Trip Travelogue – Jekyll Island and St. Simon’s Island

Saturday

We drove the rental car from Savannah to Jekyll, arriving around noon. We got the keys, unpacked clothes and food quickly, noted the lack of hangers, and headed out (in the car) to the Shrimp and Grits Festival in the historic district. It was packed. The day was warm but not hot (maybe 80), fairly sunny, and pretty much ideal for this sort of open-air event. I stood in one line for a half-hour while T. went to find drinks. He returned with them (a beer for him, a G&T for me) before I’d reached the front of the line, but by then I had figured out it wasn’t the line I wanted to be in — they were serving almost no shrimp, except with scallops, and lots of BBQ, fried items, and the like — so I switched lines to the Jekyll Island Club line, which though it was longer, went more than twice as fast.

Shrimp and Grits Festival Lines
Shrimp and Grits Festival Lines

The reward was a delicious shrimp and grits dish (also had andouille sausage, which T. ate), which we enjoyed at a large round table in front of the music stage (live southern rock music playing at the time, and a hula hoop contest), with 8 Georgia bikers for company.  Later, we got some steamed shrimp from Zach’s tent, but most of it was overcooked and not that great, alas. We ate that sitting on the porch wall of an historic house, with a bunch of Latino bikers from Florida (so said their patches) for company.  When we wandered over to the tail end of a cooking demonstration, we got some free shrimp and grits and then a free  tour of one of the historic houses we hadn’t seen in years past.I wanted a snowcone but the lines were too long. We caught the last Frisbee Dog show of the day at 4 p.m., which was pretty amazing. All the Frisbee Dogs are rescue animals. As the emcee said, his dog would not make a good pet because she can overcome an 8-foot fence and gets bored easily, and that’s why it’s great that she can be a Frisbee Dog and tour the country doing outrageous tricks. Otherwise, she would probably never find a good home.

We left after that and drove to the mini-golf place to rent bikes. We were surprised at the cost ($50 per week per bike) but decided to go for it anyway. We couldn’t fit even one bike into the car, so I rode my bike back to the condo, against the wind, along the ocean, while T. drove, and then I drove him back to get his bike, and he rode it home, also against the wind and by the ocean, while I drove.  It’s only about a mile from point A to B but we were bushed. The wind was 20 mph or so and coming straight at us.

Sea Turtle Hatchling
Sea Turtle Hatchling

After some householding chores (laundry, chiefly), we walked across the street to the beach. We were only out there a few minutes when a man and his retriever, Keegan, told us that a baby turtle was struggling in the surf a ways down the beach. He went to call the turtle center and we hunted for the turtle, found it, and stayed with it, hiding it from passersby. We also called the Ga. Sea Turtle Center, who said someone was coming for the turtle. I called again after about 15 mins, worried because the tide was reaching the spot where we were, and was told that to touch the turtle was a federal offense. I had had no intention of touching the turtle, I just wanted an ETA of the rescuers. Eventually, maybe 20-25 mins after the initial call, a rescuer showed up, saying he had been looking all over for us. He picked up the turtle, noting the Sargasso algae on it, which meant it had been in the ocean for a while, but it was hatchling size. The turtle (whom the man and Keegan had named ‘Jim’) flapped its flippers a bit. The rescuer said he thought if the turtle got some nourishment and rest from the rough seas for a day or two, it could be released back to the ocean.  We asked the next day at the turtle center about it and were told that it hadn’t survived.

We went for dinner around 6:30 to SeaJays, which was crowded. We got the last outside table and both ate the low-country boil while reveling in the warmth, view, relaxation. Later, we watched the Georgia-Arizona State game at the condo.

Sunday

Sunday we had heavy rain in the morning. In between storms, I rode down to the store on the bike to get a paper. We drove (because of the rain) to the Shrimp and Grits Festival around noon and spent a couple of rain-free hours there, this time standing in very short and non-existent lines and sampling the offering from Latitude 31, which was a sort of lightly breaded and fried shrimp in a grits-and-mushrooms cream sauce that I thought was delectable. Today the live music was jazz (group called Straight, No Chaser), which was very listenable. We spent about two hours there, wandering, looking at the things for sale, people- and dog-watching. So many dogs of all sizes!

Afterwards, we drove around the island, refamiliarising ourselves with the place after an absence of about two years (due primarily to our dog’s cancer and my sciatica). We sat on the tiny bit of beach at St. Andrews (south end) at high tide.

