Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Travel from Norfolk to Myrtle Beach!

After a wonderful visit with friend Lucy and getting to see another friend, Sandy and her husband Joe, who had us all over for a “Pasta Party” on Saturday evening, Dave and I headed further south on Monday morning, Dec. 29th. We told Fiona (my GPS) we wanted to go to Myrtle Beach, SC. Now, even though
Dave and I embrace technology and all kinds of electronic gadgetry - we seem to not trust Fiona. So, as we traveled toward Myrtle Beach, we questioned Fiona’s GPS directions - and on a few occasions countered her, with what seemed intuitive to us. We were wrong. She as right. In some cases we were right, too, only our intuitive decisions frequently added miles (and some time) to the trip. Essentially, we took the scenic route, avoiding interstate highways and enjoying Americana - from the byways instead of the highways at 65-70 mph.

Along the way, we had a terrific serendipity. Dave is retired from the Voice of America, the international broadcasting service of the U.S. government. He had a 32 year career with VOA and his voice and reports had been heard around the world by untold millions of people almost daily over those 32 years. Yet, in all that time, Dave had never seen the places where his voice were actually transmitted from on huge shortwave transmitters attached to immense antenna arrays from several locations around the U.S. and a few overseas. His entire career had been in a government building in the Federal Government area of Washington, DC. As we drove the byways to Myrtle Beach - when we were near Greenville, NC - we came upon a sign that said “The Voice of America Site A - and there was VOA Road. We drove Fiona crazy for a little while as we went looking for those large antennas and we found it. It was impressive to say the least. The complex was huge in land area, there were towers with antennas strung between them in every direction, too many to even attempt to get an accurate count of. While we weren’t able to gain entrance to the transmitter complex we know there are at least two each, 500,000 watt, 250,000 watt and 50,000 watt transmitters in there. IMPRESSIVE! Dave was duly impressed. I should mention that as a licensed ham radio operator for the past 49 ½ years and having operated my own shortwave radio stations - I also was duly impressed.

We got back on course and let Fiona settle down and return to her assigned duty. Along the way, Dave and I had a hankering for some good old North Carolina barbecue. That turned out to be a lot more of a challenge then we could have guessed. Dave was driving and I was navigating, so it was my responsibility to find us a great, local BBQ restaurant. They were more scarce then hen’s teeth. I finally spotted a sign for one, we left the main road and chased it down. It was closed for the holiday. Sheesh! We found another - closed, too. A third BBQ place appeared - believe it or not - CLOSED! It should be noted that we started looking mid afternoon and it wasn’t even 6 PM and these restaurants were closed. And these were the only places we saw along the road over a couple hundred miles. Finally about 6:20 PM we ran across Bart’s BBQ. It was open, but only until 7 PM! We were famished. The BBQ was okay, but not near the best we’ve had. Our stomachs were now full and we proceeded the rest of the way to Myrtle Beach, only about 35 to 40 minutes down the road.

Once in Myrtle Beach we cruised along Ocean Blvd, checking out the myriad of hotels and condos with vacancy signs and fantastic off season rates. We finally stopped at a large, luxurious looking complex called the Compass Cove. We booked a nice room on the third floor, overlooking the ocean. It had the two queen beds we wanted, a full-size refrigerator, microwave oven, dishes, silverware, even a toaster. And, since our balcony overlooks the ocean and faces east - we knew we’d have some glorious sunrises. We ran out and got some basic provisions and then settled in. On a more negative account, I started to nurse the cold that I managed to catch somewhere in Norfolk and that began to blossom as we approached Myrtle Beach. I very seldom catch colds, so this made it especially annoying. A good night’s rest will be helpful after our eventful 330 mile journey.

Ed Helvey

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