FRIDAY JULY 8, 2005
We left Lexington (KY) in the afternoon from the Harrosdburg Road Applebees and took the long drive through West Virginia…. and it definately was a long drive. We were headed to Newport News VA but we decided it was best to stop halfway for the night.
When we got into Virginia it was already dark. Somewhere along the way we stopped for subs at a gas station Subway. We had a little confusion about which Clifton Forge exit to take (the first one dead ended into a community college in the direction we thought the state park was) but we got the right exit our second try. We camped that night at Douthat State Park.
We didn’t really know what to expect. We drove to the camp-site across a norrow, no-rail one lane road over a creek and picked out our spot. Here’s the thing: we really did not expect the camping area to be gravel… and you weren’t allowed to set up anything outside of the graveled boundry of your spot. The only padding we had was the sleeping bag but we set up tent and hopped in anyway.
Douthat State Park Review:http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/douthat.htm Well kept park and roads. Bring padding if you’re going to be on the ground in your tent. Most people there seemed to be avid campers with big tents or even trailers. Take your own paper towels and soap since there was no dispenser or even an air hand dryer in the bathrooms. If you’re squeemish or shy you won’t want to use the showers because they’re small and just have a poorly hung shower curtain for closing. Each camp-site also has a picnic table and fire pit but I noticed a lot of people brought their own grills.
SATURDAY JULY 9, 2005
In the morning we woke up early at 8am (actually I know I woke up multiple times throughout the night) and we both thought that we were bruised all over from the gravel (luckily it only just felt that way.) The original plan had been to wake up at 9am and leave by 10am to get back out on the road. We got up, went to the bathroom, and opted not to shower in the slightly scary showers that were available since our next stop was going to be in the Newport News Omni hotel.
Newport News Omni
We got to the hotel around 1pm but it was too early for check in so we headed back out to get something to eat. We had been looking for a Krispy Kreme but hadn’t seen any along the drive so we were still in the mood for breakfast food. After driving up and down Jefferson street checking it out while Tim tried to find Jon who doesn’t have a cell phone (Jon was getting married and the reason we went to Newport News or even Virginia in the first place – Tim was a groomsman for him) and arrange for Tim to go with him to get his tux (for some reason we couldn’t just go get it without Jon.)
After that phone ordeal we stopped at IHOP http://www.ihop.com and had a quick meal before heading back to the hotel. (Why don’t we have an IHOP in Kentucky? They’re everywhere except here!)
I took a nap and Tim went to get his Tux and then on to the dress rehersal with Jon.
Newport News Omni Review: http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/default.asp?h_id=39 Great rooms, good size, very clean, friendly cleaning staff and a good price for their “Friday Deal” – about $100/night which you seem to be able to get any day of the week – it just doesn’t include breakfast. We were also able to get a late check-out up to 5pm (we did a 4pm checkout because of the wedding time.) What I disliked about it: first impressions count and they don’t seem to get that. We weren’t sure if there was supposed to be a bellman because they had the area up front for it but noone was ever there and then the counter staff really could have cared less about checking people in (or out for that matter.) It took at least 10 minutes for them to acknowledge us and finish counting some money on check-in and on check-out Tim had to wait until they finished printing a ream of paper before he could check out.
After the dress rehersal, Jon dropped Tim off at the hotel so we could regroup and I could drive us to the dress rehersal dinner at Joe & Mimma’s Italian Restaurant
Joe & Mimma’s Italian Restaurant Review:No webpage so I’ll give the address 3336 Riverside Dr, Danville, VA 24541-3431, Phone: (434) 799-5763. Tim and I split a pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and bannana peppers and it was delicious (our choice in toppings so don’t worry if you don’t like our strange combination.) A medium pizza was more than enough for both of us and it was fresh and well made. Apparently this place has won some magazine awards and I can see why. It definately beats the chains. The lasagnas and italian dishes that other people got looked good as well and everyone was silently eatting when the food first came out which is either a sign of how good it was or how hungry everyone was.
