South and north along the East Coast
Bob and Terry on Tour 2016
Best of South Carolina


This was a tremendous vacation… though different in many ways from others. And those differences were created by more than just what options a location provides.

We adjusted our travel based on a hurricane, and planned activities as that storm raged outside our windows.

We visited new places and familiar hangouts, but never really developed a list of things to do for either… and certainly not a list that featured what would be considered the expected attractions.

Our return home featured a stop to visit Jay and Justin, along with a swing through Rhode Island. And in bringing all of these travels to the Backpack, it was decided to have a bit of fog descend on the tour diary… instead of sharing all of the final moments, we moved along into the sunset with some snippets from the final legs of driving.

Here we have the traditional “Best of…” column. Having shared thoughts about Disney, Orlando, and Florida on several occasions before (and… since we kept a really low profile in Orlando on this trip), I decided to go with a focus only on the area around Myrtle Beach.

Quick thought to kick things off… Myrtle Beach is a very strange place.

Not strange as in the first fifteen (or more) definitions you might think of if asked. It isn’t strange as in different, unfamiliar, weird, and so on. Instead… the entire area presents a fantastic combination of touristy design, unique and regional flavor, and a comfortable atmosphere. It’s a combination other places have attempted, but I’ve never truly seen smoothly accomplished before. (At least not on this level.)

As a touchstone concept… anyone that travels with picky eaters has an understanding of what I mean by comfortable atmosphere.

When considering a place for a meal, there are certain menu items that immediately check off boxes. There are many times when an uneventful dining experience is far more important and satisfying that experimenting with the unknown. In such a scenario, the national chain or fast food offering or place with chicken fingers on the menu displayed in the window is the likely dinner stop instead of unique regional cuisine with unfamiliar descriptions.

Take that idea, shift the subject, and consider the possible resulting combinations.

Places can struggle when looking to ease between touristy and regional. It’s usually one or the other that dominates. And even if successfully offering both, the results almost never come together comfortably.

Consider Savannah, Georgia. (Go read about it in “A Tale of Two City”)

We found plenty of touristy in Savanah.

We found amazing unique and regional flavor.

We never really found a place merging both. We never really found a comfortable atmosphere.

Myrtle Beach was a brilliant combination of everything. From what we saw, it worked. Big tourism driven elements to create attention and provide for the marketing. Local and regional offerings that added plenty of opportunities to enjoy the things you would never find at home. And plenty of places—at virtually every corner—where you could refocus on the basics, recharge yourself, and just kind of smile without having to think too hard or work at it.

One difficulty for us (and this piece) was created by combining our length of stay and travel plans. We were only staying less than a handful of days, and had ourselves on a budget. We had decided we would like to avoid three fast food meals a day, and in turn look at ways to snack lightly and share meals if it meant creating an opportunity for a single better meal stop. We weren’t looking to visit multiple major attractions.

Let’s get to it…

What were your favorite things?

Bob: The simple answers… finding a Big Dogs store, enjoying a Legends show, and having a nice lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack during a hurricane. The more detailed answers…

I really enjoyed the pool area at the Crown Reef. They have a lazy-river-style segment that was fun. (Didn’t love their tubes for it… but the river itself flowed along nicely, especially for one set up at a hotel.) The connections to the beach area worked out pretty well, and we spent a bit of time walking in the sand and along the water. And our room provided a great view of the ocean.

Over the years, I have become a very big supporter of the Legends in Concert group. Never had a bad experience with any of their shows, and usually find myself thrilled by a few aspects from every cast I’ve seen and/or met. We’ll cover a bit more a few questions from now (and in the South Carolina portion of the travel diary). For this answer, I want to point out location, and that Legends is also near Broadway at the Beach. That would be home to the Joe’s Crab Shack we visited, along with some other incredible shopping and entertainment options we simply didn’t have the time (or good weather) to see. And that is part of the attraction that has us wanting to get back there.

Terry: This is going to be one of the most difficult sets of questions I’ve attempted. We simply didn’t spend enough time in Myrtle Beach to build a lot of variety. The storm extended that stay, but basically closed things down. And, we absolutely want to go back.

That understood, I can easily say that Legends in Concert, the lazy river at our hotel resort, and the shopping were my favorite parts of this visit.

What were you most impressed by?

