Hosted Travelogs and Stories from the Road - Every Day is a Winding Road
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Every Day is a Winding Road: A bicycle tour through Delmarva, June 2009
June 21 - Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Annapolis, MD - 15 miles
June 22 - Annapolis to Trappe, MD - 45 miles
June 23 - Trappe to Delmar, MD - 35 miles
June 24 - Delmar to Harbeson, DE - 35 miles
June 25 - Harbeson to Lewes, DE - 20 miles
June 26 - Lewes to Felton, DE - 40 miles
June 27 - Felton to Bear, DE - 50 miles
June 28 - Bear to Wilmington, DE - 27 miles
Photos and Narrative copyright 2009 by Neil R. Brennen. All rights reserved.
June 21 - The adventure begins, modestly....
Early in 2009, Bike Forums member Spinnaker proposed a tour for Bike Forums posters on the Montour Trail, Great Allegheny Passage, and C & O Canal Towpath. The three trails cover 380 miles from north and west of Pittsburgh, PA, and Washington, DC. I and several other posters signed up to what promised to be an exciting, taxing, but satisfying trip. Having done the trails twice in 2008, I felt I couldn't leave it at that. "I'm a bike tourist", I thought. "Why not ride home instead of renting a car in DC?" I pulled out maps and requested more vacation time at work. The time off was approved, the mapping went well, and before I knew it I had a planned tour.
The adventures, and sometimes misadventures, I and the other Bike Forums posters encountered during our week-long trip to the nation's capitol are the subjects of other threads. I was stretched, bonked, and exhausted from the tour, and Bike Forums member ALHanson was kind enough to host me Friday and Saturday nights, June 19 and 20, so I could recover for my departure the morning of the 21st.
My original plans had been to ride from ALHanson's home in Northern VA to Annapolis, but I increasingly became concerned about the lack of a good bike route between DC and Maryland's capitol. A few exchanges on Bike Forums produced an offer of a ride, and so I "hitched a ride with a vending machine repairman."
I don't think Bike Forums poster "Landkurt" fixes broken vending machines, but he did give me a lift to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where I rode the bike trail at the airport, followed a connector, and soon enough was headed down the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail to the Chesapeake. The trail offered me both a short day and more time to recover from the knee trouble and chafing problems I'd suffered during the previous week.
The B and A is a rail trail, with no more than a two per cent grade down to the coast. This being a Sunday, the trail was busy with walkers and riders. The weather was warm but not sultry, and while folks perspired, the air didn't stick to them when they stopped. And there were many places to stop as the trail wandered through the little towns along the way. I paused at the park headquarters, a former train station being restored to its Victorian small-town grandeur.
Too soon the trail ended. But I had only a couple of miles to the city on roads with moderate Sunday traffic. I'd been advised by a rider I met at a rest stop that Annapolis crab is much better than Baltimore's, and the view of the city from the scenic overlook was not to be missed. "Annapolis reminds me of Venice, with the domes on the churches and the water", he said. I'm glad I stopped, for he was right about the view at least.
Before I knew it I crossed the Severn River and was watching boats pass by.
I called my hosts for the evening, folks I'd met through Warm Showers, the mutual hospitality website for touring cyclists. Little did I know my host was both a celebrity and a dog.
Sadie McCready is perhaps the most famous canine bike tourist of recent time, a distinction that almost tops the phrase "internationally known chess historian" in conversation-stopping ability. Sadie and one of her people, Daniel McCready, the week before my arrival completed an 850 mile tour from Maryland's capitol to Maine to promote the East Coast Greenway. They raised 6000 dollars, spent more than three weeks on the road, appeared on FOX News - Sadie's choice, no doubt, since she is a Lab - and were written up in numerous newspapers. Sadie rode in a trailer and Daniel rode a recumbent. The dog would get out on hills so Dan didn't have to lug her 75 pounds of weight up a grade.
My host and Daniel at Ego Alley on the docks in Annapolis. Sadie had been honored by the Mayor at a ceremony, and throughout the evening people would pass by and point, saying "Look, there's Sadie!" Being a Lab, she took it all in good grace.
After dinner, ice cream, and a short walking tour of the historic district, Sadie, her people, and I all set off on a boat tour of the Annapolis harbor. We four were the only travelers on the boat, and the sun was beginning to set. The condition of the light was to a photographer like a doggy toy to a pup:
Once to my host's home, showered, changed, and rested, I soon fell asleep, thinking of the day's ride, and planning to make the next day as full of wonder as today had been.
June 22 - Trapped!
Early Monday morning my host came into the spare bedroom and woke me up.
