No journey through central Delaware is complete without a stop in tiny Leipsic. Specifically, a stop at Sambo's, a shortened version of founder Sam Burrows' name, which started serving freshly caught crabs more than half a century ago. Over time, its menu has grown to include tofu, arugula and quiche. Just kidding.

"We don't do a lot of healthy things," points out Elva Burrows, Sam's daughter-in-law, who now owns the place. "[The menu] has pretty much stayed the same."

Crab, caught by local watermen, is king at Sambo's. Crab imperial, crab bisque, soft shells, steamed crabs by the half dozen, dozen or bushel (if you've never cracked your own, this is the place to learn). Then there are the crab cakes. Huge, meaty, moist, deep-fried to perfection.

If you can tear yourself away, next head to Dover. Just outside town is Spence's Bazaar, an indoor and open-air marketplace, flea market, auction barn and farm stand for three-quarters of a century. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, outdoor sellers offer VHS tapes, T-shirts, ash trays and other treasures, booth owners in one building sell a slightly higher grade of stuff, auctions go on out back, and Amish merchants set out meats, cheeses, sweets, jams and baked goods.

Visitors who prefer history over lawn mower parts find plenty in Dover. Ground zero is the Green, a town square that was laid out in 1717 and is the heart of the city's historic district. At one end is a marker noting where the Golden Fleece Tavern stood. It was at the Golden Fleece on Dec. 7, 1787, that Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution (Sambo's would have been a better location, but it was still 160-some years away).

Because Dover is the capital, it's chockablock with lawyers' offices and government buildings. But it's also sprinkled with surprises, like the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Located on New Street, a couple of blocks from the Green, it is dedicated to Eldridge Reeves Johnson, the Wilmington-born and Dover-raised inventor responsible for the Victor Talking Machine Co. It is packed with talking machines, advertising material and Johnson's personal effects. Don't try to sort it all out; that's what Dottie Harper is for.

"It's not the kind of place you just walk around. You have to have a tour to get the whole scope of things," says Harper, one of the museum's interpreters.

Around the corner on the same block are two more museums--the Museum of Small Town Life and the Delaware Archaeology Museum--in what had been the Old Presbyterian Church and its Sunday school. And a short walk away is the Biggs Museum of American Art, in the visitors center on Federal Street.

At the opposite end of the cultural spectrum: Dover International Speedway, home to two NASCAR weekends a year; and Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, with harness racing, slots, entertainment and more.

And before leaving Dover, that rock 'n' roll tidbit . . .

In early 1956, rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins had just hit it big with his song "Blue Suede Shoes." And with an appearance scheduled for the nationally broadcast " Perry Como Show," he was going to be even bigger. But on March 21, the car he was riding in collided with a pickup truck near Dover, sending Perkins to the hospital with three fractured vertebrae, a broken collarbone and a concussion. Two weeks later, as he recuperated, Perkins saw his friend Elvis Presley perform "Blue Suede Shoes" on national TV. And while Perkins had the original hit with "Shoes," it's the Presley version that most people remember and that helped launch The King.

Our Delaware 9 adventure ends just south of Dover, where the highway merges with Delaware 1, which takes us in the direction of Lewes. Settled in the 1630s by the Dutch, it has a long maritime history, from Captain Kidd and Blackbeard to coming under fire from British ships in the War of 1812 (the Cannonball House Museum still has a cannonball embedded in it) to German U-boat sightings in World War II. Lewes and the surrounding area also are home to a spacious beach, the Zwaanendael Museum, the Dogfish Head brewery (in nearby Milton) and the Nanticoke Indian Museum (Millsboro). There's also a ferry that runs to Cape May, N.J., and its Victorian delights.

A couple of miles south of Lewes and we're back at Rehoboth, with its crowds, salt-water taffy and legendary Grotto Pizza (really, in these parts it is legendary). And, of course, shopping. Tax-free shopping.

"It is a tremendous draw and a benefit to the state, especially to the resort area," Everhart says. "The downtown [Rehoboth] area has all the specialty shops, and so many restaurants are independently owned. So whether eating or shopping for clothing, it's all tax free."

Delaware doesn't miss the sales tax revenue. The state estimates that each day visitor to Rehoboth contributes $100 to the local economy per day; overnight visitors contribute a minimum of $200 per day. With 7 million visitors--half day-trippers, half on extended stays--the revenue is flowing.

Shopping is so popular that people who are on vacation in other states come to Delaware for it.

Molly (she declined to give her last name) and her family were staying at a relative's summer home in Ocean City, Md., and drove up.

"I just like the outlets," she said, sitting on a bench at one of the malls along Delaware 1. "There are outlets in Ocean City, but this is bigger. It's something to do when you don't want to go to the beach."

Sometimes, though, the shopping experience is more necessity than fun.