Afterwards, back to the hotel we went where we both fell asleep quickly because of the previous night’s gravel sleep.
SUNDAY JULY 10, 2005
I think I woke up around 9am again. Got dressed and we went to eat at IHOP again. Sunday rush for breakfast so we had to wait awhile.
After that we went looking for something to act as padding in the tent and other little things we realized we should have for camping. Jefferson Street looked like every other store area in the US. We went to half a dozen shops that were almost exactly what we have at home just with a few more beachy items: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and ultimately we ended up in Wal-mart.
We bought two pool loungers and a large beach straw mat for a cheap solution in case another camp ground had gravel and then we also bought a small personal fan and batteries.
When we got back to the hotel I ended up figuring out how to use the packaging from the inflatable pool loungers, a rubber band and my key carabeaner (sp?) so that we could hang it in the tent (the tent has loops in the top to hold a flashlight or other things.)
Jon came by with Tim’s tux (yes, he had some deal about hanging on to them until the last minute … like we might lose it), we got dressed and ready for the wedding, repacked the car and checked out.
Tim was supposed to be at the church really early but we were a little late according to the time he was told he had to be there. The church was the Hilton Presbyterian Church, 34 Main Street, Newport News VA 23601. the church was nice, the wedding was nice but I’m not big into weddings and I doubt you want to hear all the details so I won’t go into detail.
After the “I do’s” everyone but the wedding party was supposed to head on to the reception. Since I was driving Tim and I couldn’t figure out if somoene else would remember to take him with them I hung out in the hall with the limo driver waiting for them to finish getting their photos taken …. for over a half hour ….
Tim finally escaped and we drove back to the Omni where the reception was being held.
We couldn’t take photos during the ceremony and I couldn’t get a good shot of the entire group at the table at the reception (mirror behind them, people kept walking in front of me etc.) This is one of two photos I did get however. It was so dark that I did alter it just so you could sort of see some faces.
The people circled are the people I knew: I went to school with Tim, Jason, Sherman and Jon and didn’t know anyone else in the room besides Tim’s parent’s. I may have met Jill in passing once long ago before this but I’m not sure of that.
They seemed to do a good job of keeping the wedding party away from everyone else between herding them into the hall for photos and seating them away from everyone else.
After awhile (maybe 3 hours) with the addition of some headach causing music, I know my mood went from not great to pretty bad – sorry guys. I left before speaches, champagne and cake…. the DJ had started into songs like the electric slide and I had another hour to drive to get to where we were camping that night.
First Landing State Park (labeled Seashore State Park on Google Maps)
Sunday night we drove to First Landing State Park. We had meant to take 60 (Shoreline Drive) straight in but ended up accidentally taking 64 into Virginia Beach. Even at 11pm on a Sunday there were TONS of people shopping, going to clubs and hanging out on the road closest to the shore.
We got to First Landing around 11:30pm just in front of a group that was definately there to party and the clerks at the desk were regreting the fact that they had started the process of getting them a camp-site. Luckily we didn’t get stuck next to anyone noisy.
MONDAY JULY 11, 2005
First Landing State Park Review: http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/1stland.htm Mulch camp-sites were good – setting up the tent was easy. Bathrooms were much better than Douthat – they were clean and had soap and paper towels. The heated water showers were unisex BUT they were individual with an inner room just outside of the shower to change and had locking doors. Because you are basically just off the Cheasapeake Bay, it stayed warm and humid the entire night with no breeze because of the trees.
You do have access to a beach within walking distance. Since it’s at the edge of the Cheasapeake Bay the water is decent but there aren’t really any waves. It wasn’t crowded and we saw boats out in the distance along with dolphines that seemed to be migrating. There were some shells and a lot of live crabs running around on the beach. Nothing amazing but still nice.
Monday after swimming a little at the beach we packed up again and headed off to Chincoteague. Actually I needed to send a couple of quick e-mails so we went out to look for coffee shops – not for the internet access but just for a cup of coffee and somewhere to sit so I could connect with my laptop via my cellphone (more about this some other time.) We ended up finding a Starbucks.
