Chincoteague Island, Pandemic Style

The family and I have been traveling to Chincoteague Island, on Virginia’s eastern shore, for several years. It takes us about seven hours to drive there but it’s convenient for Beth’s sister, who typically joins us. We picked it as our pandemic vacation retreat for a few reasons:

  1. Socially distanced beachgoing isn’t too difficult. The beaches – an island away on Assateague – don’t see the kind of crowds we get on the NC and SC coasts. Plus, because the beach at Assateague Island is a National Seashore, there aren’t any condos and houses crowding the waterfront.
  2. Fresh seafood is bountiful and good. There’s no reason to go out.
  3. It’s cheap. House rentals can be surprisingly affordable.
  4. The eastern shore has good places to explore.
Island Theater

A few highlights and lowlights from our week on Chincoteague Island. I’m going to rate each of the businesses mentioned from one star (lousy) to three (good job!) based on how well people were behaving themselves, distance and mask-wise.

It was hellishly hot. Too hot to go to the beach hot. Too hot to go running before dawn or after dusk hot. Yeah, that hot. Only one day did the temperature dip to the point where we were tempted to go back to the beach, following a brief trip early in the week after which we returned worn out and savaged by sand flies. We gave into temptation and had a great time – temps were in the low 80s and the ocean felt nice and cool. We swam and swam some more. It was glorious.

Swimming

Janes Island State Park is a jewel. It sits on the Tangier Bay side of Maryland and has one of the most beautiful campgrounds I’ve seen in a state park. Yeah, it’s seven hours away but I’ll drive seven hours to camp there, do some fishing, and go kayaking on the canals and bay.

Janes Island State Park

We explored a small park on the Atlantic side of the eastern shore, as well as Deal’s Island, which answers the question, Who’s ready to sell their house due to rising water? (Answer: Every other person, it seemed) Rising seas at Tangier Bay threaten local communities, including Tangier Island, and on Deal’s Island this was on full display.

Deals Island Deals Island

Eat & Drink on Chincoteague Island

I mentioned seafood, right? Gary Howard Seafood*** and Ricky’s** were our go-to places to get fresh seafood. We had tuna steaks, shrimp and scallops from the former, and a giant pile of local oysters from the latter. We tried to shop at SeaBest Seafood*** but the owner got wound up and shouty when I said the word “ceviche” while scoping out some fish. We got the hell out of there.

There’s a small market*** on Maddox Avenue (the main drag). I didn’t get the name, but if you look on Google Maps for the Banana Hammock you’ll find the location. Apparently, frozen bananas are less appealing than a great selection of seafood, meat, and produce. I bought some pork chops and the ingredients for killer gazpacho. We shopped there several times and the owners treated us right.

Chincoteague Island has a newish brewery and it’s good. Black Narrows*** brews some tasty beers. I’ll vouch for their Sit a Spell IPA and Salts tart oyster wheat (that’s right). They offer crowlers to go, as well as indoor and outdoor seating. I didn’t take advantage of this, but they deliver.

Beach vacations demand ice cream and Mr. Whippy*** is my place. Chocolate, vanilla or a swirl are the only choices and that’s the way it should be. The family likes Island Creamery*** and it’s good, too, if you prefer your ice cream fancy.

Amarin Coffee*** serves, you guessed it, coffee. The beans are from Vietnam and you can order a perfect Vietnamese coffee. The only thing bad about them is that they don’t have an outpost in Greensboro.

Lilly’s Little Mexico*** is in a food truck park on Maddox. If you are in a hurry you might want to go elsewhere. If you are patient and like good food, it’s a great option. And if you’re with someone who loves BBQ and COVID-19, you can send them across the way to Woody’s*, where the owner’s not a fan of masks. Plenty of people were waiting a half-hour plus to get their orders from Lilly’s, while I saw two customers at Woody’s.

SeaStar*** is a reliable take-out sandwich shop. I’ve eaten many sandwiches there and have never had a bad one.

I don’t know how we missed this place during previous trips, but Beach Road Roundup*** has a hell of a breakfast. They have great food, and funny and cheerful service.