Bob: I’m cheating… everything.

I did not expect to leave Myrtle Beach with such a strong desire to get back there again. That impressed me.

Terry: Legends really impressed me. We’ve been to a few of their shows, but never in this theater. This place is design wonderfully for them, and everything about it from the moment we parked was easy and fun. From the photo opportunities before the show to everything taking place during and after, I really enjoyed it.

Best place to eat (overall)?

Bob: On our second day, we stopped at the Carolina Roadhouse. A friend that travels to the area often recommended it. Nice place. Design was cool. The hush puppies were really good. Menu had several interesting options on it.

Terry: Carolina Roadhouse was good. I really enjoyed Joe’s Crab Shack.

Best place to eat (inexpensive)?

Bob: Tough one, because our meal at the Carolina Roadhouse was good, but I don’t think it falls into inexpensive territory. Joe’s Crab Shack was good, and we actually turned our leftovers into a second meal later in the hotel room, but I’m not sure that works either. Our other dinner was not something either of us would recommend.

We stayed pretty simple. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for example. I like Krispy Kreme, but I don’t think it’s worthy of naming the best place to eat inexpensively. There was plenty around, and I’m sure we would have found something had we been looking for it, but nothing really fits in this category from this trip.

Terry: Here we go with the troubles. I’ve got nothing. Other than leftovers, we never had any stepdown meals. And that was by design.

What I mean is that this was designed as a low-budget trip. And, Myrtle Beach needed to be a budgeted stop on that trip. That’s one of the reasons we went with small snacks and one larger meal on many days throughout our travels. And by that, a good summary would be trading the cost of several fast food meals for a single good meal each day.

On day two, we slept late. We decided to simply have something small to hold us over for a bigger meal later (which was Carolina Roadhouse).

We consolidated our meals, had snacks occasionally, and as a result, I don’t have an answer for this question.

Biggest surprise…

Bob: Looking back on it, and considering my notes, the amount of driving we did.

We had to drive several miles, and along some interesting twists and turns, from our hotel to the restaurant recommended to us on the first night. Shouldn’t surprise anyone that the factory outlets weren’t on the beach, but it was a few miles from our resort to the Big Dog store. And it was a few miles to the Legends in Concert Theater and Boardwalk at the Beach.

I’ve made jokes about some funny geographical oddities in the world before when it comes to driving. Our house in Connecticut had the amazing peculiarity of being a 35-minute drive away from anything. The Crown Reef in Myrtle Beach? Let’s say fifteen minutes from everything. (Which, thanks to the stunning efficiency of the elevators, also just so happens to be the amount of time it takes to get from your room to the pool area. Anyway… here’s a funny story…)

A few moments ago, I mentioned that a friend had told us about the Carolina Roadhouse. Terry talked to him about it before we left. Neither of us ever wrote it down. While looking around early on day two, we couldn’t decide between a couple of options, and Terry remembered the place our friend mentioned. We called him to confirm the name. According to the GPS, we were only about two and a half miles away… but it involved twists and turns, what seemed to be main roads and back roads, red lights and stop signs, and… overall it never seemed like we were on a direct route to it. Took about fifteen minutes.

And that’s exactly how all of the driving felt around Myrtle Beach. There was never a “drive straight, turn right at the light, look for it on the left” moment. It was main roads followed by turns into neighborhoods followed by one-way streets with medians when you wanted to make a turn. GPS says five minutes… count on every light being red. Fifteen. GPS says twenty minutes… the god of stoplights is granting you favor and a parking space is opening up for you immediately next to the front door. Fifteen.


Back to the main point though, there was never any simple driving. Never any “that’s so close, let’s walk it” moments. And it always felt like every ride involved two or three more turns than it should have.

Terry: Legends.

Our cast featured Brooks & Dunn, Adele, Bruno Mars, The Blues Brothers and Elvis. They all did a nice job. (J.C. Brando—Adele—is brilliant.)

Theater was easy to find, nicely designed, and everyone there took great care of us. Friendly group.

You know, I never thought of this before, so I found it interesting when…

Bob: Two things…

One, the drive into the Myrtle Beach area from main highways like 95 is longer than you would think. Felt that way when we arrived… felt that way plus more when we left.

