Around the Delaware Bay
Hot humid weather makes the conditions for this day trip less than ideal, but I hardly notice any discomfort. My 1989 Honda GB500 single is sending lovely vibrations throughout my body as I rumble through one of the most historic areas in America
My 250-mile circumnavigation of Delaware Bay by motorcycle begins with a boat ride. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is only a couple of miles from my lodgings in Lewes, allowing plenty of time for a quick breakfast and still make the ferry's 8:00 a.m. departure. Pulling into the terminal, I pay the $ 24 fare and, as the loading begins, am glad motorcycles board before the long line of waiting cars. After securing my bike, I chat with the only other motorcyclist on board, who is on his way home to New England, after following the east coast down to South Carolina. The lines are cast off and the ferry gathers speed, clearing Lewes Harbor, where ferries have been shuttling travelers across Delaware Bay for over 40 years.
Exploring the multiple decks, I first find the indoor snack bar and then pause by the railings, enjoying the salty sea air and expansive vistas. A squadron of hungry seagulls trails us, hovering in easy tossing distance. Not satisfied by the meager offerings of a few of my fellow passengers, the birds dive repeatedly into the wake for a more substantial breakfast from the bay. I spend much of the 17-mile voyage framing their graceful flight in my telephoto lens.
Checking on the bike from the upper deck, I see that it is still secure, safely riding out the ferry's gentle rocking motion. I'm looking forward to giving its latest two upgrades a thorough test on this tour. The new Metzler tires are larger and the rubber softer than the OEM ones they replaced. To improve stopping power, I also installed a steel braided line for the front disc brake. Several previous alterations include aftermarket front fork springs to improve handling, a Supertrapp exhaust system, modified carburetor jets to improve engine performance, a fly screen, and bar-end mirrors just because they look cool.
Disembarking in New Jersey, I'm tempted to cruise the quaint streets of Cape May and grab a bagel at a local café, but such diversions could easily take up too much of the day. Instead, I follow State Route (SR) 47 out of town and up the New Jersey side of Delaware Bay.
Towns along the New Jersey rivers that flow into the Delaware Bay were once thriving fishing villages, home to captains of three-masted schooners, and major shipping ports of call. The residents of Mauricetown, the first of these communities I encounter, have preserved many of the grand old homes constructed from 1815 to 1870. But the glory days of this old seafaring town are long past, and most of its citizens commute to jobs that have little or no connection to the sea.
Motoring north on SR 49, one soon arrives in Bridgeton, New Jersey, an historic 300-year-old community that looks a little down on its luck, with buildings worn down by the years. However, signs of the town's more prosperous years are retained in several architecturally distinctive buildings. Stopping at an unremarkable pizza place for a brief break, I'm fascinated by the extensive collection of Elvis memorabilia and decide to stay for lunch. My waitress says the restaurant's owners have been gathering mementos of The King's career for several decades. The walls display posters, copies of marriage and birth certificates, countless photographs, and much more. And, of course, the music issuing from the speakers is beamed our way from an all-Elvis channel on satellite radio.
Mike's Famous Motorcycle Theme Park
Exiting New Jersey SR 49 onto I-295, I'm struck by a spectacular sight: the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the longest twin-span suspension bridge in the world. Rising dramatically before me to a dizzying apex, it arcs high above the Delaware River, and though I want to look at the view, I don't dare allow my eyes to stray from the road for more than a few quick glimpses.