Our Trip To Delaware, July 2006

by Michelle Erica Green

Saturday, July 8th we packed up and drove to Bethany by way of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. We had lunch at the Crab Claw, a very good seafood restaurant right next to the museum, inexplicably decorated with hunting trophies but with very good crab soup, crab balls, crab dip, crab cakes...are you noticing a theme? Then we toured the museum itself, going inside the 1879 screwpile lighthouse, watching the boats being built in the skipjack restoration buildings and walked out on the wharf where there are crab and eel traps so people can see how they are collected, cleaned and shipped. There is also a large boathouse with more than a dozen locally built boats, an indoor oysterboat and model restaurant because oysters are so important to the region, an indoor historical museum on yachting in the Bay and a building entirely with paintings and models of historical ships and local military history. We had wanted to stop in part because a replica of John Smith's shallop was on display.

Then we drove to Bethany, where my parents had already arrived and retrieved keys, parking passes, etc. for the condo where we are staying -- same as last year, three bedrooms and three bathrooms which is a lifesaver, big living room, father brought his iPod with speakers and lots of music, and now there is wireless so we each have our own computers! We went out for pizza at the local Armand's and ate at one of the outdoor tables because it was a gorgeous low-80s evening, then walked to the beach, where it was a bit too dark for wading but a bit too light for ghost crabs...still, mostly empty and pretty and smelled wonderful. And then we came back here to get the kids to bed and I cropped photos from earlier and chilled out!

Click here for photos of St. Michael's.

Sunday we had mostly a beach day. My father played tennis in the morning, then we all went to the shore -- me, Paul and Adam to the ocean the entire time, Daniel and my parents to one of Sea Colony's pools. The Atlantic felt much colder than it did the week before when we were in Emerald Isle in North Carolina, and the waves were rougher, but this didn't faze Adam in the least. He and I found sandcrabs and clams and jumped waves while Paul, who had twisted his ankle jogging last week, hung out at the water's edge and spotted pelicans.

In the late afternoon, Paul, my mother and I went to the Seaside Country Store in Fenwick Island to get crab house nuts, fudge and other gourmet necessities, then to the brand new Super Giant while my father took Daniel and Adam to one of Sea Colony's indoor pools. Adam and I took a walk to look for frogs in the local swamp before dinner. In the evening we watched True Caribbean Pirates, which was on the History Channel in honor of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest being in the theaters.

Click here for photos of Sea Colony and the Atlantic.

Monday we went to the beach early, and found that while the air was warmer, the water was colder, or at least felt colder, though it was less rough than the day before. We found many mole crabs and little burrowing coquina clams, but Daniel did not last long in the water because it was so chilly, and eventually Adam too wanted to go to the heated swimming pool. So we left the shore and swam for awhile in the big pool-gym complex, then came back for lunch.

In the afternoon we went to Ocean City to play miniature golf at one of several themed Old Pro Golf places in the area -- this one has dinosaurs outside and, in the only indoor mini-golf in this region, an undersea-themed course with a recreated submarine, pirate ship, cave with waterfall, etc. They also have a medieval castle miniature golf place that we want to play, and I'd say the odds are good since Paul won a free game on any course by hitting a hole in one at the final hole. I got two holes in one earlier and golfed under par, but nothing so spectacular. *g* The course had an arcade, so the kids won thrilling things there too like stuffed fish.

We had dinner at Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth, which is not terribly glamorous but has excellent seafood -- Paul and I had pecan-crusted halibut, Roy had grilled yellowfin tuna, Adam and Linda had crab cakes and Daniel had flounder. Then, since we were already in Rehoboth, we went for a walk on the boardwalk there. Adam won a stuffed penguin at an arcade and was the happiest boy on the beach. We got the kids ice cream and wandered into a couple of the beach stores, where I restrained myself from buying tie-dyes.

Click here for photos of miniature golf and Rehoboth.

Tuesday we went to Assateague Island National Seashore. It was warmer and muggier than previous days, but there was a nice breeze by the water. We went to the visitor's center with its touch tank and aquarium with local fish and shellfish, including flounder, sea horses, horseshoe crabs and whelks; then we walked to the National Aquarium's wildlife rescue exhibit, and then drove over to the island.

Unlike last year, when we had to observe the ponies from a distance, this time they were right up by visitors, grazing and crossing the roads and all over the place near the old boat house. It is against the law to feed or touch the horses but they came within a couple of feet of tourists with cameras. There were also sika -- the little Japanese deer released on the island earlier this century which now wander and eat the brush -- and white-tail deer right near the bridge to and from the island, where the park police were shooing people trying to stop traffic to take photos. We walked out on the boardwalk to the dock where people drop crab traps -- there are egrets, assorted gulls and red-winged blackbirds in the marshes and we saw a couple of crabs scuttling in the muddy bay water. After driving off the island to go find lunch, we came back to see the shipwreck and the Atlantic shore, though we couldn't get a spot in the parking lot so we didn't stay there, just took more photos of the wildlife.

By the time we got back to Bethany in the late afternoon, the temperature had dropped as the clouds moved in, so we went to a lovely cool beach for awhile to wade in the surf. Then my father took the kids to the heated outdoor pool, where there was a concert going on, while Paul and I came back to the condo to shower and do laundry. I would have liked to go back to the beach in the evening to look for ghost crabs, but the Baseball All-Star Game was on so there was no chance of anyone going with me!

Click here for photos of Assateague's ponies and marshes and the national park's aquariums.

Wednesday morning my father took older son fishing. There were a few complications (such as the fact that he didn't realize there was no hook on the line), so they didn't catch anything, but older son was amused enough to go back and demonstrate for the rest of us and I got some nice pictures of dragonflies by the pond, though the only fish I saw was spotted by younger son swimming disinterestedly near the dock. It was quite warm, and parents had already suggested taking the kids to the pool, so they did that, and by the time they all got back it was lunchtime.

None of us wanted to go to the beach in the midday heat, so Paul and I took the kids to Sea Shell City in Fenwick Island, home of the DiscoverSea Museum. This is a very fun store with a free museum upstairs with salvage from English, Spanish and American shipwrecks including the RMS Repubic and La Nuestra Senora de Atocha -- plus a few inevitable Titanic souvenirs -- and more interestingly, Native American and American Revolutionary War artifacts found in local waters. Last year when I posted about this, I got e-mail from the woman who co-owns Sea Shell City asking why I had no photos of the hermit crabs and shell souvenirs from the store downstairs, so this year I made sure to take photos of the store as well as the museum.

In the late afternoon we went to the shore, which was magnificent -- air temperature in the high 70s, water chilly but not as cold as yesterday and quite rough, just the way I like it...the kids built sand castles and dug for creatures at the water's edge while I went in deeper, since I really love big breakers and there were not a lot of people in the ocean. My father came and met us there since my mother had gone shopping.

In the evening an Elvis impersonator, Jesse Garron (named for Elvis' dead twin), was playing on the Ocean City boardwalk. My father's leg was bothering him and my mother had heard that there was a chance of rain, so they decided not to go with us and stayed back to watch Rent. We took the kids to hear Elvis in the sand and they built a giant sand turtle during the concert. We also walked up to see the religious sand art that's always by the Ocean City boardwalk and got ice cream. Then, after a couple of stops in hippie clothing stores, we came back to Sea Colony and went for a walk on the beach with flashlights to see ghost crabs, of which we found many!

Click here for photos of fishing, Sea Shell City, the DiscoverSea Museum, Karaoke Elvis, the Ocean City Boardwalk and ghost crabs.

Thursday our original plan was to go to Cape May via the ferry from Lewes, but everyone was feeling uncertain about the weather, so an all-day trip was ruled out and we had a beach vacation morning. Grandpa took Daniel fishing again, and they claim they caught a reaaaaaallly big fish that they threw back in (of course no one was there with a camera, and the bait mysteriously fell overboard). Then everyone went to the beach where the air was cooler but the water was warmer than previous days and the breakers were quite swimmable despite reports of impending wind and rain.

