Hello from our final day in Tybee Island. Morgan and I have spent our final week taking care of last experiences and tying up loose ends, including getting a drink at the final dive bar of all of south Tybee’s offerings (The Wind Rose Cafe – great fries, better beer prices). After our brief parent visit interlude, things mostly returned to normal for us here, or as normal as things will get when you’re packing up your life every 30 days or less. This time next week, we’ll be in the Big Easy, swapping hoodoo for voodoo, the British for the French, and Jell-O shots for hurricanes.
We’re both going to miss Tybee quite a bit. True, we have no idea how unpleasant it may be with hordes of tourists each summer. But Tybee is special. I think I feel especially confident in this, with us having visited a decent handful of Sea Islands over the past six weeks. Just this week, I took the 90-minute trip back up north to Hilton Head, South Carolina. By car, it’s about 60 miles from Tybee, by way of driving roughly 20 miles west into Savannah, crossing the Savannah River into South Carolina and driving 20 miles north, and then another 20 back east. But standing on the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse in southwest Hilton Head, I was barely ten miles from where I’d started the day. To be clear, this is not measuring to the northern tip of Tybee, which is actually less than 8 miles. It was just 10.5 miles to our condo at very nearly the southernmost tip of the island. Frankly, I considered abandoning the car and trying to hit a ride home on one of the luxury yachts in the Harbour Town Yacht Basin.
As a side note, this was one of the best lighthouse museums I’ve ever been to. Most of this may be a result of the fact that it’s only been around for about 50 years and the relatively thin, modern construction walls allow plenty of space on the inside for exhibits and photos on themed landings as you ascend the stairs.
Golf fans will recognize the distinctive red-and-white-striped tower as the backdrop to the 18th hole at The Heritage golf tournament, which takes place on the nearby Harbour Town Links. A few steps at a time, you’ll find yourself 90 feet above the Calibogue Sound with stunning views of Hilton Head, Daufuskie Island, and even our humble home of Tybee Island in the distance.
Harbour Town is part of the massive Sea Pines, a massive, 5,000-acre resort community that makes up most of the southern half of the island. It’s an unusual planned community, with commercial clusters like Harbour Town and the South Beach Marina area, mixed in with hotel rooms, vacation rental condos, and larger, luxury homes set amid the woods and along the famous golf course. In exchange for even entering this prestigious community, you will have to fork over $9 for a day pass. Overall, this is not a terrible deal, considering there’s no charge for parking and you’re also able to explore the historic ruins of the Stoney-Banyard Plantation and the nature trails of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
The rest of Hilton Head is mostly similar – beaches, resorts and resort communities, and a truly bizarre amount of golf courses. I would have explored the northern part of the island more but alas, it was getting late and I had to begin my arduous hour-and-a-half drive back to a place I could see from where I was standing.
But back to Tybee. It’s the rare beach town that just doesn’t seem interested in hassling you. New Jersey beaches, where I’ve spent the majority of my time lately, seem to regard visitors with somewhere between disinterest and outright hostility, despite many of these towns relying entirely on a tourist economy. Here, the locals are friendly, and actually seem to want to talk to you. Just keep your clothes on, don’t light any fires, and pay for parking, and you won’t run into trouble. There are excellent seafood restaurants. There’s an arts community. And I cannot overstate how much I enjoy being able to go out and have a perfect beach day on November 17th. Morgan has heard me voice vague uneasiness about missing the chilly, dark Novembers of New Jersey, but it’s pretty hard to mount any sort of argument in favor of living in the northeast as you work from the beach in a t-shirt, less than a month from the start of winter. So I’ve mostly stopped trying.
And let’s be real – we’re never living this close to the beach again, unless or until we hit the lottery or something, or perhaps receive a large bequest from a wealthy, anonymous blog reader (if this is the case, my Venmo is @Nick-Pisano).
To say we’ve been become infatuated with Savannah itself might be an understatement, though it still feels like a place we go to occasionally, rather than a place where we’re really staying. It’s the tree-lined avenues, the squares, the waterfront, the reasonable size, the food, the easy parking. I’ve finally taken the time for some architectural appreciation, with a few interesting self-guided walking tours of the city’s homes, and a tour of the Mercer-Williams House, the house from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s a gorgeous place that strangely doesn’t allow any photography whatsoever, so you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that the room where Jim Williams killed Danny Hansford is pretty spooky, no matter what kind of jokes our tour guide tried to make. Sadly enough, we were also limited to the first floor, but I certainly got a kick out of seeing the place I’ve been reading about for the last month. For what it’s worth, if anyone wants to join the unofficial Nick and Morgan Trip Book Club, next month’s selection is A Confederacy of Dunces, a very helpful guide to being an immature, semi-employed writer galavanting around New Orleans.
