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Biking 184.5 Miles in One Day...Ouch! | County Fairs That Blue Ribbon Could Have Your Name on It
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Biking 184.5 Miles in One Day
by Alex Knoll and David Hawxurst
Its a dog-eat-dog world and right now my ass is a milk bone, said Mark Skip Darden of Dayton, Md.
One hundred eighty-four point five miles in one day
ouch! When I first thought about this ride, it seemed an adventure. The distance and time to be spent on the bike I tried not to think about. I knew that if I thought about it too much, it wouldnt seem nearly so thrilling. So I marked the day on the calendar and tried to forget what I was about to do to myself.
For more than 100 years, no barge, boat or raft has plied the 184.5-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the first commercial route connecting Cumberland, Md., with the nations capitol. But on this sultry day, with the temperature hovering near 90 and the humidity clinging to the skin, a group of 11 bicyclists set out to do in one day what had once taken a week by boat.
We hit the trail about 6am. All 11 of us looked as though we had no clue where we were as we headed off into the cool morning darkness.
WHY DO IT? The riders left Cumberland together and in high spirits. The canal trail was smooth and fast. This put us all in good spirits. The sun pushed slowly over the horizon, allowing us to see the countryside we were rolling through. The pace was faster than it should have been, and the group started to split up.
After the early miles, concentration replaced conversation, and six riders pulled ahead.
Williamsport, the nations capitol for 28 hours during the Revolutionary War and a major battleground during the Civil war, was a fateful landmark for the newest C&O riders.
For some of the 11, the worst was over. This second of three rendezvous points with the support team represented 85 miles of dusty trail through the Appalachian mountains already covered.
But for some, it was a pinnacle of pain that couldnt be overcome.
Darden could go no farther. Wearing unpadded biking shorts and too saddle-sore to continue, he loaded his mountain bike into the support van driven by Proteus bike store owner Larry Dean.
At Lock 44, once a stopping point for goods on route south to the nations capitol, some of the cyclists sat; others stretched their aching muscles. All refueled, devouring fruit, bagels, muffins, Powerbars and other high-energy food. The four-member support team scurried to refill water bottles and camel packs (a backpack/canteen contraption in a pouch with a straw angled over the shoulder) with water and Gatorade.
I had never ridden more than 80 miles at a time. This ride would teach me a thing or two about long-distance riding. The riders moved slowly, testing their steps as if they had just reached dry land after weeks at sea. Some complained of cramping muscles, others of uncomfortable seats.
And some said nothing, only staring into space blankly.
I was in the first group to come into the first check point. We wasted little time. We filled our water bottles, loaded up with good, and headed off.
The first group to pedal to Lock 44 had averaged 20 miles an hour and gained at least 45 minutes on the second group.
Setting the grueling pace was 33-year-old Eric Ewald of College Park, Md.
After refueling, watering and resting for a brief five minutes, Ewald could wait no more.
If Id stopped and cooled down, my heart rate would have settled down, Ewald explained a few hours later at the canal terminus in Georgetown, D.C. Then he would have to get his body used to the pace all over again. Ewald did not want to slip out of the meditation focus he had attained.
By the time the last group arrived at the Williamsport rest stop, Ewald had sped off almost two hours earlier, forcing the support crew to split up.
Tamara EwaldErics wifeand Alexandra Skowronski went on to Nolands Ferry to greet Ewald when he arrived at the third and final rest stop.
Some two hours later, Darden and the three other riders with him pulled in to Lock 44.
Given the casualties that piled up in the 54 miles between Williamsport and Nolands Ferry, the second check point, Darden should be thankful he baled out when he did.
The second stop, around the 90-mile mark, took much longer to get to. The rest stop was also much longer. We all realized that we had reach the point when the ride would cease being enjoyable
but we were half-way there.
A section of the trail had eroded away, leaving little sound footing. Later the riders remembered passing a sign for a detour, but only Ewald followed it to the road, leaving the trail for a few miles.
The other riders were forced to walk their bikes around the wipe-out.
Getting to the third check-point was difficult. It took about four hours to ride 50 miles. We had gotten lost and had two crashes, but we knew we were getting close to our goal.
I fell and got a hole in my pants, said James Gross, 28 of Beltsville, Md. That third leg seemed like it took forever. I just kept saying, if I can get 10 miles closer I can make it.
The fourth and final leg was started in the middle of the afternoon. We were still going pretty fast. I knew that I could finish, but I had to do it at my own pace. I slowed down and let the four guys in front of me pull away. If I had kept that pace much longer, I would have seen Elvis behind every tree. There was no way I was going to stop. I had made it that far. I couldnt give up.
I rolled along quietly for a while, trying to take in the sights and not think about how much my butt hurt. My mind started to do strange things, but I just kept on clicking off the mile markers. Fortunately, Jim caught up to me. I now had someone to share my bizarre mental state with. I dont remember what we talked about, but it made the time go by much quicker.
Not everyone, however, would persevere through mind alone.
While waiting for the remaining riders to reach Nolands Ferry, word came in from Proteus headquarters in Washington over Larrys cellular phone: A rider, Eric _____, had taken an end-over fall over the handlebars. He had gotten help at a rangers cabin near Antietam, the Civil War battlefield along the canal. But he too was out for the day and would need to be picked up.
Once again the support crew split. Proteus owner Dean left with the support van to pick up Eric. Darden and I stayed to wait for the last three riders before heading on to the finish line in Georgetown.
Three riders were still out, and we kept our eyes to the trail as the sun edged toward the tree-line. To cut weight, the riders had shed their lights at the first rest stop that morning. Now with darkness approaching, any riders still out there raced against more than themselves.
Finally a lone cyclist came into view22-year-old John Tsaknis, a senior at University of Maryland at College Parkwho had fallen behind the lead group.
Somewhere out between the second and third rest stops, Tsaknis heard a pop in his knee. Pain flooded his vision and before he knew it his riding mates were out of sight.
Stranded who-knew-how-far from help, he bore the pain, pedaling with only his good leg at times, walking his bike at others.
What happened out there?
If you think about it, Tsaknis said, you [pedal] 60 to 70 revolutions per minute. Over the course of 10 or 12 hours you can pick up a lot of abuse.
Somehow Tsaknis still arrived at the Nolands Ferry rest point around 6pmalmost a full hour before the final group of riders. But he would go no farther by bicycle that day.
Then, in the last half-hour of daylight, the final two riders came in tired but excited to be so close to the end. Only 45 miles to go. Or so they thought.
An hour after the last riders got back on the trail at Nolands Ferry, Ewald reached the Georgetown terminus, 12 hours 50 minutes after leaving Cumberland 184.5 miles to the north.
Seventeen minutes later, Dee Owen, a 25-year-old bicycle messenger, reached the end.
D.C.s my home. I know this street. I know what to do, he said. I started sprinting with 10 miles to go.
Looking on at the end of the trail, Dardens thoughts showed on his face. I gotta do the whole thing, he said, shaking his head. I wont be satisfied with myself until I do.
