Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Boring and Thoroughly Pointless Travelogue

I did say I wanted to try to post one blog a week here on S&C.  Since I was on vacation, it's all I currently have to blog about!

The only unpleasant part of going to Chincoteague is that I eventually have to leave it.  When we're there, it feels as if we never left.  When we're home, it feels as if we were never there.  We are back in the real world though, so it's time to bore whatever readers I have with my adventures.

Day 1 - We left Sunday morning at 6:39 AM.  That's the earliest we ever left.  It was a wise idea.  There was almost no traffic.  We made it to the Delaware Memorial Bridge in two hours.  That was the easy part.  The trek through Delaware is always the longest leg (how can a state so small feel so endless?) but we really made excellent time.  Lack of traffic helped, but Kevin also drove like a madman.  He is always such a careful driver, but he really booked it down the Jersey Turnpike!  We made it there in five and a half hours when it normally takes seven.

We arrived around 12:30.  It was ridiculously, torturously hot out.  We went out for lunch at an outdoor food stand near our hotel and the wait for our food was painful.  I could not wait to hit the beach and cool off in the ocean.  Sadly, but the time we had eaten lunch and checked into our hotel, the clouds were beginning to gather.  A thunderstorm was definitely threatening.  Rangers were kicking people off the beach.  My plans for a swim were ruined.  We did go to the south pens and checked out the ponies who were already penned there. 

What really burned my butt is that the storm never really arrived.  The clouds gathered and there were some distant rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning for a while, but the rain never came and the storm moved off.  It was sunny again by dinner time.

I spent the hours before dinner at the gym (I needed to move my body after 5+ hours in the car) and at the hotel's tiny, overheated and thoroughly unrefreshing indoor pool.  I wouldn't call it an eventful afternoon.

We met the whole family at Etta's restaurant for dinner.  It has a great view of Assateague and the Assateague channel and we had a nice table by the window.  After a pleasant dinner, we headed to Mom's rental house just to check the place out and relax with a little more wine.  Our vacation had officially started.

Day 2 - Monday morning the cowboys walk the half of the herd penned on the north end of Assateague down the beach to the pens on the south end.  It has become an official Pony Penning event as much as the swim itself, so it has become quite crowded. That meant getting up early because they do it early in the morning and you need to get a good parking space.  It can make for stunning photo ops because the sunrise over the beach is always amazing, plus it's beautiful seeing the herd walking down the beach.

It was not the sunniest morning to begin with and only grew worse as the morning went on.  Just as the ponies were coming down the beach, it began raining.  It didn't rain hard, but it put a damper on the photography.  Kevin was ready with a plastic bag around his camera of course. 

As always it took forever to leave the parking lot after it was over, but we made it back to the hotel in time for breakfast. 

After breakfast I took a walk and did some shopping by myself in some of the girlier shops on the island.  The rain went away and gave way to a decent day, so I hit the beach for the afternoon.  Before the beach we had to check out the pens since both herds were there.  We saw Riddle's mother and Riddle's newest sibling - a little chestnut filly with a big white blaze.  She was cute, but Riddle is cuter.

We had dinner at Mom's place that night.  Erik cooked a big seafood extravaganza.  We brought ice cream and a supply of barbecued food from Woody's so I wouldn't have to eat it.

Day 3 - This started out as the perfect day.  Kevin and I had riding lessons at the Chincoteague Pony Centre.  They put me on my favorite pony, Chincoteague Cowboy.  He's a gelding and very talented and so willing.  I'm so used to riding stubborn/green mares that Cowboy is a breath of fresh air. 

After lunch Kevin and I headed to the beach.  It was HOT out, so hot that Kevin even got into the water enough to get his bathing suit wet ;-).  Most of the week the surf was pretty calm, but this day that surf was kicking up a bit, which made for some truly excellent boogie boarding.  I am an ocean addict!

