– Newark, New Jersey to Ocean City, Maryland –
Ripley and I had an adventure in the hotel room this morning. I suppose adventure might be a strong word, but it was still very briefly exciting. Mark missed out, since he had the last portion of his meeting at Rutgers this morning. He left around 8, and little Ripley and I took our leisurely time packing and cleaning up, since he wouldn’t be done until noon.
Our adventure began simply enough- with a shower. I left the bathroom door open to shower, since it gets stuffy in a room without a fan. Mid-shower, the smoke alarm starting going off. Not the hotel-wide one, just the single in our room. Knowing it was the steam from my shower, I hurried out of the shower, trying not to kill myself by slipping on the floor, and poked the button until it turned off. I shut the door to keep it from happening again.
I was worried at this point that someone was going to come up to the room to see what the commotion was, so I quickly finished my shower and rushed back into the room to put on clothes. In my haste, I forgot to shut the bathroom door, and the smoke alarm started blaring again. I shut the door and tried to turn it off, but this time, it was to no avail. I ended up calling the front desk and begging for assistance.
It took the maintenance man 10 minutes or more to get up to the room, during which time I must’ve poked the button to turn it off a dozen or more times. Finally, just before he arrived, it shut off. When he got there, there was nothing he could do, so I apologized and waved him off. He did tell me that he’d told the people installing the smoke alarms that they shouldn’t be so close to the showers, but I gather that they didn’t listen. The smoke alarm chirped a couple of times (ominously, in head) less than 30 seconds after he left, and I was afraid that the puppy and I were about to endure round two.
Luckily, all was silent, though I did have to wait another 20 minutes or so the go back into the bathroom while the steam dissipated in the closed-off room. I wonder how many times that’s happened before. I gather that their smoke alarms aren’t networked, since no one from the staff even seemed to know that the smoke alarm had gone off at all. That seems decidedly unhelpful, to me. What if it had been a real fire in an empty room? It was kind of a lame adventure, now that I think about it, but it was briefly exciting. At home I would’ve just taken out the batteries.
In any event, Mark arrived back the hotel with the Xterra after his meeting around 12:30, and since we’d promised the hotel that we’d be out by 1 (our late checkout time), we loaded all of the things I’d already packed on a luggage cart and put them back in the car. We were on the road by 1pm, and headed for Maryland.
Lunch was a pair of burritos at a Qdoba just outside Newark. I wasn’t that impressed, honestly. It was fine, but burritos are better at Freebird’s and Chipotle, for sure. Next time I’ll have to try something else at Qdoba instead. We don’t have them in Denton, so it will probably be quite a while before my next opportunity. It turns out that their second hottest salsa is really only barely warm, too. Next time I’ll have to try the habanero salsa instead, if I remember.
We spent more than $20 in tolls today. I’m really fed up with toll roads, especially on regular highways. Most of them are the only highways that go through the area, not just an optional one. I suspect that Mark thought I was approaching apoplexy after I’d opened my wallet to pay a toll for the fourth or fifth time. I can’t wait to leave the northeast behind. That’s good, considering tomorrow we are in North Carolina and Saturday we’re in Georgia. There are so many things to love about the South.
Most of our tolls were on the New Jersey Turnpike. At least 13 of those dollars were spent just trying to get out of the state of New Jersey. I thought the tolls would be over once we crossed into Delaware, but we had to pay a toll first thing as we came into the state to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge. I am so done with toll roads.
Our drive was only supposed to take around 4 hours or so, but it ended up taking a bit more than that. Things were pretty quiet for most of the drive. We stopped at a couple of rest stops and whatnot, but we didn’t run into any heavy traffic or have any issues until we were almost to our location.
In Milford, Delaware, we deviated from the suggested route to Ocean City to drive along the coast and try to see the sights. This turned out to be a massive error in judgment. It took us almost an hour to get through the city of Dewey Beach. We had no clue what the problem was the entire time we were waiting, and we didn’t find out until the very end, where we saw a sign about it next to a hotel. It turns out that everyone was out waiting for a parade of Clydesdales to prance down the only road through town.