He gestured around the sidewalk at the cyclists resting on the pavement. Look at these guys. Theyve got the look of satisfaction on their faces. Thats the look I wanna wear.
Slowly the mile markers got closer to 184. i had never been so happy to see the Beltway. Soon we saw Georgetown. After dodging a few joggers and climbing a steep ramp, we heard shouts from our support crew and the guys who had finished before us.
Jim and I rode to the end of the trail with huge grins across our faces. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. Fourteen hours and seven minutes after we left Cumberland, I laid down on the most comfortable brick sidewalk there ever was.
Around 9:30 the group of riders began to break up. But the ride still wasnt over for ______ and _____. Somewhere between Nolands Ferry and Georgetown, they had taken a wrong turn. By the time they reached the end of the C&O canal at 12:30am, they had ridden 215 miles30 miles longer than the canal route.
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County Fairs That Blue Ribbon Could Have Your Name on It
by Lee Summerall
The smell of cotton candysweet, piercing and somehow almost pinkfills the air so your teeth nearly ache in anticipation. Above your head, light and noise swirl. Youre at the county fair.
Here are dozens of exhibits: pig races, food alleys, horse pulls, demolition derbies, country and western singers. The bawl of cows and bleat of lambs hurry you into the livestock area to inhale the scent of hay, admire gigantic cows, pat the lambs. Scores of chickens squawk and silent bunnies stare from tiny wire cages adorned with a blue ribbon, a white one, and a purple. What makes one bunny or cow better than the next, anyway?
In the Exhibition Hall, shelves of glass jars gleam, rich with color and the promise of equally rich taste. Cakes and cookies lure. Like pastel banners, quilts sway high above perfect photos, cockeyed horse portraits, cedar bookends and crocheted Christmas doilies. Flowers range from a gigantic mixed bouquet to a lone zinnia in a pop bottle; vegetables from enormous pumpkins to tiny hot peppers. Herbsincluding pungent tobaccoare still pungent, and bees still busy behind a glass-walled hive. Scattered among all are ribbons: blue, red, yellow, white, and huge purple rosettes.
The midway beckons, its lights casting grotesque shadows into the real world of canning and cookies, cows and chickens. A diesel engine roars, producing faint, delighted shrieks of terror. You leave reality behind and shoulder through the blazing, pulsating midway. Which way to turn?
Here are a woman who looks like a snake, a 800-pound man, a boy with no limbs. A bored, leather-clad rider guns her motorcycle above your head; the barker beckons. Here are goldfish and stuffed pandas, pink rubber balls with deceptive bounce, tattooed young men hawking giant plush porpoises, three throws for a buck, hey fella don't you want your girl to have a teddy bear/pink panther/goldfish, cmon over here, you look like a real big winner to me...
Even in the late twentieth century, the county fair has something for everybody. Its a harvest season rewardan occasion to celebrate tradition and take a peek at innovation. But the heart of every fair is agricultural and domestic achievement.
Traditionally, fairs have taught consumers what good quality is so when they buy they can get top quality. And theyve taught farmerschildren and adultshow to produce at that quality, says Charles County Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service Agent Pam King, who has recently rewritten the vegetable judging standards for Maryland fairs and teaches judges how to apply them. At the state fair, we wrote comments on over 1000 entries to teach kids how they can produce top quality.
The values and discrimination 4-H-ers learn as kids are being discovered later in life by many off-the-farm adults. Cooks and gardeners alike are learning the pleasures of growing and making their own food. Made-for-commerce hybrids are feeling competition from old-fashioned and ethnic seeds. Organic gardening is putting down strong roots.
When you do it yourself, you know what youve got, and thats especially true with home grown, home-canned food. Chemicals and additives are absent, quality is unimpeachable, and the cost is little more than commercial productswhich pale in comparison. Best is the pleasure of work thats its own reward.
Both Anne Arundel and Calvert judges report a trend in recent years to more canning and more fresh produce. How big a trend? How many people enter? Whats the hottest item? For those answers, well have to wait until next year when at least Calvert County breaks tradition and computerizes, the better to count its appeal. Canned items are becoming less traditional, and dehydrated foods, something that are standard at fairs such as York, Penn., are on the rise as well.
New and unusual produce is also increasing. Take hot peppers, for example. Until last year, it was jalapenos, jalapenos, and more jalapenos. Then a new pepper showed up: intense yellow and shrunken, looking like a bell pepper Amazon headhunters had gotten to. What was it? A habanera, the tiny pepper with a big attitude and a reputation as the worlds hottest pepper. This year, therell probably be dozens of plates of habaneras to judge. And, of course, some enterprising cook will put up a few jars of habanera jelly.
A Blue for You?
Exhibition Hallwhere foods and produce, needlework, 4-H, art works (photos, paintings, carving, and ceramics) and Christmas goods are judgeddraw crowds at both Anne Arundel and Calvert County fairgrounds. Folks flock to their favorite, kibitzing and critiquing. The why-I-could-do-better-than-that motive has brought many entries to many fairs.
Where real-life judges decree just how well youve really done.
Judging is complicated and intense, and judges must attend training sessions in their chosen fields, for everything from wood carving to putting up peaches. This is hard work. Imagine tasting 95 strawberry jams in one sitting.
All our judges are experts. Some of them have worked for large food manufacturers. They know good produce when they see it, says Carol Lee, supervisor of Calvert County Fairs Exhibition Hall.
So, despite the rumblings of self-styled experts, a judges word means something. Calvert Countys 1992 canned goods Grand Champion was Peach Melba Jam, a delicate blush-colored jar almost invisible behind its blue and purple ribbons. For all her expertise, even that jam-makers name is lost to history, so we couldnt try to beg the recipe.
A ribbon proves I can produce good quality products. It shows my family Im not fooling around, says Ag agent Pam King, who reluctantly admits the Peach Melba Champion wasnt hers.
This writers a Type-A home canner with different motives. I go to see what the competition does. Next year I want that purple ribbon so I plan ahead!
But last fair, Anne Arundel took the distinction out of its ribbons by awarding green Participation ribbons to all entrants, regardless of quality.
Tommy Boehm, supervisor of Anne Arundels Exhibition Hall, argues that the green is a good idea: Youd be amazed how pleased many people are to get a ribbon of any kind. Last year was our fortieth year and we wanted to do something special, to give something back to the community. It takes effort to put food up or make a quilt, and to bring it here, and we were rewarding the effort.
Calverts attitude towards entries is equally mellow. If we dont have a category for what you bring, says Carol Lee, we'll make one for you. (Music to the ears of a New Age canner of caponata and pickled prunes.) We dont want anyone disappointed. You may not get a ribbon, but youll at least get a hearing. Or, more to the point, a tasting.
That wonderfully humane philosophy is a far cry from the big-city inflexibility of the State Fair at Timonium. There, if it isnt on the accepted list and in an accepted jar, it isnt accepted. Which is why the Maryland State Fair is up to its eyebrows in quart jars of tomatoes but hasnt one single pickled prune.
