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Road Trip – Almost Heaven

Road Trip – Almost Heaven

Note: this is still a draft version of this post…

Because I’m so slow to get back to writing these travel posts, I’m going to start publishing the drafts (yeah, I know that’s an oxymoron). I’ll try to get back to finish these posts in the not-too-distant future…

Stats for this Trip

This trip spanned 1309.7 miles and consumed 56.677 gallons of gas, for a fuel mileage of 23.108 mpg. Not too bad for driving in the mountains of West Virginia.

Still in Maryland: Rocky Gap State Park, and Puccini Restaurant

Last time we were near the Cumberland, MD, area (actually, last time we were near there we stayed in Cumberland for a couple of days) we thought about visiting Rocky Gap State Park but never did. So this time, because we had plenty of time, we decided to drop by there on the way (it’s a bit east of Cumberland). We were glad we did. It was a very pleasant, relaxing hour or so with perfect weather and not many people. We left there in time to get to Puccini Restaurant – our very favorite restaurant in the area – around 6 p.m., where we had a relaxed dinner of, well, it doesn’t really matter, because everything we’ve ever had at Puccini has been excellent.

Finally in West Virginia

It was a very easy – and short, only 110 miles – from Puccini in Cumberland, MD, to our hotel (Springhill Suites by Marriott in Clarksburg/Bridgeport). The hotel was okay, but I wish we’d have been staying at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott, which was located right next door. TownePlace Suites generally have full size refrigerators and more storage area, although they are usually a few dollars more per night. The Springhill Suites is newer but is still showing signs of age and/or mild neglect.

Clarksburg/Bridgeport

We didn’t have strenuous plans for the day, so we slept a bit late. It’s a good thing we didn’t sleep too late, though; just as we were about to leave to get some, ahem, “breakfast,” the power went out for about a mile-or-so radius around the hotel. So, we headed for a Bob Evans that was a few miles away, hoping that they’d have power. However, right next door to the Bob Evans was a Tudor’s Biscuit World, which we’d read about in some reviews of recommended restaurants in the area. So, of course we at there instead. It was really good, and a bit less expensive than Bob Evans would have been. It was also co-located with a gas station, a “GoMart” as I recall, so we got gas before heading to Helvetia, our destination for the day.

Helvetia, WV

Helvetia (pronounced hel-VEE-sha by the locals), WV, is a tiny town. No, really – we walked all over it in about 2 hours (I think its population high-water mark was around 300 people, with a current population of about 70). It was founded 1869 by a few Swiss and German immigrants, and you can find out more info from their webpage (helpfully linked in the first word of this paragraph.

The drive from the Clarksburg/Bridgeport area was, shall we say, interesting. We usually use Waze, a smartphone app, to navigate when traveling, and this day was no exception. I have Waze set to “Avoid Difficult Intersections” and to not allow unpaved roads, and I think that by default it tries to find the shortest route. Now, I expected some smaller roads because Helvetia is tucked away in the mountains of West Virginia, so when Waze said to turn off the main road onto a road with a prominent “Narrow Road Ahead” sign I wasn’t too concerned. Perhaps I should have been.

The road got pretty narrow pretty quickly, and the houses – of which there were many more than we expected – were somewhat reminiscent of the banjo scene in the movie Deliverance.” After a while we came to a half dirt/half gravel road that was really narrow and rutted in places. If we hadn’t already been on the narrow road for what must have been 10+ miles, I would probably have turned around. Oh well, the journey is part of the trip, so we pressed on. Eventually we turned onto a much more major road (two whole lanes with striping down the middle!) and Waze told us we were only about 5 minutes away from Helvetia, which turned out to be accurate.

It was well worth the trip, but I did ask a couple of locals (who were standing on the front porch of the town post office, general store, inn, and museum (all in one building)) if there was a more straightforward way back to Clarksburg. They asked how we’d gotten there and chuckled a bit when I told them, after which they said, yes, just stay on the “main” road (County Road 46 to County Road 11) back out of town and look for signs to State Route 20 and go north. This was much “better” (well, at least bigger, smoother, and paved all the way) than the Alton Rd/Big Run Rd/Hinkle Ridge Rd route we’d used to get to Helvetia.

