Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kinks – "Sunny Afternoon" (1966)

Now I'm sitting here
Sipping at my ice cold beer
Lazing on a sunny afternoon

The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal – one of the only two sea-level canals in the United States – cuts through the northern isthmus of the Delmarva Peninsula just south of Interstate 95.  Ships going from Philadelphia to Baltimore (or vice versa) save about 300 miles by using the canal. 

The black oval marks the
location of the C&D Canal
The original C&D Canal, which opened for business in 1829, was only 36 feet wide and 10 feet deep.  The laborers who dug the canal with picks and shovels were paid an average wage of 75 cents a day.

Shortly after World War I, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the canal and used steam-powered dredges to widen and deepen it.  Today, the C&D is 35 feet deep and 450 feet wide, which allows two-way traffic for all but the largest oceangoing ships.

That’s all well and good, but what’s more important to me is that there’s now a nice paved hiker-biker trail that parallels the canal for almost its entire length.

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Now that I’m retired, I have more time for bike rides.  Because I’ve ridden most of the trails that are within an hour’s drive of my house over and over, I’ve expanded my search radius to include rides that are two to three hours away.  

It’s not worth it to drive that far, ride, and then drive back the same day.  (After all, the point of all this is to get out of the car and spend my time on a bike.)  So I’ve been looking for routes that provide enough mileage for two days of riding, justifying an overnight trip.

Lums Pond State Park
The C&D Canal trail, which opened a few years ago, is about 17 miles long.  Less than a mile north of the canal is Lums Pond State Park, which features several unpaved trails, including the eight-mile-long trail that circles Lums Pond.

Combine a round-trip canal trail ride with a ride around Lums Pond and you’re talking roughly 45 miles – which is a good distance for me to cover on a two-day trip.  

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I had to take care of two doctors’ appointments and then visit my mother at her assisted living facility before hitting the road for my C&D Canal ride.  The traffic on I-95 was heavy, which meant it took closer to three hours to get to the trail instead of the two hours it should have taken.  So I wasn’t on my bike until almost 5:00 pm.  But it’s June, which meant I still had plenty of daylight to ride from the canal trail’s midpoint to its western terminus – Chesapeake City, Maryland – and back.

Here’s the Chesapeake City bridge, the westernmost of the five bridges that carry automobiles and trucks over the C&D:

And here’s the Summit Point bridge, which is several miles east of Chesapeake City:

Finally, here's a photo of the vertical-lift bridge that trains use to cross the C&D Canal:

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After completing my ride, I stopped at Stewart’s Brewing in Bear, Delaware, for a beer – or two – and dinner.  

Stewart’s is located in a unremarkable suburban strip mall.  From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything special.  But the food is much better than what I would have expected from your generic brewpub.  

Stewart's Brewing
I ordered the BLT salad – essentially, a chopped version of a wedge salad – and added some ahi tuna to it.  The salad was excellent, and so was the tuna (which had been seared on the outside but was almost as pink as sushi on the inside, just the way I ordered it).

I first tried Stewart’s house-made wheat beer, which is actually made with equal parts wheat and barley.  I followed that up with a pint of Stewart’s maibock, a traditional German-style lager that was sweet and strong enough (7.5% ABV) to qualify as a doppelbock.  Both were distinctive and excellent.

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I’ll tell you about the second day of my trip in the next 2 or 3 lines.  (Wait until you hear about the egg salad sandwich I ate for lunch!)

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My bike-riding excursions often end with me sipping an ice-cold beer while I laze away a sunny afternoon – just like the singer of “Sunny Afternoon,” the 1966 Kinks single that was a top 20 hit in the U.S. and a #1 hit in the UK.

Years later, Ray Davies recalled the day he sat down and wrote the song:

I’d bought a white upright piano.  I hadn’t written for a time.  I’d been ill.  I was living in a very 1960s-decorated house.  It had orange walls and green furniture.  My one-year-old daughter was crawling on the floor and I wrote the opening riff.  I remember it vividly.  I was wearing a polo-neck sweater.

Click here to listen to “Sunny Afternoon.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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