True or false: Making a batch of jam is difficult and time-consuming.
True or false: I couldnt possibly win a prize at the fair, even though I make a killer chocolate chip cookie.
True or false: Only regulars get prizes.
Answer to all questions: False
One moms kids said her cakes were too good not to enter, so she did. Expecting no results, she didnt plan to visit the bakery department when she went to the fair. But her kids dragged her to the cake with the purple ribbon: shed won Best of Show.
A judge remembers a fair that shall remain unnamed. There were twenty eight chocolate chip cookie entries. And not one was really good! We didn't award a first prize in chocolate chip cookies that year.
Anne Arundel County Fair begins early this year, with a pre-fair carnival Sept. 10-15. The fair then runs from September 14 to 19. Entry Days are Sept. 12, 13 and 14.
Calvert County Fair starts September 29. Canning and baking entries for judging accepted on the 27th.
Read full details on entering in the fair premium booklets available at your library.
Lee Summerall, a regular blue-ribbon winner, is chutney queen of Calvert County.
NAFTA? MARYLAND SAYS WE HAFTA
Before the bell sounds in this nations next big scrap, the state of Maryland is staunchly in one cornerthe side in favor of ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement.
NAFTA is a word you will be seeing and hearing often and a hugely important issue. The treaty-like agreement opens the borders between the U.S., Mexico and Canada for free trading. NAFTA is despised by labor unions and those who believe Ross Perots warning that it will trigger the sucking sound of jobs draining to Mexico.
A lot of environmental advocates worry about problems along the border when polluting plants begin operating with fewer rules and little enforcement. Others worry about the potential that all of us will be eating lots more Mexican produce tainted with some of the strongest pesticides on the books.
These prospects are enough to scare a majority of Democrats in the U.S. House away from NAFTA. But they are not enough to change the mind of Marylands Democratic governor, William Donald Schaefer.
Even before the governor and his entourage travelled to Mexico in July, the Schaefer administration trumpeted the value of NAFTA to Maryland.
If it fails, it would be a blow to Maryland, and more importantly, a blow long-term to the U.S. economy, asserted Maryland Agriculture Secretary Robert L. Walker, during an interview with New Bay Times. And it would be a blow to Mexico, which has invested a lot in this already.
Well be hearing lots of high-minded talk about the good of nations. But judging from early skirmishes, the issue may come down to a competition between self-interested states. Last week, Walker and his farm office counterparts in Virginia and Delaware sent out pro-NAFTA press releases predicting a potential bounty in agriculture exports for their states.
The Eastern Shore poultry industry would be among the biggest winners, Walker said, shipping to Mexicans hungry for frozen and processed food.
Other states, some carrying more clout than Maryland, will be looking at matters differently when the ruckus breaks out in Congress. California and Florida can expect to see their produce industries shrink when the first waves of winter vegetables from Mexico flood U.S. markets.
You will be hearing more about how and where your food is grown.
If NAFTA passes, you can lay odds that the tomato or pepper you bite into in the winter was grown on a Mexican plantation by low-paid Indians spraying heavy chemicals from backpacks.
Walker, for one, says hes confident that Congress can work through all the worries about jobs and the environment on the way to approving a deal that is good for Maryland.
I strongly believe this is in our economic interest, he said. Sometimes, I think we over-react in pointing out the pesticides and the other negative parts to this agreement.
Get the boat tuned, the reels oiled and the excuses ready to get off work. From every indication, Marylands fall rockfish season opening Oct. 1 will be one bountiful blast.
Charter captains and regular fishing folk report schools of rockfish breaking up and down the Bay. Many times, they are travelling in the company of those bluefish weve been missing, teaming up for some hungry, frenzied behavior not for the faint of heart.
We know of a couple good ol boys still jumpy from the mugging they took from such a school last week as they drifted, half asleep, for spot.
From every indication, were about to be rewarded for those years of rockfish bans we endured after the species became threatened. Fishing boats accidentally catch many keeper-sized stripers. Those too-small fellas tossed back last fall have returned robust and ready.
And Maryland is set to prolong the pleasure by tacking some extra time on to the end of the season. A state panel has decided on an Oct. 1Nov. 7 rockfish season for most license-holders and an Oct.1Nov. 21 season for charter boats. The Legislature probably will approve the plan.
So get ready to store up a few fishnot to mention a few fishing tales.
...Which reminds us of that day last fall when the rockfish were so thick the ducks had to ride on their backs...We had to call ahead for a U-haul trailer...for three fish...Good thing there was a crane at the dock or wed have never got one of em out of the boat...
The wind energy industry announced recently a plan to increase by eight times the amount of energy produced by windmills by the year 2000.
Can it happen here? Will we see wind farms like they have out West, along the Bay or even on the Bay?
Dont count on it, right away at least, for one large reason: the wind doesnt howl here like it does in Wyoming. Even with new tax credits, it could be hard to finance equipment that would get by on wind blowing at less than 14-16 mph, some experts believe.
But wind proponents talk about new turbines that operate on less wind and systems like that built in Holland where wind farms are built over water.
Craig Culp, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, pointed to the Eastern Shore as a potential windmill haven. We think that the time is right for power companies to look at the feasibility, Culp said.
In the Chesapeake Bay, have you been noticing those mahogany tidesstretches of darkish water short on oxygen? They are caused by oxygen-depleting algae blooms, mainly from the nitrogen and phosphorous used as farm and lawn fertilizers.
But if you were in Australia, youd really see weird-looking water. A 600 mile-long stretch of toxic algae is menacing the coast, tarnishing that countrys unspoiled image and generating a movement to ban phosphorous from detergents...
Youve heard warnings about those tree-huggers messing up the timber industry by working to save endangered species and old-growth forests. Heres what also happens. In Canada last week, an economist told lumber executives to send thank-you notes to environmentalists for the industrys strong profits, apparently from shortages due to conservation...
Indias Supreme Court has shown polluters that you dont mess with a landmark. The court last week ordered the shut down of more than 200 factories because acid-filled air pollution is eating the Taj Mahal. Presumably, thousands of people will be able to go back to work when the factories ante up for pollution control devices...
That ruling in India may be happily felt in the U.S., where companies are cashing in on the green market worldwide. That exploding market climbed to nearly $300 billion last year, the U.S. Environmental Technology Export Council reported last week.
The world has changed so that its not acceptable to pollute on a massive scale anymore, John Mizroch, head of the council, told the Journal of Commerce...
We thought youd want to know about this weeks first Creature Feature since you're picking up the tab. With money from the federal Energy Department, researchers at the University of California are starting a study of dog DNA aimed at detecting personality traits in your pooch.
Why does a beagle wander? Why are Labs so loving? What makes bulldogs so doggone loyal? By analyzing dogs genetic material, researchers think that by 1995, they'll have answers to all these questions. If not, theyll probably apply for a new grant...
And for those who say that New Bay Times is too serious, we offer a Jay Leno joke. Leno wondered on the Tonight Show why Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt wants to set aside 6.2 million acres to protect the desert tortoise.
I had a tortoise once, Leno said, and it took him all summer to get across the back yard.
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Wetlands: Good New Rules with Some Snags
Truth be told, a lot that goes on over in Washington has little to do with our lives. Not so with two matters that have bubbled to the surface recently: wetlands protection and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Clinton Administration has followed through with promises to protect wetlands from more abuse and development. This is particularly important to the thousands of miles of shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.
All the swamps, marshes and pools along the Bay purify our water and provide the habitat for many of our endangered creatures. In recent years, the federal government has done little to set the tone for wetlands protection. About 300,000 acres of wetlands have been disappearing annually in the U.S., according to one federal study.
The new rules could change that trend, yet there are questionable new features.
Among them, private land-ownersbut not environmental advocateswould be permitted to appeal decisions on wetlands. It remains to be seen whether this provision goes too far, but it should be noted that about three-fourths of the remaining wetlands in the U.S. are privately owned.
Next, we wonder about the wisdom of exempting from further regulation the 53 million acres of farmland that once were wetlands. There may be some flawed thinking here in allowing developers to build on these lands if they create wetlands elsewhere. Experts on the Chesapeake and elsewhere will tell you that recreated wetlands just arent the same.
Last, we think its dumb and possibly dangerous to put the U.S. Department of Agriculture rather than the EPA in charge of wetlands decisions. Thats because the Agriculture Department functions to boost production not preservation.
All in all, were pleased that the government has moved ahead. But the proof lies in how these rules are implemented. Well be watching.
Wary Bedfellows on Trade
Elsewhere in this issue, we write about how the state of Maryland thinks we ought to approve the North American Free Trade Agreementthe acronym youll soon be hearing lots about in the news.
We arent taking a position one way or the otherjust yet anywaybecause its not our mission to jump into big national brouhahas.
For now, well be content to make a couple observations. First, we think that you ought to listen closely when they talk about what NAFTA means for the environment. Without more teeth and protections, NAFTA could mean serious problems for people and land in Mexico, where more of Marylands fruits and vegetables will be coming from.
Secondly, weve noticed a thing or two that may help you place a bet on the outcome. Or maybe an investment.
At the Jobs, Justice and Peace gathering on a steamy Saturday recently in Washington, representatives of conservation groups were scarce. Few environmental advocates around the Bay felt compelled to join the labor union members and the others to signal unity.
So what, you ask? Heres what.
When the NAFTA slugfest starts, unions and environmental groups are the chief opponents, albeit for different reasons. But do you really think they can succeed if they continue to indulge their distrust for one another?
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Dear New Bay Times:
With a lazy Sunday stretched out before me and last weeks pile of unopened mail gloating from the corner of my desk, I did what any rational career woman would doI picked up the Sunday Washington Post and read everything of interest. Total reading time, cover to cover: 27 minutes (including clipping coupons and finding a great bulk deal on a case of Mountain Dew).
My next reading stop, over lunch, was my latest issue of New Bay Times. Total reading time for these great 28 pages: one hour and 12 minutes (including time spend clipping the Stony Field yogurt coupon and cheating on the new Word Puzzler). I laughed more often while reading the poison ivy story than Ive ever laughed while reading Dave Berry in the Post. And I can truly impress my Midwestern sister next week by giving her a meteor shower as a birthday present.
Sign me up for two years, please!
Gotta run. Im off to put together this issues Not Just for Kids project, so Ill be prepared the next time someone tells me to go fly a kite.
Paula Langguth, Silver Spring
Dear New Bay Times:
Just a little note to say your New Bay Times paper is so refreshing to read without all the depressing news we get every day. Keep up the good work.
Shirley Mathews, Shady Side
Dear New Bay Times:
Awoke early this am, made coffee and sat down and there was my New Bay Times. Ive been meaning to write and let you know Im really reading and enjoying it. I look for articles from people I know. Im also getting to know Sonia, and wish I could sample the wonderful restaurantsI love steamed clams and all seafood.
I hope the papers going well. I know its lots of work getting new projects and businesses startedalways was, and everything today seems more complicated. But there is just something about us staid Midwesteners: we want to do it ourselves.
Virginia Dinzler, Dallas, Texas
Eds Note: Virginia Dinzler owned two wonderful restaurantsin St. Louis during the 50s and 60s.
Love to David
Dear New Bay Times:
I love the paper! The photographs taken by David Hawxhurst are especially outstanding. (I just hope someone will respond to the poor kids personal ad!)
Thanks very much.
Jean Hawxhurst, Lexington, Kentucky
North Beach Superlative
Dear New Bay Times:
Wow! What an issue. North Beach story superlative. Please rush another 75 copies to Bay Country Store for distribution. Keep up the excellent work and thank you for telling the towns story.
Ron and Bobby Russo
Dear New Bay Times:
Thanks! the story on North Beach was great!
North Beach Correction
Russell Hall is the former mayor of North Beach. Our apologies for the misnomer. Eds.
Bay Fest Winners
All you had to do to win at Bay Fest was be there. All you had to do to compete for prizes from New Bay Times and Neptunes was sign your nameno strings attached.
First prize winner Chris Gannon, of North Beach, wins a gift certificate to Neptunes.
Second prize winner Kathy Frost, of Dunkirk, wins a years subscription to New Bay Times.
Call to collect your prizes!
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In the Clear
by Bob Milstead
We were anchored in six feet of water in Broad creek off the Choptank River in late May, rafted up with some friends, when I glanced over the side of our C&C 30 sloopand there it was. I was sure I was mistaken as I rubbed my eyes, did a mental recount of the beers from the night before, and looked back, this time with deliberation. There was no denying it.
Hey, Jeff! Come here. Look at this, I said, trying to cover up the amazement in my voice, for I was still suspecting, just a little, that it was a hallucination or some optical illusion brought on by the reflection of an unusual could formation
Yeah, what? he answered listlessly, looking up from reprogramming his Loran, a ritual he performs every weekend, always declaring final victory in the quest to prepare it to be of some use the following week as a navigational tool. He was probably expecting me to show him some piece of broken gear on the boat that was going to cost twice as much as it should just because its labeled marine.
Look down there, I said. You can see the bottom.
Yeah, right, Jeff said. The only bottom youve seen lately is in your beer glass.
But there it was, the bottom of the Bay, through six feet of water, complete with crab and oyster shells and clumps of some kind of plant. It was a little hazy, but you could see it. In five years of being out on the Bay almost every weekend when the temperature was above 60 degrees at some point in the day, the only bottom I had ever seen was that gray slime coating the anchor as well as my hands, shirt, shoes, and foredeck.
Im told it wasnt always this way. Some people can remember when the water back up in these creeks was crystal clear all summer. In fact, there was a time hundreds of years ago when the whole Bay was like that. Sadly, those days are gone, forever.
Although water quality in the Bay has improved slightly in the last few years, the political and economic reality do not bode well for the long term.
