Freeway Free in Delaware: Along the Eastern Shore
I’m a West Coast person, so a visit to the eastern shore of Delaware feels as exotic as a trip to the Caspian Sea. In California we don’t go to the shore at all, we go to the beach. Usually a particular beach, defined by the sandstone cliffs that surround it on three sides. You can see from one end to the other of the beach, and usually walk it in less than a half hour. But on the East Coast, you go to the shore, and the shore is LONG. It stretches as far as you can see in either direction. You can go a couple of miles along a boardwalk, and when the boardwalk ends, the shore still goes on and on.
Scattered along the endless shore are beach towns, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, and across the border in Maryland, Ocean City. If you are a local, you know that each town has its own personality, and caters to a particular kind of visitor. There is the family beach town, the gay beach town, the college-kids-on-Spring-Break beach town, the beach town for retirees. To an outsider, it’s all one stretch of shore with intermittent boardwalks and stores selling kitschy items and salt water taffy and frozen custard. (Frozen custard? Think ice cream made with eggs. It’s an East Coast thing. But don’t look for shave ice – that seems to be a West Coast thing.)
If you continue south past Ocean City, you will find yourself in Assateague State Park, headed for the Assateague National Seashore. If you ever read Marguerite Henry’s MIsty of Chincoteague as a child, you know the tale of how a small herd of horses survived the wreck of the Spanish ship off the coast of the barrier islands of Maryland, and how their feral descendants still survive on these inhospitable sandy spits of land.
I had read the story, and was eager to see the ponies. Unfortunately, on this day the ponies were as elusive as moose in Maine from a tourist bus. We saw some deer, and some water birds, but nothing equine. Finally, as we were ready to turn back, we spotted a pair in the far distance on the other side of an inlet. (Thank goodness for telephoto lenses) One was chestnut, the other was the classic pinto as in Misty. Hooray! If I’d had a bucket list, I could have checked these off.
On the way out of the park, we spotted another pair of ponies, but all the parking space on the roadside was already filled with other visitors who had pulled over for a picture, so we did not stop. One check mark was enough.