Helvetia was an interesting place, and the “Our Own Sausage Sandwich” paired with homemade sauerkraut at the town’s Hütte Restaurant was amazing. If you go to Helvetia, be sure to eat there (it’s really the only place in town to eat).

So, how in the world did we decide to visit Helvetia? Well, our oldest granddaughter plays a video game called Fallout 76, which is set in West Virginia, and Helvetia is one of the places in the game. When she heard we were traveling to West Virginia she suggested visiting, and we were game (no pun intended).

Helvetia General Store, Post Office, Inn, Museum

An aside: while the trip back to our hotel was uneventful, not long after we got back there the power went out again. It wasn’t out for long – maybe half an hour – but we hoped this was not a harbinger of things to come.

Valley Falls State Park

On Friday, July 21, we decided to visit Valley Falls State Park. The trip there was not nearly as convoluted (or interesting) as the trip to Helvetia. We walked along the rocks on the edge of the river and enjoyed the views. The day was warm, and we did have a few minutes of very light rain, but we stood under a tree so we didn’t get wet. A very pleasant afternoon.

Valley Falls State Park in West Virginia

More Bad News for Clarksburg & Heading for New River Gorge NP

On Saturday we checked out of the hotel and drove to a nearby Denny’s for breakfast (well, really more like brunch, but Denny’s is one of those happy places that has breakfast all day). We got seated, ordered, and ate. We asked for the check, and Nancy asked where the Ladie’s Room was located. The server provided the check, but said that the restrooms were closed – and, in fact, the entire restaurant was closed, and they weren’t letting any more people in – because of a water main break in the area. As we left we saw a lot of water on the road and nearby parking lots. At least we were leaving the area. We must have found a restroom somewhere nearby off I-79, as I don’t remember any “emergencies” on the trip to New River Gorge.

The route from Clarksburg to Beckley took us over the New River Gorge bridge, and, of course, past the National Park’s visitor center. So we stopped for a few minutes to stretch our legs and see a few sights. And get some ice cream…

This is a view of the bridge from an overlook near the visitor center.

New River Gorge Bridge

Courtyard by Marriott Ain’t What It Used to Be

We almost always stay at a Marriott property when we travel. We prefer Towneplace Suites, and use them even if the cost-per-night is a bit higher. We also like Fairfield Inn and Suites, as well as Residence Inns. We’ve also had good experiences at Courtyard by Marriott – until this trip.

The Courtyard in Beckley, WV, seems a bit outdated and, well, run down. It appears to have been remodeled at some point (not recent!), as evidenced by the shower-only bathroom that obviously had a tub-and-shower before. The shower looked (mostly) modern but was so narrow that I had to stand sideways to use it. When I pulled my towel off the towel bar, the entire bar came off the wall and clattered to the tile floor.

I was under the impression that Courtyards were supposed to be a bit upscale, and our previous experiences had been good. For instance, we stayed several days at the Courtyard on the Riverwalk in Rome, GA, in 2022 and it was excellent. The one in Beckley, WV, was… not.

Sandstone Falls

Probably my favorite place of the entire trip was Sandstone Falls, which is a little bit upriver from the bridge. Note that this means it’s a bit southeast of the bridge – the river flows north. The drive to the parking area was pleasant, and there was a short, easy walk to get to the falls area. Here is one of the several beautiful views.

