First, I lied. I said it was a stay-cation, but it wasn't. I just didn't think it was a good idea to broadcast all over the web that my house was going to be empty for a week. And it was ALMOST a stay-cation: my sister and I spent the week in Baltimore doggy sitting while my daughter went to Myrtle Beach. So we were sort of local.
Vacationing in Baltimore probably seems like a strange idea to many, but the city does have much to offer other than crime. Granted, you have to have a certain trash tolerance, but it has its own special charm (yes, charm) mixed in with grit and ghetto. Not to mention museums, top notch restaurants, and easy access to Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Peggy arrived on the Amtrak on Friday afternoon, we headed to Baltimore on Saturday. We've started making vacation "to do" lists, and first on the list is always the Whetsell-Felton Reunion, which I blogged about last year. There was an added joy this year: on the Thursday before some cousins in Wheeling happened to stumble on my blog from the year before and thought "Why don't we go?" JFelton is over on my followers list, and he probably has gotten tired of waiting for me to blog about it. Sorry, cuz, no excuse but laziness about a long blog. Hope you are still there. I don't remember JFelton's dad, although as a small child I'm sure I knew him because I knew his brothers Jim and Wayne, both first cousins of my Dad.
There was some sorrow this year - Aunt Jean had died shortly before, and that leaves a big hole. She wasn't an aunt by blood, but she and Uncle Walter were so close when we were kids that we never stopped calling them that. Uncle Walter is bent from back problems, nearing 90, and more frail, but he still is so much the same in many ways. Doesn't drive but still gets out on the tractor on the farm.
Bud brought his friend Franklin with him this year:
And Franklin, on a leash and pulling his cart, led the Chicken Dance, much to everyone's merriment:
There were some folks looking disturbingly frail this year. They are pushing or beyond 90, and while I know they will one day not be there just as so many others no longer are, I dread the day their faces are missing from the gathering. Like Aunt Jean, their loss will be a loss of a piece of my childhood.
But the nice thing is that many young people are coming back, and there are a couple generations carrying it on.
And then a quieter, exhausted trip back to Baltimore. Dogs to let out and feed, collapse into bed.
Monday was closer to home - Fort McHenry. The War of 1812 has always been a bit of a puzzle to me. In my mind it goes: We declare war on Britain because they won't abide by the treaty boundaries in the north and they keep impressing our sailors into service on their ships. Britain kicks us all over the place except at Baltimore because we are in no way prepared for a war with anybody. Britain gets tired and goes home and eventually says "bag it" and signs another treaty with us and the war ends. Except in New Orleans where Jackson wipes the floor with the Brits because they didn't know the war was over. And even there if the British general had been given time to exploit a weakness in Jackson's flank it could have gone another way. But he received orders to quit, so he withdrew after having his butt handed to him by the Yanks. I know that a famous battle cry came out of it, but "Remember the Raisin!" just doesn't do much for me.
I suppose everyone knows that Fort McHenry withstood massive bombardment during the war, and the flag flying over it as the sun came up and the mist cleared was the Star Spangled Banner we sing of. There is also a museum at Flag House, the home of the woman who made the flag. The big flagpole is now standing where it was during the battle - the underground supporting timbers of the original were found just a few years ago.
And a bit more gunpowder in the house than I do.
They also didn't store their ammunition under the bed like I do.
Then it was off to explore the old sea port of Fells Point.
I don't like driving in the city and the GPS didn't know about blocked streets. But I knew that if I kept the harbor immediately on my right and just followed roads around it to the east I'd get to where I wanted to be. And then I discovered the trick I used for the rest of the week - US 83 becomes President Street, follow south until the Katyn Monument fountain circle, duck into a parking garage and walk everywhere from there.
The garages are expensive, but saved me a nervous breakdown. And, really, downtown Baltimore doesn't cover that much area, so it's very walkable as long as you pay attention to staying out of the ghetto.
Harbor sights are both iconic and gritty:
And sometimes you stand and wonder how anything could be so industrial and beautiful at the same time.
Fells Point was founded in 1730, and in addition to the old buildings, it hosts 120 pubs. We've only just started working on that.
And restaurants, oh does Fells Point have restaurants! We ate in the area twice, at Kali's Mezza and at Roy's , both of which I can highly recommend.
With the weather so good, a bike ride was in order, so one day we loaded up and went over to Blackwater Wildlife Refuge to bike and eagle spot. There was a hitch at the beginning - we stopped to replace my broken bike chain and when we went to leave the store my battery made sad sounds. I had been told that I'd need a new one by winter. Well, thank goodness for AutoZone a block away, because the battery decided that that was the day it would give up the ghost completely. Only a hitch, replaced it, and went on. Nice day, nice ride, several eagles, plenty of other wildlife.
Then dinner on a porch in old Annapolis, a tradition after a Blackwater ride.
Closer by, a day in Ellicott City. Having been "born" in 1772 it's a little younger than Fells Point and Annapolis, but full of history and antique shops, both fascinating.
Back on the road and over to St. Michael's for a day, where we barely scratched the "to do" list with a little walking, a river tour, and a lot of steamed crabs, shrimp, and beer on the deck at the Crab Claw.
We happened to be there the evening of the blue moon, and watched it rise as we ate.
Another day was spent back in the harbor area exploring the Civil War side of Baltimore, and then it was over. Peggy back to NC, and me back to WV. It took me 3 days to get over the physical exhaustion because we never stopped moving, but it was a great vacation. And there is still a lot on the "to do" list that we have to do.