Bear, DE:  First Time in the First State

We were in Delaware for the first time on this trip.  It’s not related to Hunter Biden’s criminal trial, which was happening just down the road while we were here.  But before Delaware, we also had our first-ever visit to Maryland, where my brother Jeff and his wife Nicole joined us for the next month in their own RV. I now have three models to coerce into my blog photos. Philip dryly noted, “A burden shared is a burden lifted.”

Maryland was our first waterfront stay of the trip.  The air was moist and the catfish were a-jumpin’, after a passing storm dropped 6″ of rain (and a nearby tornado) in just a few hours the night before, leaving our campsites (and firepits) basically underwater. Nonetheless, it was nice to have made it all the way from the desert to the ocean.

We drove 44 miles to get from Maryland to Delaware; if we drove another 20 miles we could be in Pennsylvania.  That’s how travel goes in these teeny-tiny Northeast states.  Delaware is the “First State,” being the first of the original 13 states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Go Delaware!

While here, we celebrated the 248th anniversary of “Separation Day.” Whaaat? You don’t celebrate Separation Day? It’s the day when Delaware became “not Pennsylvania,” taking their independence from Penn as well as the British Crown.  Obviously, a parade is in order!  In New Castle, besides the usual parade offerings of bagpipers and Boy Scouts, this one had plenty of politicians running for governor, colonial re-enactors, and a police department with an apparent sense of humor.

New Castle is Delaware’s first capital and full of original cobblestone streets and buildings dating as far back as to when William Penn first set foot on American soil here, in 1682. Although not the exact location where Washington famously crossed the Delaware River (that’s further north), local geese were happy to re-enact George’s crossing, just for us.

The state of Delaware has a Statewide Bike Route of off-road bike trails everywhere, and we rode the Jack A. Markell Trail south of Wilmington and along the pretty Wilmington Riverfront Park district, with restaurants, breweries, shops and public artworks lining the Delaware River.

North of Wilmington, we visited Nemours Mansion and Estate, the first home of the DuPont family of chemical scions after arriving from France and founding their dynasty here with the initial production of gunpowder. 

Alfred du Pont built it as a gift for his second wife, Alicia (after divorcing his first wife, quite the scandal at the time), and later, his third wife Jessie.  The interiors are exactly what you’d expect from a wealthy, younger, French-loving new wife — antiquities and art and lavishness — but with a surpising amount of personal touches, too.

The layout of the property was a little strange.  Curiously, there was not a grand entrance, with the front door modestly tucked around the corner from the entry gates. Likewise, the stunning maze garden was only visible out one of the upstairs windows.  

The property includes a carillon bell tower, bright gold gilt statue, and an 800,000-gallon reflecting pool that takes three days to fill. 

The 77-room, 47,000-square foot mansion has an indoor bowling alley with regular and duckpin bowling; the servants’ children would be paid to set the pins back up.  It also has an indoor mechanical horse for fitness purposes. Winston Churchill proclaimed, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man, than the outside of a horse.” Mechanical horses were also available in the gymnasium of the Titanic — but for first-class passengers only. 

The chaffeur’s garage displays five rare vintage autos, including a 1960 Rolls Royce of which only 10 were made in that year (Queen Elizabeth got the first, du Pont got the second; and Elton John currently owns one of those then ). This was the first garage in Delaware, and of course, du Pont got the first driver’s license in the state.  

There is something unusual on the mansion grounds: a hospital. Nemours Hospital, a beautiful facility for crippled children with curable conditions, was stipulated by du Pont in his will to be built and maintained in perpetuity.

Of course, after 11 years of RVing, this was not the first mansion we’ve visited … here are a couple of others on opposite coasts that are not to be missed (Click the title links for the original blog posts with more pictures!)

Ca d’Zan Ringling Mansion, Sarasota, FL

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA

Nemours was set in the picturesque Brandywine Valley along with other DuPont mainstays like The Hagley (a science and industry kind of place) and Winterthur (with beautiful gardens and a focus on art). Afterwards, we went for ice cream at the well-known Woodside Farm Creamery, and based on the line, apparently we weren’t the first to have this idea.

Set out in the countryside and with everyone’s favorite mainstay flavors and some fun offerings like Bacon, Dirt and Motor Oil (coffee cream with green caramel and brown fudge swirls), if you just can’t decide, a spinny wheel removes the pressure to pick.

Delaware State Parks are frequently ranked first amongst state parks across the country.  With enormous, grassy sites and full RV hookups, we thoroughly enjoyed Lums Pond State Park, just south of Wilmington in Bear, DE. 

Did I mention enormous? Did I mention grassy?

Besides camping, they have 17 miles of trails, terrific kayaking on Delaware’s largest freshwater pond, and more.

Perfect kayaking conditions on Lums Pond

Our first trip to Delaware will surely not be our last! For a small state, it has big potential for future adventures!


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