Beachy Keen Surprise
Way back when, ages before the kids came along and long before we were married, my friend Janet had extolled the virtues of the beach town called Chincoteague. Well, to be clear, not the town, so much as the beach area that connects to it. It is known as Assateague Island, a stretch of sand that is clear and unfettered by the stores and restaurants that tend to overwhelm other nearby beaches.
I first visited in September of 1993, to work on a beach clean-up. I loved the emptiness of the beach, the long stretches of dunes, and the lack of anything more permanent than a beach umbrella tilting in the wind. Fast forward three years, and Peter and I have decided to visit together. We take a weekend trip, staying at the Island Motor Inn. We watched the sunset over the bay, took a cruise around the island, explored the lighthouse, reveled in the quiet, and vowed to come back.
Two children and many years later, we were trying to decide on vacation plans for R&R. We realized we desperately wanted to have a beach vacation, but where? Thinking back, we realized we had not kept our word with regards to visiting the tiny island that enchanted us so much. The hotel was still very much in existence, and we booked a week's stay. At the end of that week, the kids were hooked, too, and it became our summer destination of choice. We ended up in a new hotel every year, and came to know the island as well as our home.
Not knowing how much time we would have back East, we didn't plan a beach trip very far in advance. In fact, we waited so long, that the prices at our original hotel of choice were so outrageous, we looked at another inn. Not only were the prices lower at The Refuge, but nearly half what the Hampton was charging. We can also count on the Refuge to have recycling facilities (the minimum one expects), unlike the Hampton which doesn't even have a bin for newspapers. Oh, and don't get me started on the styrofoam breakfast dishes.
We decided to surprise the kids with the trip, but ended up telling Cait early. We realized it made up for not spending the night with Grandpa, Dibby, and the girls, and she needed to pack. After more laundry and furious packing Monday night, we were off to the Maryland Science Center to spend the day with the family one last time prior to our trip.
Wow! We had not visited the Science Center prior to this trip, but definitely will have to go back. The kids LOVED it, Nicholas included. Plenty of space for them to run around and try different activities (pendulums to dinosaurs), and even an itty-bitty (not for those of us blessed in the height department) play place for the Little Guy.
We lunched at the Harbor Center (Phillips, to be exact), and returned to the Science Center to get in a few more exhibits. We only had one small glitch when I thought I lost my camera (and all of my pictures) but, thankfully, I had just dropped it in Gretchen's gift bag. Though in the back of my mind, I was thinking it was a perfect opportunity to snatch up that SLR I had been wanting for quite some time.
Many hugs later, we hopped into the car, and hit the road. Traffic was light, and barely three hours later we had arrived in Chincoteague. We had dinner at Bill's (fried oysters, yum), and realized it was time for sleep.
The next three days were a whirlwind of the beach, the Toms Cove visitor center, the beach, Woody's BBQ (the BEST culinary addition to the island of late), mini-golf, Mr. Whippy, more mini-golf, the beach, the ponies, Woody's again, and a final adieu to the ponies. The beach was the highlight, with the water significantly warmer than in Northern California. The girls, as usual, spent hours digging trenches and tunnels, and utterly enjoying themselves with nothing more than a pail and bucket. Friday came all too quickly, and we packed up and headed "home" (wait, where IS home, anyway?) to Shannon & Mark's. Though we were sad, as always, to leave the beach (if we ever buy a vacation home....), we knew many adventures, including a trip on the Salty Dog, were only hours away.