Day 21 – Blown off Course at Assateague

Posted by mrssmythe on October 14, 2013 in Camping |


First off, in honor of going to Mt. Vernon today, I’m wearing my hair just like George Washington. All I need is a little powder and I’m good to go.

Not really, It’s just that I shampooed my hair in the hotel last night and it cleaned out all the lye soap I used in Tennessee and now my hair’s gone wildly poofy.

And, yes, I really used lye soap on my hair…But I’ll write more about that later.


And, yes, we were in a hotel last night.

Here’s why:

I’ve mentioned before that we’re sort of ad-libbing the trip at this point due to the government shut-down. Today was supposed to be a grand culmination of American culture at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. But all of that is closed, so we took a coastal route instead, compromising with a stay at the state park on Assateague Island – wild ponies, very cool – and a trip to Mt. Vernon to see the home of George and Martha Washington.


And everything was going according to plan until we drove across the bridge to Assateague and saw the wind. Oooh boy, there was wind. And with the landscape all gray and tan like it was, I started having Badlands flashbacks.

We had tried camping in the South Dakota Badlands last time we made a loop like this and got a severe hand slap from Mother Nature. It was just too windy. Even with six other people helping, we still couldn’t get the tent up. And we bent one of the poles in the effort. So, after about forty-five minutes of trying, we packed everything up and slept in a hotel that night – though it took three hours to find one because there was some sort of law enforcement conference in the state at the time, and every single hotel in every town we drove through was booked solid for about a hundred miles around. But that was last trip.

This time, CPT America was confident we could do it. So, after a brief trip to the beach where the waves were wild and the wind was even wilder, he headed back to the campsite to set up. I remained behind to watch the kids on the beach.


Even Ursa was welcome on the beach at Assateague.
Pepper is gathering foam.

When we got back to the site, CPT America had made progress. Everything was laid out, and he was just getting ready to raise the tent. The girls scurried off to the playground we had seen just down the road when we pulled in. I did what I could do to help…which was very little. I think I held a pole. Meanwhile, CPT America buckled and clipped and snugged everything down. And then he raised the tent. It flapped wildly in the wind for a few minutes, and then CPT America thought maybe we ought to reorient it. So down went the tent and everything began all over again.

Meanwhile, it was getting dark. We had pulled in about 5:00, and now it was nearing 6:00. The campers across the way from us, who, up until now, had been watching our efforts, came over to offer their assistance. We introduced ourselves over the howling of the wind. They were from New Jersey. They’d gotten into the campground the night before. It had been pouring and everything had gotten soaked – even what was in their pop up trailer. Yes, it had been this windy then. Maybe even more so.

With night coming on, I left the men to the tent raising and went off in search of the girls – who I assumed were just down the road. But it turned out the playground was farther away than I had remembered. About two miles away to be exact. Ginger and Pepper reached the playground just before me and had time for a couple of slides and a swing or two before I insisted we all turn around and walk back. They were understandably disappointed, but it was nearly dark and I was thinking of how I was going to cook dinner in all that wind and wondering what sort of night’s sleep I was going to have with all the blustering and blowing.

So we began our walk back. And it wasn’t so bad, because now the wind was behind us. We could actually hear ourselves think.

And then we saw some of the ponies, and that was fun – because they really are beautiful, and it’s such a novelty to have wild ponies running around a campsite.


We were warned about them when we checked in, though. The women in the welcome center told us to keep a safe distance and recommended we keep all of our food in the car.


“They can’t rip the doors off your car like a bear, though, can they?” CPT America asked, in jest.

It seemed funny, after so many nights guarding against bears, to have the predators change to…ponies.

“No, they haven’t learned how to do that yet,” the woman replied, “but they have learned how to turn on the water faucets.”


We didn’t stay with the ponies long, though. And when I pulled out my phone to photograph one of them, I noticed a text from CPT America. I hadn’t heard it come in over the wind.

“Where are you?” CPT America asked.

I explained the situation, and minutes later, the little green car popped into sight with CPT America at the helm.

“Get in,” he said, pulling up next to us. “I’ll take you to dinner. We’re staying in a hotel tonight.”


Ursa really wanted to meet the ponies.

And so it was the Badlands all over again. Except this time we didn’t bend a tent pole, thank goodness. CPT America estimates the winds were 35-45 mph, so there was no shame in packing it up and admitting defeat.


The Salisbury Best Western, where we stayed last night.

But, this morning, while I was brushing my teeth, CPT America was looking up tent models on his phone. Specifically, tent models known to withstand strong winds. He found one at REI – the “Base Camp” it’s called. (We have the “Kingdom”). How much do you want to bet that’s the next tent we buy?

From the road to Mt. Vernon,

Mrs. Smythe

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  • Assateague is definitely a must-see on my “bucket list.” Though I do hope when I make my visit that I don’t suffer the crazy winds like you all have!

    • mrssmythe says:

      We laughed because the next day in Maryland, the sea looked very calm and we had lovely blue skies. If we’d been there just one day later….We plan to give it another go some time in the future. It’s such a neat place.

  • momofnine says:

    Now, that is a beautiful adventuresome spot for camping even if you ended up in a hotel. That is always a good alternative. It looks like your family is enjoying a wonderful vacation even with the government shut down. I was in D.C. with my family a few weeks ago and the National Basilica and the Franciscan Monastery were both worth visiting.They are off the beaten path and, of course, not part of the shut down!

    • mrssmythe says:

      We have been having a wonderful time. And, while we have been sad about not seeing some of the parks, there have been plenty of other interesting and beautiful things to see. We’ll keep your suggestions in mind for our next trip to D.C. Both sound like great places to spend some time!

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