Having left Surfside Beach and the motel from hell part 2, where to next? Ah yes, Myrtle Beach. I once read something somewhere that described Myrtle Beach as having the best beach in the USA. What with me being a Pisces, which means that you are never likely to find me far from water, I had to go to check it out.
First of all, though, I almost fell into a cunning trap. A little farther on from the motel is the "Myrtle Beach Recreation Area", so being keen, I decided to take a look. After about half a mile of drive came the sign "please prepare your money". Now, of course, not being American, I can reverse a car in a tight area so I extricated myself with some ease. But if you have a Caddy or anything else like that, you'd better get your money ready. There's nowhere to turn unless you "invent" something, and where there's any question of money being involved, I can certainly be inventive, that's for sure. Like I've said on numerous occasions, who called the USA "The Land of the Free"? It's more like "The Land of the Expensive", if you ask me.
A couple of miles further on up the road (I'd only missed my target by maybe as little as 15 minutes after all of that the previous day) I turned right off the King's Highway to follow the seafront into town.
Now this photograph on the left really sets the scene. You can see the type of place that it is. High-rise apartments, condominiums, no parking, no trespassing, no drinking, no thinking. Leave your brains behind and get on the beach. But not today. It was cold, windy, overcast and threatening rain. Not your ideal sunbathing weather, it has to be said, but never mind.
First thing I had to do was to get my bearings. Second thing was to organise some coffee.
As you would expect, one of the many things that there was to be "no" of was parking. So I needed to get something organised on that front. The local pharmacy looked promising. It had a big car park, right opposite a petrol station that was bound to sell coffee.
"Parking for customers only" said the sign. That was ok - if I was going to have to pay for parking somewhere, I may as well pay for something I need, and I needed a few things.
But there were some things I didn't need, like this sort of thing on display here. I know that there is a market for them, but it's usually much more discrete than this, and not so ... er ... numerous either. I had never seen so many of this sort of article on such public display in the same location before. I found it a rather moving experience. My natural modesty on these matters was tempered by my inherent curiosity. I had fallen between two stools.
It's not really the best of it though, for it reminds me of a friend of mine, suffering badly from haemorrhoids and unused to the French method of dealing with them. When the doctor asked him
"did those suppositories that I prescribed for you ease your piles any?", he replied
"Frankly, doctor, for all the good that they did me, I might as well have shoved them up my@r$e"
Outside was even more interesting, especially if you have a warped sense of humour like I have. Just enlarge the photo here on the right and read the notice on the side of the van. The owner obviously comes from Essex.
Anyway, on with the plot. I left my toothpaste and deodorant in their shopping bag clearly on the front passenger seat so that everyone could see them, and set off into the town - on foot. I bet you never knew they sold "eau de skunk" in the United States.
Oh, I await the day
Good fortune comes our way
And we'll ride down the King's Highway
sang Tom Petty.
And I certainly have a fear of ending up as someone I don't even know, as anyone will tell you. There has to be something left for me to believe, even if I do always end up in a room all alone.
But I was going to save riding down the King's Highway until later. I was crossing over to the petrol station to buy myself a coffee and to explore this six-gun town.
One thing I learnt was that in the USA traffic turning left or right has priority over pedestrians crossing the road on pedestrian crossings with a green "walk" sign in their favour.
And a few American motorists learnt a few words and phrases that I bet they had never heard before as well!
I think that Lord Dewar must have been in Myrtle Beach when he made his famous quote " There are two classes of pedestrians in these days of reckless motor traffic: the quick and the dead "
First thing you observe is the Pleasure Beach. Well, in all honesty, it's not very easy to miss, is it?
It's not like the Pleasure Beach at Rhyl (well, not for much longer, anyway) or Blackpool, is it? It's clearly seen better days, that's for sure.
What was fairly startling though was that there was no-one about. Not a single attraction seemed to be working. If this were Blackpool, the place would be heaving, even in the depths of the coldest winter. Even Rhyl, whose seafront looks these days like Fallujah after an American offensive (and in nowhere have the Americans have been more offensive than in Fallujah), has more life than here. Fair enough, it wasn't warm, it was windy and it was threatening rain, but there just wasn't any custom at all.
