A tradition among many cross-country cyclists involves dipping your back tire in the ocean you are leaving and dipping your front tire in the ocean you were heading for, as a way to fully embody “coast-to-coast.”
Not only do Ben and I find this as ridiculous as we do trail names, but lugging your bike across the sand (which is terribly exhausting) and getting copious amounts of sand in our chains (also terribly exhausting…to clean), is incredibly undesirable. So when people started asking us, “where are you going to see the coast?” my first reaction was, “we’re not.” End of story.
However, the story didn’t end there. Ben’s desire to see Williamsburg and Jamestown brought us unusually close to the coast, so close in fact, that it was pretty much unavoidable. And before you could say the words, “fresh seafood,” my irrational qualms with the coast had vanished.
After our hellish day crossing the Chesapeake, we landed at Kiptopeke State Park, right on the southern tip of the peninsula, where Ben was so generously offered coffee by a Canadian angel. After some showers, dinner, and talk about doing laundry, we curled up in our tent as the rains began to fall.
We woke up next morning to grassy ponds and clear skies. But wait, we didn’t do our laundry! We quickly gathered our things and started our load, hoping to get on the road as soon as the buzzer went off. You’d think we would have learned this lesson some time ago… Morning quickly became noon and we still hadn’t packed up the tent. Instead, we decided to take the day off, a choice I think we both had already made the night before. So we packed our lunch and set off to explore the place my mind was fixed to believe was an island.
The park had many signs on the trails (apparently birding is popular out here) some of which really left you hanging. Perhaps the state of Virginia feels bird watchers need work on their critical thinking….
Our first ocean photoshoot. We forgot to wear our matching white shirts and jeans. We were barefoot, though!
Virginia also seems to take pride in their lawns – everywhere we went, we could either hear and/or see a lawnmower. It’s kind of odd watching people ride around on their giant lawnmowers when you’re in what you thought was a state park.
After our day of rest, we headed up the shore toward Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. For lunch, we stopped at Exmore Diner, apparently the best food in the area. I was a little intimidated about ordering seafood at a diner, so went with my usual turkey club, only to find out bites later, that the diner was known for the seafood. Darn!
After lunch, we scurried our way up to Chincoteague Island, where we were intending to cross into Maryland. While munching on an afternoon snack of soft-shelled crab and oyster sandwiches just before crossing into Maryland, we discovered, after a heated discussion with the cooks, that the road we had been planning to ride up was actually a sandy beach. As mentioned before, this was highly undesirable.
We quickly located a nearby RV park, but were a little bummed we weren’t going to stay at in the park we had heard so many good things about. We were delighted to find that the park had closed between the time I called asking if there was tent camping and our arrival not thirty minutes later, and chose the furthest, most out of sight spot to unload our stuff.
With our bikes light and airy, we set off for Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to check out the sights.
Of course my hands were filled with treasures before we had gone too far. Ben refused to hold my shoes for me.
Next morning, we fled the scene of the crime before the office opened. Stealth camping in campgrounds has become one of my favorite things to do….
We rode into the cutsy little beach town to find some breakfast and then were off to begin our inland detour.
I pulled this bad boy out of my tire. Yikes!
As we pulled into downtown Berlin, Maryland for lunch, Ben realized his wallet was missing. The last time he remembered seeing it was 50 miles south, on Chincoteague Island. We were both hoping Ben had acquired enough wallet-returning Karma for this to turn out.
After checking in with the few stores we were at this morning without much luck, we got our lunch and drank away our sorrows with a strawberry milkshake. Ben went outside to cancel his credit cards while I paid the bill. When I met him outside, he was on the phone with the manager from the place we had breakfast, and THEY FOUND IT! Ben called them back and set up a mail drop and they promised to send it the coming monday, even offering to get a money order for the cash that was in his wallet. We should have gotten another milkshake.
Feeling much better than before, we pedaled on to Ocean CIty and up the coastal highway to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. It was kind of odd being at a beach town on the east coast, especially since it was oddly reminiscent of the west….
Right before entering the park, we stopped at a liquor store to buy some booze for the night. We were both immediately drawn to the case of Dogfish Head brews, not only because of their stylish labels, but because they are a brewery Ben and I both enjoy (fun fact – their 60 minute IPA was the first IPA I could drink without cringing). Then it dawned on us…………..Dogfish Head Brewery is in Delaware. We are in Delaware.
We immediately checked our phones to find their locations, and of course, we passed right by their tap room earlier today without even knowing it. Holy Crap.
In my frustration, I bought their 90 minute IPA, with 9% ABV. There was no way we were going to ride 10 miles round trip to drink some beer we’ve already had…right?
