Published December 2004

It’s a good time of year for area farming folk.  The crops have been harvested, the machinery repaired, and it’s time to sit back and rest or maybe take a little trip somewhere to get away from northern Ohio’s often bitter weather.  You might go to Florida, spend $150 a night for a little Mom and Pop motel room, and fight bumper to bumper traffic and high prices for everything.  Or you might go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach is an area favorite holiday destination.  People go in spring and fall for the great golfing at dozens of golf courses, and in summer with the kids to loaf along miles of smooth sand beach and watch the surf come rolling in.  But hardly anyone goes now, other than a very few who love to stay here for Christmas and maybe New Years, or maybe even spend a couple of months.  Those few have some good reasons.

Price is one.  I was down there over the first week of December, stayed in a beach front motel that had 15 floors, two pools, a lazy river, jacuzzi, nice restaurant, and bowling alley.  My wife and I had a suite with two large rooms, two tv’s, a full kitchen, large bath, and outside patio on the 15th floor.  It cost us $40 per night.  Had we wished to stay just across the street, but still on Ocean Boulevard, we could have gotten a room with cooking facilities for about $25 a night, less for a full week, and even less for a longer stay.  You’ll never find prices like that in Florida or even here in Ohio!

Weather?  It’s chancy in December and January like anywhere else.  You might get a two foot snowfall (unlikely) or you might get 70 degree temperatures or anything in-between.  But South Carolina is far south of northern Ohio, and odds are good you’ll find weather at least in the 50’s or 60’s, far better than here.  We consistently had 60 – 70 degree weather and enjoyed every minute of it.

One of the things I like best about early winter Myrtle Beach is that there’s nobody there, but almost everything is still open.  There are times when you could stand in the middle of the King’s Highway, fire a shotgun down its length, and hit nothing.  The 15 story motel we stayed at had about ten cars in its parking lot, and the shopping centers were almost empty.  My wife loved that.

She’d visit Barefoot At the Beach and browse through dozens of shops from The Endangered Species to Perfumania and California Leather to The Caddy Shack, and do it almost alone.  So few shoppers are here during the day that clerks rush to welcome you, and the same holds true at Barefoot Landing, the Wakomaw Pottery, and other major league shopping centers.  Real bargains often enough, some good sales, and plenty of shops for browsing.

Our Standard Operating Procedure most days was for her to drop me off at The Springmaid Pier where I’d fish for whiting, croaker, sea trout, spot, and the inevitable sand sharks and skates.  I’d usually arrive about two hours before high tide, stay until about two hours after, while she went shopping, then she’d pick me up and we’d travel to places we both like.

For example, we both love to visit Huntington Beach State Park just south of Myrtle Beach, and we try to do so at low tide.  It’s a wonderful place for outdoorsmen and nature lovers, a far ranging salt marsh with waving cord grass and that rich scent of mud, salt, and gently decaying vegetation.  There are sturdy piers that reach far out into the marsh, good places to stand and spend time watching the busy marsh life.

There are always dozens of little fiddler crabs, schools of minnows, lurking bluecrabs, and birds of many kinds.  Curlews will probe the crab holes and pull free their occupants, great blue herons and egrets seek the minnows, and small birds from sandpipers to Mother Careys Chickens hurry there and here seeking amphipods and other bits of nourishment.  A lovely place, and sunning alligators only make it better.

You might like to walk the beach too, almost alone, and pick up sea shells just above the surf.  Or watch brown pelicans pass above single file like little B-29’s, sea gulls, and shore birds, and sometimes a passing pod of dolphins.  Or just sit and watch the waves roar rhythmically and feel the stress wrinkles leave your face.

The food is marvelous.  Calabash restaurants are waiting with their 120 item seafood menus, great places to OD on crab legs and oysters.  And there are excellent Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, steak restaurants, and others like Hooters, the Hardrock Cafe, and The Key West Grill as well as little eating spots that offer meat loaf and grits.

Those that like country western music will enjoy the Dixie Stampede and the Carolina Opry, and most will like the Imax Theatre and the Ripley Aquarium, one of the best of its kind in the country.  Don’t forget the Brookgreen Gardens just south of town and little Georgetown yet further south with its wonderful waterfront and quaint little shops and restaurants.

You can drive to Myrtle Beach, chancing possible nasty weather in West Virginia or do as we do these days, fly down and get a rental car.  It’s 2 1/2 hours from here by plane, a day and a half by car, and if you tally up gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, meals, and a motel overnight, you’ll find the cost difference isn’t much.  We’d rather fly and arrive rested and ready to go.  Whatever your choice, check out Myrtle Beach on the web or just hop in the car and go.  It’s a good place to spend Christmas and New Years.

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