I thought about scooting to the Aldi on Oregon Avenue today, but when I opened my front door, the balmy essence of Zero Kelvin hit me in the face like a brick. Not a temperature compatible with human life, let alone riding to Aldi. As I closed my door against groceries and certain frostbite, I fondly recalled the time last summer when I rode down to Dewey Beach with a friend…
We all know that a journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step. It is even better when the journey involves a road that you actually intended to travel. Things started when my friend and I wanted to ride our scooters down to Dewey Beach for a rally. The C600s was in the shop, due to an unfortunate footwear-related incident. (And my 50 cc was never going to work – not if I wanted to get to Dewey Beach sometime in 2015). So, my friend kindly loaned me his 190 cc Aprilia Mojito. And off we went. Since I was on an unfamiliar machine (which was not my property and deserved not to be smashed to smithereens), we thought it prudent to ride Delaware Route 9 (a beautiful local road (if you can find it) that hugs the coast and to avoid I-95. Well, try to avoid I-95.
I grew up in Connecticut, deep in the heart of I-95’s Northeast Corridor. The Connecticut state motto is: “Qui transtulit sustinet” (i.e., He who transplanted still sustains). OK, it loses a little something in translation, but essentially, We the Nutmeggers want you to get where you are going and thrive once you get there. We also want to honor your right to choose the road you want to travel. Consistent with that desire, our traffic engineers designed signs for I-95 that look like this:
Isn’t she lovely? This sign conveys meaningful information. Information like: “Hey, schmuck, I-95 is over there, on your left. And it’s going Northbound.” If you can’t distinguish your left from your right or if you’ve forgotten which end of the country didn’t secede from the Union back in the 1800s – well then you probably don’t deserve to know where I-95 is anyway. But in Connecticut, we are sporting and give you a fighting chance. (And, look, there’s even another, bigger sign for I-95 further up the road on the left – Jesus, it’s almost like Connecticut wants you to be able get where you want to go.)
Conversely, in Delaware, particularly around Wilmington, signage for I-95 looks like this:
You see, in Wilmington, I-95 is a closely guarded secret. If you want to find I-95, too bad. If you want to avoid I-95, too bad. If your life depends on I-95, too bad. Don’t even bother with GPS — Wilmingtonians thought of that and hacked the satellite feed. You must rely on rudimentary tools like the angle of the sun, divining rods, and local residents. Maybe put your ear to the ground and give a listen for I-95. Having a high-level security clearance from the federal government may help. An advanced understanding of cryptography can’t hurt. Simply getting on a boat in New Jersey, sailing down the coast, and avoiding the whole mess is likely to yield the best results. (Getting lost in Wilmington is like being at the Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave.)
This is the situation in which my friend and I found ourselves, as we innocently tried to find Delaware’s fabled Route 9. Local denizens agreed that legends foretold of its existence and that (if we were pure of heart and noble of spirit) we might find it. But no one really knew where it was, beyond a general sense that it was “just down that road over there.” One poor soul gave us very detailed directions – that led right into the entryway for the DuPont Nemours Children’s Hospital (which is not in, on, or near Route 9).
Daylight was wastin’ and Wilmington is a poor substitute for Dewey Beach.
Compare, e.g., Wilmington’s Rodney Square:
(Takes your breath away a little, doesn’t it?)
With this random (possibly photo-shopped) picture of Dewey Beach:
(Definitely feels warmer than Absolute Zero already…)
So my friend and I pulled out of Nemours and started down a road, heading somewhere. Two lanes quickly became four – then six, possibly a million. (Really, the road got wide.) Any signage? Hell no. Then, suddenly, without warning, my friend, his 250cc fuel-injected Vespa, me, and the borrowed 190cc Mojito were in the leftmost lane of I-95.
Mojitos (I quickly learned) can go very fast. Would I have preferred to have been in highway gear? You betcha! Was there anything I could do to fix the situation? Nope. (When Life unceremoniously dumps you completely unprepared onto the fast lane of one of America’s busiest and deadliest highways, you just have to sort of go with it. Prayer helps too – to, like, any deity – God, Zeus, Thor, Vishnu – take your pick. I chose to pray to them all.)
While there had been no signs that warned of I-95’s impending presence, the highway itself had lots of signs. One of them even said: “Route 9 [is over there].”
“Over there” (happily) was just past an I-95 exit off-ramp. Unfortunately, however, “over there” was something like this:
My friend and his Vespa were ahead of me. He later said that he heard what could only be described as “the worst skidding noise ever” and that he “felt certain that he should not look back [to see what was going on].” He instead “just hoped for the best.”
Luckily, my foray into getting my M-Class license had taught me valuable skidding skills. (I don’t recommend skidding as a recreational pursuit, but if you’re going to learn, I do highly recommend the parking lot of the Motorcycle Safety Course.) My friend’s Mojito and I skidded pretty far before the brakes re-engaged, but the bike and I remained vertical. (I realize that I’ve posted a lot about bad things happening to me when I scoot, but, really I’m a very conscientious rider – I swear – weird stuff just keeps happening to me.)
My friend and I followed the hard left onto Route 9 and enjoyed a glorious (long) ride to Dewey Beach, a place where I wish I were now, instead of here, in Philadelphia, freezing my ass off. As soon as the temperatures are again compatible with human life (and scooting), it will be time to return there.