Sunday, May 4, 2008

Up the Eastern Shore

We are now on the Eastern Shore, aka the DelMarVa peninsula, heading from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the mouth of the Delaware. We crossed the former by means of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (the CBBT), and will get across the latter by ferry from Lewes DE to Cape May NJ.

This part of our trip has been reworked more than any other. The original plan was to bike to Reedville VA, 80 miles north of Williamsburg, and take a ferry from there to Tangier Is. in the middle of Chesapeake Bay and then a second ferry from Tangier to the Eastern Shore. Turns out the ferry doesn't begin its season until 2 weeks from now.

Then we decided to bike back to Norfolk and take the Bridge-Tunnel. The CBBT Authority will carry bicyclists over by pick-up truck, the cyclists just have to pay the
$12 toll. However, we did not love our route from Norfolk to Williamsburg two weeks ago, so we planned a different route back via Suffolk that was a bit longer but put us on back roads for almost an entire day.

Then that plan had to go. Four days before we would have set out for Suffolk, a tornado went through. 50 houses and businesses totalled, 100 seriously damaged, 300 others somewhat damaged, and the road we planned to take goes right through the heart of the disaster zone! So we took our earlier route in reverse, and it went OK, since this time we were mentally prepared for the narrowness of the roads and the traffic that had to be endured.

Crossing the CBBT was interesting!
It opened in 1964 and was expanded in 1999, and will begin another expansion from 2011 to 2017. It goes 17.6 miles from shore to shore, with 12 miles of trestled roadway, two truss bridges, four man-made islands and two tunnels, each one a mile long. The tunnels allow ocean-going vessels of any height to enter the Chesapeake heading either to Hampton Roads to the south or
towards Baltimore to the north. You can see the roadway disappearing for the more northerly of the two tunnels in this picture, particularly if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

Best part of the CBBT was that it put us on the Eastern Shore. This has been FANTASTIC biking country! We have been almost entirely on quiet country roads like
this one en route to Modest Town VA (that's it's name -- seems a nearby town was known a while back as "Hell Town," and this one got a contrasting nickname that stuck). The roads have been flat, scenic and devoid of traffic. On top of that, we've had tail winds for most of our four days of riding northward. This is Biker Heaven!

We stayed at two nice B&Bs in small towns on the bay side of the peninsula, then in a small apartment in a motel in Chincoteague, near the ocean, that is more like a resort, but at modest off-season prices. Today we're in another small town, Berlin Maryland, and once again in a B&B. Over the next few days we'll see Maryland's tiny Atlantic Ocean shoreline, much of it covered by touristy Ocean City, and all of Delaware's, also quite short (each state has about 30 miles of ocean frontage).

En route here we stopped at Eyre Hall, an extensive plantation that we biked a full mile to reach on a ruler-straight entry road lined with cedar trees on both sides, with verdant fields of wheat stretching out parallel to the road. The white clapboard plantation house is set back a short distance from Chesapeake Bay and has been in the same family for 250 years.
The garden is open to all, but not publicized. Our B&B put us on to it, and it was stunning. The highlight is the old
family burial grounds and the ruins of the orangerie, a brick greenhouse that once was used to grow orange and lemon trees. The garden was a series of "rooms" set off by hedges and trees, each one the size of a small house.
It was well worth the side-trip.

Chincoteague Island is on the Atlantic side of the peninsula, in Virginia just below the Maryland line. We had to ride a narrow causeway to get there. After a rest day we rode without our luggage further east to Assateague Island, which is directly on the Atlantic. Assateague is entirely preserved, part as a National Seashore and part
comprising a National Wildlife Refuge. We've both grown up thinking of islands as land surrounded by water. Islands along the Atlantic are frequently much more complex, with large areas within the island covered by either seawater or freshwater, as they are rarely more than a few feet above sea level. Assateague was like that, as you can see in one shot of some distant Sika Elk, an asian species that was introduced to the island some years ago,
or another of some resting waterfowl on a tidal lagoon.

Assateague however is most famous for ponies that have run wild here for well over a century.
Misty of Chincoteague is a well-known children's book and movie that dramatizes the annual round-up and auctioning off of wild ponies. It started as a money-maker to fund a local volunteer fire department in the 1920's, and immediately became an annual event that now draws tens of thousands to see the ponies driven at low tide across the channel between Assateague and Chincoteague Islands. There were several miles of paved bike trails that gave us great viewing of waterfowl and of the ponies. The pony to the left appeared to be the boss of this herd,
watching guard while the rest of the gang had lunch.

As promised in our last blog, here is a map of the rest of our route to Ithaca and tentative plans for our exploration of New England.
We haven't yet decided whether we will leave Ithaca via the Erie Canal route or by reversing our route from Port Jervis to Ithaca, but those are the two main contenders. We definitely want to see the Hudson Valley, then head toward Hartford to see a variety of friends, including at least two couples we've met on this trip. Our idea is then to island-hop to see the eastern end of Long Island, Block Island, Martha'a Vineyard and Nantucket, trying to avoid the narrow roads and hordes of tourists in lower Cape Cod by taking a ferry from Provincetown to Plymouth. We'll probably swing wide to the west around Boston, but otherwise stay relatively close to the coast from Salem Massachusetts on to the north.

We need to be back in Ithaca by September 8 or so, and have not yet decided how we'll get from Maine there -- possibly over the White, Green and Adirondack Mtns., possibly by taking the ferry to Nova Scotia, biking to Halifax then taking the train to a point north of Ithaca. Stay tuned!

No comments: