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October 11, 2021 / bikesbytesbites

Weekend in Lewes DE

For years, Potomac Pedalers Touring Club has organized a weekend of bicycling in Lewes Delaware. The weekend is usually in the spring, but this year it took place last weekend (October 8-10). I made it, for the first time. I’ve been in Lewes before, but just passing through to take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. So this time I could actually spend some time in town and do some local bicycling.

Friday, October 8

An afternoon ride went from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach and back through Cape Henlopen State Park, mostly on trails, none of which I had ridden on before. But the trails are new-ish, so not many people in the group had ridden on them before. The Georgetown-Lewes Trail is paved, a rails-to-trails conversion of a line where the train stopped running in 2003! We only did an out-and-back 1-mile section of this trail as a preview — I rode the compete trail (as far as it goes, halfway to Georgetown) on Saturday. Then we got on the Junction Breakwater Trail (mostly paved) most of the way to Rehoboth. A tour around Rehoboth, including a visit to the boardwalk, was followed by the (gravel, but very rideable) Gordon Pond Trail, through Cape Henlopen State Park. The route then took the Cape-Lewes Trail (paved) back to the hotel, but I took the road — wanted to check out the ferry terminal. (Alas — they no longer sell newspapers. The little convenience store was converted to a restaurant. I’ll have to find another place to buy Sunday’s NY Times.)

Saturday, October 9

I got up early enough to see the sunrise (kind of) over the ocean (kind of). It was a bit cloudy, and the beach at the end of the street where our hotel was is the Delaware Bay not the Atlantic Ocean, but still. Gorgeous views. The only other people on the beach with me were a Mennonite family.

People got to pick which ride they wanted to do today. I picked one that left from the hotel and headed south and west. Two of the highlights were not mentioned on the official route. One was a restaurant/take-out place in a converted gas station, which still had the original (1920s? 1930s?) gas pumps out front.

The sights vary greatly, from small farms — both livestock and crops to support the livestock, like sorghum — and rural towns to very site-specific industries (quarries) and locale-specific plants — raising chickens is very big in this part of Maryland. The corporate headquarters of Purdue Chicken is nearby.

Another highlight was actually on the official route, a visit to the Nanticoke Indian Museum. (Yes, really, there is a Native American museum in Delaware.) I had a wonderful talk with the caretaker (docent?) The museum is in one of two buildings the Nanticokes own — the other is the Nanticoke Community Center. There are currently 550 registered Nanticokes — the tribe is officially recognized by the US government. The last fluent native speaker of Nanticoke died in 1856, but there are currently classes being held. The material in the classes is based on interviews conducted and data compiled way-back-when both locally and by Moravians based somewhere near Easton PA. And a graduate student at the University of Delaware is writing a PhD thesis on the language!

The docent also cleared up a mystery for me. Earlier that morning, on the beach in Lewes, I had seen a bench engraved “Pocahontas”. What was that doing there? Could it have anything to do with the Nanticoke? Absolutely not. This bench, and one other, was sponsored by Order of Red Men. They were, in fact, a segregated, white organization, but modeled themselves after Revolutionary War Native Americans, including the Native Americans who evidently took part in the Boston Tea Party.

The original route for this ride was 49 miles long, but with shortcuts I ended up with 40 miles. Within the last 15 miles were two disturbing sights. The first was a school that served the African American and Native American communities during segregation, which reminded me that Delaware is below the Mason-Dixon line. The second was an ominous ghost in a Halloween display, a ghost bike.

Sunday, October 10

The day dawned cloudier and more rainy than the previous two days. Many of the riders decided to just pack it in and go home. I set out to do a 25-mile to Angola Neck. At the beginning of the ride I found a NY Times in a Weis market right on the route. I ended up shortening the ride to 15 miles because I wasn’t relishing having to fight a headwind on the way back to the hotel. But I did discover some new features in the historic and older neighborhoods of Lewes.

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