I have very distinct memories of Chincoteague, Virginia in the 90’s. There were sand dunes so high that the obscured the view of the beach, and to those of us who hadn’t yet ventured out of the flattest of flat Eastern Shore, they were practically mountains. A challenge to be undertaken, straining our calves, to be rewarded with the gorgeous beach. You never quite knew what kind of beach day you were going to get until you beasted those dunes. Would the waves be rough, would the sand be blowing? It was all a great mystery.
I remember the dunes being my favorite bit. Much to the disappointment of my mother, I’d climb to the top and roll all the way down, but only after getting in the water. How else do you expect the sand to stick?
And back then, that was okay, because those were the days when Chincoteague had the biggest, most beautiful wooden bath house of all. Men on the right, women on the left with outdoor and indoor showers, wooden cubicles for changing, and the biggest luxury of all, working plumbing. I contributed to much of the sand on that bath house floor.
In the 90’s the beach was wide open, and anyone that sat in between you and the water, or even within 10 feet of your chosen plot on either side, were opening themselves up to the deepest of ridicule. “If you wanted to sit that close to someone, go to Ocean City,” we’d mumble.
Back then the lighthouse didn’t light, and we were all very happy when that changed.
Leaving the beach, lunch options were scarce. McDonald’s was always the stop of choice because it was close, affordable, and they had ponies. Let’s be real though, it was mostly because of the ponies, who you could feed bits of corn from a gumball machine.
I don’t remember the storm that covered Chincoteague’s beach parking in sand, leveled the sand dunes and meant the demise of the perfect bath house in history. But I do remember my first beach day when everything had changed. When things felt foreign and wrong.
I still love Chincoteague. I love the food trucks and the beach and the ponies and the trails. I love the Island Creamery. But my heart still aches for 1990’s Chincoteague.