Monday, May 18, 2015

Day 29- Chincoteague Island to Connecticut

Shortly after climbing into my hammock last night; I realized it was a lot warmer tonight, with less of a breeze, meaning a lot of mosquitos. I lasted maybe 10 minutes in the hammock before taking my pride with me in the tent, I was really hoping to sleep in the hammock, though I wanted a good nights rest. In the morning, I had my alarm set since I wanted to do a few things before the boat tour at 10:30am. There have been two times I have been pleasantly surprised by the weather on my trip; the day I was going to hike to the delicate arch but decided not to get up when I heard rain, and this morning. I looked at the weather report last night and it said cloudy all day, I stepped out of my tent to find blue skies and white clouds. I packed up, showered at the bath house, and checked out in the office; the ponies would be getting to the Chincoteague Pony Center around 9:00am and I wanted to stop in to see them. I drove two minutes down the road, got out and saw only two ponies in the stables, one of which a little boy was about to saddle up. I stayed for a few minutes before deciding to find the marina. It was only about a 10-15 minute drive away, and once I got there I sat in the car awhile to kill some time. I put some water in a ziplock of Ramen for when I returned, and finally around 10:15am I headed to find the boat. Online it said they were slip number 43, I saw in the 50's and noticed a lack of numbers on the wooden posts. I asked a woman who was washing her boat and she said 43 should be a few slips over and she pointed to an empty area; I asked, "hmmm must still be out?" She asked if I was looking for the Assateague Explorer and I agreed I was. She saw the boat down the dock and explained she thought it was that over there, I thanked her and walked over to a small gathering of people. We waited about 15 minutes for the captain to arrive, while the young tour guide woman told us a little about the island. There would be around 4 other groups besides myself on the tour which totaled around 14 people counting the captain and tour guide. It was a pontoon style boat, and we all took our seats. The captain was a go with the flow type of man, and he had some pretty funny jokes about the tour guide. As we sat in the slip untying the ropes, the tiny gnats swarmed all around us. As the kids started putting on bug spray the captain joked how the tour guide loved bug spray and sprays it on her tongue every morning. We sailed off into the open water, and I missed being on a boat. Taking this trip was almost like my summer wrapped up and condensed in 29 days, and yet it wasn't even summer yet. We got to a beachy area where we saw a herd of ponies rolling around in the sand. We anchored out here for awhile and this was when I knew we wouldn't be getting up close and personal with them like a couple photos on the brochure demonstrated, tourist trap number two. We hung out at this spot for awhile learning about the ponies, the island, and the pony swim. Everyone became a little more casual on the boat, and I sat up on top of the seats to get a better view. A lot of people on board had GoPros, I wondered why they brought them aboard when my 35mm lens was barely doing the job of getting shots of the ponies off in the distance. After floating around for about 20 minutes or so, the anchor was pulled and we took a little ride around the island. We saw where the pony swim which would happen July 25th, and 26th this year was located (for anyone not familiar, "saltwater cowboys" go over to the island to round up around 150 ponies and swam across the channel. There is then an auction for the ponies, some are bought and generously donated back to the island. This year marks the 90th year of tradition.) We got to see a seagull trying to kill and eat a puffer fish, though once we stopped the boat to get a better look the seagull flew off leaving the fish to sink below the surface. We rode by an island for sale, the captain noting that the little fishing or hunting house standing alone in the middle of the water was where our tour guide lived for easy access to work (another joke of his.) There were some eagle spottings from the captain as well as another guy on board so we floated around for awhile while they looked through binoculars trying to spot them once again, I never saw them until they both flew away and we all saw that. Nearing the end of the boat ride, we spotted baby osprey in a nest on top of one of the wooden pillars in the water. I may have fallen into another tourist trap, but at least I got to enjoy a nice boat ride on a gorgeous day before I head home. The tour concluded when we pulled back into the marina, we thanked the captain and went our separate ways. I took a look at the back of the rental realizing this was the last hoorah, and grabbed my ramen noodle lunch. I rolled down the windows, ate, and set away for my 6.5 hour drive home. I would not be jumping on the highway and be fast tracked home, it would be full of back roads and 50mph highways with traffic lights. By this point in my journey I wanted to just get home. Not because I wanted the adventure to be over, but because I knew it was. I continued my drive through farmland America, noticed a lot more automobile population around me as well as gas stations. I was no longer out in the middle of the country remote, I was enroute home to Connecticut. As I veered away from the coastline, I noticed the rise in temperature almost 10 degrees. I then looked over to the passenger side dash and noticed what I knew right away as a tick. I tried to cut it in half with my fingernail to then dispose of it out the window but it dropped down to the floor. I kept trying to find it while driving but had no such luck. Finally, I came to a stop at the light, put the car in park and leaned over to find it on the rug. I picked it up and threw it out the window. The temperature grew so much I ended up taking off my light sweatshirt and driving in my bathing suite top, I could feel my left arm growing rather hot from the sun and didn't want a repeat of Los Angeles. After putting sunscreen on a few times, I grabbed the sleeve of my