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Maryland!

March 15, 2013

Maryland – Sunday, March 10

My plan today was to take a short drive around Chincoteague Island, which is a small island, and then cross the bridge onto the Virginia side of Assateague Island, which is s little bigger. One of my favorite childhood books was Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (and my old horse at home is names Misty!) and I’ve always wanted to see the islands, and maybe the wild ponies. People live on Chincoteague, not the ponies. It’s pretty much the other way around for Assateague. The only time the ponies come to Chincoteague is during the annual round-up in July, and they swim across the channel to corrals where many of the foals are auctioned off. It’s the Virginia way to control the herd size, because the land on Assateague can only support a certain number of ponies, which do live in a wild state with no human interaction other than the round-up – they are not given any supplemental food or medical care or anything, and tourists are not allowed to approach them, attract their attention or feed them – and campers must be aware that the ponies do not respect belongings! There is a fence across the middle of Assateague Island at the state line, so there are 2 herds of ponies, and they are managed differently. In Chincoteague, they’re owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, and they’re in charge of the annual round-up and they get the proceeds of the auction.

In order to get to Assateague, I had to cross through a big national wildlife preserve in Chincoteague, which is a Top 10 spot for birdwatching. There were signs all over the place that pets are not allowed anywhere on the wildlife preserve or the Virginia end of Assateague, not even if they’re in a vehicle. They are allowed on the bigger Maryland side of Assateague. So I couldn’t go looking for ponies this morning, but definitely will on the Maryland side! I drove around the rest of Chincoteague Island, which didn’t take long, and it’s still quiet before the rush of tourist season.

Then I was off to Maryland! I crossed the state line, and stopped in the first town I came to, which was Pocomoke City. I was going to skip it at first since we hadn’t been in the car very long, but then decided I may as well get out and start the first of the Maryland walking! There was a pretty little drawbridge over the town’s river and a path alongside the river, but we couldn’t go real far on it due to recent flooding. So we turned around and walked through town and one of the neighborhoods, and got a couple miles in. Then I decided to look up any food pantries in the area, but since it was Sunday I wasn’t hopeful about finding anything that would be open. But I did run across a big program called Making a Difference Together, which runs the Helping Hands outreach ministry and food pantry. It’s all part of the Miracle Deliverance Tabernacle and they have about a dozen different outreach programs, which seems to be organized by a very ambitious woman who also became a pastor. I wanted to make a donation to them, and read that the food pantry was located down the street from where I was parked – at a different location than the church. I figured since it was Sunday morning, the church would be in the middle of services and I didn’t want to bother them, so I just drove to the food pantry to take a picture, and then I was going to mail in the donation. So I got out a took a picture of the food pantry sign and the building, and then a man dressed in a suit stepped out – probably wondering why I was taking pictures of the building. I was unable to see inside the building. It turns out that I was there on the one day a YEAR that church services are held in the food pantry building, because it was their annual big church dinner after the service and movie. Once I told the man what I was doing, they asked me to come in, and I met several of the ladies – all dressed beautifully in dresses and matching hats (and there’s me in jeans and a sweatshirt!). I was very worried I was interrupting them, but they assured me it was movie time, and the ladies told me about their food pantry program, and we all marveled about my timing to show up when I did with a donation. It was a fun stop, and nice to meet other ladies with such big hearts. And to think I almost didn’t stop in town!

So after that unexpected visit, I continued heading north. I was aiming for the road to get onto Assateague Island at its northern end in Maryland, but then I decided to wait until tomorrow so I would have more time if I wanted to, because there was a visitor center and everything, and I didn’t want to be rushed. So I went to Ocean City instead, which is on the Atlantic Ocean, and that turned out to be a wonderful choice. There is a boardwalk that is over 2 miles long, and since it was the weekend, some of the little shops and food places were open, and there were lots of people out walking despite the fact it was kind of chilly and windy. At one end of the boardwalk there was a Life-Saving Station museum, and it was fascinating. Back around the turn of the century, life-saving stations were built along the outer banks areas in several states every 10 miles or so, since it was such a notorious place for shipwrecks. The men would work in shifts – usually a keeper and a crew of 6 “surf men”. They would patrol the beaches to look for trouble, or in bad weather, to listen for it. They would meet up with surf men from neighboring stations and exchange tags to prove to the keepers that the whole length of beach had been patrolled. There were about 19 life-saving stations, and over the years they saved over 7502 people from nearly 300 shipwrecks. The museum had their big boats, their torpedo devices for shooting a rope over the surf, a capsule that 2-3 people could get in to be dragged in to shore, and other stuff. It was really interesting – what a courageous group of men! And there was also a display of swimwear fashion over the years, and samples of sand from all over the world – the little bowls of sand on display looked like different spices.

Then I got Tula and we walked as much of the boardwalk as we could. There had been damage during Hurricane Sandy, and parts of the boardwalk were brand new, and the middle section was closed off because they were in the process of re-building it. So I drove to the other end, and we were able to walk another couple miles down there. The surf was really rough, and even if it was a hot day, I don’t think anyone could have been swimming in it. I walked until it got to be evening, and people started leaving, and shops were closed, and it’s funny how quickly the place takes on kind of an abandoned air. But I actually got in an extra mile or so, and then we headed out of Ocean City and found a place in a smaller town for the night.
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