Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Some Beach"..........Delaware

A sharp rapping on the window awakened me from what felt like a drug induced slumber. More rapping, then

"Hey Lady, lady.....are you all right?"  came a disembodied voice.

Tugging my ever present blue ball cap back into place, I bolted upright in the drivers seat, and was greeted with a concerned face peering in at me.  Sheepishly, I rolled down the window.  Standing there was a buxom, red-faced woman, with four young children, who stared wide-eyed at me with undisguised interest.

"Yes," I replied, "Just catching forty winks.  Thanks for asking!"

"Well, ok, "  she returned, "You had me worried!  A woman shouldn't be out here all alone, sleeping in the car. Somethin' bad might happen!"

Thanking her and acknowledging her concern, she nodded at me gravely, gathered her offspring and continued on her way.

Yes, indeed, something bad could have happened, but fatigue had overwhelmed me, and I had to stop.  I had to stop to take a power nap, for as I drove from Cumberland, I could not fight the drooping eyes and nodding head that were stronger than my will to remain awake. Knowing that lack of food contributed to this state, I stopped for nourishment at Subway, but it hadn't helped. I needed to sleep. So sleep I did, in the parking lot of a Bob Evans restaurant--just a short, 20 minute power nap. But it was enough....enough to rejuvenate me and also raise the concern of an unknown stranger.

The pace and energy required for this trip has taken me by surprise.  Riding three or four hours in brutal heat and humidity, then packing the car, driving 200 to 400 miles, followed by unpacking, doing laundry, caring for my 'riding wounds' (a painful task), working on my bike, reviewing my route and preparing for the next day's ride was taking its toll.  I was tired and my body was letting me know it.  This was, yet again, another reminder for me to slow down....to shift my focus from my goals to enjoying the journey...and to take care of myself.

By early evening, I arrived at the home of my Warmshowers hosts, Ina and Ronnie, in Delaware.  With great warmth, Ina welcomed me, offering food, company and a big glass of ice water.  Sheepishly, I had to tell her I had already eaten when she offered me a locally renowned treat, a big Italian sub from their store, Yoder's Country Store.  A short while later, her husband, Ronnie came home and we settled comfortably in the living room to chat.  The evening turned to night as the three of us visited, sharing stories like long lost friends, finally retiring in the wee hours of the night......11 pm for this old timer.

The next morning, dressed and ready to ride, Ina and I picked up where we had stopped the night before. Eating the large and delicious breakfast Ina had prepared,  we engaged in lively conversation and exploration of their life and beliefs as Mennonites.  From this exchange, I learned much about their religion and was surprised to learn that the Amish are an off shoot of the Mennonites. To our mutual delight, we discovered we both hail from the same part of Ohio and knew many of the same places.

Appetite satiated, I soon left to ride, albeit much later than planned.  However, after yesterday's lesson, I savored the time spent in such pleasurable and interesting company rather than fretting about staying on a time schedule.

Turning left out of the driveway, I headed towards the Atlantic Ocean.  Except for the flatness and sandiness of the land, nothing indicated its close proximity.  Fueled with good food, I shot down the road, travelling at a 20 mph average, enjoying the sun on my face and the wind at my back.  I flew past some interesting yard art, then backtracked to take a closer look....life sized sculptures made entirely from horseshoes.

The artist was puttering in his yard, weeding the flower beds.  Asking his permission to photograph his work, he bashfully agreed.  Shy he may have been, but he was soon talking openly in a soft voice, telling me about the sculptures and why he was tending to the flowers.  The flowers were his wife's passion; she had passed away during the winter.  He lovingly cared for them as she would have.  How he missed her, reminiscing about the time they had spent together creating their country paradise.  As the sun climbed higher into the sky, and temperatures rose, I listened with open heart as he poured his sadness and loneliness out to me, a passing stranger.  (Ina--if you read this, please go visit him).

Once on the road again, I thought of Ralph, hoping that time would heal his heart....recognizing what a gift he had been given to have found the love of his life, and what a gift she had received to have been so cherished.

With the sun straight up, a shadow passed over me. Above was a sea gull, flying in the same direction as I was riding.  Stepping from my contemplative state, I became aware of my surroundings.  The air had that unique tang found only near salt water and smelling sweet, like clams.  Farmland full of corn still claimed the left side of the road, but the right side was a swampy wonderland, filled with plethora of plants and wildlife. Turtles and snakes basked on stony protrusions, as herons and storks stabbed their long, sharp beaks into the water at some unseen prey.  Kingfishers darted out of the sky, bombarding the water in unsynchronized  hunting.  Black flies swarmed, flying in a cloud of chaos, interrupted only by the hunting acrobatics of a handful of swallows.  Cattails swayed, and large leafed water lilies floated tranquilly on the murky black surface, giving the frogs a gentle ride. In the far distance, I could see a huge nest in the top of a dead tree.  I would like to think it was that of a bald eagle, but given the number of heron and storks, it was most likely one of theirs.  The swamp, a wildlife nature preserve, extended for as far as I could see.  I wondered vaguely, how one side of the 'highway' could be the host for corn, while the other was this wild and wonderful world of marine life.  (Prime Hook National Wildlife Preserve)
(courtesy of delawaretoday.com)
(courtesy of coastalnewstoday.com)
(courtesy of Wikipedia.com)
Approaching a T in the road, I was presented with a long row of houses, travelling down the far side of the intersecting street; there seemed to be no end to them.  I also heard the unmistakable sound of waves as they came into contact with land.  I had reached the ocean! Now...how do I get there?  It appeared that all the beach access points were on private property.  In fact, I couldn't even see the ocean, though I knew it lay directly behind those homes!  Not to be deterred, I pedaled up and down the road until I found a public access....but, my oh my, what a name: Slaughter Beach!

