“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
State 38: Delaware - May 17 - 20, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Dover, DE well rested and ready for a brand new day! We spent the last three days exploring Northern Delaware, and could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead. The first task of the day was to drive 11 miles Northeast to the national park depicted on the reverse of the Delaware Quarter: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Please see the pictures below including the one of Nate pretending to be a bird in flight. What a dork! LOL!
Established on March 16, 1937, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 16,251 acres of tidal salt marshes along the Delaware Bay. Bombay Hook serves as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory and wintering birds, and protects a variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and a vast array of plant life. The refuge contains four separate man made freshwater impoundments; Finis Pool, Bear Swamp Pool, Shearness Pool, and Raymond Pool. The water level of each of the aforementioned can be changed to accommodate the preferences of the type of water foul present. Bombay Hook is a bird watcher's paradise attracting over 100,000 visitors per year predominately during peek migration season.
In layman's terms, Bombay Hook can be thought of as a hotel for birds as they fly South for the Winter. Considering tens of thousands of birds return to Bombay Hook each year while enroute to warmer Southern weather, I think it is safe to say they like it here! Since I cannot fly and was not particularly feeling like swimming in a swamp, I opted to explore Bombay Hook via the park's 12-mile road, which visits the park's four pools, five hiking trails, and three 30-foot-tall observation towers. If you are ready, lets go explore Bombay Hook's National Wildlife Refuge together.
Since the sky was overcast during our visit, I brought an umbrella not just to shield myself from the rain, but also to protect myself from bird poop! As you can see from the pictures below, Nate narrowly missed being shat on!
Due to fading daylight and an impending thunderstorm, we limited our exploration along the 12-mile road to each of the three 30-foot-tall observation towers overlooking three of the four pools. Each tower was ¼ mile hike from the park’s main road.
Raymond Pool Observation Tower:
I encountered our first animal here: A tree frog! Ribbitt! Ribbitt!
Shearness Pool Observation Tower:
Here I encountered my second animal: A bunny! Isn’t he cute?
Bear Swamp Pool Observation Tower:
I took a video of the view from the top of this tower, which you can watch by clicking here! On my way back to Rosie, I encountered my third animal: A red fox! My first one of the trip!
Just in case you have not noticed, the animals I have encountered have become progressively larger, and I had no desire to have an impromptu meeting with any thing bigger than a fox. EEEK!
Upon departing the 3rd observation tower, it began to torrentially downpour. Blinding flashes of lightening streaked across the Delaware sky, immediately followed by a booming thunder shaking the ground beneath me. I ran to Rosie to seek shelter from the storm, and then took a moment to survey my current situation. I was caught in a severe thunderstorm, in the the middle of a swamp, surrounded by four bodies of water, on a narrow 12-mile dirt road! I think it was time for the Cross Country Couple to depart Bombay Hook!
Visiting the national park depicted on each state's quarter has taken me to the depths of canyons, summits of snow covered mountains, beautiful coastal islands, through ancient Native American ruins, and centuries' old historic American forts. However, Bombay Hook was the first wildlife refuge I have visited, and I was unsure of what I was about to encounter. I anticipated exposing myself to the stench of swamps, swarms of mosquitoes, and spending hours chiseling bird shit off Rosie! A symphony of singing birds and the ever present sound of rippling tidal pools is what I actually discovered during my visit. Bombay Hook possesses a uniquely serene and tranquil beauty unlike any other place I have previously encountered.
Should Delaware become the new home state of the Cross Country Couple, I would certainly return to Bombay Hook during migratory season, or even to just unwind after a particularly stressful day. Occasionally, I encounter places where words fail to capture its beauty and only pictures will suffice. As you can tell from the pictures below, Bombay Hook was such a place!
After departing Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, we drove 44 miles North to Newark for the Cross Country Couple's "Roadside Attraction" for Delaware; The World's Biggest Doctor's Bag and Stethoscope. Judging by the size of this bag, this must have been one hell of a house call! Located outside the Apex Medical Building, the World's Biggest Doctor's Bag and Stethoscope measures approximately 15 feet long, 6 feet wide and 20 feet tall, and will surely convince you to eat an apple a day!
Although I was unable to definitively discover the origins of the gargantuan doctors bag, a medical receptionist who works at the building and wishes to remain nameless, shared the following local legend. Approximately 10 years ago, a doctor who worked at a male infertility practice within the building, was fired for selling steroids on the black market. As the doctor was being escorted out of the building, he threw his doctor’s bag across the front lawn of the medical building before driving away.
The next morning when the medical professionals came into work, they found a gigantic doctor's bag sitting on the grass. One of the doctor's climbed inside of the super sized bag to investigate, and discovered hundreds of empty syringes of anabolic steroids. Apparently when the fired doctor threw his bag onto the grass, the steroid filled syringes broke, and leached into the bag's leather causing the bag to grow to its gargantuan size! The owner of the building was going to have the doctor's bag removed, but since the bag has become a local attraction, they left it in place. Regardless of how the World's Biggest Doctor Bag came to be, one thing is for certain. I would not want to get my GYN exam by the doctor to whom that bag belongs. Please see the pictures below.
