The morning started out rather welcoming. The idea was to get up early, hop on a bike, and go along with Jim (he and Michael are hosting us this weekend at their place in Rehobeth, Delaware, the fully stocked beach town about 3 hours east of Washington DC. ) Many people, if you mention “east of DC” would think you were in the Azores, or at least the center of the mighty Atlantic, but in fact there is a whole swath of land, known as the “Eastern Shore” which drips from Delaware, to Maryland, and finally to Virginia. It’s ocean front on the eastern side, and Chesapeake Bay on the western. And for decades it has been the holiday haven for people from Philly to Richmond. But it’s the DC area which is most represented here, and there are times when you think you might be at the Holiday White House, there is so much “Washingtonia” present. We rented a house on the beach in nearby Dewey in 1986 and 87 (Jordan was a baby… it was her first time putting her tootsies into the cool, undulating waters), and spent another couple of weeks here in ’92.
But we have missed it, and this weekend, while Iris is doing a book signing/reading at the main bookstore (Browse About Books), we took advantage to see the beach for a couple of days. Unlike our former lives as occasionally tanned people, we don’t actually go to the beach much. It’s too damn hot, muggy, and yea that gritty sand can really get into some very uncomfortable places. So we lounge about (we’re getting quite good at that) and do a full speed “walk” on the beach for exercise, and just enjoy the breeziness of it all.
Storm clouds emerge
Last night at dinner, Jim invited me to rise early and do a bike ride with him. It seems like a fairly flat place, so I agreed. Most of the biking I have done in the past couple of years has been on a Tunturi stationery bike, strictly for exercise. I have my laptop mounted on there, and can easily while away 45 minutes doing email, surfing photo sites, reading, watching TV..all those things which became popular at the Gyms across the country in the last ten years. So, riding an actual bike, where you need to keep the handle bars, shifters, and brakes in mind, didn’t seem like a big step forward. So about 645 this morning off we went, the sun starting to stream in from the East, and a few clouds out west. Normally Jim rides about 30 miles.. (15 out to South Bethany, and back), and my deal was..I’d ride as long as I thought I was still in range to get back, and then I’d turn around.
It was delightful to feel that morning air racing by my cheeks. The pedaling on the many speed bike was pretty easy. You realize how efficient a bicycle makes a human being. All that rotational energy, and you’re going at two or three times the speed you’d be doing on your own feet. It’s great.
Jim, at speed, on Hiway 1
Sure, I know that millions of Dutch kids do this every day. They ride their bikes hither and yon, it is THE way of getting about. I know that well, actually having lived in the boonies in Salt Lake growing up. I owned a 47 pound Schwinn (ok, maybe only half that but it felt like a Jeep to lift!) with one speed: forward. I pedaled that bike everywhere. On a Saturday I’d go with a friend or two downtown – 11 miles one way, on relatively level streets, to see the better hobby shops (Model airplanes ruled in the early 60s.) We thought nothing of riding that hour or so down, and thence back, though the last mile and a half on Holladay Boulevard, a mildly sloping hill that seemed to never end, was always a challenge, one that kicked our butts routinely. Once I had visited the best bike shop in Salt Lake -- Joe Fishers – and had gone only two block towards home, when a young kid, newly sporting his driver’s license, blew through a Stop sign in his VW bug, made a corner onto Maple street, and headed right for me. Neither of us had the time to react: he hit me head on at 20 or 25 mph, I flew over the car, landing flatly on the roadside, Minor scrapes, and a gash in my left calf. But nothing life threatening, unless you considered the wrath of my mother. I got to my feet, and in true Ted Burnett fashion said “..it could have been worse…” and walked my bike back to the bike shop. The driver took off, and I was stuck trying to get my left pedal un-bent so I could actually pedal the last 6 miles home. At the bike shop they were incredulous that I’d just been hit by a car. But I had the gash to prove it. They fixed the pedal, I went home, and lied to my mom that I’d falled off a side walk. I knew if I told her I’d been hit by a car, that she wouldn’t let me bike to town anymore. I finally told her the truth in 1999.
Just after we took off, maybe 10 or 15 minutes into the ride, the clouds started forming in the West. Big Rollers. Capable of mischief. They began to look pretty ominous, and by the time we hit the 11 mile mark, the bridge over the inlet (no, I’m not sure which inlet) the rain was really heavy. I didn’t have a helmet, so I could see everything. We took shelter for twenty minutes in the leeward side of the cabin at the camp ground where they ask how many stragglers you have in your trunk and how many days you’re staying with them. It kept us from getting sopped. Then the rain broke, and we decided to head back. We hadn’t even cleared our way over the bridge and the rain started coming down again. And this is a part of the DelMarVa peninsula where shelter is difficult to find. Lightning would strike now and then, and I’d think to myself, “no worries, mate, your on rubber.” Then I’d look at the tires again, and realize they were coated in water, that loveable and very conductive substance which lightning adores. And still the rain came.
Admiring a pylon, in the tempest
It just poured, cats, dogs, and the odd road kill. Now and then I’d steer with one hand and use the other as a shield for my eyes. But there was no way around it; we were wet, everything around us was wet, and we were going to stay wet. Once you get to that point of acceptance, it’s a breeze. Another 20 minutes in the downpour and we made it to Dewey again, where the not so great decaf at the Sunrise Café was mighty welcome. We had three cups, and when we got up to go, each of our benches was awash in water that had leeched from our shorts. It was not pretty.
Jim, wet like I was, at the Sunrise
But I loved how that feeling of speed was so contained in the ride. Even in the rain, maybe especially in the rain, there was a feeling of natural power and force. It actually felt pretty cool once you just said… “I am going to be wet this morning.”
The best view of it, perhaps was a more professional looking rider (the Italian/Nascar style clothes, abundant in sponsors, and a very sweet looking bike) who passed us just as the storm renewed its fury. In a blur as he rode past, he turned and yelled “It’s good for your hair…..”
Good for your hair? We're just not sure...
We’re just sayin’… David
The clouds cleared, but the birds know better...