Bicycling the Delmarva Peninsula, page 2

Page 1: Kiptopeke to Assateague Island
Page 2: Assateague to Rehoboth Beach
Page 3: Rehoboth to Saint Michaels
Page 4: Saint Michaels to Fredericksburg
Page 5: Recovering in Fredericksburg

Monday-Tuesday, September 14-15

Distance: 9.8 miles
Riding time: 45 minutes
Average speed: 12.9 mph
Maximum speed: 19.5 mph

For the past 2 days we've been camped at the beach beside Steve and Hope. As expected, all our kids love the beach and need no encouragement to get out of the tents in the morning. Yesterday I let Maggie out of our tent at sunrise and she was soon calling, "Neigh! Neigh!" She was talking to a wild pony that had walked up to our campsite. Wild horses have roamed this island since the 1600's, and today the horses are often called "ponies" because they are slightly smaller than typical horses. According to the Park Service, early colonists used islands to graze horses because no fences were needed, thus avoiding the "fence tax" levied by the British government. These days the Park Service has a wire fence around the campground to keep the ponies from invading our campsite and eating our food.

After a pancake breakfast we were down by the ocean where Daniel played in the waves, but both Maggie and Alexa stayed clear of the water and dug around in the sand instead. Maggie loves playing in rivers and lakes so I expected her to play in the ocean as well, but she never warmed up to it. I guess the roar of the waves seemed a little intimidating to her. Maggie liked chasing shorebirds, so sometimes she would chase seagulls or sandpipers down to the edge of the water shouting, "Seagull! Seagull!" but then would turn and sprint away from the water as the next wave rolled in. A few times I was able to distract Maggie long enough for the surf to cover her feet and legs before she saw it coming. Each time that happened she gave me an annoyed look and then walked up onto dry sand again.

Steve and I hiked along the island a bit, mostly to look for herds of wild ponies. Bird watching isn't very good on the Maryland side of Assateague because on this side off-road vehicles are allowed to drive the length of the beach, and that scares away nesting shorebirds.

At camp the kids were constantly hiking up and sliding down a small sand dune near our tent. Daniel and Alexa dug around in the sand with their shovels looking for a buried pirate treasure - specifically a treasure of "sticky tape." Why did the pirates bury sticky tape? I didn't get a good explanation. Alexa sang "Rain, Rain, Go Away" about 100 times even though it was perfectly clear outside, and after dinner we adults were overjoyed to finally put the kids to bed and enjoy some adult conversation.

A wild pony just outside our campsite.

Maggie and Hope work on a sand castle.

All the kids loved digging in the sand.

Kathy and Daniel play in the waves.

Wild ponies along the beach access road.

Maggie and Alexa fell asleep during a short walk in our stroller.

Steve hikes through a salt marsh.

Looking for ponies near the salt marsh.

Tracks in the sand - looks like a snake was chasing a rabbit.

A nearly invisible sand crab.

Seagulls gather between the ocean and the salt marsh.

Long-exposure photo of the starry sky and Milky Way.

The night sky around the North Star. The lights of Ocean City (15 miles away) glow in the bottom of the picture.

This morning I woke up with red, swollen eyes, so I chose not play in the surf with everyone else. Perhaps some germs from the ocean infected my contact lenses yesterday, or maybe I slept with sand in my eyes last night. That wouldn't surprise me since sand is already in our tent, our clothes, our hair and our food. I rested under a sunshade this morning and I think my eyes will be alright tomorrow. In the afternoon we biked to the visitor center to eat lunch, watch the movies, look at the fish tanks, and generally take it easy. We said goodbye to Steve's family late in the afternoon after helping them break camp.

Breakfast at the beach.

A park ranger shows Daniel a live horseshoe crab at the Assateague Visitor Center.

Riding back to our campsite with two sleeping children.

Sunset over Assateague Island.

Wednesday, September 16

Distance: 46.0 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 59 minutes
Average speed: 11.5 mph
Maximum speed: 22.1 mph

We picked the best 2 days for our friends to visit us on Assateague. Steve, Hope and Alexa left yesterday under sunny skies, but when our family woke up this morning it was raining. Breakfast was not much fun to eat while standing around the picnic table in our rain jackets, and packing up camp took much longer than usual because I was trying to keep our gear dry. Fortunately the rain stopped around 11 o'clock, when we began our ride, so we didn't need to ride through the rain.

By lunchtime we were in Ocean City, which is on a barrier island like Assateague, but otherwise could not be more different. While Assateague has a largely natural landscape, Ocean City is 10 miles of side-by-side shops, restaurants, hotels and condominiums lining the edge of the beach. It's not the kind of place that Kathy and I typically seek out, but it is a classic American vacation destination, and it was interesting for us to see. The most touristy part of town is the 2-mile-long boardwalk that runs along the beach at the south end of town, so we went to the southernmost point and walked north for about a mile.

I figured that no visit to the boardwalk was complete without some classic beach food, so we stopped at one of the many vendors and bought an overpriced corndog for Daniel and chili cheese hotdogs for the rest of us. Maggie loves hotdogs and could hardly wait to get hers, but she got to eat only a few bites. Kathy was helping her hold the hotdog, but when Kathy stepped away for just a moment Maggie dropped it on the ground. At home I would have simply picked it back up again, but here in Ocean City a mob of about 20 pigeons rushed under our table and began tearing the hotdog apart in literally less than 5 seconds. All Maggie could do was look under our table and cry for her hotdog while I tried to kick the pigeons away from us. It was all over in about a minute, but my daughter was heartbroken over her greasy hotdog. She didn't stop crying until we visited the soft-serve custard vendor, and after that she was very happy again.

I'm surprised by how stressful it was for me to each lunch on the boardwalk. First of all, the food was expensive despite being some of the cheapest and easiest foods to manufacture ("manufacture" sounds more accurate than "cook") - hotdogs, french fries, caramel corn, cotton candy, etc. Paying too much for things is always a little stressful for me. Secondly, our children were completely over-stimulated by the music, arcade lights and crowds of people, so they kept trying to run off into the crowds rather than stay put. Finally, we had to defend our food from aggressive seagulls and pigeons swooping overhead.

Foggy weather on the way to Ocean City.

Walking the Ocean City boardwalk.

Eating custard on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk had plenty of sunglasses vendors, so we bought Daniel a replacement pair with a Spiderman theme. We usually struggle to make Daniel wear his sunglasses, but he loved the Spiderman design so much that he didn't want to take this pair off, even after dark this evening when we were all wearing headlamps.

Ocean City ends at the Maryland/Delaware border, and the density of urban development rapidly declined as we rode across the border and soon entered Delaware Seashore State Park, which protects about 6 miles of the coastline from private development. We finished our ride at dusk at a private campground in Rehoboth Beach. Not wanting to cook and eat another meal in the dark, we biked to the local Burger King for dinner. The kids are tired, so I think we'll stay at this campground for a couple nights and ride to local attractions tomorrow while we recover a bit.

Some people cruised the boardwalk on rented 4-wheel, 4-seat bicycles.

High winds and waves on the Delaware coast.


Page 1: Kiptopeke to Assateague Island
Page 2: Assateague to Rehoboth Beach
Page 3: Rehoboth to Saint Michaels
Page 4: Saint Michaels to Fredericksburg
Page 5: Recovering in Fredericksburg