Sunday, October 20, 2013


Wednesday we said goodbye to Connecticut and headed toward Baltimore.  Fortunately the night before we had gone over the map with Tilly and Dave and they had given us the best route to skirt the heaviest of New York City's traffic and we really had no problems getting past the city with no undue delays--thank you Tilly and Dave!!  The day before as we had come toward Norwalk, we took the Merritt Parkway for the last part of the drive and it was a bit hairy.  We had initially planned to take another route, but when we saw the sign for Norwalk a little earlier than we had expected, we took it.  Luckily we made it, but there are all these overpasses with these stone or concrete bridges over the road, most of which are shaped like archways.  And suddenly we start seeing clearance signs that the right lane on some of them are just barely high enough for the RV to clear, and some even were narrow enough for the left side to be lower as well.  This meant that often I had to straddle the lane line and ride right down the center of the road to make sure we cleared, and it made for some stressful driving, especially when there were cars in both lanes, but we did make it.  So, needless to say, even though some use the Merritt Parkway from Norwalk toward the city, we did not!!

Had a pleasant drive through New Jersey along the Garden State Parkway and on into the Baltimore area Wednesday afternoon.  We stayed in a lovely RV park on the Bush River, near Abingdon, MD, just north of the city, and we were right on the water--and I mean right on the water!  Our site was just on the shore and we began to realize as dusk was coming that this is a tidal river and the water rose over the ramp out to this fishing dock just down from our site and over the little seawall along this small beach just out from our site.  The moon was nearly full and it was really pretty to be right by the water as we had supper, and were serenaded by all these ducks right outside the carhouse!

We'd been planning to meet our longtime friends from Atlanta, Mickey and Sharon, who now live in Jasper near us, for a week of sightseeing in and around Baltimore and the surrounding area, so they were to arrive Thursday morning.  As we were about to leave the campground, they called to say that the early morning rain and traffic between Jasper and Atlanta had caused them to miss their flight, so they had to rejigger their flight schedule to arrive late Thursday afternoon.  So we did a little looking on the web and found a wonderful series of bike trails in the vicinity of Baltimore-Washington/Thurgood Marshall Airport, and I had a terrific 30 mile ride.  The day was bright and filled with sunshine and it was warm enough to just wear shorts and a tshirt.  There are a number of trails that criss cross and intersect all in the area, so I was able to find several different rides to take, all paved and all off road--just a tremendous time!

Met up with Mickey and Sharon when they got in and went down to a little hole in the wall restaurant near the Inner Harbor area for a wonderful Maryland crab cake dinner--L P Steamers--so we just had to get a small taste of this local specialty and it was quite good.  Mickey and Sharon were staying at a hotel downtown, so we had thought we would stay at a Walmart, as we've done several times.  But, earlier in the afternoon we had discovered that our app for finding places to stay was in need of a little updating, as we learned that 2 of the three Walmarts listed no longer allow overnight RV parking, and when we found the one that did, it was quickly apparent that it was not in a location we wanted to be.  So, since there is a surprising dearth of RV parks really close to Baltimore, we initially thought we'd need to drive 45 minutes back out to the place where we had spent Wednesday night, but that meant we'd have to make the drive back into the city the next morning to meet up with Mickey and Sharon.  We had found a place to park for dinner near the restaurant in a lot of a development called the Foundry, where there were some retail and office spaces, plus a gym, so I decided to give it a shot and went into the gym to ask the manager if we could just stay there for the night.  Happily, our luck was still running well, and he let us park down at the end of the lot and it turned out to be a great spot for a couple of nights, as we toured the city--very convenient to where our friends were staying, as well as places we wanted to see in Baltimore, and very much nicer neighborhood than the Walmart we had seen!

Friday morning we all headed for Ft. McHenry, the site of the battle during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner.  What a wonderful place to visit!  We were so happy that the government shutdown had ended so we could go there.  Talked to the rangers and volunteers there and they were very happy this nonsense had ended as well.  When someone jokingly told the ranger that he had gotten a two week vacation his reply and expression was very telling when he said that it was certainly no vacation at all for them, with all the stress of trying to make day to day expenses, and not knowing when they would be allowed to come back to work.  Just glad it's over.  Anyway, the visitor center is very well done, with lots of exhibits of the different iterations of the flag and detailed explanations of when each came into use, etc.  They also had a video screen where you could call up different renditions of the anthem, and this was really interesting, from the Marine Band classic to Jimi Hendrix' incredible guitar solo from Woodstock.

