Holiday Roadtrip 2016 — Day 2


DECEMBER 17: HEADING SOUTH, CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND


< PREVIOUS: ROADTRIP DAY ONE — LEAVING NEW YORK


GEORGETOWN, DE: It was rainy and cold as I took to the road in the morning. The ladies at the hotel said the road had been a sheet of ice when they came to work and a major accident had knocked out three phone poles and the hotel internet! The temperatures had crept above the freezing mark and I set out carefully on the slick road heading south, feeling like I was somehow chasing the sun.…


VA STATELINE: Crossing the stateline into Virginia the rain had let up a little but it was still dark and grey outside. At the state welcome center, the ladies behind the desk were very welcoming and did their best to be helpful, so I stopped to chat with them briefly over the map. They seemed disappointed when I said I would only be in their state for the day, but provided as much detail as they could about my destination at Chincoteague Island, stuffing my hands with brochures and stickers promoting VA tourism before I got back out on the road…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: As I drive out to the actual barrier island of Chincoteague I am crossing an area that is a combination of land and water, a series of marshes and small islands connected by bridges and causeways. Someone at the visitor center said I would actually cross something like seven bridges to get to the Naitonal Wildlife Reserve …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The water and land here seem to be intertwined, trying to define their own borders and edges under a threatening sky. It is windy out and though it is not exactly raining it is just kind of “misting” and wet. The dark weather gives the marshes and eerie feeling, but also some kind of sad beauty that seems appropriate to the season…

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The patchwork of land and water is like a maze. The edge of the water on one side of the marsh and the barrier island on the other …

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Getting to the actual coastal barrier island I drove over a series of these low causeway bridges that were very much like almost driving on the water at certain points. And perhaps it was the unfriendly skies and dark weather, but I was feeling very small and vulnerable in my little Jeep in the midst of all this water…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: From this side of the water we can see the thin strip of the barrier island in the distance. …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: After stopping at the Visitor Center to get my permit, I drove along a part of the refugee that paralleled a waterway, and it was raining and along the banks of the waterway all these white birds were perched on the bushes, from far I couldn’t tell what they were, and then I saw they were birds…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The birds were just all sitting there on the bushes, seemingly “hunkered down” and waiting for the rain to stop. I don’t know if maybe they don’t like rain, or the river gets to disturbed for them to look for food, or if this is what they always do, but it did seem odd to see so many birds just perched like that. Almost like those clip on bird decorations on the christmas tree…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Before reaching the beach and the final “barrier island” the road through the refuge goes along some forested areas that seemed unusual so close to “beach” and there are lots of waterways everywhere and some of the exotic birds just perched in the trees along the way. They were different kind of “wading birds” though I am not exactly sure which is which…

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: A close up of one of the white birds. I have tried to look up what they are, but I keep coming up with a lot of things that look similar. Initially I thought it was a crane, but then I saw herons and egrets that also looked a lot like this, so I am very unsure what bird it is…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Rain on the inland waterway…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: When I reached the beach itself, it was deserted. The cold wet weather had given me a unique opportunity to experience this incredible place in solitude. I aired down the tires, but not too much as the sand was probably pretty moist and firm …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: From the place where the drive down the beach begins it seems like the land disappears into converging water from both sides. If I didn’t know this was a trail I am not sure I would have been brave enough to drive down such a narrow fragile piece of land that looked like it just dissolved into the Atlantic ocean …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Driving down the beach here at the narrowest part where the island is less than a quarter of a mile wide. You can clearly see the water on both sides of the fragile strip of sand that is the “island” I am on. Exploring out here on such an unsettled weather day emphasizes the fragility and tenuousness of this location. You feel like it could be washed away or swallowed up by one really big wave. I was glad to be the only vehicle on the beach. There was something about the dark threatening skies, the choppy water and such a narrow strip of land that made me really feel the fragility of the place. I sensed my own smallness too…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The fact that I was alone out there on the edge and against the elements of wind, water and earth (only fire was missing and that was a good thing given the fragility of the location). I could feel the wildness of the place and as I explored the lonely strip of sand I felt also the timelessness, the contradiction between the eternal and the ephemeral. The rhythym of the waves crashing on sand, reaching out as if fingers of a hand to try to join the water on the other side of the island…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: There were a lot of tracks, but the sand had already started filling them in, so it was unclear to me how old they were. The OSV handout said it was better to drive in the existing tracks as the sand would be firmer, but I found that in some cases the existing tracks were deep ruts and that fresh soft sand had blown into the bottom of the ruts making them less good than the sand to either side, and decided it was better to slightly offset myself from the deeper tracks. There was not an issue of “widening the trail” to worry about as the whole “trail” was marked off with plastic poles, so the area to this side of the poles was “OSV” …