Neither of those ever arrived: there were a few minutes of drizzle, but after a morning at the beach and then the pool, we started for Rehoboth, figuring we'd go see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, only to discover that the 4 p.m. movie was sold out and the sun had come out. So we went to the Rehoboth boardwalk, where we played in the arcade for awhile (boys won stuffed parrots with their tickets) and wandered into the tourist trap shops, then went to Nicola Pizza on the early side since the wait for Nic-o-bolis tends to get exponentially longer the later it gets. We had bought Davy Jones' Curse pirate cards and although I got a very cool sea monster and Davy Jones himself, I agreed to trade the pack to Adam in exchange for some French ships because he desperately wanted them.

After dinner (Michelle: chicken Nic-o-boli, Paul: spinach Nic-a-boli, Roy: beef Nic-o-boli, Linda: spinach pizza, Daniel: pepperoni pizza, Adam: Red Devil pizza with hot sauce instead of tomato sauce), we went back to the condo to drop off frozen Nic-a-bolis to take home, then took a ride to the Seaside Country Store to get more crab house nuts and fudge -- a drive during which we saw many bunnies eating grass at the side of the road. After that we went to the Bethany boardwalk, which is much smaller than those in Rehoboth and Ocean City. The ocean was quite rough and there were surfers in the waves. We got ice cream and wandered around a bit before coming back to the condo for Scrabble and baseball on TV.

Click here for photos of Bethany and Rehoboth boardwalks and the drive between.

It rained Friday morning, so after a big breakfast we planned to go to the museums in Lewes (without my parents, who went shopping). Halfway there the sun came out and we diverted our course to Cape Henlopen State Park, since we hadn't been there, figuring maybe we'd take a quick look at the observation tower and nature center if the weather got bad again. It remained beautiful, so we went up the watchtower and walked to Fort Miles, which defended the Delaware River from potential German invasion of Wilmington, Philadelphia, etc. and has a little World War II museum, many standing guns and Battery 519 as well as an exhibit on a German U-boat that actually did surrender offshore near here. It's also a gorgeous nature park at high elevation -- a desert with lizards and cacti. On the way back toward Lewes we passed the Cape May ferry and could see the Kalmar Nyckel sailing just offshore.

We had promised Adam that we would go to McDonald's at some point on the trip so he could get one of those inflatable Happy Meal Pirates of the Caribbean swords, so we did (and now I have a little stuffed Jack Sparrow to sleep with). My parents, who had gone to the Rehoboth outlets, vetoed the idea of meeting us at McDonald's so we met them back at the condo and, since the weather remained beautiful, went to the beach, where it was somewhat misty and overcast but the water was warm and the waves relatively calm. After a last afternoon of swimming, building sand forts, finding sand crabs, etc., we came back and were ready to go out to dinner but the kids weren't really hungry and none of us could decide what we wanted so we ended up eating leftovers and going out for dessert instead on the Bethany boardwalk.

Click here for photos of Cape Henlopen State Park and Fort Miles.

Saturday we had to be out by 10 a.m., so Friday evening was spent packing. There were a bunch of places we wanted to visit Saturday in Delaware before going home, like the Treasures of the Sea exhibit at Delaware Technical and Community College on the discovery of Nuestra Senora de Atocha and its sister ship Santa Margarita, which has a film and many artifacts from the Atocha donated by one of discoverer Mel Fisher's backers, a Delaware resident. There were coral-encrusted swords, a Swiss army knife of sorts consisting of a bosun's whistle containing a fold-out blade, toothpick and earwax-remover, quite a bit of lovely emerald jewelry and several big cannons.

We had intended to see historic Wye Mill as well, which has grinding demonstrations the third Saturday of each month (which this was), but we got a flat tire on the route out from Bethany and lost some time getting it repaired. Fortunately, there was a tire place right across from the gas station where we stopped to figure out what was wrong. We got home mid-afternoon to the usual post-trip laundries and shopping. Adam's best friend had just returned from his own family's penguin tour, which included Niagara Falls, so they spent quite a bit of time catching up!

Click here for photos of Treasures of the Sea and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.