July 28, 2014

Delmarva; Day 4: "Orioles"

Wednesday, July 9, 2014: When it comes to summer road trips, I like to think of them more as "traveling" than "vacationing." I hear the word "vacation" and I immediately think of the Beach Boys' lyrics: There's a place called Kokomo. That's where you wanna go to get away from it all... That sort of thing is fine for some, but, for me, traveling is all about seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. It's active. Nothing makes me happier than to venture outside of my comfort zone, perhaps scaling a mountain or sampling some different cuisine. Or, at the very least, learning something about a place that I would never have known otherwise. As a result, I'm always more exhausted at the end of the journey, but, hopefully, my horizons have become a little bit broader because of it.

On the fourth morning of this trip, I was hoping to get an early start and go to Assateague Beach to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the skies were completely overcast and drizzly and it was impossible. So, instead, we had our continental breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and headed out on the road for another 3-hour drive. I felt a little sadness at seeing Chincoteague Island disappearing in the rear view mirror, but this was quickly overtaken by the excited anticipation of the two days in Baltimore that were directly ahead of us. That's why I always plan trips with multiple destinations. This wasn't the end of our Virginia trip, it was the beginning of our Maryland adventure.

Upon reaching Baltimore, our first stop was at Fort McHenry, where we arrived just in time to see a fife and drums demonstration. This was the place where Francis Scott Key penned the "Star-Spangled Banner" after witnessing a British bombardment on the fort during the War of 1812 and seeing the American flag waving victoriously o'er the ramparts by the light of the rockets' red glare. The base of the original flagpole is still on display in one of the fort's rooms and the famous flag now resides in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian. Standing in this historic place listening to the drums playing, I couldn't help but feel patriotic. Oh, by the way, there's one other curious factoid that I learned about the "Star Spangled Banner" -- while the words of the National Anthem were written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, the melody is borrowed from an earlier English drinking song. It's kinda strange to think about it -- every time we rise during the 7th-inning stretch at a baseball game and hold our caps over our hearts to honor the flag, the musical notes that we hear are the very same ones that groups of Gloucestershire gentlemen sang in social clubs while imbibing wine centuries before. Who would have ever thought it?

Our hotel was a 15-minute walk from all of the must-see sights. As parking in Baltimore can be difficult, we were happy to leave the car in the underground garage and explore the city on foot. The Inner Harbor is an amazing area. There are four Historic Ships docked at the pier that guests may climb aboard. We decided to check out two of them, starting off with the 1854 sloop-of-war "USS Constellation." It was fascinating to step below deck and see the rows of cannons and the hammocks on which the men slept. In its early history, this ship disrupted the slave trade by capturing three ships. It was also used as a training ship during WWI.

The second ship that we boarded was the "USS Torsk." Constructed in 1944 and named after a Cod-like fish, this trench class submarine conducted two war patrols off the coast of Japan during WWII. It always amazes me to see the tight quarters on a submarine. It takes a bit of effort not to bang one's knees or forehead on the frame when going from room to room through the hatches.

Located right next to these two ships is Baltimore's World Trade Center. Here, we took an elevator to the Top of the World Observation deck on the 27th floor. From this vantage, I snapped a lot of great pictures of the city, which I think look amazing in black and white.

Also located on the pier is the National Aquarium. The tanks on these four floors offer glimpses of one beautiful habitat after the another -- Amazon River, Atlantic Coral Reef, Shark Alley, Jellies Invasion. An escalator carries visitors to the top floor and into the moist climes of a Tropical Rainforest. Another area transports its guests into an Australian River Gorge. I've been to many aquariums in many places, but this one is perhaps the nicest.

After having dinner at a noodle place, we decided it would be a great evening to watch the Baltimore Orioles take on the Washington Nationals. As we weren't sure exactly where the ballpark was, we simply followed the orange shirts through the city and soon converged upon the gates of Camden Yards. It's funny, I've seen this stadium countless times on TV, but it's so different to be standing in front of it. I enjoyed placing my hand on the familiar brick facade of the B&O Warehouse and walking the sidewalk among the plaques where home run balls have landed on Eutaw Street. It was a fun evening in a beautiful ballpark. Sitting in the upper deck, I took a few snapshots of the clouds above the scoreboard that came out looking terrific. It was also a giveaway night and we ended up getting our own orange shirts at the gate...

"And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love."

~1 Corinthians 13:13