When we got home, the rain was coming down in buckets, the wind howling. We decided to head to Gnat’s Landing on SSI for dinner, because the outside seating is sheltered, well enclosed under a roof. It’s always great there, very casual, with good food. Tonight, we had a little drama, as some kids — four or five of them, perhaps 9-12 years old — were running wild while their parents paid no attention, and eventually one of them deliberately smashed a bottle over where some cars, including ours, were parked. That got them a quick time-out in their minivan, but then they were let out again and resumed their terrorising. Some folks next to us had two slightly younger kids with them and were very critical of the other parents’ lack of attention and responsibility.

Reserved Parking - St. Simon's Island shopping center
Reserved Parking - St. Simon's Island shopping center

After dinner, we went to the Harris Teeter grocery store, where we saw this hilarious parking sign and someone violating it.

Car violating parking sign - No handicapped parkers allowed!
Car violating parking sign - No handicapped parkers allowed!

We went downtown and were going to walk around, but rain struck again, so we scurried home and watched more of Julia Child on dvd.

Monday

I walked on the beach in the morning at low tide (8:30ish) — rain was spitting and almost no one else was out. Shot some video of the waves and beach.

Woodstock and Vulture
Woodstock and Vulture

We got a break in the rain from 9:30-12, during which time we rode the bikes to the south end (St. Andrews picnic area) and walked the beach quite a ways, then biked through the historic district and then home.

Took the car to have lunch at SeaJays at 12:30 (rain threatening). Crab balls, mmm!

Deer along bike path, Clam Creek
Deer along bike path, Clam Creek

We did get some rain but from 2:30-5:30 we biked some more, on Riverview, to the north end (Clam Creek area), and back. Did a lot of birding and photographing. Saw a raccoon on the Riverview bike path, looking into a shallow ditch where a dead raccoon lay. Sad. Also saw two rabbits along the bike path, many dolphin in the ocean, pelicans, deer (a doe or juvenile, and a big buck) on the Clam Creek bike path. We had a few sprinkles but it was mostly just cloudy.

Drove to SSI for dinner from 6:15-8:15, to Barbara Jean’s, where we sat outside at tables on the sidewalk and thoroughly enjoyed eating our crabcakes and veggies. Took a walk down the pier and through the downtown area, got a chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle cone at Zuzu’s, and headed home.

Tuesday

Low tide was at 9:30ish, and from 9:20-11 a.m. we walked from the condo to the convention center and back. Very windy!

After that, we rode the bikes to south of the convention center to lay out but gave up at 12:15 because of the crazy blowing sand! It was also kind of cold, with highs during the day in the mid 70s and a gust of NE windy always blowing.

Boattail Grackle
Boattail Grackle

We biked from the convention center to the Rah bar (I in my swimsuit), for steamed shrimp, raw oysters, salad with mahi-mahi, and Coronas with lime.  Very pleasant. Some folks near us were worried, for good reason, about the grackles in the rafters above their heads ….

Snake on bike path
Snake on bike path

From about 1:15 to 3 we biked along Riverview, saw a snake on the path (and scooted it off), then along the Clam Creek path again, and back down Beachview to the condo.

View from balcony
View from balcony

Then we sat up in our little aerie drinking a Negra Modelo and eating peanuts from the shell for an hour or so. (Photo: our view) Before it closed at 4, we took the car over to Tidelands, where they have kayaking tours, organise the nature walks, and have exhibits including a sea turtle, diamondbacks, snakes, etc. They eventually release the sea turtles to the wild and track them with a GPS device.  Then we headed out to the mainland, stopping at the Jekyll Visitors Center on the causeway for the first time in our trip (the first time it’s been open when we’ve been travelling that way). Saw an eagle on a tree from the causeway.

Spankys Marshside
Spankys Marshside

Dinner at Spanky’s Marshview, in Brunswick GA (on Route 17 between the turn-offs to SSI and Jekyll), where they have a great deal on call drinks during Happy Hour. We also saw and patted a bulldog here, next to Spanky’s, a 7-mo-old named Tank.

Then back to the condo for Julia Child and the second episode of the fifth season of House MD!

