Bicycling the Delmarva Peninsula, page 3

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

Thursday, September 17

Distance: 14.6 miles
Riding time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Average speed: 10.5 mph
Maximum speed: 18.2 mph

We did our best to relax today, biking just a few miles to visit a state park. Daniel slept so late that Kathy had finished a batch of pancakes by the time he came out of our tent. We ate breakfast at the campground's playground and then rode along a bicycle path to Cape Henlopen State Park.

A pirate ship at the camp playground. Our kids would love to have this play structure at home, but it would take over most of our backyard.

The shady bike trail to Cape Henlopen.

Cape Henlopen is big and has several attractions, including ocean beach. A strong wind was blowing huge waves against the beach today and none of us wanted to endure the wind, so we stayed away from the beach. Two attractions that we did visit were observation towers and sand dunes. Eleven observation towers were built along the coast of Delaware during World War 2. Those towers, combined with the large guns at nearby Fort Miles, were designed to protect Delaware Bay from a Nazi naval attack. Five of the towers and the remains of Fort Miles are inside the park, and one renovated tower is open to the public. The wind at the top of the public tower could have blown us off if there hadn't been a tall railing there to protect us. Not far from that tower was a series of large sand dunes, and Daniel had been asking us for a chance to play in the sand. In the dune field he and Maggie found more than enough sand to run, roll and dig in.

Looking at one of the WW2 observation towers from the top of another observation tower. The towers were built quickly during the war with reinforced concrete, and their heights range from 39 feet to 75 feet.

Daniel and Maggie run circles around the top of a tower.

Looking down the center of an observation tower. Soldiers originally climbed the tower on a central ladder, but it was replaced with a spiral staircase during renovation.

A tired Maggie gives Mommy a big hug.

Hiking across the sand dunes.

Maggie tries to pick a place to play in the sand.

We all had fun at the park, and Daniel began a new game where Maggie was a princess, I was a bad guy trying to kidnap the princess, and he was the soldier that would catch me and put me in jail. Kathy was the jailer. However, the kids were showing us that they were tired even as they laughed and played. They lacked patience and would cry over trivial things, and Daniel kept getting frustrated without being able to explain why. They both took naps in the trailer and we brought them back to camp in time for an early dinner and a proper bedtime. We have a couple long riding days ahead of us, and we all need rest.

A Victorian house in Lewes, painted in about the same colors as the Victorian house that I grew up in.

Dinner at our campsite in Rehoboth Beach.

Friday, September 18

Distance: 45.9 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 43 minutes
Average speed: 12.3 mph
Maximum speed: 22.8 mph

Our kids magnify our emotions during bicycle tours. They can make us happy, proud and content, or angry and frustrated. Our ride went pretty well today, but I lost sight of that for a while and let myself become frustrated. The day started well - the weather was windy but clear, and we let the kids sleep late to give them as much rest as possible. Daniel put on a camouflage t-shirt, so while Kathy and I were packing up camp he ran around to the nearby bushes and ducked behind each one to call out, "Can you see me?" We always answered, "No, where did Daniel go?" Maggie delayed our departure a little bit when she followed Kathy to the bathroom and tried to go potty all by herself. She ran into one of the bathroom stalls, sat on the stool and splashed bottom-first into toilet water with her clothes on.

When we finally started biking it was late in the morning and I wanted to travel as fast as we could, but Daniel began stopping us with one interruption after another. First he needed to pee, so we stopped for that and then I put him back in the child trailer. A few minutes later he wanted out of the child trailer so that he could ride his trailerbike, but then he rode only a few miles before complaining that needed to be back in the child trailer. We entered the historic colonial town of Milton at around lunchtime, so I decided to treat us to lunch at the downtown Irish restaurant, but Daniel and Maggie were both difficult to manage inside (spills, yelling, refusing to eat, etc.) We should have eaten out on the patio. I was so distracted during lunch that afterwards our waitress had to run out to us twice - first to return our forgotten water bottles, and then to return my forgotten credit card. After lunch Daniel demanded snack breaks, he woke Maggie up during her nap, and it seemed like he needed to pee every 30 minutes. Add in the fact that we were bicycling into a headwind all day, and maybe you can understand why I was becoming very, very frustrated.

I was so annoyed and angry with Daniel for slowing us down that I wanted to punish him, but I wasn't sure how to do that and I think I knew that it wouldn't have helped anyway. He was just too tired to be obedient. Late in the afternoon Daniel fell asleep, and then I calmed down. We traveled much faster without the frequent interruptions, and the headwind no longer felt so strong. I suddenly began to appreciate the pretty countryside all around us. Daniel stayed asleep until the next morning, so he was easy to manage for the rest of the day. I'm glad that I stopped to give him snacks since he slept through dinner.

