Rain, Rain and more Rain…
Who knew, it rains in America! Well, I mean I knew that the continent experiences inclement weather every now and again, but I thought that there would be blue skies and sunny days while I was here.
I expected that, as I made my way south, I would add the experience of an American beach trip to my itinerary. Looking at the map, and once again relying on my TV education, I saw that Myrtle Beach was on my route to Charleston, so I decided to spend a few days reading, writing and working on getting rid of my ‘farmer’s tan’.
Well, when I arrived in Myrtle Beach, I found the storm clouds had beaten me to the shoreline. Indeed, not only was there stormy weather on the horizon but Hurricane Bertha was brewing off shore and making its way towards the Carolinas.
Now, I’m used to wet weather. I’m Irish, and a couple of summers ago at home on the peninsula, it rained for over 40 days, right through July and August, so a little rain in the summer is no big deal.
But I really, naively I suppose, thought that when I went to America, especially the southern states, my days would be filled with sunshine and warm breezes. Oh, how wrong I was.
Boy, did it rain. We’re talking about visibility reducing rain, rain that started with little or no warning. Thunder and lightning, torrential rain and Bertha heading my way – welcome to Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach is noisy, tacky, expensive and, without a doubt, a great place to bring kids on holidays. It has everything from roller coasters, water parks and video amusements to tacky souvenir shops, fast food and, of course, a white sandy beach that goes on for miles.
The Atlantic Ocean provides waves to surf and wildlife such as dolphins, whales and pelicans to spot. Spot, that is, if the rain got out of the way. So, for the first day I got a quick glimpse of the beach as I dodged between showers and lightning strikes. Finally, I decided to hunker down in the motel room and get on with some reading and writing.
The farmer’s tan would have to travel home with me.
As I set up my desk in the room, overlooking the rain-soaked main strip below, I began to welcome this time where, between the traveling and the novel research, I could get some good reading and a bit of writing done as well.
Then the rain stopped.
And the noise began.
While the rain had let up for now, it was never far away and the dark clouds were ever present.
Suddenly, the street outside was filled with the noise of motor bikes.
Now, at home in Ireland we have motor bikes, I know what they sound like, I know that there are many different types and makes.
But I have never heard the like of the sounds these bikes in America make (nor do I have any idea how they are allowed on the roads).
If I heard this noise coming from any form of machinery back home, I would presume that the owner was on his or her way to the mechanic to have the car or bike or tractor fixed or, failing that, put out of its misery!
The noise continued until it started to rain again or until 3am, if it stayed dry.
Let me describe the sound if I can. First, you hear the motor bike approaching with what sounds like a tractor engine or some other piece of heavy machinery at full throttle with either a cat caught in the pistons or, as I thought when I first heard it, an engine shaking every nut, bolt and valve loose as it makes its way down the road, leaving a trail of broken oily parts in its wake.
Now, these bikes never travel alone. Oh no, there is alway a minimum of four of these noise hounds ‘cruisin’, I think the word is, up and down the road at any given time.
The purpose of this ‘cruise’ is not to get from point A to point B. Oh no, this is apparently all about being seen and heard.
It was then that I realised my motel was positioned right at the end of the main mile-long beach strip. So, these noise merchants would travel from one end of the street to the other, over and over again. All night long.
I began to pray for rain.
It got worse.
There seemed to be a pattern to the peaks and troughs of these tortured engines. The bikes would come rumbling along and then, suddenly, explode in a scream of revving engines and even some back-firing.
Next, they would rumble on down the road again. This explosion of noise seemed to be only happening outside my window and I began to feel the bikers were out to torture me.
However, when explaining my need for sleep and some quiet to a barman (yes, I was driven to drink), he enlightened me to the reasons behind the all the noise on the street below my window.
It appears that the bikers were not trying to drive me insane after all. This is how it works…apparently. As you cruise along on your ‘hog’, rumbling along if you will, you’re not just out for a pleasant drive. Indeed, you are on a mission; for every good lookin’ lady you see, you drop the bike into neutral, rev the hell out of the engine until she looks at you, and then you go on your way, the ultra cool real man that you are.
Big and loud equals good looking and ultra masculine.
The next night I sat on a bench and watched this bizarre mating ritual like an anthropologist from a distant country studying a newly discovered tribe.
And there it was, just as the barman had said, only it wasn’t confined to the bikers, cars filled with young men, rap music blaring as loudly as possible, were engaged in the same behaviour, revving their engines and sounding their horns as they also cruised down the strip.
While Myrtle Beach may be a very popular location for American holiday makers, it’s not for me. But I am glad I got to see this part of American culture, in all its noisy, trashy, deep-fried, sugar candy, brash glory. However, I will not be heading back to Myrtle Beach anytime soon.
Now it’s on to Charleston and hopefully some peace and quiet.