We flew into Raleigh, NC, and made our way southward. As were heading down I-40 to Wilmington, NC, our youngest, Sam, announced he had a foreign white powder on his sandal. I was fairly certain that it wasn’t anthrax so I kept driving. My wife, however, turned in her seat with a duly cautious look on her face intent on helping Sam determine the nature of this substance. Before this alert could develop its full potential for panic, Sam declared, “Oh, I know what it is. It’s powered doughnut. I just tasted it.” That opened a whole new potential for disaster as I nearly ran off the road while I tried to contain my laughter. The oddest thing about the whole incident, in retrospect, is I don’t recall any one of us admonishing Sam’s free-wheeling willingness to taste something on his shoe. Oddly enough, about an hour later, as we were looking for a place to have lunch, Sam made it very clear that he didn’t want any of the suggestions we were throwing out – this coming from a kid who eats sandal doughnut.
Our ultimate destination was Hilton Head Island, SC, and we decided to take the scenic route (read: really long), which took us through Myrtle Beach. What amazed me about this seaside burg was that within a 12-mile stretch on Highway 17 (the main strip), I counted 32 miniature golf courses. Stranger still, passing through this surreal scene on a Monday evening, every single one of these places was packed! So, next time you’re playing Trivial Pursuit and you’re asked, “What’s the miniature golf capital of the world?” you heard it here first.
Just after passing through Charleston, I rolled my window down to take in the pleasantly cool evening. Much to my disappointment, I didn’t hear the sounds of dueling banjos emanating from the stands of trees just beyond the road’s borders. So, Erin (my wife) turned on the radio and found a rather format-free station. We began our journey through the musical spectrum with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Making the song “their own” Erin and Sam decided to whistle along with the opening guitar solo – unfortunately, both Erin’s and Sam’s whistling sounded more like someone with a tracheotomy was trying to sing along. Following Deep Purple was Milli Vanilli, Lady Marmalade, Grand Funk Railroad, and Eddie Rabbit.
After checking in at the resort, I dropped Erin and Sam off in our room and took Jack back to the car to retrieve our luggage. (Yes, you read that right: I was far too cheap to have the bellhop do this.) Upon returning to the room, Erin informed me that housekeeping was on its way up to change the sheets on the boys’ hide-a-bed – apparently, when Erin opened it up she discovered a liberal sprinkling of unidentifiable crumbs all over the bedspread. When housekeeping arrived (it was actually the bellhop I had shafted on the tip), Erin pulled back the bedspread to get to the sheets underneath and found a pair of young girl’s panties. Erin made a very interesting point at this juncture of our evening: “I don’t know if it’s better or worse that they were girl’s panties.” Jury’s still out on that one!
Our stay at the resort was very uneventful – just as we had planned – except for the shark sighting. As the boys were off making sand castles, Erin was reading, and I was eating Wheat Thins straight out of the box, I spied a small stir of activity directly in front of us where the sand and water met: it was a shark! I bolted up and made it down to the spot in seconds. A group of three young men from Australia were being menaced by this killer when I arrived. Not taking thought for my own safety, I grabbed the shark with one hand and threw him out into the depths – I’m not heartless. That shark wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon! As I made it back to my chair, Erin said, “It would have been more impressive if the shark were more than 12 inches long, and you had put down the box of Wheat Thins before you went out there.” Needless to say, I didn’t make the evening news.
On our last day, we decided to make a side trip to Savannah, GA, and then head back to Raleigh via I-95. As we were entering South Carolina from Georgia, the interstate was laid out like the gates of a high-end country club: beautifully manicured shrubbery setting off marble-capped brick pony walls and the South Carolina flag flying proudly in the median. Erin and I were extremely impressed. Only later did we learn that this display of Southern gentility was to belie the sights of “Café Risque” (a 24-hour adult diner/novelty store) and “South of the Border” (a garish, electricity-eating, neon-festooned amusement park/fireworks mall).
The capper to the trip was our Southwest Airlines flight crew. As we were taxiing toward the runway, one of the flight attendants sang the safety lecture to us to the tune of “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. I couldn’t make any of this up, I swear!