There is an outdoor tiki bar* in Chincoteague. We checked it out. I won’t name it but it’s the only tiki bar on the island and trust me, you can skip it unless you like mediocre, watered-down drinks.

Scorecard

Books read: 1

Movies watched: 0

Heat index: 108

Delmarva fox squirrel sightings: 0

Times I went running: In that heat? Are you kidding?

The Statue of a Doberman in My Front Yard is About My Beloved Pet’s Legacy and Not His Repeated Mauling of My Neighbor’s Grandmother

There are two facts that protestors in this otherwise quiet neighborhood choose to overlook: Firstly, when our family purchased our three bedroom/2.5 bath ranch in Siesta Acres, there was nothing in the HOA covenants to prevent us from breeding a series of increasingly unhinged and dangerous Dobermans. Secondly, the warning signs (“Walk Slowly and Do Not Turn Your Back on Our Dogs”) that we stapled to front doors on our street were not in jest.

We issued reasonable warnings about the consequences of checking one’s mail, going for a walk or climbing into a car without looking around first, but here we are. Besieged by a savage mob who mistake our love for our now-deceased pet with the memorialization of its habit of stalking and taking down – eventually for good – our neighbor’s 88 year-old Nana.

Yes, there is no doubt that Frank, our beloved dog, was responsible for the demise of Martha. She was old and didn’t put up much of a fight which tells us her time was running short, and though we paid our debt to society we still maintain that Frank was just doing what came naturally and was to his core a very, very good boy.

That’s why we erected a bronze statue of Frank in our front yard. The artist depicted him in his final moments, a powerful paw against Martha’s throat and a police officer drawing his service revolver. It was, to all of us who mourn Frank, a solemn reminder of his tragic end. We hoped that its placement, facing Martha’s grandson’s front door, would be a symbol of our shared grief.

I’ll admit I probably got that wrong.

Each morning the greatgrandkids left the house, sobbing most terribly. Serious sideeye and a restraining order told the rest of the tale.

But Frank’s memory deserves to live on and we refuse to remove his monument. Not even when all our neighbors have shunned us, the HOA has issued a notice of violations, and the local constabulary has said, “You’re on your own with this one, buddy.”

But if we have to stand alone, alone we will stand. Frank is part of our heritage, and easily-triggered survivors don’t get to write history. Unless the HOA makes good on its threat to fine us, Frank’s monument isn’t going anywhere.

A Statement from Officer B. Fife, President of the Mayberry Police Officers’ Benevolent Association

Listen up. You think your snickering and eye rolling is funny but let there be no doubt that I, Barney Fife, am the thin blue line between relaxing Sunday evenings on the porch with a glass of sweet tea, and total anarchy.

Make no mistake, the progressive policies of Sheriff Andy Taylor and Mayor Pike have led us to this day of reckoning. Ernest T. Bass throws rocks through innocent citizens’ windows and out-of-town lowlifes pass through town for a quick score, but Andy Taylor plays it calm and sends an unmistakable signal to any miscreant who lurks in the streets of Mayberry that he’s soft on crime. Just the other day he allowed an obviously sauced Otis Campbell to sleep one off in the jail, rather than charging him with public intoxication and exposing him to the full weight of the town’s legal apparatus.

I am committed to law and order, I will not let this stand, and I make the following demands:

First, give me back my bullet, Andy. Although I have never needed to draw my service weapon in the line of duty, I hope and pray that day will come. And if it does, I want to get off at least one shot.

Second, I want a formal apology from the citizens of Mayberry. Yes, I put you all in jail that one weekend. Face it – you deserved it and it’s time to stop yanking my chain. Enough already. Sometimes justice has a hair trigger.

Third, the tenuous nature of civil society demands that law enforcement be prepared for extraordinary circumstances. In our case, this preparation requires an Army surplus Sherman tank, complete with armor-piercing shells. Or don’t you care about the safety of your police force, Mayor Pike?

I await your answer. I’ll be at my desk, or chatting with Floyd the barber.

