The first morning would see me loading the bags into the car at 4:00 AM to make a six-hour drive south to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Chincoteague has the distinction of being one of the few places in America where one can still see wild ponies. There is a story that tells of a Spanish Galleon that gets shipwrecked off of the coast of Virginia sometime in the 1500s. The only survivors of that shipwreck are some Arabian ponies that swim to shore and established themselves on Chincoteague Island. Those ponies are still there and still wild. Of course, there are other theories about the presence of wild ponies on the island, but I simply adore the romance of the Spanish Galleon story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, as I was saying before, the drive from New York to Chincoteague is quite long. For this trip, my kids had picked out a strawberry-scented air freshener to hang from the car's rear view mirror. As it's my task to select the music, I opted for The Eagles' "Complete Greatest Hits." So, with the sounds and smells of the journey in place, we hit the road. I had a particularly magical moment on the Jersey Turnpike when the chorus to the song "Ol' 55" came on the CD player. Check out the tune and I'm sure you'll see why.
After a couple of pit stops, we crossed the causeway to Chincoteague at about 10:45 AM. So many hours behind the wheel is definitely draining and my legs tend to get a little stiff, so, I like to plan low-key things to do on the first day of any trip. Our first stop was at the Visitor Center to get a park pass, a trail map, and to learn a little bit about the background of the area. Both Chincoteague and its neighboring island, Assateague, make up a wildlife refuge with a pristine shoreline. Upon my first drive through, it reminded me a bit of Acadia National Park with many places of interest to park and hike. The first spot that we wanted to see was the Assateague Lighthouse. After a brief hike through the woods and a climb on the lighthouse's spiral staircase to a height of 154 feet above sea level, we were given a spectacular, bird's eye view of the Virginia landscape in all directions. Marvelous!
The next dot on the map was called the "Woodland Trail." This offered a serene walk through the trees, serenaded by a variety of bird calls. At one of the trail's overlook points, I got my first glimpse of the Chincoteague ponies. While they were much too far off in the distance to get a good photograph, I was very excited to see them.
As the afternoon began to get late, there was still a little time before check-in at the hotel, so I pulled the car into the parking lot of the Museum of Chincoteague. From the wild ponies to the oyster industry to the earliest settlers, this building offers a good historical account of the area.
From there, we would check in to the Rodeway Inn and spend a while cooling off in the swimming pool. With the hotel being located smack-dab in the center of town, it was only a short walk to Captain Zack's Seafood, a charming, side-of-the-road place that offers delicious local fare. While waiting for the food, we played games in the yard, such as pirate-themed bean bag toss, clam shell tic tac toe, and extra-large connect four. For dinner, I had the fried oyster sandwich. Yum yum yum...
"If ye keep my commandments,
ye shall abide in my love; even as I have
kept my Father's commandments,
and abide in his love."