Friday, August 03, 2007

Leave Your Car At Home

Our aim, whenever we get to Hilton Head, is to drive our car as little as possible. We bike to the beach. We bike to Harbour Town. We bike to South Beach Marina. We bike to Giuseppi's. Basically, we bike wherever we go in Sea Pines (except the Plantation Club...we haven't yet figured out a way to carry golf clubs on our backs!).

The riding itself is some of the best we have found anywhere. The Sea Pines trails wind below canopies of tall pines and live oaks. Here is what the riding Ballas have to say about biking in Hilton Head:

Julie: I love the sites you get to ride past and I love the turns on the trails...they are fun!

Z: I love going through the gate at Sea Pines because you get to type in the numbers that let you in.

Desi: The trails are very fragrant and nicely manicured.

Ride Ballas, Ride!


Seating "Rules" At The Salty Dog Cafe

I'm not sure how the Salty Dog got so famous (maybe you've seen their t-shirts around) but there is something magnetic about the South Beach Marina and the restaurant and shops that don the name Salty Dog. One restaurant in particular--the Salty Dog Cafe--is the most popular of them all. It boasts a nice selection of entrees (and an even better view) and people will wait a long time (almost as long as the Cheesecake Factory) to have a seat. The unique feature about it is the underlying rules for seating here.

(1) The restaurant at 5pm for dinner so people begin showing up around 4:15.

(2) You get on a line that winds around the building. People who have never been here before are perplexed about why so many people are gathered so early and figure they better get on the line too!

(3) The hostess begins seating at 5pm but explains to almost everyone that they do not fill every table at first because the kitchen and wait staff cannot handle so many people. After about the first hundred people the next few groups receive pagers and are told that they can shop in the surrounding stores for around 20-30 minutes. If you're in one of those groups you feel fortunate because the people after that usually have an hour and a half wait.

Once inside you realize why you've put yourself through the gauntlet. Watching pelicans and egrets fly by as you feast on king crab legs, blackened salmon (or chicken fingers) with a bunch of hard core salty dogs who have gone through the same procedures makes it all worthwhile...and brings you back over and over again...maybe tonight?


PS: If you don't mind sitting at a high table your wait may be shortened a bit.


One of our favorite beach pastimes is pelican watching. Hilton Head is chock full of these beautiful, prehistoric looking birds, who spend the day gracefully gliding and flapping above the shoreline and occasionally dive bombing the water in search of a fish dinner (cool...there went one just this second!).

One of the things we like to do, for some reason, is count the number of pelicans in each "pack" (our term!). What you see in this picture is a "12-pack." Our all-time record is something like a 43-pack, which is going to be tough to beat...we'll keep trying, though!


PS: Just after writing this, we had a close encounter with a small group of pelicans who were skimming just over the surface of the water, right past where we were swimming. That was a chance to see how big these birds actually are, as well as how fast they fly.

The "Spot"

When the time came for me to pop the question, there we were in Harbour Town.

We climbed all 114 steps to the top of the lighthouse...amazing views of the Calibogue, the yacht basin, and the 18th hole. For us...and the other billion people up there. So we moved on...

Out at the end of the Harbour Town pier is a great place to watch the sun set. There were dolphins swimming by...and a bunch more of our closest friends...on we went...

Around the other side of the basin, there are no shops, restaurants, or other people magnets. The perfect spot for us... both then and forever...


Tree Climbing

Although there aren't many trees to climb in Hilton Head, the three best trees to climb are in Hilton Head. One tree looks like it was uprooted, making good foot holes to climb it. The second best tree has branches to climb higher and higher. The third best tree has so many branches, it also has a swing.


Look Who's Out My Window

Out the back of the Sea Loft is a well designed deck that juts out into some beautiful foliage. A couple of palmettos, pine trees, live oaks, and saw palms surround the platform.

While getting ready to leave for the day's activities, Steve and Z (who are always ready first) waited on the deck and were greeted with the swoosh of a great blue heron. He landed on a branch about 10 feet away from them and began his morning activities--eating bugs off dead twigs and preening his plumes.

Z came in quietly to tell Julie and me about him so we tiptoed out to watch. He was unfazed by our presence and continued his display as we watched and wondered.

Professor Plume, thanks for the close encounter.


Let's Boogie!

