Posted on 8/29/2018


The Karl S. Bowers bridge. The entrance to magnificence and the exit from remarkable and memorable. Whether crossing as a matter of daily routine, arriving for a much-anticipated vacation, or leaving with sand in the car and memories tucked away for a lifetime, the bridge says, “You are welcome”.

Water levels change with each crossing. Homes go from marsh view to waterfront. If my windows are down, I am treated to the tasty smell of salt that is tangy and sweet, and fresh. So delicious! Henry David Thoreau wrote in his Journal in 1852, “There are odors enough in nature to remind you of everything if you had lost every sense but smell.”

Some days I creep up to the bridge, allowing others to join me from the flyover to my right. Other days and times, I cruise, uninterrupted at full allowable speed into paradise. As I begin to cross, I notice that in both directions, left or right, north or south, I see water. I expect to see dolphin to my right about midway across and am rarely disappointed.

Not only are the surroundings bringing me joy, but the anticipation of what is to come is brewing. I may be heading to work, I may be heading back from lunch, I may be crawling for the first time on a Saturday, with 13 hours behind me and my final destination so close I can taste it. No matter the case, I am here. I am so close. Either I am almost home, or I am far from home.

The bridge is short really. I see dolphin, I see boats coming to the landing and leaving. I see fishing lines stretching into the water from the public dock, bait scrambling on the floor of McKay creek tempting all kinds of fish to eat and be eaten. Soon I have crossed and now I am ready. Ready for more bridges. More paradise. More sand.

Those of us that call Hilton Head Island home can appreciate the pleasure of returning from some long absence to our home. I know that I am not alone when I say that no matter where I go, no matter how far I go, no matter how long I am gone, I can never wait to cross that bridge on my return to the “rock”. Our pristine beaches. Our seemingly murky but cleanest water where some of the world best shrimp and oysters call home as well.

We know the roads that lead us to the bridge. We know exactly how close we are to home as each mile has expired on our eastward drive. Not mathematically but magnetically. Magnetically. Yes, there is a pull in that bridge that brings us back every time. The smell. The rising sun that bathes our windshield. The sunset off to the right that is reflected off the clouds ahead. The fresh marsh grass in the Spring and the Fall colors of the same grass.

But, what if I have never crossed that bridge and I am 13 hours into a drive and unaware of what lies ahead? I have committed miles and rubber to the concrete and asphalt across the country to reach my destination. I am stuck in Saturday traffic. The kids asking the same question about arrival time and the GPS tracking my pace and guiding me. I see water. I see a wide view. Was that a dolphin? Kids, look! Isn’t this beautiful, honey? The first reward for all of the work put in grinding and steering. I haven’t even begun to reach the most beautiful parts of this paradise and yet I am finally seeing what I came and paid to see. We all know that feeling. That bridge. That corner. That curve in the road. That crest of the hill when you see a change. A change in what you have been staring at for miles. Something promising. Something appealing. Something new and exciting. Karl S. Bowers bridge. I never saw it coming. I never knew it existed.

Think about how this relates to each of our lives. The grinding. The steering. Craning our necks to see what is over the hill. Around the corner. All the while wanting to be excited. We spend most of our time with our heads down making our lives into what we think they should look like. We all want more beauty but we have to take care of business first. Be that the business of business or the business of raising our little ones, we have our heads in that game and are focused on getting through each day hoping to arrive at our destination. We are never sure what that destination is and what lies ahead for our business or for our little gals and guys but when we make a decision to break from that routine and get away we choose a place to relax and focus on what is most important.

Ourselves and our family. We choose Hilton Head Island and we spend hours planning and booking a place where memories will be born. We talk to those who call this place home and rely on their recommendations. They are our ambassadors. We can hardly wait to get away from our lives for a moment to live. To dig in the sand. To listen to the waves. Really listen. To blast our music on the beach, laugh with friends, enjoy a cocktail, and dine on some truly outstanding cuisine.

So, grind. Steer. Teach and raise. Come. Stay a while. Smell the ocean. Hear the ocean. See the ocean. Feel the ocean. Get sand on you and everything else. Collect shells and collect memories. Leave it all behind for a week or more. Let us take care of you. See where we call home. And, never stop climbing, cresting, craning, and reaching. Set a course and arrive. But please, pay attention along the way because what may seem like another piece of concrete spanning another waterway could be the gateway to your next big adventure. What may seem like another hill could be you coasting down the other side into new experiences. Let yourself be open to new opportunities. Put yourself in a position to explore. The bridge is just the beginning.

“When you are starting away – leaving your more familiar fields for a little adventure like a walk – you look at every object with a traveller’s or at least with historical eyes – you pause on the first bridge, where an ordinary walk hardly commences, and begin to observe, and moralize like a traveler. It is worth the while to see your native village thus sometimes – as if you were a traveller passing through it – commenting on your neighbors as strangers.”

Henry David Thoreau, 1851, in his Journal.

BY: Mark Kombrink

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