Saturday, July 31, 2010

We Didn't Make the Kids Get in the Car Today

We'd like our kids to understand that America is huge, diverse, complex and just flat-out fascinating and one of the best ways to do that is to explore. I read this book as a kid and while I don't remember details of it, I do recall enjoying it. And then a couple of weeks ago, I read this in our Sunday paper and my sister sent me this within a few days of that. It just so happened that Jeff took a couple days of leave this week and well, I bet you know where we went yesterday.

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Let me just say, it was an adventure of the best kind (translation: none of it went exactly as intended but we lived to tell the tale). We planned for it by packing a picnic, but got out of town later than we wanted to, hit traffic, endured many rounds of "how much further?" from the four-year-old among us and then finally - finally - arrived at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague. By about 12:30, we were on the beach (near the letter 'e' of Toms Cove on the map above), spreading out our blanket among the hundreds of other people who thought it was a great way to spend their Friday. I think I've mentioned that we're pretty spoiled by Jeff's parents' beach but I generally subscribe to the theory that any beach is a good beach. I mean, when you grow up in Kansas, you try not to be too picky about beaches. Unfortunately, when we weaved our way through the crowd to take the kids to the water, we discovered a six-foot drop-off between us and the waves. This does not a good beach make!

Jeff scrambled down with Wyatt while I stood, kind of wide-eyed, with Natalie at the precipice. I had no more handed Natalie down to Jeff and scrambled down myself when a wave appeared, knocking Wyatt down, freeing his precious red bucket from his grasp and stunning us all. He immediately freaked out about his bucket; I immediately had that "this is really poor parenting" feeling and Jeff, well, thank God Jeff stayed calm. Wyatt was righted, a fellow beach-goer retrieved his bucket and we were on our way. We discovered the beach widened a little further down (and the sand cliff became less dramatic) so we let the kids go to town. Natalie headed for the water at high speed - no fear of waves for her - and Wyatt loved the freedom of running with wild abandon. Glad we could execute one-on-one defense, Jeff and I just followed our little charges wherever they went. Unfortunately for us, they both kept going back into the freezing cold Atlantic water then ran out to cover themselves in sand. It was easily ten degrees cooler yesterday than it had been (it was about 85), but the wind coming off the frigid water cooled it at least another ten degrees. I had goosebumps the entire time we were playing!

We played until both kids were uncontrollably shivering then headed back to our blanket to finish eating and hang out.

That went well until we ran out of food. So then Natalie pointed out all the seagulls in the surrounding area, took a little extra interest in the camera

and joined her brother who was laying on Daddy "to warm up." Jeff is much more patient with these things than I am!

After that, we realized we were all cold and decided to pack it in. 

***My PSA for you: Just because a park's website says it has showers, you should not expect them to work. You should be well prepared and pack baby powder in your beach bag. Thank God I'd read that baby powder is the beach volleyball players' solution to sticky sand - with a good dousing of powder, we were all sand-free and changed into new clothes. No kidding, it was powder magic and will never leave my beach bag again! PSA complete.***

Of course we kind of hoped to see some wild ponies while we were there but had already resigned ourselves to not be that fortunate. Imagine my delight when we saw cars stopped and people looking into the clearing. I had Jeff turn around, hopped out with my camera and...

Jeff: "Is that a wild pony?"
Me: "Yeah, it must be, right?"
Jeff: "Is that wild pony wearing a saddle?"
Me: "No...right? I don't think so..."
Jeff: "That pony is totally wearing a saddle. And that man is going to ride it."
Me: (deflated) "Yep, that's a saddle. I guess it's not wild?"
Jeff: (laughing) "Nope. Not wild."

So we turned around (again) and headed out, only to see another group of cars stopped and people looking. Could it be? Yep!

Real wild ponies, just hanging out waiting for me to take their pictures. Natalie had already fallen asleep, so Wyatt and I hopped out to take it all in. I think the wild ponies of his imagination were much more interesting than these. Oh well. We made it up to him with another beach town classic:

Ice cream! Wyatt chose Marsh Mud - "for serious chocolate lovers only" - and I think it's safe to say he thoroughly enjoyed it. Natalie wasn't interested in ice cream (whose kid is she, by the way?) and Jeff and I marveled at how large the small scoops were, right before we licked our bowls clean.

happy family on a sugar high
ladies self-portrait

I'd love to tell you that the rest of the day was smooth sailing but that would be a lie. The happy smiles in the pictures up there? Yeah, that was before we realized we weren't going to be home by dinner time, that no children planned to nap (silly us, thinking Natalie would go back to sleep after the ice cream stop - apparently a seven minute snooze was all she needed!), or that we'd hit a seven mile back-up in the tunnel. Add to that a stomach full of ice cream, coffee and McDonald's and I bet you know how glad we were to see our house. I was so glad that I would even buy it again, despite the previous post.

Other things of note about the Eastern Shore: agriculture. Lots and lots of agriculture, including corn, an unidentified low-growing crop and huge tomato farms. I'd never seen a tomato farm but boy, now I have. Also - poultry. There was at least one Perdue factory and one Tyson factory and we saw countless chicken trucks on the drive. I was particularly bothered by the vultures circling the Tyson plant. One vulture? That could maybe be a coincidence but flocks of vultures circling above and around the plant on our drive there and five hours later on our drive home? Not a coincidence. Also, unusual town names that make me mildly curious about the history of the region: Temperanceville, Modest Town, Assawoman, Horsey, Machipongo, Nassawadox and Pungoteague, to name a few.

Ah, America, you intrigue me; unfortunately, I think we've done our exploring for the quarter. Don't know where we'll venture next, but you can be sure I'll restock the snacks before we go!


Adrienne said...

You are braver than I!

The Blake Family said...

Hey...I've been to both of those places!!! Lots of years ago, as a HS graduation gift my aunt and uncle flew me out to meet them and my cousins there to spend a few days! I remember the horses and all of the coolness of those areas! Cool that you got to go!!

Leslie said...

I was just reading about that in my book about fun things to do with the family in VA. Now I feel like I've been there. Wild Ponies? Check :) Saw them on Stephanie's blog. Although I would like to sample Wyatt's ice cream in person. I'm voting for your next road trip to be in a northerly direction...we could meet you!