Round & Round in Myrtle Beach

We ventured up the road to the main drag of Myrtle Beach. Not surprisingly it’s a beachfront tourist town with miles arcades, tattoo shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, and trinket stores galore. Most closed for the season–reminded us of Cooperstown after Labor Day.

Myrtle Beach main drag in December.

The Ridiculous

One icon of Myrtle Beach is the golf course: over a hundred, and the mini golf courses with competing over-the-top pirate-safari-volcanic themes (gigantic fiberglass ships, hippos, whales, waterfalls, etc.) The former are in use; the latter are for the most part drained of their spotlit pools and lagoons, and no hoards of tourists adorn their crags and caves.

Another icon is the beach gear store: typically a tall, wide pastel building with two-storey display windows holding surf and boogie-boards, sun-faded beach towels and beach wear. They bear the names of Eagle, Waves, Whales, Pacific, and often confront each other across the busy thoroughfare, sometimes even the same brand. We once bought a beach cabana in one of these on Tybee island, and were overwhelmed by the glittery kitsch, surfer beads, wind-chimes, tee-shirts, imported shells, etc, etc. that still smell musty from their cramped, mouldering journeys in shipping containers from China. Ah, the romance of the sea!

Then there are the acres and acres and acres of big white-box motor homes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, all with their swooping brown and black graphics suggesting speed. Some of them list toward each other in tightly packed storage fields or RV sales lots.

Meanwhile storage of a different kind goes unchecked: the millions of Myrtle Beach squirrels must have somewhere to hoard their live-oak acorns for winter! So, between the out-of-level wracked cabinetry, and the acorn mess, I’m sure many a returning RV owner must have a rude awakening.

The SkyWheel

In the middle of it all, sits a very large device called the SkyWheel (AKA a fancy Ferris Wheel). This one has enclosed, climate controlled “pods” which provide heat and AC!

Well, there were no lines, so, we gave it a spin for a five-revolution ride. We had a very clear day that provided great gull’s-eye views from on high.

The SkyWheel pods.

Myrtle Beach from the SkyWheel.

Myrtle beach from the SkyWheel

Great view of the ocean!

Quite by accident, we got lost on our way home after dinner at the Giant Crab Buffet the next night and saw the Sky Wheel lit with a gazillion LEDs in animated patterns of red, white, blue and green.

Hypnotic.

Dummy didn’t have his camera.

The Sublime

In the trusted happenstance of findingourway (we were lost), we accidentally found the one great man-made jewel of Myrtle Beach: the Myrtle Beach Art Museum. We saw the sign, and steered into a palmetto-concealed area of what looked like stilted condos, then saw the museum parking, took the elevator up amidst the stilts and entered a charming enclave.

Painting by Brian Rutenberg from Myrtle Beach Art Museum website.

The main floor had an impressive show of Myrtle Beach native Brian Rutenberg: large canvases of abstract landscapes: foregrounds of bright multi-colored oils laid on in heavy impasto, palette-thick and linseed-fragrant, then smoothed with a brayer into thinly glazed areas suggesting the atmospheric perspective of distances deep in the lush swamps and groves of the Lowcountry. I learned a lot from his techniques, to the point where I bought a fine little brayer in Charleston with which I’ll experiment if we ever light long enough!

Another room carried the entire sequences of silhouette cuttings illustrating a children’s book about a shadow seeking it’s source, and beyond, a wonderfully white-whickered sunroom with the vestiges of a museum tea (unfortunately we’d arrived just a half hour before closing, so no sweet tea for us.).

The next floor had an airy, inviting studio room where classes are given for children and adults, with some of their works attesting to the quality of the programs. The adjoining gallery space presented vibrant portrait studies and finished paintings of area musicians, (complete with biographies) with their recordings playing in the background. For anyone who’s ever sat watching folk or jazz musicians in the intimate settings of clubs or halls, Story, Song and Image: A Collaborative Project of Paintings and Music by Glen Miller and John Fowler captured absolutely the closing of the circle between listener and player, and the best of life in that moment.

If it’s too cold for the beach, you don’t favor golf, either full size or mini, and you just can’t manage to eat or drink any more, there isn’t really much to do in Myrtle Beach. But it was a good respite for us after DC.

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