Dream of Chincoteague

Part two in a series by M Dawn Thacker. Click here for part one.

“If it doesn’t snow, we’ll go President’s Day weekend. Ryan is out of school Monday and Tuesday, so we can make a long weekend of it,” Bruce announced after listening to me go on and on about Chincoteague for a week. That was agreement enough—my husband and son would join me on an excursion to my latest favorite little town.

I watched the extended weather forecast, looking for sun, and I daydreamed of Bruce’s reaction to Chincoteague, his smile while driving down the quaint Main Street, marveling at the Art Deco buildings.  I envisioned us holding hands, walking the deserted February beach, picking up shells and sea glass, conch and periwinkle.  We’d drive to the marina and watch the sunset each night, ride our bicycles on the nature trails, and comb the island for our retirement home.  I had the trip all planned.

As my travel plans grew closer, the weather held. We packed a few changes of clothes, a cooler of food, water, the camera, and an extra gallon of coolant for the car—and the bicycles.

To reach the Island of Chincoteague, travel over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  The town itself is lazily spread over 37 square miles with a little over four thousand year-round inhabitants, ideal for weekend get-aways and retirement planners.

We rushed to find our cottage before dark, only missing the sunset by fifteen minutes. Crossing the bridge into Chincoteague at dusk, we drove straight on Maddox, right down Chicken City Road, took a left on Church Street, made an immediate right on Ridge, and then took another side street that led to our destination.  It was light enough to read the house number on the porch rail.  First impressions would have to wait until morning.  The five hour drive had kinked our muscles.

Bruce stretched and set the agenda, “Let’s unload and fix some supper.”

I had planned our itinerary strategically to convince Bruce of his ‘need’ for Chincoteague.  The “Eagle cam” was first on my list. Rumors of an Eagle pair in Crozet have recently captured his attention. He looks for them overhead, and for their aeries in the trees along the riverbank when we’re at home.  There’s a nesting pair on Assateague, just over the bridge from Chincoteague. The Wildlife Refuge has placed an “Eagle Cam” in a pine right above the nest and the female laid her first egg there two weeks prior to our visit.

With hot coffee in travel mugs, we crossed the bridge to Assateague, paid the eight dollar fee for a week’s worth of parking, and headed to the Wildlife Center.  It opens at nine o’clock in the morning and we were the first visitors of the day. I was the eager, enthusiastic one. Rounding the corner to the Eagle exhibit, we found the “Eagle Cam” monitor mounted high on a wall. One of the Eagles sat in the center of the nest while the wind rocked her at the top of the pine tree. The sun was bright, but it looked cold at that altitude in the wind. We watched the eagle on her regal perch;  one small, white pin feather stuck up through smooth, dark feathers on her back and fluttered in the wind. After a few minutes, the Eagle stood straight, carefully backed away from the center of the nest, and lifted off, leaving us to admire her three eggs.  In five minutes she was back, landing lightly, and walking carefully to the center of the nest. She bent her head and rolled the eggs with her beak. Then, she settled down on them, fluffing out her feathers and moving small branches close to her body with her beak. I was mesmerized, and stood watching. When I turned to share my awe with Bruce, he was gone.  I walked around the corner and he was discussing the weather with the Ranger on duty. Ryan was anxious to explore the shoreline.

“Wind is supposed to be pretty fierce today,” she said. “Sand is probably blowing on the beach.”

The Ranger was right, the sand was blowing. After driving to the deserted ocean front, we couldn’t get out of the car without the risk of sandblasting our skin. Instead, we sat facing east and watched the wind whip white caps off the waves, creating clouds of spray above the ocean surface.

Up to that point, little in my plan was coming to fruition: no sunset, no walk on the beach, no shells, no sea glass.

We headed back to the town site of Chincoteague to scope out the “Death by Chocolate” event our Real Estate Agent described.   Held on the Saturday after Valentine’s Day, Main street businesses encouraged visits to their shops by offering a punch card game with a chocolate treat at each stop—and a chance for door prizes at the end of the day.  This game could work to my advantage— and spark Bruce’s interest with some fun.  We left the wind on the beach and visited the quaint waterfront shops, learning a little island trivia, and met some locals. I collected the small pieces of my favorite flavored candy.

We discovered that an antique/gift shop is housed in the oldest commercial structure on the island, the old bank, and built in 1896. The ceiling has an ornate plaster design, painted subdued white.  The chandelier in the back room reflects a gold mandala pattern over visitors heads.

We walked into Threadgoodes, a popular stop for beverages, and looked down at our punch card, which read, “What are we famous for?”  Puzzled, we began searching the menu and decor for hints.  They served a non-alcoholic chocolate martini to Ryan, and pointed us adults toward the smoothie machine. Bruce and I had our first taste of “Wine Smoothies”, a concoction that could surely win renown. Yum. We had the answer.

Outside, ducks gather between Threadgoodes and the Inn On The Bay. They waddled up looking for a handout.  They talked fluently in ‘quacks’ and introduced us to the boat ramp between the two buildings.

We met the other contestants in the “Death by Chocolate” game at Waterside Inn, just before sunset, and in time for the big prize draw. I held my breath and crossed my fingers desperately wanting Bruce’s name to be the one pulled—it wasn’t. Mine was! They handed me a gift set of four essential chocolate traveling companions: Cowgirl Spicy Chocolate Sauce, Toe Tags 3.5 oz. premium dark chocolate pieces, Mad Gabs Mocha Hand and Body Lotion, and a matching tin of  lip balm.

The wind was still blowing hard from the west when we pulled into the Marina to watch the sunset.  Bruce and our son sat in the car, heat blasting. I took my camera to the dock and shivered, composing pictures and capturing the scenic memories. My dream of Bruce easily falling in love with Chincoteague seemed to be heading for the rocks, but I’m not discouraged. I will plan another trip soon—the town’s friendly residents, island scenery, and beautiful expanses of beach will do the trick.

As my eyes watered in the wind, the sky reflected aqua blue on the water and I let the images fill me.  A seagull cried overhead as the sun dipped, once again, below the horizon. I’ll be dreaming of Chincoteague.

We’ve added M Dawn’s latest images to her Picture Book, The Call of Chincoteague. Special thanks to Bruce and Ryan. Click full screen icon, lower left on the viewer panel. Requires flash player.

[book id=’5′ /]

Text and images © 2011 M Dawn Thacker for now.readthisplease.com

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2 Responses to “Dream of Chincoteague”
  1. Jen says:

    I’m thinking the property values in Chincoteague may be changing… You’ve created demand :-)

  2. thanks Jen, hope the values stay down until I can convince Bruce. :)

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