April 10, 2013

Work and Play in Baltimore

"A journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."  John Steinbeck

Al writes:  After Charleston, it was time for us to get serious about getting the RV to Baltimore for shipment.  We stayed 3 nights at Fort Meade Family Campground and spent the last day packing our duffel bags and backpacks in addition to preparing the RV for shipment.  For shipment we were required to get the propane tank certified as empty, which was a very complicated process.  The propane technician gave the relief valve a quarter turn and came back three hours later to proclaim...."yep, it appears to be empty."  The fee was $59.  To get a little ahead of the story, no one at the loading docks asked me if the propane tank was empty.

Although we had been reassured by many that vandalism on the docks is very rare, we felt that we had to remove temptations.  So everything left in the RV was basically put out of sight.  I have a few hidden compartments which we stuffed with stuff we would hate to replace--I look upon this as a test on the customs inspectors to see what they can find.  Our final action was to put a holy card of the Virgin Mary in a prominent place to appeal to the conscience of any potential looter.

Friday, April 5th was the big day.  It was sort of analogous to transporting your home to downtown, leaving the curtains open and the doors unlocked, then hoping it will be teleported to a new city with all belongings intact.
A working harbor like Baltimore is a hectic, bustling, blue-collar, chaos-filled experience.  We made a few incorrect attempts to get into the harbor and discovered that security is very layered and intense.  Just to U-turn because of making an incorrect turn required me to give up my driver's license and have my undercarriage inspected with mirrors.  To get to the appropriate dock, we had to hire an escort (at $50 per hour) who I might add was unionized.  I thought we were doing well that we got this all arranged by 10:30 AM and were ready to proceed to Customs in the dock area.  Not so fast!  Lunch for the unionized port was from 11:30 to 1:00, so I was told it would not make any sense to go in this close to lunch.   Hmmm.....this evolution was turning into an all day affair.

Finally, the hour arrived to enter the inner sanctum of the port.  I have never seen so many vehicles in one place.  Acres and acres of new vehicles, construction equipment, tractors, and wheeled transformer bots that I did not recognize covered massive parking areas.  Customs took two minutes to stamp a few papers.  Then on to the shed to gain entrance to the pier for our ship.  I was warned by my escort to not knock on the window.  There was also a large sign next to this window that said, "If you knock, you will wait longer."  I was totally intimidated.  I had visions of waiting until next winter because I was afraid to knock, but the wait was short and I was directed to drive into the pier area and park near some school buses.  The vehicle checker inspected the outside of the RV, measured the dimensions, and pronounced that it was ready to go.  So I was back to the escort trailer to get Carol in less than an hour.

 The Cruiser on the Baltimore dock

The rest of our stay in Baltimore was made very enjoyable by my Academy classmate, Chris Everett.  I had not seen Chris since we graduated, and he graciously invited us to stay in his historic row house near the inner harbor of Baltimore.  What a wonderful time!  Baltimore is Chris's hometown, and he took us on a walking tour of the refurbished neighborhoods around the inner harbor.  Baltimore has done a great job making this area attractive not only for tourists but also for residents of the area.  We enjoyed the horse races at historic Pimlico (home of the Preakness), visited the National Aquarium, and were properly instructed by Chris on how to eat steamed crabs.  I tried to take a photo of the crabs but the camera kept slipping out of my grasp because of crab goo on my fingers. 

Federal Hill overlooking the Baltimore inner harbor
National Aquarium in background along inner harbor

My first horse came in!
 Enjoying sunset on Chris's rooftop deck

Naval Academy classmate Chris Everett

Al and Chris at the Cross Street Market
So, Baltimore turned out to be a wonderful surprise--made all the more rewarding by our stay with Chris.

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."  Martin Buber


1 comment:

  1. You're description of the Baltimore port made me think about the season of The Wire that took place in the ports.