In the UK or anywhere else in western Europe, you wouldn't have been able to move for the blue rinse brigade and other assorted old biddies camped out on the free wooden benches, in their woollen hats and clutching their thermoses half-full of lukewarm tea.
I know the type well. I used to spend a considerable part of my life when I used to be a holiday coach driver for Shearings driving them around at the start of the season when all the cheap holidays were on offer. And it was the end of April, remember.
John Betjeman wrote in his book "First and Last Loves" that "Nothing is more empty than a deserted fairground".
Nothing But the Son of a Beach!
This beach is supposed to be the nicest beach on the eastern seaboard or whatever. In this pic, the view is north up towards North Carolina, via the pier. I didn't get to visit the pier by the way. I was determined not to bow to pier pleasure.
What was intriguing was all the lists of dos and don'ts that applied here, and the time periods during which certain things are permitted or disallowed. It sounds just like Belgium to me.
This photo is the view south towards Charleston.
There's not many people about at all as you can see. There's no-one in the water. The wind was blowing,but it wasn't all that bad.
Now, fair enough, as far as the beach goes, it wasn't bad at all and looks a lot nicer than, say, Rhyl ever does. But then, only some parts of Rhyl beach. And there were definitely beaches that I've walked in Europe that have been nicer than this.
I was in the USA for the New Year 1999/2000, on a place called Long Beach Island off the coast of New Jersey, and I found some beautiful beaches there. This one knocks spots off anything Myrtle Beach has to offer, don't you think?.
That on Long Beach Island is definitely a beach. This one here at Myrtle Beach is nothing but the son of a beach.
So why is there all the commotion about Myrtle Beach? E- me if you know, because you can see from the photos that I am the only person who thinks like this. The rest of the USA is rushing to Myrtle Beach to buy condos and the like, and the property speculators are dashing to cater for them. There must be something going on that I don't know about.
I once met someone from Brighton who had married an American. She told me that the first thing her new husband did after the wedding was to drag her off to visit Myrtle Beach. Strange couple. When I married Nerina, I could think of lots of things that were ever so much more exciting than dragging her off to visit somewhere like Myrtle Beach.
Another Misguided Tour
Another thought that quite depressed me was that I'd missed arriving in Myrtle Beach the previous night by maybe only 15 minutes or so. Accommodation would have been no problem at all with all the motels that I saw in town.
When you look at the prices of these two motels, I would have been far better off here than in the Astro Motel at Surfside Beach.
These two were by no means the cheapest in town either. I'd seen plenty offering rooms at $29 as I was driving in. And that thought had me well-miffed by now. Last night I could have had a sea view, and the crash of the surf on the beach to soothe me to sleep, at a price I could easily have afforded.
But it was either food and a poor motel, or a good motel and starvation. Make your own mind up. I suppose it serves me right for not looking after my phone.
This sign had me falling about laughing. Well, when I first saw it, it did. Afterwards, I started to become quite concerned by its significance. Does this really mean that there are people who have nothing better to do in Myrtle Beach than to sit under this sign all day and night, and write down car number plates? What kind of place is this?
You can picture the scene. Robbers, rapists and other recividists running riot in rural regions because all the bobbies are car numberplate spotting on the boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
Reminds me of when I lived in Chester (the English version) in 1972 and a series of murders was committed. They drafted in police from all over Cheshire. They never caught the murderer or murderers, but the number of motorists stopped for traffic offences increased in direct proportion to the increased number of police on duty.
"Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones"
"scream down the boulevard"
"The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors"
"And the boys try to look so hard"
"The amusement park rises bold and stark"
"Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist"
"I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight"
"In an everlasting kiss"
Springsteen probably had Atlantic City or maybe Asbury Park, places from my journey of 1999 in mind when he wrote "Born to Run" but I tell you now, I cannot think of a more appropriate description of Myrtle Beach.
