Monday, August 2, 2010

The Utterly Boring and Completely Unnecessary Vacation Recap

Well, you know I have to tell you all about it because that’s how I roll.

Day 1 – We were off to a good start. We left home right before 7AM and had a quiet ride the whole way down to Virginia. We stopped at a turnoff on the causeway so we could get our first glimpse of the new bridge. It was strange coming onto the island right on Maddox St.

When we arrived at our hotel, it was two hours till check in time so we thought we would walk around a bit and check in later. Then our room suddenly was ready.

Once we unpacked, we headed to the beach. On our way there, we stopped at the pony pens. Only the southern herd was there at that point, but we could at least say hi to Surfer Dude.

I saw my mother and Don there. They were on their way back from the beach. Mom warned me the water was quite cold. She was right. It didn’t stop me though. I just grabbed my boogie board and took the first good wave. When you have something to concentrate on, the water isn’t so bad.

We had dinner at Chincoteague’s only Mexican restaurant that night. I had never eaten there before. It was pretty good, but there are better ones at home.

Day 2 – We were up early to watch the firemen run the northern herd down the beach and lead them to the southern pens. Our goal was to park at the pens and walk to the beach. It’s a bit of a schlep, but it means that you don’t have to wait an hour to get out of the beach parking lot after the ponies come by. Well, when we tried to park, a bunch of park rangers chased us away. That never happened before. We were early enough to get a spot close to the entrance of the parking lot, so we were among the first on line to leave after the ponies ran down the beach.

We saw a beautiful sunrise while we waited.

It took well over an hour for the ponies to come. It’s always a pretty spectacular site though. For a few years the joining of the herds had become a huge event. There used to be hordes of people on the beach in the morning. I suppose people liked to go to it because it gives you a better view of the ponies than you would have at the Swim (if you stand on shore at the Swim and not on a boat). This year there weren’t nearly as many people and there were many tourists who said they didn’t even know about it. I think the fire company stopped publicizing it. For many years it was a little-known event. I was probably going to Chincoteague for 4 or 5 years before I heard about it. I think it just grew too much. The crowd control was becoming a problem. If they keep the merging on the down-low, they get a smaller crowd and they need less security.

Kevin and I did some shopping after breakfast and then it was back to the beach for the afternoon. Once again the water was really cold.

That evening my aunt, Su Mei came from her home near Ocean City to have dinner with all of us. It was a nice evening.
Day 3 – Tuesday is one of the few leisurely mornings you get during Pony Penning week. After breakfast I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took a long walk just for some exercise. It was nice to see the town while it was still waking up.

Later that morning we had riding lessons at the Chincoteague Pony Centre. They know us pretty well over there now. I joke we should make Tuesday at 11 a standing lesson every year. They know my favorite horse – Chincoteague Cowboy. He’s always waiting for me when I come. Kevin’s favorite horse, Raindrop, was not there this year. He rode a young horse named Misty’s Morning Glory instead. She is a great-great-granddaughter of Misty. He wasn’t too fond of her. He said she was too lazy.

After lunch it was back to the beach of course. The water was warmer today, but it was also rather calm. I noticed there were better waves at a sandbar a little farther down the beach from where I was sitting. I decided to swim out to it.

I began to swim dragging my board and found I was getting tired quickly. It was a long time since I had done that much swimming or swum in ocean waves. I had to stop on the board and rest once or twice. I finally made it to the bar and caught some awesome waves. However, once I started riding them in as far as they would go, I realized just how big the sandbar was in the middle. There was hardly any gap between the sandbar and the shoreline. I didn’t need to swim all the way out like that. If I had gone out to the right spot, I could have walked almost the entire way!

Mom and Don were at the beach with me and Mom told me that I was out there an hour and a half. What can I say? I get so in the zone sometimes. I was out there floating on my board, the sun was shining overhead, the waves were nudging around me in their beautiful sea-green glory, the sky was blue, and the world could not have seemed more beautiful or perfect. It was just one of those “Life can’t get any better than this,” moments.

That evening before dinner we headed to the Beebe Ranch. Billy Beebe is cousin to Maureen Beebe and the late Paul Beebe who were featured in the Misty of Chincoteague books. His family’s farm was right next to the farm where Misty was born. After Marguerite Henry owned Misty for a year or two, she was returned to the Beebe family and she moved to Billy’s farm and was Billy’s pony. Although the events of Stormy, Misty’s Foal use the characters of Paul and Maureen from the first book, the book actually took place on Billy’s ranch. After his parents died, Billy and his wife put everything they had into preserving the ranch and they took back the stuffed bodies of Misty and Stormy (previously being kept by friends at another facility on the island). The ranch is filled with memorabilia and is open to visitors during Pony Penning week.
People always tell me to say hi to Misty for them, so I took this photo.

We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant on the island. Yes, there is actually a Vietnamese restaurant on Chincoteague. It’s very successful too. Whouda thunk?

Day 4– The word on the street was that slack tide would not be until around 11AM, so we did not have to wake up and board the boat quite as early as we sometimes do. We met Captain Barry at 5AM instead of 4 like last year. What a luxury!

