My family decided months ago that we would spend this year’s Christmas holiday in Orangeburg, South Carolina, at my brother’s house. His place is only about 3 ½ hours from Jacksonville and it’s an easy weekend drive. I especially enjoy the change in scenery that differs from one region to the next in the southeast – the cypress trees and marsh views from the I-95 intracoastal route in the Georgia and Carolina lowcountry to the highlands and hills through South Carolina’s midsection as we drive inland on I-26.
Matt flew in from Oklahoma City on Friday morning and we headed north on Saturday afternoon. The trunk of my car was packed to almost bursting and we’d already decided to stay in a hotel for the weekend. In previous visits to my brother’s, I’ve had to participate in midnight wrestling with the ginormous German Shepherd in order to determine who wins the couch for the night. I barely won the last time against Tiko and knew I’d have no energy to do the same this time. Besides, I had two other people to make comfortable each night. A hotel was the only reasonable option but we all spent the majority of each day with the family.
Our Christmas Eve tradition is to let the kids choose one gift to open. Those gifts were usually given by my late grandmothers when I was little but since they’ve all passed away, the last few years we’ve had to improvise and changed it around. Elle, being the only kid, had the choice between opening a gift from Matt’s friend, Kurt (a fellow artist), or Matt’s sister, Julie (also, a fellow artist). Elle chose to open Julie’s gifts (since they were a two for one!) and busied herself for the rest of the night with the Prismatic markers and cartooning sketchbook.
Here, her first practice run:
After a horrible night’s sleep at the hotel, Matt, Elle, and I awoke to have breakfast in the lobby with a friendly staff (I spent many years as a hotel employee and worked a number of holidays…be nice to these people!). Before too long, we were off to my brother’s house to open presents, eat lots of food, drink lots of amaretto/cranberry drinkie thingies, drink lots of Jack & Cokes, play Flapjacks & Sasquatches, and watch the Green Bay Packers game (Matt now has his own official Cheesehead, thanks to my folks!). All of us ended up taking a nap at some point during the day…well, everyone except for Elle but she’d just received a Samsung Galaxy under the tree and has yet to let that thing rest for more than 7 minutes, even to charge. Even this morning, three days later, I found her on the pullout sofa in the EXACT POSITION I left her in last night when I went to bed – sitting straight up with the television turned on to the same station and that tablet still in her hands. She swears she slept last night.
On a scarier note, the dachshund decided he was tired of competing with Tiko for toys and opted to eat a AA battery, just for kicks! Jack spent the majority of Christmas evening drooling, licking the acid burns from his mouth, alternating between vomiting and excessively pooping, and causing my father tremendous worry. The dog did not die – thank goodness. IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! Also, Jack’s new nickname: RAYOJACK.
Monday morning, we loaded up the car and headed back to Jacksonville. We really wanted to get home early enough to have time to unpack, unload, rest, and repack our bags (we were going to spend the next two nights at a beach condo south of St. Augustine), but somewhere outside of Hardeeville, South Carolina, traffic came to a dead stop just three miles from the exit to an alternate route, US Highway 17. All three of us were starving (we didn’t have breakfast in order to save time and that, my friends, was a really bad idea), and when we finally came to the point when traffic began to let up a bit, we saw a young woman walking out of the woods to meet the driver of a car who’d pulled off the highway. Apparently, she’d also been caught up in the traffic delay that held us up for about an hour and couldn’t wait to pee. I doubt she realizes how much more traffic was stopped due to her inability to just cross her legs and hold it because, you know, everyone has to stop and look at the lady crawling out of the woods.
We decided to take US 17 to bypass some of the remaining South Carolina traffic on I-95, which is restricted by two lanes until the interstate opens up to three lanes as soon as you enter Georgia. Hungrier still, we drove directly into downtown Savannah, found the first parking garage we could, and walked into the first eatery we saw.
Also, the bridge that took us into downtown Savannah looks like a smaller version of the Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville:
Next stop: CRESCENT BEACH, FLORIDA!