On the sixth day of our vacation, we had an important decision to make: should we spend the whole day and night in Maryland and drive into DC in the morning for our return flight home, or should we spend the night near DC which meant leaving Maryland early? It was a three hour drive back to DC, another trip over one of the scariest bridges in the world, we needed to turn in our Dodge Grand Caravan... and what happened if we broke down, hit traffic, or someone's bladder neared its max fill line? Or more likely: what happened if I made another wrong turn in DC that sent us back into a neverending loop of traffic?
We decided to play it safe and rent a hotel room in Alexandria, VA, for the night. So we checked our crab traps one last time, rented a room online, and then did the most Marylandish thing we could think of:
We went to an island of wild horses.
The island in question is called Assateague Island, which is a national park. Upon entering, we made a pit stop at the visitor's center where we loaded up on all the necessary supplies, such as a plush horse for Rosie, which she cuddled and snuggled and OMG IT WAS THE CUTEST THING EVER AND I PROMISED TO BUY HER WHATEVER SHE WANTED.
We had planned on just staying in the car and driving around looking at wild horses, but after only seeing a handful of horses in the distance, we parked on the side of the street and walked around for a bit. After walking over a short hill, we found one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been on.
Now we should have known that there was a beach there. After all, it's called Assateague Island. But we were just too focused on horses, and not on bathing suits or flip flops. So we weren't dressed for the beach, but we stayed for about thirty minutes and let the kids run around and put their feet in the water. (Or in Peter's case, his feet, legs, torso and head.) We watched people surf and go out on kayaks, and we noticed that the beach goers there were in much better shape than the tourists at the Boardwalk beach.
So just to sum this up: this island had wild horses, fit young people in skimpy clothing, and a beautiful beach. We were basically on a cover of a Danielle Steel novel.
After finally convincing the kids that it was time to go, we started heading back towards DC. Google Maps had three routes for us to choose from, but only one went through Delaware (and saved us nine whole minutes!). I had never been to Delaware before, so I made the executive decision to take that route.
Little did I know, but Delaware is very rural, which I thought made it
the most Southern of the Northern states - although Betty says that
Dover is an actual city, with city stuff like "things to do" and "other
people." And it's pretty small. At 2,489 square miles, Delaware is the second smallest US state by total
area. It only took us about an hour to drive through the southern half
of the state, and most of what we drove through was rural farmland.
I thought that I'd see the same strip malls and fast food
joints like we do in every other city, but Delaware was different. We passed by several red barns that are the idyllic barn that you'd find in a children's book. We saw a lot of corn and what I guess were soybean fields, and a lot of linear move irrigation systems. I
liked it. And as an added bonus, we didn't hit any traffic.
Eventually we ended up back in Maryland, where we drove back over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (named one of the scariest bridges in the world), and this time I could stay in the center lane the whole way over since the bridge going back towards DC has three lanes. For me it was a breeze, but Betty said that the view down to the bay was way scarier this time around than the first time. She was genuinely terrified.
From there we went south through DC and into Virginia. Our hotel was in Alexandria, which is one of the oldest cities in the US. Specifically, our hotel was in what's known as Old Town - not to be confused with the fancy new town that the whippersnappers built in the 1800's and later. Old Town was originally a part of Virginia, then ceded to the US government to form part of DC, then given back to Virginia. I had always thought that Alexandria was named after the city in Egypt, but instead it's named after a dude named Philip Alexander that had a lot of land. The main things that we did in Alexandria were eat (at the hotel), swim (at the hotel), and vacuum out all the sand and food from our rental car so that we wouldn't get charged a cleaning fee. It was as if we had taken all the sand from Assateague Island as well as the beach near the Boardwalk, crumbled some Thrasher's fries into the sand, rolled it up with Dumser's ice cream and dumped the remains of a Boog's corndog on it, then rolled around in it in the rental car - over the carpet, up the seats and into the trunk. But after a few dollars worth of a gas station vacuum, we got the van looking like it had only had to withstand an atomic bomb blast while inside a convenience store instead of having to withstand three kids on vacation, which frankly was a big improvement.
So we had started the day in Maryland, drove through Delaware, drove through a few streets of DC and finally made it to Alexandria, Virginia. The kids got to put a checkmark in Delaware and Virginia on their "States I've Been To" map. We saw horses, braved a scary bridge, and never got lost in DC. Not too bad for a day's drive!
Stay tuned for info on our last day!