Number Thirty: Delaware

Winterthur, near the Pennsylvania border, was the home of the du Ponts of Delaware, for decades. The original house built in 1839 was a modest twelve rooms; now they claim 175, although the entire wing on the right seems to be administrative offices for the museum and gardens. Most of the expansion was done by Henry Francis du Pont, born in the house in 1880, or his father. Henry Francis became a major collector of ‘Americana’ and needed a place to store his stuff.

The special exhibit that was going on when we were there was soup tureens; most of which weren’t owned by the du Ponts. Someone had a sense of humor.

The furniture, in general, wasn’t used by the family but was collected by Henry Francis and arranged in period appropriate settings. For the most part, kids weren’t allowed in his display rooms and no one sat in the chairs. The dining room and the hallway with the staircase in the photos were used by the family. The hallway, I think, was the original entry hall but there have been so many remodelings that I lost track of where I was.

The family had enough table settings to use a different one every week of the year but that isn’t the way there were chosen. Before any major dinner party, Mrs. du Pont met with the head gardener and picked the dishes and napkins that coordinated with the available flowers.

The Chinese room used hand-painted wallpaper from a period when all things Chinsese were in vogue in Europe. It was one of the rooms from which kids were banned.

The unfinished painting, by Benjamin West, is the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution and recognized the United States as a sovereign nation. The painting includes John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and a couple other Americans. It was never finished because the British delegation declined to pose.

Delaware isn’t big enough to have a twenty-five mile trail for us to ride so we rode three, which added up to 52, but a few of those miles were in Maryland.

First, there was the Michael Castle Trail, which went from Delaware City more or less west along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. It had its challenges (crushed stone, along a canal, and a couple significant grade changes with switchbacks) but we did ok.

We stumbled across the dedication ceremony for a Dero repair station. It was sponsored by a trail-side restaurant called The Grain. They welcomed us in, partly because we knew more about their repair station than they did. (Dero is a Minneapolis company that makes bike racks, repair stations, etc.)

Second, there was the Jack Markel Trail, a brand new trail mostly in Wilmington along the Christiana River. While it is a city trail, we had no trouble following it. It had some interesting and/or bizarre street art.

There was a collection of bird houses for birds that prefer multi-family and residences with architectural significance.

One park is dedicated Delaware’s role in the Underground Railroad in general and, more specifically, Harriet Tubman

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Third, there was the Gordon’s Pond Trail in the “Beach” area on the ocean at the south end, specifically Rehoboth Beach. We saw a lot more sand and marsh than we did ocean. There was a trail labeled “overlook” that looked interesting but there was a park official who took exception to our taking that fork and went to great lengths to explain exactly what I should do and where I should go.

On our way to Maryland officially, we stopped by a history museum and an aviation museum. The one-room school wasn’t quite right but felt vaguely familiar. I’m not sure how that class schedule would work.

There was a time that I knew airplanes like other boys knew cars or baseball players but the planes have moved on. Now I barely know a B-29 from a B-24 or a B-25 from a B-26. (The B-24 and 29 both have four engines; the B-25 and 26 have two. The B-24 and 25 have two tail fins; the B-26 and 29 have singles. My pictures are probably the 24 and 26 but I’m not sure now. The last picture is a C-5, which is way after my time.)

The museum did have one C-130, not shown, which is a prop cargo carrier that has been in production for the past 65 years. Once when door knocking with my state representation, Jean Wagenius, a C-130 took off over us. (We were in south Minneapolis, after all.) Mostly out of habit, I said, “C-130 Hercules.” Jean glanced up and said, “C-130H.” Nobody had ever corrected me on these things, right or not, but Rep. Wagenius knew more than I did because she had once flown across the Mediterranean on a C-130H to a maternity hospital when Dwight was stationed in North Africa and Jean was expecting their first son.

(I may have the ‘H’ wrong but who’s going to correct me?)

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Dinner with Tom and Marge Boyd (Doré’s best friend from high school)

An interesting trivia point about Delaware is that in 1682 the Duke of York gave William Penn all the land in a twelve mile circle around the court house in New Castle. A segment of about 120° of this circle is the border with Pennsylvania.

Among other things, this means Delaware is about 12 miles across, so it was hard to find a 50-mile ride but it wasn’t that hard to bike border to border.

3 thoughts on “Number Thirty: Delaware

  1. Great photo of you all! I can tell that this was a special destination, especially with the bird houses. Keep it going and please let me know if there is any chance that you will pass through CT again. This time I will make lots of time for you, I promise!

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      1. Hi Ron,
        I know that, and it just means so much to me that you are doing this great adventure together. You both have your hands full with all the trip details – I wonder how you can do it! So go enjoy and we’ll catch up after you return home. I know all this is on your website so if I missed any I go there to check. Between my business travel in the Fall and all the 2019 contracts to write I don’t have the time to always read them right away, but I save them for when I do have the time.
        Thanks for including me – you both are teaching so many what I’m sure they don’t know.
        Hugs to you both,
        Sue

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