An Artifact from a Journey Years Ago

I developed a roll of Kodak TriX that had been in my Minox 35GT for several years. This was taken in 2015 along Lake Champlain during a two-day bike ride from Burlington, VT to Alburgh, VT and back.

Lake Champlain

Day one was a straight shot up the greenway out of Burlington, across the bike ferry to South Hero Island, then along the lake to the Ransom Bay Inn in Alburgh.

Day two included a lovely detour onto Isle la Motte. I rolled back into Burlington just as heavy rain began falling.

An Open Letter from the Publisher About Our Latest in a Long String of Controversies

I have been inundated with emails and letters from readers who are incensed with our editorial staff’s decision to green-light publication of last week’s editorial “Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out.” Most of you who have taken time to write have demanded we cancel your subscriptions. Others have issued personal, detailed threats. I have read each and every one of your carelessly crafted, semi-literate missives and have a message:

I hear you.

Before I throw my editorial team under the metaphorical bus and selectively demand resignations, I’d like to rationalize their decision making process for you in the hope that firing and mansplaining makes this all go away.

It is true that one of our team’s guiding principles is clicks sell advertising. But this instance raises significant issues about newsworthiness, amplifying a range of voices in the public arena, and the duty of publications to their readers. The intern who accepted, read and published the editorial essay in question, unedited, has promised me that she weighed all of these factors before sharing the unhinged, virulent rant of her white Christo-Nationalist uncle. While I can quibble with her about the propriety of throwing gasoline onto a fiery national debate about civil rights, policing and the role of the military in quelling unrest, I do agree with her that his acid words are newsworthy, seeing that they come from a duly elected county commissioner in the rural wastelands of North Dakota.

The writer is not just a writer, but the representative of the 153 citizens who voted him into office. So when he proposes the military conduct “a mass cleansing of urban streets, so that God can then judge the holy and consign sinners to eternal hell,” he’s not just speaking for himself, but for an underrepresented group of Real Americans.

I grant that his might be a fringe position, but lifting up the voices of marginalized sod busters and cranks is essential to democracy, and I stand by our right to do so even if it means I need to spend my afternoon shopping for a new staff for our editorial department.

A Pandemic Journal Guest Column from Sen. Rand Paul: Lynching Should Only Be a Federal Crime if it’s Done Right

Standing on the wrong side of history demands unshakable faith in one’s own morally flexible principles, but that has been my M.O. from the day I plopped my hand on the Bible, crossed my fingers behind my back, and took the oath of office. Today, as I singlehandedly stand astride the highway of human progress and shout, YOU SHALL NOT PASS! I affirm this faith.

You would think that a well-earned beat down by my neighbor and a bout of COVID-19 would cause me to pause for a moment and consider the legacy I wish to leave when I shuffle off this mortal coil. But no, I’m satisfied with being memorialized as a paragon of entitlement and self-regard. Even if my reputation is the equivalent of a floating, rusty dumpster filled with flaming excrement, Americans will look at me, then glance over at my colleague Sen. McConnell, and agree that in comparison I wasn’t so bad after all. I can live with that.

Singlehandedly obstructing bipartisan legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime might seem tone deaf or even evil. I admit it: Lynching is an awful thing. But anyone who might think this legislation is the proper solution is missing the point: I am not pro-lynching. I am opposed to what my daddy would call “half-assed attempts at lynching.”

Are we, as a nation, prepared to charge, convict and sentence rage-filled individuals who never learned to tie a knot, finish a job, or take pride in their work? Bruising someone isn’t the same as lynching them, even if both acts are propelled by the same intentions. But I will not allow our justice system to be clogged by half-wits and haters who can’t be bothered to do the job right.

If my colleagues can guarantee that every miscreant who sees the inside of a jail cell because of this bill is there because he finished the job, I will lift my hold tomorrow. But if we’re talking about sloppy work that yields a few bumps and hurt feelings, then I will stand firm.


Pandemic Journal invites elected leaders to weigh in on the issues of the day. Look for an editorial from Sen. Thom Tillis as soon as he emerges from hiding.

Learn more about this bill and Sen. Paul’s opposition.