Monday, July 4, 2011

Chincoteague part 1

Steve and I are getting very good at hitting the open road. The open road seems to be getting prettier, too!

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Our destination? Chincoteague! A pretty, pleasantly lazy small-town barrier island on that tiny little bit of Virginia that is randomly located, detached from the rest of the state, below Maryland on the Eastern Shore. I’d been five years ago and was itchin’ to take off.

Steve arrived at my house to pick me up and we immediately started shnarfing down overnight oats. Oats, apple, milk, yogurt, walnuts.

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Because I love Steve, I gave him the oats in a jar.

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With a quality new CD mix made by Steve, we took the open road, wind in our hair, feet out the window (his foot. Not mine. I don’t want to be an amputee. That being said I do not judge because he did ALL THE DRIVING because he is AWESOME.)

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Since I was navigating, we inadvertently took the scenic route… up to Baltimore (this was not correct. at all. Oi). But we righted ourselves, and made it to the Bay Bridge, a panic-attack-inducing high-up span of the Chesapeake Bay.

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Shortly thereafter, hunger and the freedom of being on vacation kicked in, and a midday ice cream sandwich was consumed by an ecstatic Steve.

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Man, can you beat a Chipwitch? CAN YOU?! I one time looked at the nutrition label, cause I am a TOTAL MASOCHIST, and can no longer buy one for myself. But three bites of Steve’s sure went down nice.

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On a healthier note, the drive up and down the Eastern Shore is positively RIFE with farm stands selling beautiful local produce. Because Steve is awesome and like me, we stopped at many of them. We got most of the fixin’s for the day at this adorable cart.

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Our selections included beautiful, CHEAP, and absolutely delicious fresh squash…

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… and my first blackberries of the year! (Not cheap! But when I buy fresh produce I just compare it to the price of alcoholic beverages that I rarely drink and it’s all put into perspective). These were heavenly and tasted like sunshine and are apparently the only blackberries to’ve ripened in the entire Eastern Shore, as I learned on our return trip when I desperately scoured every stand for the berries my mom had requested. Tragic. Still, we enjoyed these THOROUGHLY.

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Also admired some melons. My mom took a trip to Ocean City a few years back and returned with a yellow watermelon she’d purchased at a farm stand. It was the best melon any of us had ever tasted. Since then, it’s taken on the status of The One that Got Away and as a result we have gotten kind of obsessive about seeking out yellow watermelons from the Eastern shore. 

Steve was amused at the ritual I put into selecting this.

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It was good but not The Best. But I got one on the return trip! So we’ll see!

Soon enough, the scenery began to change and we drove into Chincoteague.

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Our destination? Camping! Steve did all the scout work and found us this lovely place.

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Our site was actually mostly RV’s and trailers (! These Chincoteague posts will at various points evolve into rhapsodies about the trailer life in Chincoteague cause man these people are onto something) but we strolled to the tent area, which was lush and gorgeous.

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Lush, gorgeous, and unbelievably mosquito infested.

We were eager to get up and about and off our bums, so we ate a quick lunch of various things both of us had packed from home- from Steve, peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich fixins; from me, leftovers. Quality leftovers. And goat cheese and arugula salad. Yes, I bring snob food camping.

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The highlight for me was definitely my first peach of the summer. Bliss.

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Fortified, we headed to BIKE RENTALS! I am thrilled to report that we drove into the island and drove back home from the island… and didn’t get in our car a single time while there. I constantly fear that I, with my constant whining and demands for comfort, am undermining Steve’s environmentalist goals. So I was stoked to be able to live in such a carbon-friendly way.

Plus biking everywhere was the BEST! We were on these adorable and incredibly comfortable cruisers with big fat wheels and wide handlebars (No gears, but it was stinkin’ flat). It was a lovely slowish way to travel to take in all the beautiful scenery, but much speedier and more fun than walking. And exercising almost consistently meant we could also eat almost consistently!

Our first stop was the Chincoteague and Assateague wildlife refuge! Chincoteague and Assateague are both barrier islands (Chincoteague is inland of Assateague, so you go to Assateague to see ocean and go to the beach) and there are extensive trails to bike around and explore both places.

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When I visited Assateague with my family, I remember thinking it was like something I’d dreamed, and this trip was the same. To call it beautiful would be such a drastic understatement.

When you spend time somewhere so delicate, so pristine, you realize how rare it is. Wetlands are filled with such a diversity of life, everything working together in such a complete circle. The mosquitos eat you alive, but they are clearly there for a reason- you tweak anything in this web and it doesn’t work anymore. It’s so worth protecting places like this.

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Deer having a drink!

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But of course, two humans had to cool off too.

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And so we have the beach.

Now, many people when they hear beach think bikinis, people playing music, boardwalks, motels by the water, etc. And that’s what most beaches are now. But Assateague? Assateague is EMPTY. It is you, sand, and water.

