Bicycling the Delmarva Peninsula, page 4

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

Sunday, September 20

Distance: 23.5 miles
Riding time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Average speed: 12.5 mph
Maximum speed: 26.2 mph

We spent most of today at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, a place that Sarah referred to last night as "a little maritime museum in town." To us it seemed large, occupying several buildings beside the bay. We could only see a fraction of it, given the slow pace of our children, so we visited buildings that we thought Daniel would enjoy. The most prominent was the Hooper Strait Lighthouse that was originally placed in the bay 5 miles from the nearest shore back in 1879. The displays inside explained the lives of lighthouse operators, of which there were many. At one time the bay had more than 70 lighthouses, and most operators could tolerate the job for only a year or two before quitting.

Other buildings that we visited focused on oystering, the history of the bay from colonial times through the Civil War, and the gradual change of use from commercial fishing (and oystering and crabbing) to recreational fishing and tourism. One message was clear in all exhibits: the health of Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. The populations of commercially important sea creatures like rockfish, oysters and crabs have all plummeted, and due to continuing damage to the bay (pollution, dredged oyster beds, reduced sea grass, etc.) sea life will keep declining unless we quickly stop abusing the bay. Politically this is a tough problem to fix because the Chesapeake's huge watershed includes many different states and cities, and many different industries contribute to the pollution. On the other hand, many people love this beautiful bay, so maybe they can motivate us to make the collective changes that are needed.


Our campsite on Sarah's front lawn. Daniel is standing by the front door to watch television through the windows.


The Hooper Strait Lighthouse sat over a shallow part of Chesapeake Bay from 1879 to 1966 before being brought to the museum in Saint Michaels.


The frensel lens on top of the lighthouse.


The bell striking mechanism rang the lighthouse bell at regular intervals during foggy weather.


Looking out over the Miles River from the lighthouse deck.


Lots of recreation boats were going out to the bay in the morning.


Visiting museums is never easy with our children, but Maggie was patient most of the day and Daniel liked the many full-size boat exhibits.


Michael digs for oysters with a set of tongs, but comes up with nothing but shells.

Late in the afternoon we got a final treat at Justine's Ice Cream Parlor, which might have been the busiest store in town on this hot day. We like eating ice cream during our bike tours, and the possibility of ice cream helps our children behave better, because only good boys and girls get ice cream. Both kids quickly fell asleep in the trailer as we biked out of town.

As sunset approached we were again far from any campground, so I resorted to knocking on doors and asking for permission to camp, but our luck was not so good tonight. At the first house where we stopped to knock, dogs started barking as soon as I dismounted our bike, and then an old farmer stormed out of his barn swearing at me for making the dogs bark. Eventually the farmer calmed down, but I wasn't interested in camping there anymore. Maybe he was having a bad day. At other houses either no one was home, or we were told that there was no place to camp. It wasn't until my 7th stop that we were welcomed onto the property by Jimmy, who has a family much like ours - his two children are ages 4 and 2, they like bicycling, and they own a trailerbike and child trailer.

I think part of why we had poor luck tonight is that this area is too suburban. There are only a few real farmers out here despite the huge acreage of corn and soybeans. Most of the homes are clustered in upscale neighborhoods that must be bedroom communities for Annapolis or Baltimore, and we've always had less luck in neighborhoods like that.




Eating dessert at Justine's Ice Cream Parlor.

Monday, September 21

Distance: 30.9 miles
Riding time: 2 hours, 29 minutes
Average speed: 12.4 mph
Maximum speed: 28.9 mph

Our family rode just 20 miles to get to our next destination, the home of Dana and Carmella. They are hosts that we met through the internet, and we arranged our visit with them before starting our trip. They live on Kent Island just a few miles from the Bay Bridge, a 4-mile-long bridge that crosses the bay and connects the Delmarva Peninsula to mainland Maryland. Bicycling is not permitted on the bridge, so Dana will drive us across in his minivan tomorrow. Our ride today was forested and pretty, and included many steep little hills at creek drainages. I hope that isn't a sign of larger hills to come farther west.

Dana welcomed us into his house and Kathy began working on our most pressing need - washing our clothes and children. Daniel hadn't bathed since leaving Colorado, so he was filthy. Meanwhile, Dana led me on a fun little bike ride out to the bay on Kent's Cross-Island Bicycle Trail. We paused by the water for a while to watch boats and look at the Bay Bridge.

We put our tired, frantic kids to bed early and enjoyed a nice dinner with Dana and Carmella. It's so convenient to have separate bedrooms rather than a single, cramped tent.


Daniel helped walk Maggie to sleep for her morning nap.


One of many wooden bridges along the Kent Cross-Island Trail.


Dana rides his recumbent on the trail to Terrapin Park, out by Chesapeake Bay.


The Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Tuesday, September 22

Distance: 56.8 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 33 minutes
Average speed: 12.5 mph
Maximum speed: 39.8 mph

Daniel must have woke up thinking that Dana was his new best friend, because he found Dana downstairs at breakfast and talked to him almost non-stop until we left the house. Daniel mostly talked about lighthouses, boats and oystering, and I was a little surprised at how much he understood and remembered from our visit at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum two days ago.

After breakfast Dana drove us across the Bay Bridge to the west side of Chesapeake Bay, and it took 2 trips with his minivan to get the four of us plus all our equipment over the bridge. Daniel and I loaded up our bike at Sandy Point State Park while Dana drove back to get Kathy, Maggie and our child trailer.


Dana shows Daniel pictures of Chesapeake Bay lighthouses.

We soon rode into Annapolis and the historic downtown looked so appealing that we stopped to eat lunch and ice cream there. The street pattern of traffic circles within traffic circles made navigating downtown incredibly confusing (especially since we didn't have a good map,) but we liked the brick roads and little shops in buildings 100 to 200 years old.