Coal Mine, Moonshine, or Move it on Down the Line

Coal mining was – and, I think, still is – a huge part of the economy of West Virginia overall, and of the Beckley and New River Gorge area in particular. We spent one afternoon traveling to and waking around Thurmond, WV. The drive to and from Thurmond was quaint, and quite scenic on the small, twisty, backroads. I was reminded of a scene from the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” in which Lee Dollarhide (played by William Sanderson) is talking to Doolittle Lynn (played by Tommy Lee Jones) right after Lee’s brother’s body is brought back to town on a mule – killed by (as I recall) a competing bootlegger. Lee tells Doolittle something to the effect that, “if you’re born around here there’s only three choices in life: coal mine, moonshine, or move it on down the line.” Of course, Butcher Hollow is in Kentucky; however, it isn’t too far from Beckley, WV (maybe 75 miles as the crow flies if I’m looking at the map correctly), and I suspect the culture of the two is as similar as the topography. Let’s hope that things have improved in both areas since the 1930s and 1940s.

Under the Bridge Walk

On Tuesday, July 25, we did the Bridge Walk. A couple of friends from Maryland joined us for part of the trip, and they also joined us for the Bridge Walk. Here is a “before” photo of the four of us. We did, obviously, make it back okay. It was an interesting experience, and if you’re in the area – and not too afraid of heights – you should check it out.

I’ll add some photos from the actual walk soon – Nancy took plenty of them.

Headed Home, and I Hate I-81!

We drove back from Beckley, WV, to Salisbury, MD, on Thursday, July 27, 2023. We normally try to travel on Wednesdays because I think the traffic is a bit less problematic, but Tuesdays and Thursdays aren’t too bad, usually. I also usually try to avoid I-81 whenever possible, and I should have avoided it this time as well. Traveling up I-79 in West Virginia would have been a bit longer distance, but it would have been much more peaceful. I did avoid the Washington, DC, area by going all the way to Martinsburg, WV, and then heading east toward Frederick, MD, and then back on I-70. That added about half an hour, but was well worth it.

Road Trip – October 2022

Note: this is still a draft version of this post…

Because I’m so slow to get back to writing these travel posts, I’m going to start publishing the drafts (yeah, I know that’s an oxymoron). I’ll try to get back to finish these posts in the not-too-distant future…

And another administrative note…

It seems prudent going forward to create only one blog post for each road trip. This will, I think, be less confusing because the posts show up in the blog listing in reverse chronological order – which is the way it should be. So now the post for each trip will flow chronologically from beginning to end for that trip.

Southport, NC

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

We left Salisbury, MD, around 11 a.m. bound for Southport, NC. We uncharacteristically ate breakfast at home before leaving so we skipped Squeaky’s this time. We stopped at the rest area at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to stretch a bit. This rest stop is located almost exactly halfway (timewise, not distance-wise) between home and the Cracker Barrel in Emporia, VA. We got to the Cracker Barrel a little after 3 p.m., which was a good time because it was not crowded at all.

After eating a very late lunch/very early dinner, we got on I-95 southbound. Following the directions from Waze we got off I-95 near Wilson, NC, stopped for gas there, and then began the last leg of the day’s journey to Southport, where we arrived around 8 p.m.

The Fairfield Inns and Suites in Southport is mostly indistinguishable from any other, except for one thing: they did not have coffee service in the lobby like every other Marriott property we’ve stayed at. When I asked about this at the front desk, they said it’s because there are coffee makers in the guest rooms. My reply was that every hotel room I’ve stayed in (at least in the US) for the last 30+ years has had coffee makers in the rooms, and the Marriott properties have all had coffee service in the lobby. In fact, I looked on my Bonvoy app and it’s listed as one of the “amenities,” including for that hotel. Oh well.

After we got settled in, I called my college roommate, David Berne, who lives in the Southport area with his wife and sons. I recognized his voice immediately – even after not having heard it for 39 years. We chatted for a minute or two and made plans to meet for lunch the following day. When I hung up the phone, I told Nancy that I recognized his voice, but that he had a more pronounced Southern accent that I’d remembered. By the following day I was acclimated, and no longer heard anyone’s Southern accent… everyone just sounded normal.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

David picked us up at our hotel at noon and we met his wife, Emerson, at The Provision Company for lunch. The Provision Company isn’t fancy, but the food was excellent, and not very expensive. Nancy and I both had the lunch special – a deviled crab and a quarter pound of steamed, spiced shrimp. We sat at a table by an open window overlooking the Cape Fear River and ate and talked for an hour. It was great to meet Emerson, and to catch up with David after all these years. Much has changed over that time, but our comfortable friendship was easy to pick up again.