WRONG! Before we even stuffed the slightly sweating beers into our bags, we had decided we were going. There was no way we could be in Delaware and NOT go to Dogfish. Ashley would kill us.
We raced our way to the park, trying to use our limited remaining daylight hours wisely. As we neared the park office, a tall young guy with ray ban knock-offs stuck his head out of the window with a giant grin, saying, “Are you touring!?!?!?!??!?! I’ve always wanted to tour, don’t worry about paying. Where are you from? Yeah, the campgrounds full, but you can just stealth camp off some trail. How long have you been on the road? Oh, you want to go to Dogfish? Yeah, that area’s closed for the nesting birds, but you can walk through there anyways, I take walks back there all the time. Have a safe trip!”
So, we proceeded to do everything he told us to do. We pitched our tent right off a trail, grabbed what we needed (good thing Ben didn’t lose his passport!), and hiked off into the sunset, beers in hand.
Turns out, the nesting birds were nesting in a bunch of sand dunes, which soon turned into marshland, and after a few miles, quiet neighborhoods. It was quite the hike.
By the time we got to Dogfish, my legs were sore and I was sufficiently tipsy – 5 miles of intermediate hiking wasn’t enough to work off my 9% buzz. It was 10 o’clock.
It was the day before mother’s day, and the place was packed with families. We were seated right next to the stage, right beneath the speakers. Ben stuffed napkin wads in his ears and I had to order my beers and food with sign language. I went for the sampler, Raison D’Etre, Apirhop, 120 minute, Black and Blue, and their Black and Red. All were delicious except for the Black and Red, a mint infused stout, which was a little intense as you might be able to imagine.
We ordered the dogfish pile nachos, antelope sliders, and a pizza I can’t really remember. As we mowed down on food and drink we watched as one seemingly drunk daughter stood up and started dancing by herself. She eventually rallied someone else’s mother, but finished off solo as the slimy and overweight lead guitarist playfully jammed the guitar’s neck into her breasts. I was so appalled I forgot to check the mother’s expression. I can’t imagine it being too different from my own. Happy Mother’s Day!
We left Dogfish a little more intoxicated than when we had arrived, setting off into the darkness with much more vigor than usual. It was midnight.
Our energies softened as our walk turned to a hike, and 5 miles later, we collapsed into our undiscovered tent, wishing we had thought to blow up our air mattresses when we were sober. It was 2 in the morning.
Four hours later, I find myself unable to fall back asleep, as Ben snores gently by my side. This is the exact opposite of what usually happens. Hung over and nervous of getting caught stealthing it at a state park, I roused Ben and we packed our stuff, again, a total role reversal. Unfortunately, the ferry we were going to take into New Jersey wasn’t hungover and paranoid like I was and was leaving at the very same time it had always intended: 9am. With 3 hours to kill, we brushed our teeth, climbed up the WW2 watch towers (the spiral staircase did some work on my headache), and tried to locate some food. This was one of those days where I was aching for a cup of coffee.
We arrived to Cape May, New Jersey a little before lunch, just in time for second breakfast. After pancakes and lots of orange juice and water, we headed out to Wharton State Park, the very same woods Tom Brown wandered around in as a kid.
Before we even left the town of Cape May, the people of New Jersey had made it to the top of my worst drivers list. They are all super fast and aggressive, and we were still 150 miles from NYC.
New Jersey has lots of pizza parlors. Cheap and easy – New Jersey equivalent to burritos?
After getting lost a couple times due to lack of street signs, we spent the night at a completely deserted (and free) campground right across the blood red river from an RV park. After drinking some of the water from a super old water pump, we realized the river was red from extreme iron levels. It reminded me of Camp Steven’s water back in the day…
Our second and last day in New Jersey, we rode back out to the coast and up the Jersey Shore. The further north we got, the more fun the sightseeing became.
The houses in particular were fantastic to look at – each mansion was done in a completely different style than the next, each one outdoing the other in so many wonderfully horrific ways. In a nutshell, these houses were hideous, so hideous in fact, that you couldn’t help but laugh.
Ben being a Jersey boy.
As we neared the northern tip of the Jersey Shore, we realized we had made yet another state park mistake. The park we were hoping to stay at only took groups of boy/girl scouts. Being neither, we had to figure out an alternative. So we called up Ben’s friend Dan, who we were planning on staying with in the city the next couple of nights, asking if it would be okay to pop in early. A half an hour before the last ferry into the city, Dan gave us the okay, and we rolled our bikes onto the boat, made sure we were sitting on the right side, and watched the sun set as we crossed the bay toward NYC.