Home Page
Order Books
Featured Plants
Seasonal Advice
News Columns
Other Work

Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies


Would you like to be notified of new books or website updates?
Join our Mailing List.
It is completely confidential and voluntary. You may Subscribe or Unsubscribe at any time.



Jekyll Island by Bicycle

The Jekyll Island Museum was fronted by this reflecting pool surround by blooming flowering cabbage with the yellow flowers we pick off ov broccoli above blueish foliage and white petunias.

Jekyll Island is just to the south but very different from St. Simon's Island, Georgia. The last morning of our trip, when we got on the bus at 7 am, we were mainly happy to think we would have much less traffic. We had to go back to the mainland and south to the next causeway just at the end of the big bridge to get to Jekyll. Lovely wildflowers were blooming along the road to the causeway.

"Developers are just standing at the end of the causeway and drooling in their desire to get a hold of Jekyll Island," Jamie Brantley of the Jekyll Island Museum had told us the night before. Since the state of Georgia bought it from the Jekyll Island Club in 1947 for $675,000 (or $5,563,416 in 2003 dollars) it has been kept as a place where ordinary people can go to enjoy the coastal beaches, bike trails, boat and kayaking tours, horseback riding, birding, golfing, nature trails, shelling, and wildlife.

The entire island is a state park but self-sufficient, thanks to 35% development and a $3 parking fee to get on the island, even if you don't intend to park. There are more than 30 miles of bike paths, 17 restaurants, 10 hotels, rental cottages and condos, and no traffic lights.

We took a picture of our Elderhostel group when we got off the bus near the Visitor's Center, then started riding along the bike trail that took us across the island to the Atlantic. As we made our first stop, someone said, "Are there any dolphins out there?" Almost on cue we spotted one hardly a stone's throw away and he swam along with us for a time.

Our next stop took us into a park, where we dismounted and walked over ramp and stairway to a much wider beach. There our guide, Anne Ditmer, told us the names of the plants and the shells we found and helped us to dig up some whelks, the state shellfish of Georgia. It was great to have someone to answer questions and point out the sea life we never would otherwise have noticed.

This container along the steps of a church includes schizanthes, lavender johnny-jump-ups, and rose colored snapdragons.

By late morning we had pedaled around the northern tip of the island, past the RV park where my sister had stayed a few weeks before, past pleasant, modest homes that people can build only on leased land, and back around to the Historic District that where the Jekyll Club of millionaires had their winter "cottages". Their four gilded decades started in 1886 and continued until income tax and the Depression make such fortunes disappear. Actually, considering air conditioning and all our modern conveniences, most of us live much better now than the ultra rich did then.

One of our stops was at Faith Chapel where we learned the history of one of only four signed Louis C. Tiffany stained glass windows in the country.

We enjoyed some tours of the various historic sites where Cherokee roses twined over the porte cocheres and very old live oaks spread over vast lawns. There were several other tours by tram and by horse cart. I overheard one man saying, "Look at those crazy people riding bikes when they could see it all sitting down," but we were enjoying our craziness.

This much larger millionaire's cottage was one of several used as a winter home in the early 1900s.

One of the most shocking things we learned was that any intruders to the island in the days of the millionaires were very likely to be shot on sight. The members were very much afraid of kidnaping, especially after the Lindbergh incident. "Children from all of the islands around and from the mainland all had boats and went up and down the coast, but they were warned never to get near Jekyll," said one of the guides. "One young boy came on the island and was shot dead, with no repercussions!"

Soon we pedaled on to Sea Jay's Restaurant for a delicious lunch. Then we took the main road around the southern tip of the island where there is a Water Park, a 4-H Center where thousands of kids come every year, a Nature Center, some picnic areas along the beaches, and mostly woods in the interior. "The whole island tilts to the south when school gets out and the kids descend on the water park," Brantley had joked.

We oldsters rode 20 miles around Jekyll that day, 55 miles in the four days, and it wasn't even hard. We were lucky to have sunny, almost windless weather for a trip we will never forget.

Our Edlerhostel group, none too elder to ride 20 miles in a day on bicycles. David Brandies of Brandon is fourth from the right in the green and white stripes. All of the people with the white T shirts belong to a bicycle club from Minneasota.