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Water on Road

Magnolia, DE to Odessa, DE

I remember when I first moved to the MOT (Middletown, Odessa, Townsend) area over twenty years ago, my ex-husband and I were out driving down a road in Odessa and I saw a ‘Water on Road’ road sign.  I had enough time to glace over at him with a puzzled look on my face and ask, “What does that sign mean?”.  Well, I got that answer rather quickly as my car splashed into several inches of water all across the roadway.  I was shocked!  I had never known a road to just have water on it without it raining or flooding, just the middle of an average afternoon and suddenly my car needed pontoons!  What is this place?  What is this craziness?

I would soon learn that ‘Water on Road’ is a common occurrence at several places along Rt. 9 and other roads east of Rt. 13.  This is tidal, with more water being present at high tide times and less to no water on the roadway when it is not high tide.  One would think that I would look to see when high tide is before taking off on my motorcycle when I know that I am going on Rt. 9, however I have to admit that despite that brilliant idea of forethought I have not ever once actually checked.  My lack of planning has made for some humorous stories and some longer rides.  I have never had to turn around in a car and have always felt comfortable slowly navigating the watery roadway.  I have however turned around on my motorcycle and the reasons have varied; winter is a good one, if it is 40 degrees out I do not want to be riding with wet boots and jeans.  No, thank you.  If I have been with a newer rider that was not comfortable, then turning around was always the best answer.  If it looked deeper than what I felt comfortable or if the water flow looked a bit too aggressive, then again turning around was always the best answer. 

Water on Road

I remember last October Ed and I were heading to Wilmington for a Veteran’s ride, I decided I wanted to go up Rt. 9 instead of dealing with the red lights on Rt. 13 or the craziness of Route 1. It seemed like a really good idea at the time until I realized that earlier morning was also near high tide. Did I mention it was October? It was chilly and there was ‘Water on road’, my better sense told me that I should turn around and take a different route but I was determined to be up there at a certain time and the only way to make that happen was to not turn around and push through. It goes without saying that both Ed’s and my boots were wet, our jeans from the knees down were rather soaked and we were cold!  We made it there on time though!  Not one of my smartest choices ever, however I appreciated him humoring me and going through the water.  I’m sharing all of this to say that I should know better by now.  I should.

Should have known better

Now, for today’s story.  My son calls me this afternoon to ask if I want to ride up to Middletown with him on Rt. 9.  We had planned to ride up to our bank in Middletown and go out to lunch at Tom Foolery’s last Friday.  It didn’t happen, this was an opportunity to make up for Friday.

I planned to work on this website after work and it’s warm out, like hot and humid so I hesitate and ask him to call me back in an hour and I will see how much work that I have gotten done and how I am feeling.  He calls back an hour later to see what I decided.

Now, let’s stop and think about this for just a moment.  What Mom can tell their adult kid ‘no’ when they ask you to go riding with them?  The work will wait, this is an opportunity to make memories with my oldest kid!

I tell him I will be at his house in 10 minutes.  I just need to change into jeans and put on my boots!

It is a beautiful sunny day, a bit hotter and more humid than I prefer but as long as we are moving I will be fine.  I decide to wear a light long sleeve shirt because I do not need any more sun on my arms for a bit.  I select my full-face helmet since Ed just installed a new camera mount to the front of it for me and I want to try it out.  I drive the three miles to my son’s house, circle around the cul-de-sac at the end of his street and pull up in front of his house in the proper direction for leaving.  He was just getting his bike out of the garage, closed the garage doors and quickly met me at the end of the driveway.   I turn my camera on and we negotiate who will lead.   Typically he lets me lead because I tend to ride slower than he does.  His bike is lighter with a bigger engine (a new Low Rider S with a 117) and our riding styles vary a little.  I thought today it would be nice to have him riding in the video, so I asked him to lead.  He agreed and off we went.

A quick ride through Magnolia and out to Route 1 north, up just one exit to Rt. 9 and then I remembered why I like leading.  I’m slow, he is not.  I am a firm believer in riding one’s own ride, for those that are unfamiliar with that saying what it means is that you ride at your skill level and at your pace.  Do not push your skills to keep up with someone, do not ride faster than you are comfortable riding just because someone else is riding faster.  They will slow down or you will catch up or you meet at your destination, as long as everyone arrives safely then all is well. 


I’m getting ready to admit something that my son already knows.  Still, putting it in writing I will now never live it down. 

He is a better rider than I am. 

