The winter of 2009 was like most winters in Ottawa, it was long, cold and dark. I felt like it was never going to end. One day I was checking out the weather forecast and I noticed an ad for Myrtle Beach. On a whim, I sent my friend Wanda a quick email with a link to the ad and a note that simply said “do you want to go?” Much to my delight, Wanda replied right away “yes”. With that, the planning for a March Break trip down south began.
The very thought of escaping from winter gave me something to look forward to. With my usual determination, I searched the web high and low to find a good deal on a hotel. I could not believe it when I found this fantastic hotel, on the beach, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, and two balconies facing the ocean. The suite was reduced to $75 per night, really almost too good to be true. So when March Break arrived, we packed up our two boys and away we went.
We were super excited to be heading south for the week, and we piled everything we needed into Wanda’s van. My son does not believe in traveling light, so the van was jammed full of everything, He even brought a very large air cleaner with him.
The boys were great friends, they had met in elementary school, and they also played hockey together. They were somewhat like the odd couple, James being super picky, and Ryan being as easy going as can be, the two of them got along famously. Wanda and I got to know each other during the endless hours spent in countless arenas over the years, we also got along famously. So we made a great foursome for this trip.
The boys decided to watch a movie in the van as Wanda’s van had a DVD player. The movie of choice was “Dumb and Dumber”. I should mention, that this was the ONLY movie they watched during the trip down south, and they also watched it the whole way home. Each time the Mockingbird song would come on, all four of us would belt out the song. The Mockingbird song became our road trip anthem.
The drive was quite incredible. I had never driven south before, and the scenery was something to behold. The John Denver song “Country Road” describes the trip perfectly “almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains blowin’ like the breeze….” by the way, Wanda and I sang this song while en route.
We took our time on the trip and drove as far as Gettysburg the first day. I found a nice hotel there during the trip planning, and we were pleased with the accommodations. The next day we hit the road for the second leg of the trip.
We stopped at a Walmart just outside of Myrtle Beach, and I was really surprised that they sold everything there, including groceries and wine. However, since it was Sunday, they refused to sell alcohol. Really odd and certainly disappointing.
We arrived at the hotel at about 9pm, and we were pleasantly surprised at our hotel suite. It lived up to the reviews and was quite spectacular! All of us were super pumped to be there, and we looked forward to our stay.
Every morning, we sat out on our deck overlooking the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and enjoyed our coffee. As if right on cue, a school of dolphins would inevitably swim by. This was the first time James had seen the ocean, and it was my first visit to Myrtle Beach, our ocean front hotel certainly did not disappoint.
Unfortunately James had gotten extremely sick a few weeks before our trip, and although he was finished taking his antibiotics, some of his symptoms reappeared after we left Ottawa. For one thing, he had pink eye, and on top of that he had a terribly sore throat. I managed to buy the necessary medicine for the pink eye, and gave him Advil each day to ward off the throat pain. James was dragged down by the illness, which did put a bit of a damper on the trip, but he toughed it out and made the most of it.
The nice thing about the suite is that we had the option of dining at home when it suited us. So one night we served up ham and baked potatoes, with corn. It was a great home cooked meal. After a long day, James’ throat was sore and he was not at his best, and when we served up dinner he stared at the baked potato as if he’d never seen one before. I encouraged him to try it, “it’s a potato, it’s yummy” I said. Admittedly, I spoke to him as if he was three, which Wanda and Ryan thought was extremely funny. So for the remainder of the trip, they would periodically blurt out “it’s a potato, it’s yummy” and we’d all crack up. For years afterwards, they never let me live it down.
We truly had a great week, we enjoyed the beautiful weather, the beach and the shopping. The boys even went out for a round of golf. However the golf was somewhat of a disappointment because a cranky old fella pestered them the whole time they were on the course, even though they were far better golfers than he and his lady friends were. This was unfortunate, I wish that we had been on the course with the boys so we could have put the old guy in his place. Our boys were 14 and 15 years old, and far too polite to stand up for themselves.
Myrtle Beach has some amazing shopping outlets as well as stores that we don’t have in Canada. Ryan helped James pick out his first pair of jeans. Prior to this time, James was happy to wear sports pants. Ryan was an excellent shopping advisor, he had an older sister who had given him some tips, and he was happy to help his buddy find the perfect pair of jeans.
We had planned to check out of the hotel on Thursday and head back home, but we were having such a great time that Wanda and the boys convinced me that we should stay on another day. After some discussion at the front desk, we were able to get the same amazing deal for our suite, so we extended our stay for an additional day, much to everyone’s delight.
The drive home felt longer than the trip there. We headed back to Gettysburg, and we didn’t arrive at our hotel until after 10pm. It felt like we were never going to get there. Wanda and I were both wiped from all of the driving. The following day we arrived back in Ottawa in time for dinner, all of us tired, but nevertheless sad to see the trip come to an end.
All in all our winter escape was a really fun adventure, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. I am sure that none of us will ever hear the Mockingbird song without thinking of our trip that March Break. And I always relive the spectacular drive in my mind whenever I hear “Country Road”. It’s funny how an idea can start as a whim and end up becoming something quite special. I am so glad that Wanda and Ryan were with us, it was so memorable!
The moral to the story is that if you have the chance to do something with your friends and family, go for it! It’s trips like this that make memories which last a lifetime.