We made it, my friends. Our first “real” trip in many years is now in the books, and it was a success. Not absolute perfection, of course, but certainly successful. Today I’m going to try to get through all the highlights and cover the entire trip in a single update. I have a history of dragging these things out, but I’m going to attempt to limit this one. We’ll see how it goes.
— We flew on Allegiant Air, which was recently featured in a 60 Minutes segment. And it’s rarely a good thing when your business is featured in a 60 Minutes segment. Right? So, I was mildly concerned. The logical part o’ my brain told me there are thousands of flights every day, almost all without incident. But the emotional part said, “We’re going to end up like goddamn Lynyrd Skynyrd!”
But it was fine. Sure, the plane was ancient, possibly from the 1980s. There were “smoking/no smoking” lights where the “fasten your seatbelts” lights are, but they’d put NO SMOKING stickers on top of them. I wondered where they bought the planes? From Saudi Arabia, or one of the countries behind the Iron Curtain? Sweet sainted mother of Patsy Cline. It got us there, though. I listened to Marc Maron interview Josh Brolin during the one-hour 18-minute flight, which helped distract me from all the creaking and groaning. Ugh.
— Oh, one small thing about the TSA check-in at Allentown: a uniformed woman whispered to me in a conspiratorial voice before I’d gone through the metal detector, “Have you had knee or hip replacement surgery?” What the? So now I’m being profiled as a man who has likely had his skeleton rebuilt?? Get Jesse Jackson on the phone! And why’d she whisper it? I didn’t care for any of it.
— We had a 2018 Ford Escape waiting for us, which Toney reserved through some kind of Costco program. For the whole week, it cost $160. I’m no rental car expert, but my inner sensors told me it was a good deal.
We made a beeline for Chick-fil-A and had lunch. The place was pandemonium, and there was a guy there with a man-bun who pretty much acted as our dedicated chicken sandwich concierge. Oh, he was nothing if not eager to please. Here he is in silhouette, in a photo I snapped on a subsequent visit. He was apparently on a break this day, and his majestic bun is clearly visible.
After our fantastic lunch, we went straight across the street to a Walmart Supercenter. I remember years ago they did Lasik surgery in there. Can that possibly be true? It’s a clear memory that I have, but it seems improbable. Right? In any case, we purchased some “getting started” supplies. You know, junk food in abundance? Plus some sunscreen and beer. I don’t use sunscreen, but the younglings do. They’re delicate that way. But check out the beer section. Can we assume Bud Light is their biggest seller? We bought a 6 pack of some local beer (can’t remember) and a 15 pack of Founders All Day IPA.
— We stayed at a place called Paradise Resort. Toney and Nancy Hedges stayed there once and had nothing but good things to say about it. And they were right, it was super-nice and everybody was exceedingly friendly. We were on the 15th floor and had a full-blown apartment up there: two bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. And the balcony was amazing. It was wide and faced the ocean. Here’s a pic I snapped from the balcony moments after we checked in.
— That evening we went to dinner at a place called Tupelo Honey Cafe. It was southern food, yuppified. I had a fried chicken BLT with fries and a beer from New South Brewing. I ordered the IPA, but am almost certain they brought me some kind of wheat beer. Not really a fan. There’s a very good chance that what I drank was not from New South at all. Oh well. The food was good but felt expensive. Also, the waiter kept bringing us bad news and blaming it on his manager “Patrick.” We never saw this mythological creature, but Patrick weighed heavily on our visit there. Toney ordered a burger and the waiter said she could add a side for $2. She chose macaroni and cheese, and a few minutes later the guy relayed a message from Patrick: the mac ‘n’ cheese is actually $5 extra. WTF?? Five bucks for an ice cream scoop of elbow macaroni? But we were on vacation and had vowed to just go with the flow. Also, I had looked at their menu online and a pop-up said I could get a free pint glass if I signed up for their mailing list. I did, but Patrick sent us the news that they were all out of pint glasses. It went on and on. I never met the man, but he was certainly a buzzkill. Like I say though, the food was good. Whatever. I have a feeling that once the details fade I’ll be left with nothing but a big negative blur. Way to go, Patrick!
— After that, I can’t keep the things straight in my mind. It was just days of sitting in the sun, walking on the beach, hanging out on the balcony, and drinking adult beverages. It was a blast! I managed to decompress pretty well, which was needed. God knows it’s true.
— One day we went to the Ripley’s Aquarium. It was the third or fourth time we’ve been there, and it’s always fun. I’m not generally an aquarium kinda guy, but that place is pretty great. There’s a glass tunnel and a moving sidewalk with all manner o’ sea creatures swimming around and above you. And here’s a photo I took of some jellyfish action. It was fun, as usual. Recommended! Next door is a place called Broadway at the Beach, which is a sprawling shoppin’ ‘n’ eatin’ situation. We walked around there for a little while, and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Which was shockingly good, by the way. I’ve been to several Hard Rocks in my fatass travels, and they’re… fine. But this one was GOOD. The food was great, reasonably priced, and everybody was extra-friendly. And the manager even came out and introduced herself. She was the anti-Patrick. I can guarantee you she wouldn’t have dug in her heels over $3. Plus they had Keith Moon’s scooter in there. Supposedly. Who the hell knows?
