Island Life - Part 2
In part 2 of our trip we head to the beach, eat lots of food, and get angry at ice cream. Catch up by reading Part 1.
Our next stop was the beach. It is a short drive to get to National Wildlife Refuge on Chincoteague Island to get to the beach. It may look a bit crowded but there is plenty of room for families or couples to relax and enjoy the weather. Make sure you come prepared because this is a wildlife refuge so there aren’t restaurants or shops nearby. Pack lots of water, snacks, and anything else you may need before getting to the beach. It isn’t too far off to the main strip of the island to get supplies and you don’t have to pay each time you come in and out of the park but planning ahead will give you more time at the beach.
Rizzo and I spit our time between diving into, and then becoming accustomed to, the frigid Atlantic Ocean and copious amounts of reading. Both of us are avid readers and were grateful to have this chance to knock out a few books. I was able to finish up a historical non-fiction book by Gordon Wood before picking up Sherlock Holmes’ first adventure. The breeze was relaxing, the shade (I brought my special beach chair that has a cover) was comforting, and the sand was warm in our toes. It was a great way to spend the day.
After a few hours it was time for us to hit up our selected lunch spot. Never one to settle for chain restaurants, Rizzo scoured the every source available to select our lunch location of the Sea Star Café. This place makes some amazing hand-crafted sandwiches. I’m not really sure how a sandwich is anything other than hand-crafted but I understand the idea was that these are good sandwiches made with good ingredients. We arrived to a short line which is a good thing because there is no indoor seating and it was hotter than hell away from the cool breeze of the ocean. We grabbed our sandwiches and took the short drive back to our hotel room to enjoy our sandwiches in the comfort of air conditioning.
After a delicious sandwich and an episode of Modern Family we headed back out to the beach for a few more hours in the afternoon to make sure we soaked up as much time as possible at the beach. The time flew by and before we knew it the time had come for use to pack it in for the day and get ready for dinner. Not wanting to miss any opportunity to try local and well prepared food, we took the recommendation of some friends and stopped at Pico Taqueria for some pre-dinner tacos. This little side-of-the-road taco stand makes amazing and unique tacos using the most local ingredients available and posts the source of the ingredients right on the window where you order.
We didn’t want to fill up but simply get a taste of the tacos so we each got a single taco. I went with the Chincoteague Classic taco which is lettuce, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, crème fraiche with beef. I was too engrossed in crushing my delicious taco to see what Rizzo ordered but she didn’t seem to mind as she was chowing down on her taco. Rizzo also got a freshly brewed iced tea which she also seemed to enjoy. The tacos were amazing and gave us all the energy we needed to get back to the hotel, shower, change, and head back out to dinner.
We made reservations at AJ’s on the Creek. The restaurant was established in 1985 by Anthony J. Stillson, a jazz-pianist and architect, and is the longest running restaurant on the Island under the same ownership. We arrived a little early and our table wasn’t ready which isn’t a big deal since, you know, we were early. So we headed over to the bar for a drink before dinner.
Dear readers (if you have made it this far into this crazy long blog about a three-day weekend), AJ’s on the Creek is not the place you want to go if you are looking for a craft beer. That’s OK, not everyplace is a beer place, but don’t expect to get a Cigar City Jai Alai or a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold. If you want a beer you will have a Bud Light and you will like it. A word of warning to the cider lovers in the audience be warned that you may or may not get a cider if you order it. While sitting at the bar (Rizzo had a glass of wine and I had a very delicious Glenlivet 18-year scotch) we overheard a patron asking the bartender about the Strongbow. The bartender’s response: “Oh, this is a very tasty wine cooler.” Okay, bartender, it is not that at all.
After having our drinks our table was ready in the oddly private booth. It wasn’t quite private but it was also secluded from everyone else. It was positioned in such a way that Rizzo and I were basically sitting next to each other with a few of only two things: an eclectic assortment of what we assumed were pictures of the family of the restaurant owner and the other couple that was sitting right outside of our booth.
The service was slow as our waitress kept informing us of the large party she was serving but she was pleasant enough and we weren’t in a big hurry so it was not a problem. Rizzo and I spent most of our time trying not to look at the couple having dinner just a few feet away. Neither one of us would talk much because we were being WAY too nosy. We learned that this young couple was out on the town without their kid (very similar to us) and they were very excited about it. The wife kept being overly complementary about how she just loved when he does things like this while she held his hands and stared longingly into his eyes. It was cute; a little too cute. Rizzo and I came to the conclusion that these young lovebirds had an unexpected kid and were trying to make it work because they got pregnant but they didn’t really like each other. A cruel observation, maybe, but we both had a few drinks in us and we were having some fun.
After our mediocre dinner (I’m not even going to go into detail because it wasn’t that great) we wanted to get some more ice cream for dessert. Our first stop was going to be the Island Creamery because of its amazing reputation we saw a line that was outrageous so we decided to bypass this Chincoteague Island institute and return to Muller’s Old Fashion Ice Cream from the night before because it was very good.
We parked at our hotel and walked over to Muller’s with a twinkle in our eyes because we knew we were going to get some great treats. Unfortunately, we were out of cash money and Muller’s only accepts cash. The posted closing time of 10pm was fast approaching so our rampant adventure to find an ATM and get back to the shop before closing began.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not a fast walker. Not to say that I’m lazy but my normal walking speed is much slower than others. Rizzo will often get frustrated with me because I’m walking too slowly. Cece and I currently walk at about the same speed. That was not the case on this evening. I was walking with the determination of Yusuke Suzuki to find that ATM and get some ice cream.
