The Maritime Republic of Eastport

IMG_1233Island life makes people a little crazy. Key West has the Conch Republic and a little neighborhood in Annapolis has the Maritime Republic of Eastport?

While technically not an island, Eastport feels that way, located across a drawbridge from highfalutin historic Annapolis, MD. But you won’t find cobblestone streets and signers of the Declaration of Independence here. With its narrow lanes, wooden shacks and air redolent of the Chesapeake Bay, it really did remind me a bit of Key West.

My trip to Eastport was courtesy of Enterprise CarShare. I’m a social media ambassador for them, like a real millennial. It was a day trip for me. Easy – you reserve a car online, swipe a card over a sensor on the windshield and drive off. Gas is even included.

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Ford Escape – an SUV that I actually like.

I picked a Ford Escape which was conveniently parked a block from me. I really like that little SUV. You can haul stuff with it (like a bike) but it’s also nimble enough to parallel park.

Annapolis is about an hour from DC. Once there, I stopped for coffee at Ceremony.

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Coffee and a muffin at Ceremony Coffee in Annapolis.

Then I met my friends Lynn and Anthony for lunch at Davis’ Pub in Eastport. Crab dip over a pretzel – delicious! It was also nice to sit outside by the water at this unpretentious bar.

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Davis’ Pub in Eastport
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Lynn and Anthony has said that no one has ever not liked this crab dip – they were right!

We then walked over to the Annapolis Maritime Museum. This riverfront museum is devoted to the history, ecology and the arts of the Chesapeake Bay. Learned a bunch about oysters. And they had a great exhibit of photos on the people still wresting a living from the bay.

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Photo exhibit at the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

This was the third of my three free trips courtesy of Enterprise. I get free travel and a small fee, and they get photos to use online. It’s been a great opportunity to explore new places and take photos.

When I briefly owned a car in DC, all I did was worry about tickets, break-ins and having my car towed to some distant lot. Carsharing is easier, even for a non-millennial like me.

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Not a millennial.

 

Biking the NCR Trail

flags in Parkton

I’m a Brand Ambassador for Enterprise CarShare. In return for sharing my photos, I get three free trips from the carsharing service. For my first trip, I went on a lovely loop around western Maryland, including a stop in Shepherdstown.

For my second trip, I returned to Maryland but this time went north, to Monkton, and the Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR). Loading up my Specialized Sirrus in the back of a Nissan Rogue, I got an early start on a very steamy Sunday.

A couple hours later, I was in Monkton Station, the most scenic starting point on the trail – and the most crowded. Parking restrictions meant that I had to park a couple blocks away, on a side street. But I had a bike so it didn’t matter to me. I rolled over the bridge and onto the trail.

Monkton Station
Monkton Station on the NCR Trail is a popular spot for biking, hiking and tubing.

And into the mud. Epic rains had hit the night before, flooding the nearby town of Ellicott City. The trail had some big puddles and some muddy patches to traverse. There was even a tree down. My Specialized Sirrus is an older model with skinny tires. It got wobbly at times passing through the mud.

NCR Trail
NCR Trail has a crushed stone surface with some muddy patches.
Gunpowder River
Gunpowder River

The trail follows the Gunpowder River upstream. It’s an incline that I only noticed by the amount I was sweating. Trail amenities (like water) are sparse once you get north of Monkton. It’s a pleasant ride through the woods with a river for company. Lots of runners on the trail, utilizing several access points along the NCR.

A dozen miles in, and I was about out of water. But, by then, I was really close to the Mason-Dixon Line, so I kept going for the photo-op. Pretty cool to pass over the line and then cross into another state.

Bike at the Mason-Dixon Line
Made it to the Mason-Dixon!

At the Pennsylvania border, the trail becomes the York Heritage Trail as it rolls into New Freedom. What a cute trail town! Reminded me of the towns along the WO&D except this one had a real steam engine plying the rails. I had lunch and waited for my friend Bob, who started later, and caught up with me at the trailside cafe in town.