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After getting ourselves thoroughly soaked in that beautiful blue ocean (which was actually delightfully warm, having had a few months of searing sun to soak through it), we took a lonnnnng walk.

This being a food blog and all, check out this gull and his crab for an afternoon snack!

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So fascinating/weird: for whatever reason, on this particular day there was an abundance of beached jellyfish. But, it looked like their tentacles were gone, so maybe some predator had taken them out and then they’d washed up on shore? We attempted rescue missions at first, trying to get them back to the water, but quickly realized it was a lost cause (and Steve, risktaker that he is, then just started grabbing at them with his bare hands)

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Beautiful beach! Searingly white people.

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After all the biking, walking, and sun we needed to COOL OFF. A good choice? This totally awesome roadside hangout, Woody’s. (Yet another nice thing about Chincoteague is that there are basically two main roads- Main Street, in Chincoteague, which goes along the channel and goes through the restaurants/shops of the town; and Maddox Boulevard, which is perpendicular to Main and takes you over to Assateague. It is impossible to get lost. And you can just go along those roads and find tons of places to eat!)

There was a seriously awesome surfer vibe.

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So Steve demanded that I take this surfer pose. Here he is enjoying his (too sweet for me to have more than a few sips but my those sips were delicious) mango drink.

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Props to Woody’s: they had all kinds of cool eco-friendly packaging. The paper straws were seriously weird to get used to but a very cool idea.

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Our snack? “Corn nuggets”.

I know.

We asked what they were and the girl behind the counter said “Hush puppies with creamed corn filling”.

I know.

Sold.

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Served with a nice remoulade-type sauce, you bit through the pleasantly crispy exterior to reveal the creamy, corny insides. NOM!

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Being on the Old Bay, they had it at every table. I tried it on the nuggets? EXCELLENT! Action shot courtesy of Steve :D

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Hung out and relaxed and played this ring game! You grab the ring on the end of the long chain and throw it to land on the loop. After a lot of practice, and a hint on technique from a lady who seemed to hang out there a lot, I got it! Yessssssssss.

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Back to camp. Sun set EXTREMELY abruptly. So all of these pictures are courtesy of blindly pointing my camera in the direction of our food, turning on the flash, and hoping.

Also, to be totally honest, I did not at all properly hydrate on this day, and had the kind of headache I suspect people talk about when they have raging hangovers. Very bad! I gulped down water and everything improved, fortunately, but I didn’t have a real mammoth appetite.

(Still, often when I’ve gone to the beach the excess sun has gone to my system and I’ve actually thrown up like… on most beach trips. Does that happen to anyone else when they get a lot of sun? Anyway, I survived so I’m still considering this a victory!)

(Oh and also Steve was sick.)

Anyway, despite that drama, man oh man, I love cooking over an open fire :D If things come with a natural wrapping, like corn, you can just throw them in whole!

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I had corn at home (from the farmer’s market), but it was just so-so. But man, this stuff? To die for.

Also great grilled whole: eggplant! Learned this technique from my cousin Rachel: just stab it with a fork a few times and throw it on the grill whole (or in our case, wrap it in foil and throw it on an open fire). It gets unbelievably velvety in the middle. Drizzled with olive oil? Bliss.

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More foil packets: I took the farm stand squash, chopped it up, and drizzled it with olive oil and salt and pepper. Threw that sucker in the fire. Unreal. Seriously, I know people don’t necessarily go crazy for squash but when it is this fresh it’s sort of unbelievable.

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Steve provided ‘shrooms and asparagus, which he tossed with olive oil (more than I used, I’m sure :D) and threw them on the fire. (Not cutting off the ends was genius, cause then you could just hold them and chew down the asparagus like a popsicle.)

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For the main protein, Morningstar Farms black bean burgers (which are awesome and what we made when we went camping the first time together, in December. Nutsos.)

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And fresh farm stand tomater, tossed in some balsamic and oil I’d brought from home hoping something like this might happen :D

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My plate, which unlike usual really does show basically what I ate (got a few more bites of veggies but seriously my appetite was wonky).

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And yet despite it all, I of course at a smore. And a half (cause duh, you always want smore). Once again used my tried and true technique: get the marshmallow to ignite, then wave it over the chocolate to melt it.

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Ahhh, camping.

More posts to come!

3 comments:

All Things Yummy said...

Wow, that looks like an awesome road trip. sign me up.

Jess said...

That looks like SO MUCH FUN!! Love all the fresh eats. That corn looks amazing!!

Steven Alexander Heathcliff Basil Bert said...

Assateague Beach was gapingly beautiful. I love that you and I had moments where it felt like we had our own private beach.

Also, RIFE!!! I live for reading your blog, because I always learn some stop-traffic-these-are-brilliant new words.

...Yellow watermelon, tidal bliss, eating on the hour...I'd say we truly dabbled in the islands' glory.