After breakfast Sadie had Daniel drive me over the Bay Bridge to Kent Island so I could resume my adventure. We arrived at a shopping center at 8:30 AM and I began to assemble the rig. In this photo, Daniel seems a little wary of the weight I'm pulling. Still, it's less than that of a 75 pound Lab.
Daniel's suggestion was I follow the access road to Rt. 18 and follow that through Kent Island, but after he left and I'd ridden it to a store for more liquids, I set my mind on finding the Cross Island Trail. The CIT travels six miles across the island and narrows, offering great views of the bay. I headed north, and while looking for it experienced another example of the serendipity I find while touring. A sign pointed to "Stevensville Historic District", and I followed it to the right. I was rewarded with the sight of Victorian buildings, their bright colors popping out in the morning sunshine.
At the restored 1902 train station.....
... I met up with a cyclist on his way to work.
Jim is a roofing contractor, and it seemed everyone in town knows him. We spoke for a few minutes about the town and my bike, Jim taking an especial interest in my trailer. He then told me to follow him for a tour of good buildings to shoot. "I don't want to hold you up from work" I said. "I got two days to finish the job, so I can take a few minutes" he replied as swung a leg over the top tube. And we were off. I'd never have noticed this church without Jim playing shepherd to me.
After more talk, photos, and riding, Jim led me to the trail head, passersby exchanging good morning with my leader and I. We said goodbye and good luck, friends for a quarter-hour united by a town and two wheels.
The Cross Island Trail was lovely, offering both shade and scenic views of the water and nearby flora.
After a trip through Nature's realm, it was back to Man's as the trail ended at Rt 18. At the trail end is the Maryland Watermen's Monument, a tribute to those hardy folks who lived their lives, and often gave them, on the Chesapeake.
As I started on what promised to be a day of riding highways, I noticed a turtle attempting to cross Rt 18. I attempted to herd it across the narrows to the water, and was soon joined by others. We saved two turtles that morning, and I felt I'd partially repaid some of the debt I owed to Nature for the wonderful trail rides I'd had over the previous two weeks.
Off I went down Rt 18, searching for the bikeable portion of Rt. 50, the "Ocean Gateway." I stopped for directions twice, rode up entrance ramps twice only to be turned back by the "No Bikes" signs, and eventually reached it after a ride through the small town of Grasonville. I saw all the trappings of small town America - the little businesses, the roadside stands, the fire hall and the post office and the homes modest and grand, all inviting me and my camera. However, I had miles to make, and they had to wait for another day. I rode up and onto the Ocean Gateway, and began to grind out miles on the shoulder as 18 wheelers sped past me.
To be continued....
07-01-09, 10:53 AM
Nice photos. Thanks for sharing.
June 22 - Trapped! (continued)
Maryland Rt. 50, the Ocean Gateway, is a 55 MPH two and three lane highway running through Queen Anne and Talbot Counties, crossing the Choptank River at Cambridge, and swinging through Dorchester as it turns east for the Atlantic coast and Ocean City. The shoulder is very bikable in most locations, clean and wide. One needs to be careful for turning cars at intersections and driveway entrances, but if you can live with the noise of the traffic speeding past you, it's not a bad ride at all. Most of my riding today and tomorrow will be on this highway.
That said, it's not a pretty ride. Fortunately in Talbot County the Maryland State Bike Map routed me onto Rt 662 for a spell, bringing me to Wye Mills, home of a functioning historic flour mill and what once was the symbol of Maryland, the 460 year old Wye Oak. One advantage touring on a weekday brought me was the chance to get a private tour of the mill, since the caretaker had no one else to talk to.
The state park was a quarter mile up the road. The white oak tree fell during a 2002 storm, but a seedling was planted in the base of the old tree, and perhaps one day it will rival its parent in size. A portion of the downed tree is on display - the first solid portion, about 30 feet up the trunk.
I'm afraid I didn't spend enough time at Wye Mills. I missed the historic church and schoolhouse, and the nearby county park would have been worth a few more minutes.
Continuing on, I kept joining and exiting the Ocean Gateway, adding miles on the highway and enjoying sightseeing when I left. I wish Talbot's Little Red Schoolhouse had been open for a tour when I rode by.
However, the sight of farms, fields rich with corn and barley, brought some consolation.
I skirted around Easton, unfortunately bypassing the historic district to make miles. I stocked up on provisions at a Target, shocking some shoppers who had apparently never seen a touring cyclist before. Or at least one my size. Then off again, rolling through farmlands along flat country roads to my night stop - Trappe, MD.
To be continued.....
