Stuck on the Road – Edisto Island, 2005

I am back from my vacation, and we all know what that means. No, not the dreaded return to Work on Monday. It’s time for a recap!

Friday night (the 18th) was spent doing absolutely nothing. I gathered up the stuff I planned to take with me, and set it all on the couch in the living room. The rest of that night is a blur of apathy and laziness. The high point of Friday was that I made the decision to head out on Sunday, since I wanted to catch the Clemson-Carolina game.

Saturday afternoon found me at Wal-Mart grabbing a few things that were on my list to take to Edisto, but were not anywhere to be found within my house. As night drew closer, I picked up Lee and we ran by Barnes & Noble (So I could buy “The Life of Pi” and some girly caramel coffee) and Lowe’s (So he could buy an appliance light bulb) before swinging out to watch the game at Team Richardson’s place.

Team Richardson (Check them out at http://columbiarants.blogspot.com/) knows how to entertain guests. The wife can cook, and she does. The husband can pour drinks, and he does. They both know sports, and it’s always good conversation. (Even when the conversation isn’t about sports.) We filled up on burgers during the first quarter, and drank for the other three. I had expected Carolina to put up a fight, and they did. It wasn’t good enough, though, and my Tigers prevailed. (But just barely.) I’m already looking forward to next year’s game. After the game, we sat around and flipped between channels, watching Georgia Tech win, and Fresno lose. It was late by the time Lee and I made our exit, and it was time for bed when I finally got home.

Sunday morning I woke up at ten o’clock in the morning. I packed the truck and was ready to go within thirty minutes. Now it was time to wait on Koondog to get ready, since he and Red would be following me. (Why is it that I’m always the one who ends up getting the directions?) I won’t describe the hours of waiting, as they were not entertaining the first time around. He called around 12:30, and we agreed to meet up at 1:30 and start the caravan.

We meet up in the Wendy’s parking lot, and I resist the temptation to laugh as I see a teacup Yorkie and Jack Russel terrier going absolutely apeshit in the car. Apparently, we were going to be stopping in Santee to board these little bundles of poop, urine, and energy. We jump on I-26 and haul ass in an easterly direction. Within 90 minutes, we’re parked outside of the Santee Animal Hospital, which is owned and operated by Koondog’s sister and brother-in-law. (Really good people, and they’re looking for a vet tech if anyone wants to move to the boonies and play with sick animals.) We throw the two dogs in a kennel and, once again, haul ass. The time, though, we’re tearing south down I-95.

This brings me to my first rant for the blog. People in this state do not know how to drive. This is not to say that people in other states DO know how to drive, but my experience with them is limited. If I’m in the fast lane doing 90 miles an hour, and you’re in the slow lane driving just a hair faster than the person in front of you, DO NOT PULL INTO MY LANE! It will take me two seconds to pass you and you can jump into the speedy lane once I’m gone. Pulling in front of me (without your signal, of course, because we all know signals are pointless, right?) will not only make me hit my brakes and come out of Cruise Control, but it will also piss me off to the point of driving three inches off your bumper. Go ahead and hit the brakes, dude. I’m pretty sure my truck will win in a rear-end collision with your little Miata. Does this make me a jackass? I’m sure it does, but I don’t care.

I-95 was done in under an hour, and then we jump onto the fun part of the trip, the country roads. I don’t speed here for three reasons: I could lose Koondog if I drive too much faster than him, these towns make their money on speeding tickets (It’s not nearly as bad as Springdale, but it’s bad enough.), and I actually enjoy the scenery. I was raised country, and part of me will always smile when I pass through a one-stoplight town.

Within an hour, our caravan came to The Bridge. This monstrosity crosses over the marshy ocean and connects the mainland to the islands. Crossing over this bridge never fails to have an immediate and noticeable effect on me. I shift gears and coast. A calm washes over me. I’m officially on vacation. This bridge also marked the last cancer-stick in a fresh pack of cigarettes that I bought just before leaving Columbia. Jesus, I need to quit this habit. We get to the house, unpack out gear, and I spend three hours on the dock before I go back inside for dinner.