Since we had to get up early for the swim the next day, Kevin and I planned on an early dinner and an early bedtime.  We left the beach, cleaned ourselves up, and got into the car to head to Mr. Baldy's for dinner.

Kevin started the car up, the engine turned over - and died.

Kevin tried again.  The engine turned over - and died.

Kevin tried once more.  The engine turned over- and died.

Here we were in the middle of our vacation and our car was suddenly not running.  We ran back into the hotel and began inquiring about local mechanics.  Tom, the general manager, and our good friend, was able to recommend someone he knew on the island.  Of course his shop was closed for the day.  Did I also mention that there are no towing companies on the island?  Kevin was able to get a hold of the mechanic (he also owns the local bowling alley and was there) who said he would look at the car if we could tow it to his place, but it would have to wait until Thursday since he was going to be closed on Pony Swim day.

So we were now in a position where we would be dependent on my family for rides.  I mentioned earlier that Mom and the rest of the family were staying in a rental house.  That house was way on the north end of the island.  Our hotel is in the middle of town.  Now I know that on an island that's only 6 miles long this really shouldn't seem like much of a distance, but it was hardly convenient for anyone.  We all had to coordinate schedules and forced Mom to go out of her way now and then.  It was not a good position to be in.

In any case, Rocky, the hotel maintenance man, said he would use his personal AAA membership to have Kevin's car towed to the mechanic by an off-island towing company first thing Thursday morning.  The car would be taken care of as soon as humanly possible. 

We had to have dinner at a restaurant in walking distance.  There aren't many of those near our hotel, but one of them happens to be a pretty good Vietnamese place, so it wasn't so bad that Kevin missed Mr. Baldy's.

Day 4 - Pony Swim!  The word on the street was that the slack tide wouldn't happen until after noon.  The shuttle buses to the viewing grounds weren't going to be running until 8.  However, we weren't viewing from land.  As always, we would be viewing from Captain Barry's boat, and boats almost seem to race each other to the swim site to compete for the best viewing spot.  That meant we had to meet Barry at 5AM and just wait...and wait...and wait for the swim to happen.

Mom was kind enough to swing by and pick us up and drive us to Barry's boat slip.  Penelope was joining us for the first time too.  We all wanted her to see it up close, but it was the wrong year for her to be there.  The poor girl was a bit hot and bored the whole day.  Fortunately, the boat that was tied up next to us had a little girl her age on it and the two of them hung out together all day and made mischief. 

After egg sandwiches, copious mimosas (Barry makes them with fresh-squeezed juice), and avoiding sunburn, the ponies swam around 1:30.  We all hoped the swim would never take that long again.

We did our usual ritual of leaving the swim and then tying up at Daisey's Dockside (another cruise company that has a fleet of boats and a much bigger dock than Barry has who is friends with Barry) and then getting off the boat and waiting on Main Street to watch the ponies parade down the street to the carnival grounds.  Fortunately, that wait wasn't agonizingly long. 

After a very late lunch I strongarmed Mom into taking me to the beach.  Wasn't too difficult in the end.  It was a hot day and since she seemed to be the only person going to the beach, she got some nice peace and quiet.  It's not easy staying in a house with 8 other people (4 of which are children under 10).

We hung out with the family at the Fireman's Carnival for dinner that night.  We saw the ponies safely in the carnival pens and ready for the auction.

Day 5 - Auction day.  We didn't go to the auction. I have seen enough of it.  It can be interesting to see what the ponies go for, but I run out of patience after the tenth pony or so. It can be a long, dull, hot day.  Kevin and I took a cruise with Captain Barry instead.

Last year we had Barry to ourselves, so he took us from photo-op to photo-op as well as take us to one of the uninhabited islands.  This year we weren't so lucky and there was a little kid on board with her family.  Barry had to do his standard stuff with her like show her how to pluck and shuck oysters, dig for clams, pull up a crab trap, and hunt for shells.  It was nice being out on the water, and it's always fun to be out with Barry, but we have had better cruises. After the cruise we had lunch at the deck bar of the Chincoteague Inn enjoying burgers and margaritas. 

