Walking seemed to be in order on a bright, mild first day of winter.
The town where I’m staying, Lewes, has a historic district. I had glimpsed part of it years ago when we took the ferry from Cape May.
I hoped to see more of it.
Of course, on the way I took a wrong turn. But like most wrong turns, that’s all right. This one put me into Cape Henlopen State Park.
The park is on the site of several artillery batteries designed to protect Delaware Bay during World War II. They are part of a string of coastal installations known collectively as Fort Miles.
The state has restored several buildings and an observation tower. The buildings were open today, and were empty. I was hoping to climb the tower, but the door was padlocked.
Several pieces of artillery are also on display. None, I believe, is original to the site. One, a huge 16-inch gun, was actually used by the Navy on the battleship Missouri.
There’s a photo of the Japanese surrender, and according to the caption, this is the center barrel in the lower turret, which you can see in the background.
Fort Miles was built in something like two years. Some of the heavier guns were on railcars, so construction must have included putting down some track.
The place opened in 1941 and was abandoned in 1960. The pine forest has had plenty of time to grow back, so it looks like some of the artillery on display is about to attack the woods.
The park was fairly busy, considering that it was the middle of a work week in the off-season. Some of the visitors may have been retired people like me out for some exercise.
Others didn’t fit that mold. A lot of younger people, for instance.
There is a sign on the path pointing to the High Dunes Overlook, or something with a similar name. Several people seemed to be waiting up there.
I was standing next to a cannon when I found out why. Along came a bride. No, really. All by herself, with a veil and strapless white gown, trailing her white train, carrying a corsage.
Maybe she was model for a magazine shoot. I don’t know, but don’t think so.
It wasn’t too cold for December, but still damned cold to be strolling outdside with naked shoulders. But she was doing it.
I was watching her when a photographer stepped out to take her portrait. I got the hell out of the background as fast as I could.
Historic Lewes (two syllables, by the way, like “Louis”) isn’t far from the park, a couple of miles perhaps. It bills itself as “the first town in the first state.”
Long before William Penn named it for Lewes, England, is was a short-lived Dutch colony in the 1630s, but it was wiped out by the Lenape after only a few years.
Years later some Mennonites started a commune there. The English from Maryland came and burned the place down.
The town also has the oldest standing house in Delaware. It's a little crooked, but still in use. I think the local historical society occupies it.
The house was built in 1665 and stands on Second Street. It’s named for Ryves Holt, not the original owner, but the most public. He was a judge and assemblyman in the mid-18th century.
The town was shelled by British ships during the War of 1812. According to a sign, the bombardment is believed to mark the first use of the Congreve rocket.
The docent at the local museum pointed out that Lewes was the first place to see the rocket’s red glare, and it also had bombs bursting in air. He’s right about that.
What it didn’t have, though, was Francis Scott Key.
The Lewes Historical Society is pretty active. It owns several buildings, including the Cannonball House, which has been turned into a maritime museum, which was closed today.
The house, at the corner of Bank and Front streets, is the last standing building in Lewes to bear scars from the War of 1812. The brick foundation was hit by a British cannonball.
You can see where the bricks were patched. The historical society has “restored” the cannonball.
The museum is in a building based on a city hall in Hoorn, Holland. It’s a strangely decorated brick edifice standing by itself at the intersection of Savannah Road and Kings Highway.
It was originally devoted to the original Dutch colony, Zwannendael, which translates to something like “Swan Valley.”
The building was a state public works project in 1931 marking the 300th anniversary of the first settlement. Because it’s just a few days before Christmas and we are hard by the shore, there are seashells in the wreath on the door.
The museum has two connected rooms, which are now focused on a recent find. A British sloop called de Braak went down in a squall in the 1790s. It carried too much sail for its size, and the captain may have been drunk.
Somehow, what’s left of it was discovered and brought up a few years ago.
Apparently it is a store of information about the British Navy of the time. They were surprised, for instance, to discover ceramic dishes that the enlisted men used at meals.
There were also pieces that officers would have used. They are believed to have provided their own dinnerware, so it’s considerably fancier.