June 22 - Trapped! (continued)
I'd chosen to spend the night in Trappe for a couple of reasons. One was because it was a decent distance from Kent Island. Another was that the next nearest town, Cambridge, was another six miles off, which would have given me a longer day than I wanted. And finally, I found it amusing that my bike shop, Bikesport, was in Trappe, Pennsylvania, and that the two towns came by their odd name in much the same way - from the nickname of a local inn.
That said, there were considerable differences between the two towns. The Pennsylvania town is older, dating to 1717, and very hilly. It also abuts another town, one with a college, and so Trappe PA is abuzz with college students. The Maryland town is flat and rural, just 300 residents, a couple of churches and parks, and one diner, which was closed when I arrived.
I had previous contacted the webmaster for the town and arranged to camp at a nature center a few miles away. However, when I arrived I discovered that there had been some miscomunication between us - the nature center did in fact not have water, and instead of having a combination to unlock the gate, I was told I could "throw my bike over the fence." I was already low on water, and on discovering that neither of the two town parks had working spigots, I began to formulate an alternate plan. In the 2 hours or so I had left of daylight I would knock on church doors and see if they would let me camp in their yard, or at least let me tank up on water. I'd read about other bicycle tourists doing so with success.
As I began to ride down Main Street towards a church, another cyclist pulled up to me. "You wouldn't happen to be from Trappe Pennsylvania, would you?" One of the town councilmen heard about my coming and wanted to greet me. I quickly explained my dilemma, and after discussions with his neighbors and better half I was allowed to camp in his backyard.
Once I set up my tent, I unhooked the trailer and rode off to explore the town. Trappe's most famous citizen is John Franklin "Home Run" Baker, the hero of the 1911 World Series and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. One of the town's parks is named in his honor, and he'd probably be proud that the Little League team plays there. His home is one of a number of historic buildings in Trappe.
After a tour of the small town, I rode a mile to a gas station and cleaned up in their mensroom, since I didn't want to disturb my hosts, and then crawled into my tent shortly after my return.
Thanks for the excellent travelogue. Your "cliffhanger" installments and chapter titles (Trapped....hah! You had me worried.) are a delight to follow. Too often, I find myself focused on the destination rather than the journey.
And now.....more please.
June 23 - Rash actions.....
I awoke at first light, sticky from the sweltering tent. Not wanting to disturb my hosts, I walked across the street to the park to use a chemical toilet and clean up.
By the time my host was ready to leave for his job, I was packed and ready to roll. We exchanged goodbyes and I sped down Main Street to Rt. 50. I turned at the church on the corner, and noted the historic marker for Nathanial Hopkins, a former slave, soldier in a "colored regiment" and churchman. Hopkins helped found the church, now Scott's United Methodist, and organized yearly celebrations of Maryland's Emancipation Day, November 1, 1864. (Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation the year before had only freed slaves in states in rebellion, and thus didn't apply to Maryland. A vote in 1864 banned slavery in Maryland.) The town of Trappe still observes Emancipation Day, although it's been moved to mid-October to tie in with celebrations of the town's founding - what the residents bill as "Trappetoberfest."
I turned south on Rt. 50 towards Cambridge. The traffic was light, and soon enough I was at the bridge crossing the Choptank River. Cambridge is near the mouth of the Choptank, and the bridge is very long. Unfortunately, the shoulder is very narrow, and I felt uncomfortably close to traffic. Clouds lowered overhead, making the day nice for photography, but not brightening my mood. Once off the bridge I pulled into the first diner I came across to have breakfast, charge my cell phone, and congratulate myself for surviving the passage.
The diner food wasn't very good, and already I was beginning to regret I didn't do a better job of cleaning up that morning. Yet the breakfast was redeemed by an unexpected conversation. A middle-aged black man at a nearby table asked me about my trip. "I saw you in Trappe yesterday. You asked me for directions."
I apologized for not remembering him, and after discussion of my trip, he asked a question I'd often asked myself:
"Why Trappe? Why not take a vacation to Ocean City? There's a lot to do there."
I must have been wound up from riding across the Choptank. That would explain the bluntness of my reply. "Ocean City isn't real. It's commercial and developed. It's crowded with people who go there because other people go there and spend money there because other folks do. It's not real. Now Trappe is real, and the Little Red Schoolhouse is real, and the Wye Oak is real. I'm going to find the real Delmarva, the real Eastern Shore, in Trappe and Wye Mills and Cambridge instead of Ocean City. And I'm finding it. Just this morning I stopped at the church on the corner of Rt. 50 and read about Nathanial Hopkins and Emancipation Day. That's not something I could do in Ocean City."
"I'm pleased to hear that. I'm a grandson of Nathanial Hopkins, about five times separated. You'll come back for our Emancipation Day celebrations?"