Wednesday

We took a guided nature walk of the St. Andrews picnic area and beach (south end) from 9-11 with the spunky Meg Roberts, mother of Meaghan Roberts Jeffries, and mother-in-law of CJ Jeffries, who owns SeaJay’s restaurant and also Jekyll Realty. She’s been our nature walk guide in years past as well. The day was chilly, and cloudy, with a high of 69 degrees and very windy until about 3 p.m.

Typical view around pond
Typical view around pond

After the nature walk, we went back to the condo and drove over to the Amphitheatre area. This is a bird nesting and breeding area around a pond behind what used to be a real amphitheatre, with staging, electronics, seating, etc., all still more or less intact  It’s been defunct for as long as we have visited the island, at least 15 yrs. In spring, there are hundreds of birds breeding and nesting there, and the sound and smell are incredible and indescribable. This time of year, there are still lots of birds but it’s more of a way-station. This time around we saw a number of heron, including a bunch of yellow-crested night heron, some egrets, and in the trees near us, a Baltimore (Eastern) Oriole, which I had never seen in the wild. Wish I could have photographed it but it was moving too quickly.

After this, we rode our bikes from the condo the very short distance to the Morgan Bar and Grill on the golf course, a place we’d never gone before, and got a tuna melt and a grilled cheese with bacon. We settled for some light sort of beer based on the list the waitress recited, and then we saw a Guinness being delivered to a guy at another table! It was the perfect Guinness sort of day, had we but known.

View from historic district
View from historic district

We rode from there to the historic district. T. went to the Ga. Sea Turtle Center but I skipped it and rode around the area, stopping for licorice at the candy shop and a hot tea at the Commissary. I took the tea and rode my bike to a bench near Lat 31 overlooking the river and marshy area, until T. called on the cell to say he was done.

About this time, the sun came out! We biked home and got into ‘laying out’ clothes (swimsuit for me). We tried to find beach near the Soccer Complex boardwalk but no go — the tide was over the boardwalk there. I knew the best place would be near the south tip but there’s no easy way to get there. We parked at the end of Macy Lane and walked seemingly endless miles along narrow, shifting, rotting boardwalk, in soggy, past-the-ankles-with-bugs-all-swimming-around swampy water, through juicy mud, etc.! (the only thought in my head some of the time was ‘water moccasin’) and finally arrived at the beach.

A little ecological note: When the folks on Macy Lane and Roosevelt Lane built their houses, they were oceanfront. The sand has accrued at the south end so affirmatively in recent years that those grand houses are now many hundreds of yards from the beach and ocean. (Conversely, the northern side of a barrier island loses sand, and in this case more than usual because there are deep shipping channels dug between SSI and Jekyll.)

We sunned for maybe a half-hour but were being slowly eaten by biting flies, and the birds weren’t real happy with our presence, so we walked along the beach to find the next exit at the 4H club. The tide was by then all the way up to the shore and we were walking at the end with about 4-5′ of eroding shore above us and the ocean coming up to our shins. We found the path, though, and got out, walking along the S. Beachview bike path back to our car.

Sunset at SeaJays
Sunset at SeaJays

Went to SeaJay’s again for dinner at sunset and took a walk along the marina. Later, after some TV and reading, we tried a little turtle walk starting down by the convention center, where we had seen a nesting site marked 8/3, which meant it would hatch around the end of Sept. or start of Oct., but it was too dark even with flashlights (no moon) so we gave up and came home.

Thursday

The day was mostly cloudy, with highs in the low 70s. Pretty much par for the course this week.

jisept2008ginger.jpgjisept2008anole.jpgWe biked to the historic district for the historic district landscape tour from 9-10:30 with our favourite guide, Pat Morris, whom we met many years ago. It’s also my favourite walk.  The walk gives a good overview of most of the plantings in the district, whether native or (mostly) not, as well as some history of the Jekyll Island Club and the island overall. I saw an anole (gecko) along the way.

Afterwards, we spent a half-hour or so in the bookstore, which is also a gift shop, clothing shop, cosmetics shop, house and garden shop, music shop, and so on. It takes up most of a two-story Victorian-style (or maybe shingle-style) house, with various rooms devoted to various themes and items. Always interesting. I bought a UGA T-shirt (Life is simple. Eat. Sleep. Bulldogs.) and a couple of greeting cards.