We stopped by David and Emerson’s house for a few minutes just to see where they live. A lovely home right on the water with a dock and a gazebo.

David dropped us off back at the hotel around 3 p.m. (I think), and we relaxed for a couple of hours and then walked across the parking lot to Bella Cucina, a nice Italian restaurant for dinner. Then it was back to our room to watch some TV, read a bit, and fall asleep.

Friday, October 14, 2022

[“Brunch” at Old Bridge Diner…]

[Fort Caswell, Oak Island lighthouse, walk on Caswell Beach…]

[Dinner at Fishy Fishy Cafe…]

Saturday, October 15, 2022

[“Brunch” at Southport Coffee Co. and Kitchen, old houses, Brunswick Inn (circa 1859)(for sale!), pier and riverwalk, some shopping…]

[Dinner at Oliver’s on the Cape Fear…]

Sunday, October 16, 2022

[Breakfast at Southport Coffee Co. & Kitchen, saying “’til next time” to David, drive to North Myrtle Beach, check-in at The Links, dinner with Mike and Kathy, Kroger…]

The Links Golf & Racquet Club, North Myrtle Beach, SC

We arrived at The Links Resort (nee, The Links Golf & Racquet Club) around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 16, 2022.

[Still up to their old “we want to give you an ‘owner’ update” crap…]

[WiFi router and Internet now in each unit, Fire TV Stick 4k, chairs exactly where we left them last year…]

[Roaches! And… shower door off the track…]

[Dinner with Mike and Kathy at Boardwalk Billy’s, then Kroger…]

Monday, October 17, 2022, thru Wednesday, October 19, 2022

[Dinner in on Monday and Tuesday, walks around the timeshare, Possum Trot becoming 55+ single home community…]

[Walk at North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex on Tuesday (2.6 miles)…]

[Dinner at Bonefish Grill on Wednesday…]

Thursday, October 20, 2022

[Brenda and Richard arrive, dinner with Mike, Kathy, Donna, Joan, Brenda, and Richard at Clark’s Seafood & Chophouse…]

Friday, October 21, 2022

[B’fast at Waffle House, Putt-Putt (er, Miniature Golf), dinner at “21 Main at North Beach Prime Steak House”…]

Saturday, October 22, 2022

[Broadway at the Beach, Mead Tasting, dinner with Mike and Kathy, and Brenda and Richard at (hamburger place)…]

Kill Devil Hills, NC (OBX)

We got up early on Sunday, October 23, 2022, and left The Links around 9:45 a.m. headed for the Tee Time Cafe in Shallott, NC. We ate there last year and really liked it, and it’s about 30 minutes out of North Myrtle Beach, so we decided to go there again. Same good food, same good service, so we plan to be regulars there (well, annually, anyway).

It rained a bit on the drive to Kill Devil Hills, and we arrived at the Towneplace Suites around 4 p.m. At check-in, I asked if they had any available upgrade for Bonvoy members (I always ask) and the did! We got upgraded to an ocean view room with a bit more space. After settling into the room it was time for dinner, and we decided on Food Dudes Kitchen which is less than a mile from the hotel.

Monday, October 24, 2022

After breakfast in our room (cereal!), we headed out to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The park is built around the east coast’s highest sand dunes and is only about 2 miles from our hotel. Great weather and scenery – not to mention some much needed exercise and fresh air – made for an enjoyable afternoon.

While at the park I had noticed that one of the informational plaques was sponsored by Tortugas Lie Restaurant, so I looked them up on Google Maps. They were only a mile or so from the park entrance and they got 4.6 out of 5 stars after almost 3000 reviews, so we headed there for dinner. It was great!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Another low-key day spent mostly in our room either reading or blogging 🙂

Finally got to eat at Kill Devil Grill…

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

[Heading back to Salisbury…]

Home sweet home!