It was also a great refresher course in the history and facts of how Key came to be where he was when he was inspired to write the national anthem.  Key, a young lawyer, was on a diplomatic mission to free a doctor who was being held prisoner by the British in September, 1814, and was on a British "truce ship" out in the bay beyond Ft. McHenry, along with the warships firing on the fort.  The British had just burned Washington, D. C., and were seeking to take Baltimore with a simultaneous land and sea attack.  The idea was to have the land forces storm the city while the ships bombarded Ft. McHenry, which was constructed right at the mouth of the Inner Harbor to protect the harbor and city.  During the land attack the British major general commanding their forces was killed early on in the battle, which led to their being repelled.  Meanwhile,  the British ships started a full scale bombardment on the fort on September 12, keeping up the pounding with guns, mortars and rockets for two days, and through the night of the 12th/13th.  Since the ships' guns had a range of two miles, and the cannons at the fort had a range of only a mile and half, this was really an attempt at attrition, hoping to wear down the American forces; only occasionally when one of the British ships would venture closer in were they in range of the American cannons.  The night of the 13th saw a ferocious barrage of fire all night long, hoping by morning to have forced the Americans to surrender.  As the ranger explained, the mortar rounds were essentially bombs, designed to loft high and over the walls of the fort and explode in midair, sending a hail of shrapnel down on the soldiers and sailors manning the fort.  I didn't realize this, but he also explained that the rockets they used were not very destructive in and of themselves, but were, as he described, huge bottle rockets, screaming across the sky, lighting up the sky with red streaming trailers, designed to give some light as well as to strike fear into the troops on the ground.  Key knew this was a critical night in the battle, and in the first light of the morning of the 14th he, along with his associate and Dr. Beans, the man he had come to rescue, anxiously watched through his spyglass, to see that the troops had defiantly raised the huge American flag over the fort, to let the British know that they had failed to take the fort or to intimidate the troops.  Apparently, it took a little time for the fog and smoke to clear enough for Key to make out which flag it was, then turned to Dr. Beans and happily announced "It's one of ours, sir!"  He immediately jotted down a few notes of his impressions which he later expanded into the now familiar lines.

Inside the visitor center they have a video reenactment of this whole scene, while explaining how Key came to this place, and at the end of the video there is a classical rendition of the anthem by the US Naval Academy Chorus--all of us there stood and it's just so inspiring, just brought goosebumps and tears.  But the most dramatic thing is that, as soon as the anthem ends, they raise the curtains and there is this giant wall of windows and you look out across the lawn and see the flag flying over the fort on the original crossbeams of the flagpole from 1814--just absolutely amazing!  If this scene does not just send you over the edge with chills and tears, you'd better check your pulse!  It was just incredible!  Then we walked up to explore the fort and hear a very informative and detailed talk by another ranger about the details of the battle.  Just a great way to start off our visit to the area!

We went down to the Inner Harbor to see the USS Constellation, a restored navy gunship that was used originally to disrupt the slave trading ships.  This was a very interesting tour, with some guides dressed up as sailors, and some hands on demonstrations of how they used the capstan to haul up the guns and other cargo onto the ship.  Touring the lower decks of the ship, saw just how cramped the quarters were for the sailors, who had a series of hammocks under the low ceiling decks, and the spacious captain's quarters and lots of displays explaining life aboard the ship.  Learned the origin of several terms--when the sailors would get their meals from the cook, they apparently sat down on the lower deck, spread out a square of canvas on which to put their plates, thus leading to the term "three square meals," or "three squares."  They had to take special care to keep the gunpowder dry until needed, then carried it from the hold up to the guns in powder boxes, and when they emptied the boxes, they tapped hard on the bottom of each overturned box to make sure none was wasted--thus the term "tapped out."  And, since the captain was called a commodore, his spacious quarters, used for entertaining dignitaries were quite luxurious, hence "commodious."  Very interesting.

Went to a lovely Indian restaurant for dinner that evening--Indigma--where we could all accommodate our various tastes--vegan delights for us and lamb for Mickey and Sharon!  A great first day!

Leaving Connecticut, coming toward New Jersey

 Here we are, entering New Jersey.  I must admit, I've never been able to quite get over my negative first impressions of this state--when I was at Ft. Dix for basic training in the Army!!
 On our way to Marylyand

Some of the harbor areas in the greater Baltimore area

 Liked this cloud pattern until I saw it was pollution from an industrial plant!

 The Bush River
Looking out from our campsite
 When we first arrived, these benches were accessible by a concrete pad, then covered with the rising tide

 The dramatic view from the visitor center at the end of the video, when you see this majestic flag flying over Ft. McHenry
 Flock of Canada geese along the walkway from the visitor center to the fort

The flagpole has the original cross bar from 1814

 Looking from the ground level up to the cannons along the fort's ramparts

 Inside the fort

 Yes, every fort has a brig!
 From atop the ramparts, looking down on the gun emplacements, protecting the mouth of the Inner Harbor

Bronze statue of Orpheus, erected in 1914 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the successful battle and Key's authoring the national anthem
Me with Sharon at Inner Harbor, the Constellation in the background

Duckboats in the harbor!

Several of us following the instructions of the guide/"sailor" to demonstrate the use of the capstan to winch up heavy cargo onto the ship and into the hold; I'm manning the timeline!
The tagline man, hoisting up a keg of whiskey!
The grunt work, heaving into the long poles to turn the capstan

The chaplain's quarters below
The rest of the officers' quarters
The square, where the sailors ate their meals, sitting on the deck
The hammocks where the sailors slept
Looking out a porthole at lovely roses along a storefront in the harbor
The captain's stateroom

The Commodore's Table, in his spacious, or "commodious" quarters
More shots of the Captain's quarters, where he entertained

Trisha on the gun deck
Trisha, of course, saw a labyrinth in this coiled line!

Shots around the Inner Harbor development

As we drove around near the Inner Harbor

A beautiful throwback--'65 Vette, parked in the lot near our RV

Sunset shots from where we were parked
Sun reflected on a window across the street

Beautiful moon through some clouds!


  1. Wonderful post..............thanks so much.


  2. I'm enjoying reading about our trip! Can you come along on all our trips? Also, really nice photography - some the same as ones I took and others different.

    1. Sharon, the whole trip with you guys was so much fun! So glad it worked out for y'all to meet up with us!