Day 2 - Virginia and Maryland
|Sunday, April 1, 2018: We were off before 7 AM and stopped along the Blue Ridge Parkway to appreciate the dawn sky over Rockfish Gap and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
|We got breakfast at Burger King and headed up the road toward Monticello. Here's the Meadow Run Mill and General Store, built in 1797.
|This is historic Michie Tavern, built in 1784.
|Toward the top of the mountain, the road loops over itself, ...
|... like so.
|There are walking ramps in the woods for taking a stroll.
|We were there at 7:30, so nothing was open yet, but we knew that and we didn't have time to stay anyway.
|We were just here to be able to say we had breakfast at Monticello.
|You're welcome, Monticello! Perhaps next time, we'll do more than eat breakfast in the parking lot!
|We passed the Colonial Williamsburg region. Debbie was here in the early 90s but Tom hasn't been, so maybe we'll be back someday.
|This structure is the Hampton Coliseum near Newport News, Virginia.
|We resisted the urge to visit the Virginia Air and Space Center. We're trying to limit ourselves to just one air and space museum per vacation, and we already had one scheduled this time.
|Water! We're getting close to the ocean!
|Sure enough, we were on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.
|We didn't realize that our own country had any bridge-tunnel combinations. We had specifically taken a trip from Denmark to Sweden in 2013 just to experience one, and yet here was the first of two we enjoyed in our very own land.
|We were in the tunnel for just over a minute.
|Here's more of the bridge portion.
|The shipyard at the Norfolk Naval Station was off to our right and we could see lots of aircraft carriers in the distance.
|Once off the bridge, we spotted Maersk by the road.
|We also spotted a Krispy Kreme Hot Donuts sign in Norfolk and the van nearly skidded trying to turn into the parking lot.
|Oh my. Look at all that goodness, including those pretty Easter donuts.
|We had to get some of the hot donuts, of course, plus a couple of other goodies. We got one Easter donut because it was Easter morning.
|Next, we prepared to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Our I-Pass came in handy again for the EZ-Pass toll.
|It would be about a 20-minute drive to get through multiple bridges and tunnels.
|Here's the Thimble Shoal Channel Tunnel.
|The tunnels can allow one-way traffic, which could be useful for evacuations.
|Traffic lights outside the tunnel entrance control the flow into the tunnels.
|From this section of bridge, we could see the upcoming tunnel portion.
|Here's the Chesapeake Channel Tunnel.
|There were no more tunnels left but there were some more cool bridges up ahead.
|Here's the approach to ...
|... Fisherman's Island, ..
|... as demonstrated by these fishermen.
|We reached the eastern shore of Virginia and took the next left ...
|... to a lovely little overlook area.
|We could see back from where we started.
|The birds entertained us for a few minutes while we enjoyed the view and the salty air.
|Back in the van, we passed a bigger bird welcoming us to the area.
|This was one of several bamboo stands we saw. Don't these people know how invasive those plants are? They'll take over the whole state before you know it!
|We've never seen gravesites that look like this before. They looked like concrete coffin lids that had been left out on the lawn.
|As we got close to Chincoteague Island, we reached Wallops Flight Facility, part of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
|We stopped here briefly to ask if the visitor center was open. It was not. It also was not located here, Waze.
|We drove past the grounds, including family housing and admin buildings.
|Across the street from the grounds was Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport building (MARS).
|The real excitement was getting to drive past the many satellite dishes at Wallops.
|So very many. So many photos not included here.
|Hey! We found the visitor center! It was, indeed, not open on Easter morning. Bummer.
|This sign reads: "NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The Wallops Island Flight Facility was established in 1945 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and is one of the oldest launch sites in the world. This facility was built to conduct aeronautical research using rocket-propelled vehicles. Its first rocket, the Tiamat, was launched on 4 July 1945. With the birth of NASA in 1958, Wallops contributed to the development of components of space flight programs, capsule escape, and recovery techniques. In 1981, Wallops was consolidated with the Goddard Space Flight Center and is now NASA's primary facility for suborbital programs."
|Sorry, more satellite dishes.
|This sign says: "Department of Commerce NOAA NESDIS," in case that is relevant to you.
|This is the road leading to Chincoteague Island.
|To our right in the distance, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Launchpad 0A was visible.
|Just about there!
|Oh, bummer for that sunken ship. Looks like it has been there awhile.
|"Welcome to Chincoteague Island. Visit our Historic Downtown." Sorry, no time. We're just passing through.
|Chincoteague Island in the off season is a bit of a ghost town, but you can tell that it is a very tourist-centric location in the summer.
|Tom's Beach Supply does not belong to our Tom, unfortunately.
|As we approached Assateague Island, we could see the lighthouse peeking over the trees.
|We paid our fee to enter, ...
|... then headed to the lighthouse parking lot and made our way up the trail ...
|... to the lighthouse.
|We opted to climb the narrow spiral staircase, ...
|... but took time to appreciate the view on every landing.
|Every single one.