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

We recently watched the movie “Hidden Figures,” from 2016. It’s about the African-American women who worked at NASA as “computers” – they performed complex mathematical calculations for the space program. We watched it thru Disney+, but however you can find it, watch it. It’s a good story, and one that should have been told decades ago.

The Outer Banks

The Outer Banks

We left North Myrtle Beach around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 24, 2021. We were amazed how quickly we crossed into North Carolina, as neither of us realized how close to the border NMB is. I had looked for breakfast restaurants in the Shallotte, NC, area, and we were headed to a place called Eggs Up Grill which I had hoped was a local, non-chain place, but it’s actually a chain across the Southern Atlantic Seaboard states from Richmond, VA, on down into Florida.

The Eggs Up Grill in Shallotte, NC, must be pretty good, because when we got there around 10:15 a.m. it was packed, and there was a decent size crowd waiting to get in. I guess I don’t have to tell you that we opted to find somewhere else. I’m really glad we did, because we found a local, non-chain restaurant that had good food, good service, local flavor, and we walked in and got seated right away. What is this magical place, you may ask? It’s called “Tee Time Cafe” and it’s located right around the corner from the Eggs Up Grill. Highly recommended if you’re in the area looking for breakfast or lunch. Note that they are open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, except for Saturday, when they close at noon.

We arrived in Kill Devil Hills, NC, early enough to take a walk on the beach just before dusk. After that we walked to dinner at a local restaurant called “Noosa Beach Grill.” We mostly stumbled onto it as we were actually walking and headed to a different restaurant. It was another of those serendipitous occurrences that seem to happen to us on a somewhat regular basis, partly because the place we were headed was actually closed (we did not know that beforehand), and the Noosa Beach Grill was excellent.

I had the Fish and Chips and Nancy had the Fish Tacos, both of which were made with the “catch of the day” which was Mahi-Mahi, and both of which were excellent.

I also had a drink called a Jungle Bird, whose black strap rum intrigued me. It was a bit different from what I was expecting – and different from any drink I’d ever had before – and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It had a mild hint of spice to it, which I guess came from the “‘island spiced’ demerara sugar syrup.” Hmmm, I might have to get me some of that (minus the “island spice”).

The sign, as seen from my seat at our table.
An Intriguing Cocktail

Last Full Day of Vacation

It has been said that all good things must come to an end, and the same is true for road trips. On our last full day, we slept late, went to get breakfast at Waveriders Coffee, Deli & Pub in Nags Head, NC.

As far as I can tell, Waveriders is a local, non-chain restaurant. It’s outside seating is pet friendly (we saw a handsome Boxer when we pulled up, and I also noticed that there were several water bowls along the wall next to the sidewalk). They offer breakfast sandwiches all day, a good selection of coffees (well, if you can drink regular coffee; their selection of decaf was, well, a single decaf).

The inside dining room was open and inviting, with an assortment of tables and chairs, and a very relaxed atmosphere. We will definitely put this on our list of go-to places in the OBX.

After breakfast, we stopped at the local Food Lion to pick up some extra Kleenex (did I mention that Nancy has had a cold for most of the trip? We’re pretty sure it’s not Covid, just an average, every-day, garden-variety head cold), more bottled water (we finished up the case that we brought with us this morning), some cold meds, and some snacks (what’s a road trip without snacks?).

For the afternoon, we’re reading, relaxing, and blogging.

For dinner, we went to a local restaurant called Pigman’s BBQ, right on S. Croatan Highway in Kill Devil Hills. It’s an unassuming place with good food and service. The BBQ there is – not surprisingly – “North Carolina style” which is a bit more vinegary than either Nancy or I prefer. Still, it was good, and the portion was large enough that neither one of us finished everything on the plate.

After dinner, we stopped at Forbes Candy and Gift Shop, which was right next door to Pigman’s. Nancy got some saltwater taffy, I got some dark chocolate fudge and dark chocolate nonpareils, and we got a “chocolate coin” for each grandchild.

There’s No Place Like Home

While we didn’t just click our heels together and magically wake up at home, we did have an easy, uneventful drive home. We left OBX around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, and basically moseyed home. We did manage to find a Cracker Barrel in Chesapeake, VA, where we ate breakfast. Then a quick stop to fill up the gas tank, and in less than an hour we were on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. We arrived home around 4 p.m.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, SC

We left Columbia, SC, on Sunday morning, October 17, 2021, headed for Myrtle Beach, SC (well, technically, North Myrtle Beach). Google Maps (which I use to get a route overview) indicated that the fastest way was to head back to I-20 west, then to I-95 south, but also included an alternate route (about 3 hours instead of approximately 2.5 hours) that would take us through Sumter, SC. We were not in a hurry at all, so we decided to take the route through Sumter.

Sumter, SC

Although I’ve been to Sumter many times, the last time was probably around 1972 give or take a year or two. My family would often visit family friends there when I was growing up, and I remember many happy times in Sumter. Those trips – at least as I remember them – comprised driving from our house in Augusta, GA, to our friends’ house in Sumter (about a 2-hour drive), staying there for a few days (usually a weekend), and then driving back home. I do not recall ever “doing things” in Sumter, or going out to eat, or even stopping for gas.

So, while passing through Sumter on this trip we wanted to look around a bit, get some lunch, and generally enjoy the gorgeous weather. Nancy used Google Maps to locate the historic district and we headed there as a place to start. It’s interesting to note that Google Maps (at least in this instance) navigated us to a parking area adjacent to the old part of Main Street, which worked well for us.

We strolled up and down a few blocks looking in shop windows, reading a couple of historical markers, admiring the architecture of some of the old buildings, and looking for a place to get something to eat. The Opera House, the Courthouse, the First Presbyterian Church, and the Sumter Original Brewery buildings stood out to me as interesting and historically important landmarks. There were also butterfly decorations on several of the lamp poles! It was not obvious why they were there, but they were cool.

One of the Many Butterflies

We saw two possible places to eat while strolling along Main Street. The first was Sumter Original Brewery (which had (covered) seating on the roof, and a “Terrace Restaurant” (I’m not sure what the name was – it’s just north of the Opera House on the same side of the street). Nancy didn’t have a strong preference, and I preferred the Brewery so we ate there. The menu is limited to either a cheeseburger platter or a hot dog platter (both included fries and a drink), so we each got a cheeseburger platter. Nancy (who does not like beer) got a Ginger Ale with hers, and I got the Gray Haze IPA, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

After lunch we headed back to the car and got back on the road to Myrtle Beach. We arrived at the Links Golf and Racquet Club around 5:30 p.m.

The Links Golf and Racquet Club

Andy’s parents purchased a timeshare at The Links Golf and Racquet Club back in the 1980s when timeshares were the new vacation “thing.” At the time, the golf course that is still readily apparent in a Google Maps “Terrain View” was apparently in full swing (yeah, sorry for the bad pun). I can’t imagine Andy’s dad buying a timeshare without a close-if-not-on-site golf course. You can check out the Google Map here: Google Maps (you might have to switch to “Terrain View” to see the golf course).

The Ghost of Golf Course Past

With the halcyon days of timeshares now in the distant past, I suspect many are enduring the slow death that is evidently overtaking The Links. The approach du jour is the “points” approach (you can learn all about this by Binging it (https://bing.com), to which RCI (Resort Condominium International) is pushing hard to get their members to convert. In fact, The Links did not even try to sign us up for the infamous come-see-our-sales-pitch-and-get-free-stuff fiasco. On the other hand, their new partner, Capital Vacations, offered us $100 worth of vouchers to a local restaurant to go to an “owner update” meeting. More on that below.

After checking in and putting our luggage in the unit, we headed off for some light dinner and then to the local Kroger to get supplies for the week.

