Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weather and Whither

The past 2 weeks have been dominated by two issues: the weather and trip planning. We had 2 days of waiting out rain all day, 3 days of near misses, and 2 soakings. On trip planning we succeeded after much effort in working out our route to Ithaca and, much harder, finding lodging that was available and would not also subject us to a soaking of sorts.

We left you in Berlin MD. We stayed in our B&B 'til the last moment before checkout time and succeeded in missing the morning showers and in beating the next round to Ocean City, our destination.
Ocean City has a boardwalk, like Virginia Beach to the south and like every city and town on the Delaware (i.e., both of them) and Jersey shores. It was wider and more bike-friendly than many, and of average tackiness. Further north was a row of condos that reminded us of the statues on Easter Island,
gazing forlornly out at the ocean. It was still 2 weeks before Memorial Day, and the beach was empty and the condos nearly so. We found a chain motel not far from the public library and spent the rest of the day and all of the next (while it was raining) on the library computers trying to find a place that would watch our tandem for one day the following week while we took a train in to NYC. The Princeton Holiday Inn came to our rescue after many others declined, and we'll tell you more further down about that side trip.

Our next overnight was in Rehoboth Beach, which we'd heard was quite nice. It did have a nice beach and boardwalk and a large neighborhood of gorgeous homes near the beach, but the only motel we could afford was tucked between two outlet malls out on the highway.
The town of Lewes DE (pronounced "Lewis") was a very pleasant surprise, with over a dozen 18th century houses and even this one that dates to the 1660s. In Lewes we picked up the ferry
across the mouth of the Delaware to Cape May, where ocean swell coming upriver gave us sea legs in our 80 minute crossing. Rain was again chasing us, but we managed to see the lighthouse, bike along the 2-mile seawall, check into
the impressive Inn of Cape May, walk past
dozens and dozens of beautiful B&Bs that rent rooms for $150-300 a night even in the off season, and even have dinner before the rain came.

The first drops were literally as we approached the Inn. Within an hour it was a full-blown humdinger of a Nor'easter. Our room was on the windward side of the Inn, and the 40-60 mph wind found its way through the window frame to rustle the curtains in our room. We emerged only to walk, tilted to the wind, two blocks to the library the next day, back for lunch, then back to the library. By late afternoon it abated enough for our friends Jim and Anita, the boaters we've been tag-teaming up the coast, to catch a taxi from their marina out of town in to our Inn to join us in the dining room for dinner.
They told a wild story of riding out the storm surge at high tide that morning at 4, when the water rose above the wharf they were tied up to, and that we're standing on the next day when we stopped by to see them on our way out of town. It's convenient having your kitchen and bedroom always available, but we're not so sure we would enjoy the bouncing that comes with that convenience, particularly when the weather is as rough as that!

We were worried about the ride north the next day, as there was supposed to be a 20-30 mph headwind,
but somehow or other it never seemed that strong except in this one spot where the surf made for an exciting ride. All in all, we had a pleasant ride along the Jersey shore, jumping from barrier island to barrier peninsula to barrier island. One of them, Wildwood NJ,
had a most unusual lighthouse shown here, but the waterfront had otherwise been despoiled by the tackiest boardwalk yet, an unremitting wall of ugly buildings you wouldn't buy dog food from let alone the fried and sugary concoctions they were trying to hawk.
But Ocean City NJ made up for it with a beautiful boardwalk that stretched 3 miles from a residential area to the south to the small and remarkably clean-looking cluster of shops and small-scale amusement parks to the north.
We found a motel pressed up against the boardwalk where we could see the waves from our room. Ah, this is what we've been biking up the coast to find!!!

At last we said goodbye to the coast just before Atlantic City, seen in the distance here, and headed inland with no plans to see saltwater for a month. As we left the coast, we saw dogwood blossoms. Hey, we posted a photo two months ago of dogwood blossoms buried under Spanish Moss in
Beufort SC, then a month ago in Virginia Beach VA. We have been following Spring north, even though the temperatures have been largely in the 50's and 60's since leaving Florida, not the 70's we'd hoped for! We stopped for a visit to two relics of the past, the ruins of Hopewell Furnace and the restored village of Batsto,
both of which turned bog iron into cast iron stoves and kettles and, during the Revolution, cannons and cannon balls, both of which had spent their careers by the mid-19th century.