I smiled. "Trappetoberfest? I hope to. Although I think I'll stay at the Hyatt in Cambridge instead of someone's backyard."
Phone charged and good mood restored, I set off to the waterfront. Cambridge, the Dorchester County seat, has a well-maintained visitor center, and there's a lovely little park on the Choptank. Perhaps this display of descending waterfowl isn't the greatest piece of art in the world, but I found it perfect in this setting.
My mood was restored aside from one nagging complaint. I'd had continuing problems with chaffing in the perineum all trip, but things seemed far worse this morning. I'd taken to riding my Brooks saddle with the cover on it, thinking the pebbled finish was the cause of the problem. The lack of a shower that morning only made matters worse. I sat on the docks at Cambridge wondering how I was going to get through the tour. Finally a call to a Bike Forums member brought the suggestion of A & D Ointment, and I sought out a drugstore in town. I sheepishly walked to the counter with two tubes of a product commonly sold for diaper rash.
"So, you're on a bike trip? Ride far?" the woman at the counter said as she rang up my purchase.
"600 some miles."
"I'd never ride a bike that far. I'd hurt."
"Why do you think I'm buying this stuff?" And I walked out, all pretense to dignity gone.
Because of the burning below, I altered my plans. I was to ride south to see both the Harriet Tubman Birthplace marker and Blackwater Nature Refuge, but I decided to skip those additional miles and head straight from Cambridge on Rt. 50 to Delmar, my next night stop. I did visit the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge, but found the storefront location to be neglected and dispiriting. "Moses" wasn't treated as well as I hoped, or she deserved.
Heading east through Cambridge, the Ocean Gateway spreads to three lanes of 55 MPH traffic and little or no shoulder. After a couple of futile attempts to find alternates, I decided to ride the monster. If I were killed at least I wouldn't have to worry about chafing, I thought. So after a stop at a gas station for more liquids and the use of the bathroom to apply ointment, I headed out. A few car horns blew at me, but I stuck to the shoulder as far as I could, ducked into a few parking lots, and soon enough the road sported a wide, clean shoulder again.
I followed Rt. 50 for the next four hours or so, stopping as needed. Unfortunately this bookstore was closed, otherwise I might have stopped to browse.
I took a brief lunch stop in Vienna, and sat along the Nanticoke and imagined how it might have looked when John Smith explored it 400 years ago. But soon enough I got on the saddle, winced, and headed over the bridge in the photo.
Another stop a few miles down the road led me to get a snow cone and reapply the A & D Ointment. I began to feel more comfortable in the saddle, and I headed towards Delmar with renewed energy. I left Rt. 50 for good near Mardela Springs, and headed North on Rt 54. I crossed the Mason-Dixon line, missing the marker on the Delaware border. I crossed back into Maryland at Delmar, and in a few minutes arrived at the home of my Warm Showers host. I showered, ate, and spent the evening talking about touring with my hosts before retiring.
07-03-09, 08:56 PM
Outstanding reading and great photos! I can't wait for the remainder.
June 24 - Del-Aware
Once again I was blessed with a sunny morning. I had breakfast, loaded up the bike, thanked my Warm Showers hosts for the food, lodging, and companionship, and headed out.
The first stop was a few blocks away, the Delmar post office. You may notice atop my rear rack a box containing excess gear I was mailing home. I arrived prior to the office's opening, and spent a few minutes exploring the surrounding blocks. I'm glad I did, since it allowed me to see the town's caboose:
Once I had my package mailed, I headed east on Main Street, which is also Rt 54. The road straddles the Mason-Dixon line, so I guess I was in Maryland at this point. I crossed the road and state line just outside Delmar for more fluids, although to judge from the first photo above I appeared to be doing well with them. (I had been constantly hydrating this trip, and by now I was appearing very bloated. My shorts and jersey barely fit that morning.)
Back on Rt. 54, I rode past my planned turnoff. Once I discovered the error, I pulled over and consulted Delaware's wonderful bike maps and found an alternate road that would take me north into the First State to Rt. 24. After I put away the map, I discovered a sponginess in my front tire. It wasn't flat, but it felt low. I pumped it up and went on.
I turned off Rt. 54 onto my planned route, and followed it north. A check a few minutes later showed the front tire softer again, so I found a stretch of road with a nice fence to prop the bike up against and set about changing the tube. During the 25 minutes I was there I saw one car go past, so quiet was this road on a weekday morning.
Again rolling, I reached Rt. 24 after passing through some lush farmland and spending a minute at Bethany Church. The historical marker outside indicated the church construction had been partially financed by department store pioneer John Wanamaker, one of a number of such projects the retailer was involved with. I wonder if he had anything to do with the design of the church or its courtyard, since Wanamaker took an interest in such details.
The clouds darkening overhead prompted me on. My plan was to arrive in Millsboro about 1:00 PM for lunch. And at precisely one I pulled into town. With hopes of a good meal I found a little diner and went in.
My hopes were disappointed. The service was slow, the kitchen got my order wrong, and I was subjected to the attentions of Millsboro's version of that small town staple the Garrulous Old Man.
The Garrulous Old Man is the elderly fellow who in past centuries sat outside the town general store or post office all day talking to, or more accurately at, visitors and passersby. He's related by method to the fools in the office who spend too much time hanging out at the water-cooler or vending machine. But the water-cooler fools and the GOM not only have method in common. They also have a knack for saying the wrong thing, as I was reminded on a Wednesday in southern Delaware. Being a cyclist in cycling garb made me a natural target:
"Hey, is that your bike outside?"
"Yes, it is."
"Do you like the brakes on that?"
"Yes, especially when I need to stop."
"I have a bike, but I don't like the brakes. I like the old fashioned brakes where you pedal backwards."
"Coaster brakes? They are nice, but with the weight I'm carrying in my trailer I need something stronger than a coaster brake."
"You know, I don't think doctors are right when they talk about weight being bad for you. People who weigh too much can go out and do all sorts of things. What does your doctor think about your weight?"
"Excuse me, but I don't discuss personal medical matters or my physician's opinions with complete strangers."
"Oh." The GOM paused and looked towards another part of the room. "Hey Billy, come over here. Did you hear what Obama wants to do now?"
I tuned out the GOM and tried to enjoy my meal, but I was bothered by what had happened. I should be used to such comments. As a person with both a disability and obesity I thought I'd become hardened to stupid remarks. And had it been intended maliciously I wouldn't have brooded on it. I finished my meal and left.
As I headed out Millsboro's main street a rain shower began. I ducked into a bookshop to keep dry.
The remaining dozen or so miles to my Warm Showers host's home were uneventful. The roads were wet but safe, traffic was light, and the miles seemed to fly by. The chafing I'd experienced had been greatly reduced thanks to the A & D Ointment I was using. I felt strong. Not fast, experienced, or good, but strong.
I stopped at a remarkable display of figures made from recycled metal. The artist behind the business, 2nd Time Designs, was home and gave me a tour of her studio.
I arrived at my host's home about 5:00 PM, and spent the evening with he and his wife discussing touring.
June 25 - First town
I arose early and was on the road by 8:30. My host had prepared a detailed route to Lewes, then looping north to Killan's Pond State Park, but I changed plans once again and decided to camp at Cape Henlopen just outside of Delaware's oldest town. I rode through more of Delaware's agricultural area on a morning that was humid well before noon. At one point I thought I got lost, and a couple of roadies out for a ride pulled over to help me out with directions. As we sweated and said goodbyes, they saw a combine come down the road followed by a line of cars. "Hey, let's draft the combine" one said to another, and they jumped on, clicked in, and pulled in behind the combine and ahead of the first car. "Delaware cyclists are tough" I thought as I headed towards Lewes.
Once I crossed to town, I turned right on the road leading to the ferry terminal. I passed on it and its promised trip to Cape May, New Jersey and headed to Cape Henlopen State Park. They managed to find a tent site for me, I gritted my teeth and paid the 32 bucks they required for an out of state resident, and I had a place to stay. I rode around the park on the extensive bike trail, visited the WWII era Fort Miles, and had lunch.
The park's Scenic Overlook stands above the Great Dune, the largest such formation between New England and North Carolina. Another tourist took my photo with the Dune a striking backdrop.
I decided to finally put my swimsuit to use this trip and parked at the Point Comfort Station, changed, and went into the surf. While going into the water was a treat, I should have chosen a different beach. The surf is very strong on the ocean side of the Cape, and the undertow was fierce. I was sucked under the water several times, the first time with a current so strong it pulled my swimsuit to my ankles. Swimming was out of the question, and my bodysurfing had mixed results. And getting pounded by the surf isn't the kindest treatment a curved spine and rickety joints can receive. I left after about a half hour and a half glass of seawater.
Sitting on the ferry terminal with the retirees watching the boat come in was considerably more relaxing. I was tempted to take the ferry to Cape May and back, but I couldn't afford the three hours time. Another day, definitely.