The “Owner Update” Meeting

On Monday afternoon, we dutifully went to our “Owner Update” meeting, at which I had been assured we would not be subjected to any sales pitch, and where, of course, they tried to get us to convert to their points membership. While we would like to get rid of the timeshare, we did not find their offer compelling (much to their chagrin). Basically, they wanted a boatload of money up front and double the annual maintenance fee for points that we could use for fabulous vacations, flights, meals, to pay the maintenance fees, to ride unicorns, yada, yada, yada. I’ll probably write a whole blog post about this subject at some future time.

The meeting left such a bad taste that we just had to find an ice cream shop and get some ice cream (hey, any excuse is better than none ;-). After looking at Google Maps to see what was nearby, we finally ended up at Ella’s Ice Cream.

Ella’s Ice Cream, North Myrtle Beach, SC

Timeshare Technology

As mentioned above, the heyday of timeshares has passed, and, with it, apparently any effort to properly maintain the properties has declined as well (I can’t speak for all, just all of the ones that we’ve stayed at in the last 10 or so years). Along with crumbling caulk, mismatched flatware, and rocking toilets, one of the most glaring deficiencies is in the technology – namely the WiFi, the Cable TV, and the TVs themselves.

Judging from the signal strength, they are apparently trying to cover the entire development with one or two access points (APs). The speed is okay, mostly, but varies with the signal strength, which varies with… something, I guess. The only exception to this rule that we’ve found was at Harbor Point, in Harbor Springs, Michigan, which I think had one AP per unit with a wireless network for that unit only. That’s a better approach all around – signal strength, speed, and security – but obviously costs more.

The Cable TV provides a low-resolution picture that looks terrible. The channel selection is decent, but who wants to watch anything at, I’m guessing, 480p (maybe 720p, but no higher than that).

The TV itself is not too bad. It has HDMI inputs accessible on the left side, and is capable of 1080p. I keep an HDMI cable in my electronics bag, so we were able to connect the laptop to the TV. We watched shows I downloaded from Netflix and Amazon Prime before we left home; I’m not sure if we could successfully stream anything on the WiFi here. At 1080p resolution, it was very watchable, even if we did have to sit pretty close to it (the TV is only a 37″ screen).

UPS Store and FedEx Store and Rioz

Nancy was in the middle of some farm-related business when we left Salisbury, and some of the documents she needed to sign were time critical. In order to get everything completed on time, the other party was going to overnight some documents for her to sign… in the presence of a Notary Public.

We looked around for a Notary and the bank that we called said that the UPS Store had a Notary. We called, and in the recording on the voicemail system it said they had a Notary on site during all business hours and no appointment was necessary. We received the documents on Tuesday morning and headed off Tuesday afternoon to the UPS Store.

The other party had also included a prepaid FedEx overnight envelope to return the signed and notarize documents, so after the signing we headed to a nearby FedEx store. Altogether it only took about an hour (including finding the UPS Store (Waze routed us through a McDonald’s parking lot)) to get everything done.

Once we were finished with that it was getting near dinner time, so we decided we’d head to the Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse (for which we had $100 worth of vouchers from the “Owner Update” (see above). It was delicious – just like the other two Brazilian Steakhouses we’ve eaten at before (Fogo de Chao in Dallas, TX, and Rodizio in Nashville, TN). If you’ve never tried a Brazilian Steakhouse, we highly recommend it – but be hungry when you go!

Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse

Possum Trot Golf Course

I did a little research and found out that the golf course that used to be adjacent to the “The Links” was named Possum Trot Golf Course, and it was a public course – not affiliated with the timeshare in any way.

The course ceased operation in October 2019, which was only two years ago as I write this. There are still a couple of places where it’s possible to easily walk from the timeshare property to what was the golf course.

I walked a fair way (yes, a terrible pun; sorry, not sorry) in each direction on the decaying cart path. In one direction I found what must have been a “Tee Marker” (the signs that say what hole you’re about to play and give the distance and par score).

