Note: I’ve decided to write about our recent East coast trip out of order so if it sounds disjointed, you’re probably correct!
After visiting Alexandra,Virginia and George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon on Friday, the first full-day of our east coast adventure, we headed 2.5 hours north to Rock Hall, Maryland. Seven years ago, we chartered from the same company so we knew what to expect and how long to plan for the drive.
Nevertheless, we didn’t anticipate grocery-shopping challenges. Rich had plotted on his GPS the location of a Wal-Mart, which he believed would have the best prices and food selection. I’m anti Wal-Mart and normally refuse to shopat one; but knowing we had limited time to get food for seven days of sailing and remembering there are few cities on our drive to Rock Hall, I relented.
As we approached the designated Wal-Mart, I began having doubts. It was in a rundown area and while it might be politically incorrect to say, Rich and I were two of the very few white people we saw out-and-about, and in cars. Nevertheless, after parking, we grabbed our shopping list and headed inside.
There was a small food section, a very small section with mostly packed and canned goods, and no fresh produce, meat or diary. Not good.
We hit the road again, this time, stopping at a Kmart because Rich thought it would be a Super Kmart with a variety of foods at amazing prices. I have a hypothesis. Anything that ends with “mart” is probably not comparable to store dedicated to selling groceries!
Quickly realizing the moderate-sized Kmart in Stevensville, Maryland (population 5,880) didn’t contain much food, we headed a few blocks to a LARGE grocery store. An hour later, we had what we needed: Milk, cereal, ham for sandwiches, chips, fig newtons, produce, fruit, frozen vegetables, pasta and sauce, frozen fish, crackers, cheese, coffee, and four gallons of water.
With darkness quickly ascending and Rock Hall at least an hour away, we opted to eat at Cracker Barrel. These often very busy establishments typically dot main freeways in southern states, and are notorious for large portions of country fare at modest prices. Associated with each restaurant is a country store, which stocks everything from large rocking chairs to packaged foods and candy, dishes, towels, books, CDs, home furnishing, silly toys and novelty items. The stores are fun to browse, and even though you realize everything is overpriced, it’s hard to resist not buying something, especially when you’re waiting to be seated in the restaurant.
With a Cracker Barrel only a few miles from our house in Austin, Texas, we went there a few times for breakfast. I had no idea what they offered for dinner, until we visited the Cracker Barrel in Stevensville, Maryland. I quickly discovered most of the entrees come with your choice of two to three “country vegetables,” including corn, green beans, baby carrots, fried apples, apple sauce, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, steak fries, mashed potatoes, pinto beans, turnip greens, breaded fried okra, dumplings, and hash brown casserole. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t categorize most of these items under the label “vegetable.”
Out of curiosity and hunger, I opted for “homemade chicken n’ dumplings” with two “country vegetables.” A few minutes later, the server plopped in front of me a beige plate with a pile of white blobs over a slice of tasteless chicken, and another pile of macaroni cheese. In a small beige bowl was a heap of overcooked, dull green turnip greens with specks of ham. Check out the plate above from the Cracker Barrel site, which shows their ghastly chicken and dumplings, baby carrots, breaded fried okra, and overcooked string beans.
Rich opted for a slice of pot roast with drippy cole slaw, canned corn, and a baked potato (he got three “country vegetables”). The dinner also came with four, soggy buttermilk biscuits with pats of butter and packets of honey.
I’m thrilled we won’t have any urge to visit a Cracker Barrel in the next five to ten years!
Burping and fighting indigestion, we headed to Rock Hall and were pleased when we arrived and took an initial tour of Carol Catie, a 32-foot Hunter sailboat. After chatting with a couple from New Jersey, we loaded our clothes, sailing gear, food, and linens onto the boat, unpacked, and flopped down on the bed in the aft berth. It was close to midnight when we flipped off the lights.
The next morning was rainy, which was a bit discouraging, but after pulling on rain gear and getting the “okay” to leave, we carefully backed out of the slip and started down the channel. I was driving and was told to hug the green buoys – closest to the shore — because the water was deeper there. Even though I thought I was getting chummy with these buoys, I must not have been close enough because at one point the depth was 5.5 feet and Carol Catie has a 5-foot keel. According to Rich, we “kissed the bottom” before we reached deeper water.
Fortunately, unlike the knot and wind speed meters, which didn’t work on Carol Catie, the depth meter worked perfectly, and throughout our trip, kept us off sand shoals and other shallow spots.
