A Brief Visit to Georgia’s Golden Isles.

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The islands and countries of the Bahamas and Caribbean are always great to visit. There are many things to see and do giving you the opportunity to make great memories. What if you don’t want to go on a plane or ship? What if you also want something a little more quiet? Well, perhaps Georgia’s Golden Isles might interest you.

My grandparents have a house on St. Simons Island. I love to visit them and they equally love having me. My grandfather is aging more and more so it’s always better to visit when I can. Not for long periods of time though, as it can cause him a little stress. I had originally planned to visit them back in March (prior or after cruise), but due to all the stuff I had been through, I figured it was best to reschedule for late May. Combining the trips and moving around that much would have been asking too much. Besides, it would just be better to focus on spending time with them. If you are looking for a party, craziness, or very active time here, move along because this is about taking it easy. I should also mention, I didn’t use my SLR, so all photos are via my phone.

On with my trip…

I did something I never did before with this trip. Booked an afternoon flight to Jacksonville, Florida (JAX). Who in their right mind does such a thing on the East Coast when it’s warm out? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, lets say that weather and delays/cancellations tend to snowball later in the day. That said, I intended to work a little more than half a day so I wouldn’t need to take more leave than needed. I had to get a few things done beforehand. hoping they wouldn’t carry-over too far into the afternoon. By the time 1pm rolled around, I was literally ready to jet. I had finished 90% of what needed to be done, and briefed work on the remaining. I figured with a 4pm departure I’d need to leave soon in order to make sure to account for Metro delays and the afternoon rush at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA). I was right to do so.

At work, we’re fortunate enough to be a very short distance from a Metro station. The Orange and Silver lines run parallel to I-66, the highway nearby. I  got a ride over to the station a little after 1. Having just missed one train, I knew another would come shortly. Both lines stopped at Rosslyn where I would transfer to the Blue line that would take me to the airport. While on the train, approaching Rosslyn, I noticed that there were some men working on the track as we passed. We slowed a little before arriving and I hoped for minor delays if there was an issue. Sure enough when I stepped off the train, I noticed a burning smell. To me it seemed like hot brakes or a burnt clutch. I made my way to the escalator that would take me to the lower platform, when I turned and looked down, my eyes were met with crowds. “Good grief”. Apparently there were issues just beyond the Rosslyn station heading southbound, the way I wanted to go. I had an almost 20 minute wait for a Blue train. One Silver, one empty, and one Orange trains passed before I was able to catch a Blue train with about 500 other people. Hey, at least I was heading to the airport.

Arriving at the airport was hassle free fortunately. I was thrilled knowing all I would have to do was get through security because all I had was a carry-on. I had already checked-in with JetBlue’s app as well. Lines weren’t quite as bad as I expected for the time I arrived, but that changed when they halted the lines for some reason. I was very close to the scanner, but all I could do was wait as they paused. After about 15 minutes, the flow resumed and we were allowed to go through. My line ran out of trays. I mentioned this to one of the TSA staff, but you know how it goes, the majority of them don’t like verbal contact.

Despite a few delays, I still had some time to spare as I walked down Terminal B. I watched ramp work, planes taxi, take-off and land, before going back to my gate. There I asked about an Even More Space seat and purchased an upgrade to 1D, behind the bulkhead, but with a window. Boarding was flawless, I had no babies around, and the flight was near perfect. Best part was the empty seat next to me the whole time.

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Arrival in Jacksonville was nice. There was a storm that appeared to be inbound though, so I wanted to get my rental car and hit the highway before too long to stay ahead of it. JAX is a very simple airport to navigate. After having stepped off the plane, I was at Budget’s counter to get my car. I had reserved a Ford Focus that afternoon. They didn’t have any though which I found odd. Instead they put me in a Corolla which is a “larger category” (they’re really the same size :eye roll:). I found my car and called my grandparents who would have pizza and wine for me for dinner. PERFECT. Then set off North, about an hour’s drive. I kept ahead of the storm doing mostly 80mph (keeping up with traffic, mind you). It was a nice drive with the windows down, before arriving at my grandparents a little before 7:30.

Grandparents, pizza, and wine. Few combinations are better. Hugs and kisses exchanged we sat, ate, drank, and really enjoyed each other’s company. I was great to be visiting them again. They presented me with a t-shirt I had left behind one previous visit. Eventually later that night we were all caught up and hit the hay. It was a nice arrival.

The next morning 5 am came around and I was tossing and turning. I wanted to sleep but also wanted to watch the sunrise one of the mornings I was there. My grandparent’s house was a 5 minute drive from Coast Guard Beach and the Atlantic. Figuring I was up then, that I may as well see it. I exited the house, setting off and fumbling with the door alarm in the process.

Being it was early in the morning, the gates were closed to the main gate at Coast Guard Beach when I got there. I then headed to the lot at the northern part of the beach where the lot was along the road and not gated. I parked and made my way onto the beach. tide was low and there were a couple of channels between sandbars. In these, fish would occasionally jump. On some parts of the beach, crabs were still roaming in the darkness. You could hurry them scurry away with every other footstep. I found a shallow area to cross to the sand bar and sat myself down to watch the morning unfold.