Decaying Cart Path
An Old Tee Marker

In the other direction, I found what was obviously a sand trap, which means there was likely a green nearby. Not much is visible of the tees, fairways, and greens due to the overgrowth of some type of plant. From the height of the growth and the decay of the cart path I would have thought the course had been abandoned for at least 10 years. I guess nature reclaims land quickly when there is no concrete involved.

Abandoned Sand Trap

Possum Trot Golf Course was in operation for 51 years, and I’m sure Andy’s dad played it many times. The end of an era, I guess. Nothing lasts forever.

The Beach, Putt-Putt, and a Seafood Buffet

We finally made it out to the actual beach! The Links is not on the beach, or even in walking distance, but they do have a nice cabana (complete with rest rooms and shower rooms) that is in walking distance (maybe .2 miles as the crow flies). We parked at the cabana, I (Andy) changed to my “beach shoes” and off we went.

It was a warm day, but there was a nice breeze on the beach so it was very pleasant. We met a couple of nice dogs (and their owners) and generally had a good, relaxing time.

After the beach, we stopped at Painter’s Original Ice Cream and got some ice cream!

After ice cream, we drove a bit north and found Lost Treasure Golf, one of the many Mini-Golf (what we always called Putt-Putt) purveyors in North Myrtle Beach. A round of 18 holes for the two of us was $24, which seemed a bit on the high side, but everything is a bit on the high side these days.

This round was noteworthy for the fact that Nancy and I actually tied in our scores. She was leading by several strokes going in to the last hole, and pointed out that this would be the first time she’d ever beaten me at putt-putt in our entire marriage. Sadly, on the last hole she had some issues and didn’t quite “win” the match. Maybe next time.

At any rate, a good time was had by all.

It was a little past 5:00 p.m. when we finished our mini-golf adventure, and we decided to go ahead and find something for dinner. Looking at Waze and searching for nearby restaurants turned up Captain Jack’s Seafood Buffet. We were in the mood for seafood, so we decided to go there.

Billed (on their website) as the “best seafood buffet in North Myrtle Beach,” the building and parking lot were pretty large. The parking lot was nowhere near full, but at 5:00 p.m. on a Thursday in the off-season you wouldn’t expect it to be. We parked and went inside.

Our first red flag should have been that there was no hostess at the reception desk. We waited for several minutes before one of the hostess/server/buspersons came over to show us to a seat. As we were being seated, she asked if we wanted the buffet for two, and mentioned that it’s $43.95 per person (which I incorrectly assumed would include a drink). A bit taken aback by the price, I hesitated a second, but we agreed, sat down, and ordered drinks (not alcohol, just soft drinks).

It was truly nothing special. Typical buffet with food kept “hot” (read “warm” (sort of)), and not promptly replaced when low or obviously well past its prime, picked thru/over by previous customers, you know what I mean. If you’re in the North Myrtle Beach area and want a good buffet for a similar price (although NOT seafood), go to Rioz Brazilian Steak House. The food there is all excellent, and the meats are brought to your table still on the spits they were cooked on. And it’s only $42.50 per person.

A Couple of Low-key Days

On our last couple of days here we didn’t do much. We stayed in all day Friday and read, watched TV, and did whatever we wanted to do. This is my idea of a vacation. On Saturday afternoon, we met some friends from Salisbury (who own a condo in North Myrtle Beach) and visited for a while before we headed to Boardwalk Billy’s for a somewhat early dinner. Boardwalk Billy’s was really busy – only available seating if we didn’t want to wait for 45 minutes was inside, which was fine for us anyway. They have some interesting locally brewed draught beers, and I ordered a double-IPA (DIPA) called Dirty Myrtle from New South Brewing. The beer was good, as was dinner.

We left Sunday morning around 9:30 a.m., heading to Kill Devil Hills, NC, to spend a couple of nights to break up the trip back home. Details of the drive will be in the “OBX” blog post… stay tuned…