We didn’t have lunch today. T. rested at the condo while I rode the bike to get the NY Times and mail postcards. Later we drove to the Convention Center to lay out from 11:30-12:15, but eventually the biting flies got us.

jisept2008northbeach.jpgWe drove from there to Clam Creek (north end) to walk the beach at low tide (around 11:30 or 12 today) and look for shells for a couple of hours. Saw a willet in the surf, and a kingfisher in wobbly flight (high winds).

jisept2008willetclose.jpg

jisept2008ssicargoshippilotshippier.jpgAt 4, we left for SSI, got more money at the CVS, and had dinner again at Gnat’s Landing. Afterwards, we went downtown and walked around, got another ice cream from Zuzu’s, hung out on the pier and watched a cargo ship come very close to us in St. Simon’s Sound.

We got back to Jekyll in time for a Friends of Jekyll meeting Meg had invited us to, which was actually a slide show and talk about Louis Comfort Tiffany (there is a Tiffany window in Faith Chapel in the historic district). It lasted over an hour and a half and we were both sleepy by the end, though it was interesting. We got some cider and a sweet treat, spoke briefly with Meg, and went home and did laundry and packed. On the way over, we saw two deer, and then two raccoon (together).

Friday

Sigh. Last day. And a warm day, in the 80s and sunny by the time we left!

jisept2008alligator3.jpgWe biked to alligator pond (behind the gas station) and we saw the alligator in the water, plus a yellow rat snake along the bank! Also lots of vultures in a dead tree, a pileated woodpecker, some herons and egrets and other birds. Probably spent 40 mins here. Always an adventure.

From there, we biked along Old Plantation Road and all the side roads. At the end of one was a sort of fire road, which we’d never seen, so we took it. Just as we were pushing our bikes around the closed gate, we spotted a deer lying on the bluff above the creek next to the path. She was alert but didn’t run, so I got some photos of her, and then we continued on. jisept2008deernestingindaycloser.jpg

jisept2008compostlandfill.jpgjisept2008algaepond.jpgThe trail was odd. Sort of a fire road, at first, which led to what looked like a big compost staging ground, or a series of brush piles (we saw later on the one sign we came upon that it was called a landfill). At that point, we were in sandy terrain, with inland dunes, grasses, ponds, no tall trees, a sort of desolate feel to it all. We saw a completely algae-filled pond, and then past that the trail narrowed and was harder to follow. The ruts were deep, making for bouncy riding, and the grass was pretty tall. I was hoping it wasn’t tick season. I was also thinking about copperheads, rattlesnakes, and similar. It was obviously not well-trodden ground.

Soon we came to what is probably a known birding area for the residents, around another pond, with another alligator in it (couldn’t photograph it well in the bright sunlight, but it looked darker and larger than the one in the alligator pond). There we saw an anhinga drying its wings, numerous turtles in the water, some black-crowned night heron, etc.  We got a bit lost trying to find our way out but T. went ahead to reconnoiter and heard cars, so we went that way and were out on Beachview in minutes. Whew.

We got back to the condo around 12:30. I did some laundry while T. biked to Morgan’s to pick up another tuna melt sandwich for us. We split  it and the yummy fries that came with it at the patio table of the condo next to us (no one was staying there), along with a couple of Negra Modelos. I sat in the sun, T. in the shade.

We tried the laying out thing again, on the beach near us, from about 1:30-2:30 (low tide), and it was perfect — no gale-force wind, no blowing sand, no biting bugs, no encroaching tide! — but an hour was enough as we were burning and had forgotten to bring down the sun lotion. It was good to get in one true sunbathing experience!

We went back to the condo, finished packing, cleaning, did the dump and recycling run, and checked out around 3:15. Sob.

Drove the 1-1/2 hours or so to the Savannah airport (traffic was heavy and construction was ubiquitous on 95N), left the car, got a cab back to the hotel downtown, checked in, turned the room AC way down, and went out by 6 for dinner at Huey’s on River St., our favourite breakfast place. After dinner we walked around River St. and listened to the music, people-watched, etc. There was an amazing family drumming and dancing act — woman, two men, three girls — that mesmerised us and many others.

Saturday

jisept2008trainbusinessclass.jpgWe ate at the hotel at 6:15 and got a cab at 7a.m. to the train station. The train was on time (it originates in Savannah), we got to DC in good time, ate a good meal at the Center Cafe in Union Station during the ample layover; and, the train from there actually arrived home 5 minutes ahead of schedule on Sunday morning! We had business class seats and really enjoyed the extra leg and seat room, the free NY Times, and the unlimited free non-alcoholic drinks!

Jekyll Photos.

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