Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vacationus Interruptus

The wheels of my Toyota Camry whirled along SC 9, the sound a steady hum that seemed to urge me forward as I drove with my right heel firmly planted on the gas pedal. My sleeping husband breathed rhythmically beside me in the passenger seat.

The inky midnight sky stretched long over the flat Carolina horizon and the full Autumn moon hung high, a lantern offering dim light and little in the way of comfort. The stars looked cold and far away as the lob lolly pines on the wayside flew by me.

We were alone on the road, traveling through dinky unlit small towns that offered no sanctuary at this hour. As the miles slipped by, I found myself wondering how it was that I was returning home early Saturday morning when I'd only left my abode just 14 hours before.

It was to have been a four-day vacation, something to help us over the rough summer. The last several months have been difficult, what with my father's illness and his somewhat unexpected passing in late July. Now my husband's aunt, his father's sister, also lay ill. It seemed too much for one family to take and a few days away sounded like a good remedy.

But it was not a family crisis that had us heading back to Virginia so soon after our departure. I really wasn't sure how things had gone so awfully wrong.

Our drive down had been nice, almost fun, if a long seven-hour drive can be fun. We listened to a book on tape and enjoyed several hours of story as we rode along. We stopped for lunch in Greensboro and took several breaks to walk around and stretch before venturing back in the car. We have long passed the age where we can ride for hours without stopping, so we make the most of our need to be leisurely in the drive.

Aside from one small argument over directions, the day progressed smoothly. We arrived at Myrtle Beach via 501 around 4:30 p.m. and went directly to our motel.

We were staying at the same place we stayed last year. I confess I had qualms about the hotel, having found it okay but not great. There were a lot of children and some concerns with housekeeping. However, I was determined, for my husband's sake, to have fun and not complain unless things were so dirty as to warrant complaint.

We checked in and were directed to the second tower of the motel, a different part of the place than we stayed last year. When we found our room, no. 839, we entered to discover the bed unmade and towels and things in the floor. We quickly backed out, not at all certain the room wasn't occupied, and made our way to guest services for this tower.

The clerk checked with housekeeping and then decided to move us to another room, no. 750. My husband went up with him to inspect the premises and he returned giving me a thumbs up.

After we obtained new keys, we went up so I could look around the room. I found no sign of bugs (I worry a lot about bed bugs these days), and no visible sign of mold and the air seemed okay when I breathed in (sometimes the mildew smell in older buildings will take my breath immediately and cause an asthma attack), so we brought our suitcases in.

We did not unpack, as by this time it was after 5 p.m. and we were hungry. We set out for a meal and decided to eat at Original Benjamin's Calabash for a seafood buffet, where I enjoyed crab legs, scallops and other delicacies the likes of which I cannot find in Roanoke.

Then we went to Bass Pro Outdoor World so my husband could do a little shopping. He found what he was looking for, so then it was on to Walmart to purchase breakfast and lunch items so that we would not be eating out the entire time we were there.

We returned to our hotel and I went up while my husband parked the car. Upon my entry into the room, I realized the smoke detector was malfunctioning. It needed a battery and continued chirping to let us know this.

I called guest services, who said they would send someone up.

Meanwhile, my husband returned from parking the car, a block away. He was quite unhappy with the smoke detector issue and he also noted that the air conditioner, which we had set to 65, did not seem to be cooling the room. And then we decided to watch TV while we waited on the maintenance man, and found that the sets didn't work.

After an hour passed and no one came to fix the smoke detector, which I confess was annoying and quite the nerve-wracking noise, my husband had had enough. "I'm going down to the desk," he said. "I think we aren't going to stay here."

I called my brother and asked him to look up the phone numbers of other area hotels for me, which he did. As we talked my husband beeped in. "We're leaving," he said. "I'm going to get the car."

I called several hotels but none had rooms available. The only thing I could find was a Hampton at Broadway at the Beach but my husband didn't want to stay there. It was oceanfront or nothing, I guess.

We had a wait while we checked out; the clerk did not want to refund our money and James had to go to the other hotel tower to find a manager. Finally he returned with refund in hand to where I waited with the luggage.

We loaded the car back up. Then we drove down Ocean Boulevard to find "no vacancy" lights in practically every hotel, except perhaps a few dives where we would not have stayed regardless. Finding nothing suitable, we headed north to North Myrtle Beach.

The whole time I was calling hotels we had frequented in the past, to no avail. I couldn't figure out why everything was so full in September, but later learned it was a bike week and a shag dancer week, not to mention a fishing time and apparently folks have gone to the Carolina beaches instead of the Gulf beaches thanks to the oil spill.

North Myrtle Beach also offered us one vacancy at $300 a night, which meant nothing was available as we couldn't afford that. We were so far north now as to make going back to SC 501 a hour's drive, so we headed down SC 9. That's the back way into North Myrtle Beach and not necessarily the best roads but there you go.

I told my husband that if we were going to make this seven-hour drive back, then I needed to share driving duties. I drove us away from the coast, then, so he could sleep and drive us home on the last shift.

And that is how it was that we drove to Myrtle Beach, ate seafood, and came back home, in a 23-hour period, and how I came to find myself driving in blackness on unfamiliar roads at midnight.

We still haven't had a vacation this year. At this rate, I don't know that we will be getting one.


  1. That is quite an adventure! How awful. It's really hard to get decent service anywhere these days.

    Maybe you can try taking a vacation again soon since it'll still be warm enough for another month or so.

  2. That sucks. I would have thought too that finding a room this time of year would not be a problem. $300 a night in hurricane season?! Like I said on FB, I agree with one of your friends...next time I recommend you try Ocean Isle Beach. We've never been disappointed -- it's quiet, clean, beautiful and you get to avoid that crazy high traffic road into Myrtle! Hopefully you guys can still catch a weekend away before it gets too nasty.

  3. Oh dear...so sorry things didn't work out. I know that must have been so frustrating. Having grown up near the coast of NC(though I now live in the mountains), let me put in a plug here for the North Carolina beaches. Of course, the Outer Banks are always beautiful,and I love them and highly recommend them. But we used to always go to a beach called Topsail Beach when I was young that was very, very nice. And uncrowded. I don't know how things are now there, but I have many fond memories of good times there growing up.

  4. I'm sorry your getaway ended in disappointment. I'd give that hotel and 'F' rating on some review site if I could. I hope you will be able to try for another weekend soon.


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