Daniel pilots a pirate ship while eating breakfast.

These houses in downtown Milton were built in the late 1700's/early 1800's.

Biking through cornfields in central Delmarva.

One of many map checks during our ride. To stay on back roads and avoid traffic, we had to make lots of turns.

We were planning to stay at Martinac State Park tonight, but it was a little bit out of our way and I was tired of paying campground fees. After studying our maps during lunch I decided that we should ride straight towards Saint Michaels (tomorrow's destination) on rural back roads. We figured that a farmer would let us camp in his field somewhere along our route. Sure enough, the first time that I rang a doorbell this evening we were given a place to camp. Mark and Brenda own a large property with several commercial chicken houses, and they let us camp on an open lot at the edge of their land. We pitched camp at dusk and ate dinner in the tent.

With a little luck, tomorrow will be an easier day for our family and I'll approach it with a better attitude. We'll try to keep the children well rested and well fed.

Giant fields of soybeans surrounded us for most of the afternoon.

Mark (far right) and his son Emmett visited us as we pitched camp near their chicken houses.

Maggie plays with a red LED headlamp inside our tent. She and Daniel usually fight over who gets to play with it, but tonight Daniel was asleep so Maggie had it to herself. On our next trip each child will have his/her own headlamp.

Eating dinner in our tent after dark.

Saturday, September 19

Distance: 40.0 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 9 minutes
Average speed: 12.6 mph
Maximum speed: 19.6 mph

As we packed up camp this morning, Mark and Brenda stopped by in their truck to see how we were. They offered us some snacks (pretzels, granola bars and cookies) that I gladly accepted for our children. They haven't eaten much at dinner lately because they haven't liked the meals we've cooked, so the snacks gave them some needed calories. For dinner we've cooked dehydrated foods that Kathy prepared before our trip began, and Kathy and I think they taste great, but the kids must be tired of meals based on rice or noodles.

We had a relaxing ride into Saint Michaels, with a lunch stop Easton about halfway through the ride. Saint Michaels is a popular tourist town with waterfront resorts, a historic downtown, and a well-known maritime museum. Unfortunately, the town's popularity has made lodging so expensive that as we entered town we didn't know where to spend the night. There are no campgrounds within 20 miles of Saint Michaels, and the cheapest hotel (Best Western) costs $169 on a Saturday night. The many bed & breakfast inns downtown cost far more, and most don't permit children anyway. Since those options were way beyond our normal price range, we placed our hope on finding a landowner that would let us camp on his property.

Then some neat coincidences happened. Although it was too late for us to visit the maritime museum, we went there anyway to figure out what we should see tomorrow. As I stood outside the visitor center I looked across the square and saw one of my best college friends walking with his family. "Mark!" We hadn't seen Mark for over a year, and we hadn't visited his wife Dawn or their 4 children for more than 2 years. They live in Maryland about an hour from Saint Michaels, and had driven in for the day. Mark asked, "Mike, what are you doing here, shouldn't you be several states away?" and then he noticed our loaded bicycle. Kathy was inside a building when I first saw Mark, so as she walked back outside she heard Dawn laughing and thought, "I know that laugh, but who is it?" A minute later our six kids were running around the square playing together while we adults were sharing news from the past year. Dawn met Maggie for the first time, and Kathy and I met Mark's son Caleb for the first time.

Eventually Dawn asked us, "Wouldn't you like to join us for dinner? We were planning to eat some pizza before leaving town." But Kathy and I still didn't know where to spend the night, so we told Dawn that we would try to find a campsite first. That turned out to be easy. Less than 2 miles down the road we asked a rural homeowner if we could camp on her land, and she immediately said yes. She even recommended a pizza restaurant in town, and within the hour we were back with Mark and Dawn on the restaurant patio. Our six kids were tired, excited and loud, and probably drove the restaurant staff crazy, but we enjoyed our rare coincidental visit with friends.

Back at camp our hostess, Sarah, invited us in to take showers, which felt like a gift from heaven after three days without bathing. She and her husband Gabe enjoy biking also, and they have an 8-year-old son and an 18-month baby, so we talked about family bicycling. Sarah treated us so well that I felt more comfortable here than I would have at a hotel, and of course the price was much better. I was mentally prepared to pay for a room tonight, so free camping was a nice surprise.

Steeple of the Christ Church Episcopal Church in Saint Michaels. The town is named after the Episcopal parish that was established here in 1677.

Us with my college friend Mark and his family after a chance encounter in Saint Michaels.

Our six children played outside the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for about an hour.

Sitting down for dinner at Ava's Pizza & Wine Bar.


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