The first stop was a gas station that was equipped with an ATM. We knew we would make it on time as I slid my card into the machine, typed in my pin, and waited to see Andrew Jackson’s beautiful face. No such luck. There was a machine error and the transaction didn’t process. I tried a second time with the same result. It seemed we weren’t destined to have ice cream on this particular night.
That is when my elephant like memory started to kick in. During our run-walk towards the gas station we crossed several streets. At the time I was too focused on getting to the gas station to pay close attention but a sight was tickling the back of my mind. I think I saw a grocery store down one of those side streets. I couldn’t be sure but I thought I saw a shopping cart in front of a brick building.
We started back towards the ice cream shop with like two bats out of hell hoping that the flash in my mind wasn’t a flight of fancy. Low and behold a mere two blocks away from Muller’s was a small grocery store. My vision had not failed me. They must surely have an ATM that can provide us with the much needed currency required to obtain our frozen treats.
We entered the store and quickly found the ATM right inside the door. This time it worked and with hard currency in hand we rushed towards our chilled reward. It was 9:46pm. We could surely make it before the posted closing time.
And we did! My heart jump and a smile curled across my hairy lips as we slowed our pace and approached the front door of the 1940s house that served as Muller’s Old Fashion Ice Cream. Our glorious reward was only moments away. We opened the door to the screened-in porch just as the door to the house was being opened from within. A grey haired man poked his beak from the door and screamed, nearly directly in our faces, “we’re closed!” and slammed the door.
We couldn’t have missed it! We worked so hard for a simple, creamy dessert. I looked at my watch. It was 9:51pm. We had arrived a full nine minutes before the posted closing time. How could this possibly be? My eyes filled with rage and my soul turned black as the deepest depths of the ocean. As Rizzo and I walked back to our hotel all I could think of was what I wanted to do in revenge against Muller’s Old Fashion Ice Cream.
“You know what I’m going to do. I’m going to open an ice cream shop right across the street. It will only take debit or credit cards. No cash because we live in the 21st century so I don’t need your dirty, cocaine covered currency. We will call our new ice cream shop SchMuller’s ice cream. Every one of our desserts will be a mirror of stupid Muller’s. We will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 367 days a year. Yes, I said 367 days. We are going to create 1-2 more days a year to be open just to piss off Muller’s. We will drive them out of business with our vastly superior ice cream and our incredibly convenient hours. When they are ruined we will buy their building then burn it to the ground!”
I was not happy and there is only one thing to do when you are not happy: drink beer. Rizzo and I are smart and planned ahead. We were blessed with a mini-fridge in our hotel room so we stopped by a local beer shop and picked up a beer each to enjoy that evening. I had a frosty Steel Pier Bohemian Lager by Back Bay Brewing Company from Virginia Beach, VA. It wasn’t bad as far as beers are concerned. It is a simple lager that would go great for anyone that is hoping to transition from macro beers to craft beers. It wasn’t ice cream but at least it was a beer. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The weekend was quickly drawing to a close and we needed to head out pretty early to get back to the real world. We woke up casually (meaning without an alarm) to another bright and sunny day. After packing up the car we headed out to breakfast on our way off of the island. Both Rizzo and I enjoy a relaxing morning of coffee (or tea for Rizzo) and reading so we looked for a place to sit down and enjoy a few pages of a book with breakfast. We settled on Sugarbakers right in downtown and it was wonderful. There is a wide array of freshly baked goods including donuts, cakes, and bagels. It was a small place but exactly what we were looking for to begin our travels back home.
After breakfast we hopped in the car to begin the long drive back to pick up Cece. It’s amazing how much longer the trip to a vacation destination seems than the trip back home. I know it is all psychological because the distance doesn’t change. I know it has to do with the fact that you are anticipating arrival at the fun destination so it seems like you will never get there and then on the way back you are longing to return so it takes so much less time to get home. Either way, Rizzo and I still had one more place to stop on the way home and that was to seek out a brunch/lunch spot.
Rizzo loves to find the new places to go to eat. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, while travelling on a vacation Rizzo will spend much of her time seeking out the next dining establishment, sometimes before we are done with the current meal. I can’t complain because she always looks for something local, something interesting, and if possible, something high quality and artisanal so I’m glad she takes the lead. She also looks for breweries or the places that have appear to have a good beer list which brought us to Rams Head Shore House in Stevensville, MD.
The Shore House is part of a group of Rams Head restaurants and venues throughout Maryland. This place just off the side of the road is a nice little eatery that has house brews provided by Fordham Brewing Company out of Dover, DE. I sat down with an Oak Barrel Stout that would hopefully complement my breakfast sandwich and home fries. The stout was light by comparison to other stouts. It wasn’t as thick and heady but still had the bitterness. The beer was not the “meal” that some beer drinkers ascribe to a Guinness but still had good stout flavors. It was vastly superior to the very greasy brunch. The beer earned 3.5 out of 5 stars. The meal was a 2 at best.
Thus concluded our trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It was a wonderful way to celebrate 3 years of marriage. We ate lots of good food, drank some good beer, relaxed (and some of us got sun burnt) on the beach, and learned to hate a particular ice cream vendor. I wouldn’t have traded those three days for any in the world. Thank you, Rizzo, for being my partner in life. I can’t wait for our next adventure.