sweatshirt and covered it up to be safe. The drive was long and monotonous, I started recognizing bridges and cities getting me closer to home. It was then, as I drove closer to the George Washington Bridge where I almost lost it. I was in dead stop, standstill traffic and I wished over and over to be back on an open road in Kansas. Cars were beeping, and cutting in front and behind me, I did not miss the urgency and rat race. I finally crossed over the bridge where the traffic started to lighten up a bit, but occasionally we would all be slamming on our brakes for no apparent reason. Once I reached the Hutchinson Parkway, which I knew turned into the Merritt Parkway I felt like I was home. I knew I was over an hour and a half from home, but it looked like home, and felt like home. My gas tank level was around a quarter of a tank; by this point out in Utah I would be panicking and searching for the next gas station, however here I drove with speed and certainly that there would be one at almost every exit. Something that I took for granted living in New England would be the fact that we actually have gas stations right off the highway; you can pull off, get gas, and pull right back on to the freeway; the rest of the country knows no such thing. I merged on to the Merritt Parkway and remembered the lesser part of last year, and the greater of the year before living in Hamden, Connecticut. The Merritt Parkway was my main source of transportation and it was such a beautiful stretch of highway. Then I remembered the assholes who lived in Connecticut. I was driving around 90mph behind a top down red sports car with young "bro" and his girlfriend in the passenger seat. I was enraged at the sight of her middle finger flying high in the air when I thought, "what the fuck?!" Let's set up the scene here; it is Saturday evening when so called 20 year old something "bro" and his blonde girlfriend go out on a joyride in a car that his parents clearly bought him and they press cans of a shitty beer up to their lips for my purposes I will call Coors Light. A dark blue, Chevrolet Trax comes up behind them pretty fast (for the Trax) and they brake check me. Me, who just wants to get home and is used to driving something with a lot more "balls" for the lack of a better word gets frustrated. They play a game with me, speeding up so I am behind quite a bit, and then slowing down to a constant 85-90mph. It may be the lack of ego I have here, or the fact that most times I drive a lot faster than the median traffic speed, but if someone flies up behind me at 90mph I move over and continue doing my 89mph. Just because you are going 89mph which is a lot higher than the legal speed limit on this road, doesn't mean there isn't someone who would like to go faster. I was tensed up from the waiting in traffic, I was hungry, I was in my homestate, and I just wanted to see my family. Now you may ask, why didn't you just pass him on the right? (Anyone that knows me well, knows I pass people on the right without even thinking.) But I was thinking, I knew that as soon as I passed him on the right, his ego would get an adrenaline rush and he would feather that peddle leaving me in the dust in a minute, even if he didn't want to. The Trax did not have the power for me to pass him, and I knew that. So, I stayed right behind him playing his game trying to get home as fast as possible. Finally we split ways when he continued on towards the Berlin Turnpike, and I merged with 91 North. The rest of the drive home was uneventful thankfully, and before I knew it I was pulling into my driveway. Inside; Mom, Hunter, and Felix awaited my arrival and greeted me with big hugs. We sat down to a family dinner like it was any other night, and to think this morning I was on a boat in Virginia. Looking back on my trip, 29 days was not too long, nor not long enough; it was an indifferent time span. I could have been gone a week on the road, or 3 months and had just as much fun, and missed my family the same. I have always said since high school I wanted to live a year in California, and a year in Colorado; and back then if I did it, it would have been a good decision. More recently, I have had the thought of living in Vermont. I was born in New Hampshire, and absolutely love it up there but I love Vermont as well, and it's closer to Connecticut. Since going on my road trip, I came across many amazing places where I could easily see myself living; but it would contradict my life attribute goals. I have always loved being a part of a big family (extended, not immediate since biologically I am an only child.) I love having holidays at my mother's with everyone there, I love getting together with family, and I love immediate family dinners every Sunday. Sure, I could live in Vermont and drive 3-5 hours on a Sunday for family dinner but it wouldn't be convenient. I've always hated Connecticut and said I would never live here, but what I should have been saying was I would never live in the Manchester/Vernon area. Since being away, I have validated as much as I have tried to push Connecticut out of my life, I don't see myself living anywhere else. Maybe one day I can retire up in Vermont, or have a summer cabin there, but moving an hour away in Connecticut can be like living in a different state and still being close with family. I looked at the bug mobile with a nostalgia of 5 years of ownership. That car and I had been through a lot together concentrated. Everything had it's spot within, and I couldn't have asked for a better car to take a road trip with. It sure looked weird after cleaning it out however, and puling up the backseats. I put around 8,000 miles on that brand new car and am thankful for every mile. When I returned it to Hertz, he asked "was there any problems?" No, not at all it was a great car. He checked the original miles, looked at the tachometer, and then verified "you had this car for a month?" Yes. "And it was brand new when you got it, with 80 miles?" Yes. "You did a lot of driving huh?" Yup. As corny as it sounded, I asked for him to take one last photo of me with the car, and he did. I walked away not looking back, only forward to what the future will hold for me next.