We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise at the swim spot and then did the usual waiting around for hours. Things are never dull on Barry’s boat of course, and time passed quickly. There is a group of us that is permanently booked for Pony Swim on Barry’s boat, so it’s like hanging with old friends.
One of the group had brought her nephew with her on the swim this year and he was passing the time by crabbing. He caught one around the time that our friend Roe, the Chincoteague Pony Association PR guy, came by with some media people on his boat. Barry started joking around with him and grabbed the crab that the boy had just caught. He threw it at the boat. I don’t think he meant to aim it as well as he did. It headed straight toward a photographer sitting up front. Not wanting to be hit in the face with a crab, she shielded herself with her camera. It hit the end of her telephoto lens. She had a protector on it, but she was really unhappy about that.

The weather was hotter and sunnier than it had been in year’s past, so it was becoming a bit uncomfortable, but finally the flare went off, and the ponies were in the water.

After we head out of the swim site, Barry docks the boat at a friend’s dock and we get out and watch the Saltwater Cowboys parade the ponies down Main Street on the way to the carnival grounds. It’s always fun to watch.

Once the Swim was over, I was feeling queasy from all of the junk food I had snarfed on the boat (every try pepper relish potato chips?) and was feeling rather tired. The sky had become overcast. I gave up on it being a beach day and tried to just do some shopping. I wasn’t into it. I was in a terrible mood. The sky cleared up and the weather grew hotter and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Kevin offered to drive me to the beach for a couple of hours before dinner. Once I was there, I was immediately cheered up. The ocean can do that to a person.

I was still queasy though. I had been wanting to go to Woody’s Barbecue Shack *drool* for dinner, but I couldn’t stomach it. We ended up at the carnival where Kevin could have his favorite crab cake sandwich. I just had a sno-cone.

Day 5 – Auction time! I didn’t go to the auction. I’ve seen it enough times. It can be really dull sitting there for 3+ hours while they bring out pony after pony. It can be fun to see what they go for, and the auctioneers can be entertaining, but I’m not really into it anymore. Kevin and I went out for a nature cruise on Captain Barry’s boat instead.

The other couple that was supposed to be on the cruise with us that morning never showed, so we had Barry to ourselves. That meant we could control where we wanted to go. Kevin’s priority was to take wildlife photos, so Barry took us to popular bird hangouts. He said it was much easier to take us around since he doesn’t have to put on the same show or tell the same stories he always has to tell (we heard them all before). One thing I have to say is that Barry’s language is way saltier when he’s among friends.

We saw all kinds of birds and also explored some of the little islands on the back bay. One of them was pretty well developed and had a lovely beach, which Kevin and I had all to ourselves. We took a walk and I had a brief swim. I joked with Kevin that Barry had given us free rein to take as much time as we wanted on this totally deserted beach and that we should take advantage. He didn’t bite.

We had lunch at the Chincoteague Inn where Barry docks his boat. I felt frisky and had a margarita with lunch. It felt like another totally perfect day.

We were back to the beach in the afternoon with Mom and Don. There was more great surf and warm water. At the end of the day we had our first rain all week. At least it waited until dinner time to start.

Day 6 – It was our last full day. I wanted to do our laundry as soon as I woke up. I know it sounds weird to want to do laundry on vacation, but I like having it done before I come home. That way I can just put everything away when I unpack and I don’t have to worry about having clean clothes the day after I come home. It’s just one less thing to worry about. I always like it when I can find a drop-off service, but there wasn’t anything like that in Chincoteague, so I had to do it myself.

I started at 6:30. Someone had the same idea and was already using the dryer when I entered the laundry room. She was finished with the washer, but she was using the dryer. Unfortunately, the dryer was extremely slow to dry clothes. I think I had washed two loads before her clothes had dried. Then it took another two hours for my laundry to be dry. I had hoped to be finished before breakfast, but I wasn’t finished until about 10 AM. It’s a good thing we had no interest in watching the ponies swim back to Assateague that morning.

The day wasn’t lost. Kevin and I contemplated either going miniature golfing or going to the Oyster Museum (which is being renamed Museum of Chincoteague even if the signage on the museum doesn’t currently show that). It took us all of 20 minutes to go through the entire thing. We ate lunch and Kevin dropped me off at the beach and Kevin went to Roe’s house to look at duck carvings (Roe is a carver, which is how we became friends with him).

The water at the beach was really cold that day. It was colder than it was on Sunday and Monday. I had some trouble going in. I had to tough it out though because I knew I wasn’t going to be swimming in the ocean for another year.

In the early evening I went on a sunset kayak tour. Jay, the guide I have been going out with for years, is no longer on the island. I had to try out a new guide. His name was Ray. He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t a Chincoteague native, or even a resident, so he didn’t have that local color thing going on. He did take us to some placed I hadn’t ever kayaked to though. We went to the bay side of Assateague and saw some great birds (green herons, ospreys, ibises, blue herons, and egrets). We even caught a glimpse of a pony. The sunset was spectacular. It was the perfect ending for the week.

We had a late dinner at our favorite restaurant, Bill’s, and then went to bed.

Day 7 - *Sob* *Sniff* Time to go home. Kevin and I had a leisurely morning. We ate breakfast late (after I had a swim in the hotel pool) and then decided to check out some local real estate listings. Going to Chincoteague always gives us the bug to move down there. We took one last drive to Assateague to see if we could see the ponies back on the island (and we did). Then we stopped at Pony Tails for taffy to take home to our friends.

On our way home we discovered a great diner in Delaware for lunch. We hope to make that a traditional drive-home-from-Chincoteague-lunch spot in the future.

So now I’m home and getting insulted when people compliment my tan. Everything is back to normal.

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