Second, for a place located on the water—and one that often seems to get noted when predicting the path of each and every hurricane—Myrtle Beach handles water either really well or not so hot at all. (And I don’t know which.)

Hurricane Hermine was, I believe, Tropical Storm Hermine by the time it had swept into Georgia and began its run toward and past us in South Carolina. But the roads weren’t just flooded, in sections they were deep (and flowing) rivers of water.

And yet, the very next day, when we left most of the excess water wasn’t really visible. Roads were fine. Landscaping seemed to have drained out with almost no puddles.

Here’s the concept that potentially explains why they may be brilliant. Compare places like Syracuse and Atlanta when it comes to snow, and most people will tell you they’d rather drive in Syracuse during a snow storm. The drivers seem more used to it, and the local authorities have better equipment to address clearing it and cleaning up.

During the storm, the water was impressive. We were happy to be on a higher floor because of the water in the road, and deliberately parked on an upper level of the resort garage. Almost felt like Atlanta during a blizzard at that moment. But once the storm ended, soon enough the water wasn’t an obstacle.

Terry: Nothing.

Our reasons for stopping in Myrtle Beach basically were: we wanted to break up the drive to Florida, Myrtle Beach was one of a handful of options we liked, and a Legends show was something we both trusted from past experiences. Beyond that, while I’ve always wanted to visit, there was nothing specific that I expected or wanted. It was an open book for me.

Because we kind of bounced around, we got to do several things (shopping, meals, a show and enjoy the water a bit) but I don’t think we got to dig around enough to find those unplanned moments that would apply to this question.

If I had to recommend something that a person had to do, regardless of expense, I would say…

Bob: Explore and enjoy. We went to see a Legends in Concert show, and had some meals at places I would definitely return to.

But they are not the only options. There are dinner shows. And check out the Broadway at the Beach area to see just one example of what entertainment, shopping and dining options are around.

Terry: The Crown Reef was fine. I would stay there again. Bed, balcony with an ocean view, pools and the lazy river, and a kitchenette in the room. It was everything we wanted.

But, it was a great on the beach for the least amount of money option, and not the very best on the beach option, if you understand what I mean. There were plenty of moments when we laughed about things and discussed staying at a better hotel next time.

Legends was great. I would recommend seeing a show with them, and do so no matter who is in the cast. They always offer a terrific show and are always worth it.

If I had to recommend something but expense did matter (so go cheaper), I would say…

Bob: Enjoy the water… either at the beach or the hotel pool.

Terry: (How long have you been using the same questions for our trips? I don’t like them. Sorry, not trying to be a pain. But they need to be updated a bit.)

Again, I’ve got nothing.

Our stay was short, the budget was set, and the storm interrupted a lot of options.

Person/people that impressed me the most…

Bob: On one side of things… none. Everything was good… can’t wait for a chance to go back… but no one person made a positive and lasting impression.

And yet… everyone at Legends in Concert.

The staff were friendly and helpful. The cast was fantastic, and several performers were around for pictures before the show. Very much recommended.

Terry: The people at Legends were great. Enjoyed everyone we interacted with there.

The dinner recommendation wasn’t that hot, but the people checking us in at the Crown Reef were nice and tried to be helpful.

Thing I’m really glad we included…

Bob: Joe’s Crab Shack… but not for Joe’s Crab Shack.

First up—important note—Joe’s was really good. We had a delicious meal with good service, plus the leftovers were perfect as another meal in our hotel room while we played cards and enjoyed the delights associated with a passing hurricane. (Fine… yes… a passing tropical storm.) Joe’s was wonderful… eat at Joe’s.


The reason I’m glad we included it involves the location and not the meal. Joe’s Crab Shack is a part of the Myrtle Beach area called Broadway at the Beach. Having decided to give it a try for lunch as the storm was beginning to arrive and travel was still possible, we drove over. Joe’s isn’t along the outer edge of the property and doesn’t have an amazingly visible signage from the parking lot, so we made a few passes around. That meant we saw several of the places that are involved… restaurants, shops and entertainment… and got a decent feel for the size of the place and setting.

Because we went to Joe’s, we have a really good feeling about what we missed around it. In fact, I have a great answer for the next question.

Terry: I wish we had more time with the water. Pool, lazy river, and the beach. (And I’m saying that here because of my answer for the next question.)

Thing I wish we had done…

Bob: Broadway at the Beach.

