Driving away, away
And now I am gone
As if I was never there.
Always looking backwards
as it becomes tinier, and tinier,
and that longing in my heart becomes stronger and stronger.
My place by the sea,
holding memories for me.
Just about every summer since I was ten years old, the family packed up whatever vehicle we were driving at the time (and believe me, there were a lot!), and drove the 12 hours to a little place called Chincoteague Island, Virginia. This seven mile long, three mile wide stretch of land, protected by the Assateague Island barrier became a special place to my family and I. My sisters and I have returned there almost annually with our own children, and often our parents.
My earliest recollections take me back to the little red pinto, and my sister Heather and I riding with an ice chest between us. The long expanse of road leading over to Chincoteague, through marsh and wetlands, lined with signs on either side advertising restaurants and hotel accommodations seemed to last forever. Windows down to breathe in the almost unpleasant, unmistakable smell of brackish water. We love that smell and do the very same thing to this day.
Finally, we arrive at the old causeway bridge leading over to Chincoteague. Sometimes you might have to wait for the bridge to open up to let a boat, or two through, increasing the longing to be there even more. It’s not there now. A few years back a huge construction project added a new section to the road and bridge that leads directly to the intersection of Main Street and Maddox Boulevard, leading to the beach at Assateague Island.
Passing through Main Street with its tiny shops, the post office, the old movie theater, Don’s Seafood; some things never change, and oh, if the pavement could talk! How many times have I walked down this street, to purchase souvenirs, to get a bowl of Don’s famous seafood chowder, to the Fireman’s Carnival. How many times have I sent a postcard from the post office, or watched a movie at the theater. Later, when I was old enough to drive, how many times did I cruise up and down this block, burning a trail on its narrow streets.
Morning time comes, and it’s off to the beach. Pack up the car, buckets, shovels, towels, and lunch; no need to return for hours. A few short miles up Maddox and over the bridges to Assateague and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was officially inducted in 1943. Here, you will not find fancy hotels or beach resorts, but rather, nature, wetlands, pristine beaches, wild ponies, deer, and an abundance of migratory birds.
Lingering by the lighthouse, we twist and turn through the curvy passage. How many times have I traveled down this road to the beach; one way in and one way out. Sometimes stopping off to look at the wild ponies that graze there. In the past, they could come right up to your car. Now, they are fenced off so they cannot wander too close to the road. Pausing for a quick jaunt up the sandy trail to the lighthouse. It’s red and white paint looks at me and says, “I know you, you’ve been here before.”
Through camping (which didn’t go so well- where the island bird is known as: the mosquito!) hotel, cottage, and condo rentals; just name a place, and I bet we have stayed there! We realized a while back that we could probably have owned property there by now.
If you go there, well, you may not think it’s so special, but the countless memories it holds– will always ensure it a special place in our hearts.
I have traveled all over the world, and this remains one of my favorite places.