So summer rolled in. School got out and my teacher and I hit the road. We had big plans: to add seven more states to her list of places she'd seen, to see some old friends, meet some new ones, and lay eyes on my gorgeous 17-month old nephew for the first time since he was a newborn. Ambitious, yes, but we had a German Shepherd and the iPod. We left Chicago in the early afternoon (no, that was not the plan) on the fourth of July and headed south with an atlas and a playlist. Indiana and Kentucky flew by beneath cheerful patter, comfortable silence, cultural and aesthetic commentary, and good tunes. We hit the mountains in Tennessee as the sun was going down. A long dark stretch of the Senator Al Gore Memorial Highway got a little tense, courtesy of the low fuel light. We stopped just outside Knoxville, where Tory helped us find what is now the cover art for Wild Ride (Sarah B & The Gist's last studio album, in case you're new around here).
The next day we arrived at our first destination, Archie's house in Chapel Hill, NC. Among the many things I needed to do while I was there was to get started on my new website, with my friend Hilde's help. Her version of this story will be that I wimped out, freaked out, and wandered off to smoke on the deck and scribble incomprehensible notes, and mutter about how my life was worth nothing because I had no website. What neither of us realized at the time, besides the PMS thing, is that she showed me just enough that - look - here's my website. It just shows that I was actually listening. It also proves that if your only experience of the internet is writing emails and that you used to play poker online, it doesn't matter. If I can, you can.
photo by Jill Adams

Wet Tory

Wet Tory
photo by Jill Adams

A few days later, we headed up to Virginia Beach, a first for both of us. We camped at a great state park on the bay, where it proceeded to rain like a sumbitch. We bought 99-cent springy rings at the gift shop and stayed soaked till we realized it was only raining under the trees at our campsite. The next day it was Tory's turn; she wore herself out chasing sticks into the water and trying to avoid the sand crabs (ok, she's a bit of a wuss).

The next morning we were off again, across the Chesapeake Bridge/Tunnel, which is a cool ride if you've never done it. And we headed up to Maryland where my gorgeous nephew (did I mention he's smart?) was waiting.

Now, it's not that unusual for me to see something on a road trip that prompts a rant. This one, though, struck me silent. All I could manage was to request that we stop for a photo: Peace Token

If you do not find this photo either appalling or funny in a South Park kinda way,

click here

So I have to admit this was still in my head, and caused me some trepidation the next day as we headed off to Assateague Island. For those of you who were not obsessed with horses as pre-teen girls (perhaps you were never even a pre-teen girl), Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, off the Maryland shore, were both populated by wild ponies when the Europeans arrived to stake their claim to this continent. Chincoteague has since become an amusement park, but Assateague was designated a preserve, and although there's camping and beach, there are also still wild ponies.

I can't answer some questions like how did the ponies get on the island, and there must be fresh water on the island somewhere, right? Honestly, I was prepared to be disgusted. To see that wild didn't mean wild anymore, that the whole thing was like some big cheesy petting zoo profiting only the (presumably) old white guys pocketing the proceeds of the state of Maryland.

On the way, my sister told me they'd had to evacuate the beach the week before because the ponies stampeded, and I was encouraged. My bubble was prepared to burst, though, when I saw a guy letting his little girl pet a pony on the side of the road as we drove in. I thought, if they're wild, he's a fool. If they're not, well, it breaks my heart.

We went to the beach where our beach-neighbors, who belonged to a Golden Retriever, lent Tory a ball that floats. She was in seventh heaven till she encountered her first wave, which dunked her completely. She played on valiantly, however. As we were leaving, my teacher said "but we really haven't seen any horses. I wanna see some horses."

I remember thinking to myself that it seemed better that they wanted nothing to do with us. This turns out to be about my limited imagination of "better".

As we were heading back through the park, two ponies came out of the woods just ahead on the opposite side of the road. I said "There you go. Gotcher camera?" Little did I know. Naturally, we had stopped so the ponies could safely cross, or at least that's what I assumed the plan was. In fact, the ponies turned and began to walk in a very straight, very resolute line, directly towards our car.

The first veered off shortly and passed far to our left. The second locked eyes with me in (not) my SUV, as if to say "Don't forget. This is my island." He walked straight towards us until I started to worry he would actually kick the car's face in. At the last possible moment, he turned, brushing his shoulder against the front end of the car and passing just to the side of us.

It was a bully move if I ever saw one. I was thrilled.

1st Horse
photo by Jill Adams
Wild Horse close

And so, my friends, despite our peace tokens, despite global warming and the pipelines and our invasion of the middle east, the ponies on Assateague Island are still indeed, wild. Wiser than they should have had to be, perhaps, but still at it.

Stay the course.


Sarah B

photo by Jill Adams


Wild Horses (2003)