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Looking down the “beach,” a narrow strip of sand in the middle of the ocean leading to “the hook” which is a larger land mass with small beach dunes and some grass. I cannot drive beyond the hook today because it is still hunting season, and according to the rangers, the hunters would get upset if the Jeep spooked the animals they were trying to hunt…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The Jeep on the edge of the beach as I took a walk in the grassy area around the small beach dunes. It was cold and windy and wet, though probably not technically “raining” for most of the time — still the wind and the “mist” made it rather uncomfortable and the overall feeling became of an inhospitable place in the remote wilderness, as I could imagine it may have been for some of the early settlers who came upon this land in search of a safe harbor. It must have been so confusing to try to navigate to “land” and end up in this labyrinth of sandbar-like “islands” and marshes…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The beach sand is plenty firm today, though the rangers caution drivers to be prepared for soft sand on these trails. …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The dark skies and wet sand with choppy ocean makes for a foreboding atmosphere, unlike a typical drive along the beach in nice summer weather. The combination is somewhat threatening, and a good reminder of the history of shipwrecks out here. …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Choppy ocean waves feel threatening even though I know the tide is going out. It is important to check the high tide times before coming out on this very narrow strip of sand (and even more so around full moons or other times when tides are higher than usual) as it is potentially hazardous to be out there when the tides are coming in — notably in the case of a stuck or parked vehicle near the shore line …

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The ocean was getting a bit rougher, and even though I knew the tide was going out and not coming in, it was a little disconcerting being in the middle of it on this tiny strip of sand …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Waves crashing ashore as the sea begins to get more agitated…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The Jeep faced with the Atlantic Ocean …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The point where the beach road and dunes and water “meet” near the start of the “hook” …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Looking back towards the Jeep from the beach dunes…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Jeep along the waters edge from the base of the hook…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: A section of beach grass along a waterway, another small island in the distance…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: At the area called the hook, I go for a walk amidst the beach dunes…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Beach dunes under a dark foreboding sky …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Walking among the beach dunes toward the calm water on the bay side of the island. There is no clear trail here and I just wander a bit through the beauty of this wilderness area, appreciating the fact that the nasty weather has gifted me with solitude out here, the only sounds I hear are the sounds of the wind and sea…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Far off in the distance I could see the abandoned buildings which sat at the start of the part of the island they called “the hook”…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The coast guard installation in the distance behind the beach dunes …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: From the trail I could see the tower and main building of the old Coast Guard station. …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The compound of the Coast Guard station is not in use, though the ranger did mention they sometimes store things out there, so it is technically not really abandoned. The most prominent feature is the watchtower. …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: My walk draws me closer to the Coast Guard station building and watchtower. The old coast guard station is abandoned and empty and I started to walk to it, but the nasty weather combined with the lack of a clear foot path dissuaded me from going all the way. I just made some photos and then turned back toward the Jeep. I had an uncomfortable feeling about leaving it so close to the edge of the ocean, even though I knew the tide was going out, it still seemed threatening, and I rationalized that I needed to get back to the road soon in order to make enough miles for the day, but I knew I was just rationalizing my response to a very deep inner fear of the power of the ocean…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: One of the old abandoned structures sits on the edge of a dock reaching into the calm waters on the protected side of the island. I tried to imagine something of the history of this lonely place, but there was little information available on it from the visitors center. It seemed like no one really “visited” these sites. The ranger had said I could walk out there but asked me to not actually go into any of the buildings or disturb them, and I respected that request and just took some photos from a distance…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Another part of the abandoned Coast Guard station with an old dock is a reminder of the past and the way these barrier Islands were once used. According to maps there should be the ruins of a fishing factory as well as the abandoned Coast Guard station. Not sure which part this building is, but if it is not part of the fishing factory, then those ruins are not at all visible from the trail …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Abandoned building closeup with a bird flying over…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: The old building sits forlornly on the water’s edge…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Pilings from the old dock on the other side of the island…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Went for a walk across the sand and small beach dunes where we cannot drive, and it didn’t take long to get from one side of the “island” to the other. The rain/mist/wind made it uncomfortable, but it was very beautiful at the same time. A kind of desolate haunting beauty that it certainly would not have if it had been a perfect sunny day. And somehow this seemed appropriate for winter…

