Virginia visitors veer off beaten path for new view

Published 10:18 am Friday, October 21, 2016

Virginia visitors veer off beaten path for new view

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

We loved our second trip to Virginia.  The first time DW and I vacationed there we did all the normal touristy things on the mainland.  This time we spent our time on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
After a little research on-line we mapped out our route, decided on what we wanted to see and made reservations for most of the nights we would be there.   And then we were off through Knoxville and across Virginia until we had to turn north at Virginia Beach.  We crossed the Chesapeake Bay through the tunnel and over a series of bridges to reach the Eastern Shore.
The Eastern shore is a narrow peninsula about 70 miles long that borders the state of Maryland on the north and is pretty much surrounded by water…the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Chesapeake Bay on the west. We stopped at the pull-off to get a good look at the Chesapeake Bay and loaded up on brochures and information from the helpful attendant at the welcome center.  Surprised, he commented that they don’t usually have visitors from Mississippi.
First stop: Cape Charles. On the Chesapeake Bay side.   Local folks got together and brought this little gem back from extinction the hotel clerk told us. We saw the Cape Charles Hotel on-line, liked the looks of it and booked a night.  Traditional on the outside, fronting on Cape Charles’s main street, but very modern, light and bright on the inside.  Good choice.  He also gave us suggestions for supper and told us more about the little town, once dependant on local agriculture.
A few Main Street holdouts remain like the old hardware store where I tried to buy some old buoys, but the clerk said I would have to buy the store to get them.  I passed, but enjoyed the trip around his store.  Tourists were beginning to come back, so arts and craft stores, boutiques, and souvenir shops had opened for business.  The Brown Dog Ice Cream Parlor stayed open late and served crowds of locals, weekenders, and tourists like us.  And every business on the main street placed a bowl of water out front for the four-legged visitors.  They were making a concerted effort to draw people in and it was working.
DW and I spent several hours walking around.  Folks were fishing, crabbing, and watching the sunset off the public pier.  All roads seemed to end at the white sand beach and houses built in the early 1900’s faced the Bay and lined the connecting roads.  Many were now homes for New Yorkers and people from Connecticut.  And, good for the local economy, many were being renovated and restored.  It was just charming.
Next Day:  Onancock, pronounced “o- NON-cock.”  This slightly larger town is also on the Chesapeake Bay and it too was very walk-able with tons of old homes, historic church buildings and a harbor.  Our accommodations were in another old hotel but this one was a little more “quaint” but with a wonderful restaurant and great breakfast.  Again we walked and looked. And it got to be rather amusing whenever we were asked where we were from, no expected us to answer “Mississippi.” But, in one store, the owner noticed DW’s MSU cap right off and exclaimed that her daughter had gone to State!  She chose MSU out of the blue, graduated, found a husband and moved to Vicksburg.
The second morning we hoped aboard a ferry for a 45-minute cruise to Tanger Island. Talk about stepping back in time…. This inhabited island is in the Chesapeake Bay where fishing, crabbing, and oysters have supported the inhabitants for a hundred or two years.  We spent about 5 hours wondering around. Interesting to say the least.  Not pretty, but a dearly loved home to about 500 people. There’s a post office, two restaurants, an ice cream parlor, a health clinic, one grocery store, a school with one class per grade, two souvenir shops, docks, golf carts, bicycles and scooters, a landing strip, and only one car…for the one policeman. Children, dogs, a few kitties and seems like a lot of “old” women spent their summer days visiting and watching the tourists.
The cemetery bore the names of the families that had lived there.  Locals supplemented their income by charging tourists $5 for a narrated ride around the island on their golf carts.  Sometimes their accents were a little hard to understand, but their pride always came through loud and clear. We took the golf cart tour and then walked the same route around the island, stopping at their beach.   Mail comes by boat every day and you can catch a ride back to the mainland with the mail man.  Sadly our guide told us that many of their young people do not return to the island after they leave for college, so Tanger Island’s population is declining.  I wondered if Amazon offered next day delivery to this rather remote place, but they do have internet, WIFI and Direct TV.
Next day, another town, and next month another article.  Stay tuned.
Recipe of the Week
Super Quick Red Beans & Rice
Keep these ingredients on hand for a hearty, warm meal any night of the week.
1 pound smoked sausage, cut into ½-inch slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried whole oregano
1 whole bay leaf
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Hot cooked rice

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Cook sausage over low heat.  Add onion, green pepper and garlic.  Sauté until tender.  Add beans, tomatoes and seasonings.  Simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve over rice with crusty bread and a salad.  Makes 4 – 6 servings.