Once I was rolling to the town of Lewes proper, I noticed my front tire felt spongy again. I determined to find the town's bike shop while I was out. Before then, I stopped at the Zwaanendael Museum, devoted to the history of Lewes from the initial Dutch settlement of 1631 to the present. As the elderly docent at the museum explained to me, in 1931 the city decided to pay tribute to Delaware's Dutch heritage, and so they constructed a replica of a town hall in The Netherlands. "We had many men out of work at that time," she told me, "and it seemed a good way to get folks doing something and honor Delaware's history as well. It was my generation's version of a stimulus package."
After more exploring, I came to the bike shop, Ocean Cycles. It was a little place that catered to day visitors wanting to rent beach cruisers. I parked my bike and trailer amid the cruisers and walked in.
"Hi, I'm having a problem with my front tire. I wonder if you can take a look at it?"
A short chubby guy looked up from filling out a rental form. "What's the matter?"
"I've had two tubes go soft in two days. I'm wondering if there's a problem with the tire."
"You want us to replace it?"
"No, it's a brand new tire. I just want a professional to look at it."
The man called out to his mechanic in the back and returned to his forms. I brought the wheel back and explained what was going on. He checked it, found nothing wrong with the tube or tire, and suggested we replace the tube anyway. I agreed, and the old tube went in the trash.
While this was going on we talked about touring.
"I did a tour recently, going from North Philly to Key West. I rode my Huffy with all my gear in a backpack and slept behind 7-11s."
"Weren't you afraid of being arrested?"
"Nah, but the cops made me move a few times. I didn't make it to Key West though."
I then watched, stunned, as the mechanic tried to put a Schraeder tube into my wheel. The man behind the counter had come back stopped him. "No, it's one of those with the long stem."
"Oh, one of those."
The mechanic then put the new tube in, placed the tire on the wheel, and carefully installed the wheel back on the fork. Once it was on, he tried to inflate the tire, but couldn't get the pump attached to the valve stem properly. So the man behind the counter used a monkey wrench to yank the stem out further so he could get a tight fit. The tire was fully inflated, but no sooner did I get to the counter to pay for the 'service' than we heard the expected gunshot report. I wound up replacing the tube myself in a few minutes and getting the tire inflated with my Road Morph. The cost had only been 25 bucks for the 'service' provided by the shop, the cost of a new tube, and about 50 minutes of my day.
I'm still asking myself if this was a case of an incompetent, badly run shop or a good one getting even with a difficult customer. I don't think I was at all rude, demanding, or difficult. Even if they were upset I didn't buy a new tire from them, there's no need to treat a cyclist like that. As for the mechanic who never got to Key West, somehow I suspect he never got further south than Lewes, Delaware.
After dinner and ice cream helped take the sting out of the bad experience at the bike shop, I headed back to camp to set up my tent and unhook the trailer. I was the only cycletourist there.
Once the trailer was unhooked I rode through the park again, soaking in everything. One of the WWII observation towers was open to visitors, and so I climbed up the circular stairwell 89 feet and took photos from the top. Fort Miles lay below.
And somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic was Europe:
The sun was setting fast, so I climbed down the tower steps, headed back to camp, and settled in for the night.
June 26 - A day with little to say
"Every day is a winding road" as Ms. Crowe put it, but that winding road sometimes isn't an exciting one. Such was today. I left Cape Henlopen headed Northwest about 40 or so miles to camp. I failed to secure a reservation and Killan's Pond State Park had no available camping spaces. So instead I secured a cheap motel in nearby Felton.
The weather was unremarkable - 90 degrees with a slight headwind. I had no anatomical or mechanical problems - knees and butt were fine, and the bike and tires functioned as they should. I passed through two "Mill" towns, Milton and Millford, without any trouble and in good time. I lingered in the historic district in downtown Milton.
I did get lost a couple of times, and in one instance a wrong turn led me a couple of miles through Redden State Forest. This wouldn't have been so bad except that the greenflies thought dinner was served every time I stopped, and they didn't find clothing much of a challenge to bite through. But other than that, the day was pretty ordinary. Which was fine with me, for I'd had some adventure already, and I no doubt would have more in the next few days.
I arrived at my motel by 6:00 PM, and spent the night in my room catching up on laundry, charging my cell phone, and reestablishing contact with the 'real' world. Considering most of the alleged 'real' world was rehashing the death of the King of Pop and Perversion, I considered myself lucky I had two more days of unreality. I fell asleep early to the sound of the air conditioner.
June 27 - Spoke
I took the luxury of a motel room, even a 40 dollar a night motel room, as an excuse to sleep later than normal. I was on the road by 8:30, and stopped at a truck stop in Felton for breakfast. I soon discovered my fast wasn't the only thing broken, for two miles down the road I pulled into a gas station to fix a broken spoke. The spoke wasn't on the drive side, so I thought it would be easy to fix it with my fiberspoke and limp into Dover, 8 or so miles on, for a professional repair.
