I honestly don't know how many times Ben and I have been to Chincoteague over the past thirty-five years. I know we have stayed six different places: the Sea Shell Motel on Willow Street, the Driftwood Motor Inn (when it boasted the only elevator on the island), multiple times at Dovekie (later renamed "Sanderling"), Bayside Cottage, the Island Motor Inn Resort, and, this past weekend, Panorama, just across the channel from the Assateague Light.
I have been trying to figure out which place I liked the best, but, you know, I can't decide. When I am there, wherever I am staying is the best because I'm on the island then. I guess I liked Bayside Cottage the least. We had already made reservations to stay at Dovekie that year when the realty company called and said someone wanted to rent it for the entire month so we were out. They suggested Bayside instead. What could I say? We took it. The master bedroom was minuscule with no closet (it had been converted to a tiny washroom) and no dresser. The bathroom off the kitchen had the tiniest shower I have ever used (and I have stayed in a hostel in Manhattan!) and the washer and dryer were locked shut so that we couldn't use them at all.
I have to admit, however, that every day after we had showered off the beach sand and suntan lotion, and I had rinsed the bathing suits and done the lunch dishes, it was a great pleasure to go out and sit on that little screened-in front porch on Main Street and watch the world go by. Neighbors worked in their tiny yards, and the mailman said hello as he walked by each day. I watched pleasure boats and fishing boats as they passed the long docks across the street, and each day I dozed in the stupefying heat, as contented as I have ever been.
This year I chose Panorama because Ben and I had decided to take the dogs with us. It is only a three-hour car drive for us now opposed to the eight or nine hours it used to take from Ohio. Surely we could stand the dogs in the car with us for that long, we thought. It is hard to find "pet-friendly" (as they are called) lodgings on Chincoteague, however, and it did not help that I had waited until the week before we wanted to arrive to make reservations. How lucky that Panorama was the place I found! It was just beautiful. It was perfect for us, really, and for the dogs, too, although Lucie obviously didn't enjoy it as much as Rufus did.
I don't really have the words to describe how beautiful and tranquil the salt marsh, and past that the channel, were just outside our back door. The only sounds we heard were the calls of the many shore birds we watched from our screened-in porch. Occasionally boats sped by out in the channel, and one morning as I stood with the dogs in the tiny yard, a boat glided right past us, its skipper and I silently saluting each other in the early morning light. Each night a beautiful golden moon rose alongside the lighthouse as it blinked its distinctive pattern. (Did you know lighthouses have distinctive patterns? I learned that last year when we climbed to the top of the Assateague light.)
When the kids were little we went to Chincoteague for the beach. If we didn't spend every morning getting sunburned on the beach, my vacation was not a success. I still love the beach - I always will - but it's not as much fun without a child clinging to each hand in the shallow surf or learning to make drizzled sand castles next to their dad on the wide, empty beach. We have found new pleasures, however, and who's to say they are not just as satisfying? One afternoon last weekend as Ben and Lucie napped on the couch, I sat out on the back steps with Rufus at my feet, and just soaked up the peace and quiet. It was my favorite moment of the entire trip, unlike any other, and perfect for that reason alone. We love to go to Chincoteague to see all the old familiar sights, but it is the possibility of the new things we will experience that keep us going back there.