We departed DC very late… late in the day and late on the pre-planned schedule. We weren’t too worried, however, because we had decided to live free from a clock and a calendar.
By the time we reached our first destination, Assateague National Seashore, it was dark. We were very surprised to find out that the campground was completely full except for walk-in, beach camping. November? Eastern Shore? So many people deciding to camp that the campground was nearly full? Who would have thought? Certainly not us.
After a little confusion (there was no one at the Ranger Station) and a little direction from a Ranger we just happened to come across, we figured out how to find one of the (very) few spots remaining. They were all walk-in, so Rico headed off the road and down the beach to try and locate a spot… in the dark. There was a lovely full moon moving in and out of the scattered clouds, so he wasn’t entirely blind, and he had his trusty phone flashlight.
After a little bit, he found what he thought would be the perfect spot for us—not too far from the toilet and right on the ocean. It was a somewhat warm night and the breeze was low and gentle, so we figured it wouldn’t be a problem… we were wrong.
We set up the tent and the campsite (after multiple trips back and forth to the car and trailer) and then sat on the table to enjoy the scenery and take a breather. We took the dogs for a walk by the surf and quickly discovered that neither one of them like the waves. We then returned to the camp to start thinking about dinner.
That’s when the horses arrived. There were only two, but they were amazing and beautiful and so majestic it took my breath away. Jack and Juno (on leashes) lost their little minds and barked their heads off. Just as Rico was trying to help me with the dogs, Juno got loose and started chasing the horses. Rico jumped for the end of her leash and hit the sand, causing a minor injury and quite a few curse words to fly out of his mouth. By the time all that business was taken care of, the horses had left the scene. Stupid dogs!
Rico was able to snap a few pics (included) but we really had hoped for more than a glimpse of those equine beauties. They did return later, but we were otherwise occupied, as you will read.
We decided to take the dogs for another walk, hit up the bathrooms, then make something to eat. That’s when we realized we were in someone else’s reserved camp spot.
The people—Shamus and Mary—were very nice about it. They said we could stay put and that they would help us move in the morning. After looking around and realizing there was only one other spot left open, we decided to go ahead and move while we still had somewhere to go. All thoughts of dinner blew away with the wind.
We successfully moved our campsite with Mary’s and Shamus’ help and quite a bit of grumbling from a lady in the next tent (it was after 11pm). By that time we were too tired to consider dinner, so we put the dogs and ourselves to bed and hoped the next day would be better.
About 3 am I was awoken by Rico hollering at me “Baby! Get up! The tent is collapsing!”
Rico jumped up and threw on his jeans and shoes and crawled out the ever-shrinking door of the tent to try and wrestle it back to an upright position. I was so disoriented that I couldn’t think of where my pants and shoes were, and I was FREEZING!
What had begun as a pleasant evening with a light breeze had turned into a horribly cold night of howling winds and never-ending sand blowing at 50 miles per hour and landing in every orifice.
Rico got the tent righted and climbed back in, and jumped back into his sleeping bag. The bag had a broken zipper and he was also freezing. We both huddled under our bags and covered ourselves with blankets, wrapping our heads as tightly as possible so we didn’t freeze and didn’t breathe sand all night.
Within an hour, it happened again—and then again about thirty minutes later. The third time, the wind won. It snapped our tent poles in half (we believe they must have been defective because no other campers had this happen, even though their tents were also blown down), and the tent pole shards ripped holes all in the roof.
It was 4am and we were resigned to the fact that we weren’t going to sleep, but decided to wait for first light to tear down what remained of the tent and load the trailer/car and leave.
The dogs were fine and unaffected. They were snuggled beneath blankets in their crate, protected from the wind, sand, and collapsed tent by their box and the tarp Rico had bungeed to it.
We, on the other hand, were miserable and snapping at one another. It was a terrible experience for our first night out on the road, and we were both ready to pack it in and just head for Texas. Rico said, “We’ll just tell everyone ‘never mind’, and get jobs and re-join the rat-race.”
I agreed. It was just too much, too hard, and we were too inexperienced to pull it off. I mean, how could I have ever thought I could do this? I am middle-aged, have MS and a host of other auto-immune diseases, and neither of us has camped in decades. What was I thinking? What were we trying to prove?
With these thoughts running through my brain, I dozed off until I was awakened by something shining in my eyes. I picked my head up, unwrapped it from the blanket and saw the most beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic. It was stunning.
I looked over at Rico and he was wrapped like a mummy in layers of sleeping bag, blankets, and tent. The entire tent was down except for the corner that housed the dogs and the one over our heads.
It was then that I realized I had seen the sunrise out of the roof of the tent. I began to laugh. It was all I could do at that point. Laugh.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story…