Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 13: Standing by the Sea

Olde Tyme Boat!

This wasn’t our ride, but I would’ve paid a few bucks extra if they’d offered to let us board.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

It’s my understanding that normal travelers like to get away from it all because they need rest and/or relaxation. Anne and I tend to maintain a brisk pace on our vacations because we fear that every new location we encounter may be our one and only chance to see it. Every half-hour or hour spent recharging potentially means crossing another sight off the to-do list forever. We realize we’ll never see everything, and we’ve been known to revisit select locales, but there’s a sense of accomplishment in at least trying to maximize our experience as if it’s our last hurrah.

As we’ve gotten older, we’ve found diminishing returns in treating a road trip like a marathon with prizes at the finish line for whoever spots the most things. I now begrudgingly admit that every long haul needs its quiet moments. Sometimes we get to choose when and where. Sometimes time-outs are foisted upon us, a killjoy for our exploratory impulses but a respite that our stupid aging bodies secretly welcome.

After we’d gleaned what we could from historic Fort McHenry, we had time to walk the grounds and the perimeter. Not much was nearby, but we found a bonus statue just past the parking lot — Charles Niehaus’ “Orpheus with the Awkward Foot”, an oblique 1922 tribute to one-hit wonder Francis Scott Key. You might remember him from such myths as the one where he tried leading his lost beloved Eurydice out of Hades and back to the land of the living, only to lose her forever when he broke the one and only condition on that granted boon by looking back to see if she was still there. Thus did the fabled musician and poet, the very son of a Muse, effectively Schrödinger his true love away.


Why an awkward foot? Because, uh…no idea. For diversity?

The water taxi stop at Fort McHenry had no posted schedule that we could find. We had no idea how long it would be till the next one would arrive to hasten us along to other parts of Baltimore. The long walk through and around McHenry had been more draining than we expected. We refilled our water bottles inside the visitors center and found shade near the water’s edge. At the dock was a watercraft that hadn’t been there when we arrived, an olde-tyme sailing ship idling while its crew busied themselves.

Eventually their passengers returned, local kids on a field trip. Somehow we’d overlooked them all.

Field Trip!

Chaperones included.

Soon, class set sail and left us behind. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And cursed the water taxi route changes that may or may not have been to blame. And waited. And waited. I tried to resist the urge to use up my entire phone battery for kicks in one sitting.

Inner Harbor!

When you need something to stare down hard while you’re killing time, there are billions of sights worse than the Inner Harbor.

Water Taxi Stamp!

If you pay for a one-day unlimited-ride water taxi fare, your proof-of-purchase is a free hand stamp that takes days to fade away.

Forty minutes later, a water taxi arrived and saved the day. It wasn’t the color we’d expected based on the all-new all-different schedule, but all that mattered is they were going our way, by which I mean anywhere but there. More minutes ensued as we coasted over the water, back to the north side. Between our vegetating on the shore and our idyllic mini-cruise across the way, the downtime was ours whether we chose to appreciate the opportunity or not.

Inner Harbor Buildings!

Another ride, another chance to make our own future PC wallpapers.

The taxi returned us to Fells Point, where we grabbed lunch and were surprised to see an actual schedule at their stop, complete with estimated arrival and departure times. The surprises continued after lunch when we found ourselves a convenient taxi to our next adventure within minutes of the sign’s promise. Thus did Fells Point prove itself the greatest Inner Harbor water taxi stop of them all.

Standing by the Sea.

Fells Point is a transfer point between at least four different routes, unless they rearranged them all again this week.

That long stretch of standby may not have been the most thrilling part of our week, but it helped us regain energy we’d need to keep on road-tripping. Our endless Inner Harbor shots — particularly the gallery in Part 11 — are like a reminder of temporary paradise to me just now. In the weeks since our 2017 road trip ended we’ve had to deal with home repairs, a college graduate with planning issues, intensifying work responsibilities, multiplying geek events that are beginning to blend together, a mother in post-surgical recovery with numerous needs, an upswing in mandatory family gatherings, a car with a lingering death sentence, and Lord knows what other stress sources I’m forgetting or downplaying.

And then, just in case I’d thought about getting too comfy and complacent tonight, I learned that one of the founders of my all-time favorite rock band died of cancer Thursday at age 56. I considered doing an entire tribute entry, but I’m not really up for it. This chapter, name taken from one of the many songs he wrote and sang, will have to suffice as an inadequate dedication for now. (Another song of his, “Admiral of the Sea”, was a distant second.)

I’m grateful that, if nothing else, the most we’ve gotten in the way of Hurricane Irma leftovers has been a light drizzle that’s upped our humidity an annoying tad. My dogpile of burdens may be more daunting than usual, but they pale compared to others’ trials and tribulations of late. Just the same, don’t mind me while I wallow in our beatific Inner Harbor memories a bit longer. It’s reassuring to know I can look back at them and trust they’re still there.

To be continued.

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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