Finding Bethlehem In Surfside Beach

Those of us who love the holidays all have images ingrained in our heads of Christmas magic. For me, I have a few that jump right out: the Christmas tree farm my parents would take us to each year, the festive looking trolley my family rode through the streets of Walla Walla one Christmas Eve, and the fireplace at my grandparents’ house where we would lay out cookies for Santa. I can close my eyes right now and conjure up a vivid image of each scene.

This past weekend, Sidney and I enjoyed a very special Christmas visual that from now on will always resonate within me.

We were traveling back to Myrtle Beach from Murrells Inlet where we had just finished up a 3D ultrasound. About 10 miles separate the two areas. To be honest, the drive is an eyesore. Throughout stretches of the trek you are treated to very uninspired landscape. No colors, scattered trees, little architecture. Since it was 5 p.m. it was starting to get dark, making the trip even that more dreary. As we were driving along, we saw police lights flashing on the side of the road. Thinking the cop had pulled someone over, we drove past without thinking anything of it. After we had passed the police car by about 30 feet, something caught the corner of both our eyes…

In the dark, unimaginative area we were in, we saw a sight that transformed everything. To our right and off to a distance we saw lit tiki torches, white Christmas lights, and high powered lamps. We saw structures made to look like a town from about 2,000 years ago. Sidney squealed when she could make out the shapes of a camel and other animals (you just don’t see that type of wildlife in the Grand Strand area). Finally, you saw people that looked like they had jumped right out of the Bible.

From a distance, we could see a makeshift town complete with biblical characters and animals. We knew we had to go check it out.

From a distance, we could see a makeshift town complete with biblical characters and animals. We knew we had to go check it out.

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere on a dark highway, we had just seen a very unusual site. However, it didn’t take long for it to click for Sidney. She immediately identified it as a Drive-Thru Nativity. Overjoyed by the scene, we didn’t need much convincing. Although not the easiest thing to do, we managed to turn left down a street so we could reverse course on the divided highway and head in the opposite direction back to the Nativity. Once we were going toward the scene, we had to reverse course again once we passed it so we could get on the side of the highway where all the excitement was happening. As we approached the flashing police lights we saw earlier it became obvious…law enforcement was helping out with crowd control. We turned right past the car as a cop waved us in.

Sidney and I had managed to drive by the Church of the Resurrection at just the right time so we could see its Return to Bethlehem Drive-Thru Nativity.

Sidney and I had managed to drive by the Church of the Resurrection at just the right time so we could see its Return to Bethlehem Drive-Thru Nativity.

We had arrived at the Church of the Resurrection, a place of worship I never knew existed. Even though the church was a tall structure with an impressive steeple, it had never popped out to me while driving the monotony of Highway 17 Bypass in the past. On this particular weekend, the congregation was putting on its “Return to Bethlehem” Drive-Thru Nativity. As we drove by the church up to the gates of Bethlehem, we stopped at several stations. Each of these stations had a board with scripture written on it setting the stage for the different scenes we would encounter after going through the gates.

This was our view right after we turned into the property of the Church of the Resurrection in Surfside Beach. The church itself is on the left and the board you see right in front of our dash has scripture on it, describing one of the seven scenes of the Drive-Thru Nativity.

This was our view right after we turned into the property of the Church of the Resurrection in Surfside Beach. The church itself is on the left and the board you see right in front of our dash has scripture on it, describing one of the seven scenes of the Drive-Thru Nativity.

Church members arranged cars into one of three lanes in front of the Bethlehem gates. When we were given the go-ahead, we slowly drove forward. Two teens dressed as guards in armor halted us.

“Are you here for the Census?” one of the teens questioned.
“Yes we are!” replied Sidney.

We convinced the guards at the gates of Bethlehem to let us in so we could see the Drive-Thru Nativity put on by the Church of the Resurrection.

We convinced the guards at the gates of Bethlehem to let us in so we could see the Drive-Thru Nativity put on by the Church of the Resurrection.

With that the gates opened and we entered the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

For the next ten minutes or so, we were treated to several scenes that told the story of the birth of Jesus. So much effort was poured into the presentation. Each scene was built with care and craftsmanship. The church members serving as actors had microphones so you could easily hear from the comfort of your car. Church members not playing a part gave us clear directions on when to drive up to the next scene. The animals did not disappoint. Besides the camel we also saw goats, llamas, and sheep.

