Travel Joe Biden’s Delaware
Where would you go if you had a machine that could transport you anywhere you want? Would you go to New York? Hawaii? Texas?
Or, imagine, being able to be magically whisked away to … Delaware.
You might write home and say, “Hi, I’m in Delaware.”
Wayne’s World jokes aside, Vice President Joe Biden has seemed to focus more attention on Delaware than it’s had in awhile. So after having shown you Sarah Palin’s Alaska, it’s time to take a look at Joe Biden’s Delaware.
Amtrak from Washington, D.C. to Wilmington, DE
One big part of Joe Biden’s biography is how he commuted via Amtrak practically every day between Washington, DC and Wilmington, Delaware. In fact, Wilmington Station is actually one of the country’s least depressing train stations.
Built in 1908 by war hero architect Frank Furness, in 2007 the station was Amtrak’s 11th busiest, bustling with more than 700,000 people “boarding and alighting” per year. That means about 90 trains stop and go daily in Wilmington.
If you’re interested in riding in on Amtrak from Washington, D.C., trains depart Union Station regularly headed in the direction of Delaware. A one-way trip starts at $42 and takes about an hour and a half. Don’t bother with the faster Acela Express from D.C. if you’re only going as far as Wilmington, DE, the time difference is only maybe 15 minutes, for about twice the price.
When Barack Obama asked Joe Biden to be his running mate, part of the Delawarean’s appeal was his Average Joe, working-class, salt-of-the-earth roots. And what expresses this better than NASCAR? With Monster Racing, you can climb into a race car and zoom around the Dover International Speedway.
And we’re not talking about a ride-along with a professional driver (although that’s available, too)—you get to take the wheel and do laps around the track. Prices begin at $99 for a ride-along, and $389 for 10 laps.
Not terribly far from Joe Biden’s home in northern Delaware are what are sometimes known as the DuPont Properties, basically a collection of mansions and gardens from the family behind the famous company of the same name.
One, the Nemours Mansion and Gardens (at left, credit: Delaware Tourism) has recently reopened after a nearly $40 million renovation. It offers impressive French gardens as well as art, furnishings, and sculpture inside the mansion, which has retained its “homey” feel. Another DuPont property is Winterthur, which offers a country estate setting and a mansion-turned-museum with antiques and Americana. www.nemours.org/mansion.html, www.winterthur.org
If Joe Biden needs to relax, all he needs to do is head south from his Wilmington home and hit the Delaware beaches. The Delaware coastline is dotted with beach communities, mostly clustered toward the southern end of the state with the best-known probably being Rehoboth Beach (pronounced: reh-ho-bith) .
At its best, the area is the “Nation’s Summer Capital” with a heady mix of Washington elites, well-heeled elderly couples (AARP named it a “dream town” for retirees), funky beach folk, and a surprisingly strong GLBT community.
In fact, each beach community has something of its own identity. On the northern end of Delaware’s beaches, Lewes, for example, is an historic town centered around boating with a distinctly New England feel.
Heading south from Lewes, Rehoboth is next, with its expansive boardwalk crowded with cafes and shops, like Delaware favorites Grotto Pizza and Thrasher’s Fries. Continuing south comes Dewey, which has a reputation as the “party beach” with a spring break feel, beach volleyball and the like.
Once past Dewey, the crowds thin and the beaches feel more deserted, making Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island (not an actual island) good spots if you want to head far from the maddening crowds.
One delightfully wacky Delaware tradition is the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, held at various locations in western rural Sussex County since 1986. And what is this “Punkin Chunkin?”
Basically, it involves hurling pumpkins with catapult-like contraptions surprisingly long distances. Usually held around Halloween the first weekend in November, this year an estimated 20,000 people attended and the event raised more than $70,000 in grants for various community organizations.
Scranton, Pennsylvania Side Trip
Joe Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania has been enjoying its share of the limelight, too. Between multiple election candidate stops and mentions, plus increased awareness generated by NBC’s The Office, Scranton has never really been thought of much as a tourist destination. As Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden said on Saturday Night Live during his debate with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin:
“I come from Scranton, Pennsylvania and that’s as hardscrabble a place as you’re gonna find. I’ll show you around some time and you’ll see … it’s a hell hole. An absolute jerkwater of a town. You couldn’t stand to spend a weekend there. It’s just an awful, awful, sad place filled with sad, desperate people with no ambition. Nobody, I mean nobody, but me, has ever come out of that place. It’s a genetic cesspool. So don’t be telling me that I’m part of the Washington elite because I come from the absolute worst place on earth: Scranton, PA. And Wilmington, Delaware’s not much better.”
It’s probably safe to say that this is a bit of humorous hyperbole and Scranton does have a few attractions that rail fan Joe Biden (and perhaps other travelers) might enjoy.
First there’s the Steamtown National Historic Site, an extensive collection of historic trains and train-centric artifacts in a working railroad yard. Numerous train cars and engines are on display, several of which are open so that you can check out the controls.
One engine even has cutaway sections so visitors can better understand how steam engines work. If you’d like to take a ride on one of the decidedly old-school trains, you must sign up in advance by calling 570-340-5204. www.nps.gov/stea
But if even trains aren’t quite all-American and salt-of-the-earth enough for you, then there’s always the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour. That’s right, you’ll descend 300 feet into a coal mine from the 19th century, accompanying a miner who will explain how coal mining works and how to spot different veins of coal. The tour runs from April 1 to November 30 each year, and costs $8 for adults.
And remember, Delaware is a small state and Joe Biden has been its Senator since 1973. So if you’re looking for more Joe Biden-centric activities, just try asking a local.
By Matthew Calcara for PeterGreenberg.com.
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