Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

To Holden Beach and Back




My philosophy is that one can never have too many little respites from the drudgery of earning a living -- or in my case, almost earning a living. It was in that spirit that I escaped to the ocean for a couple of days. Although the weather wasn't particularly cooperative, just being next to the ocean calms my spirit.

Every time I drive one of the recent crop of diesels, I am more and more impressed. You don't need to have roamed the earth with the dinosaurs to recall the black smoke-spewing, noisy hunks of crap that diesels once were.




I just drove the 560-mile round trip from Greenville, SC to Holden Beach, NC -- about 30 miles north of Myrtle Beach -- in a $29,195 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI with Sound and Navigation. That's the Beetle powered by a 140-horsepower 2-liter turbodiesel. Granted 140 hp doesn't sound like much, but if you scroll farther down the specs page, you'll discover it also has 236 lb.-ft. of torque. That's the grunt that gets the wheels turning, and it's plenty to motivate the Beetle with gusto.



This car is quiet, smooth and delivers a whopping EPA-estimated 41 mpg on the highway. Hybrids, my ass! The car I drove had the six-speed manual tranny. What a joy to shift! Working the clutch was effortless and the shifting was acutely precise.

What the "Sound and Navigation" tacked to the end of the model name means is that this Beetle came with the astounding nine-speaker Fender audio system. Last year I wrote a piece for one of my financial dot-com clients featuring the best seven factory audio systems in cars under $25,000. Volkswagen's Fender system made the cut. Of course the "Navigation" portion of the name indicates it also has a navi unit.



One of my fraternity brothers, his wife, another buddy of mine and his wife rent the same house on the beach in Holden during the same week every year. They are Toledo boys -- well, my fraternity brother is recently a Knoxville boy -- and the beach in April apparently is the ideal way to bid sayonara to a frigid winter. The house has a couple of extra bedrooms, so I get the nod to come spend a night or two.

Despite that this little get together involves a fraternity brother, it's not a hair-on-fire fiesta. Hal was arguably the sanest, most level-headed guy in our Fiji chapter. He hasn't grown wilder with the passing years -- well, perhaps a little, but it was a low baseline.

No, the days I spend at Holden Beach with them are laid-back affairs. Our buddy Sam did use the excuse of my arrival on Sunday to begin cranking out vodka and grapefruit juice drinks at 2 p.m. This is typically a sun-must-be-over-yardarm crowd. I am gratified to see that I still can inspire people to the dark side.

The most sun I saw on this trip was on the drives down and back. I dropped the top for the entire trip each way despite the 65-degree temp heading out of Greenville and the 62-degree temp leaving Holden Beach. My convertible philosophy is, unless it's raining or snowing, the top goes down.

Driving a convertible with the top raised is like kissing your sister, or drinking a non alcoholic beer; what's the point?



A gift from Volkswage, I proudly wore my Converse "Turbo" hightops for the drives to Holden Beach and back.

On the drive down it eventually warmed up to about 70-degrees. I left my jacket on for the entire trip. Coming home, the temp reached 71-degrees before I reached the freeway part of the route -- roughly 170 miles from Greenville. I stuffed my jacket in the trunk and cranked up the heater. By the time I arrived home, it was a toasty 77-degrees.

Although a Beetle Convertible isn't terribly macho, I thoroughly enjoyed driving it. I compensated for its macholessness by scowling at the occupants of the legions of cars I passed.

Other than the sun sneaking out for a couple of hours the morning of my one full day there, the skies over Holden Beach were overcast. We did what any self-respecting, vacationing beach goers would do when faced with lousy weather: We drank and ate.



Lunch that day was at a waterside joint called Sharkey's.



The food -- much of it fried; it is the South after all -- was good. I really liked the clam chowder that I washed down with a PBR that was on special that day.



You can almost catch a whiff of ozone as Hal and Sam labor away searching for single barrel bourbons.

The three guys spent much of the gloomy day online, researching liquor stores with a stash of single barrel bourbons and the capacity to ship them. See, even on vacation we don't waste any time.



I affectionately call this "circus" wine.
Happy hour that afternoon consisted of a couple of bottles of Petite Petit wine that I brought. This is a delightful blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot produced by the Michael David Winery in Lodi, Calif. I love this stuff!

Dinner was at a Mexican joint called San Felipe. It was a real surprise. The salsa was refreshingly spicy; while the Enchiladas Verde were very tasty.

My four friends, for some reason I can't comprehend, scheduled an 8:30 a.m. tee time my final morning there. The good news is that it got me back into the Beetle Convertible and on the road by 7:45 a.m.

I've already marked my calendar for next year.

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