We spent Saturday driving around some of the neighborhoods on the periphery of Savannah, checking out houses from Redfin, and spending much time staring with mouths agape at the cost. For the price of a studio condo in a decent DC neighborhood, we could live in a sprawling ranch-style home 15 minutes from Tybee or a beautifully restored Victorian two blocks from Starland Yard and the hippest stretch of Bull Street. We shopped for records, ate food truck food, sampled delicious local beers, and strolled through gorgeous Forsyth Park. It felt distinctly like what a Saturday afternoon could be like at some point in the future.
We capped off the night with some drinks at River Street’s excellent rooftop bars, including the Top Deck at the Cotton Sail Hotel. We had met Allie, a friend of Morgan’s, who lives in the Savannah area and works at one of the shops on Broughton Street, who suggested the bar. As we entered the elevator, chatting with her about life in Savannah, it occurred to me – we’d been here before, when we stayed in this very same hotel on Morgan and I’s first trip to Savannah with her parents three years ago. The views were just as spectacular as I remembered – and we were even treated to our very own fireworks show from the river.
Ok, they weren’t just for us (it was the grand opening of the Plant Riverside district) but it sure felt like it, and was a perfect way to cap off our final evening in Savannah.
This week, I also passed the first anniversary of my last day at my last “real” job. It’s been a tremendously difficult year, but also one where I feel incredibly proud of how far I’ve come and we’ve come in changing our lives for the better. Just over 12 months ago, I was frustrated and unhappy, stuck in a two-bedroom apartment with no outdoor space, working a job for an ungrateful boss, dealing with complaints from ungrateful tenants. I tried e-commerce and digital advertising. I learned search engine optimization. I delivered Uber Eats. I feel fortunate to have gotten the breaks I’ve gotten to start a writing career. I still have a way to go if I want to make this fully self-sustaining long term, but it’s good enough for now as we continue this adventure. And, god willing, I’ll never have to drive across town to plunge another tenant’s toilet.
Where We’re Going This Winter
Against all odds, we’re just a month away from the end of the fall itinerary we shared with you all way back in October on the way to Helen, which by my reckoning, was about half a lifetime ago. So, while setting up a tent on the Tybee beach was considered, we’ve decided to take some old advice and go west. To be honest, Horace Greeley may have been on to something more than a catchy phrase. The more things change…
“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.“
-Horace Greeley, July 1865
January 9th-16th – Port St. Joe, Florida
Port St. Joe is part of Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a region I actually came across a few years ago, as I was trying to find another road trip to do in a futile quest to avoid getting a real job again. There’s something mysterious about it, the combination of beautiful white sand beaches, Florida wilderness, and historic towns that I’ve never heard anything about before. I’ll note for posterity that Morgan did at points advocate for Panama City Beach, perhaps in an effort to meet some Floribama Shore cast members.
January 16th-23rd – Mobile, Alabama
Have you ever been to Mobile? We haven’t either. When we were tossing out potential stops along the Gulf Coast, it stuck out among other choices like Gulf Shores and Biloxi, and fit as another stopover point to break up our Florida to Texas odyssey. What’s in Mobile? We’ll find out and let you know.
January 23rd-February 20th – Austin, Texas
As opposed to Mobile, sometimes I feel like Austin is the one place everyone has been to except us. We’ll be here for a whole month, with day trips to San Antonio and Hill Country, and weekend trips to Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth. I know you people have recommendations for us, so get in touch and let me know!
February 20th-27th – Marathon, Texas
I spent two days in the Big Bend region in 2018 and I’ve been thinking about it pretty regularly ever since. There’s something about it that feels like you’re at the edge of the world, and most people you meet are extremely happy to be there because, as you might expect, you don’t end up four hours from everywhere by accident. It’s the home of Big Bend National Park, the lesser-known Big Bend Ranch State Park, and one of the weirdest and best small towns I’ve been to, Terlingua. I’ve had a long running desire to buy some land out here and build an off-grid vacation home, and Morgan may need to work overtime to talk me out of it once we’re actually there.
Our next immediate stop is the Jacksonville area to eat some turkey with Morgan’s family and enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation before the adventure begins again.
Nick and Morgan