Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer Road Trip 2015: Assateague Park and Ocean City, MD

Ocean City, Maryland 

While clicking through one of the "road trips you should do" slideshows on the Internet, I saw information about Assateague Park, Maryland, not too far from Ocean City. I wondered how I missed that and of course I was determined to go. I missed seeing wild horses running around the beach in the Outer Banks, NC and I be darned if I was going to miss them again.

I put Maryland into my itinerary and after Valley Forge, we headed off to the Ocean City area. Since this was an afterthought, I booked lodging in Salisbury, rather than overpriced Ocean City, at a surprisingly luxurious looking Sleep Inn. We were impressed. 

Although this is a national seashore, the fee is a bit steep ($20 per car) but you can purchase an annual pass for $10 more. In hindsight, I should have done that because I could go next January when my husband has a business conference there. It will be interesting to see the park with snow. 

As soon as we turned out of the parking lot, we glimpsed a horse at the edge of the water as we traveled over the steep Verrazano (yes, really) Bridge. So, they were really there. We followed the road toward the beach area and sure enough, as if they knew to be on display for tourists, horses were lunching on the side of the road. 

If you're biking, beware of horses, deer and the droppings they leave behind. It can be an obstacle course. We decided to forgo the bike ride and sit on the beach instead. You have to be careful there also. The horses were in the parking lot and near the concession stand. We found a manure free area on the beach but you should be very watchful. 

There are warnings every where about approaching the animals and feeding them. They are wild, descendants of domesticated horses probably from the 1700's. We heeded the warnings, others did not. I didn't see anyone get kicked or bitten but I'm told it happens. In addition to your medical bill, you'll also get fined! 

Horses can been seen by entering from either Maryland or Virginia (Chincoteague, a privately owned fenced in area). Assateague in Maryland fills up quickly during summer weekends. 

After the park, we wandered into Ocean City, a colorful, noisy and crowded conglomeration of food one should never have regularly (but can't be resisted), amusement park rides that only exist now in state fairs rather than theme parks and game rooms (play lands) that one sees in movies from the 1960's. This is a boardwalk on steroids, one that can only exist on an Eastern American shore. It's a step back in time and if you haven't been for a while, you'll feel immediately transported to your childhood. 

Like Coney Island, the amusement park areas are not all owned by the same people, so tickets are not transferable. Suck it up and pay to park if you are not staying right there. You'll save yourself the aggravation and you'll have a (perhaps false) sense of security of leaving your car in a lot. Pay the fee, grab some cash (some businesses are cash only), get an ice cream cone and stroll along the boardwalk. Enjoy!