However, my inexperience showed itself again. I made a mess of retruing the wheel. After two attempts and two failures, I decided I'd have better luck thumbing a ride to Dover. A few minutes on Rt. 13 brought me a lift to Delaware's capitol. Tony's Bike Shop on Rt. 13 managed to replace the spoke and true the wheel, and by noon I was rolling again.
While crossing the city I took a whim and headed into the historic district. I was rewarded with touring serendipity when I discovered an African-American festival in full roar on Legislative Square.
I rode round the square a few times, and walked around listening to the band and enjoying the sight of the city center alive with people. I pulled up to a stand advertising "Best Soul Food in the World" and ordered some sweet potatoes.
"Where are you coming from?" the fellow behind the counter asked as he handed me my food.
"I started in Pittsburgh on the 13th. I should be home near Philadelphia on Sunday." It was a familiar question, one I'd answered many times over the past two weeks. But I'd never received the reaction I did here, which was stunned silence and blank looks. In the awkward silence I thanked him for my food and turned to leave. As I left I heard one of the servers say to another "That guy, he's da man." The trip to Dover was worth it for just that remark.
I pedaled across Dover to pick up the Delaware Bike Route 1 - and the only one - north. The trip was pretty, but the road was poorly signed. I got off course just after taking this photo at one of Delaware's many millponds:
My misdirection led me back to Rt. 13. Not wanting to waste more time crossing back to the bike route when Rt. 13 led me to the same place, I turned north on it into Smyrna, turning off on Rt. 71 into Middletown. Pity this place was closed when I reached it.
I was keeping an eye on the skies. Would The Historian escape a soaking? The clouds gathered overhead.
I stopped at the Middletown Academy to rest for a few minutes. My trip north had become gradually more and more rolling, and I found the climbing tiring. Also the continuous traffic wore me down. There's something to be said for trails after all.
But I then pushed on, and soon enough reached the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, a shipping ditch across the Delmarva region linking the Bay and the Delaware River. Here I was almost stopped.
Ride on the shoulder or walk through the construction area? I turned and saw a fire engine take up half the shoulder climbing the bridge, and began to walk the mile or so of milled pavement. With the thought I might spend the night in a Delaware jail for trespassing, I stopped and took a photo at the top of the bridge:
Once on the other side, I remounted and pushed my tired legs to my night stop, Lums Pond State Park. I set up, showered, and settled in for the night as I listened to the neighboring "campers" argue in their home on wheels. The one drawback to the campsite was the enormous number of kids around. I overheard one of the fathers warn his son about "telling if anything funny happens" when he was in the restroom. The concerned dad was looking at me as he said this, and all I could think of was the irony of the situation. I have a horror of paedophilia because I can't understand why anyone WANTS to spend time with children. Where is Herod when I need him, I thought, as I went to sleep.
June 28 - the last day
Sunday morning I lingered a little when packing my campsite. This was the last time I'd pack up this trip. As I rolled out of the campsite I headed to the pond the park is named for. I'd seen Nature up close for much of this trip, and I was entering the most densely populated part of Delaware. Standing on the boat landing at Lums Pond was a "goodbye", or more accurately "till we meet again." The waves lapped at the edges of my cycling shoes.
Then off to breakfast in the last small town I'd see this trip. I had French toast at Kildare's general store/post office as folks on the their way to and from church stopped in. I didn't know which of us was more uncomfortable in the early morning heat, me in my Lycra or the churchgoers in their suits and dresses.
Traffic was light as I turned right onto a road that took me to Rt. 9. I rode across highway ramps without stopping and without fear. Once I reached Rt. 9 I was near Delaware City, which it seems is nothing but a collection of refineries. I rode through one, thinking this was a scene only Ayn Rand could love.
As I climbed a hill four miles out of New Castle, I felt the rear of the bike become unstable. I had my first flat on the rear. A couple of roadies out for a spin warned me about the large amount of glass on the shoulder from here into town. I finished changing the tube and kept an eagle-eye out for glass the rest of the trip.
On reaching New Castle, I headed for Battery Park, where I ate, drank, and rested until the greenflies discovered my presence. From there I headed back to Rt. 9, passing through The Strand, the historic district. It was in this area that William Penn landed in 1682 when he came to inspect his colonial holdings. (Delaware was part of Penn's land grant from the King; while he chose to found his "green country town" Philadelphia up the river, its at New Castle he first set foot in the New World.)
