The White Van Willies

The White Van Willies

Trigger Warning: This blog post references kidnapping. Murders and muggings, too.

Spoiler Alert: No one was kidnapped, mugged, or murdered during the event that inspired this blog post, nor during the writing of it.

Disclaimer: The white van pictured above is NOT the white van referenced in this post.

This will be my last bit on our Chincoteague, VA trip. Partly because I’m not a horse person, but mostly because after my travel buddy reads this, she’ll most certainly issue a gag order—the other events of Virginia 2023 will forever remain between us under The Road Trip Cone of Silence.

But this day? This was, hands-down, my favorite.

We’re on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, right? It’s almost an island—south, east, west. Go too far north, and you’ll end up in Maryland, but we weren’t that far north. Since the Pony Swim events weren’t starting for another day, we had this time to explore. Our amazing Airbnb lady had a map on the fridge marked with restaurant recommendations and a few beachy spots.

One spot was marked “Small and quiet, but nice.”

Yes. That’s the one. This introvert likes small, quiet, nice… And since the lady at the visitors center had declared thousands upon thousands of people would be descending on the area to watch the wild ponies (she was not exaggerating), I knew I needed an activity that wasn’t so people-ish.

We set out before dinner to find this small, quiet, nice beach. The map only had a road name and the beach name, so I figured, put in the road and let the signage along the way guide us to the public access/parking for this beach.

We drive east.

And drive.

And drive east some more. Maybe a little south. Maybe a little north. But mostly east. The roads are so windy and it’s very… rural.

My GPS showed that if you drive far enough east, all the roads stop and all the blue starts. I thought blue was water. Perhaps blue is someone’s imagination and the island has misplaced the water.

We end up in some back-road, Deliverance-esque area with a dead end, blind curves, and several “We already saw that pothole” discussions.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve misplaced a few things in my life. Glasses? On my head or in a drawer. Remote control? Sometimes it’s in the fridge (I blame this on Little Miss Muse). Car keys? Well, those could be anywhere between the ignition and the dishwasher. Maybe in the dishwasher.

But never would I have ever believed it would be impossible to find a beach on an island.

Any beach at this point would do. But no signs. Anywhere.

We see where the tree line stops and then nothingness beyond—which we assume is the coast. But no signs. No traffic on the country roads except for a car full of what I could only classify as Rednecks, given their shirtless state and the way they rode hanging half out of the windows, whooping and waving.

(If any of the occupants of that particular vehicle should read this and want to dispute the Redneck label, I’d be happy to admit to stereotyping and issue a blog post of apology. Little Miss Muse doesn’t believe we’ll need to schedule in the time to write that piece. She, too, enjoys riding half out the window, whooping and hollering, waving her bottle of grape soda at oncoming cars, and if someone wanted to call her a Redneck Muse, she’d be fine with it.)

I’m irritated beyond reason. This was supposed to be fun. Now, we may be lost—on an island—and, well, quite frankly I’m starving. Hangry.

We give up and head west to find food. I try fried pickles, and the shepherd's pie is to die for, so now I’m not hangry and ready to try again. But do we go west? Maybe both coasts moved over to that side. A glitch in the Matrix or something…

Or do we try again? We try again.

East, east, east. Back to the treeline that disappears into nothingness. Hit that same pothole. Back over the winding country roads—and it was the dead end. That’s where we were supposed to go. Great signage, Eastern Shore, great signage.

Anyway, we found the beach. I’m feeling talented now, my belly full and my mood lifting (funny how those two things go together, isn’t it?).

Small doesn’t begin to describe this location. About half of one city’s block worth, if that. Wooden pylons from the water to the trees mark the edges of that beach and the start of private property on either side. One car is already here…

And one white panel van parked against the tree line.

“Turn around so we can make a quick getaway.” My friend’s hackles are up in an instant.

I was already going to do that, but I let her have the win. My hackles are not up. I’m elated to have found water.

We park, get out of the car, and head to the sand.

“Why is the ground moving?” Now I think she’s hallucinating, but on closer observation, the sand, indeed, has a life of its own.

Thousands and thousands of fiddler crabs, babies, all scattering north up the shore, startled by our arrival. Immediately fascinated, I get my phone out and start taking pictures while making sure one of the babies doesn’t clamp onto my little toe. I’m ready to go back to the SUV for a chair and just… be. The breeze was wonderful. The bounce of the gentle waves against the shore. Baby crabs. I was in heaven.

My buddy was not.

She’s by my side. “We need to leave.”