Tom Petty, Lord Dewar, John Betjeman, Bruce Springsteen? Not to mention yours truly. I'm amazed by all these famous people from history who seem to have visited Myrtle Beach!
I carried on walking back along the main street towards where I turned in the street to find the pharmacy and my car. And what's this sign? I remember thinking to myself "buggered if I'm going in there".
I do know however, that dolphins are amongst the most intelligent beings on earth. There were half a dozen that were so intelligent that they had only been in Florida a couple of weeks and they'd managed to train a whole horde of Americans to keep throwing fish to them.
I went somewhere else to buy some souvenirs of my visit. I found a couple of bumper stickers for Paul. He's now the proud owner of "I may be fat and you may be ugly, but I can always diet" and "honk if parts fall off". I also picked up a t-shirt and pullover for myself. The t-shirt because it cost one dollar and had a "Myrtle Beach" logo on it, and a pullover because it wasn't warming up and I was getting cold.
I also saw a t-shirt that would have been wonderful for Paul's daughter (and my princess) Tawny. It said "When God Made Me He Was Showing Off". Unfortunately they had none in her size.
By now the rain was coming down, and I was getting wet. I reckoned it was time to leave.
Racists in Disguise
Before I go, though, just let me tell you something else about Myrtle Beach. It's the home of what is known as "Black Biker Week". Despite being described as a "week", it actually takes place over a weekend - Memorial Weekend - which is commonly at the end of May.
A group called "Black Biker Rights" makes the point that there is a biker rally in Myrtle Beach at which the participants are "predominantly white" - thus accepting the fact that there are at least some black bikers involved. This event is known as "Harley Week". One imagines that the crucial element that bonds people together at this event is the Harley-Davidson, and the dearth (if this is indeed true) of black bikers at the event is due to the dearth of black bikers owning Harley Davidsons.
The organisers then go on to state categorically that "a similar number of black motorcyclists attend a similar rally in the Myrtle Beach area, known as "Black Bike Week" ". This seems to suggest that the crucial element that bonds people together at this event is the fact that they are black, and the fact that there is no qualification in their statement suggests that thay are all black.
Maybe it's me being an ignorant foreigner, I dunno, but just imagine what would happen if someone were to organise a "White Biker Week" at which all the participants would be white? There would be an outcry and outrage. Yet if it's some kind of racial discrimination in another direction, that seems to be permissible.
Someone did suggest that "Black Biker Week" is an ethnic minority exercising its right to have positive discrimination. Whether it is or not, it's still discrimination and I can't see why any kind of discimination is acceptable. If people want to be treated as one, then they should be treated as one, and that's the end of it.
In any case, when another ethnic minority in another country asserted itself and adopted positive discrimination, it was treated as an international pariah for over 30 years and banned from all contact with the rest of the world. I suppose it was just mere coincidence that this particular ethnic minority was white. And when that country was finally liberated from its ethnic minority and welcomed back into the international fold, all the international leaders who feted the new president were actually feting a convicted terrorist.
This organisation, "Black Biker Rights", is urging people to write to them with examples of discrimination that they suffered during "Black Biker Week". The irony of this has gone completely over their heads. Are they really going to field complaints from white bikers who were unable to join in the fun? All of this sounds like hypocrisy of the rankest kind to me.
What on earth is going on in the modern world?
Before I left Myrtle Beach completely, I had to take this photograph. You might wonder what on earth is so interesting about someone watering his lawn, but this fool is watering his lawn with a hosepipe and sprinkler and it's flaming well raining, as you can see.
There really are people stupid enough to actually do foolish things like this. Makes me wonder what purpose some people think mother nature actually serves.
So having extricated myself from this crazy housing estate, I headed north along Highway 17 in the general direction of North Carolina. As I joined up with Highway 31, the Carolina Parkway, there was this enormous mall. I'd been quite virtuous this last couple of days and had hardly bought anything at all. Time to do a bit of shopping, methinks, before crossing into North Carolina.