Dinner is entertaining. The parents talk about their youth, and how Koon’s father smoked wallpaper as a child, while my father smoked something called rabbit-weed, how my mother and her siblings used to sniff gasoline and lie in the road until buzzards started circling. Hell, it was an enlightening dinner. We also got on the subject of the paranormal, though I don’t know why. We talked about how the house I grew up in was haunted, and I got to relay my two close encounter stories which give me goosebumps to this day. (And I’m getting them right now just mentioning the stories in passing, so that’s all I’m going to say about that.) It was soon late, and we were all tired, so we surrendered to sleep.

Monday morning, I wake up and begin my daily ritual. I hop in the shower to wake myself up and turn on the cold water. Cold morning showers are not an uncommon occurrence for me. This shower, though, will live forever in my memory. There is a part of Edisto Island which is not supplied by town water. This house happened to fall within that part. The water was clear, but the smell of sulfur was unbearable. I gagged three times while trying to remain focused on getting clean, even though I knew that once I turned that water off, I would not feel any cleaner. As the shower ended, I proved myself right. The water clung to me and left me feeling as if I needed another shower. I turned on the sink and the same smell filled the bathroom. I gagged again, and came up with a plan. The water stunk, but I was on vacation. I could make it a week. Brushing my teeth would have to be done without water. My contacts certainly were not going back in my eyes. Showers… well, I’d see how I smelled at the end of the day.

With all of Monday still ahead of me, I went out to the dock and was greeted with rain. The dock had a roof, so I didn’t mind. But rain meant that the cold front had come through, which means bad fishing. (Fish tend to gorge themselves on the edge of a front, and then drop into an inactive lethargy for a couple of days afterwards.) Again, I didn’t let this bother me. Fishing isn’t about getting fish, it’s a state of mind for me. Around eleven o’clock, I open my first beer (J W Dundee’s Honey Brown) and begin the drinking. By three o’clock I’m drunk, and stagger up to the house to get some food in me so I can drink some more.

My mother was in the kitchen, giving me a stern look. “Don’t get drunk, Benjy.” If I didn’t think she was serious, I would have laughed. Wait, I think I laughed anyway. If she didn’t want me to get drunk, she should’ve told me that a few hours earlier. Hell, she should’ve told me that a month ago, and I would’ve stayed home! And if she didn’t want me drinking, then why the hell did SHE buy all that beer for the week? I went back down to the dock after my laughter subsided, a roast beef sandwich in hand and a scowl on my face. I pouted for the next six hours, but I didn’t drink another beer.

Monday’s dinner found us all laughing and sharing stories again, with the notable exception of me, who was still trying to figure out why my mother had a sudden aversion to my drinking. After dinner, I decided to let it go. I was going to drink every day. I was going to get buzzed, if not completely drunk, every day. If she had a problem with that, she could withhold my invitation to return next year. In celebration of letting it go, and because it was cold and rainy, I introduced Koondog and Red to a board game I’d brought down called Puerto Rico. Red picked up on it immediately. Koon was a little too drunk to formulate any coherent strategy. After a few hours, we packed it up and hit the hay.

Tuesday morning was not cold, nor was it rainy. I didn’t smell like fish yet (maybe because I hadn’t caught any), so I decided to postpone the shower and went straight to the dock. I caught my first fish of the week. It was three inches long, and I still don’t know how it opened its mouth wide enough to get the hook in it. This was the first of several baby fish to find my hook that day. On the bright side, I caught plenty of crabs.  (Laugh.  I know you want to.)