A look at some of the scenes we saw at "Return to Bethlehem," a Drive-Thru Nativity put on by the Church of the Resurrection in Surfside Beach..

A look at some of the scenes we saw at “Return to Bethlehem,” a Drive-Thru Nativity put on by the Church of the Resurrection in Surfside Beach..

All the special moments from the actual birth of Jesus to the angel appearing to the shepherds to the visit of the Magi were depicted. My personal favorite scenes were the first and the last. Starting off the Drive-Thru Nativity was the angel telling Mary that she would conceive the Son of God and concluding the display was a joyful performance by a choir of angels singing Angels We Have Heard on High.

My two favorite scenes included the angel telling Mary that she would conceive Jesus and then the choir singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" at the end.

My two favorite scenes included the angel telling Mary that she would conceive Jesus and then the choir singing “Angels We Have Heard on High” at the end.

The presentation was perfect, as was our timing. Not knowing about this event at all, we had arrived right when it started on the first of the only two nights that it was offered. It certainly was special.

But as I mentioned above, what will really stay with me from last Saturday night was the scene we saw while passing in our car. In the dreariness, we saw the town of Bethlehem fully illuminated, inviting us to stop. I won’t forget the image of the people, the animals, and the light that seemed to cry out to us as we drove by. Thanks to the Church of the Resurrection for doing such a cool thing. Don’t Blink.

Brent’s Best of the Beach

Four years ago, I ripped off a standard content hog of every newspaper you will find in this country. Do you know what I am talking about? Every publication has a “Best of (insert city here)” where readers are polled and asked to vote on their top choice of restaurant, bar, news personality, realtor, ice cream shop, etc. etc. Well, in 2012 I used this blog and published my “Brent’s Best of the Zoo” post. For those not familiar with Montana slang terms, “Zoo” is a nickname for Missoula.

As I have lived in Myrtle Beach for over two years now, I decided to take a stab at naming some of my favorite places and activities in town. In order to keep this blog post from getting out of control, I decided to limit it to 15 categories. Speaking of categories, I tried to choose ones that are relevant to this area and ones that I can actually speak on (i.e. I have never ate sushi before so “Best Sushi in Myrtle Beach” is not a category). So enough with the explanations, let’s get to the winners!

Best All-Around Restaurant: Drunken Jack’s

Although it is on the Marshwalk in Murrells Inlet, I am counting Drunken Jack’s in Brent’s Best of the Beach. In my option, Drunken Jack’s boasts the best salad bar, the best hush puppies, and the best seafood/steaks in the area. Not only is it the best when it comes to food, it is also tops in atmosphere as well. Built to give the illusion that you are eating on a pirate ship, the place feels cozy. While you wait for your table you can enjoy complimentary popcorn while taking in the beautiful views of the water. If you want the best in scenery, personality, and food, Drunken Jack’s is for you.

This is a collage of my brother, Sidney, and I enjoying an evening at Drunken Jack's.

This is a collage of my brother, Sidney, and I enjoying an evening at Drunken Jack’s.

Best Bar: Remedies

I enjoy Remedies not just because it is a locals bar. I count it as my favorite because it is covered in televisions and because it is non-smoking. Throughout the past couple years I have gone to Remedies on numerous occasions to watch my western teams play as their TV package allows them to bring up pretty much any game. The food is excellent and the drink prices are very good. The bartenders are welcoming and treat you well the whole time you are there.

This is Sidney and I at in 2014 when we went to Remedies to watch the Montana football team play.

This is Sidney and I at in 2014 when we went to Remedies to watch the Montana football team play.

Best Miniature Golf Course: Mt. Atlanticus

Talk about the category with the stiffest competition! Myrtle Beach is covered with “Happy Gilmore” style putt putt courses. I made the tough decision choosing Mt. Atlanticus as my favorite because of how the course makes you ascend up. The holes are creative, especially the 19th ball return one, but it is the gradual climb of the course I like the most. When you conclude your 18th hole, you are high above in a tiki hut type structure looking over the whole course. Other courses might have dinosaurs, exotic animals, and pirates but Mt. Atlanticus has a view.

Sidney and I at Mt. Atlanticus in September of 2015.

Sidney and I at Mt. Atlanticus in September of 2015.