The main attraction here at Hilton Head, of course, is the beach. One of the reasons the Sea Pines Beach Club is my favorite beach anywhere is the water. Thanks to the gulf stream, the water temperature hovers in the low to mid 80s, which is comfortable even for skinny guys like Z and me!

And then there is the beach itself. Hilton Head has a very flat beach that gradually slopes down. What this means is that there is a dramatic difference in the beach at high tide and low tide. Low tide is particularly fun, with a beach that stretches out for what seems like forever from the dunes to the edge of the water. With fine, packed sand, and plenty of space, this allows for bike riding, volleyball games, Frisbee and football tossing, and whatever else you might like to spend the day doing under the sun.

And the fun continues in water. The flat beach produces a long, gentle, rolling surf. Nothing like those northern beaches Desi and I grew up with, where you have this big drop off in the sand that produces large, crashing waves! (Although that was a ton of fun, it is a wonder that we lived to tell about it! I personally remember the lifeguards pulling people out of the water all the time.) So surfing is definitely out...but boogie boarding is definitely in! I can't tell you how many hours this week I have spent hanging onto a boogie board, looking for that perfect microwave...


Harbour Town

Here's a classic shot of the Harbour Town lighthouse, taken by Desi from behind the 18th hole of the Harbour Town Golf Links (right by the "spot"...more on that later).


Thursday, August 02, 2007


Ever since we started coming to Hilton Head, we've made Giuseppi's a regular stop. It was great when we were poor students (on an island where dinner can easily cost a family hundreds of dollars) and it's great now because there's something for everyone in the family. You can never go wrong with pizza, and then there are the ever-present chicken fingers. On this trip, we've been to Giuseppi's four times already (the staff missed us yesterday when we spent the day biking to the other end of the island!). Today, for me, it was the buffalo chicken wrap (and plenty of sweet tea!). Definitely a place we think about when we're back home...


Plantation Drive

One of the trademarks of the Lowcountry (as this neck of the woods goes by) is large, twisting, turning live oaks with Spanish moss draped all over them. A great example of this commensalism (thanks Des!) can be found on Plantation Drive, an absolutely gorgeous road in the middle of Sea Pines. No picture, of course, can do this scene proper justice, but this is Desi's effort (camera on the roof, actually). One of the reasons to fall in love with the South, according to these two wayward Jerseyians...


So Where Are We And What Is a Sea Loft?

After a month of living on the road, we have settled in this week at our favorite spot of them all...Hilton Head Island. For us, Harbour Town is indeed (as Gregg Russell says) "the greatest little town in the world." There are lots of reasons we think this...the Sea Pines Beach Club, the harbor itself, Giuseppi's, the Salty Dog, the bike paths, the Plantation Club and Harbour Town Golf Links. Harbour Town is also where we got engaged all those years ago!

This time around, were are staying in a Sea Loft. This is basically a circular house that is raised more than ten feet off the ground, with windows the whole way around. It is surrounded by live oaks, palmettos, saw palms, and tidal marsh. All of which means is that we are way more likely to see deer and great blue herons than we are other people. More on the people and places of Hilton Head to come...


Welcome to "Our" Tree House

Here is what is in our Sea Loft.

In the living room there is a TV, a Super Nintendo, games, books, two couches, a chair, a lamp, and a telescope. In the dining room/kitchen there is a table, twenty drawers, a dish washer, an oven, a refrigerator, and a microwave oven.

In one bathroom there is a toilet, a shower, and four cabinets. In the other bathroom there is a tub, a shower, and four cabinets.

In Julie's and my room there is a night stand, two lamps, a bed, and a dresser with five drawers. There is also a laundry shoot that goes down to the mudroom/laundry room. In Mom and Dad's room there is a dresser with six drawers, two lamps, a statue, two beds, a stool, a vacuum, and a closet.


An Ankle To Match

Well, the jellyfish followed us from the Gulf to the Atlantic! Normally, I'm not one to make a big deal about things like jellyfish stings...but this one HURT! At least I have some nice war wounds to show for it, where the tentacles wrapped around my leg.

My other current war wound? A couple of hands worth of blisters, thanks to picking up a golf club for the first time in nearly a year. After all of that cliff climbing and jumping, it figures that a nice little swim and golf lesson would be my undoing!

By the way, Desi claims that salt water is good for curative purposes (assuming the jellies have moved on!). Any truth to this?