Crossing the bridge had been a goal of mine for several years. Each summer, I’d paddle board out into the Indian River Bay in Delaware and stare at the bridge off in the distance. How far away was it? I knew it was too far for me to paddle board, but could I bike it? I could physically do it, but I still had questions. Would there be too much beach traffic? Would it be a fun ride or would I be fearing for my life on the side of some busy highway? Could I ride all the way around the bay without abandoning my family for an entire day on our vacation? I really, really wanted to ride over that bridge and around the bay.
Why Indian River Bay? My college roommate, David Hartogs, and his wife, Jenn, have a house there. Every year we load up the Toyota Rav4 and head east from Ohio to visit them. It’s always a great trip and the perfect opportunity to catch up with our friends. From the house we can swim, go clamming or crabbing, paddle board, bike or just sit by the bay and enjoy a cold beverage while we relax. We also venture out to great beaches like Rehoboth, Dewey, Ocean City, and Assateague.
This year on vacation, my body was waking me up really early. My eyes popped open around 4:45 am everyday and my mind immediately started racing with thoughts of adventure that pulled me out of bed. It was June and sunrise for this eastern part of the time zone was around 5:30am. So, I usually had a lot of daylight to work with before the family started stirring. All week, I explored Long Neck, Delaware and the surrounding towns on runs and bike rides.
Saturday morning was my last chance to ride around the bay. I wanted to do it, but I didn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to finish it. I decided to start the adventure and just turn around if the trip turned out to be a lot longer or more daunting than my expectations. I was guessing that the ride was going to be about 60 miles, but I wasn’t really sure. I figured if I started riding by 5am, that I would be done by 9am and would have a full day to spend with my friends and family. Hopefully they wouldn’t miss me too much while I was gone.
My bike was lit up like a Christmas tree with a Light and Motion Stella on the front and a Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash in the rear. I started pedaling in the peaceful, calm, dark morning to begin my adventure. The roads that I was taking all had huge berms dedicated to cyclists. There were very few cars, just a couple of fisherman driving to the docks, and I felt very safe since I was so visible and there wasn’t anything else around that would distract the drivers.
I was on the garage bike, which is faster than my mountain bike, and I wanted to start out easy. I picked a target speed of 15 mph and watched the sunrise as I rode.
My first stop, 15 miles in, was Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I reached their famous boardwalk around 6am and stopped to take a few pictures of the sun reflecting off of the Atlantic Ocean. There were just a few early birds stirring about in the center of town.
Next I rode through Dewey Beach, a small town on an isthmus between the ocean and Rehoboth Bay. I made note of the Dewey Beer Company, which we had visited the day before. They have some delicious beers and a great atmosphere. If it was later in the day, then I definitely would have stopped for a pint. Recommendo!
Up next is one of the most scenic parts of the ride. The Delaware Seashore State Park stretches along the same isthmus for several miles. It is full of long, sandy beaches that will get you away from the crowds and it is home to an abundance of wild life. The ride through it is long, straight, fast and flat, which is true of almost anywhere in the state, but particularly true here.
At the end of the state park, the Indian River Inlet Bridge towers above the horizon. It was 23 miles into my ride and definitely the biggest climb of the day (but that’s not saying much). I stopped on top of the bridge, which had been the inspiration for this whole trip and squinted off into the distance to see if I could spot the house I was staying in. All I could make out were tiny, white specks 8 to 10 miles in the distance. It felt good just to make it this far.
Now I was heading into uncharted territory. I had never ventured beyond this point by bike or by car. I didn’t know how the roads were or how much further I would have to ride to get around the bay. I still felt energetic though and I soldiered on.
The roads continued to be great. 95% of them had wide berms that were dedicated to bikes and this was turning out to be a much more relaxing ride than I had imagined (or worried about). This was a very bike-friendly route.
I rode through Bethany Beach, Millville, Dagsboro and then turned north to cross the Indian River at Millsboro. The significance of reaching Millsboro was that I was once again back in territory that I was familiar with. I knew that I had about 15 miles left and that meant that the entire journey around that bay would be a very manageable 55 miles (…with only 200 feet of climbing. Did I mention this place is very flat?!?).
I decided to tack on a 7-mile detour to make the ride a 100k. The final 10 miles was into a head wind which twisted my relaxing adventure into a challenging endurance workout (in a good way). I was so pumped to be close to finishing my longtime goal that I continued to up the pace. My speed had been slowly inching up over the course of the ride, but now I was pushing hard and my average was climbing rapidly. I started to feel a light burn in my quads and I started doing standing intervals to make things harder.
I turned right on Long Neck Road and made my way to White House Beach where I was staying.
When I got back to the house, my friends David, Todd & Richard were emptying crabs from the traps we had set the night before. My wife and kids were playing near them in the sand with Jenn and her kids. It was 9am and I had crushed it. I was happy I did it, happy I was done and happy I would get to spend the rest of the day hanging out with my friends.
It was a great way to start my last day of vacation in Delaware.
I’m already dreaming up new challenges for next year!