My second day in Delaware was book-ended by grasses. I explored marshlands on bicycle and by car, in morning and late afternoon, interspersed with a dip under a flock of birds into the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover.
Fortified by a spinach & pepper jack omelette (& biscuits!) on the porch of Sharky’s Grill, I ventured to Cape Henlopen State Park. There, I took possession of an orange bicycle, for no fee; the procedure required I turned over my driver’s license as “collateral” for the bike. The guy manning the bike shed talked my ear off about camera lenses, green flies, and which direction I should ride around the loops. He suggested I spray myself with his tea tree oil, derived from an Australian native plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, as insect repellent. The only stipulation was that the bicycle needed to be returned in two hours.
I felt like Sabine Harwood, the character in one of my favorite novels, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, except my bicycle was orange. I rode from the Seaside Nature Center past the park office and the campground. I branched off on the Walking Dunes Trail and headed south until I came to Herring Point. Then I headed south on the Gordon’s Pond Trail, where I stopped at the lookout; I felt no shame in turning back at this point.
At the lookout, a woman was talking to two fellow tourists about how she lived in Ridgway, Colorado for the last 11 years. I told her I went through there last year on my Four Corners trip. With conviction, she insisted Rehoboth never did anything for her, Bethany Beach was “exquisite,” Dewey Beach was tacky and Lewes was the oldest city and had a beautiful historic district. She was in Delaware visiting her daughter.
From the overlook, I backtracked along Gordon’s Pond, then along the road past the Biden Center to the Fort Miles Historic Area, past an observation tower, and then back to the Seaside Nature Center. I didn’t spot the many birds that supposedly populate the park, such as Royal terns, Black-bellied plovers, Great Egrets, Snow gooses or Greater Yellowlegs.
A strong breeze rustled the sea grasses, carrying a warm and humid front into the area, so my cool yesterday dissipated into the air. Still, I adored bicycling around the tidal marshes and ponds. My ride was a little less than 12 miles.
I was curious to see the “beautiful Lewes historic district,” so I drove through the town. It seemed nice, but I had other destinations in mind. I’d have to return another time. I took Routes 9 and 1 to Dover, crossing the Broadkill River, passing Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Broadkill Beach, and the Rookery Golf Club. I saw a sign for Knollac Farms: Miniature Horses; there was DuPont Nature Center and Barratt’s Chapel & Museum. I drove through gold wheat fields, silver silos, praying mantis-like water sprinklers, and a red barn with a tin roof. I saw signs for Kitts Hummock and Little Creek, and then Dover Air Force Base. I was welcomed to Dover by 1:45.
I dipped into the Biggs Museum of American Art under a flock of birds. Inside, I found a special exhibit called “Spirit Revealed: New Works by Aaron Paskins.” Paskins (b. 1969) is a Dover sculptor who has been building a local and national reputation for “stylized representations of African figures and animals of the continent using unexpected materials and found objects… The artist freely borrows from pan-African languages, symbols and aesthetics to offer a modern interpretation of a more universal spirit of black empowerment.” I found his works to be bold and moving representations of the African spirit.
The Biggs Museum was founded in 1993 by Sewell C. Biggs (1914-2003), a University of Delaware Graduate and world traveler; he collected art from the Delaware Valley. The Biggs permanent collection includes paintings by Albert Bierstadt and Gilbert Stuart.
Many paintings capture the essence of Delaware and the surrounding region. I love local museums such as these that highlight a specific region. I am used to visiting museums in Washington that contain world-famous art, so I enjoyed the local focus.
Some paintings captured places that were further afield.
The museum also exhibited American cabinet makers’ furniture as well as a collection of regional silver.
Considered Delaware’s first “fire proof stair,” this metal architectural feature was first installed in the 1950s. The rich brown color was discovered in an analysis of its earliest paint-decorated layers.
I was especially enamored of the paper art, one of which looks a bit like a found poem.
As I was leaving the Biggs Museum, the docent suggested I should linger and play tourist at First State Heritage Park, the area surrounding the museum, but I didn’t have time as I had to get to Wilmington. She told me there were paintings of World War I in the Welcome Center & Galleries. She also highly recommended the Old State House and the Johnson Victrola Museum. I wished I’d left things more open-ended, but time was running out; I supposed I’d have to return to Dover with Mike another weekend.
Driving north toward Wilmington, I drove through flat farmland, pirouetting sprinkler systems, bait shops, huge green tractors with one-story tall wheels, marshland and grasses, through Leipsic, and finally into Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. At the visitor center, the ranger showed me a cool computerized system for birdwatchers; they could mark on an interactive map where they spotted different types of birds. They could also look up photos of birds commonly found in the refuge and where they had been spotted by birders. It looked like a great resource to use if I were a birdwatcher.
Apparently the refuge had wading birds such as Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and American Bitterns. Commonly found shore birds included the Black-necked stilt and Greater Yellowlegs. Waterfowl included the Snow Goose, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Green-winged Teal, and many others.
I took the Auto Tour of the 12-mile Wildlife Drive. I planned to get out for a walk at the Raymond Tower Trail and the Boardwalk Trail, but flies were swarming all over the car and I didn’t dare open the car door. At Raymond Pool, I saw some Great Egrets. At Shearness Pool, a black snake slithered across the road in front of me. I looked out over the tidal salt marsh and the tall grasses at Bear Swamp Pool.
Sparklehorse serenaded me with “Shade and Honey” 🎵 (“May your shade be sweet / And float upon the lakes / Where the sun will be / Made of honey”) 🎶 while I drove past a little baby fox by the side of the road. He seemed lost and afraid.
Past Finis Pool, at Warbler Woods, there wasn’t much to see except a number of people wandering around past the barricades. Apparently birdwatchers search here for wood warblers in spring and colorful passerines in summer. Salamanders are also common: the eastern red-backed and the marbled.
I left Bombay Hook and drove past cornfields and golden wheat fields. A mailbox was decked out with a corncob and cornstalk. White wooden fences embraced a huge farm. In Historic Smyrna was a sprawling cemetery and a water tower that said “Smyrna.” As I passed a shirtless man trudging along the road, the Eels sang “Love of the Loveless:” 🎵 “All around you people walking / Empty hearts and voices talking / Looking for and finding / Nothing.” 🎶
I checked into my hotel, Ramada by Wyndham, near Wilmington, Delaware and ate dinner at the Olive Grill on site because the hotel was in the middle of nowhere and I was too lazy to go searching for a place. I ordered a dirty martini and shrimp in a white wine sauce with a touch of cream and pepperoncinis, a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce, warm bread (yum!) and a salad with black olives. Later, I added photos to my Instagram feed, trying to keep it all current as my daughter insists that Instagram is only for “instant,” on-the-spot photos, not photos dug up from archives.
I slept that night with dreams of Great Egrets wading in the wetlands among dancing grasses.
The next day, I would explore Historic New Castle and Nemours Estate. 🙂
*Wednesday, June 5, 2019*
*5,449 steps, or 2.31 miles*
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. One of my intentions was to use five random nouns in my travel essay each day: 1)
voice, 2) tourist, 3) shame, 4) feed, and 5) procedure. √ I also chose a theme for today: grasses.
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, November 25 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, November 26, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired. 🙂
- Tina, of Tina Stewart Brakebill, wrote a post about encountering Columbus Day in Saint Augustine, Florida; she takes us “through the looking glass” of a Spanish-inspired museum with Lewis Carroll’s words.
Thanks to all of you who wrote prosaic posts following intentions you set for yourself.
Fascinating. I think you can include your photography in the ‘art in Delaware’. Wonderful images.
Aww, that’s so sweet, Mari. I keep trying to improve my photography of art works. 🙂
Your visit to Delaware inspires me to make another soon. The state is not so far from where I live (though today I am, ironically, in another Wilmington, the one in North Carolina). Much of Delaware is beautiful, and the human parts are quirky (not a bad thing). All the local art is a fantastic emphasis, as you relate. On another hand, I recall the art museum in Wilmington having an enjoyable display of Pre-Raphaelite work.
It’s been a long time since I was in Wilmington, North Carolina, Christopher. I hope you’re enjoying your time there. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Delaware, but I still missed a lot and hope I can make it back there for another trip. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Wilmington museum, but maybe now I have to plan to go back based on your recommendation. 🙂
Tea Tree oil has many uses and it smells nice too. Did it work to keep the insects at bay?
You would be knowledgeable about tree oil, Carol. It did help keep the insects away, either that or the breeze created from riding the bike. 🙂
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You had a varied and interesting day! A mix of countryside and culture, perfect.
I liked the mix, Anabel. It was varied and interesting. 🙂
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Grasses eh? My current dawning obsession, and a blog post started last week. So of course I loved this wetlands post, with your inimitable glimpses of the between-journeys and interspersing of music. Your bike photo is a beauty, revealing yet another side of you: Cathy-the-cyclist. I’m afraid to get on a bike these days for fear of breaking myself or someone else!
I’m with you on the art of place – that’s one of the delights of my local galleries: an exhibition for next week juxtaposes my south coast and Paris, the two homes of the artist. I’ll be interested in what I can learn about juxtaposing my Warsaw and Spud lives. The biggest crowd I’ve seen in the Warsaw national gallery was for an exhibition of historical paintings of the Wisła: everyone was chatting animatedly as they identified particular places.
Interesting that you have a grasses obsession now, Meg. I look forward to your post! I love to ride a bike but not seriously as my husband does; he does 50-60 miles regularly on a road bike. I’m more of a leisurely rider. I don’t ride often, but I do enjoy it when I can.
The art gallery you will feature should be an interesting juxtaposition with your south coast and Paris. I don’t even know what the Wisla is! It’s nice to find people so engaged and animated by an exhibit. 🙂
Wisła is aka the Vistula – Poland’s main river, running its whole length.
Interesting. And I can imagine that exhibit about it was inspiring. 🙂
I am all too familiar with the route you took (we take it often to visit with family in NJ and PA). I like the orange bike. Delaware always surprises me. I don’t know why. Some of the inland places are pretty interesting, too.
I figure you must travel this route quite frequently, Robin. I loved that orange bike! I was surprised by Delaware, and I hope I can make it back sooner rather than later! 🙂
You had me with the spinach & pepper jack omelet!! Yummy. I always love the peace and tranquility one absorbs when exploring wetlands. The ebb and flow of the tide, gentle rustle of the grasses and the comforting feel of the breeze, all work to take relax our inner souls!!!
I recall your original instgram post of the art gallery and my immedaite reaction to the very dramatic African art and the classic paintings. As always EB does it again and packs in a full day!!!
You would have enjoyed that spinach and pepper jack omelet. I too enjoy the quiet of wetlands, and especially on a bicycle. I loved that African art! Yes, I got a lot more in on my days traveling solo than I did in my recent trip to Charleston.
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