Life in this part of South Carolina is a beach, so to speak – or maybe a mountain.

We’re just back from our annual long weekend at Isle of Palms with five other couples in our bridge group. And Tom and I are getting ready for a weekend at the end of the month in the mountains, where we should be able to enjoy the beauty of fall colors there.

As I was enjoying the cooler weather and walks on the beach, I thought: Where else can you take a quick trip to the beach or to the mountains in fewer than three hours, and live every day in an area of gloriously temperate weather year-round?

Sometimes I take for granted how lucky I am to live here. I grew up on the coast, so growing up I took the beach for granted. It was always there. We would go to the beach for an afternoon of swimming or crabbing or, occasionally, boating.

As a result, my family always headed to the mountains on vacation. My daddy loved the winding roads, the rolling hills and beautiful waterfalls that greeted us in the mountains. Much of my childhood our family car was a tiny Renault Dauphine (there were only three of us), and my daddy really enjoyed taking the mountain curves a little too fast. (As a kid, I thought this was great fun, until we almost went off the edge of a mountain – Daddy was able to detour into one of the Blue Ridge overlooks and then back on the road to avoid spinning off the mountain.)

But when we moved to South Carolina (more than 40 years ago), I began to long for sand between my toes and salt water mist in my face. I can remember that early on, Tom would say that he’d like to move back to the Virginia coast one day. Of course, over the years his tune changed – today he says he would never be happy navigating the multi-lane interstates that are the only way to get around in Tidewater Virginia. So here we stay.

We are content to spend a week or more each year at Edisto during the summer and to enjoy our long weekend at Isle of Palms – with an occasional trip to Charleston.

So we look forward to our annual bridge weekend. And this one was no exception.

For a long time we stayed in the same house each year. It’s not easy to find a house with six bedrooms and six bathrooms – a non-negotiable requirement for six couples, all of a certain age. As a result, when we found one, we were happy to go there every year. Then the owner decided he was ready to retire and maybe even move into his beach house.

Since then, finding a house that accommodated our needs has been a challenge. One year, the weather was less than ideal, and rain began pouring through the ceiling. After a little conversation with the rental company’s representative, we moved to yet another home that year. (She insisted the house was safe enough. The electrician who came out to fix a problem caused by the rain insisted it wasn’t safe. Only when one of our group asked, “How good is your insurance?” did the rental rep say, “Let me see what I can find.” – and even then, she declared that she couldn’t possibly bring the keys to the new house to our door – the driveway was flooded by that time – because she didn’t want to drive her brand new Mercedes through the flooded area!

Two years ago we thought we once again had found the perfect house – until it began to get dark, and we realized we had no power – none at all. That put us on the move again.

And again, we thought we’d found a good home for our needs, so we stayed there two years in a row and planned to do so this year – until the rental folks called (in late July) to say that home had a serious infestation of termites and was being pulled from rentals for almost a year while they fix the problem.

Can you imagine how hard it is to find a beach house big enough to accommodate us on short notice? My husband managed to locate one, though. And it turned out to be good – not as good as the original home we liked so much, but again – What can you do on such short notice.

This year’s house had a great screened-in porch and two balconies that directly overlooked the beach. It was a lush yard with palmetto trees, a beautiful view and a short walk to the beach – thanks to the government’s having reclaimed a good portion of the shore. I can only imagine how much sand was dumped there to rebuild the shore – and how much money it took.

And despite the somewhat limited size of the kitchen and common space, we managed not to get on each other’s nerves too much. As is typical, a few of us took a trip to the outlets, but a day earlier than normal. We usually go shopping while others watch the Saturday afternoon games. This year we all gathered to watch the Carolina-Georgia game – what a nail-biter, huh? Though I don’t really have a “dog in that fight,” one of my girls definitely wanted Carolina to win, so I’m happy for her. (And since my other daughter now works for Clemson, it was a winning weekend all the way around in our family.)

We ate at one new (to us) restaurant and one old favorite. The Tavern and Table was excellent – though not cheap – and Acme Country Kitchen is always great for breakfast and dinner.

And while I’m counting my lucky stars that we have this fun time together each year, I also am blessed to say that five of our six couples have been together for at least 30 years. (And the newest addition came on about 10 years ago, only when one of the original couples moved to Texas with their work.) Plus all six couples have each been married to the same person for upwards of 45 years – how many can say that?!?

As I said, I am so lucky to be in this place at this time with these long-time friends.