Best Ice Cream Place: Meyer’s Ice Cream Parlor

This is another category with extremely tough competition. Ice cream parlors dot every corner in the Grand Strand area. But my favorite is clear cut. Meyer’s Ice Cream Parlor is an inviting place with the BEST ice cream. The exterior is covered in different colors and ice cream cut outs and the inside takes on a New York Yankees theme but it is the ice cream that stands out. All flavors are fresh and the sundaes are fun and huge. You will feel nostalgia and happiness when you eat inside Meyer’s. I can’t recommend it enough.

This is me at Meyer's Ice Cream Parlor (notice the Yankees memorabilia and pink walls in the background) enjoying one of their classic sundaes.

This is me at Meyer’s Ice Cream Parlor (notice the Yankees memorabilia and pink walls in the background) enjoying one of their classic sundaes.

Best Signature Activity: Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens

In Myrtle Beach you have a hundreds things to do with top entertainment options, the ocean, and numerous golf courses. However, if there is an event that stands out from the Myrtle Beach mainstays, it would be Nights of a Thousand Candles. Every December for a few weeks, the big sculpture garden in Myrtle Beach, Brookgreen Gardens, becomes a Christmas cheer destination. The event will make you forget about the fact that Myrtle Beach doesn’t get snow. Event organizers set up thousands of candles and lights throughout the gardens. You walk on paths and admire the beauty as talented people perform Christmas carols. It is a peaceful and warm way to get into the holiday spirit.

Sidney and I at Night of a Thousand Candles in 2014.

Sidney and I at Night of a Thousand Candles in 2014.

Best Movie Theater: Coastal Grand Mall (Cinemark)

A couple months ago I would have given this nod to the Grand 14 at Market Common (Stone Theaters) but the cinema at Coastal Grand Mall is now tops. The theater recently replaced all seats with electronic recliners. Now, each auditorium just has a capacity of 50 people but if you get a seat it is well worth it. The theater is always clean and you can’t beat the location considering it is attached to the best mall in Myrtle Beach.

Best Sit Down Pizza Place: Mellow Mushroom

When I was home for the holidays in Spokane I found myself at the casino. I was at a blackjack table sitting next to a woman. She asked me where I lived and I told her Myrtle Beach. She remarked that she visited there for a short time several years back. I asked her what she remembered most. Her response? Mellow Mushroom.

Yes, the pizza is that good. I highly recommend it.

Best Delivery Pizza Place: Marco’s Pizza

I like nothing more than enjoying a low key Friday night in with Marco’s Pizza. Much better than the national delivery chains (you will have to pay a little extra), you can count on fresh toppings and plenty of grease. Make sure to order their garlic sauce and you will feel like you made the best choice ever.

Best Grocery Store: Publix

The hype is real. When Publix came to Myrtle Beach I didn’t know if it would be a game changer for the grocery habits of Sidney and I. But it is. Although we will usually still go to Lowe’s which is just two minutes away from our house, we will frequent Publix if we want an out of the ordinary shopping experience. Where else can you go to get a loaded ice cream cone as a sample? Where else can you go where the baggers still insist on taking your groceries out for you? Where else can you go where the store brand is legitimately better than the premium brand? There isn’t a better supermarket option in Myrtle Beach than Publix.

Publix has a terrific line of products. Check out this ice cream flavor.

Publix has a terrific line of products. Check out this ice cream flavor.

Best Sandwich Place: Which Wich

When I tried Which Wich for the first time I immediately fell in love with the concept. You walk in and fill out your order on a brown paper sack. Your sandwich comes out exactly how you wanted it. The food is as perfect as the ordering process. The submarine sandwiches are unique in both build and taste. You will want it again and again.

Best Place to Take Visitors: Broadway at the Beach

Although Broadway at the Beach is undergoing an evolution of sorts right now, it is still a great place to take visitors. You can enjoy sports bars, frozen drink bars, Mexican bars, live music bars, and clubs. And that is just the adult portion of it. Broadway at the Beach also has numerous restaurants, specialty shops, carnival rides, putt putt, kiosks, surf shops, a movie theater, and more. Did I mention that the place is built around a man made body of water that is stocked with ferocious-looking hungry fish? Broadway at the Beach earns my designation as the “best place to take visitors” because there is something for everyone.