It’s pretty remarkable the shape the ceramics are in when you consider all that this stuff went through. Some bowls are just about whole. Others broke but enough pieces were found to paste together.
There were several small artifacts—buttons, brass fittings for weapons, pipe bowls, and so forth.
About a third of the ship’s hull was recovered. The docent said it is on display in a special environmentally controlled wet room at Cape Henlopen State Park.
I went back to Rehoboth Beach for dinner. Next to its brew pub, Dogfish Head operates a restaurant called Chesapeake and Maine.
I didn’t confirm this, but suspect that the name reflects the menu, which is heavy on oyster, crab, and lobster.
I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I had to be careful. I get so hungry that I want to order one of everything.
So I ordered one smoked lobster deviled egg. When it came, it had a tail of parsley and very thin slices of radish on top. It looked like a toy beetle.
It was smoky and delicious, though. I’m not crazy about lobster, but in this it was a slight flavor perhaps. I didn’t take a bite and think “lobster.” If I come back, next time I’ll take half a dozen.
I took a flyer and ordered crab cakes. I don’t care where you are. That’s always a risk.
More often than not you get a mealy patty with a hint of crab. I’ve been served junk like that even on the Maryland shore.
These were OK. I like huge lumps of crab barely held together by the binder. These were reasonably crabby and quite tasty. I could enjoy having them again.
They came with bacon hushpuppies and a carrot puree. The puppies had a bit of heat. The carrot was a pleasant alternative to mashed potatoes.
I had two Dogfish Head beers new to me. One is Seaquench, which the company calls a sour. It isn’t a true sour, which would use a wild yeast strain, but instead gets most of its tartness by the introduction of limes and sea salt. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable drink.
I also had a pint of a stout called Beer for Breakfast. It has coffee, like Founders Breakfast Stout. Unlike Founders, it has no chocolate, but adds maple syrup and scrapple.
C’mon. Scrapple in beer? I have to try that at least once. As expected, it’s a sweet stout, so I wouldn’t want to drink more than one in an evening.
Power of suggestion may have kicked in, of course, so it was fun. I may have one again sometime.
The drive home was crowded, more so than I’d expect on a Thursday morning.
There were a few crazies out, too.
One joker in Delaware came right up on my bumper doing about 70. He was crossing behind me to reach the exit lane.
A damned panic to get off the highway, it seemed. But no, he passed several cars on the right and, just before the exit lane veered off, cut in front of somebody else to keep going north.
On the Garden State Parkway near Irvington there is a really bad stretch. Northbound traffic is dividing into lanes to get to slots at the toll plaza.
There are lanes for exact change, lanes that make change, and lanes that take Easy Pass only. Some lanes are closed. While you’re looking for the right lane to aim for, one traffic lane disappears, another becomes exit only and there is another that is merging traffic into the flow.
Somebody who wanted to get off at that exit before the toll was in the wrong lane. He stopped. Stopped dead.
The guy behind him couldn’t believe it any more than I did. We both hit the brake because we had no idea what was going to happen.
But God watches out for drunks and fools. Well, maybe not the captain of de Braak, but most of the time. That’s why I have lived to get this old. It’s also why there was no collision right then.
A little farther up the Parkway, someone else wasn’t so lucky. His car had been rear-ended and there was just a gaping hole where his trunk used to be.
Bad for the car, but good for the driver. The destruction of the trunk absorbed a lot of the crash energy. That’s why there was no ambulance at the scene. A man who may have been the driver was standing next to the wreck and talking to a policeman.
Somebody managed to drive an SUV clear off the exit ramp between Interstate 80 and U.S. 46 in Wayne. A wrecker, protected by two police cars, was pulling the vehicle out of the woods.
The wreck was almost facing the wrong way. I wonder how the driver managed that.
I got back to Fairfield in one piece. I just finished some eggplant parm and a salad from Hollywood Pizzeria. I am drinking cheap Chianti. Life is sweet.
So remember now: It’s all right to be a little foolish (or drunk) now and then. God’ll watch out for you.
Good night all.