A TREASURE IN THE CHESAPEAKE

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Last October I described Tangier Island, the speck of Virginian marshland in the Chesapeake, as a truly “timeless” escape…a journey back to a more innocent era.

Well, Smith Island, Tangier’s bigger but less populated cousin to the north, is just as timeless, if not moreso…

I love those moments in travel where you become acutely aware of your new, strange surroundings. Sort of like a “what the hell, this place is frickin’ crazy and I love it”-moment. My moment on this particular hot and sunny early June day was at Ruke’s a “snack bar”, for lack of a better term, and the only real competitor with the Bayside Inn Restaurant as far as eateries on Smith Island.

This is Ruke's - it's everything you'd want from a place on Smith island. No frills, no expectations!

This is Ruke’s – it’s everything you’d want from a place on Smith island. No frills, no expectations!

Walk into Ruke’s and you’ll get a jovial welcome. Your eyes will naturally look up towards the ballpark concession style menu above. Your eyes will linger on the basic offerings until your reminded that they haven’t changed that menu in years and will hand you a formal paper menu. We wanted a couple ice teas and a ice cream. Ten minutes later, we got our order…

Ruke’s is a gem to behold. The wooden floor is warped and seems to be sinking the further back you walk into the place. The walls are littered with all sorts of random antiques you’d find at a junkyard sale – and they’re all for sale here, if your interested. The place is run by two youthful grandparents, who, that day, happened to be training a young granddaughter on the cash register (prompting some of that aforementioned delay).

Ruke's has everything you don't need, just part of the charm in being here.

Ruke’s has everything you don’t need, just part of the charm in being here. P.S. That’s the “well-hid” ice cream freezer in the bottom right.

I wanted chocolate ice cream. Well I wanted chocolate ice cream because I didn’t have much choice. It was either that or vanilla. The real adventure was in finding this ice cream. The friendly gentleman running the show for the day had no idea where the ice cream was! Apparently the ice box had been moved to a different location from the prior season and my chocolate cone request was the very first of the year. After locating the ice cream, I was served the most basic of spoon-scooped cones, the kind you’d probably put together at home if you just needed an ice cream fix. Soft serve, this wasn’t (in fact, I’m probably lucky it wasn’t freezer-burned).

A friendly chat between customer and owner - a common sight here.

A friendly chat between customer and owner – a common sight here.

I’m not knocking on Ruke’s – in fact, I highly recommend a visit. What else do you have to do in Smith Island anyway? Sure, grab a lunch or dinner at the Bayside Inn Restaurant (which shouldn’t disappoint – the crab cakes were amazing) and don’t forget a slice of that famous Smith Island Cake. But for pure culture, and a throwback moment reminiscent of an unassuming Ma and Pop place from fifty years ago, step into Ruke’s, order something, anything, and take in the joys of a simpler time before returning to a far more hectic pace – which applies to most of the places outside of Smith Island…

Enjoy some more pictures of my visit to Smith Island below…

Yum - the Bayside Restaurant serves up some fantastic seafood fare! The Smith Island cakes aren't too shabby either...

Yum – the Bayside Restaurant serves up some fantastic seafood fare! The Smith Island cakes (top photo) aren’t too shabby either…

The welcome sign could probably use a re-paint.

The welcome sign could probably use a re-paint. Actually, no, I kinda like it this way…

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This one probably isn’t being driven around much… I assume a dead (or no) battery is the least of its issues…

I tried to get closer to the Smith Island historical marker, but I'd have been ankle deep in water...

I tried to get closer to the Smith Island historical marker, but I’d have been ankle deep in water…

A tarp would be an excellent investment! Someone should start a Kickstarter campaign!

A tarp would be an excellent investment! Someone should start a Kickstarter campaign!

I love this! The Smith Island Motel. How you can have a motel on an island you can't take a car to is beyond me...

I love this! The Smith Island Motel. How you can have a motel on an island you can’t take a car to is beyond me…

Being a librarian, I must take photos of libraries in the places I travel. Here the elementary school library doubles as the public library.

Being a librarian, I must take photos of libraries in the places I travel. Here the elementary school library doubles as the public library.

The school in Ewell, the main community on Smith Island. High school students commute on the ferry boat to Crisfield every morning.

The school in Ewell, the main community on Smith Island. High school students commute on the ferry boat to Crisfield every morning.

Oh, the haunting possibilities of putting this photo under the photoshop knife...

Oh, the haunting possibilities of putting this photo under the photoshop knife…

This might take awhile to dry...

This might take awhile to dry…

Standing water is a common theme after storms on Smith Island

Standing water is a common theme after storms on Smith Island

The Bayside Restaurant and our boat back to Crisfield and civilization as WE know it.

The Bayside Inn Restaurant and our boat back to Crisfield and civilization as WE know it.

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