Sidney and I enjoying a moment at Broadway at the Beach.

Sidney and I enjoying a moment at Broadway at the Beach.

Best Place for a Date: Market Common

As Myrtle Beach is a destination city, it is filled with tourist traps and gimmicky entertainment centers. The Market Common was built as a classy lifestyle center with locals in mind. With several unique restaurants, upscale bars, designer shops, and a nice movie theater all built on a strategically designed and well landscaped property, a relaxing night out at Market Common is easy to enjoy for any couple. I can’t count all the dates Sidney and I have enjoyed out at the area.

Best Beach Area: Springmaid

The Springmaid Pier is away from all the avenue beaches that bring in hoards of tourists. But don’t think Springmaid is full of locals either. Whenever we go, the beach is never full but it is always very well maintained. With plenty of free parking available, it is the most convenient place to go to take full advantage of the beautiful beach. Don’t pass it up.

This is Glen and I at Springmaid Pier

This is Glen and I at Springmaid Pier

Best Breakfast: Johnny D’s Waffles

Go up and down Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach and you will see probably around 30 different pancake houses. Many of them taste the same but Johnny D’s Waffles is in a league of its own. From their red velvet waffle to their cinnastax pancakes to their filling skillets, nothing matches Johnny D’s in terms of unique variety and freshness. The restaurant isn’t huge and there is usually a wait but it is definitely worth it.

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So there you have Brent’s Best of the Beach. Perhaps next year or in a couple years I will do a second version with other categories included. If you aren’t one of my Myrtle Beach readers, I apologize for boring you. If you are a Myrtle Beach reader, please let me know what you think of my list. Have a great week, everyone! Don’t Blink.

The Proposal

Last night I stood at the end of a pier overlooking a South Carolina marsh and asked Sidney to marry me. Over 13 months from the last time we stood there on our first date, she looked into my eyes and said yes.

A proposal about a month and a half in the making, it felt so good to actually do it. Although I had it planned for several weeks, it wasn’t something elaborate or over the top. However, just because the deed didn’t contain a bunch of different elements didn’t mean I took it lightly.

Sidney and I had been moving in this direction for quite some time now. We had talked about marriage, looked at rings, and even discussed when the time would come. She had a feeling that I would probably ask her on my home turf in Spokane. I played along and hinted that it probably would occur during that time. However, in my heart I knew I didn’t want the pressure to be on her or myself once we were on vacation in Washington. The last thing I would want was for her to be in limbo for two weeks anticipating when the question might be popped. This thinking plus the stern direction from my mom that I must ask Sidney in her hometown with her parents around settled my plans.

When we looked at rings, Sidney hinted at me that she liked this one the best. This is her hand last night after I put it on her finger.

When we looked at rings, Sidney hinted at me that she liked this one the best. This is her hand last night after I put it on her finger.

After I received approval from Sidney’s mom and dad to marry her last week, I started planting the seeds for my proposal. On Friday I casually mentioned to Sidney that Coastal Carolina University was having a benefit night down at the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk on Tuesday. I told her that a select few restaurants would donate 10% of their proceeds to the Coastal general scholarship fund. I even pulled up a graphic on my phone that I had created advertising the fake event. I went on and on about how bad the timing was and how I didn’t really want to go but felt like we needed to attend to show support for Coastal. She agreed, not suspecting a thing.

Over the next couple days I scouted the MarshWalk area. On Monday I met with Lindsay, a Coastal student and photographer. We went over the specifics of my plan and what she would do to best capture it. Lindsay assured me that she would have someone on hand to help with crowd control so I could ask Sidney in relative peace while at the same time securing clear photo access for herself.

Preparing for the proposal meant sending a photo to Sidney's mom on the best place to stand and wait for us. Brenda was so awesome throughout this all.

Preparing for the proposal meant sending a photo to Sidney’s mom on the best place to stand and wait for us. Brenda was so awesome throughout this all.

I started to get a little nervous driving home from work yesterday. I made it home, showered, retrieved the ring from my closet, and prepped myself. I was meeting Sidney at the restaurant because she was tending to her ailing grandmother who happened to live in the Murrells Inlet area. I actually preferred this arrangement because it gave Sidney less of an opportunity to see the big bulge in my pocket.

Sidney posted this photo to social media while we were inside the restaurant. She had no idea what was about to happen in the next few minutes.