She looks over her shoulder at the van. I notice for the first time the rear doors are open and two guys are sitting in the back. They aren’t doing anything aside from minding their own business. The van holds gobs of construction and telecommunication equipment. It’s packed down.

“Them? It’s fine.”

“We could be kidnapped.”

Now, in an urban setting, this would be alarming. A couple of women in an some dank alley and a couple of guys in a white panel van would raise my hackles. And with the state of the world being as it is, I can see why she’s concerned.

But we’ve just found this place. With the cool crabs. And the breeze. And the rocks, wet with saltwater and shining in the sun. I want to explore this tiny swath of sand for more than a second or two.

“They’re not bothering anyone. Look at the crabs!”

She wouldn’t drop it. “I really think we need to go.” Kidnapping comes up again.

I look her square in the face. “I might give you a mugging—but we’re not carrying anything, so there’s nothing to steal. And perhaps, perhaps they’ve already murdered someone, buried the body here and are just scoping out the random visitors who happen to be discombobulated middle-aged women to see if we come across the corpse.” Her eyes get big, but my author brain is on now, “But I won’t give you a kidnapping.”


“Number one: That middle-aged women thing—slightly more than middle-aged, actually. Number two: We’re not worth the hassle. They’d have to clean out the van to fit even one of us back there, let alone the pair of us. Number three: If they are ‘shopping,’ we,” I wave my arms wide here for emphasis, “certainly would NOT fit their target audience.”

She is not convinced.

“I want five more minutes on this beach.”

She acqueisced, our friendship is on the line at this point. But, crabs! So I don’t care.

As luck would have it, in those five minutes, the two men shut up the white van, get in the second car, and drive away. Great! More than five more minutes.

“We need to go.”

“What now?”

“They could come back.”

I’m unphased. “They probably will. They left their van and they still want to know if we discover the body they buried before the thousands of baby crabs find it and lick the bones clean.”

She doesn’t think this is funny. I think I’m a hoot—and gaining story fodder by the minute.

I go about taking pictures and messing with nature. I look back to see she’s pulled out her phone and is shooting pictures, too. Toward the tree line. The sun was starting to dip behind the pines, making for a cool photo.

But nooooo. She’s not aiming for the trees. She’s getting the license plate of the white van. “In case we get kidnapped.”

I can’t even. Poor thing. I make her take a selfie with me before we abandoned the adventure. Turned out to be my favorite photo from the trip: I’m terrifically smug and she’s terror smitten.  

We never did find a body, but I was clearly the only one really putting any effort into it. We never did get kidnapped, either, which is good because she got to check off “see swimming ponies” from her bucket list, and our husbands didn’t have to pay some mid- to low-level ransom, which is the most middle-aged women of our caliber would bring.

But if we had been kidnapped, I’d have insisted on riding shotgun.

And to bring ransom enough to even cover the gas for that van, I’d need a virgin piña colada and a bar of Lindor White Chocolate Truffles—they wouldn’t want me to get hangry. And I’d insist on using my own playlist because my travel buddy didn’t let me listen to my music on the twelve-hour trip. And they’d have to let me stop to get random pictures of cool buildings and cemeteries and stuff. And then I’d need to check on my buddy, back there in the midst of telecommunication wires and construction tools to see if she wanted a Coke and a Hershey bar. Maybe some canteloupe. And she’d be all crying and everything, telling me “I told you we’d get got.” And then I’d feel bad, so I’d insist she ride shotgun for a while and she could use her playlist and never let one song play through unless it was Hakunah Matata. And then one of us would have to pee. And our husbands wouldn’t answer their phones because they’re on the golf course or mowing or sleeping, but really they’re just glad for the peace and quiet. And then she’d decide she liked it better in the back of the van because the driver has a lead foot. And then the other of us would have to pee because we can’t get our bladders coordinated with all this stress. And could we stop back at the Airbnb to pick up a few things and all that fabric she bought on the way out and some cantaloupe because that really did sound good. And we’d have to call to our Back Guy to get on his schedule because of all this jostling over country roads and in and out of the van and stuff has gotten our spines out of whack. And then I’d start scolding Little Miss Muse, who spilled her grape soda all over their dashboard, and the kidnappers wouldn’t understand what was happening at all. And it would just be a whole thing…

And that’s why we’ll never get kidnapped.


Want more Chincoteague chuckles? Check out Let the Song Play Through, No Head for a Hat, and Oh, Honey… Let Me Explain.

Upcoming Events:

2023 Tri-State Food Truck Battle September 30th

Indiana Author Extravaganza: October 6th and 7th

Love the Blog? Try These!

Compilations of 100 posts, complete with commentary from Little Miss Muse!