Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grey Skies Can’t Dampen Family Fun

March 27-30, 2011

Tybee Island

After a month-long draught and a couple weeks of temperatures hovering in the 70s and 80s, a storm front has pulled in and decided to stay awhile—just in time for our family vacation at a Tybee Beach house.

On Sunday, Dick and I got an early start at the house, bringing over beach toys, stocking the cupboards and refrigerator with a starter food supply, and procuring a beach wheelchair for Meredith, who broke her tibia and fibula just last week. We were so warm that we changed into shorts and tee shirts before test-driving our wheelchair options on the beach.

An hour before the Glover clan from Cincinnati was due to arrive, a ferocious storm blew in, with 40 mph winds propelling marble-sized hail like bullets. The air temperature plummeted twenty degrees, and all the crushed ice hail in the dipping pool spa cooled the water by ten degrees. Dick and I had two buckets in our room catching leaks from the roof.

It is Wednesday now, and we have not seen the sun yet.

But, that has not stopped us from having lots of fun.

Monday we took a trolley tour of Savannah, and then stopped for ice cream at Leopold's, Savannah's favorite ice cream parlor since 1919. The Cincinnati contingent agreed it was good, but not quite as good as Graeters, a Cincinnati institution since 1870.

Then we visited our house, where Dick had set out a crab trap in our lagoon before we left for Tybee. When he pulled in the trap, he had caught a blue crab, which we all examined, then let go.

The twins have gone swimming in our little spa pool twice, while the rest of us have lounged around the porch bundled up in our sweaters and jeans. We have had lots of leisure time to read, watch big screen television and play dominoes together.

Yesterday, we had an afternoon without rain, so we all headed to the beach, pushing Meredith in her beach wheelchair, provided compliments of the Tybee Volunteer Fire Department. Dick and the twins flew a kite. Matt and Harrison played a little bocce ball. Bridget and Natalie and Molly built a sand village surrounded by a big moat, then Matt helped to build Mount Vesuvius towering over the town. (Natalie has been studying Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, and provided us with the pertinent details.)

Last night, Dick and I introduced everyone to Low Country Boil. Our extremely well-provisioned beach house has a Low Country Boil cooker on the front porch—a propane burner topped by a huge pot with a steamer basket inside-–and the guest book includes a recipe for this regional delicacy. Our answer to the New England clam bake, Low Country Boil is made by boiling up water with a whole lot of Old Bay Seasoning, then tossing in red skin potatoes, followed 15 minutes later by corn and kielbasa sausage, followed about 7 minutes later by shrimp. Traditionally, the boil is served by pulling out the basket and dumping it on a newspaper-covered table. We covered the table with newspaper, but used a big platter to serve it, out of respect for our $500 damage deposit.

After dinner we all walked into town for ice cream at Tybee's best purveyor—a little store offering home-made gelato. The verdict—better than Leopold's but still not as good as Graeters. A spitting mist of rain began as we were finishing up our ice cream and walking home.

Today, the rain continues with a vengeance. Looks like a great day to head to the movies . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Day at the Beach--Sort Of

March 14, 2011
Tybee Island

We are on a little vacation just 26 miles from home. Dick bought a $25 raffle ticket from a Kiwanis buddy, over my objection at the outrageous cost, and, to his relief, he won us two nights at the Savannah Beach Inn on Tybee Island, validating the wisdom of his decision to purchase the ticket and invalidating my cheapskate objection.

Furnished in Victorian splendor, our Bed and Breakfast Inn is the centerpiece of Officers Row—a street of gracious homes built around the turn of the 20th century for high ranking Army officers serving at Fort Screven. The post was built for coastal defense, and occupied the north end of the island for half a century or so, although its big guns never fired a shot upon an enemy. It was active from the Spanish American War through the Second World War, when it was the Army’s only school for deep sea diving soldiers. George Marshall was a colonel in command here—maybe he even lived in this house.

Right now we are sitting in the kitchen, catching up on our e-mail while enjoying the cookies and milk our innkeeper provides for us every evening.

We have had a very full, but quite relaxing (for us) day, beginning with a breakfast of Bananas Foster French Toast at the Inn, which provided us with plenty of calories to fuel our bike riding adventures all over the island. In our quest for geocaches, we visited the island’s only cemetery, a very tiny plot originally created to provide a place of eternal rest for victims of shipwrecks and other drowning catastrophes. Modern analysis indicates there are no more than about 30 people buried there, including three beneath a gravestone that simply states “washed ashore.”

We rode to the beach, which was full of revelers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day week with temperatures well into the 70s. The bars have green beer and green margaritas, and the ice cream shops have renamed their mint chocolate chip ice cream to make it sound Irish.

We snagged a cache at the end of the crowded Tybee fishing pier, which has signs prohibiting shark fishing--a bit of a scary thought considering all the people in the water below who would prefer not to be swimming with sharks. While searching for another cache beneath a modest little fishing pier stretching into the Back River we saw some fishermen land a big ray.

Then we were off to the Crab Shack, “where the elite meet to eat in their bare feet,” to see if they still were harboring a hundred alligators in a big pen to amuse people who had to wait hours to get a table for dinner. Those little gators were an unforgettable sight the last time we were there, five years ago, and they remain so today. We can’t wait to share the view with our grandkids when they visit in a couple weeks.
We discovered another unique Tybee spot on our way back to the Inn—Ralph Douglas Jones Fish Art. Jones displays his whimsical and colorful fish sculptures made of found objects in the front yard of his shop, and a massive metal mermaid towers over the front door . It is impossible (at least for us) to pass it by without stopping to gawk--and giggle. At the entry gate there is a bucket with a sign requesting $1 for just stopping to look—we paid and considered it a bargain.
Sixteen miles and six hours after we left this morning, we returned, just in time for the Inn’s afternoon wine and cheese happy hour. We took our drinks and snacks out to the front porch where the sea breezes cooled us and kept the no-see-ums at bay. We agreed that we really need to vacation here more often.