Yes, I had my first mini-bike at four and I grew up on two wheels, but he has had a lot more opportunities, experiences and pushed his skills far more than I ever did.  He didn’t get his first dirt bike until he was 9 or 10 years old and his sister was about 6 years old with hers.  We spent a lot of time in the Pennsylvania mountains trail riding and pushing limits.  My ex-husband and my kids all raced hare-scrambles and motocross.  I cheered them on and supported track/trail side.  My son bought his first motorcycle at 18 after just graduating from Marine Corp Boot Camp at Parris Island, SC.  Two other bikes later, he is 33 now and quite comfortable on two wheels. 

I got lucky and we ended up with a vehicle in front of us that slowed him down for a stretch.  Rt. 9 is a beautiful ride, there is a lot of farmland, marshland, water and nature along the route.  It has more curves than most of the Delaware roads and is quite a popular road for local bikers.  There is a considerably less volume of traffic on this road compared to other North/South options, it is also going to take longer to get where you are going because it is typically a slower road.  It goes through several small towns with 25 mph speed limits.  I was enjoying the scenery, riding with my kid, my music and this gorgeous day!  This is happy!  This is what life is about!

Water on Road

‘Water on Road’, oh yeah we had to get back to the reason I told that story.  We went around a curve and there it is a considerable stretch of road with what appears to be a good depth of water slowly making its way across the blacktop.  We stop and discuss.  I mention that it is a longer stretch of water than I usually see here.  We both note that we can see the middle double yellow lines of the road at least half way through the length.  He says that he can see the yellow line all the way through.  I’m not sure that I believe him fully, but we will give him and his younger eyes the benefit of the doubt.  He decides to go through first with me waiting for him to cross before starting just in case he stalls out, no sense in having to potentially push two bikes out of the water. 

He begins to cross and zig-zags trying to find a good line.  One cannot tell where the potential potholes are in the road or how deep certain spots might be.  It is a ‘use your best judgement’ and be ready for the worst.  Here is where I think that he and I are more likely to push through these things because we have rode dirt trails, crossed streams and creeks on dirt bikes and quads.  We have gone through things that we thought were puddles that ended up deep enough to trap a bike.  In comparison, this was a black top road that had a few inches of water, nothing to be careless about, but nothing we could not manage.  That is also our view about most of the obstacles faced in life. 

Success!!  He is safely back on dry road at the bridge.  My turn.  I start out slow, but quickly realize that I need a bit more speed to counter the flow of the water and turn the throttle gently.  The increase of speed makes me feel steadier and I continue forward keeping primarily a straight line.  My boots are getting wet and I can feel the water splashing on my jeans as far up as just below my knees.  Oh well, it’s not the first time and I am fairly certain that it will not be the last. 

Me going through the water
Both of us safely on the other side

A Different Way Home

I make the decision that I will go home a different route because I will be riding alone on the trip back.  My son is going to Middletown to get his hair cut and then meet a friend to set up and test out a camping hammock that he will be using on a camping trip to prepare for his trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in August.  I was just going north for the ride and will be immediately riding back south once we get to Middletown/Odessa.

The remainder of the ride north is uneventful and enjoyable.  We get to the light in Odessa, he goes right and I head straight across to Rt. 13 south.  I decided that I will take Rt. 13 to south of Smyrna until I intersect with Rt. 42, turn left onto Rt. 42 head east and back to Rt. 9 south.  This path will take me past the ‘water on road’ and still give me a bit of time to enjoy Rt. 9 before getting back on Rt. 1 after the Air Mobility Command Museum and heading to Magnolia. 

Parting ways – he’s headed north and I am heading back south

Fuel Stop for the Bike and Me

I make it to Smyrna and realize that I am going to need fuel, so a stop is required.  Since I am stopping anyway I might as well pop into the Smyrna Diner and get something to drink and a snack.  I realize that my micro SD card is full and that I did not bring another one with me, no worries there is a Walgreen’s just across the street and a Wawa for fuel.  I fuel-up, get another micro SD card, fight with the packaging for at least twenty minutes all while wondering why I do not keep a knife or box cutter or something sharp on the bike.  I finally free the little, tiny piece of plastic and load the camera, test it out then resume my southbound journey.  I enjoy the smoothness and scarcity of vehicles on Rt. 42 and Rt. 9.  I begin to get sad as I get back into Magnolia knowing that my ride is about done for the day.  I am a little tired and I do have work to get done, so it is time.  I reflect on the ride, the ‘water on road’, the shared memories created with my son and I smile to myself.  This is ‘keeping life shiny-side up’.  I am a lucky woman.

Check out the YouTube Video of the ride!

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