Building and development in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which extends from New York to southern Virginia, has permanently altered the landscape. The feet-thick leaf duff that used to filter runoff into a pure trickle has been replaced by asphalt parking lots that let rain run off in torrents, washing dirt and silt into the Bay.
Building on the shoreline is especially damaging. The only place in the central part of the Bay that I know of where you can anchor out of sight of a house is Dividing Creek, and thats only because its in a state park. Thousands of miles of shoreline and houses on all of it. What is not a parking lot or rooftop is likely to be an over-fertilized lawn or corn field that leeches nutrients into the Bay.
Too many nutrients cause algae blooms that rob oxygen from the water, reducing the numbers of fish and invertebrates that the Bay can sustain. Silt and algae also block light essential for Bay grasses that host the early stages of life for such important fish species as rockfish. Oysters are also suffering from disease and the pressures of over-fishing. When the Europeans first came to the Bay, there were enough oysters to filter all of the water in the Bay every three days. Wow! Now it would take them over a year to do the same. At the end of the season, there is hardly an oyster left in the Bay.
For a start, people can help by reducing or eliminating the fertilizer they apply to lawns and gardens and leaving as much vegetation as possible around structures they build. It looks better, anyway.
This is a great spot. We should come here again, Jeff said as he sipped on his coffee that Sunday morning. Just then our heads snapped around to locate the source of a high-pitched grating whine. It was a circular saw at a new home site on a nearby shore.
During the week, Bob Milstead supports his sailing addiction by working in the computer document imaging field.
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Forty Birthdays on the Bay
by Barbi Eversfield Shields
The world may be fast paced and ever changing, but my Chesapeake Bay neighborhoods not.
Last month, I had my birthday party at homethe same home where I celebrated my first and twenty-first birthdays. The same house I was born in, on my grandparents farm that sits just above the Chesapeake and stretches from the cliffs to the marsh lake. New birthday: my fortieth.
My mother, Peggy Eversfield, has been talking about selling the house, and even though houses here are usually sold to family or friends, I got sentimental. I asked for a party with all the people wed known over the yearsor a cruise. But as July 24 got closer, it looked to me as if I was getting neither.
In fact, that night we drove the half a mile home to have cake and ice cream for my nieces birthday on the same day. So when everybody yelled I dont remember what, I was absolutely dumbfounded. It was a first. Barbi was speechless, said Delegate George Owings.
I didnt mind his using my childhood nickname. Though I hated it as a kid, I grew into it a long time ago. When I went to work for Tom Rymer after he became Judge Rymer, and his wife, Gracie, who knew me from way back, called me Barbi again, it stuck.
I didnt mind his saying my being speechless was a first. It was true. Still, Ive got some stories I could tell about George.
We go back a long way, too. Down south where Anne Arundel and Calvert counties merge, a lot of people do. So everybody who helped me celebrate my fortieth had something in common with everybody else. Families go back three and four generations. Some of those families send representatives of all their generations to my birthday.
Like Bill Maske, of Lothian, who grew up with my dad. Their parents had been friends, too. Bill and Bettys daughter Rene Rayburn and I grew up together and had our kids at the same time. Three generations of that family helped me celebrate.
Mrs. Mable Marcellas, the nurse who held me in her arms when I left Calvert Memorial Hospital 40 years ago, came to help me through this birthday. So did my first grade teacher at old Tracys School, Mrs. Iva P. Owings. She took me under her wing when Dad died after his tractor turned over on a steep hill near the Bay. One of the things we did was see Misty of Chincoteague at the movies. My gift from Miss Iva was a post card I mailed her some 35 years ago, when postage was two cents, plus some sheets of my old class work. Miss Iva still remembered every students name from 37 years ago and whether each was right or left handed. She didnt have to be introduced to many of the guests, since shed taught most of them over the years.
My principal at Tracys, Mrs. Jean Hopkins, was there too, with her husband Newton. She also tutored my 10-year-old son, helping him learn the basics that hed avoided in his classroom. So was my second grade teacher, Miss Virginia Crosby, whose family has been here for generations. She used to take us to the tobacco field to hide from bombs when the test alarms rang. She lives up the road in Friendship, and we still visit three or four times a year.
Catherine Thames and her daughter, my schoolmate Pam Michael, helped me celebrate, too. Catherines husband Frank taught George Owings in school at Chesapeake Beach. Catherine will say, Oh, George is a good dancer now, not shy like he was at dances as a boy.
Bill Ferko came back. My younger brother Vics friend, Brother Bill used to spend the summer with us. When Id come home from a date, the two brothers would be sitting on the landing flashing the lights off and on. Ooh, theyre kissing, theyd say.
Mother had dozens of old pictures blown up big, reuniting those who could join us with those who couldnt. I was there as a little girl on the beach, pouring a bucket of water over my head. My Dad was there, as were the horses I gave up when Donald was born.
Judge Rymer offered the toast: Life begins at 40, he said.
The old neighborhoods nearly the same, except for a few more houses. Some of the summer people are now year-round residents after winterizing their family summer cottages.
When I begin to think that people around here dont realize what they have, I think again. Maybe they do. Living here is like being at camp all year round. Beach and boats and woods, we have it all.
The beach is about the same as it was when our grandparents supervised our parents, and when our parents supervised us. Now my generation watches our own children creating the fantastic sand works of art we once constructed. We watch the older kids and the summer romances, snickering when we think about how it could be that sometime in the future (hopefully far off, but not too far off), well be supervising the sand castles of our grandchildren.
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Query Author about 91-92 stats
Dont let the recent mass invasion of bluefish in the mid- and lower Chesapeake lull you into complacency. Bluefish woes, obviously, are deep rootedand probably not temporary. Digest the following:
The latest biological information on Atlantic Coast bluefish presents classical evidence that the stock is being overfished.
Does that get your attention? Or, how about this:
Even if statistics were not cause enough for concern, according to the most plausible separable virtual population analysis models, fishing mortality (all bluefish killed as a result of commercial and recreational fishing activities) currently exceeds the predicted mortality rate that would cause stock collapse.
Now, read those last 10 words again; let them sink in.
These quotes are not those of alarmed sportsfishermen or charterboat skippers frustrated by plummeting catches of a deteriorating population obviously in trouble. They come from a quasi-scientific organization, the prestigious Washington-based Sport Fishing Institute.
Both are in a report featured in the current SFI Bulletin. Chilling isnt it? Without bluesand rockfishing restricted in Maryland to a month-long spring season and another of considerably fewer than two months in the fallwhat do we have left to fish for?
Sea trout populations are way down, flounder have been a flop in much of the Bay; the same with Spanish mackerel. In many sectors, the comeback of the hardhead saved sportsfishingand that took the help of the Department of Natural Resources, which lowered the minimum size from 10 to 9 inches.