That night, we anchored in a quiet bay. You can see me sitting in the galley of Carol Catie at the top of this article. Notice the large books of “waterproof” maps of the Chesapeake drying out on the navigation station behind my head. Meanwhile, Rich was above deck, taking pictures and pretending he wasn’t going to be expected to eat a “Julie first,” baked pasta:
Mix together a box of pasta, jar of spicy spaghetti sauce; one can of each of corn, mushrooms, and olives, and enough water to hopefully cook the pasta. Plunk in a baking pan. Cover with foil. Bake until pasta is soft. Pretend it tastes good. Liberally cover with ground pepper and other spices. Continue eating and then cover with additional foil, and hide in refrigerator until you run out of food or until the last day of trip. Toss in garbage can.
Early Saturday morning, half asleep, but needing to pee, I crawled over Rich, tripped over the door ledge, and skidded across the kitchen floor, creating a deep gouge in the top of head. This injury paled in comparison to Rich clunking his head numerous times on the v-berth door, and swan diving off the sea wall in Annapolis, Virginia. You’ll have to wait to hear about the latter.
Around noon, we arrived in Baltimore harbor. The weather was splendid and I was giddy with excitement. Rich chose to stay at the city docks, which have first class amenities, and are steps from everything we wanted to see in downtown Baltimore.
Our first stop was Whole Foods… for more food. Personally, I hate Whole Foods. By the time we left, Rich did too! The store didn’t have what we needed (i.e. powdered, low-calorie drink mix, etc.), and was pretentious, particular, and overpriced… and not as good as what we can buy in the Pacific Northwest like Dave’s Bread!
A bitty cranky after our unsuccessful shopping experience, we set out for Fell’s Point, a funky area, founded in 1730, which is best known for its shipbuilding history, including the construction of the USS Constellation in 1797. The neighborhood reminds me of the Lower East Side of Manhattan where waves of immigrants have lived, and then generations later, moved to better areas. Along the waterfront are original cobblestone streets and row houses, now housing several blocks of small pubs and shops… and an old police station where the television series “Homicide: Life on the Streets” was filmed in the late 1990’s.
Walking west, away from the waterfront, we passed by row houses and shops, now occupied by people from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In the past, this area welcomed immigrants from Europe, including an influx of Jews in the late 1800’s who worshipped at Lloyd Street Synagogue, the third oldest synagogue in the nation. Built in 1845, the synagogue is now owned by the Jewish Museum of Baltimore. To the right is a picture of the synagogue.
After Fell’s Point, we headed back towards downtown, past run-down areas, abandoned buildings, and several schools. A few decades ago, these schools were probably the pride-and-joy of residents, but are now akin to mini prisons with bars on the windows, boarded-up doors, and heavy fencing around the grimy walls and unkempt playgrounds.
Rich commented, “What’s happened to America?”
Baltimore, like Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C. (which we saw a week later), and other industrial cities is suffering from urban blight. The American dream is eroding into despair with access to healthcare, quality education, safe housing, and even fresh fruits and vegetables out-of-reach for those in impoverished areas.
One ethnic group that has remained in Fell’s Point is the Italians who live in and around Little Italy. I was hoping to spot a small Italian café for a cooling Italian soda on a warm day, but we only passed full-service restaurants on our trek to Inner Harbor. The latter was super busy with a music festival underway, crowds outside the National Aquarium and associated ships (i.e. submarine, Coast Guard cutter, etc.), surrounding restaurants (such as Hard Rock Café) and shops (such as Barnes and Noble), and numerous boats tied up to the seawall with partiers hopping from boat-to-boat.
When it rains in Baltimore, trash from sewers and creek-beds must wash down into the Inner Harbor. We watched an unusual trash skimmer boatsweep up hundreds of plastic and Styrofoam bottles, jugs, and cups, and other riff-raff. It has giant jaws that open and funnel the trash onto a conveyer belt, and then into a collection bin. It was fascinating to watch the skimmer below.
We enjoyed the festivities for an hour or so and then retreated back to Carol Catie to make dinner, wait out a dramatic thunder/lightening/torrential rain storm, which last about an hour, and then darting between the lingering rain drops to the marina office where we took take long, hot, sudsy showers and once again laud our good fortune of having enjoyed a great day in Baltimore.
The only outstanding issue was the need for ice cream. Refreshed, we grabbed our coats and headed back to Inner Harbor. Unfortunately, it was getting late and every time we spotted an ice cream shop it was closed! Exasperated, we put our heads together and remembered there was a CVS drugstore a short walk away.
We were on a mission!
And fifteen minutes later, our mission was achieved: A pint of raspberry sherbet for me and a pint of decadent caramel-spiked ice cream for Rich. We tripped over each other racing back to the boat, scampering into the galley, and grabbing two tablespoons.
Oh, the picture to the right is me tormenting a bull at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. I couldn’t resist touching it’s horn, which was wonderfully warm on a cool day.