Last week’s vacation took place on Jekyll Island, one of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia. It’s a tropical place complete with palm trees, sandy beaches, sea turtles, palmetto bugs, sand crabs, and fire ants. The island is home to around 200 tagged alligators and a growing herd of a subspecies of deer. It’s between Cumberland Island (south) and St. Simon’s Island (north). It’s not as commercial as the latter and has more amenities than the former. Dolphins and sharks inhabit the water surrounding the island.
I’d originally planned the trip for January over the anniversary of my elder son’s death. Instead I came down with a nasty case of COVID-19 which forced me to reschedule.
I visited Jekyll Island over 20 years ago when my children were very young, the younger one still in diapers. It’s changed since then. The old, worn out hotels and condos are gone, replaced with newer, more modern facilities. The beach, however, remained much as I remembered it, albeit with fewer whelk shells to pluck from the sand. This time, I visited with friends, Cindra and Jessica. Jess is the youngster of our trio.
Our vacation began with lovely sunrises then segued into loosely planned activities. One day we took the historical tour twice—first by “train” and again by horse-drawn carriage—of the village established by the island’s former millionaire owners who used it as a winter vacation destination. Each tour guide offered somewhat different narratives, which were fun to piece together.
At one time, one-sixth of the world’s wealth was concentrated on that tiny island, so you can imagine the history it acquired through those Industrial Age robber barons. Through the clever use of eminent domain and foreclosure on unpaid taxes, the government of Georgia evicted the last members of the ultra-exclusive Jekyll Island Club and turned the island into a state park. Development, including the four golf courses, is restricted to not more than 35 percent of the island, leaving the rest to wilderness and the creatures that inhabit it.
We went horseback riding on Driftwood Beach on the north end of the island. We didn’t see many sunbathers or swimmers on that beach. We did see dolphins and fishermen and one woman shoveling sand to build a sand sculpture.
We took long walks on the eastern facing beach and enjoyed the waves rolling over our feet and the ocean breezes blowing over our sweaty skin. We toured the Beach Village, the island’s commercial district populated by souvenier and clothing shops, dining establishments, a small grocery, and a liquor store. By the way, during our stay, we never ate at the same restaurant twice for lunch or supper, and everything we ate was good. Some of it was really good. I highly recommend the Driftwood Cafe and the Wee Pub.
We spent some time relaxing on the hotel patio. On our side of the hotel’s two wings, each room had a small patio equipped with plastic Adirondack chairs and tiny matching tables. The chairs were uncomfortable, but the tables were just large enough to hold one easel each. We painted, too, our artwork reminiscent of island views.
As all good things must come to an end, so must my unplugged vacation. On the drive back home, Cindra’s GPS sent us in an unexpected direction which we decided to follow for one last adventure. It’s a good thing we did, because her car died in Wheelersburg, Ohio. We made the acquaintance of Mike, Brandy, Dale, and Wilbur who all offered kindness, assurances of safety, and assistance while we waited for the AAA tow truck. Had we ignored the GPS and stopped at a rest stop, we would not have fared so well, I’m sure.
I brought my Kindle for reading, but instead read actual printed books. I used my cell phone to keep in touch with my husband, but for little else. I did not check email, Facebook, or other social media. In short, I was about as unplugged as one can get these days … and it was good. Peaceful. Quiet.