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For someone new to town, navigating can be tricky

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By Lee Scott

It’s easy to spot tourists on the road — out of state plates, driving slow to read signs, or driving the wrong way down one-way streets. Yet, I have to defend those poor tourists because, as a new person in the area, I am somewhat of a tourist still becoming familiar with my surroundings. It can be tricky navigating and driving around an area that has so many bridges, islands and changing street names.

I have a map and my GPS. I depend on my talking “cheater” a lot. “Turn right here!” she demands of me — only to be followed by the words, “When possible, make a U-turn” because I missed the right turn. And when I ask a local about a place I need to go, they always respond with phrases like, “Take a left where the new Publix is being built.” Huh? I didn’t know there was an old Publix.

There are the street names to remember. People who have lived here a long time forget that Sea Island Parkway becomes Carteret Street and then Boundary Street and then Trask Parkway. They know it as Route 21 (which is technically U.S. Highway 21). Of course, there is the southern Route 21 and the Business 21. I have found myself on Parris Island because I have followed the wrong 21.

Of course, there are the bridges. One must know the timing of the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge that connects downtown Beaufort to Lady’s Island because it is a swing bridge. You may want to stay away if you are close to the hour or half hour (unless it is pouring rain) in which case you are probably OK. If you decide to avoid downtown, you can take the J.E. McTeer Bridge which takes you to Ribaut (pronounced Re-bow, I have been told, I’m still learning) Road. But some locals don’t know the names of the bridges either. They just give you a landmark. “The one on your way to the Bi-Lo.” Which Bi-Lo, you ask?

There are also numerous islands and bridges for tourists and newcomers to navigate. I spoke to a man at church the other day who lives across the creek from me. He said, “It would take me about 10 minutes to get to your place by boat and about 40 minutes by car.” He wasn’t kidding. When I started to look at the islands and the bridges, the car route was definitely the long way to go.

Then there is also the weekend rental turnover traffic. Since we live in a destination community with beautiful beaches, cute historical towns and recreational sports, the influx of tourists is incredible. I have now learned to time my trips either early or later in the day to avoid the backups along Sea Island Parkway.

So be careful of the tourists and the new locals. And I promise to learn to drive the area without my GPS shouting  “recalculating.”

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