Last year, we caught no crabs and the fish were scarce. This meant we didn’t eat any seafood last year. This year, we were pulling in some monstrous blue crabs on our fishing poles. We didn’t hook them; these creatures are just too stupid to let go when they see a man holding a net at the dock. Combined with the 40 or so crabs we brought in from the traps every day, we were content despite not catching fish of edible size.

Tuesday afternoon, I volunteered to go check the crab traps. I don’t particularly enjoy trap detail, but it was an excuse to jump in the boat and tool around the inlet for a bit. Koondog jumped in with me, and we took off for adventures in the marsh. We found on about one hundred yards from the dock when the engine started making this struggling noise. I’d run over a sandbar about five inches under the surface. I use the word sandbar in the loosest possible sense. This ground was black mud, and four feet deep. I’d be damned if I was going to jump overboard and push. Koondog wore an expression that relayed the same sentiment. So we relied on paddles and upper body strength, and after much hilarity we were floating in water again,

On the bright side, there was enough marsh grass between the dock and us that the grown-ups didn’t see our antics. On the brighter side, my father had run over the same thing the day before. The only real downside was that he had already told us about it, and told us exactly where it was. Koon and I agreed to a silence pact. What happens in the marsh, stays in the marsh.

Tuesday night, we opted for poker. $10 buy-in, dollar cap on raises. Koon’s father proved that the laws of probability and statistics do not apply to him. Hand after hand, he was dropping straights, flushes, and trips. If we were a last-chance town in the Old West, he would’ve been shot. He saw the murder in our eyes, though, and at the end of the night he cashed out and gave us back our money. (We protested this heavily, because if he lost the next night, we’d be obligated to return the favor.)

Wednesday found us being incredibly lazy, even for vacationers. The fish weren’t biting, and we had about 70 crabs cooked and ready to eat, so Koon, Red, and I sat and watched television for most of the day. It was a fairly new experience for me, since I don’t really watch television. I can’t tell you what we watched, because I can’t remember. This is the reason I don’t watch it. It’s just white spaces in my memory where time passes and I have no recollection of it. In the afternoon, the grown-ups started hollering about what we needed from the grocery store because they were about to drive into town. This derails my story yet again.

These people load up three cars FULL of food to bring down. They plan for weeks in advance what each meal will consist of, and have a very structured list of what must be brought down. Once we’re there, however, this list is apparently thrown away and they cook whatever they want day by day. This means daily trips to the grocery store. One day, my mother went to the store in the morning and bought the makings for peach cobbler (mmmmm, my favorite) and then we made a second trip that afternoon because it was decided that we wouldn’t be having cobbler. (YOU SOULLESS TEASE!!!) My point is, if you’re going to make a plan, follow the plan. Don’t plan for something that you know you’re not going to follow-through with. They do this every damn year.

Wednesday night, Koon’s sister and brother-in-law (the veterinarians) arrive with their adorable daughter. In celebration of this, we sat down and brought out the poker chips again. Koon’s dad was not so lucky this time, and he was broke within thirty minutes. (Remember that part about being obligated to return the favor? It was so tempting not to.) Koon’s brother-in-law, though, was free to fleece, and fleece him we did. I won $9 for the night after all was said and done.

Thursday was another lazy day. We’d given up on fishing since yet another front came through. Instead, a few of us younger men jumped in the boat (at high tie, this time) and went cruising. It was just a guy’s day out, and we all enjoyed it. Somehow, I managed to avoid a tan. Thursday night we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. We ate more than we should’ve, and all of us were in bed by 8:30. I woke up around midnight and walked out to watch television. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim is one of the few things I miss about cable, and I figured I’d get some of that in. Koon was also up, and the two of us fell asleep on the couches watching cartoons. It was a good end to a good vacation.

This morning I woke up, packed, and was on the road by 11:00. I was ready to get home and take a real shower, wash my clothes in real water, and be lazy in my own house. Now all of that’s done, and I’m ready to go downtown and see what’s going on this holiday weekend.

(Good lord this was a long entry!!!)

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