Vacation Time: With Family to Chesapeake Bay

The perfect representation of vacation: a fisherman on the Chesapeake, Tilghman Island, Maryland.

On the first day of the new quarter, Linda and I flew up to Northern Virginia, to Dulles Airport, minutes from Robin’s and Brett’s house. Vacation time! The next day we were headed to the Eastern Shore of the vast Chesapeake Bay, to a Hyatt resort, with those two grownups and our two swell granddaughters. Later that afternoon, the UPS truck delivered my folding bike. Woo hoo.

Next morning, I was up early for the first good ride on the little bike in years. I couldn’t believe that it had been packed away in our attic for nearly a decade – it was nimble, light, and fit in a very small package. It will be great to have it in their basement. At ten we departed, moving into heavy weekend traffic, crossed the huge Chesapeake Bay east of Annapolis, and were in Cambridge, Maryland, in three hours, and in swimsuits not long after that.

I got up at 5:30 every morning to work a consulting project that was due in a few days, ate breakfast, and rolled out for ten or so miles on the folding bike, which was small enough to stack on top of all the stuff young parents need (diapers, baby food, strollers, etc.). The days went quickly. It was swell to have the two tots at hand, though Dylan is in the thick of the Terrible Twos. Carson, four months, is by contrast one of the most content babies I’ve seen.

The Choptank River, an estuary of the vast Chesapeake Bay, from our hotel room


On July 4, we observed the 234th anniversary of the founding of the republic by putting my iPhone in the hotel room’s sound dock, and belted out various patriotic marches by John Phillips Sousa. Carson bobbed to the beat. Looking at new American life, it seemed to me the future of the nation was bright.

As often happens at resorts, we got sorta lazy, so on Monday morning, Linda and I peeled off for a day of touring. We drove north, then west to Tilghman Island, a quiet little place at the end of one of the many peninsulas on the Chesapeake. Poked around a bit, admiring, for example, the last skipjack (a kind of small working sailboat used for dredging oysters) built on the island, in 1988. We then motored ten miles to St. Michaels, founded 1677, a really charming old town. I smiled as we entered, and said to Linda, “well, I finally made it,” explaining that I had read an article about Maryland in the National Geographic in 1971 and tried hitchhiking there from Washington in May 1972, but only made it as far as Annapolis, 60 miles northwest of St. Michaels.

Detail, last skipjack (working sailboat) built on Tilghman Island, now in drydock and looking forlorn.

Talbot Street tourist traffic, St. Michaels

Side entrance and churchyard, Christ Church, St. Michaels

The first three days were unseasonably pleasant but by that day it was hot, humid, and hazy, exactly the kind of summer weather you expect in the Mid-Atlantic. We ambled down Talbot Street, named for the county, made a few purchases at shops (my souvenir was a little crab fashioned from rusted steel), and headed to the St. Michaels Historical Museum, where we had a nice chat with Bob Caulk, the docent, whose family had been in the district for 350 years. Talbot County had another famous son, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who had worked as a slave in the 1830s before heading north. We had a nice lunch at a local bar, then headed back.

Late that afternoon, I looked out at the boats on the Choptank River, a bay estuary, and mused about the seaside, an unfamiliar but fascinating environment to a heartlander like me. What is obvious to people who live on the sea was so new to me: it was an enormous, omnidirectional; highway – 100 feet from our hotel room was the watery route to London, Umeå, and Chennai, places I had visited a month earlier, and to many more.

So it was that I was so happy with the dinner venue that night, Jimmie & Sook’s a local seafood place in downtown Cambridge that I found on the internet. The center of town was a bit down on its luck, and Brett and I were not sure Robin and Linda would head in, but all were glad they did, because we enjoyed a lot of fresh seafood, local brew, and very friendly service. The walls were adorned with big black-and-white photos of watermen (as fishers are called locally) and implements from the fishing trade – oyster tongs, rakes, crab pots. My kind of place, for sure.

Race Street, Cambridge. Downtown was struggling a bit: the tourist boom had not yet arrived.

Tuesday morning, Linda, Robin, Carson, and I set out for another short excursion. We turned off U.S. 50, the main road, and onto a splendid two-lane Maryland highway that curved a lot, passing corn fields, pasture, and big stands of hardwood and pine. A pleasant and gentle landscape. In no time we were in Oxford, easily the nicest of the small towns we visited.

