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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 35: Farewell, Inner Harbor

Anne in heart!

This steel heart was part of a 2016 project involving a Baltimore “Code of Respect”. It had fine-print behavior rules on top for all Inner Harbor pedestrians to read and take to heart (see what they did there?), but we missed that part.

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…

After three full days in Baltimore (plus our late arrival on Day Two), on the morning of Day Six it was time for us to move on and begin the long journey home. But before we recount those miles and the attractions along the way, here’s one last look back at some of our traipsing around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, that fun waterside nexus where we saw museums, rode water taxis, smashed pennies, enjoyed quality meals, stepped on boats of varying historic significance, encountered panhandlers, started our sunburns, hit my head three times on a submarine ceiling, and saw Old Bay seasoning sold in larger quantities than any family outside Maryland should ever need in their entire lifetimes.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 34: Tour of Little Italy

Vaccaro's pastries!

Who needs artisan donuts when you can have bona fide Italian pastry?

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…

Throughout our stay in Baltimore, nearly all our paths to and from the Inner Harbor took us through the heart of their very own Little Italy. We’ve walked near Manhattan’s version a few times on our 2011 and 2016 vacations, but were hobbled both times by a third companion who is among the six people nationwide that dislike Italian cuisine. Also, Manhattan’s is only a couple of blocks long and adjacent to Chinatown, so its restaurants are too easy to bypass in favor of the dozens of other nearby options. This time in Baltimore, it was just the two of us — no excuses and almost no barriers.

Baltimore’s Little Italy comprises several streets and blocks, encompassing both the African American History Museum and the Flag House to the west, and ending with its southeast corner a convenient block away from our hotel. When we weren’t stopping inside it, we were still walking through it here and there for frequent glimpses at an eminent immigrant neighborhood whose origins date back to the mid-1800s.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 33: “Homicide” Hometown

Fells Point!

Our first sighting of Fells Point back on Day Three, after the water taxi finally picked us up from Fort McHenry.

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…

After our stops at the African American History Museum and the Star-Spangled Banner Museum, we were effectively done with Baltimore museums for the year. Day Five continued to the southeast, past our hotel, and away from the the Inner Harbor’s major tourist magnets. We walked east on Fleet Street and, the very next block after Eden Street, passed the end of shininess and treaded into the blue-collar grit of the neighborhood they call Fell’s Point.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 32: Broad Stripes and Bright Stars II

Flag House Flag Wall!

30 feet tall. 42 feet wide. It’s a replica, but the measurements are right.

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…

As one of the original thirteen American colonies, Maryland has a treasure trove of history to share, as we’d seen here and there throughout the week. Back on Day Three, our tour of Fort McHenry had given us an in-depth look at the place where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the summer of 1814, while the War of 1812 was waged all around him. Over his head flew the eponymous flag that inspired it, wool and cotton, exactly the dimensions shown above. It was put together late enough to include Vermont and Kentucky, the first new states to hop aboard the America bandwagon after the first thirteen.

Just as the songwriting backdrop for our national anthem has its own tourist attraction in Baltimore, so does the home of that flag’s designer. Conveniently for us, the Star Spangled Banner Museum and Flag House is on the same block as the African American History Museum. It’s not entirely fancy, but it was a cost-effective coda to Fort McHenry.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 31: The African-American Experience

quilt!

One of several quilts on display at the museum.

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…

DAY FIVE: Wednesday, July 12th.

A good night’s sleep helped put the hardships of the previous day behind us. Another middling hotel breakfast didn’t exactly kick off Day Five with pizzazz, but it would have to do till we arrived at better food later. Day Five in Baltimore was a departure from the previous two days — no Inner Harbor, no water taxis, no crowds of tourists, no afternoon panhandlers along the shoreline, no more shots of the Historic Ships or the Barnes & Noble or that ubiquitous, gargantuan aquarium in shot after shot after shot after shot after shot.

One of the most useful items we bought before we arrived in town was a pair of Baltimore Harbor Passes. Baltimore has so many museums and museum-style locations that they offer discount admission packages if you’re interested in checking out four different facilities. Up to this point the Harbor Pass had gotten us into the National Aquarium, the American Visionary Art Museum, and the World Trade Center’s Top of the World observation deck. We had three options for the fourth slot. One is their children’s museum, which used to be a thing for us before my son grew up; another is the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, which is probably a must-see for sports fans.

The full name of our ultimate choice, according to their brochure, is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. It sounded more fascinating to me, and as an added bonus was within walking distance of our hotel.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 30: The Dragon Experiment

Dragonriders!

Helen of Troy’s “face that launched a thousand ships” is absolutely nothing next to the smile that launched this dragon.

Thor Heyerdahl. Leif Erikson. Amerigo Vespucci. Vasco da Gama. Cap’n Quint. Princess Moana. The Fed Ex guy from Cast Away. These mighty explorers braved the open sea in the name of exploration, discovery, adventure, salvation, and/or Because It Was There. To millions of Americans, water travel is an exotic activity best left to professional captains and drivers while the rest of us assume passenger positions and let others choose our paths and our destinies.

But I understand that sometimes taking charge of a vessel and setting your own course can be quite fulfilling and build confidence that you can draw upon in future endeavors. And when a lovely lady like my wife wants to try something completely different, something involving animal-shaped things and scenery almost as beautiful as her, I really, really like to make that happen for her if it’s within my power. And sometimes even when I think it isn’t.

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