Our winter vacation this year began exactly one week ago today, Wednesday, December 18th one hour after the MRPC Board of Directors meeting. It was a leisurely three-day drive from the Canada to Hilton Head Island buoyed by the usual holiday exhilaration and latterly compensated by the longed-for sight of magnolia and palm trees. While there was nothing particularly punishing about the trip other than having to stay focussed on the road for six hours a day it nonetheless took its toll. Even as late as last night for example we were in bed shortly after eight o’clock and it wasn’t until about six-thirty this morning that we surfaced to face the new day.
Armed with a large cup of freshly brewed coffee we each assumed our stations and sat in silence before our respective laptop computers, tapping, reading and writing, relishing the pleasure of corresponding with family and friends on Christmas Day. The sun rose brightly upon the Ocean. I wasn’t hungry and in no hurry to eat breakfast. It is part of the luxury of a holiday to avoid being pressured to do anything. I telephoned my sister and awoke her from her slumber on the heels of a late night visit with the extended family.
Eventually we eased our way into the morning repast, starting with fresh black berries, banana and orange slices doused with freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice. Then some utterly exceptional bacon with a fried egg and an English muffin, peanut butter and Marmalade. By half past ten we were showered and dressed and poised to retrieve our bicycles from the corral and head to the beach.
Christmas morning on the beach was dazzling and cool. The air was incredibly fresh. I gulped the air again and again. There were not a lot of people walking or cycling on the beach. Almost everyone we passed cheerfully greeted us with “Morning!” or “Merry Christmas!” At Coligny Plaza, approximately a mile and a bit from the condominium, we left the beach and followed the paved bike path down Pope Avenue then north along William Hilton Parkway. There were even fewer people to be seen along William Hilton Parkway, normally a busy commercial boulevard. As we put increasing distance behind us we began to contemplate our reconnection to the beach. Our first attempt ended in failure when we encountered the stone breakwater which last year we had longingly seen from the opposite side. There was no foreseeable way to skirt the barrier so we returned to the bike path on William Hilton Parkway and retraced our steps for a short distance until we imagined that we had overtaken the barrier. Our investigation took us into a prestigious new beach-side enclave and finally to a sandy access to the Ocean heralded by dunes and undulating sea grasses. What however we hadn’t reckoned was the difficulty of traversing the uncommonly wet sand on the beach in this particular area. Nonetheless we pressed on, exerting ourselves almost painfully though without much gain. From time to time we were bound to arrest our bicycling and walk the bikes, also an annoying effort under these circumstances. Occasionally the Ocean receded and the sand dried sufficiently to permit us suddenly to speed along the beach with the strong wind thankfully at our backs. But time and again without notice we were stopped in our tracks by an abrupt encounter with the moist sand. More walking. There was no point in cursing our fate as there was no one to blame and besides we knew the exercise was noble. Earlier in our expedition along William Hilton Parkway we had accomplished a much greater distance than we imagined and the slow and tiresome return along the beach made us eager to reclaim the paved bike path. At last at Marker 63 there was a corridor from the beach to the mainland. Marker 1 is at South Beach in Sea Pines; Marker 12 is at the northern extremity of the Island. The Markers are graduated in 1/10th of a mile. Thus our condominium is at Marker 36 which means 3.6 miles from the start. Today we got to Marker 98 so we rode the difference between 9.8 miles and 3.6 miles or 6.2 miles each way (or about 20 kilometers in total). The effort in battling the wet sand made the distance effectively far greater. At least that’s my take on it!
Once we rediscovered the paved bike path our journey homeward was without incident. We were exhausted by the ride and very content to be home. It was after two o’clock. Initially our only interest was to rehydrate but not long afterwards the subject of nourishment arose. We hadn’t eaten anything since our early morning breakfast.
Our non-traditional Christmas Day dinner consisted of crab cakes for starters (with a piquant chili sauce), the main course of filet mignon, large garden salad with a superb homemade vinaigrette and mashed potatoes and gravy, Signe’s chocolate pecan pie for dessert. That duty was performed by six-thirty p.m.
Where does the day go? There is little doubt our heads will hit the pillows long before this evening is otherwise exhausted. While we haven’t anything whatever planned for the morrow I am convinced that we shall consume the day as quickly.
 I received an email from J. A. this morning. He wrote to invite us for a visit to their nearby “cottage”. Last year J. and his wife, A., were walking their magnificent French bulldog Max on the beach. I was bicycling on the beach towards them. Upon seeing Max I dropped the bike and rushed to see him. As fate would have it J. and A. (whom I had never met before) are from Canada. What however is even more serendipitous is that this year on Saturday morning after our arrival, just after we had settled in at the condo, we were taking our first bike ride and within minutes I saw this marvellous French bulldog. Once again I made a commotion about seeing the dog. The owner then said, “Are you from Canada?” Of course the whole affair came crashing back to me. This was Max! We rekindled our acquaintance. Subsequently I sent a photo I had taken of Max to them. I still had their email address on my iPhone!