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Driving back up along the beach in my own tracks. At certain points the sand was actually soft and I could tell that it would be better to air down more if it were not so wet out. In other sections it was nice and firm.…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Tracks on the beach, dark and light sand…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Beach and wilderness to the northside of the OSV area…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Shore birds take off in a cloud of white on the marsh side of the island near Tom’s Cove…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Looking back towards the island from the road as I left. …


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Wading birds in the river during a pause in the rain…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: This little squirrel ran up a tree when I noticed it and went to take a photo. Was funny to see a squirrel here with all the other more exotic wildlife around…


CHINCOTEAGUE, VA: Back on the road headed south, the rain had stopped and it was beginning to look clear ahead. …

CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: As I neared the tip of the peninsula where the Bridge-Tunnel entrance was, the rain stopped and the sun began to try to break through the clouds. I was glad I had taken the “slow road” and there was this house at the end of a huge empty field, and I pulled off the road to try to get a photo of the sun…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: The house and tree line were interesting too, with the empty field in front that had been cut down, perhaps it was corn or something like that, but whatever had been growing had been cut down low, making for a strange view of the house in this light…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: Stopped before the entry to the Bridge-Tunnel to try to make a few pictures of the bay with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, but the angle was not very good…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: From here I can see a part of the Bridge-Tunnel that I will be crossing soon. I remember this crossing from our first experience with it, and chose this route specifically so that I could see it again, and hoped to be able to stop and take some photographs of that bizarre experience of going from over the water to under the water and then back over again. From here it just looks like an ordinary bridge/causeway thing and is really not very spectacular, especially in this light…


CHESAPEAKE, VA: Pilings in the middle of the Bay…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: Driving along the bridge segment of the Bridge-Tunnel where it seems like we are just driving on water itself…

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CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: Driving along the bridge segment of the Bridge-Tunel, right before it goes down into the water. You can see the curve of the bridge heading down into the water itself. …


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: Driving through the tunnel itself. …


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: Driving on the bridge section of the Bridge-Tunnel approaching land …


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: From the overlook in the center of the Bridge-Tunnel I can photograph the causeway bridge at the point where we have just risen up out from the tunnel, and I am actually standing on a small pier in the middle of the bay with water on all sides, the land in the distance is the “mainland” to the southwest…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: A closer view of the “bridge” section on this side…

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CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: The sun has come out and is casting a strange afternoon light on the Bridge. From here it looks like they built these entry points on a pile of stones in the middle of the bay…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: Here you can see the tip of the stone base of the “island” that supports the tunnel exit on my side and in the distance the “island” that has the tunnel entrance on the other side. Below the water, between the two points is the tunnel I just drove through…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: This is the “island” on the other side of the tunnel, it is clear here how it is like a pile of rocks built up to create a “base” for the entry down into the tunnel, with the bridge section leading to it from the other side…


CHESAPEAKE, VA: The sun preparing to set as it breaks through the clouds over Chesapeake Bay…


CHESAPEAKE BAY, VA: The sunset on the bay from the observation platform in the middle of the Bridge-Tunnel drive. It was cold out there, and the weather had been very unstable, but the sun peeked out of the clouds just enough to make a dramatic sunset photo …


VA-NC STATELINE: I drove on through the night crossing into North Carolina where I made a quick dinner stop before continuing the drive south…


NC-SC STATELINE: The night wore on and I was glad when I finally reached the South Carolina stateline, my hotel was just a little further on, and I arrived around midnight…


> NEXT: ROADTRIP DAY 03 — HEADING SOUTH, OKEFENOKEE SWAMP


(Note: For complete unedited selection from this day see this page.)