on, so while I will credit the servers for their very cordial and professional performance under very busy conditions, I can't say I was all that enthused with the dinner fare, especially not at the price. Again, not a mask in the restaurant.
With the coming of darkness — as on our previous New Year's sojourn at Myrtle Beach — the fog began to roll in (see "Waylaid, Shanghaied, and Hauled Away," January 1, 2019). No patchy mist, this, but an incredibly dense cloud that settled over the beach for the entire night. If anything, this was even thicker and more opaque than last time — and we loved it. From our 19th floor balcony, we could scarcely see the well-lit pool deck below us, nor even the barrage of fireworks that began going up a couple of hundred feet away on the beach. Happily, some far more potent blasts went off just beyond our balcony, so, also as before, we had the perfect view for the brilliant if all-too-brief display.

We did a bit of hollering at midnight as the rockets burst around us, but it wasn't long before all went quiet and dark. So Brugger and I took the opportunity to take another walk on the fog-shrouded beach. If you'll take a gander at the photo up top, you'll see my flashlight beam focused on our balcony, which was the only one brightly lit at 12:30 a.m. on January 1, 2022. I quite enjoyed the effect.
"The fog is getting thicker!"
On New Year's morning, once I dragged my weary self out of the sack, I headed out after some geocaches. Had to be done, don't you know. First destination was Warbird Park, at the south end of Myrtle Beach, where you'll find a trio of US Air Force warplanes on display (an F-100 Super Sabre, an A-7 Corsair II, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II [a.k.a. Warthog]), along with a trail of plaques that chronicle the history of the 354th Fighter Wing and the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, which closed in 1993. Back in the days when my family vacationed in Myrtle Beach every summer, our timeshare was just across the main highway from the air base, and I took great pleasure in watching the military jets come and go at very close range. Now there is an Adventure Lab cache at the site, and I enjoyed the hell out of visiting the location.
F-100 Super Sabre
A-7 Corsair II
A-10 Thunderbolt II (a.k.a. Warthog)
After Warbirds Park, I headed over to a nearby trail for a couple more caches, and then to Myrtle Beach State Park, just across Highway 17, to see if I could avenge a prior DNF (did not find) from a couple of years ago. At that time, the cache was missing but has since been replaced. I found it indeed, and so turned a little blue frowny face on the geocaching map to a big happy smiley.

That was it for the morning's caching, so I rejoined our intrepid group. And then...lunch! We opted for Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant, which the ladies had visited the day before and enjoyed enough to go back. I had eaten there on a previous beach trip and liked it well enough, so I was pleased to return. In general, it was all right, but much like at Toscana, the cheese brigade had gone on a rampage. Now, make no mistake, I love me some cheese, but I'm not really looking to croak of a coronary because I had the audacity to eat lunch. Truly, I've never seen so much smothering of foodstuffs with dairy stuffs, and while the food tasted all right, I then and there slammed headfirst into the cheese wall. I'm sure the hankering will again knock on my door (and probably too soon), but for at least some while, cheese and I are going to keep a respectable distance.

After the cheese extravaganza, we headed to a few shops to pick up wine, other assorted provisions, and new shoes.
Creeple People at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant, about to be cheesed off
After shopping, we rested and recuperated for a while at the suite, and eventually set out to dine again, this time at RipTydz Oceanfront Grille and Rooftop Bar, a relatively short distance down Ocean Boulevard. Again, the usual lack of masks. But in general, the place turned out to be most agreeable, with excellent service and delicious seafood (I had snow crab legs and steamed oysters on the half shell). It was here I tried the Dirty Myrtle IPA. I do like a good IPA, so on those rare occasions I actually drink beer, it tends to be my brew of choice. The Dirty Myrtle rates as highly respectable. Definitely the best dinner experience of the trip, this RipTydz.

We finished off the night back at the suite with a smidgen of dessert and a tad more wine (and very fine wine at that).

This morning, we got up, packed up, and bid the Carolinian adieu for this time around. We found an excellent breakfast at nearby Donald's Pancake House, which we had visited on some previous trip or another. This was, if I may say, a DAMN good breakfast. Again, the service was top-notch. In fact, at all the places we visited on this trip, service proved superlative. I was impressed by how well we were treated at every establishment, as well as the timeliness and efficiency of their wait staffs. Now, some places clearly were short-handed, such as Toscana, but even then the folks there made every effort to attend to us as best they could. They have my admiration.

But for the love of Yog, there really is a pandemic. While at the beach, I received distressing news about a good family friend who is now in dire shape with COVID-19. During these trying times, Brugger and I have done our very best to do the right, responsible things without sheltering ourselves completely. But this time around, if we don't get infected, we'll have dodged a bullet. I personally know too many people who've lost too much to go waltzing blithely along without taking responsible precautions. I personally know too many healthcare workers who are at the ends of their ropes because some of you are truly too stupid — or chickenshit — to do the right things and are overloading our healthcare facilities. Dress it up any way you want; the intellectual gymnastics required to justify not taking the pandemic seriously are ludicrous, dangerous, asinine, and selfish in the extreme. Those of you doing this ought to be ashamed, but you clearly do not have the self-awareness — or consideration for others — to accept such responsibility. Given the people in my life this disease has affected so profoundly, it's fair to say that I hold in utmost contempt those of you who simply can't be bothered, or have been so indoctrinated into wingnut ideology, to be fucking decent Americans.

If for this you choose not to like me anymore, well, I really don't give a rat's ass.

Happy New Year.

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