A trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina

... the fabulous Christmas present.

by Jim Tierney

Our Christmas gift from our daughter and her family was a vacation with them at
their time share at the Marriott Surf Watch on Hilton Head Island. As usual, we
packed too many clothes and the wrong kind, weather wise, with temperatures in the
80’s instead of the 50’s and 60’s. We flew into Savannah, GA. and decided to do some
sightseeing there before driving the 45 minutes to Hilton Head. Savannah has been
around for awhile, since 1733, and has a lot of history like Boston and also like
Boston, we took the Old Town Trolley for a look at the old town.

The Victorian District of Savannah featured one home after another more impressive
as the previous ones as we passed them. There are 24 Squares, one where Forrest Gump
sat with his box of chocolates.  We saw Juliette Gordon Low’s house, founder of the
Girl Scouts, and as we passed her house the driver asked for a show of hands of
former scouts and he played the Girl Scout oath as each of the six former scouts on
board recited it, including my daughter and my granddaughter. Famous songwriter,
singer, band leader, etc.  Johnny Mercer came from Savannah and as we passed his
house, the driver played one of his songs, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe ("clang
clang clang, went the trolley"), sung by Judy Garland. He wrote over 1100 songs,
including "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses." Before leaving for Hilton Head,
we had a nice dinner at The Chart House, similar to the one in Boston.

Arriving on Hilton Head Island, we were in awe of the changes along the highway,
from the usual brush, bushes, vehicles, people, and commercial establishments
spilling out on the road to the beautifully manicured various colored azalea
flowered high hedges lining the highway, “hiding” everything several hundred feet
behind them, except for classy unassuming signage. This includes ALL the many
stores, parking areas and cars. Set back even further were the multiple golf resorts
in areas called Plantations. We rode through a couple and the grounds were
spectacular. And I thought Toronto was so clean and immaculate. As we approached our
Surf Watch complex, my expectations were getting higher when we needed a keypass to
get into our ”gated community”… Hmmmnnn….What do they have in store for me next...   

One of MY objectives when I go on vacation (do you still call it a vacation when
you’re retired?) is to NOT do what I do at home, i.e. watch TV, sleep more than
necessary, etc. However, I didn’t plan on NOT eating and NOT reading. There was no
food or reading material there when we arrived. My daughter quickly solved that
problem with a quick trip to the Piggly Wiggly, stocking the fridge/cupboard for the
week. In the meantime, I read the room directory several times until the free USA
quickly became available at the elevator every morning. Our accommodations included
kitchen, dining room, living room, three separate bedrooms including bathroom, two
sinks, a very large shower 6”x10” the size of a small room with three shower heads
and two body sprays, and a ceramic “bench” under the shower heads for you to sit to
wash between your toes. Oh, and HDTV and DVD player and a balcony overlooking the
ocean…and a TV in every bedroom. How much better can it get?

I thought I was on a cruise when I read the daily activities list. Something for
everyone, from small children to the elderly, like me. So much to do and so little
time. I made a list of things I wanted to do, “with or without” other family members
and another list of things I wanted to do WITH each family member individually. We
don’t have the opportunity to bond with each family member individually. We have six
children and 13 grandchildren. We usually get together as a CROWD during holidays.
My daughter and her husband have three children, two boys, 23 and 21, and a girl,
17. The 21 year old was at college. We looked forward to the week with them.

The hotel/resort/time share/vacation club amenities include rental of bikes
(including beach buggies and adult three wheelers), golf clubs, and fishing rods.
There’s a 24 hour fitness center, inside pool and whirlpool spa, outside pool and
ANOTHER outside pool at the beachside bar, and cinema, with movies like Secretariat"
and "The Blind Side." The Monday activities included the beanbag toss that I
scheduled with my wife. She was reluctant at first and decided to humor me. We
beat the Detroit couple 21 to 4 and devastated them, because WE were in our eighties
and they were in their 30’s or 40’s. We bonded later, having the Tigers and Red Sox
in common. Late afternoon, Tacos, Margaritas, Salsa Dancing 101 at the fire pits was
on my “with them or without them” list. Neither my wife nor my daughter wanted to
join me, so my son-in-law came, probably to keep me out of trouble. Good thing!!..
Because, after the Tacos and ‘Rita’s, I was on the “concrete” dance floor
with the blonde, shapely instructor, learning the Salsa. My son-in-law got it on his
cellphone to get me in trouble. Hey!..My wife and daughter had their chance to learn
the dance with me!!!

