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Beach Break

Way back in February we started making plans for a first week in June camping trip to Assateague Island National Seashore with our second-born son and his family. Although we went ahead and made our reservations, knowing that National Campgrounds do not offer hook-ups that man-of-mine and I agreed we'd make our final decision on whether to go through with our plans after we saw an extended forecast for that week.

Truly, we do enjoy camping, really. And, up until our birth-days began mirroring the numbers on speed limit signs, we didn't want or require such amenities as electricity. However, as the speed limit numbers continue to climb, we've become more appreciative of the merits of HVAC and other NECESSITIES, such as hot show-ers and hair dryers.

By the last week in May, when the forecast looked promising and called for cooler than normal temperatures, we agreed the trip was a GO. The next several days were spent finishing-up a few arti-cles, getting the camper road-ready, locating the beach chairs, and strategically loading everything, yes, including the kitchen sink, onto the little box on wheels that would be our home away from home for the week.

Our first night was spent in Virginia Beach with my sister. As we sat by her pool to the glow of simulated candlelight and enjoyed her wonderful hospitality, I had to wonder if we really needed to make the jaunt across 17.6 miles of the Chesapeake Bay on “the soaring grace of an engineering marvel” for some R&R. Yes, you are detecting a slight tinge of INTIMIDATION when I reference the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Mind you, it's not the tunnel part. Growing up in the Virginia Beach area, I became all too familiar with traveling through the Hampton Roads Tunnel. Okay, so the time we were heading through the tunnel on a family road trip and Dad turned on the windshield wipers to “get ready for the leaks” should have ruined me for life but his wink and boyish grin signaled that he was just trying to rattle my great aunt, who was going along for the ride. Yep, tunnels aren't the problem. It's being on those bridges and not seeing a shoreline that makes me wonder when the last inspection was performed.

The next morning we embarked for our journey to the Other Side. And yes, I was that woman wearing the lifejacket and holding an inflatable raft in my lap. What can I say?

Once we made it back on land, we headed up Route 13 while reminiscing about camping at Kiptopeake State Park and several trips to Chincoteague and the Assateague Lighthouse. We stopped at a local seafood restaurant where, during our last visit, we ran into friends from Buckingham. No such encounters this time but the crab cake sandwich was delicious. By mid-afternoon, we crossed over Verrazano Bridge as we made our way onto Assateague Island. I was so mesmerized by the view that I didn't even think about fetch-ing my lifejacket.

Within minutes, we had checked in at the ranger station and headed for our campsite. As we pulled up, our son and his family, who were about to head over the dunes to the ocean, eagerly greeted us. Promising to meet them on the beach as soon as we set-up camp, we began transitioning to our beachcomber mode.

For the next four days, we relaxed and rejoiced along the bar-rier island's pristine beaches, which are void of any hint of hotels or restaurants. Our closest neighbor was a Maryland State Park.

Okay, so we did venture into Ocean City one afternoon for miniature golf. And, true confession time, one evening we enjoyed a wonderful seafood dinner at a nearby marina. Other than those two outings, the rest of our time was spent on the island.

We relaxed on the beach during the day and wandered leisure-ly up and down the shoreline. In the evening, we enjoyed oceanfront campfires, watched the moonrise over the Atlantic, and hunted ghost crabs with our flashlights. Venturing to the bayside of the island, we explored the marshlands, hiked through the maritime forest, and enjoyed gorgeous sunsets.

The Wild Horses of Assateague kept us alert as did the Horse Patrol, which helped inform visitors what not to do as the bands of horses freely roamed the beaches and the campgrounds. Observing the “wild horse society” was amazing and fascinating.

However, I must confess that one of my most favorite times of the day was crawling into bed each evening and listening to the ocean, which was literally in our backyard. The rhythmical breaking of the waves along the shoreline would lull me into deep sleeps that I haven't experienced in years.

Looking back on that week, it couldn't have been any better. There was always a breeze and several mornings and evenings, we pulled out the sweatshirts. And, although we were well prepared and armed for battling mosquitoes, we made it through the week without using even one of the four cans of spray we had with us.

Last night as I tossed and turned until 2 a.m., I thought about the beauty and uniqueness of the island and longed for that wonder-ful lullaby the waves offered. Reckon there's any chance the tem-peratures will fall so we can do a bit more beach camping before summer's end? KNOTT MUCH