In the afternoon we headed back to the Pony Centre because Penelope and Charles were having their first riding lessons.  No one has given up hope that they might want to take up riding in the future and ride Grandma's ponies.  They seemed to enjoy themselves, especially Penelope who smiled every time she trotted, but I'm not sure they loved it enough to keep doing it in the future.

I was really hoping for some beach time, because it was stinking hot out, but no one had the time to take me.  We stayed at the Pony Centre and watched their nightly horse show instead.

For dinner we went to Steamers, a restaurant with trash cans and paper towels on every butcher-paper-covered table.  It's the kind of place where people can messily smash and crack and pick seafood.  It's the kind of place that makes me wish I liked the stuff.  Too bad I don't.  We ate an equally decadent meal of fried chicken, hush puppies, biscuits, and corn on the cob.  After dinner we continued our gluttony at the Island Creamery with hot fudge sundaes.  The Island Creamery has the best hot fudge.

We also had the status update on the car.  The problem was the fuel pump.  Why a fuel pump would suddenly die on a four-year-old car is a mystery, but that's what happened.  Hypothetically this was a warranty repair, but the mechanic didn't do warranty repairs.  The nearest Hyundai dealership was over an hour away in Salisbury Maryland.  The local mechanic thought he could get a new fuel pump from them quickly, but that was not to be.  That dealership didn't have one either (good thing we didn't try to take the car there or we would have been stuck there instead of in Chincoteague).  We would have to wait until the new fuel pump came in from California.  It might come in Friday.  It also might not come until Monday, keeping us stuck in Chincoteague until Tuesday.

Being stuck in Chincoteague over the weekend would have been such a hardship!

Day 6 - Last full day in Chincoteague - or not?  Who knows if the new fuel pump would come this day or not?  All I knew was I had to make the most of it in case it really was the last day.  I made the most of it by starting my day with doing 3 loads of laundry. 

After breakfast I rented a little cart to drive myself around in for the day.  It was ridiculously expensive, but it kept me from being dependent on others for rides.  A scooter would have been cheaper, but I needed the space in the cart for my boogie board and beach chair. 

While Kevin held on for dear life, I drove us both to one of the local mini golf courses so we could play a round with Erik and the kids.  It was insanely hot out once again.  We could only survive 9 holes in that heat.  There was only one place any of us wanted to be after that and that was the beach.

Sadly Kevin had to stay in our room and do a conference call for work, but the rest of us made it out to the beach for the afternoon.  I loved driving my dangerous little open cart down the beach road in Assateague.  The ponies had returned to Assateague (watching them swim back is another event I usually skip) and were standing along the roads ready to be gawked at.   I had the wind in my hair and was one with nature.  WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

The day was so hot that no one ever wanted to leave the water.  Even the water was unusually warm.  The shallow water at the edge was like bath water.  I was quite happy there were no jellyfish despite the warm water.  The water was calm, but I managed to catch a few good waves.  Even though we all had a dinner reservation and had to leave by a certain time, it was really really hard.  We all kept going back into the water for "one  more dip" - adults and children alike  I never wanted the day to end.

When I returned to the hotel I got the good news and the bad news.  The good news was that the new fuel pump had arrived and Kevin got his car back.  The bad news was that Kevin got his car back and therefore we had to go home the next day. 

Tom was willing to hold the room for us if we wanted to stay an extra day, but Kevin wasn't feeling well and decided it was best to go home.  He tried giving Rocky a big tip when we left for all of his help, but that nice man refused it.  How can you not love the people of Chincoteague?

Friday we spent a leisurely morning doing last-minute shopping and then took one last drive on to Assateague to say goodbye to the ponies.  A bunch of them were gathered by the road, posing for their photo ops.  Then it was time to hit the road.  Another Chincoteague vacation gone, another year to wait till the next one.

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