Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where a Star is a Heart

Getting closer!!!

We drove straight out to the beach to enjoy the full moon after dark!

I think this one is from the husband's long bike ride around Chincoteague...

This one, too.

Finally!!!  Loooong days on the beach, reading books, digging for sand fleas, boogie boarding, and just swimming through the salty surf.  Beautiful!

I think this was the first ghost crab we caught.  My little sister is holding it!

This one was a feisty one, as you can tell!
Here's the whole crazy crew, even my baby nephew, getting ready to go crabbing with rotten chicken necks, and these special crabbing nets...

We didn't have as much luck crabbing off the peer as we did running around the beach with a flashlight, but we did catch this little guy!  We let him scuttle right off the deck after this picture was taken.
There are so many funky houses to be found around the island!
This actually appeared to be an abandoned store front...

I'm not sure where this one was taken...but how gorgeous is it??

A beautiful sunset behind the marsh plants...
I got such a kick out of this sweet, fuzzy, little jumping spider I found while we waited for our lunch at the Sea Star Cafe!  He would perk up and look up into your face just like a little kitten...except with more eyes!
Here I am returning my rental bike, and I was not happy about it!  Most comfortable seat EVER!  I named it the Sitting Duck.
Last day at the beach, and I'm still rocking my Chincoteague Police tattoo from Tattoo Tuesday!  Family tradition: everybody gets rub-on tattoos on Tuesdays in Chincoteague!  We have so much fun!
We're all but on our way out of town in this one...but we had to stop to feed the last of our bread to the laughing gulls!  I love these guys.  If you stand still long enough, they'll take it right out of your hand!  Can you spot which one did just that a split second after the husband took this picture??

I love this place so, so much!  I already can't wait to get back...
 I promised you pictures!  There are some, and there's more to come if you keep reading!

Whew!  After a whirlwind of a week I am back with one hell of a tan, and a hankering for more long afternoons spent on the beach...I just wanted to share some of my adventures with you.

In Chincoteague, there's a place we call, The Sea Junk Store.  It's been there, way down Ridge Road, past Baldy's Restaurant, since we started going when I was just two years old.  The real name of the place is Payne's Sea Treasures.  It was run by a man who went by Captain Bob (Bob Captain Bob if you pushed him for a full name) for years and years.  Captain Bob would be considered pretty off his rocker by most people, but he had carved out the perfect nitch for himsef, roving the beaches of Assateague, and collecting all the strange things that washed up there over the years.  He kept all this stuff, everything from pretty little seashells, water-logged books, and old keys, to pony skulls, massive shark teeth, and a twenty-foot plaster viking statue, in a shack he'd built in his front yard, and in the yard surrounding it.  It was a crazy maze, and you never knew what'd you find, but inevitably, there'd be at least one or two things that you had to have.

A few years back, Captain Bob passed away, but his incredibly magical girlfriend, Star, kept the place going.  Now she lives in the little house, which has since been painted rainbow.  She organized the crazy quantity of stuff, giving her a front yard for probably the first time since she took up with Captain Bob!  It's a little less insane now...but even more magical!  The viking statue is stood up and fastened to a pole across the street, and we take a picture with him every year.  The rest of the treasure is organized into neat piles and stacks on tables throughout the shack, and around the side yard.

Each individual type of shell is in a pile by itself, broken bits of shells, and beautiful crystals are spread out over another table.  Two dolphin skulls keep watch over drift wood, weather-worn end tables, tangled lengths of fishing nets, and all kinds of other stuff like dishes, toys, whale bones, and whole bookshelves full of old, empty bottles.

Inside the shack, t-shirts, faded posters, dishes of shark teeth, and a whole back room of books, all decorated with paintings, drawings, Dali Lama quotes, and other beautiful happy hippy thoughts, courtesy of Star, are spread out over a barely bricked in wobbly dirt floor.
You can see part of Star's home in the background of this one!
This whole front area used to be a maze of the craziest stuff.  It's more navigable now!
Oh man, super cute, or super creepy??
We're pretty sure this is the insides of a grand piano!
Here's the pile of conch shells.  Have you ever seen so many in one place??
A Chincoteague-style backyard, tucked away behind all the sea junk...
 Wandering around these surroundings, it doesn't take long to fall in love with an odd item or two, especially when you wonder how it could have possible found its way to this little hovel and into your hand.  You'll carry it over to Star (if it's small enough!), and ask how much it is.  There's a fifty/fifty chance she'll wince and say, "Oh, sorry.  That's not for sale."  You just never can tell what's a museum piece, and what has an invisible price tag.  If you're in luck, Star will tilt her head one way and the other, perhaps take the object into her hands, cradling it as though giving it a final blessing, and murmur something about how she's forgotten how much it costs.  Give her a moment, and she'll give you a number, and odds are you'll sprint for your wallet before she changes her mind because how can she let go of a coaster made of labradorite for $8???

If you've been there more than once, she'll remember you, too, and probably offer a print-out of something she's written, just a token.

Chincoteague has changed a lot since my family started going: from a sleepy fishing village without even an ATM to its name, to a summer hotspot where teens and twenty-somethings race by on rented mopeds, and a new $70 million bridge just opened its gates.  It's comforting to know that, somehow, there's still only one bar, in the upstairs of a restaurant on Main Street, and there is still Star, presiding over the sea junk store.  This year I finally realized that no matter what else happens: stores closing their doors on Main Street, more condos going up in place of ramshackle rental homes, Star is the beautiful beating heart of this island.  Not even she can keep going forever...but I trust her to find a steward of Chincoteague's spirit, just as Captain Bob found her.

If you ever find yourself on the east coast somewhere between Virginia and Maryland, test out that new bridge, keep going straight  down Maddox road, take a right at Chicken City, and follow it out, past where it turns into Ridge Road, past Baldy's restaurant, to a little rainbow house on the left with a plaster pony, and a sign painted in shells: nothing is more important than love.

Thank you, Star.

Live Omily,

P.S.  I promised you ponies, didn't I??  The wild ones didn't get close enough for decent pictures this trip, but lucky for us, our neighbor had bought a Genuine Chincoteague Pony at the annual auction (auctioning off the colts and fillies young enough to be socialized and old enough to leave their mothers keeps the population of ponies stable, AND provides income for the volunteer fire company)!  We spend some time chatting with him, and he proved to be pretty photogenic...
What a cutie!!!  He had such a nice set-up, too: trees to scratch on, a stable, and a grassy yard to run around...and snack in!


  1. I met Capt. Mr. Bob Payne, as he was known, and Star Mondragon, and while saddened by his passing, I am so happy that she carries on the spirit of Payne's Sea Treasures. It is a unique, must-stop destination in Chincoteague. I haven't been able to get there for several years but will definitely make Payne's Sea Treasures my first stop when I do. Thanks for the photos and the blog - enjoyed your review!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I love knowing other people know first hand how special this place is!

  2. We have visited Star 2 times she is a unique Lady, once you get to know her she is very sweet. My wife and I took our Granddaughters to the pony penning in 2018. The first stop was to see Star Mondragon, she rembered us and gave the girls a necklace each. Star is one of a kind a kind, visit her shop in front of the house of many colors on Ridge Road, you may find a treasure in Star's store. If not you will take nice memories of your conversation with barefooted Star home