Monday, March 3, 2008

Ride Report: Migrating Geese and Motorcycles In Delaware

The weather forecast for Sunday, March 2, 2008 in the West Chester, Pa area called for clear sunny skies, with a high of 41º. “Hot rats,” I said. This would be a great day for riding down RT. 9 in Delaware, the highly picturesque road that meanders through salt marshes, rural farms, and little fishing villages for 37 miles between Delaware City and Dover Air Force Base.

After last month’s temperatures in the teens, accompanied by freezing rain, snow, gravel, and salt, 41º degrees seems like a reason to run around naked in the yard. But there’s a catch... It would only hit 41º for fifteen minutes at 2:45pm. Sunday, March 2nd, dawned like any other day in the ice age. It was 27º at 7am, and only four degrees warmer when I left for the rally point -- the highly acclaimed Dunkin Donuts in Exton -- two hours later.

Friend Joe Sestrich, still recovering from his last adventure on a dirt bike, was there in the car to photograph my arrival. He put his crutches down just long enough to snap a picture of me unfolding my cane. The two of us made a sorry argument for motorcycling. There was snow falling on the day I posted this ride and the response from interested parties was less than enthusiastic. I got two polite “maybes,” and one “stick it up your ass, Fat Boy,” from my usual riding partner, whose initials are Dick Bregstein.

I had posted a 10am departure but really wasn’t expecting anybody. I was delighted  when Corey Lyba pulled up on his GS Adventure. Twenty minutes later, we picked up Dave Oehler, and his 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, riding pillion on his pimped out K1200LT. Jessica is the most urbane 10-year-old I’ve ever met. She and her dad wore matching ballistic riding gear and full-faced helmets. Together, they look liked an ad in a BMW magazine. (And we met them at the Harley dealership in Chad's Ford.)

We followed US-202 South, to US-1 South, to PA-52 South, passing through tidy Mendenhall, Pa (with its galleries and antique shops) and Centerville, De (with the legendary Buckley’s Tavern), before turning right onto DE-141 and hitting DE-9 (less than 40 minutes from the start).The salt marshes begin immediately, though this is still a highly industrialized area. In fact, there is a huge oil refinery on the left turn into Delaware City. This facility covers some incredibly pretty real estate. We passed ten deer in a herd on the refinery property. 

Delaware City is a smudge on the map. There is no gas for the next 37 miles, so I topped off at the only station in the center of town. Here we met the fifth member of our party, Rogers George, on his R1150RT.    A few blocks from the gas station is a little barge canal,  just before the main event -- the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal. You cross this by riding over a 20-story pier bridge. 
From left: Dave Oehler, Jessica Oehler, Rogers George, & Corey Lyba (Click to enlarge)
My 1995 BMW K75 "Fire Balls" stands far right

Coming off the bridge from Delaware City is like landing in the marshes on a plane. The bridge ramp drops 200 feet to a hair above sea level. Throughout most of the ride, the road is barely a couple of inches above the water, which can cover the pavement when the tides comes in. This generally occurs at the five small bridge points further on down the road.
Thousands of migrating snow geese taking a break in the marshes on Rt. 9. (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh 

The scenery is incredible. Situated on the Atlantic flyway, we passed thousands of snow geese resting on their return trip northward. Vast numbers of these drifted in the chop of open marshes adjacent to the roadway. Yet the best entertainment of the day occurred when Rogers disturbed a convention of turkey vultures munching on a deer carcass. Corey was next in line and rode right through the departing turkey vulture flight pattern. In an instant, he was dodging huge disgusting brown birds that take off with no precision nor grace. 

The town of Taylor’s Bridge offers two interesting landmarks. The first is a "rear range" lighthouse, built in the early 1900’s. It’s unique iron trestle construction surrounding a column with an internal circular stairway seems both modern and old at the same time.
The "Rear Range" Lighthouse at Taylor's Bridge (De) is 125 feet tall. (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh

The second is a cool one or two-room schoolhouse, built in the ‘20s and meticulously maintained.
Historic Taylor's Bridge School (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh

Ten miles down the road is the extensive Bombay Hook Wildlife Preserve. The is the federal government at its best. This wildlife preserve is the epitome of peace and repose. The $4 fee they charge to get into this place is well worth the money. There are three or four tidal pools in this place, surrounded by marshes, and infrequent stands of hardwoods. The preserve closes at sunset. I advise getting there with a 90-minute jump on dusk. The setting sun is an appropriate backdrop to the beauty of this place. Note: All the roads in here are dirt and gravel. The speed limit is 25mph.
No traffic, few houses, occasional straight stretches, and cops: RT. 9

Just before the end of the line, there is a great restaurant in the town of Little Creek: Cavaliers East. The crab soup in this place is the best I have tasted in the whole Delmarva region. We arrived just in time for their Sunday buffet, which offered a wide selection of traditional southern cooking (plus meatloaf).
Salt marshes are to boating what the "Dragon's Tail" is to biking, apparently. (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh

The ride totaled 154 miles. The weather did warm up, to about 38º! I intend to extend future rides to this destination another ten miles or so -- to North Bowers beach. This is a little fishing village with a great seafood place right on the water. During the summer months, you can sit out on the deck, listen to music, eat a dozen clams on the half-shell, and sip a nice lemonade, if you catch my drift. 

Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)


BMW-Dick said...

Sorry I missed this this ride.Can't believe Dave let his daughter in the same county as you.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great day Jack. Reminds me a lot of riding the Long Beach Penninsula - in Washington State. Hope I can join in a New England ride one of these years.

Anonymous said...

These are the nost exciting stories I've ever read - along with simply breathtaking photographs.