Yes… tourist attraction of the highest order, including such notable (and not too unique) names as Ripley’s, Margaritaville, WonderWorks, and plenty of others (right up to, drum roll please, Joe’s Crab Shack).

But you need to look beyond that. This is not your standardized tourist destination, polished beyond regional flare with nothing unique to offer. Head over to the Broadway at the Beach web site and look around. This is a pretty special collection of things to do, see and taste. I really don’t know of any other location that offers such an interesting combination of weird and brilliant and familiar and unusual. You even have the Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball team playing nearby.

Driving over to it (both for our evening at Legends and lunch at Joe’s) gave us an introduction to what it offered, and it is a significant part of why we are looking forward to a return.

Terry: The big thing is we needed more time, and a bit of better luck with the weather.

The storm shut down Broadway at the Beach on our third day. I cannot wait to spend some time there on a future visit.

And more time would result in more beach time.

Suggestions from this experience…

Bob: More than twenty years ago, I worked at a hotel on the Atlantic Ocean in Westerly, Rhode Island. Without going deeply into stories about that, I can tell you that there is an amazingly different atmosphere that comes along with a vacation built around a water view. And that atmosphere throws A LOT of people off. They don’t get it.

And it’s amazing to say that, but think about it for a second. If I send you to Las Vegas, you have an idea of what’s coming. Same with Orlando. You can picture casinos and theme parks and Disney and more. Simple.

Not so simple with a beach. You would think it is… sun screen and towels, enjoying the sand and the waves. It’s not.

People were stunned that the rooms in that hotel didn’t have a television or refrigerator. And while that was twenty years ago, with a fridge far more common today, it also means that technology hadn’t provided a need for WiFi access yet. But these folks were still ticked off, even after being told there was no television in the room, when they arrived to find no television in their room. (Crashing waves and phenomenal view outside? Lovely. Where’s the television?)

Many people don’t know how to appreciate a great beach when they are placed on a great beach. They look for entertainment to be provided, and, technology has advanced since then in ways tremendously shortening attention spans.

Which brings us to the suggestion… MYRTLE BEACH… ATLANTIC OCEAN… HOTEL POOLS AND LAZY RIVERS! There is most definitely a specific concept to be appreciated. Enjoy the water. Appreciate the waves and sights and sounds. The rest is frosting on the cake.

Terry: I’ll go with my standard big thing from this trip, head out to see Legends in Concert.

And, I do agree with Bob about learning to slow down, appreciate the world passing by, and get some sand between your toes.

Sure, this will be set up as a best of column, but you should always warn people about the bad, so here is something I think we need to mention…

Bob: Here’s something different… postcards.

We had a horrible time finding postcards around Myrtle Beach.

My family enjoys sending postcards. We always have. In fact, many trips of mine have involved heading to local post office branches for stamps. During this trip, we wanted to get a few postcards to send out, and since we hadn’t been there before we figured Myrtle Beach was a great spot to highlight. It became a quest.

I asked at the gift shop of our hotel and was met with a look that quite possibly indicated the person had never heard of postcards before. After speaking to two other people, and asking multiple times at the front desk, turns out… none. (But no one could say why.)

I looked around a bit… albeit slightly, since we didn’t make many stops… on the first night. Then I looked specifically… because we were in shops, and shopping centers, and themed stores… during the second day. I deliberately stopped for no other reason than I spotted the places that always carry postcards… gift shops and markets and drug stores and others where you would expect them, while asking staff member after staff member… on the third day.

We never found any. Ended up sending them from Orlando a few days later.

Quick bonus for this question… parking. I have never before, and doubt I will again, need to specifically adjust a parking spot based on the threat of rising tides. You know… water. But having navigated flooded streets thanks to Hurricane Hermine, we never considered anything but driving to the second floor of the hotel’s parking structure to park our car. And, over days two, three and four, we observed the water on roads, beaches, and more. It became a topic of conversation.

I suppose the general idea is simply this – always be aware of higher ground, figuratively and literally.

Terry: There’s a Jimmy Buffet song… “Trying to reason with hurricane season”. Just the name of the song sums it up. If the storm hadn’t been around, we likely would have left a day earlier anyway and not seen any more than we did. But, it definitely was… forgive me… a cloud overhead.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at