Sidney posted this photo to social media while we were inside the restaurant. She had no idea what was about to happen in the next few minutes.

We had reservations at the Wicked Tuna for 7:30 p.m. I had told Lindsay and Sidney’s parents that we would probably finish no later than 8:15 p.m. For whatever reason, service was extremely slow last night and we didn’t receive our food until the time I told them we would be walking out. I discretely texted both parties to let them know that we were running late and Lindsay reminded me that the precious daylight was expiring. I started inhaling my burger while also encouraging Sidney to eat fast, using the excuse that I had a lot of packing and work to do at home.

The server came to check on us and I just gave her my card to swipe. I then gently asked Sidney if, for old time’s sake, we could walk down the MarshWalk pier to commemorate our first date. I told her I ate too fast and needed to walk off my discomfort. I signed the bill, excused myself “to go to the restroom,” and went and called Lindsay and Sidney’s mom to tell them it was go-time. I went back for Sidney and we walked down the stairs of the restaurant to the pier.

As the stroll started, emotion started to fill me. As we walked down the pier, conversation between Sidney and I centered on what a beautiful evening it was. I could sense Lindsay behind us taking photos, a reminder that this moment in my life was here. As we approached the end of the pier, I noticed people turning away and walking by us in the opposite direction, many of them staring at Sidney and I. At that point I immediately knew that the plan was in full effect, Lindsay had indeed recruited someone to get word out that the area needed to be cleared out for a proposal.

This was the photo from our first date on the pier. Now fast forward 13.5 months....

This was the photo from our first date on the pier. Now fast forward 13.5 months….

We reached the end of the pier. I muttered something about this being the place where it all began and I put our leftover box on a nearby bench. I pulled Sid close and we talked. I then got down on one knee and proposed to her. She said yes. Applause broke out among people hanging out behind the area that Lindsay’s dad had roped off once we reached our special spot. Sid kept it together better than I did.

That magic moment.

That magic moment.

We then walked back down the pier. Waiting for us was Sidney’s mom and dad. She hugged them and showed off her ring (I got hugs too). Lindsay then took photos of us. Sid’s parents left and then we called my parents. I also received calls from my brother and sister. We then went to one of the bar patios and had a drink. Lindsay had sent me some photos by this time and we posted them on social media. Watching the response was a lot of fun. After we finished our beers, we came back to my place and basked in the very special moment.

A photo with Sid's parents after a successful proposal.

A photo with Sid’s parents after a successful proposal.

When I look back on it, I will never forget the reaction of Sidney. It was simply the happiest I had ever seen her in my life. She kept repeating “I love you so much” and “I am so happy” over and over again. The sound of her voice was absolutely beautiful and genuine, reaching an angelic level that even I had never heard before. The emotion had completely swept over me and it was the most special moment I had ever been a part of.

I want to thank everyone who reached out through calls, texts, and social media to congratulate us. It has been spectacularly overwhelming. Our goal is to marry in either May or June of 2016. In less than a year I will marry the girl of my dreams. I am so thankful that I was guided to make the move to Myrtle Beach where I would meet Sidney. God is so good. Don’t Blink.

Enjoying Time With My Parents in Myrtle Beach

After a wonderful four full days, my parents flew back to Spokane today. I can’t express enough how nice it was to have them visit me here in Myrtle Beach. I was able to show them my life down South and let them know that I am doing just fine.

I have had many people ask me this question: “What did you do while your parents were down here?” I figured I would use this blog post to lay out specifically everything we did each day. Here we go…

Thursday, March 12:

– I met my parents at the airport as they landed in Myrtle Beach at 10:15 p.m.

– We went to my apartment as my mom got to see where I live for the first time. My parents shook off a long day of flying by eating chips and queso while my dad also sipped on some Sweetwater I.P.A.s that I bought for him.

So happy with my parents in the airport.

So happy with my parents in the airport.

Friday, March 13:

– I worked in the morning and my parents came to my office (they had a rental car) and met my superiors and co-workers. It was great fun taking them to meet roughly 12 people who I work with on a daily basis.

– After meeting the University Communication staff, I took them on a tour of campus. It was Spring Break so the students were gone but minus human activity they thought Coastal was a very beautiful place.

– I took them to lunch at Waffle House during the noon hour. This was their first time experiencing the magic of this restaurant. They both agreed that the waffle was the best item on the menu.

