Several years ago a new term hit mainstream America thanks in large part to a Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson movie called The Bucket List. In short, a bucket list is a collection of goals (typically 10-15) that you want to accomplish before you die. In the movie, Jack Nicholson has been informed he doesn’t have much time to live, so he and Morgan Freeman set about accomplishing his bucket list
I have my own bucket list. Though not completely formalized. There are a few items I can’t quite decide whether they belong on this list or not.
As with most lists, the #1 item is the biggest, most important, and typically the hardest to accomplish. I suppose to participate in someone’s #1 bucket list item is as much an honor as completing your own.
Several years ago, my mother developed an attraction to lighthouses. She very much drawn to them. Paralleling their function to the sailor, to how God is with us. She has porcelain lighthouses, lighthouse paintings, lighthouse pictures….she loves her lighthouses! However, in all her affection for them, she had never been to one. There aren’t many lighthouses in the Midwest!
A few months ago she announced she would be coming down to visit the family for a few days in late September. Right away I began thinking “What if I took her to a lighthouse?” There are several along the Carolina coastlines. Most retired, but a few still operating. Unfortunately my wife and I already had plans that was going to limit my opportunity to Saturday – plus I wanted my mom to have plenty of time with the kids.
The initial plan was to go to the Outer Banks (about 6.5 hours away) and see Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses. Cape Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in the US. Perfect! All expressway. Get up early, return home late. No problem. And that was the plan for several weeks.
So my mom arrived on Wednesday, already knowing my plans for Saturday. However, there was a strong storm system moving into the Carolina coast. It threatened to leave substantial rain and high winds for 3 days. Saturday being one of those days. I kept watching the weather looking for a break on Saturday – but no such luck. By Friday the weather was projected to be 4 inches of rain and 40 mph gusts on the Outer Banks. That would be a miserable trip.
But what about South Carolina? I began looking and found a couple lighthouses that were within 6 hours. Perfect! So I told her about the itinerary change and set to leave the next morning at 5am.
Our morning started off with rain. Then more rain. I like rain, but I am not a fan of driving in it. But in her little car I hit the expressway bound for the SC coast. After a good breakfast at Cracker Barrel (as much Americana as lighthouses) we made the 6 hour trip to Beaufort, SC. Off the coast of Beaufort is a small island called Heading Island. On it is a 170’ lighthouse that is now retired. It was a beautiful drive through thick coastal foliage. The humidity was intense!
This was her first lighthouse. Her bucket list item was accomplished – but not completely over.
After an hour of hiking to the top of the lighthouse, souvenir shopping, and a stroll on the beach. We hopped in the car and set our eyes on the southern harbor of Charleston, SC.
Now, I like good coffee as well. I prefer lattes but have developed a liking for this Australian version called a Flat White. Back on the mainland we stopped at a small coffee shop where I ordered a latte. The barista completely dropped the ball. I was crushed….but got over it
After a two hour trek we arrived in the Charleston area, to be greeted by the aftermath of a tornado. Overnight a tornado ripped through a community on the south harbor. Trees were completely decapitated. The trunks of these very tall and rather old trees still stood, but their bushy tops had been ripped completely off. Several acres of one forest looked like expired matchsticks. The emergency vehicles were still on the scene. Yet a couple miles down – no signs of anything.
Finally we made it to the parking area for Morris Island Lighthouse. You park in a cul-de-sac and hike about 1/3 mile to the beach. The lighthouse sits out in the mouth of the harbor about 600 yards off the beach. It is a beautiful site. There is a reclamation project underway to relocate the lighthouse back on shore.
While admiring Morris Island we saw a light flicker on the opposite side of downtown Charleston. About 15 seconds later if flickered again. Was that another lighthouse??? I got on Google and found that Sullivan Island Lighthouse was located over there. It was about 45 minutes away. What the heck!
So we piled into the car and made our way over there, ahead of an ugly storm system. In the middle of a collection of beach houses and condos stood the tower. It was not a round tower like most lighthouses. Instead it had a square tower and at the top was the light. There was a chain link fence around the perimeter. My mom got some killer pictures as the sun was setting.
3 lighthouses! Scratch that off the bucket list!
On the way home I did get a flat white at Starbucks! It was done right.
Once we got north of Columbia we were greeted with strong rain. We had been relieved of dealing with horrible weather the whole day.
We pulled into the driveway at 9:30pm. A total of 16.5 hours on the road. But well worth it. If you took all the alone time she and I have had over the past several years, I am not sure it would add up to 16.5 hours.
Had she come down this weekend we couldn’t go anywhere along the coast because of Hurricane Joaquin. Perfect timing!
I highly doubt I will ever accomplish much on my bucket list, let alone the #1 item. But it was an equal joy to experience this with her.