But delightful as hardheads are on the table, they and their panfish cousins Norfolk spot and white perch, arent suitable substitutes for rock, trout and blues. In early season, black drum somewhat filled the void in mid-Bay angling off Tilghman Island, but otherwise we are getting a bitter taste of what its like when things are amiss among the Big Three species.
True, there is some consolation in the dramatic increase in rock populations as we wait for what is certain to be one of the Department of Natural Resources betterif not its bestYoung of the Year Index that monitors spawning success. But lets temper that with reality.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which has the final word in liberalization of rockfish regulations, is made up of representatives of all coastal states, from North Carolina north. It is very conservative in its approachas it should bebut beyond that there is reluctance among most other states to appreciably relax regulations for Maryland.
It matters not that 80 percent or more of coastal rock populations originate in Maryland; other states are envious that we currently are allowed more rock by numbers and weight than any other state. Consider the dilemma of representatives of other states. They vote to allow us special consideration; then they must face their own constituents who also want to catch more.
There is selfishness in all of us. In all probability if the rock resurgence continues, relaxed regulations will follow, but designed so that all states will share in the bounty. However, that will come about slowlyand never will we (or other states fishermen) return to the free-wheeling pre-moratorium days.
This makes bluefish of utmost importance to the Chesapeake fishery. But observations of SFI, as well as recreational fishermen and charter skippers, are ominous.
Pete Jensen, who heads DNR tidal fisheries management, did little to ease my concern. Jensen is of the tell-it-like-it-is mold, and has no quarrel with SFIs assessment of the bluefish predicament. Heres how he boils down SFI's assessment:
There well could have been overestimates of ocean bluefish stocks when species management plans were designed. Also, with ocean populations dwindling we can expect them to do so in the Chesapeakebut to a greater extent.
The Atlantic is the traditional habitat of blues, explained Pete. When there is an abundance in the ocean, many relocate in warmer months to areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, which he described as marginal habitat.
The rest is obvious. Ocean stocks are down; thus we can expect less blues to meander into the Chesapeake as they make their northward migration beginning in April. So thats where we stand at this time when we can only recall the days of practically being guaranteed a nice catch.
How did we get into this mess? And what can we do about it? As for the latter question, Pete said there were no plans at this time to curtail catching here, or to his knowledge anywhere else along the coast. Its sort of like were involved in a management planand will ride with it for the time being at least.
Managing bluefish stocks is much more complex than, say, rock, which tend to stay closer to the shore and prefer the Bay and river habitats so essential to their spawning. Blues, on the other hand, are a far-ranging ocean species, which, of course, complicates management. Blues spawn in the ocean; some use bays and tributaries as nursery grounds, but otherwise spend most of their time in the Atlantic.
To further hinder management, bluefish populations tend to be very cyclic in nature. Traditionally there are periods of as long as a decade or more when the Atlantic seems filled with them, then long periods when scarcities are evident. In recent years, there have been indications that hatches were considerably less than desiredthough this year spawning success appears to have improved slightly.
SFI observes the most plausible statistics of population status (e.g., fishing mortality rates, a contracted age structure, juvenile recruitment, spawning stock bio mass and catch per unit effort) clearly indicates that bluefish populations are severely stressed by fishing pressure, and that immediate conservation measures need to be implemented to prevent further decline.
Too much catching? Dont blame Chesapeake anglersnor other hook-and-liners along the coast. Were hurting. SFIs statistics indicate the coastal recreational catch has dropped steadily from 130.9 million pounds in 1986 to 37.3 million pounds in 1992.
In our mid-Atlantic region, recreational anglers have been hit harder than their counterparts elsewhere. Our catch has dropped 77.8 percent from 1979 to 1992. Were not even catching one bluefish now for every four we caught six years ago.
Meanwhile, the commercial catch has remained fairly stable, which brings up a curious point in the management plan. At the offset it was realized that blues were especially important to the recreational fishery; thus it was first decided the commercial catch quota would be set at 10 percent of the entire fishery. Suddenly that was changed to 20 percent.
At the same time, recreational fishermen were restricted to a limit of 10 blues a day in the plan eventually ratified by most states. New Jersey still hasnt accepted the program, which is in litigation.
Estimates of last years commercial catch edged up to 21.2 percent. Next year it is also projected to be 21.2 percent. Hey, theres something wrong here.
The precipitous decline in recreational landings has driven total landings down, causing the relatively stable commercial harvest to comprise a larger fraction of the total. Curiously, the management plan has no solution for this. It contains no provisions to crack down further when the fishery becomes troubled.
It is incredible that a plan developed on the basis of a fishery at its peak has no built-in safeguards for times like this when there is solid evidence of excessive fishing pressure. Lets face it. Its not solely a matter of commercial interests exceeding their share; its a matter of too many blues removed from the populationwhether by hook or net. Enough said...
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Bay Life: Sam and Joe
by Sandra Martin
Joes a little gnome of a man, while Sams a great big blue crab, a foot from point to point. Of course, without Joe, Sam wouldnt be at all, for hes a story-book Chesapeake Blue crab, conceived, born and sustained in imagination. But you know how creatures of the imagination carry on.
Look at the crablike tenacity with which other fabulous creatures have held onto life. Sherlock Holmes wouldnt die when his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, pushed him over the Reichenbach Falls. His public brought him back to life. Now Doyle is 63 years dead, but Holmes is more lively than ever, having jumped from page to radio to film and television. Just yesterday, a phantasm created on Star Treks holodeck wouldnt stand for being unplugged. The characters we meet in fiction rise fresher and live longer than many we meet in real life.
Thats the kind of guy Sam is. All the shells are crazy about himattracted by his physique, prowess, and dash. Hes a Phillip Marlow of crabs, hard-boiled (Sam wouldnt appreciate the metaphor), handsome, heroicand sensitive underneath that hard shell.
Even humans find that to know Sam is to love him. Madge of the Chesapeake Bay town of Curling Edge, the special crabber who first catches him, never gets over the crab shes trained so well that hes invited to the Johnny Carson show. Sam, she moans after his escape, Ill call Johnny Carson and tell him well be late. Come back, do you hear? Therell be come chicken necks on the back steps in case youre hungry.
Readers, who get to share Sams feelings as well as admire his deeds, identify with his skin-of-the-teeth escapes from crab basket and pot. For like Phillip Marlows Raymond Chandlerone of the creators of great American detective fictionSams Joe Cahill writes about mean streets. Theres danger lurking at every turn, beauty and goodness die young, and paradise is never what you hoped it might be.
In his eat-or-be-eaten world, where humans are as predatory as bluefish, hardboiled Sams as ready to dine or fight as the next guy. But hell do anything for a friend and his dreams soar with the seagulls above the blue crabs condition.
In other words, spunky Sam is the hero of a pocketsized, Chesapeake Bay epic. And everybody but a villain loves a hero.
That, and Joe Cahills nice way with both words and local color, is why Sams little trilogySam (1988), Summers Perfume (1989), and The View (1991)have traveled to England, Italy, Japan and Germany. Sam is in its fourth printing, and Joe just sold his 400th set of the trilogy at North Beachs Bay Fest last month.