– From Waffle House we went to Sidney’s school, Palmetto Bays. They were able to watch part of an assembly and see Sidney’s second grade classroom.

– We went home to my apartment and hung out a little. We then went to one of my favorite neighborhood bars (Remedies) for a couple drinks.

– The three of us plus Sidney then went out to the Marsh Walk at Murrells Inlet. We ate at Drunken Jacks as we enjoyed a fabulous meal. My dad had scallops and my mom had flounder. The hush puppies impressed them a great deal.

– We rented a Redbox and came home. However, we decided to talk instead and never put the movie in the DVD player.

It was a good first full day in Myrtle Beach.

It was a good first full day in Myrtle Beach.

Saturday, March 14:

– It poured down rain this whole day so we kept to mostly indoor activities.

– I took them to the Coastal Grand Mall. My mom commented on how nice she thought it was.

– We went to Costco and Wal-Mart to pick up some items. We wanted to do all of our shopping on this day since it was rainy.

– We ate lunch at a true BBQ joint called Big D’s. It was a buffet with fried chicken, mac and cheese, pulled pork, cornbread, BBQ chicken, and more. Although it was a cool experience, my parents didn’t care for the food much.

– We went to Market Common, a really cool lifestyle center next to where I live. They had a St. Patrick’s Day celebration but most of it was washed out by the time we arrived. We did go to a trendy little restaurant/bar called Nacho Hippo and had a drink.

– We went from trendy bar to dive bar. I took my parents to my other favorite neighborhood bar, Klocker’s.

– After a brief trip back to my apartment we went to mass. I took my parents to my parish, St. Andrew, for the 6:15 p.m. Saturday vigil. It was a nice service.

– From mass we went over to Sidney’s house for a Southern meal of chicken bog. I absolutely love chicken bog and I wanted my parents to experience it. Making this whole evening sweeter was that Sidney’s parents came over to join us. It was so cool to have my parents and Sidney’s parents meet. Sid spent the whole day cooking and cleaning, doing a phenomenal job. It was a special, perfect evening.

Despite the wet weather, day 2 was good. Highlight came when we had dinner with Sidney and her parents.

Despite the wet weather, day 2 was good. Highlight came when we had dinner with Sidney and her parents.

Sunday, March 15:

– We got up at 7 a.m. and went to the beach and had a very peaceful walk. We then went on the pier and admired the view. This was one of my mom’s favorite parts of the trip.

– After the beach we ate breakfast at a place called Paradise Pancake and Omelette House. It was good.

– To walk off breakfast, we went to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. It just wasn’t my parents first time walking it, I was a rookie as well! We had a nice time strolling along and peeking into shops.

– Next we went to Broadway at the Beach, one of my favorite spots in Myrtle Beach. The area consists of restaurants, shops, and themed bars that surrounds a body of water. My mom bought salt water taffy and we enjoyed a couple drinks at some of the fine establishments.

– Later on we went to the Coastal Carolina campus for the Selection Show party. I worked the event while my parents and Sidney sat in the crowd and watched as the men’s basketball team drew Wisconsin.

– We went to a restaurant called California Dreaming. We had a very nice meal and great conversation.

– The three of us spent the rest of the evening talking at my place.

We did a lot on Sunday!

We did a lot on Sunday!

Monday, March 16:

– I hustled home after working half the day to find my dad waiting outside for me. We went inside and ate lunch.

– The three of us went to Wal-Mart (yep, had to go again) and my parents bought me a couple chairs for my deck.

– After sitting in the chairs on the deck, Sidney came over. Us four went to Shipwrecked, a Myrtle Beach putt putt course. I figured my parents needed to experience a round in the miniature golf capital of the world. I ended up winning!

– We went to Market Common and had a drink at a brand new hip place called Tupelo Honey.

– From there we went to King Street Grille for dinner. It was a very relaxing meal as we really enjoyed ourselves. I had a macaroni and cheese burger while my mom had the biggest piece of fish I had ever seen.

– We came home and all watched Jeopardy together. Sidney then went home and my parents stayed up with me until midnight.

Look at my mom's piece of fish!

Look at my mom’s piece of fish!

Tuesday, March 17:

– Sadly I said goodbye to my parents at 5 a.m. this morning.

