Around the lower East Coast in nine days. We have always talked about a driving vacation. Not one where you drive somewhere and stay for a week, but one with multiple destinations. The year our youngest became an adult (the day before we left) we finally did it starting at 0200 Saturday June 16, 2012. According to Bing the total trip would be tens of hours and just under 1,700 miles. That sounds daunting (it was), but there were five drivers in which to divide the time.
I took the first shift and spent the first leg more or less alone as my family slept. I expected that. Fortunately my new Hyundai has an optional iPhone cord (I bought mine at Amazon for less than half the price – I actually ordered it on my iPhone while waiting at the dealer to sign the papers for the new car – I am very geeky-proud of myself – I even told the salesperson that I did it – they didn’t have any in stock). The cord integrates my iPhone with the car’s audio system and I can make selections using the vehicle’s controls. Pretty cool.
Daylight brings us time for fuel for us and the Santa Fe. We were getting closer to our first destination, Chincoteague, Virginia. We chose Chincoteague as a nice halfway point to our next destination. We had always heard about the quaint town and the national park where they have hundreds of frisky wild ponies. We arrived at the hotel long before we could actually check in, but the desk clerk gave us a free pass to the park and off we went after we ate lunch at a local joint…a Denny’s-type meal for triple the price.
We drive through town and shortly arrive at the park where I proudly hold up our free pass to the park ranger. Once waived through we “oh” and “ah” at the pretty scenery. We see beautiful marshes with tall, white egrets hunting for fish…the stuff of a photographers dream. As we cross a bridge we notice a bunch of cars off the side of the road near a canal. There are folks fishing and several egrets doing the same in close proximity. As we pull off in one direction a pick up full of people do the same in the other direction. They jump out as we do, but we all head off toward the water. We are there maybe 22 seconds before the attack. Not from the pick-up truck, but from skeeters.
I honestly have never been assaulted as viciously or persistently as there. I brushed my leg and killed three blood-swollen pests from one leg. My oldest daughter had silver dollar-sized welts on her leg and her sister didn’t swell as much, but had numerous welts too. Initially I had no idea what evil southern bug was attacking us and asked the driver of the truck who finally came to the canal (after spraying himself liberally with bug repellant). His answer…skeeters. He may have said mosquitoes, but I’m telling the story here. By the way don’t listen to any comment from a Kevin who might characterize the tone of my question to the driver as a girlish, shrill whine.
I took a few pictures of the egret and scurried back to the car. The skeeters followed us…even into the car. We drove off with windows open trying to scoot the bugs out. We came to the beach portion of the park and my wife went in to purchase some of the most expensive bug spray on earth. She figured it cost “25 cents a pump.” Once the repellant was applied we walked to the beach where I witnessed families enjoying their summer at the beach. The water temperature, based on my toe thermometer, was 50 degrees and the wind, based on my finger wind speed indicator, was a brisk 30 miles per hour. We walked for an hour or so as I pondered how unenjoyable this seemed.
Back to the car and to the place where the visitor’s center staffer said the ponies were spotted just a few minutes ago. Slathered with bug juice we got on the winding path minus one. Our middle child would not leave the car with PSSD (Post Traumatic Skeeter Disorder)…she was the smart one. The path started through the woods and the mosquitoes were not too bad. At least for the first hundred steps or so. After walking in torment for ten minutes I wasn’t sure whether to go forward or back. I had no idea how far it was. The winding path gave glimpses of hope and not wanting to have just missed the ponies we lumbered forward.
After what turned out to be a half mile we made it to the overlook. Fortunately the overlook had a stiff breeze which also made it skeeter-free. We didn’t really want to leave. And the ponies!!! When we strained our eyes we could see one, no two ponies off in the distance. I used my longest lens and could do no better than this photograph.
We screwed up our courage and went through the gauntlet again and back to the car. I think for me the bug spray wore off early on the way back. My son really didn’t seem all that bothered by the skeeters and my youngest simply ran back to the car. There is also what looks to be a beautiful lighthouse in the park and I wanted to get some photographs. One of our fellow travelers on the pony gauntlet told my wife that the trail the lighthouse was infested worse than the one to the ponies. I got a picture of the top of the lighthouse from a distance as we headed out of the park.
It was back to the hotel for showers and dinner at a local seafood place recommended by the hotel. The décor was 70s, the waitress called me darling, the prices were a bit steep and the food was on par with Red Lobster…maybe more bland, but just as fried. I actually cannot remember what I had for dinner except for some pretty good beef veggie soup from the salad bar. We did some tourist shopping, not buying, but shopping and went to an ice cream joint that made it fresh. My sugar-free was not very tasty, but my family seemed to enjoy theirs.
We head back to the hotel (remember my day started at 2 am) and decided to drive to the other end of the island. There were lots of cottages, piers, boats and water. Very picturesque. I had noticed a row boat moored in some marsh grass along the road and wanted to stop for pictures on the way back. When we stopped there was another couple already there to take pictures of the same boat. The husband and I took plenty of pictures of that boat…there was a sunset too.
My wife and I both had the same thought as we first entered Chincoteague. Perhaps we should have planned two nights? After the skeeters we were both satisfied with the one. I don’t sleep in very often anymore so at dawn I snuck out of the room had a complimentary breakfast and took a hike…towards that boat. The night before I only took my point-and-shoot camera as I did not expect anything but dinner and shopping. I wanted to get some with my “good” camera. I was a nice skeeter-free, cool morning walk.
On one of our walks through town we noticed a very colorful sandwich shop The Sea Star. One of the clerks at the hotel said how good their food was so our plan was to have an early lunch there and head to destination two. This joint easily had the BEST food of the island and we all enjoyed a delicious lunch. I now wish we would have eaten all three meals there. The place was rather expensive, but I don’t mind when the food is that good. If you are ever in Chincoteague definitely eat at The Sea Star.
Next stage two.