And then the weather turned again. We woke up to a steady rain and decided that getting drenched was preferable to hanging out in Pemberton NJ, where the B&B was almost 2 miles from the only real restaurant in town and there was no library to retreat to. Half-way to Princeton and quite thoroughly moistened, shall we say, we weren't so sure we'd done the calculation correctly, but it was a bit late for that. We stopped in a trendy-looking coffee house to revive ourselves for the last 10 miles of our 40-mile slosh, and one of the employees came out a few minutes later to mop up the rather large puddle where we had landed. But make it we did, and the Holiday Inn had a guest laundry where, minutes after arrival, a large portion of our clothing was awash in suds.

Thanks to Holiday Inn agreeing to hold our bike for a day and night while we were gone and to frequent-sleeper points from a motel chain, we had an interesting trip on a New Jersey Transit train to the Big Apple.
Louise's son Brian had a gig at the Buddhist Church of New York with his group, the Happy Fun Smile Band. We had seen photos of Brian and his band in action, but seeing, hearing, feeling it was something else again. Brian is lead male singer, and emcee and primal energy source for the group. At one point this nominally Okinawan band struck up a waltz and Brian came down the hall to dance with his Mom.
Later they did a Japanese Obon Odori dance that looks a lot like the hokey-pokey. It was so much fun to see them at last! We spent the rest of the afternoon
with Brian and with Louise's brother Richard, who also lives in New York, then spent the night at the Eastside Ramada in midtown. Good thing we weren't paying, it would have been $230 for a very small, rather plain room. New York is a great place to visit, but wow is it pricey. Next day we had lunch with Brian and experienced $14 sandwiches which looked remarkably like some $6 sandwiches we've had earlier on the trip.

We left Princeton hoping to beat the rain once more. No such luck. For the morning, however, it was intermittent and so light that we did not even bother with rain jackets for a while. Hey, we're from Seattle! No bigee! We reached the D&R (Delaware and Raritan) Canal at Washington Crossing NJ
-- yup, where Washington crossed the Delaware to catch those sleeping Hessian soldiers on Christmas morning 1776, roughly where the camera is looking from the bridge that wasn't there then -- and the canal path was a pleasant alternative to the busy shoulderless road nearby.
As it went along the Delaware, still a fairly large river here, the trail morphed into a railtrail, and we found a wonderful lunch spot in a restored train depot. But the rain gathered force and became a steady pour not unlike the day into Princeton, and we had another wet one. Fortunately, it was only 5 more miles to our destination, and we had the trail to ourselves.

When we made reservations for the Stockton Inn, we had no idea we'd been hearing about it for years from two of the icons of American musical theater,
Rogers and Hart. This is the small hotel of the song that goes "There's a small hotel, with a wishing well, wishing we were there, together..." The dining room dates to 1711 but with charming idealized scenes of the locale painted during the Depression by artists trading their art for room and board. When the owner saw how bedraggled we were on check-in, he upgraded us to a gorgeous suite where we soon had everything out on hangers. What a fitting way to end this segment, drying off and looking forward to our last push to Ithaca.
Indeed, the rain ended about the time we had dinner, and we got this moody picture of the Delaware just after sunset.

We have 7 days to go now to reach Ithaca, following the Delaware for the first 5 of them along NJ-PA border to Port Jervis and then the NY-PA border toward Binghamton. We'll talk to you next from there!

1 comment:

Dave said...

hi guys..nice blog!!!came across it by googling "octagon house vermont"...I am beginning a blog here as well, entitled The Blue Octagon Social Club, named for our home....consequently, I found it interesting that the folks in St. Johnsbury had told you they have the only octagon house in VT, and wondering where they got their info...its quite obviously incorrect, as we live in one as well, about an hour from St. J. in a town called Moretown!!!Ours is a repro of the original 1860's design style, having been built in revival in 1985...pix on my blog coming soon!! just an interesting tidbit, if you are interested...dbest wishes...dave