July 29

We've been back from our vacation for nearly two weeks.  Long enough to get back into the swing of everyday life.....and long enough to get over those post vacation let down feelings.  Chincoteague and Assateague were so beautiful and we enjoyed our time there a great deal. 

We were a little nervous going down as we'd made all our arrangements over the internet.  We'd booked the house and the boat trips sight unseen (except for a couple of pictures on the internet) and our neighbor's daughter had just returned from Ocean City, where she'd done the same thing and found the housing rather disappointing.  We were thrilled and much relieved to find out the house we'd rented met all our expectations.  In fact, it was nicer even than it had looked on the internet.  It was decorated in a rustic style with beams and old barn wood paneling and was a very comfortable size for us.  We took a lot of stuff with us as far as housekeeping supplies and food.  Even though we ate at the house a lot, we didn't begin to use all of what we took and we found there were a lot more housekeeping supplies in the house than the rental company had indicated there would be.  Pots, pans, dishes and utensils were all provided, too.  You can take your own bedding and towels or rent them from the rental agency.  We chose to rent them for just a few dollars for the week rather than have to pack all that, too.  The house had central air, ceiling fans in every room and two gas fireplaces.

We spent a lot of time at the beach on Assateague, of course.  It was a busy beach, but not so crowded you couldn't enjoy yourself.  Only one section has lifeguards and there are no concession stands, but you can bring your own food and drinks and there are bathrooms.  The surf is a little rougher than some places I've been, but Tim and the kids loved that and spent a lot of time in the water with their boogie boards.  I did lots of walking and reading.

Lots and lots of fresh seafood was one of the highlights of the trip for us and not all that we ate was purchased.  We learned how to catch blue crabs and had great success one day, catching 17 that were well above the legal size limit!  We had nearly as much fun cooking them as we did catching them.  And eating them?   Mm...mmmm!!  We also went out on a fishing charter one morning.  Deep sea fishing would have been interesting but it cost about $800 to charter a boat for the entire day.  For $40 per person we were able to fish from a large pontoon boat in the bay and channel for 4 hours.  We caught Croakers (they actually make a croaking sound when out of the water) like crazy and we caught a few Flounder, but none big enough to keep.  Megan caught a small Bluefish and nearly landed a stingray!  The captain was really great about teaching us about the fish and the ocean and answering the kids' questions.  He put all the bait on the hooks (we each had 2 hooks on our line to fish at two levels) and took all the fish off the hooks.  He also cleaned all the fish when we got back to the pier, which I hadn't expected.  He told us most people don't bother with Croaker because it's hard to clean with a lot of bones, but he did a good job and we found it to be delicious.

I grew up reading all of Marguerite Henry's stories about horses.  Misty of Chincoteague was always my favorite.  So it was a huge thrill for me to find that the Bebee family's ranch had been opened to the public by Grandpa and Grandma Bebee's grandson, Billy.  Billy was actually there the day we visited and I was able to talk to him for a long time because we were the only ones there for a good while.  His family actually ended up owning Misty when Marguerite Henry returned her to Chincoteague.  Billy told us he played the little boy whose father buys the Phantom and Misty out from under Paul and Maureen in the movie and it is the adventures of him and his brothers with Misty that are the basis for much of what happens in Stormy, Misty's Foal.  His brother is the boy who rides Patches in the race against the Phantom in the movie.  We also learned that Maureen is still living on the island.  I was also able to have my picture taken with the real Misty and Stormy because Billy had them preserved when they died.  I bought a sketch he drew of Misty and he autographed it.  Megan bought some Breyer trading cards of Misty and Stormy and Billy autographed each one for her.

Captain Barry's Back Bay Expedition was probably everyone's favorite activity.  Again for $40 per person we were able to spend 4 hours exploring the bay.  Captain Barry was what made the trip so exceptional.  He's a transplant from New York City, but his love of the area and his knowledge are readily evident.  He is also part entertainer and so much fun to be with.  He taught us so much as we rode along and gave us the opportunity to do things most folks don't get to do.  He took us to the middle of the bay during low tide and let us off the boat!   There is a large sandbar out there that was still under a few inches of water.  It must have looked really amazing from the shore to see a boat sitting there and 5 people "walking on water" out in the middle of the bay!  It was really cool.  He showed us all kinds of sea life out there....snails, shrimp, several kinds of seaweed and we got to touch a big jellyfish.  On another sandbar we collected some awesome shells and got up close to Pelicans (they're making a comeback in the area).  We pulled crab pots and harvested oysters and had the chance to slurp them raw off the shell.  Only Tim did that.  We also got to see oyster farmers harvesting some experimental (and controversial) Asian oysters that they are experimenting with.  They called us over and gave us an arm load of them.  Tim and Capt. Barry pried them open and ate them and pronounced them delicious!

I could go on and on about what a great place the islands are.  There is just so much to see and do and learn.  We are planning to go back next year.  Matt will graduate and he and a couple of his friends want to take a trip together, but the cost would be very prohibitive.  They've decided that they would be okay with going with us.  We'd have to rent a bigger house (and actually have one in mind already), but then they wouldn't have to pay for a hotel and most of their food would be covered.  In my mind and the minds of the parents I've spoken to, another big plus is that they won't be off completely on their own and unsupervised who knows where.  They'll have some freedom, of course, but since they'll have to come to the house to sleep and eat, I'll at least know they are alive and well and not in trouble and if there would be problems we'd be there to handle it.

Anyway, it's a beautiful place and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a place to vacation.