I’ve been making the same trek up and down the Eastern Shore for going on nine years now (not to mention all the times my parents drove us up and down that route when I was a kid), and sometimes the drive gets a little redundant. Certain trips stand out more than others — crazy thunderstorms, timing the sunset perfectly at the bridge, a decent soundtrack — but rarely do I ever experience anything new on these little jaunts up and down the coast from VB to NJ and back. Lately, I’ve been taking the ferry (even though it takes a little longer) to break up the monotonous drive. It’s always the same old corn fields, farmer’s markets, run down abandoned houses, and gas station bathrooms.
But this time was a little different.
Of course, I was excited — I’ve got a whole week to relax by my parents’ pool up here, shop my face off, and enjoy the beautiful weather — but as usual, there was a six-hour drive in my way. I managed to snag a 7:45 reservation on the ferry out of Lewes, DE, which brightened my outlook a little — a sunset cruise to NJ for me and my Hyundai Tuscon.
I managed to escape work and VB a little earlier than anticipated, over and under the Chesapeake Bay and well on my way up the Delmarva Peninsula before rush hour*. (*That was sarcasm. There is no rush hour on the Eastern Shore. Only traffic lights.) I had plugged the route to Cape Henlopen Drive into my phone for directions (I still haven’t quite memorized the ferry route because I’ve traditionally gone the way of the Delaware Memorial Bridge), and when I stopped for coffee at the 13/113 fork, I noticed my ETA was well ahead of schedule. So, as I sipped on an icy sweet Dunkin’ decaf, I made the evening-altering decision to re-route and take the long way.
Now, you know me. I typically either refer to Delaware in one of two ways: (1) I think I’m so witty when I rhyme “The First State” with “The Worst State” or (2) I say, “[Whatever weird thing just happened on my drive] and Delaware is in my way.” It’s not that I have anything against Delaware as a state. I’ve just never had any reason to stop there, and so to me, it poses a geographical problem because it takes me two hours to drive through there, and I find it quite boring. (If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, look at a map of Delaware. It’s kind of long and skinny. And there’s not much going on there as far as scenery.)
Anyway, I sat in my car in the sweltering heat, condensation from the air conditioning dripping on my toe, and reviewed the re-routed directions. “Oh, Lighthouse Road?” I said out loud to myself. “That sounds promising. Sold.”
I turned east off the highway about 10 miles sooner than I normally would have. I rolled back the sunroof, put down the windows, and for close to an hour, I wound my way through these beautiful farms and corn fields, over picturesque creeks, and past signs advertising “New Construction: Beach Country Homes.” I could tell I was approaching the beach when the soil turned sandy, and pine trees towered above. The houses on either side of me stood on stilts, so I craned my neck looking for water or beaches, but for another 10 minutes I saw nothing. I made a right onto Garfield Highway, and a sign welcomed me to Bethany Beach. A giant totem pole and a little downtown area lie straight ahead, and then the beach.
I banked left onto Coastal Highway, still making my way north towards the ferry terminal. On my left stood beautiful beach houses in gated communities, glowing in the sun, which had just begun to turn golden over the Indian River Bay. Gorgeous. A bridge took me over an inlet, and then I was driving through Delaware Seashore State Park on a narrow spit of land bordered by sand dunes to the east and Rehoboth Bay to the west. A sign informed me “Turtles Crossing the Road Next 3 Miles”. Kite surfers skimmed the surface of the glittering water to my left. Then I coasted into Dewey Beach, where a mix of sun-kissed beachgoers littered the streets — some just coming off the sand and some freshly showered and dressed for dinner.
“Huh,” I thought to myself. “Parts of Delaware are awesome. Who knew?”
About 45 minutes later, I was boarding the ferry. I believe the Cape May-Lewes Ferry runs a fleet of three ships, and I never realized I’d only ever been on two of them before Friday night. As I stepped aboard the M/V Delaware, I was informed there was a bar(?) and a live band(?) on the top deck? What? Okay. Amazing. As we pushed away from the dock, I sat at the bar, amongst lots of friendly people, sipped an ice cold root beer (two hours left to drive after this), and watched the sun go down as the band struck up the first few chords of “Margaritaville.” Best. Ferry ride. Ever. 🙂
After I slurped down the last of my root beer, I moved to the front of the boat, where I found some lovely wooden lounge chairs, and settled in for a relaxing 40 minutes of reading (Red Right Return by John H. Cunningham borrowed from Amazon Prime on my Kindle). The moon glowed overhead and a warm breeze kept my bangs out of my face for a little while. 🙂
Two hours up the Parkway, and I had finally arrived at my destination. A bit more time in-transit than usual, but totally worth it.