Fresh-baked muffins from Hannaford, and coffee coolata and chai tea from Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.
McDonald’s fish sandwiches and French fries for lunch.
Skittles to snack on in between.
Wrappers and crumbs all over the car.
But there’s nothing like new technology to make the trip more enjoyable… Mapquest tells me how long I’ll be on each highway so I know when to start looking for the next junction. EZ Pass works from Maine to Virginia so I don’t have to mess with quarters or even slow down for tolls. And satellite radio saves me from the insanity of long stretches of thoroughfare through which no radio signal can be detected.
Still, it’s the company that makes a road trip enjoyable, and long talks with Mandy are a truly pleasurable treat. Especially now that she’s a teenager, and her time expenditure with family has decreased as time with friends increases (as it should). But it’s nice that she can still enjoy a weekend away with me and appreciate the place that I have circled on the map…
The first three days of that earlier trip were spent running around Washington D.C. visiting all the usual attractions. Traffic leaving the city had delayed our departure quite a bit, and we had been lucky to arrive at the front gate of the state park just before closing time. The tent had to be erected by the beams of the car headlights. We could hear the ocean but not see it as I drove the extra long tent stakes into the sand. Sleeping bags had been unrolled, and two weary campers had quickly passed out in the fresh salty nighttime air of the undeveloped island.
The next morning we had been so excited to finally view our surroundings. Unzipping a tent flap, we had our first glimpse of the wild horses grazing right outside our window. It was the first of many encounters with the wild (yet semi-tame) inhabitants of that sandy tract of land off the coast of Maryland.
Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, things can go wrong while you’re on vacation.
You envision relaxation, quality time, summer sun and summer fun, and you get them. But every now and then you also get some tests thrown in for good measure, just to see how badly you want that summer fun…
Like when I started to erect the tent, and I realized that there was a pole missing. You know, the one whose sections won’t come apart anymore, so it doesn’t fit into the tent bag? It was still at home, of course, leaning indignantly against the corner of the garage, arms folded, eyebrows raised – yes, I admit it, completely forgotten.
So I got into the car and drove up the road to the camp supply store to buy a new pole, and while I was driving the battery light came on. The battery light, of course, should not come on while I’m driving. (Dad would need to replace the alternator before I made the trip home).
And when I brought the replacement pole back to camp, I quickly discovered that there was just no way it would work in conjunction with the other poles.
Yes, this was how my first night of vacation began.
Oh and by the way, Mandy? Major cramps, so she was broken too. But at least we had Tylenol with Codeine.
And hey, the new tent was cool, and we were camping on the beach and the weather was glorious.
So we took long walks on the sand, tiptoeing past the scurrying “ghost crabs” and occasionally reaching down to collect some small treasure offered up by the waves.
We built sand castles and took naps.
We rode our bikes to the camp store for scoops of soft ice cream.
I loaded up on bugspray and ventured into the marsh on the other side of the island to photograph the horses grazing on the tall grass.
The nights were incredible. There was a thick blanket of stars overhead every evening; not a cloud in the sky. And since the full moon reflected so brightly off all the white sand, we never needed to carry flashlights.
We roasted hot dogs over the fire my father proudly built every night, and later we toasted marshmallows for dessert.
Nighttime walks on the beach were an entirely different experience, something magically eerie. The moon illuminated just enough to show the way, but the night still cloaked enough of our surroundings to make it feel mysterious and exhilarating. And with the view slightly veiled, our other senses came alive, soaking up the sound of the waves and of the birds hunting for crabs in the silvery darkness, the smell of the salty ocean mist, the feel of the cool sand massaging our feet as we walked.
We could see the lights from Ocean City twinkling in the distance, a reminder of just how far we were from the crowds of the boardwalk...