|We reached the top and immediately started searching for the famous wild ponies of Assateague looking northeast toward the ocean.
|Are they over there?
|Nope, just birds.
|How about there? A small puddle in this shot had us fooled for a minute, but the amazing 40x optical zoom on our camera convinced us otherwise.
|We went around to the southwest side.
|Once again, we could see Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Launchpad 0A in the distance.
|A little closer in, Tom spotted the only ponies we ended up seeing on the Virginia side of the island: these four beauties grazing on the marsh.
|A sightseeing boat went by, traveling the thin waterway separating Assateague from Chincoteague.
|Looking up the waterway toward the north again, we could see Assateague Island curling up the coast toward the Maryland end.
|Next, we drove the nature circuit, still looking for ponies.
|We didn't find them, ...
|... but the bird watching was fantastic.
|We saw numerous Great White Herons.
|These were pretty, whatever they were.
|This cove does not belong to Tom, despite the sign.
|We parked at the beach for a few minutes. No ponies.
|But we added to our collection of Debbie standing triumphantly in front of oceans. This one is the Atlantic, obviously.
|Another Great White Heron.
|Another unidentified bird.
|Just before leaving, Debbie got a photo of ...
|... this nesting mallard pair.
|We had to backtrack a little past Wallops (more satellite dishes) to get to our next destination ...
|... the Maryland end of Assateague.
|We stopped at the visitor center ...
|... which had a map of the entire island.
|Here's a closer look at the Virginia end where we had gone first, ...
|... and here's the Maryland end where we currently were.
|A sign beckoned us to the Assateague Island National Seashore, ...
|... but we foolishly opted to go to Assateague State Park instead.
|We paid our entry fee, ...
|... walked along the boardwalk to the beach, ...
|... and saw absolutely nothing. All other roads were locked for the season, so the parking lot was the only place you could visit.
|So we decided to visit the National Seashore. Our entry fee into the Virginia side also allowed us entry to this park, so we got in free. Four ponies were hanging out right at the entrance. Score!
|We drove into the park a little further and didn't see any more, so we came back to the entrance parking lot to photograph three of the ponies from a respectful distance.
|We drove back to the mainland and could see Ocean City to the north across the water.
|This restaurant is one of the places we researched when planning this trip, but we learned that it was closed for the season. The sign confirmed it.
|It was a little past 4 PM when we made it to outskirts of Ocean City.
|We crossed the bridge and were immediately welcomed to Downtown Ocean City.
|A pretty sculpture of a swordfish was right there at the main intersection, ...
|... and the entrance to Ocean City's boardwalk wasn't far away.
|We drove north for a few minutes to our hotel, the Paradise Plaza Inn. Off-season rates made it extremely inexpensive, ...
|... and the ocean front view from the sixth floor was fantastic.
|Our room was huge, ...
|... and included a kitchenette, ...
|... and a large bathroom with a gigantic whirlpool tub.
|Debbie went outside to capture the view.
|Looking north, ...
|... looking east, ...
|... and looking south.
|We use Google Maps to navigate us to our dinner destination. Being April Fool's Day, we discovered Waldo waving at us.
|When in Maryland, one must eat crab, so we went to Higgins Crab House.
|Tom chose Alaskan crab legs, not quite understanding the point of eating crab in Maryland, while Debbie ate the most delicious crab cake of her life. Tom also ordered ribs, plus we had lots of delicious sides.
|After dinner, we Facetimed with our granddaughter. She's only three so we got to look up her nose and at the roof of the van she was sitting in.
|We bundled up for a walk on the boardwalk.
|This handy sign shows the layout of Ocean City. It extends much farther north than shown here, but this is how far the boardwalk reaches. Our hotel was located on 9th Street.
|This stretch of boardwalk was home to rental apartments.
|We had seen several people flying kites earlier in the day. This kite was still flying but the person flying it was long gone.
|We had to get up close to the surf.
|We climbed on some rocks rather than get too close to the wet sand.
|Water rushed in right below us for that in-the-ocean feeling.
|Aren't we adorable?
|As sunset got closer, we headed back to our room which was on the second-highest floor with the second-from-right balcony.
|We took advantage of our balcony to enjoy the view again.
|The dude with the equipment shown here had been either on the beach or in the surf since our arrival hours earlier. Here he was being chatted up by a passerby.
|There are benches all along the boardwalk, and each one has a plaque on it from the donors.
|Most of the benches face away from the ocean but some of them face toward it. Perhaps the donors were able to choose?
|It was nearly sunset when we headed into our room for the evening.
|We took advantage of our large tub and had a lovely soak (not pictured).
|When it was dark, we took another pair of photos looking north ...
|... and south along the boardwalk.
|We settled in to watch the Easter evening live performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar," firing up the camera just a second or two too late to catch the title in the credits.
|Here comes John Legend.
|He gave a fantastic performance ...
|... as did the rest of the cast.
We had gotten a slice of Maryland's famous Smith Island Cake for dessert, and shared it while watching the show.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy