The Wilmington skyline from the river walk along the Christina River
Today’s ride, a measly 46 miles, was bookended by two bridges — one a perennial gap in the East Coast Greenway Route, the other a soon- to-open bike/pedestrian bridge that will be a treasured favorite on the Greenway.
We began our day crossing the Hatem Bridge over the Susquehanna River from Havre de Grace to Perryville. It’s a busy two-mile span with jersey barriers, zero shoulders, and joints that can swallow bike tires. Advocates campaigned to open the bridge to bikes, but state officials back-tracked this past year to allow bike crossing only on weekends.
Given my issues with bridges, I was more than prepared to find an alternative crossing method. Daniel Paschall, the Greenway’s Mid-Atlantic coordinator, sent us the timetables for the Hartford Transit LINK busses, equipped with a rack for two bikes. So we waited at the last bus stop before the bridge — conveniently just down the highway from our Super 8 and in front of McDonalds, which meant a better breakfast than the Super 8 offered (just sayin’). For $1 — or 50 cents for seniors! — we loaded our bikes on the 7:30 am bus. We were the only passengers, and gradually our bus driver warmed up to us and dropped us off short of the train station stop, more convenient to our route. It was all easy and, yes, driving safely over the bridge, I can affirm that I would never want to bike it.
With all that multi-modal excitement behind us, we hit the road. It was a picture-perfect morning for a bike ride: bright sun, fresh but not too cool air, and a tailwind. We rode through more rolling, beautiful country and a few pretty riverside hamlets. We stopped for coffee in Elkton, a charming little town that seems to be thriving.
Our seventh state!
It’s a fun adventure each day when we know so little about the route ahead. Twice today we had the pleasure of riding on greenways — the James Hall Trail in Newark, DE, and a trail that took us along the Delaware River into New Castle. And New Castle, what a delightful surprise. Its 18th century buildings and flags flying give it the feel of a European hamlet.
Dee riding into New Castle. Below, flags flying above our rest stop at New Castle’s history museum.
As Daniel warned us, the ride from New Castle into Wilmington is a gritty six miles. But in just a few months, that will all change when a beautiful Jack Markell bike/ped bridge opens across the Christina and leads to a long boardwalk up to the stunning DuPont Environmental Education Center and then the river walk into the city. We rode out to the nature center to check on the progress of the Markell Trail. We had a fun chat with Sarah and Ed, two naturalists on duty for the afternoon. They showed appropriate appreciation for our trip — we like that — and talked to us about the history of the nature refuge. It has been reclaimed from brownfields and cleared of the invasive phragmites grass that had choked the marsh area, now home to cattails blowing in the wind, egrets and butterflies and more.
So nice to see a map of the Greenway on display at the DuPont Environmental Education Center! Sarah and Ed were fun to talk with and justifiably proud of their center.
We ended our day at Farmer & the Cow, a downtown Wilmington restaurant that caught our eyes when we rode by. We walked into great excitement: eating contests pitting the restaurant owners against local radio personalities. We felt like we were part of a private party with lots of loud cheering and jeering. One of the owners told us the place has only been open 11 weeks but has already made a splash for great burgers and more. (We can vouch for the roasted Brussels sprouts in hoisin sauce.) He didn’t win his spicy wings contest, though; a burly radio guy finished has plateful first. Afterwards our friend looked a little rough and we urged him to go home. Saying goodbye to each of us separately, he took our hands in his and wished us — as so many new friends have over these weeks — safe travels.