Starbucks Review: http://www.starbucks.com/ I will start off by admitting that I like the prepackaged Starbucks Frappucinos; I have tried Starbucks coffee in Kentucky on several occassions and hated it however. Hoping that it was just something where they neglected the quality controls in KY, we went ahead and tried a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on Shoreline Drive. It still tasted like burnt coffee beans. Apparently some people mistake the burnt flavour and call it “nutty” and/or “strong.” I’m sorry, but it’s burnt beans.
Some people might call me a coffee snob but I’m not – I just like a good tasting cup of coffee. Any good tasting cup of coffee! The coffee at Wafflehouse is better! Maybe if you get something that is mostly cream and sugar it’s ok but I’ve given the coffee enough chances now and feel like I can officially say Starbucks coffee tastes aweful. Neither of us wanted to take more than a sip. I kept it in the car as emergency caffeine.
The lemon raspberry cake (might have been labled bread) was delicious though. I would definately eat their pastries again.
We headed out across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Click the image if you want to see a bigger shot of it.
It’s 17 miles long and costs a car $12 to cross. It’s neat and also kinda freaky to drive.
Once we hit the Eastern Shore we stopped at Kiptopeke State Park just to take a quick look around because we thought we were going to stay there Tuesday night. Later we decided not to because we wanted to go ahead and start driving back at that point. Of the brief drive-through the camp-sites were grassy and looked decent at a glance.http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/kiptopek.htm#General
The drive up to Chincoteague took a couple of hours. Since we hadn’t really had much to eat earlier we stopped at The Great Machipongo Clam Shack on the way up.
The Great Machipongo Clam Shack Review: http://www.greatclams.com/ I’m pretty sure this once was a McDonald’s that had been converted into a fresh fish “fast food” and seafood shop. It wasn’t really fast food, I just don’t know really what to classify it as.
You could order everything from sandwiches to what looked like full seafood platters by going up to a counter or if you walked into the seating area a lot of the seats had been replaced with deep freezers and I think a few fridges that you could select things to take home and cook.
We decided to split a crab and shrimp croquette (I think that’s what it was) sandwich. The sandwhich was great, the cocktail sauce was fresh and the chips were your average kettle potatoe chip (I don’t like them but some people do.) We decided we were definately going to stop on our way back and get something else. I also noted that they ship overnight which I thought would be great if I ever want some quality fresh seafood.
Be prepared to wait just a bit though because this isn’t really fast food. I wish they had a bell or something at the counter too since there wasn’t someone immediately at the front at all times.
After more driving we finally made it to Chincoteague. We stopped and wandered through the various little shops on main street. I picked up brochures and maps and the like because we didn’t have the trip planned out minute for minute and still weren’t even sure where we were going to stay the night. I will say now that if you like wild ponies, this is what Chincoteague is known for. Outside of Kentucky I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shirts with horses on them.
Since on Tuesday we were going to go surfing we decided it would be a good idea to make sure we knew where we were meeting the guy for the lessons so we drove along Maddox Blvd. to check that out as well as see if anyplace looked good to spend the night or eat at (it sounds like we eat a lot doesn’t it?)
After one pass we picked out the Mariner Motel because it looked decent and was cheap and we didn’t want to have to pack up our tent in the morning at 5:30am before surfing. (And I really wanted to sleep with an airconditioner.)
The Mariner Motel Review: http://www.esva.net/~motel/ The hotel staff (she might have even been the owner, I’m not sure) was friendly. We got a discounted rate of $69.95 plus tax for a standard room and things went quickly and smoothly at check-in even though we didn’t have reservations. We were handed the local paper and a guide along with our room key.
It wasn’t the most luxurious of rooms as you might be able to tell from the pictures on their site but it was clean and sufficient with a few perks. It had an airconditioner, an empty mini-fridge, a microwave and a tv along with the usual beds, towels, soaps etc. Out front there was also a pool that I didn’t end up using and we skipped the free continental breakfast of donuts and coffee in the morning. A great deal for the price though I think.
