The 7-hour red-eye was easy – an Ambien and vino tinto sped sleep despite JetBlue’s right-angle seats. With carry-ons and our Global Entry we whisked past the baggage claim and immigration crowds. In 15 minutes we were at the FLL curb where Sue’s gracious sister Lauren waited. Here we parted ways – Sue and the boys spent the weekend with the Rock family; I hopped on a Jacksonville flight then took a rental car two hours north to visit my brother Brian and kin in Savannah. Jacksonville’s airport is modern and efficient, and by 11AM I was cruising up pine-lined I-95 through Southern Georgia.
Glad for the “me” time, I took 90 minutes to explore central Savannah. This debutante town embraces one with warmth: in a night’s travel I’ve gone from Lima’s mean cinderblocked streets to Savannah’s sighs – colonial shutters, wrought iron and great oaks cloaked in Spanish moss. This mid-Saturday families fill the squares and walk their dogs past german tourists. I know that Duck Dynasty poverty lurks behind the border because Mercedes mix with muscle cars and derelict drives, but the aura is lovely and the people are polite: I’ll take the shimmer of this Superficial South.
You can walk downtown with a beer, so I do. I pick up a walking tour app and map at the visitor’s center, then ignore both… it’s pleasant enough to just wander below cotton candy clouds and the spring sun speckling in through the oaks and spanish moss. Here north of the Tropic of Cancer my internal GPS is working again so I seek shady south sidewalks and dead-reckon a pinball path among the squares – Pulaski, Madison, Monterey and Chatham. Each is shaded by those moss-wrapped oaks, magnolias and the occasional palm, and centered around a monument celebrating a southern soldier. Surprisingly they are not from the Civil War – rather they are from the War of Independence – I’m guessing this genteel town – spared by Sherman – is too polite to celebrate rebels or yankees.
At Whole Foods I pick up some beer, bread and cookies, then meander over to Brian’s house. He and wife Kethy offer a hearty welcome, and soon I’m playing with grandson Azul and catching up with his mom – my niece River Millhoff. Brian and Kathy have been married for ~40 years; she’s blind but that’s never stopped her from climbing, biking, driving, boating, diving, flying and living an extraordinary life with Brian. They’ve lived in Saipan, Guam, Victoria Island, Pikesville KY, probably a zillion other places I don’t remember, and now Savannah, on the banks of a lovely bird-filled estuary. We catch up on family, tour about the docks and his vairous projects – a budding bee hive, a derelect dock and kayak, a new gazebo being built, the garden, shed and a future boat project. River’s a fine chef so whips up sea bass for dinner.
Sunday we rise slowly; I borrow the kayak and paddle into the slough among heron and egret for an hour or so, then eventually find our way out for a car tour to the pioneering settlement of Wormwood; you’ll recall her grand oak entry from Forest Gump: “Run Forest! Run.” After a lazy lunch – the portions and people here are humongous – we remble north in Brian’s prius to Tybee Island, which is overrun with urban college kids, who seem to prefer cruising the parking lot to enjoying the sand and surf. It’s a typically kticshy seaside town, full of ticky tacky beach shops, ice cream stands and beer halls. But the breeze and pier are inviting, so we stroll out and mix with the fisherfolk at the pier’s end. In the sultry eve we relax on the back porch until the chinese food arrives… Azul perks up after the feast and he soaks up all of our attention.
Monday I leave lazily to tour a bit more of the Savannah, but the weekend magic is gone and the stormclouds are coming, so I opt for an early departure back to Jacksonville, and arrive in time to get some blogging and travel planning done. An early morning flight returns me to Fort Lauderdale where I meet Sue and the boys for our easy flight home to Reno. Looks like Ben worked them pretty hard on the belated Birthday treats!