After departing the World's Largest Doctor Bag and Stethoscope, we drove 15 miles Northeast to Wilmington for the Cross Country Couple's “Made in the USA tour” for Delaware; The Hagley Museum to learn how gun powder, also known as black powder, is made. Discovered in 9th century China for medicinal purposes, black powder is the earliest known chemical explosive consisting of a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter. Black powder was first used in warfare in 1000 AD, and spread throughout most of Asia and Europe by the 13th century. Thus black powder and gun powder are synonymous.
Black powder packed behind a projectile such as a cannon ball or musket ball generates enough pressure to force a projectile from a muzzle at a high speed, but does not generate sufficient force to rupture the barrel of the gun. With the development of smokeless powder in early 20th century, gun powder began falling out of favor. Today, gunpowder firearms are primarily used for historical reenactments, and are no longer used in warfare. For over 1000 years, gun powder has killed millions of people making it the most destructive discovery in the history of humanity. Only the atomic bomb possess more potential destructive power.
After fleeing his native country during the French Revolution, E. I. du Pont immigrated to the US where he discovered American gun powder was of poor quality compared to the gun powder available in Europe. After importing milling machinery from France, the DuPont Company was founded on the banks of the Brandywine River in 1802. The site was chosen for its close proximity to waterways for power and transportation, and for ample willow trees used for the charcoal in gunpowder.
The three ingredients of gunpowder were combined in mills consisting of strong three sided stone structures built along the banks of the river. The fourth side of the mill was left open and facing the water, so when an accidental explosion occurred, the force of the blast was directed over the river away from the neighboring mills. By the end of 1804, DuPont had sold 39,000 pounds of powder, and the following year sales tripled! In 1813, DuPont purchased the Hagley property downstream doubling the size of the mills! By the mid-19th century, DuPont became the largest supplier of gun powder to the US Military. During the American Civil War, DuPont supplied 4,000,000 barrels equivalent of half of all the gunpowder used by the Union Army!
With the invention of smokeless powder in the late 19th century, demand for gun powder began to decline, and DuPont’ s Eleutherian Mills closed in 1921. For the next three decades the site would sit abandoned! In 1952, the DuPont family donated the 235 acre property consisting of the Hagley Yard and and Eleutherian Mill site along with a $6,000,000 endowment to establish the Hagley Museum and Library of Industrial History. Declared a National Historical Landmark in 1966, Hagley Museum preserves and interprets the former industrial site of the original black powder works of the DuPont Company.
This is not our fist time touring a historic defunct business, which you can read more about by clicking here. I was very excited to visit the old DuPont gun powder mills, because there just are not many surviving examples of Industrial Revolution in America. While many of the mills lay in ruins along the river, one had been restored, and was operational during our visit. Of course, gun powder was not being made. The mill is still powered by water, and each of the massive metal spinning wheels are over 8 feet tall! Please see the pictures below of the restored 19th century water powered gun powder mills.
You want to see the mill in action? I figured you would want to! I took a video, which you can watch by clicking here! It was hard to image a substance as volatile as gun powder being made beneath gargantuan rolling metal wheels. Clearly, this mill was constructed prior to the establishment of OSHA. I would have hated to have worked at one of these mills. One small static spark and KABOOM! You thought your job blows! LOL!
After departing the restored Eleutherian Mills, we walked over to a nearby mill, for a live gun powder demonstration. This mill had the metal wheels removed, and on the walls were displays about the history of DuPont gunpowder. Our tour guide loaded equivalent of one rifle's shot of gunpowder into a plexiglass box, and lit the fuse. The sound of the explosion was so sudden and strong, It scared the begeessus out of me, and I almost peed myself! The explosion filled the space with blinding smoke and the pungent stench of fireworks. I cannot imagine what it must have been like back in the day on a battlefield with thousands of soldiers firing black powder guns. The sound must have been deafening, the smoke must have been blinding, and the stench must have been nauseating. You can watch a video of the live gunpowder explosion, by clicking here.
After departing the gun powder mill, we toured a restored water powered belt driven machine shop, where DuPont made all the components needed to operate the mill. Please see the pictures below.
Please see additional pictures below of our visit the the Hagley Museum
In the years since, The DuPont Company developed new materials revolutionizing our way of life such as: Vespel, Neoprene, Nylon, Corian, Teflon, Mylar, Freon and Kevlar among many others. Today, DuPont is one of the largest corporations in the world, and is listed as one of 30 companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. On August 31, 2017, DuPont merged with the Dow Chemical Company creating the world's largest chemical company. It all began with a French immigrant who came to the US to make gunpowder in Delaware.
After departing the Hagley Museum we drove across town where we found a Walmart to spend the night.