Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Line In the Sand

CH/CB2 June issue and the great debaters (me!) tackle the topic of Bluffton vs. Hilton Head.

When I was preparing to move to the Lowcountry from the snow-laden northeast, I received one tidbit of advice. If you are going to work in Bluffton, live in Bluffton. If you are going to work on the Island, live on the Island.

Since I would be giving up a 150-mile daily roundtrip commute, and anxious to reclaim some “me time,” I heeded that advice. The decision to move was actually swift. I had only been to the Bluffton/Hilton Head area twice before I decided to move here. My sister moved first. Shortly thereafter, Mom decided that she was going to retire to Bluffton. And I figured what the hell. I bought a home via email, and picked out my upgrades from a large FedEx box that arrived one snowy morning full of tile samples, cabinet doors, and counter top choices.

Fast forward a few months, 800 miles, one broken down moving truck on the side of I-95 outside of Raleigh, and I was home. At first, I was all about going to the beach on Hilton Head, which in hindsight makes little sense to me. I grew up at the beach, in a tourist town, where I would hide from Memorial Day to Labor Day to avoid what we called “bennies.” (Benny was an acronym for some of the places that the tourists would come from -- Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York.) And now, I was doing the exact same thing. I moved to paradise to sit in traffic for thirty minutes, to travel eight miles, pay $1 an hour for beach parking, and be annoyed in traffic on the way back home, all for an ocean that I have been swimming in for more than thirty years.

And then, I discovered the May River, and realized I never had to leave Bluffton. I sunk my toes in the pluff mud. I inhaled the salty air. I devoured the sweet oysters plucked from the riverbeds. And it all became clear. This is why I moved here. There is only one place to find the May River. And that my friends, is Bluffton, South Carolina. It only takes one foray into the river to realize what a gem it is.

Oh but life can get sweeter. Buy a boat, for dancing the tides, and your life will change forever. Mine did. Now, I live my life by the tides. Ok, by my iPhone and the tides, which I can check at just a moment’s notice and with a finger’s touch thanks to the handy dandy tide app. Seriously though, from March – October the tides help to balance my life. Whether it is a rockin’ sandbar Saturday, with 1,000 other revelers. Or high tide, when I feel comfortable skirting up Bull Creek, throwing in the anchor, and floating in front of “our oak.” Or, a slow cruise up the river, watching Old Town as if it was a movie set.

I’m also lucky that my office overlooks the May River. (Well, if I crane my neck just right.) Let’s face it, there is no bad day, when you can slowly walk down the dock and feel the stress of work lift from your shoulders.

Now, I realize my entire argument is based on the allure of the May River. But the May River is Bluffton. It always has been. It is centerpiece to the town. Even our main drag, which I would argue is Calhoun Street, empties into the May. Long before all of us Yankees moved here, before Bluffton had a Best Buy, a Target, a Taco Tuesday at Jim n Nicks, a Wendy’s or a Walmart -- folks simply lived their lives by the tide. How fortunate are we, that in 2011, we can do the same.

Frank, just one final thing, I have to ask -- without Bluffton, how exactly would you get to Hilton Head?

My point exactly.

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