Prickly pear cactus.
Walking awkwardly on the heels of my bike shoes to avoid getting sand into the clips, my legs began to sting as sweat trickled into the slashes made by the razor sharp grass that stood between me and the beach. As I balanced precariously over large colonies of prickly pear cactus, (cactus on the beach???  Who would have guessed!), I swatted away vicious and voraciously hungry black flies that thought I was a walking smorgasbord. Beginning to sport large welts and cuts on all exposed areas, I decided I had seen enough of the beach.  Time to leave.

This morning, Ina had suggested that I ride a different route than the one I had planned; the roads on which I had chosen to ride were very busy.  She offered some suggestions, then gave me a county map.  Today, I was flying by the seat of my pants.  Since I always get lost anyway, this method might actually be easier and more worryfree!

Leaving Slaughter Beach, I headed north, following the coastline.  It was a pretty and uneventful ride.  Entering Milford, I discovered a lovely old seaside town, complete with old architecture and aged cemeteries. As I explored it, I failed to pay attention to the road surface, and ran straight through a pile of broken glass.  Upon examination of my tires, which were unscathed, I noticed that something didn't look right with my rear wheel.  Not sure if it was supposed to be like this, I returned to a bike shop I had passed earlier. Lucky for me, the owner called himself "The Tire Doctor'.  He looked at it and gave me the thumbs up....all was well.  As we chatted,  he told me he was in Houston last year for the Senior Olympics; he had placed 11th for his age group in cycling!  He was in his 70's; I would have guessed early to mid-sixties had he asked. To me, that is just more proof that cycling, or any exercise, is the key to the fountain of youth!
Jack Sheaffer, 11th place, Sr Olympics 2011
Does anyone know what kind of architecture this is?  There were many buildings constructed this way.
Finally leaving the shop, it was past noon. I needed to be getting back; I had at least 25 miles of riding to do so.  The wind had picked up considerably, and the lovely tailwind from this morning was now a headwind.  With the temperatures hovering around 98 and the humidity high enough to create condensation on the shop windows, I knew I was in for a challenge.  After half an hour of hard riding, I was surrounded by fields of corn being irrigated.  Large sprays of water overshot the corn and landed on the road....  Overheated and dripping with sweat; I decided to take advantage of this watering maladjustment and cool myself.  AAAAHHHH....did that drenching ever feel good!

Wait for it....wait for it....aaahhhhhhh
Two hours later, I was lost and still riding.  It's obvious I would never be mistaken for Sacagawea; Lewis and Clark would still be out there if I were.  

Out of water, I stopped at someone's home to ask if I could get water from their hose.  No one was home; I went around to their backyard to fill my bottles anyway and discovered a beautiful coy pond full of fish!  What a tranquil spot!
Can fish be spoiled?  As soon as I walked to the edge of the pond, they began begging.
Bottles filled and refreshed after drinking some of the cold hose water, I was ready to finish this ride.  Tired and hot, I forsook the scenic route, riding instead the most direct one--straight down the shoulder of the highway.  It was loud: it was busy:it was less than optimal, but it got me back more quickly than the zigging-zagging country lanes.

Back at last, I took a quick shower, stripped the bed, putting the dirty linens in the laundry room, gave Ina a big hug and thank you, then hit the road for New Jersey. But, first, on the way out of town, I stopped at Yoder's Country Store to say good-by to Ronnie and get a big cup of latte.  MMMM-mmmmm.  No falling asleep on the road today!
Yoder's Country Store
Delaware has it all....crops, beaches, swamps and woodlands
I passed this guy with extreme caution!
Griffith's Chapel, 1850
Yummy!  I want to go!
Salt encrusted bike shorts, at testament to the heat and my level of exertion.
Ronnie and Ina
A kiss good-bye.  Thank you for your excellent hospitality.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sue, FYI: Thought you might want know that yesterday as I passed that yard artwork, Ralph was weeding so I did a quick turn around, & visited for about 20 minutes, & he knew Ronnie & family & he is still so very lonely & I did invite him to our church. At first he said he could not remember your stop, & suddenly he said "I do sorta remember some woman on a bike" :) I told we need to keep up the contact! I hope you get a notice about this in a email ...you sound on FB as if you are doing really good...Ina