Hardly anyone was there as I watched the sunrise that morning. A couple of people with their dogs, one woman who lost her car keys, and me sitting there with my butt on the slightly damp sand watching the day begin. Issues I had been having with anxiety sort of melted away as I watched the color of the sky change and the sun come above the horizon. I had been concerned that cloud coverage might have been an issue because of the amount of them, but it all vanished once the sun rose. In all the times I awoke at sea or on an island, I had never seen the sun crest the Atlantic, and I couldn’t have asked for a better view.

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A little while after the sun came up, I walked back to the car, then drove back to the house. It was nice passing by the live oaks along the way. These trees with the spanish moss are very cool to look at.

Back at the house, I laid back down again to get a little more sleep. It was sometime later when we all stirred for a late breakfast. We sat, read, and discussed things for a while.

Lunch time had rolled around. My grandparents knew that one of my absolute favorite restaurants was across the water way near downtown Brunswick. Indigo Coastal Shanty. Heaven for my taste buds. They also liked the staff there as they knew them well. We headed over to have an awesome lunch and do a couple of errands.

Brunswick is a city that seems to be coming and going one day to the next. After having a hard time a few years ago the city is trying to get back on its feet. Over the years, I’ve seen some progress in some areas, but stress in others. It’s always changing every time I’ve visited. I think it would be undoubtedly beneficial to the community there if St. Simons capped some of its further development in favor of supporting Brunswick. Those very old and very beautiful Victorian homes are worth some good attention.

We arrived and made way into the Shanty. There was a nice shaded outdoor dining area, but it was really best that we sat in the AC so my grandparents were comfortable. As soon as we stepped inside they were greeted by the warmest hospitality. All the wait staff knew them. The manager and owner as well. It wasn’t the fist time I was impressed by how personable and friendly the place was. I always leave very big tip (even if my grandparents insist on treating me) because they’re genuinely interested in my family and care to know how things are going. It’s not just amazing food that makes me love the place.

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Orders were placed. They ordered the Calypso Nachos and Fisherman’s Stew. I ordered the always amazing Bahamian Chicken Curry, and a cup of Gazpacho to start. The Gazpacho was how it should be. Not too watery like I’ve had on ships. Perfect with a tiny but of avocado. Trying some of the nachos was also great. They had a pineapple salsa that was unlike any I had. I’ve had the stew before and will tell you its good. The curry though… Man, it is really my favorite dish of anywhere. Everything was perfect. It was spicy enough to be good, but not too much that it would cause me trouble. Great cuts of chicken and a good amount of rice. Even the kale was at home. Man if I ever had a show about food, this would be the first place and first dish I would talk about. The manager gave us some really good cookies to take and while we were pretty full, we managed to make do a little and have some of the cookies. My stomach was full of beer and excellent southern cooking. How could I top that?!

After the awesome lunch. we headed back over to St. Simons so that a couple of errands could be run. After getting back I headed right back out to enjoy some time in the sun on the beach. I wanted to get into the water if possible, although I knew jellyfish were an issue at the time. Arriving at Coast Guard Beach around 4 was great. It was after the early afternoon rush and many people had already begun to leave. I had plenty of beach to myself. Unfortunately, the jellyfish really were an issue. Along a section or shore, there were hundreds of beached Cannonball Jellyfish. Yes, they are harmful. but mostly when they feel threatened. Not wanting to risk it, I just kept mostly to the sand and occasionally went in knee-deep. The water was slightly warm, nicer than I had experienced at Ocean City, Maryland or Virginia Beach. The sand was well, the same as most east coast beaches I had seen. An exception though was how some dark sand was along the shore and would look cool when you stepped in it. It’s always nice spending time with the sea and feet in the sand.

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After having my fill of ocean I headed back to have another good evening hanging out with my family. Because of the big lunches we had, we weren’t really looking to have a big dinner so it was leftovers and wine. I had what lunch I couldn’t finish with pizza (part of me is still a teenager) and was more than happy. We had discussion while watching some TV and eventually all went to bed. Tired from the food and sun. It had been a long day, especially for my Granddad.

The next morning was a good sleep in kind of one. I had watched the sun rise the previous one, so all I wanted to do was just chill. I stirred at 10 and eventually got around. My grandparents were still sleeping in so I had a small breakfast at the table in the back yard. Their yard was actually a very nice peaceful place. Occasionally there was the shreak of a private jet departing the island’s small airport, but I like jet noise so it was fine by me (I used to live in the approach path of Washington Dulles International Airport mind you). Eventually my grandparents stirred and we sat in the living room together for a while. We were planning out what to do with the day. It was decided we should visit Jekyll Island, the Georgia Sea Turtle Rehab Center there, and have some good Georgia shrimp at the Rah Bar nearby. Sounds like a great day to me!

