For April's Somewhere New I went to Tybee Island, Georgia with a few friends. Road trips south were an annual occurrence in my childhood but it's been quite a few years since my last family adventure so it was time to hit the dusty trail for the dirty south. As we started our trip at some unholy hour of the morning, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" came on over the radio and we knew the trip was fated.
For my roommate, Virginia was her furthest venture into the south, so on this trip we were eager to show her what the South is all about. Enter the (dirty) South (of the Border).
Sombreros, shot glasses and ponchos and lots of empty amusement park rides and stores. While this place can obviously be off-putting to the naively excited visitor - it would actually be a really interesting photo project to hang out at South of the Border for a weekend and photograph the festive empty spaces, the droopy employees and the forgotten statues.
Our adventure at South of the Border was short lived and soon we were back on the road headed to Georgia. Tall, fronded trees replace the oaks and maples of the north, the land puddles and pools into swamps and marsh and the squeeters abound and luxuriously feast on the fainted beachgoers.
Oh the South.
Tybee Island is a little gem of a town. Complete with waiters who call you brau and locals who ride bikes to work where they weld women out of scrap metal - this is Beach Life in a nutshell.
Tybee is a few miles outside of Savannah and it was hard not to immediately fall in love with it.
After setting up our tents and checking out the facilities on site we walked the short path through the tall grasses to the beach and made ourselves at home.
But let's be real. On the east coast a beach is a beach is a beach. And so we decided to explore our surroundings.
Oatland Island Wildlife Center is a short drive from Tybee and is home to owls, cougars and even wolves. A nature trail runs through the grounds taking you by the different animals and highlighting local flora along the way.
This tree is everywhere in the south: Sparkleberry or if you prefer Farkleberry. Seriously.
If walking through a Georgia jungle isn't badass enough for you then try this on for size: rent kayaks at North Island Surf and Kayak and paddle to Cockspur Island Lighthouse. This husband and wife (and now baby) team run a relaxed surf shop just a short ways from the lighthouse.
Unlike so many of today's tourist attractions Cockspur Island is still an unpolished gem. Traverse the beach dotted with razor sharp clam shells and you'll have a rickety ladder climb up to the top where you'll get a great view of Tybee and the surrounding islands. There's no admission here, no hampering handrails, just good old fashion terror. We found that singing George Michael's "Faith" over and over was a good way to make it up and down the ladder.
Right next door to the kayak rentals is Cocos - which really I don't highly recommend since it's not vegan friendly but if you're in the mood for fries and a beer - as we were - then it's convenient and has a great view.
Kristen and I took a late night walk to the beach one night and happened upon one of nature's secrets. Here's an excerpt from my journal about it:
"Last night Kristen and I decided to look for crabs on the beach after dark. The nervous fiddlers were there, just as expected, but out right on the edge of the waves were mysterious blobs. Earlier we had seen lots of cone shaped, globby jellyfish washed ashore so at first we assumed that what we were seeing was a horror scene of jellies coming ashore.
As we got closer we discovered that there were in fact chains and clumps of mating horseshoe crabs. Every few feet, in the frothy mix between the breaking and receding waves were these love-locked groups.
Some were face to face in a kiss or silent duel and others were piled and linked in androgynous couples. Like so many other secrets of nature, the full moon is their peak time.
The next morning we returned to the beach to see if any evidence remained. The coast was dotted with lone horseshoes. What has been so passionate the night before had fizzled out with the tide, and just like human lovers they eventually got tired and rolled to the other side of the bed to get some unmolested rest.
We met a man on the beach who was rousing them from their heady slumber, pulling them free of their trenches and setting them on the course towards the ocean. Each began their slow scoot to the waves. "They get real dug-in like," he explained "Pretty soon the birds'll be peckin at em." Carefully he righted a toppled crab that was still weakly thrusting in a vain attempt to cover its exposed underbelly.
What a strange hobby, we thought. "Do you think his help will interfere with evolution's plan for them?" Kristen wondered as we trudged off.
"Those prehistoric looking dudes have already gotten the short end of the evolution stick," I replied.
We walked until the sand fleas and hunger drove us back to camp. The man was still moving crabs as we left, mumbling about how the babies would never make it to the water probably. I had to smile and appreciate the fact that everyone has their babies to worry over.
Cooing over human babies is in our nature. Cooing over horseshoe crab babies is a whole other thing. That's evolution in my opinion."
For a long weekend Tybee had the perfect amount of offering and with Savannah close by it's hard to get bored. We spent a good amount of time just reading, writing and walking.
Jitterbug Bakery serves up almond milk chai, cakes, scones, muffins and even vegan soups. Kristen and I made the short walk to Jitterbug several times during our stay on Tybee.
Small art shops, shell shops and piled high antique stores are on the island.
An afternoon spent in Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Until next time, beautiful South!