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I am so glad my parents got to come visit me in Myrtle Beach. My parents keep amazing me by their generosity and love. It was a special several days, definitely a period of time that we always remember. I love you mom and dad, thanks for everything. Don’t Blink.

Night of a Thousand Candles

Last night Sidney and I decided to get in the Christmas spirit by doing a fun holiday activity. In Myrtle Beach, if you ask where you can do such a thing, everyone will give you the exact same answer: Night of a Thousand Candles. Hosted at Brookgreen Gardens, a magnificent sculpture park spanning 9,100 acres located a couple miles from a nearby community called Murrels Inlet, it is allegedly the premiere destination to get your Yuletide cheer on.

For three weekends in December, the gardens are transformed at night to a holiday wonderland. The grounds are overtaken by Christmas lights, and, like the name suggests, candles. According to the event program, the area is covered by close to a million Christmas lights and each evening over 5,000 candles are lit. If you need spectacular lights to “make your season bright” there is no better option than Night of a Thousand Candles.

This is the program for Night of a Thousand Candles.

This is the program for Night of a Thousand Candles.

Yesterday morning I conveniently purchased tickets online and then around 6:45 p.m. Sidney and I got in my car to make the 20 minute drive to Brookgreen Gardens…only we didn’t go through the gates until 8:30 p.m. Because the event is so popular, traffic is absolutely horrendous. The last two miles of the drive took us over an hour to complete. Cars were at a standstill. It was a little frustrating because we didn’t realize how much of a cluster it would be to enter. I started substituting the last word in “Night of a Thousand Candles” with other descriptions, much to the chagrin of Sidney. I think my most fitting one was “Night of a Thousand Cars.”

Once we parked and stretched our legs we were ready to tour the gardens. As you can imagine, candles line all the walkways. They say it takes 40 staff members to light all the candles each evening. Besides just directing people where to go, you can find the candles floating in the numerous ponds throughout the premises. Enclosed in circle-shaped orbs, they provided a pretty cool effect.

A look at the candles floating in the water.

A look at the candles floating in the water.

The candles were cool and all but I was much more a fan of the lights. As I said above, Night of a Thousand Candles boasts just shy of seven digits when it comes to the number of Christmas lights they have on site. The bright white decorations adorned entire parts of trees, made ceilings across the ponds, and hung vertically from branches (my favorite part).

Some of the photos I took of the lights at Night of a Thousand Candles.

Some of the photos I took of the lights at Night of a Thousand Candles.

The most impressive lighting aspect of the whole display though was a giant fir tree covered every inch in dazzling lights. I thought it looked spectacular and I had to wonder how they were able to get all those lights strung.

This tree was pretty spectacular.

This tree was pretty spectacular.

If the event was just the candles and the lights though, I think I would walk away disappointed. The price of $18 per ticket insists that there must be more to it. Don’t fret, there is. While enjoying your evening you can check out several holiday toy trains that are spinning around on their tracks. You can also admire a pond that doesn’t really even look like a pond. Why doesn’t it look like a pond? Because its surface is completely covered with cranberries. That’s right, the water is completely hidden with some 100,000 cranberries (information from Sidney). It really is a sight to see.

This is the pond filled with cranberries at Brookgreen Gardens.

This is the pond filled with cranberries at Brookgreen Gardens.

But for me, the best part of the entire evening was the entertainment. Throughout the gardens they have a few different tents housing musical acts. Sidney and I got to sit in on a duo called the Thistledown Tinkers. Wearing kilts the musicians played Irish-inspired Christmas tunes with their fiddles. Much to my enjoyment, they also had a couple of performers walking around playing bagpipes. I absolutely love bagpipes. Sidney and I could hear them far off and we did our best to track them down as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, once they became within eyesight they were concluding for the evening. It was still cool to hear the powerful sounds out in the distance though.

Sidney and I at Night of a Thousand Candles.

Sidney and I at Night of a Thousand Candles.

The entertainment hit a peak at the end of the evening. We found a larger heated tent that was housing a band playing a variety of Christmas songs. Outside of the tent was a snack and beverage station. Sidney ordered a hot apple cider and I got myself a winter Sad Adams beer and we went inside, sat down in a couple of chairs, and just enjoyed ourselves. That probably got me in the Christmas spirit more than anything else.