I was up early Tuesday morning for the Sunrise Stretch scheduled with my daughter.
THIS was more than a stretch for an hour. However, I DID keep up with the others
except trying to roll up and down on the ground with my arms around my knees.
WHEW!!!  NOT easy at 84 that my daughter casually announced to the others. Tuesday

included a Beach Discovery Walk accompanied by my daughter again and grandson, where
we learned about the coastal wetlands/ecosystems, the difference between swamps
and marshes, the sanddollar, and other “critters”. My grandson was scheduled for the
Trivia with me but he said he had to “sort his socks” so his father filled in for
him. We didn’t do too well with “trivia” questions like “when was the Sack of
Jerusalem”???  However, it wasn’t a total loss because it was at the beachbar where
we had a cold one. We drove over to  Harbourtown and climbed the “lighthouse” (not a
real one) to view the 18th hole of where the  PGA Tour RBC Heritage Golf Classic is
played and to see where the boats all line up to see the finish. It will be in a
couple of weeks from now after the Masters in Augusta which is just down the road.
Unfortunately, I missed the Sangria Social back at the ranch.

We went to Beaufort (pronounced bue, NOT bow) on Wednesday, about 90 minutes north,
although we planned for Charleston, a little TOO far. We thought Savannah had
beautiful homes!!! All within walking distance of the visitor’s center, historic
homes from the 17 and 1800’s and enormous unusually shaped trees/limbs (some as low

as the ground and one crossing the street above with a Caution sign hanging from it,
to the ground on the other side of the street), all of them with hanging moss.  
Never saw anything like it!! A beautiful waterfront in “back” of Main street lined
with shops and restaurants, with outside dining in the “back” of the restaurants,
overlooking the water. After lunch we headed back, passing Parris Island where my
wife could have been back in 1950 when she declared herself a future Marine in her
high school yearbook. Our grandson, a current ROTC Marine, will fill in for her. We
were back in time to catch the bratfest, brew tasting, and live Carribean and Jazz
music at the fire pits. My daughter kept an eye on me again.

I think my grandson was feeling guilty trying to avoid being part of my activities
plan. He joined me in the YoQua Class Thursday morning, a Yoga form of water
aerobics. I’m not sure he was a happy camper exercising in the water, being part of
a circle of about 20 elderly ladies, holding hands at times..Hey!!!...He had his
chance to do Trivia with me. Last but not least, my granddaughter had also been
avoiding me all week, and “oversleeping” through our scheduled sandcastle building
competition. However, we DID hit the ocean together Thursday afternoon, swimming and
splashing around, and we reveled in calling her mother, her brother, and my wife
wimps who were standing at the shore, saying the water was too cold for them to come
in with us. My list to do something with them individually was complete and my list
to do something “with or without them” was also complete, except for a few misses
that I’ll complete “next” time.

We had the opportunity to “ sample” some of the fine restaurants in the area, like
the Kingfisher, featuring “early bird and senior” meals, and Carabbas, and we also
saw a stage production of Driving Miss Daisy. The week ended too soon, with time
running out and so much more to do. The only downside was that while we were
enjoying 80 degree temperatures, those back home were also enjoying 80 degree
temperatures during an unusual March week and we arrived home to the 30’s and 40’s.
While away, I was hoping for snow back home and going home TO the 80’s!!!.  Many
thanks to my daughter and her family for the fabulous Christmas present.

June 1, 2012

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