Sams got quite a hold on life, and Joes well hooked in his claws.
Their partnership began on the Western Shore Chesapeake beach at Fairhaven Cliffs, some years and so many lives ago that Joe only knows it happened because his friends tell him so. Sometime between midnight and dawn one summer night, according to eyewitness Barbi Eversfield Shields of Fairhaven, Joe traced the word Sam in the sand and began a story about a big blue crab.
Years and beers passed, and Sam lay fallow until Joe was recovering from an automobile assault that nearly left him in the next world. Sometime in those otherworldly months, Sam returned to give Joe a short story first published in Chesapeake Bay magazine. After that, Sam stayed in my head so I continued to write, says Joe. The next 11,000 words became Sam, published and distributed by Joe.
But Sam wasnt finished with me yet, says Joe. I had an ending to the book but not to Sam, so there had to be a second book. That was Summers Perfume (which is, of course, the fragrance of cooking, spiced crabs and white vinegar). Then came a third, The View. Its amazing how a character dictates to you, marvels Joe. A fourth is ready for publication, when Sam earns the partnership a few more dollars.
Along the way, Sam found an editor, Betts Williams, and an artist-designer, Larry Knox, who helped give the books a professional touch. Theyre little books, 4 by 61/2 inches, printed on nice ivory paper and handsomely bound under the direction of Crystal Gull Publication in Annapolis. Text is typewritten.
Nowadays, Joe signs every one, wraps sets of all three stories in cellophane, then ties them with a length of crab line and a sinker. He sells them ($10 for the set) at fairs and festivals, and at The Market in Millville, Delaware, where hes lived since his accident. Sam also adorns T-shirts, aprons and sailor caps.
Sams got his claws in Joe for at least one more book. I know the end of Book Five and the last line. After that, I think I may be out of Samthough thats what I said after the third book, says the author. Well wait to hear what Sam and his following have to say.
When Joes not taking care of that demanding Sam, hes out shooting pictures of nature that will knock your socks off or riding around the Delaware beaches on his old-fashioned girls bicycle.
Sam wouldnt be without Joe, but you have to wonder where Joe would be without Sam.
Order Sam and his paraphernalia from his creator, Joe Cahill, PO Box 1156, Bethany Beach, Delaware 19930. Add 20% for postage and handling.
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In the Garden
By the time the sun has climbed into the branches of the magnificent white pine on my eastern horizon, the moon flowers have furled themselves and the morning glories are calling their blue and purple praises to the new day. Come evening the morning glories quietly curl themselves up in time for the moon flowers to again take over the trellis, throwing open their moon-white throats to thrill the evening air. Its worth a walk in the evening garden.
Evenings also the time my preying mantises show themselves. Wherever theres a light on, giants measuring six inches long stalk the more foolish bugs who visit the light only to play. Lately, theyve been unfolding their long wings and sneaking indoors, where the family makes fools of ourselves trying to catch them in wide-mouth quart jars to put back out.
In the Bay
Capt. George Prenant has been catching mackerel and blues on the Eastern Shore from Gum Thicket down to Sharps Island Light. We saw a cooler packed with tasty filets of mackerel caught on his boat. He and others also have been snagging snapper blues on the Western Shore from Holland Point to Breezy Point, in 15-25 feet of water.
Fishing folks are still snaring Norfolk spot, the jumbo variety, and croaker. One woman pulled up a 19-inch croaker, perhaps the biggest of the lot. Capt. Prenant reports "a few scattered flounder" around the Diamonds and west of Black Walnut Point.
For a Latin America treat, try spot ceviche. Filet a dozen or so and cut the meat into strips. Slice up a fat onion and a big sweet pepper. Throw everything into a bowl with the juice from eight fresh squeezed limes. The limes cook everything into a unbelievably tasty treat; serve over boiled potatoes or with crackers or French bread. Head back to catch more spot.
Want an up-to-date fishing report or to book a charter? Call Capt. Prenant at 301/261/9075.
Fighting Bad Writing
Had it with legal mumbo-jumbo that leaves you clueless?
Youre not alone, and thats why the League for Literate Laws was born. The League, a mythical, militant organization, is the brainchild of John A. Bell, a former legislative lawyer.
When so moved, Bell puts out an eight-page newspaper, called Dispatch, lampooning policymakers for their pompous and garbled writing. Bell believes that legislators ought to make laws in short, clear sentences that people can make sense of it.
Heres just half of one gobbledygook phrase that Bell found in a federal disabilities law:
...A description of the policies and procedures used to ensure a smooth transition for individuals participating in the early intervention program under this part who are eligible for participation in preschool programs under new part B, including a description of how the families will be included in the transitional plans and how the lead agency under this part will notify the appropriate local educational agency or intermediate educational unit in which the child resides and convene, with the approval of the family, a conference between the lead agency, the family and such agency or unit...
Huh? Bell notes that since the days of John Milton, sentences in the English language have been shrinking.
But not in our federal statutes, he observes. Resisting all the trends, those who write our laws have continued to honor the old lawyer custom of sparing the period to spoil the prose.
The League for Literate Laws has no official members. But Bell invites you to join his crusade by getting on his mailing list for Dispatch. Hell send you back copies, too. Write him (short sentences please) at 9405 Mellenbrook Rd., Columbia, MD 21045.
Killing Pests Without Poisons
If youre like us, youre beyond the day when you grab a can or bottle of heavy pesticides at the first sign of insects. Our plants are healthier. We feel safer. And our dog certainly is happier.
But what about those bugs?
Among the best alternatives for pest control are biological methodsnatural predators, parasites and organisms that wipe out pests without poisoning the surrounding area.
The Maryland Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources has some ideas on how to make the switch and will help you with a new manual called: Biological Control of Insect and Mite Pests of Woody Landscape Plants: Concepts, Agents and Methods. We hope the manual is easier to read than the title.
To get one (or many), write: Steve Rothman, Agriculture Duplicating, 6200 Sheridan St., Riverdale, MD 20727.
WAR OF WORDS
Folks who live along the Severn River dont want their waterway turned into a Scenic River Dump. Theyre fighting to keep landfill runoff, construction mud and anything else from polluting the river.
Activists with the Severn River Commission argue the river is protected under the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act. State officials disagree. The Department of Natural Resources contends the Act doesnt apply to the Severn because it is merely a state scenic river, not a national scenic river.
River residents call the DNRs decision weaselly worded. The Commission, which is appointed by the county executive and Annapolis mayor, is pulling some political strings. The group wants a new law that will clearly protect the Severn and other state scenic rivers. Theyll make sure it's easily understood by humans and weasels alike.
ANOTHER MASSACHUSETTS MIRACLE
It was hot enough to fry an egg on a sidewalk, and even worse, bake a chicken in a coop. Record-breaking heat killed 20,000 chickens at William Masons farm this summer in Massachusetts, creating the potential for a major health risk.
