The girls are generally up and at it early, leaping into their bathing suits, and Val and I continue to take turns overseeing them while the other of us gets in a good long run.
The runs along the seashore and into the National Park really are extraordinary. Along the beach, the empty shells of our prehistoric friend, the horseshoe crab, are sobering to contemplate (we humans have been at this for fifteen thousand years or so, and these guys have been around for the better part of two hundred million).
Fishermen dot the beach and work the surf with long poles, hoping for big striped bass to strike.
The roadway back is terrific, as I am running on a thin line of pavement through thick salt marshes and mangroves, twisted pines, saltgrass, and inevitably, clutches of wild horses feeding themselves, wandering about with one another, or laying down in a soft patch of grass, fully enjoying the sun.
I realize that I’m essentially behaving like one of them, as with few natural enemies here my days become organized as they are by runs, meals, naps in the sun and the occasional dunk in the ocean to keep cool.
The girls continue to enjoy the beach, and have befriended a small group of fisherman nearby so rush to explore their lines every time one of them pulls in a catch.
Today appears to be skate day, as they pull in not one but three quite substantial skate in a row and put the largest in a tidal pool so that the girls can “play” with it (it was named Skippy).
I jump in the water with them to cool off, and after a good long soak Leonie orders me back to the truck to get their favorite item of gear: the recovery shovel, which allows me to completely bury them in short order.
We hunt for shells, chase gulls, and when Mom gets back from her run the two of us sit down and work our way through the books we’re reading, or talk about what we might do next, or engage in the ongoing debate we have about our next tent.
This, incidentally, is no small debate as we’re torn between getting a rooftop tent, which would mount directly to the top of our truck and deploy open like a clamshell, keeping us all up and off the ground and completely minimize set-up time. Plus, it’s accessed by a ladder which has novelty value for the girls.
The downside of that would be having no “base camp” to conduct operations from – we do like being able to set up a tent and then journey to trails, sights, and sources of ice-cream without having to break camp. So our alternative ground tent is a much more robust, expedition-worthy tent with a solid aluminum frame made by our friends in Australia, which is expensive but basically bulletproof.
We have yet to make a decision, but we will need to at some point soon as the thin nylon three-season tent we have, a Big Agnes family tent, is being taxed by the constant use it gets from us and its limitations are apparent.
Toward the end of the day the girls, having discovered the glorious warmth of the shower facilities, will head in to spa themselves with hot showers while I wait to corral them with towels and then their evening clothes.
I’ll build a fire, they’ll toast hot dogs and marshmallows and then lock themselves in the truck, playing games and drawing and coloring and reading while Val and I enjoy the stars and chat with the folks around us.
Campers are uniformly happy and friendly, for sure, and early on in most conversations we’ll explain what we’re doing (taking time off to travel the country with the kids, living out of the truck) and we’ll be met with encouragement and, importantly, good travel advice.
And, we’re always met with generosity.
Folks will leave their extra firewood with us, leave treats for the girls, offer up food they can’t or won’t use. We got marvelous home made hot sauce and dill pickles from Carolyn (as well as an offer to use her kayak), a pile of wood from a contractor and his son who were finishing up a week of vacation, and a tour of a spectacularly luxurious RV from a retired couple who were beside us for several days.
It was hard not to feel a twinge of material longing when inside their vehicle, with its space, warm carpets, and enormous television.
But, at night, it was also hard to feel sorry for ourselves as we tucked the girls into their sleeping bags and read The Hobbit, or Misty of Chincoteague, until their questions became spaced farther and farther apart and their breathing became deeper and sleep finally claimed them, and us, and the ocean winds and droning surf ushered us all to a sound and restorative place.