Decorative picket fences were to be seen in all parts of Oxford, Maryland, another pleasant small town

After motoring around town (which did not take long), we caught the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, oldest in the U.S. (1683, and in continuous operation since 1836). Ten bucks got us across the Tred Avon River on a vessel that held nine cars. The Transport Geek was smiling broadly, yakking briefly with the pilot, the distaff side of a couple who have owned the ferry since 2001; “we aren’t getting rich,” she said, “but we sure are having fun.”

The Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, oldest in the U.S.

The boat saved about 30 miles of driving, and in no time we were back in St. Michaels, showing Robin the town. I ambled down to the water and the girls went shopping. Ate lunch, and we headed back.

Talbot Street, St. Michaels


A real working boat catches your attention; this is the Doris N., moored at St. Michaels.

Fun. We were back in time for Brett and me to watch a World Cup semifinal match, Netherlands vs. Uruguay. Finished the second book of the trip (as I’ve written, I’ve read more in the last 13 months since any time in my life). We were back “home” in Reston, Virginia, by noon the next day, having enjoyed time in a new part of our great United States.

Next morning, Thursday the 8th, Brett, Robin, and Carson left before dawn for a wedding in North Carolina, and Linda, Dylan, and I stayed. Some weeks earlier, Dylan – who is in the see-all-ask-all phase – expressed interest in riding on a bus, and Robin replied, “Pots [that’s Dylan-speak for “Pops”] will take you on a bus.” I learned of that promise a couple of weeks earlier, and immediately relished the prospect. For a traveler like me, imagine what fun the future held! In my head I filled in the blank for many years of adventure: “Pots will take you _________”! Wowie!

So it was that at 10:15 that day Dylan and I climbed on Fairfax Connector route 505 and headed east toward the capital of the republic. She was a little apprehensive, but adjusted quickly.

Granddaughter Dylan Reck, watching for the bus


In 20 minutes we were on the platform at the West Falls Church station of the Washington Metro, and she was getting into it. And so, obviously, was her grandfather the T-Geek. “This is so cool,” I thought to myself. I pointed up the line and said, “Dee-Dee, watch for the train,” and soon the brown and silver Metro glided into view. We climbed on, and in no time were in D.C., walking down 17th Street, barely two blocks from the White House. She was a little too young to understand sightseeing, so we ambled to the American Airlines Washington office to see old friends: Will Ris, the SVP, Norma Kaehler, an in-house lobbyist, Antoinette Coffey, longtime employee, and the great Carl Nelson, American’s Washington lawyer for almost 25 years, and a great pal for 17.

It was great fun, and a bit nostalgic, to be back in that office. Through the years and several jobs, I had spent a lot of time there. Dylan was comfortable, and all was well. Carl, Dee-Dee, and I ambled down L Street for lunch, where she promptly fell asleep. Carl and I yakked for an hour, she woke up, and we headed back. Carl pulled out his collection of little toy turtles, the painted ones from overseas with moving feet, heads, and tails. Dylan loved them. When we left, she said “Bye, Carl.” And then, on her own, she added “Thank you for playing with me.” It was so sweet.

I carried her a couple of blocks south to the Farragut West Metro station. Our train did not arrive for 15 minutes, and she had fun watching trains come and go, waving goodbye as they pulled out. One more ride and we were home, the #551 bus dropping us right in front of their house, Linda waiting with open arms. It was quite an outing! Dylan was plumb wore out, and I was kinda tired myself.

I flew home the next afternoon, sorry to leave. But I was glad to see MacKenzie a few hours later.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Vacation Time: With Family to Chesapeake Bay

  1. Wow looks like you guys had a great time! Nice photos

    The Best Chesapeake Bay Oysters are grown on our family farm!

    Quality & Sustainability
    http://www.deltavilleoystercompany.com

    • robbrittonthetraveler

      Thanks. I hope we slurped up some of your oysters! I had six at the Hyatt and six at Jimmie and Sook’s.

  2. Thank you for your great summary of your visits to Oxford, St. Michaels and Tilghman Island! Talbot County has so many hidden gems, but it sounds like you managed to find quite a few of them. And a ride on the Oxford-Bellevue ferry is indeed a great trip! Next time you visit, check out our website at http://www.tourtalbot.org or our blog at tourtalbot.wordpress.com for information on upcoming events, places to visit and things to do!

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