There were a lot of people out there, and Ripley, who had her head out the window, was a big hit. People waved and called to her, and one fellow barked at her at a stop light. I am pretty sure she loved all of the attention, especially from the safety of the car some 20 feet away from the people. She’s a popular girl.
Since we all needed photos in Delaware, we stopped along the little island chain we were driving across at Delaware Seashore State Park. We followed the road around to a little nature trail that led across the inlet to take some pictures at the bridge. We encountered some mosquitoes, although only Mark was really bitten. I guess he’s tastier than Ripley and me.
What really struck us about the area was the smell. At first we thought it was a regular dock/ocean-front-type smell. We walked out onto the bridge over the water and I saw what I thought were rocks dotting the water to our right. Mark asked me what they were, and I told him I thought they were rocks jutting up out of the obviously shallow water.
He shook his head and pointed, and that’s when I realized that they were horseshoe crabs: hundreds of horseshoe crabs. It was pretty disgusting. We noticed that they were washed up on the rocks on either side of the bridge we were on, too. Between the dead critters, the smell, and the mosquitoes, we were ready to get out of there, state park or no. Mark snapped his pictures and we hustled back to the car. I even put Ripley back in her seatbelt from the front seat instead of outside the car, like I usually do, since it was so miserable out there.
After we pulled away, I searched the internet for what could possibly kill so many horseshoe crabs at once. It turns out, they weren’t bodies at all. They were the creatures’ old exoskeletons. Now that I think about it, that makes sense. In my Genetics lab during college, we’d talked about bioethics, and one entire lesson centered on the horseshoe crab. The shells we were seeing couldn’t be dead animals, because there’s a meaty body beneath the legs that is missing from the photographs.
In case you’re wondering what horseshoe crabs have to do with ethics, their blood is used heavily in several medical applications because of its unique antibacterial properties. The animals are captured in the wild and have about 30% of their blood harvested before they are returned to the ocean at a completely different location. Studies have shown some worrying results from such treatment, but the practice continues. The blood can be worth something like $15,000 per quart, so it is easy to understand why little has been done to regulate this industry. There’s too much money in the business to worry about injuring a few animals. You can read an interesting article about it all here.
Now that we’ve had our science lesson for the day, we can return to our story. When we’d finished with the smelly crab molts, we drove back to the front part of the park to take a photo of the bridge that goes over the Indian River Inlet. It’s a neat looking bridge. which is one of Mark’s favorite things to photograph. I didn’t get back out of the car for fear of the mosquitoes. Better safe than sorry.
The drive down to Ocean City isn’t long in miles, but the islands are covered in stop lights, and traffic moves slowly through these resort towns. We finally made it to our hotel just after 7pm. It’s very close to the beach and surrounded by other hotels. You can’t throw a rock in any direction without hitting a hotel. Our La Quinta has balconies, which is a lot of fun. Ripley really enjoyed standing around on it and watching people go by.
We were pretty hungry after we’d unpacked, but we didn’t want to move our car from our delightful front parking space in the overcrowded parking lot, so we walked down the road to a sub shop for our dinner. We split a 13-inch veggie sub with tzatziki instead of mayo and a huge cup of french fries. Ripley, as always, had her kibble, which she devoured in two seconds flat. Her lunch time was just before we left the hotel in Newark, so she was convinced that we were starving her to death. It’s amazing how quickly she thinks she’d dying of hunger.
Ocean City is nice enough, I guess, but I wouldn’t want too stay too long. It’s packed with people and silly touristy things, and in places it seems rather shabby. It reminds me a bit of South Padre Island in Texas. From what I understand, there are nicer beaches in the area, and towns that are a bit quieter. Still, if we had more time, I would’ve spent at least one whole day here.
Our hotel room is pretty nice, and we are right on the boardwalk, where we’re going to run tomorrow morning. We’ve got to get up at 5 instead of 6 to run because we’ve got a pretty full day ahead of us.
Our stop tomorrow night is in Durham, North Carolina. It isn’t too far away, but we’ve got a few sights to see on the way down. We’re also planning dinner with one of Mark’s friends in the evening. Our trip is winding down. We’ll be home by Sunday night.
– Trip Total : 2,680 miles –