We set off for Jekyll Island, about 10-15 minutes from St. Simons. At the entrance to the causeway that takes you to Jekyll Island, there is a booth were you have to pay (what I remember to be) $5. Not too bad really, given the cool stuff there. The turtle center was not too far off the causeway once on the island. We found a nice shaded area to park and made our way inside. First inside, you’re greeted with a souvenir shop. There is honestly some nice stuff there with the center’s logo and some sea-turtle merchandise to go with it. At the counter you can purchase a pass to tour certain parts of the center, which we did. At first there is a presentation hall along which are interactive exhibits and murals. One wall features a window to an operating room were turtles (or even other reptiles or animals) can get attention for issues. There were a couple of aquariums along the hall. One had a very juvenile sea turtle swimming around biting at air bubbles. Another featured a few tropical fish. At certain points there were places where kids could get tour cards stamped. A nice way to keep some kids interested. Beyond and outside the hall was another area of the rehab center. There were pools where turtles would be isolated for treatment. Perhaps it was a year because all the pools had been taken. Some of the turtles had issues with floating, diet, shell damage,  lethargy, etc… They were all there and being kept track of. A couple of juvenile turtles were being fed. As we were ending our visit, a tour began that was introducing people to the turtles and the stages of their rehab. It seemed informative, but the volume over the speakers was so loud, it was almost unbearable to stick around. We made our way back past the hall and I purchased a couple odd souvenirs before we left for lunch.

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Lunch the day before was really going to be impossible to beat. This one certainly gave it a run for the money though. We drove a short distance over to the pier where a couple of restaurants stood. The Rah Bar was what we had in mind and it was the perfect weather for some beer and shrimp over the water. My grandparents ordered a pound of shrimp to split and I ordered a pound for myself. Man, was this lunch good too! The shrimp was big and the beer nice and cold. Aside from a cocktail sauce, we were given one that was like a buffalo sauce mixed with something. My grandparents wound up not being able to quite finish their portion so I finished mine and happily took over for them. With the quality shrimp and really good dipping sauce, I was not going to see it go to waste, but see myself eating it instead!

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After we finished lunch, we walked to the edge of the pier for a nice photo of the bunch of us. While the background wasn’t straight and we had just missed a boat passing, the photo came out great! What a nice way to end our visit to Jekyll Island!

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Back on St. Simons, I chose to spend another part of the afternoon on the beach. Helen had offered to make dinner that night and she enjoys being the only chef in the kitchen. Granddad I thought could use a nap, so by going to the beach, I could get my vitamin sea while he got some vitamin z. It was much the same as the day before with the same amount of beached jellyfish. After spending a last bit of quality time with the ocean, I headed over to the main strip and fishing pier. I didn’t see to many people catching things after a while so I walked around some of the shops. I stopped in a small used-book store looking for a book on meditation, but was a little disappointed coming up empty-handed. I stopped in another tacky souvenir shop and purchased a t-shirt to keep from St. Simons Island as I hadn’t bought one before. I then took a little bit of a spin before heading back to the house.

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Dinner that night was like every other meal I had while down there. Excellent. Chicken with sweet potatoes and spinach. Paired with wine of course. Sitting at the table I enjoyed the company of my grandparents and thought of my love for them, while having a little sadness about leaving late the following morning. After dinner we headed into the reading room to talk about everything and anything. Granddad brought his scotch and we had more wine. I had a good buzz going into the night as we discussed things ranging from family, to politics, and travel. There have been few other places I felt so relaxed talking about anything with people I cared for. Then again, the wine and scotch helps, haha. That night we all headed to bed late, but knew that we’d be waking a little earlier to have breakfast before I left.

Friday came before I knew it and I wasn’t really happy about having to leave. As I got my crap together and packed, I reminded myself that it wasn’t really good to stay around too long as my Granddad was being a little stressed in an effort to “keep up” I guess you could say. You see, my grandfather has early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. At his age, it’s even harder on him and not only him, but Helen, his loving wife and my step grandmother. His issues were fairly unfortunately there and he knows something isn’t right. It was sometimes hard to watch, but all I could do was understand and try to help if possible. Helen really made the best of it and I did too while I was there. It was really a sad feeling when the time to leave came around. I thought that this might have been the one of or the last time my grandfather might recognize me, so I better hug him extra tight. I did the same for Helen because she really has tough time ahead. I told them I will be there if they need me (and I mean it) before saying goodbye and driving off, feeling very sad.

The trip back to JAX went by as fast as the trip from, with the exception of stopping for gas. Checking-in the rental was a breeze as was getting through security. I once again upgraded my seat and then sat down Shula’s for a burger. I had the Wine Country Burger which was actually amazing. The best burger I had in a long time, and it was at an airport!!!

Before too long it was time to board. I was in the middle of the plane behind a couple with a small child who was fairly well-behaved. We had a couple delays leaving but I got back in good time overall (Once again, its risky picking a PM flight on the East Coast). While riding the Metro back to work to get my car, things felt surreal. It seemed as though I had never left. When I looked at the photo of the three of us on the pier though, it made me feel better and gave me a smile. I was down there with them and had a great time.

Love you, Granddad and Helen.

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