Lunch was our last relaxing moment of the day. We left town using my Maryland Bicycling Map and tried to follow one of the official state bike routes, but found that both the map and the bike route are lousy. The map frequently omitted highway numbers and road names, leaving us to guess which way to turn several times. The bike route followed many high-traffic, high-speed roads with no shoulders, including a few stretches of limited access highway (entry and exit ramps.) I think I could have picked a better route with a Rand-McNally street map, and I would have made fewer wrong turns.

Kathy and I gambled on our destination today and lost. We decided in the afternoon that we should try to reach Fredericksburg in just 2 days rather than 3. By altering our route we tried to ride all the way to La Plata, Maryland tonight to stay with a host who I had talked to months ago, when I was getting advice about bicycling in Maryland. Unfortunately, we never made contact with Walter today. We left messages for him at home and at work, and called multiple times, but he never answered. At 7 p.m. we had to give up because it was dark, we were somewhat lost, and due to hilly roads we were still many miles from La Plata. I walked up to an ice cream store and asked a pair of customers if there was any place to camp nearby - there wasn't. We turned on our bicycle headlight and were about to bicycle off to who-knows-where when another customer, Marty, ran up to us and offered to help. He knew an acquaintance just a few blocks away that might let us camp on his land. With few other options we agreed to follow him to the house, but it felt mighty awkward to watch him ask for a campsite on our behalf. The landowner, Jack, seemed a little annoyed when he first heard the request, but he let us set up camp and told us to come into the house if we needed water or to use the bathroom. A bit later when we came in for water Jack and his wife Joan were very friendly, which was good, but I wish that we hadn't been introduced to them through a middleman.

Camping this evening may not have worked out quite like I hoped, but we did cover a lot of miles and we still might arrive at my parents' house in Fredericksburg tomorrow.


The Naval Academy campus in Annapolis.


Downtown Annapolis.


A local couple asks us to explain how our bicycle works - a common occurence on this trip. Three sets of passersby asked about our bicycle trip while we were eating lunch.

Wednesday, September 23

Distance: 79.4 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 12 minutes
Average speed: 12.8 mph
Maximum speed: 37.4 mph

We must have found a good neighborhood to camp in last night. Jack and Joan left for work early this morning, but their neighbor walked over a bit later and invited us to use his bathroom to get ready this morning. He also offered us snack food, but we didn't need it because Joan had already given us snack food last night. Getting ready at his house gave me a chance to admire some of his woodwork, like bowls turned from native chestnut wood. American chestnut trees all died from blight in the early 1900's, so he used wood recovered from old, dilapidated, Maryland barns built with chestnut. Most of his woodwork had a historical connection of some sort, and my impression is that the towns around here are very proud of their colonial and American history.

We started our ride as early as we could (which was barely before 11 a.m.) looking forward to a comfortable evening at my parents' home but dreading the long ride to get there. It was easy to motivate Daniel by saying, "Daniel, get on your bike so we can ride to Grandma and Grandpa's house!" He has been asking about Grandma and Grandpa for days. Along our route we saw many historical markers, generally saying one of three things: we fought the British here, a signer of the Declaration of Independence is buried here, or George Washington did something here (slept, partied, grew up, etc.)

In the afternoon we rode up to the Potomac River Bridge between Virginia and Maryland, where I expected us to have a major delay - bikes aren't allowed on the bridge. The Maryland Transportation Authority is willing to shuttle bikers across the bridge, but I had heard stories of bikers waiting up to 3 hours for a ride. Thankfully, we were treated much better. Within minutes of our arrival we had 2 maintenance trucks at our disposal, and after a few minutes more the drivers had found a child car seat for Maggie to sit in (they borrowed it from a co-workers car.) They shuttled us across the 1-mile bridge and we were pedaling again less than an hour after we first arrived. We didn't even have to pay the toll.


Maggie pretends to ride Daniel's trailerbike while we pack up camp. She dearly wants to ride her own bicycle, but I haven't found one short enough for a 1-year-old.


One of several historic markers along today's route.


Corn harvest in Virginia.

Today's hills were the steepest of our trip, so we were relieved to finally reach historic Fredericksburg just before sunset. We were very tired, but only 5 miles from my parents' house. Kathy called my Mom to let her know that we were close and then we pushed on, knowing that my parents would have a great dinner waiting for us. The only problem was that the hills leading to their house seemed incredibly steep, and in the dark I had a hard time seeing the landmarks on the "new route" that Mom had described. My bike computer chose to stop working this evening, so I wasn't sure how far we had traveled, and the high-speed traffic was intimidating. Eventually Kathy told me to call Mom again, and that's when we got the bad news. Kathy had misunderstood Mom's directions, so we had missed a turn and now we needed to backtrack about 10 miles. Kathy was so exhausted that she just slumped over her handlebars and cried. Daniel asked, "Why is Mommy so sad?" and I told him that we were lost and had to ride much further. I'm thankful that the kids were well behaved tonight, because if they had started crying or screaming then I might have broken down myself.

The last 10 miles really weren't so bad, and as we saw familiar landmarks we gained encouragement to pedal hard. At the house there were Mom and Dad, waving at us under the streetlights and then greeting us with hugs and kisses. Inside our dinner was reheating on the stove. It was almost 9 p.m. and all my muscles were trying to cramp up, but we were finished with our bicycle tour and I was happy and proud.


The Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg.


Downtown Fredericksburg.


The Lewis Store, built in 1749. For many years Fielding Lewis, George Washington's brother-in-law, ran this mercantile store as part of his family's shipping operations.

PREVIOUS <-----> NEXT

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