Then it was off to Wilmington, Delaware's biggest city, a scant five miles up the road. After riding through some busy traffic I reached the town at 1:00 PM. Here's my bike in the downtown historic district, surrounded by banks and financial services companies. Delaware's favorable banking laws and location close to DC and New York make Wilmington a favorite place to incorporate or have an office. In fact, there are so many banks in Wilmington the city should be renamed WilmingTARP. Note the church overshadowed by the HSBC building in the second photo below.
By two I had reached the outskirts of Wilmington. I was to meet my friend Dennis at 3:00 at the PA border, another ten miles or so. I plodded on through increasingly hilly terrain. As I neared the border, Dennis arrived early, and not finding me began to travel south to meet me. I decided the three or so miles additional were meaningless, and not wanting Dennis to have to search for me, I stopped at the entrance to Winterthur, the former Du Pont mansion, now a museum and garden. In a few minutes Dennis arrived and my tour came to an end.
I arrived home at 5:00 in the evening on Sunday. Monday I went back to work. This plan was a mistake; I should have taken a day to decompress, so to speak, before returning to the real world.
And there was so much 'real world' to catch up on. 300 emails, piles of mail and magazines, projects at work and home..... I needed to reorient myself to even 'normal' activities. Driving felt odd for about a minute when I got behind the wheel for the first time in more than two weeks, for instance. And it felt really strange to wear pants - I missed living in shorts while on tour.
As for the tour itself, there are several things I'll do differently next time:
- bring less and lighter gear. It's time I start considering lighter stuff. While my tent and sleeping bag aren't that heavy, I could invest in lighter items that pack smaller.
- bring a lighter rider. My weight was a drag in every sense of the word. Had I been closer to my low of 242 from July 2007 I'd have had a more comfortable ride and have been faster.
- spend more time training. I didn't do any overnight tours before I left for "the big one." I had saddle problems that could have been avoided or lessened had I known of them before I set out.
- spend more time on the road. With the sun setting as late as it did, I had plenty of time to get to a campsite or hotel. No need to hurry, too much to see.
- plan more carefully. The final day in particular was plotted too carelessly. What did I think by going through Wilmington? Heading straight north would have been hillier perhaps, but shorter and more scenic. And my miscalculation of the mileage for the final day was a mistake five minutes thought should have revealed.
- cook at the campsite more often. I only cooked twice on tour. Had I done more of it I'd have spent less on food. After all, why am I lugging around the stove and pot if I'm not cooking?
That said, even flawed as my planning and execution were, I had a great time, and I look forward to my next ride or tour in Delmarva.
07-07-09, 11:32 AM
Very cool account & nice shots! Nice banana guard too :~D
07-07-09, 11:57 AM
Great journal Neil. You accomplished what I believe you intended, you have me the reader wanting to head down to Delmarva to explore. That is someplace I had never considered to go touring, but your story and pictures painted such an inviting and interesting place to visit.
Thanx's for sharing,
Neil, that was fantastic!
07-07-09, 07:53 PM
Thanks for the report Neil. If touring is half as interesting as you make it sound, I am sure that I will have a great time when I finally get around to doing it.
07-07-09, 09:59 PM
Thanks for writing your trip in such detail....a fun read while dinner was baking. Gorgeous pics, too. Keep us posted on the next one!
07-08-09, 09:58 AM
Neil, I travel often to the Delaware shore and I am inspired by your trip to try some touring! Thanks for sharing this great trip!
Grat job! Too bad that Helen's Sausage House was closed. Believe it or not the place is Zagat rated. You would have loved the Elvis decorations in the "dining room" and the food is great.
07-14-09, 06:35 AM
Awesome write up and great tour!! Thanks for sharing it all with us and with the great pics and details. I liked the story about the dog... She was beautiful!
great photos,and nice stories indeed.:thumb:
Thanks so much for the words and pics - a great thread. I've and considering a long tour this summer (I've ridden for several years, but not yet done a long tour). You've given me great inspiration!
02-05-12, 08:48 AM
Neil....Very good read and I enjoyed it. On the 27th you where in my neck of the woods with the Milling pond picture and Helens Place which is just around the corner from where I grow up. If any are in the area of Smyrna, Clayton, or Blackbird, DE and need a place to stay the night or camp. Please let me know by pm. I would like to do something like this someday.
Neil....Very good read and I enjoyed it. On the 27th you where in my neck of the woods with the Milling pond picture and Helens Place which is just around the corner from where I grow up. If any are in the area of Smyrna, Clayton, or Blackbird, DE and need a place to stay the night or camp. Please let me know by pm. I would like to do something like this someday.
I need to get to Helen's one day. Perhaps this summer.
06-06-12, 12:47 AM
thanks for saving the turtles.
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