— One night we went to an extreme seafood buffet called Crabby Mike’s. Every day the price changes, based on “the market.” Uh huh. All I know is… it cost us close to two hundred dollars. Yikes! And I don’t even like seafood all that much. But I took one for the team and didn’t veto the idea. Supposedly they have over 150 items to choose from, so I certainly had no problem finding something to eat. In fact, I was so determined to get my money’s worth I was miserable for hours afterward. It felt like I was about to explode in a spectacular supernova of poop and sweet tea. The boys, for the record, put on a freaking EATING CLINIC in that place. Good lord. It was an experience, I guess. The joint was packed, that’s for sure, and every jaw muscle was fully-engaged at all times. Even when people were up walking around, they were chewing. It was a full-on orgy of gluttonous behavior.
— And one day we went to what I consider to be the old downtown area. I could be wrong about that, but it’s how I think of it. It’s where the Gay Dolphin gift shop is located, which is even more over-the-top insanity. It’s a gigantic souvenir shop, basically, and they have stuff in there that’s been on the shelves since the 1960s, or maybe earlier. Almost every square inch is filled with all manner of crap. It’s mind-blowing. I bought a postcard with Elvis and his parents on it, and a voodoo doll. A few years ago I was there and bought an iron-on patch that reads “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” It’s pinned to the bulletin board beside me right now. The place is wild.
Right down the street is a vintage arcade that I’ve been enjoying off and on my whole life. It was nearly empty, which concerns me. But it’s almost exactly the same as it’s always been. These old baseball games are probably from the 1940s or early 1950s. They’re simple, fun, and extremely addicting. The boys and I sat and played ’em for over an hour, while Toney was down the street having a margarita or two.
We had lunch at a historic hot dog stand next door, called Peaches Corner. I had two “short dogs” with chili, mustard, and onions, and an order of fries. Fantastic. The whole afternoon was like going back in time. Except for the prices, of course. That shit was ultra-modern. And so it goes.
— And those, I think are the highlights. The boys shot off some ludicrously large bottle rockets on the beach a couple of times, and from the smell on our balcony, it was easy to conclude that there were a number of marijuana aficionados at the hotel. Also, it’s worth mentioning that you could sit on the toilet off our master bedroom and see the Atlantic Ocean. You know, if you left the bathroom door open. And that’s pretty cool! (“Toney, don’t come in here for a while. I’m going to meditate and get myself centered.” “You’re disgusting.”) Also, I had an interesting conversation with a man at the hotel about cats. He was drinking Bud Light at noon and got confused at one point. Here’s how it went:
Him: Unfortunately there are a bunch of cats running around this place.
Me: You don’t like cats?
Him: Yeah, me either. Fuck ’em.
And on the final day, the Black Bike Week participants started to roll into town, and things started to get a little… rambunctious. People were hollering and blasting music off the balconies, and the whole tenor of the place changed. Things were getting cranked up, and I was enjoying every minute of it. That’s some good people-watching, right there. Thursday evening, the night before we left, I was riding up the elevator with a large Suge Knight-style gentleman who smelled like a Phish concert, and he asked if it was my last day of vacation. “How’d you know that?” I asked. He just laughed and said, “‘Cause shit’s about to get rough.” So, he concluded (correctly) that we were hightailing it out of there? If I gave a crap, I could probably pretend to be offended. But what do I care?
— On Friday we climbed back aboard the 1972 jetliner and returned to Allentown. Another interesting TSA encounter: after Toney passed through the metal detector they pulled her aside and swabbed her hands. WTF? Never heard of such a thing. Bizarre.
The flight was quiet and uneventful, which is just the way I like ’em. This time I listened to half an episode of The Best Show and was laughing my ass off. People probably thought I was a mental patient.
I was feeling pretty relaxed and “centered,” but when we got home I saw that my outsourcing of the lawn maintenance had broken down, for some reason. The shit was shaggy, and I was instantly back to being irritated. I texted the dude and got no response. Grrr… They finally showed up today, on a holiday, and said they’re running behind because of the rain. I don’t know. And tomorrow it’s back to work, and harsh reality.
But it was a great trip. Not completely perfect, but very good indeed. As I watched Myrtle Beach get smaller and smaller through the airplane window I felt a mild sadness set in. I wasn’t ready to leave. I’ve been going there my whole life, and it’s fun every time.
Here are some additional random photos, if you’re interested. Including one or two with the (gasp!) Secrets. Needless to say, Toney took the sunrise shots. I don’t know anything about that time of day.
And I’ll see you guys again soon.
Have a great day!