Steam engine in New Freedom
A working steam train in New Freedom.
Me in New Freedom, PA
I did not visit the Party Caboose.

On the way back, most of the mud had dried, so we flew downhill. Bob exited at Parkton, which had a very cool stone bridge and a former bank that had been turned into a private residence.

There was a slight uphill portion getting back to Monkton. I passed people carrying tubes along the trail. They put in the river upstream and float down to Monkton. It was a long walk for them – at least a mile. After hours in the muggy heat, I was ready to get home.

Tubers and bikes in Monkton
Carrying tubes upstream at Monkton.

In the morning, there had just been a couple cars on the side street where I parked. When I returned in the afternoon, cars were everywhere and there was a tow truck on the street. Time to leave. My bike was covered in soft sand and mud. I put it in the back of the Rogue and took off.

The NCR Trail is a beautiful woodsy trail – but the Heritage Trail in Pennsylvania looks even nicer. I hear there’s ice cream along the trail, too. That’s my kind of bike ride. Looking forward to going back to New Freedom and riding it north to York.

Fear and Loathing: Life as a Silver Spring Pedestrian

This is why I'm glad I bike/Metro. Crazy MD driver trying to force her way thru traffic.
How, exactly, am I supposed to get across the street?

I commute to Silver Spring from DC every day and I hate it. As the train pulls into the station, I see the looming specter of the failed Silver Spring Transit Center and I’m filled with low-grade dread. Why do I hate it so?

Bisected by six-lane highways, downtown Silver Spring is a spectacularly pedestrian-unfriendly environment. Trudging the streets as cars whiz by at 50 mph, you immediately feel like an outsider. I have to cross a river of cars just to get a cup of coffee. Every morning, I press the “beg button” and wait for the light to change to ford the river of cars on East-West Highway.

If I’m lucky, the light turns red and everyone stops. More typically, the light turns yellow and drivers rush into intersection blocking the crosswalk. Pedestrians have to weave around cars, trucks and even 60-foot long articulated Metro buses. I get my coffee at Peet’s and repeat the process, keeping an eye out for impatient drivers coming up behind me as they blow through the shopping center stop sign.

The first thing the new MD governor should do is blow up the crumbling, never-opened Silver Spring Transit Center
The Silver Spring Transit center. Five years late and a $100 million over budget. Built with flawed concrete and now the subject of litigation.

Working in Silver Spring, there are some intersections you learn to avoid, like East-West Highway and Colesville Road. Accidents happen there regularly and sometimes include pedestrians. You also know where drivers make rolling rights on red and which crosswalks they ignore (all of them).

I bike everywhere in DC. I do not bike in Silver Spring. Why? There are no bike lanes of any kind. Traffic is fast and crowded. There’s BikeShare in Silver Spring but I’ve never seen anyone use it. People know that biking in the street is an experts-only activity.

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Some friendly signage.

While Silver Spring is pedestrian-unfriendly, it is filled with pedestrians. Huge employers are located downtown like Discovery and NOAA (where I work). They fill the streets at lunch hour and after work.

The neighborhood where everybody jaywalks – that’s what Greater Greater Washington calls it. They do a great job at illustrating the consequences of poor design. Silver Spring has organized the city for cars, not people.

My first flat white. It's like a cappuccino but without the froth. I had it at Bump 'n Grind, a new coffee place with bearded baristas and a tattooed clientele that's right up the street from the suits at NOAA. #igdc #coffee #flatwhite #dtss #lifeiswander
A flat white at Bump N’ Grind.

There are places that I love in Silver Spring – like the cool Bump N’ Grind and the awesome Big Greek Cafe ($5 gyros on Wednesdays!). The city has also tried to sex up their image to sell apartments.

But poor design makes it impossible for new residents and local employees to spend their cash. You’re not going to go to that cool coffee place if crossing the street is a death-defying act. Until Silver Spring becomes truly walkable, it will continue to be regarded as a second-class city.