For dinner we headed over to Steamers Restaurant because I had read several places that they had one of the best all you can eat crab dinners.
Steamers Restaurant Review: http://www.steamersrest.com/ The sign on their website makes it look a little run down but it wasn’t. After a little thought we realized we didn’t want to stuff ourselves silly on all-you-can-eat anything and decided to split the Chincoteague Clam Bake – steamed crabs, shrimp, clams, oysters with corn and potatoes for $22.99. We opted to pay an additional $1 for the Island Crab Soup, $2.50 for an additional salad and I also got a pina colada (they looked so good and fresh on someone else’s table.)
The salad was your average salad but with a homemade ranch dressing which was good. The soup was a creamy bisque-like clam soup that was definately better than chowder could ever be. My pina colada was fresh and not made from a standard mix.
And then they brought out the platter. It was HUGE! Two crabs, a dozen shrimp, a half dozen clams or so and maybe about 4 muscles with one ear of corn and a few new potatoes. The corn wasn’t great and the potatoes were undercooked but we devoured the delicious seafood that they came with. Everything was a hint saltly but I think that has to do with the water up in those areas and it definately had a great fresh flavour. Shrimp from the grocery in KY can never compare. We were almost full by the time we were done … just enough room for ice cream from the store next door.
The Island Creamery: Right next door (and with no website to be found) is the Island Creamery, a combination ice cream and coffee shop with some great home made ice cream. I was impressed that the girl who first asked to take our order followed us around the counter until we made a decision even though there were a ton of people there ordering (they weren’t short staffed so no one was left behind waiting to order – don’t worry.) Although it doesn’t taste as good as some true homemade ice creams, it was definately really good. We had a scoop of vanilla and scoop of strawberry cheesecake.
One thing I definately noticed while we were up in the Chincoteague area was that everyone seemed to be helping their neighbor stores. At the Island Creamery we were told if we took our receipt next door to the Islander, a gift shop next door, we could get a 10% discount. There was also other interesting word of mouth going on as well.
We did end up wandering around the Islander but didn’t end up buying anything (I’ve been on an anticlutter kick which means I buy less now as well.) They had candles, jewelry, knick knacks, bags and other various and sundry stuff.
I wanted to go up to a couple of t-shirt shops up the street on the way back. They looked like they were two different stores but later I figured out that they were the same chain with different names litterally across the street from one another. Sunsationsusa.com I think is the chain but the website doesn’t have much. I managed to get two shirts in the first shop and then headed over to the second one where they had shirts 2 for $12 with a design of your choice applied to it. I got a brown shirt with pink surfing logo on it and a yellow shirt with a design that had palm trees – both said Chincoteague of course.
And back to the motel to sleep because we had to get up at 5:30am the next morning.
TUESDAY JULY 12, 2005
Wooo hooo! Surfing!!!! 5:30 am? What was I thinking? Wooo hooo surfing!!!
After another short night of sleep (I think we got back to the motel around 11pm) we woke up at the crack of dawn to the sound of seagulls and something of Tim’s making coo-coo clock noises. We packed up the car yet again and made the decision not to check out of the motel in case we didn’t end up staying out all day surfing (basically in case we wanted to take a nap after the surf lesson – we had until 11am to check out.)
Oyster Bay Outfitters Review: http://www.oysterbayoutfitters.com/ We met up with Scott, our instructor, at the store. He gave me some foam padding and straps to bring the boards back if we stayed out past the lesson (we had gone ahead and paid for the full day with the boards and he said later he’d give us store credit if we didn’t end up doing that.)
We followed him out to the beach at Assateague National Park(?) He got the boards out of his truck, and we headed off down the beach with Scott talking about waves and surf wax along the way. As a side note, someone else who worked at OBO had moved from Lexington KY a year ago and he was headed out to surf at the same time. Scott joked that three people from Lexington surfing at Chincoteague at once was probably a first.
[I am going to have to come back and finish writing later - sorry folks...]