With all the financial tension and stress of this year, Charles and I hadn’t planned a vacation at all, but I kind of stumbled across something on the internet about Edisto Island, a relatively undeveloped island 40 miles or so south of Charleston, SC.
I had heard of Edisto – my friend Mary Jo Matthews had spoken of it often. In fact, it’s still a regular vacation spot for her and her family.
Our first choice when we can get away for a few days has always been Jekyll Island, but after checking out rental cottages (and our budget), Edisto was the better deal if we wanted a few days away. Besides, it’s always good to try something new.
So the two of us set off with our two small dogs, Crickett and Salty Dog, in tow in late September, right in the middle of the southeast’s gas crisis following Hurricane Gustav, and the even bigger “perfect” storm churning in Washington D.C.
We had just over half a tank of gas when we left home – plenty, we figured, to get south of Athens and into rural Wilkes County where there was surely plenty of gas. Wrong – every station we passed had bags over the handles. Finally, down to little more than a quarter of a tank, we stopped in Washington and asked a local if there was any gas to be found anywhere. Yep, he said, we’d have no problem on I-20. So we forged on, but made a deal that if there was no gas on I-20 at the exit we were supposed to get on – we’d call it a definite sign and call the whole thing off. In fact, I’d have called it off sooner if the small beach house we’d rented wasn’t already paid for. But we had paid the travel insurance, something I usually don’t do, and I was glad I had this time. (Surely “no gas to get there” would qualify as a need to cancel the vacation.)
But, though gas wasn’t plentiful on I-20, we did find a station that had some, so we forged on. And we did exactly what officials were urging us not to do – we topped off the tank with that $4 plus black gold every chance we got, all the way to Edisto.
We finally got to Edisto, after the required episodes of getting lost (which ate up more gas), about dusk to find the one two-lane road onto the island backed up for as far as we could see. After sitting there for 30 minutes or so staring at the love bugs carpeting the windshield (at least something was enjoying the evening) traffic finally began to move again. Charles had stepped out of the car while we waited to chat with a few locals who were also standing along the road and said he was impressed with their friendliness. “Sounds like we’re going to visit Mayberry,” he said.
Edisto was peaceful and quiet – just what the doctor ordered. We rode bikes, we walked the dogs, we listened to an early morning rain and sometimes we had the beach almost all to ourselves.
Edisto has a great state park, complete with seaside camping, and is a shell collector’s paradise. There are not many restaurants or stores and to tell the truth we didn’t even try to visit most of them. We just bought groceries at the little Piggly Wiggly down the street and ate at the cabin, except for lunch one day at a place called the Pavillion, where we watched dolphins play in the surf.
We had planned on driving up to Charleston for a visit, but decided just to stay put and enjoy the quiet.
When we go back again (and we plan to one day), we’ll pick either a beach front house or a house on a quiet side street – our house this time was on the west side of the main drag, which made for a lot of noisy early morning traffic as folks left the island for work.
Edisto appears to have a lot of year-round residents; regular working folks who make the long trek inland each day. There are no hotels on Edisto – just the rental homes and some condos on the marsh side, and of course the state park campgrounds. There are also a few cabins for rent there.
Don’t go there if you’re looking for excitement – but do go there for a peaceful escape.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.