I really enjoyed listening to this band. They are called the Ross Holmes Band.

I really enjoyed listening to this band. They are called the Ross Holmes Band.

You have one more weekend to experience Night of a Thousand Candles. I recommend you go early because as I painfully detailed, you will be waiting in traffic. I feel it is a unique holiday outing so if you don’t mind spending $18 then take a journey out to Brookgreen Gardens. Don’t Blink.

Bike Week

When I arrived in Myrtle Beach I was warned about two things.

1. The humidity
2. Bike Week

I haven’t felt the draining humidity of the south yet but by arriving at the end of April I set myself up perfectly to experience Myrtle Beach’s infamous Bike Week.

Hey man, cool bike!

Hey man, cool bike!

First things first, Bike Week really isn’t a week. I noticed the well groomed visitors to the area at the start of last weekend and on my way to church today I saw several participants cruise past me so if you do the math you will figure that the term “week” is used very liberally. Actually this afternoon I saw a marquee that billed the event from May 8 through May 18 so that pretty much ended the discussion…bikers evidently don’t use the American calendar. Secondly, Bike Week is exactly what you think it is. People with motorcycles converge on this resort city for a week (err…10 days) of partying. Think Sturgis but keep in mind this event isn’t just restricted to Harleys.

Bikes take up pretty much every space possible in town.

Bikes take up pretty much every space possible in certain areas (photo credit to www.topix.com

From what I have gathered, the city has mixed feelings about Bike Week. On one hand the participants contribute lots of money to the local economy. On the other hand traffic is a nightmare, not all bikers are well behaved, and the potential for crime and accidents go up. But Myrtle Beach does all it can do to make the best of the situation and proper arrangements and patrols are arranged. A TV/radio/print campaign also takes place reminding both bikers and citizens of the need to respect each other during the week (…I mean 10 days).

I respect the bikers. But you know what would make me respect them even more? If they didn’t purposely make as much noise as possible with their bikes. I don’t get the appeal of revving an engine until your ear drums want to bleed. Several times this weekend when I would enter the highway I would be immediately surrounded by bikers in front of me, in back of me, and many times to both sides of me. On a couple of occasions it seemed like all the bikes circling me were gunning for some type of noise decibel record. Yeah, it wasn’t too much fun being on the road.

Never took a photo of when I was surrounded by bikers because I had navigation on for my phone but here is a generic picture I snapped today.

Never took a photo of when I was surrounded by bikers because I had navigation on for my phone but here is a generic picture I snapped today.

As I alluded to, immediately upon hitting the streets of Myrtle Beach I would see legions of bikers. That is really what stuck out to me about Bike Week…just the sheer number of people on motorcycles. They literally take over the roadways. While they do take over the roadways they don’t necessarily take over the whole town. They tend to congregate in certain areas making it nice if you want to make sure to give them their space. While I planned to give them this space last night I walked into their playground for a little bit.

Ready to hear the name of the place I found myself in last evening? The Dead Dog Saloon. Upon the recommendation of my friend Sidney the two of us went out to Murrels Inlet to rub elbows with the bikers. Well, we didn’t actually rub elbows, we more just observed from a corner table. After walking through a parking lot that was exploding at the seams with bikes jammed packed in every little space we enjoyed dinner while scoping out the week’s honorary residents. Strangely enough it wasn’t the people watching that made the experience so memorable…it was actually the food. I hadn’t enjoyed a tastier steak since when I ate at the Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas. I also got to eat hush puppies for the first time.

Clockwise: The hush puppies, my amazing steak and mashed potatoes, a view from the Marsh Walk, Sidney and her shrimp pasta, the Dead Dog Saloon sign!

Clockwise: The hush puppies, my amazing steak and mashed potatoes, a view from the Marsh Walk, Sidney and her shrimp pasta, the Dead Dog Saloon sign!

Thankfully I didn’t get beat up, singled out, or harassed by any of the bikers. Not that I really thought I would. I joke around but for the most part I understand that many bikers are outstanding citizens who just like to pursue their hobbies like I do mine. I just wish they could keep their bikes quiet.

What if I told you that Myrtle Beach will host another Bike Week at the end of this month? It is true. Only this upcoming edition has a different twist to it. I might get to that in a future blog post or I might not. Always wear your helmets bikers and I hope you had a great time in Myrtle Beach. Don’t Blink.