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 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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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 29: Looks at Books in a Tower of Power

Barnes & Noble!

This photo looks stolen from a tourism brochure, but I promise it’s ours.

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…

Tourists love shopping in faraway places and bringing home exotic clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and more. That’s what I hear, I mean. Our shopping habits are narrower in scope and are rarely a primary factor in planning our vacation to-do lists. But if a store that caters to our interests just so happens to have a convenient location by other prominent attractions, we’re amenable to dropping in for some light browsing. If said store has its own unusual architectural features, so much the better.

Hence our short stop at the largest Barnes & Noble we’ve ever seen.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 28: Jellyfish Heaven

Jellyfish!

Strange visitor from another world, technically.

Near the end of a long day’s travels, it’s a confusing sort of relief to find yourself greeted by this sort of strange yet soothing sight.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 27: The Lives Aquatic

giant narrow fish.

This fellow refused to move, as if he was too busy waiting in vain for a callback from Pixar casting.

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…

What’s not to love about an aquarium? It’s a wonderland teeming with life in myriad forms and mesmerizing colors, many of which you’ve never seen before. Mood lighting and soothing blue waters surround you, and help to offset the noisy kids running around all over the place and shouting, “LOOK AT THAT ONE! NO, LOOK AT THAT ONE! COOOOOOL!” If you enter without children as we did, then you’re not beholden to their curious questioning, their short attention spans, or their zigzag walking styles as they bounce from one captivating tank to the next. You can lollygag around at your own pace and decide for yourself which fish you’d rather skip, which fish you’d like to stare at for a few minutes while contemplating the intricacies of Creation, and which lifeforms you’d like to spend ten minutes trying to get a single decent picture of for posterity.

Unfortunately for our more modest cameras, colorful settings don’t compensate for dim lights. Many of our pics at the National Aquarium came out blurry. This gallery, then, represents the best of what we tried to do. When you’ve had no formal training or thousand-dollar devices, sometimes patience and hope are the best tools you have. We only had a couple of hours till closing time, but it proved just enough time to see the main exhibits and enjoy the air conditioning.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 26: All Around the Aquarium

Fish Fossil!

Giant fish fossil suspended from the ceiling and hanging down several stories welcomes you!

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…

The next stop on our scenic tour of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has already popped up as an Easter egg in previous chapters. The National Aquarium is an institution so large, it needs two piers and at least three buildings to contain it all. Over two million gallons of water house 17,000+ specimens from several hundred species, some of which were transferred over when the National Aquarium in Washington DC closed its doors in 2013. As you’re walking around the Inner Harbor, the aquarium is impossible to miss.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 16: The View from Another World Trade Center

Inner Harbor Wallpaper!

One great perk of vacation photography: creating your own PC wallpaper.

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…

You may have noticed our next stop as an Easter egg in photos from previous chapters. The tallest building along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is their 31-story World Trade Center. It’s one of 53 American members of the World Trade Center Association, which in all numbers 317 worldwide in 91 countries. The Baltimore version opened in 1977. Other than intense basement flooding from Hurricane Isabel in 2003, it’s been a relatively fortunate place.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 15: I Saw Three (More) Ships

Chesapeake steering wheel!

Of all the steering wheels we saw that day, the Lightship Chesapeake‘s was the grandest.

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…

The Historic Ships in Baltimore number four in all, and four is the number of preserved watercraft lining the north piers of the Inner Harbor for your perusal. After our casual walk through the 120-year-old USS Constellation, we tried to pick up the pace as we wound our ways through the other three. After a while some parts began to look alike, but each had its own unique features, especially the submarine.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 14: See the Constellation

Constellation!

You may have noticed parts of this ship in previous chapters. We’ll also come back to one of these buildings later in the series.

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 lunch we took a water taxi back to the Inner Harbor’s Pier 1 and dedicated the rest of our Monday to touring their most visible collection of attractions, the Historic Ships of Baltimore. Docked along separate piers are four different American ships of military significance that you can tour for one combined package price. Their purposes and legacies date back decades, and each has its own exhibits, artifacts, and varying degrees of air conditioning. We started with the ship that was oldest and parked farthest west, the USS Constellation.

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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.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 11: Inner Harbor, Spoiler-Free

Inner Harbor lead!

Several of these buildings are teaser images for future entries. The white-peaked Pier Six Pavilion at right, on the other hand, has to settle for this cameo.

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 THREE: Monday, July 10th.

Every piece of Baltimore tourism literature — the brochures, the books, the websites, any TV shows set in the city — strongly recommends any and all tourists spend their time in and around the Inner Harbor. Museums, shopping, pricey hotels, shiny architecture and restaurants of varying price points are clustered at the northwest end of the Patapsco River, making most of their major attractions eminently walkable from one to the other. We found reasons to venture a bit beyond in the days ahead, but it was a scenic place to start. And walking isn’t the only way to travel.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 10: The Road to Baltimore

Madonna of the Trail!

A familiar face to longtime readers.

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 we descended the far side of South Mountain, our destination Baltimore was just over an hour away. In the late stages of our pre-planning, I realized we might have time for a detour to the southwest before getting back on track. We considered taking the opportunity to veer into Washington DC and checking out one of many sites that didn’t make the cut for our 2003 road trip to the area. Unfortunately by this time it was late afternoon, and we don’t care to arrive at hotels in the middle of the night. Ultimately we made a judgment call and stopped at just one of the chosen options on this leg — the one that represented an open box on one of Anne’s travel checklists.

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