What do you do with 20,000 dead yardbirds? It sounds like an opening line of a joke, but the problem was no laughing matter to state waste management officials. They gathered up the chickens, loaded them into a waste-to-energy incinerator and turned them into electricity.
This is a tragedy but weve been able to turn it into something positive, said state waste director Leo Roy. And give new meaning to the term, fried chicken.
Before it was the politically correct thing to do, former U.S. Senator Charles Mac Mathias was protecting the Chesapeake Bay. His 20 years of dedication will be recognized when he is honored with a Bay Visionary Award next week during the Chesapeake Bay conference in Baltimore.
Mathias is credited with drawing attention to the Bays environmental problems back in 1973. His efforts led to a $25 million EPA study and the formation of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.
With so many politicians and organizations jumping on the Bay bandwagon, its nice to see the Senator recognized as one of the original drivers.
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Autumn Adventures at the Chesapeake
With the sweltering summer behind us, the time is nigh for crisp and cunning Bay pleasures
by Audrey Y. Scharmen
and New Bay Times staff
Chesapeake is turning a new leaf. Autumn light has shifted the spectrum from lemon to gold. No matter how warm the day, nights have a tang that is maturing to a nip, and soon a chill. Vegetable greens are tinged with yellow, from the tomato leaf to the corn stalk. Tobaccos almost in, cattails are bushy, pokes gone purple and sumac is red.
If you move quickly, youll catch autumn as it comes to the Chesapeake. Here, to get you out in it, are five adventures big and small for readers and doers alike.
1. Cruise for Colors
Around the autumnal equinox, the season reveals itself in subtle ways.
No matter the place, autumns advent is defined by a certain aura that brings a quickening of the sensesanticipation tinged with melancholy. And so it is here in Chesapeake Country.
The goldenrod blooms and the first crimson leaf from my ash tree appears magically on the front door matlike a calling cardfilling me with unease. I need to grasp summers shirt tail as it slips away. I need to see the golden meadows of late summer cosmos
the crimson-eyed rose mallows thick in the salt marshes
the wild clematis that wanders restlessly along wooded bands. I need to follow the haunting summer song of the Chesapeake that beckons me seaward.
We unslip the Cardinal for our cruising adventure.
Crossing the Bay to launch from Crisfield on the rising tide, we thread our way through the winding marshes of Broad Creek and across capricious Pocomoke Sound toward a 10,000 wetland EdenShad Landing State Park.
A thin river winds a dark and deep course from the Sound to Snow hill through 30 scenic miles of salt marshes until dwindling to a trickle a few miles from the waters of Chincoteague.
This is the Pocomoke River, a mystical place where great hardwoods and feathery cypress conjure fantasies of wood nymphs and fairies. Eagles, herons, kingfishers, flycatchers, and warblers thrive in this opulent wilderness. Such spots arent to be hurried; this is a slow days cruise.
Our old Cris-Craft cruiser takes us all the way to the upper river. She is well behaved, maintaining a leisurely pace and controlling her wake to keep from disturbing the delicate shoreline and tributary tranquility. The Cardinal clears bridges that bar tall-masted sailors. If the captain keeps a sharp eye out, shell also avoid the sand barges that travel back and forth between Shelltown and Pocomoke City.
Fair weather cumulonimbus clouds in a bright blue sky accompany us all the way. At Shelltown, a tiny village at the mouth of the river, least terns rise up from a tottering dock. They dip and soar with the elegance that has earned them the name sea swallows. Through the wide mallow-marshes of silken grasses and satin flowers they follow us until the river narrows and the forest closes in. Suddenly the terns are gone.
My first glimpse of the other cardinal comes just beyond the city.
This cardinal is a flower, our only red lobeliaso rich a shade the entire plant is often stained with it. It may be a survivor of warm eons before the glacial epoch, for biologists believe that hotter suns than ours made that intense color. The flowers flamboyant hue, brighter even than scarlet, make it a seductive beacon wherever it grows.
It grows sparsely on the Western Shore, but here in the shallows of the Pocomoke it has found an idyllic haven where it may keep its feet wet and its flowers crowned with sunlight. Thus it blooms in stunning profusion well into autumn.
The late summer scene shares with lush mallows, golden water lilies, jewelweed, blue pickerelweed and exquisite gypsy clematis. All along the river the sweet fragrance of this wild flowing vine hovers over the dusky water. It clambers everywhere amongst the ragged pines trailing lavish garlands of lacy white blossoms as if determined to beautify, singlehandedly, the entire shoreline.
We spend nearly a week in the upper Pocomoke, dinghying amidst the floating islands of flowers and listening to the lamentations of cicadas. When we reluctantly head home, the trip back down the river is just as idyllic. Amid the cypress knees, flocks of Canada geese talk of autumn, and crimson sparks amid the trees speak of a pending conflagration. Autumn in this vast forest is spectacular.
I recall a line from Thoreau: How early in the year it begins to be late.AS
2. Take a Harvest Drive in the Country
How early! In deepest summer, fall is brewing. By mid-July, long before appetites for them are ripe, apples are fat and cattails bushy. Chrysanthemums too must be clipped or theyll bloom before were ready for them.
Now all are in season.
You have to bite through tartness before you reach the sweetness deep inside hard, early apples. Your local tree may offer such apples. Sample a windfall, or sharpen your arm for your county fair, pitching downed apples at your tree-bound choice.
If no tree grows in your neighborhood, take a drive in the country. Apples are now appearing in roadside stands and farmers markets, though too often theyre the cloying Delicious variety. Cider, on the other hand, is crisply delicious.
Mums, Marylands newest row crop, are bushing out and beginning to show color. Buy them with your apples, or dig your own right from the fields.
While youre out, gather a mixed bouquet. Cattails are abundant in damp roadside stormwater ditches as well as in marshes, where reed grass also waves its plumes. On dryer land, youll find golden rod and wild aster. Along the edges of woods, look for the crimson berry clusters of the sumac. Theyre quite safe; poison sumac, which prefers mountain foothills anyway, has white berries.
Gathering autumns gifts, you bring the season home.
3. Slip Over at a Marina
This time of year, I want a quiet marina where the sycamore leaves float as they fall. I dont know whymaybe its the mellow lightand I dont much care. What I do know is where to go.
As pretty a spot as you could want is the Rhode River, right where it meets the West River and the two are about to merge with the Chesapeake. Yes, thats right, on the Mayo peninsula in mid-Anne Arundel County, where the roads wind about a rustic, old-style Bay country resort. Just offshore of Rhode River Marina are three islands for exploring, where you can have an adventure without venturing into the open Bay. Heres where I like to be when a storms brewing, or a fogs hovering, or my moving parts are acting up.
At the marina is a ships store to help you get your ship back in shape, clean showers for you when your day is finished. A mile up Germantown road and onto Mayo road is a German restaurant worth a visit, the Stein(410/798-1658).
But when I brave the open Bay, Flag Harbor at St. Leonards is a welcome port. Thats because the Western Shore smooths out down here in Calvert County. From the West and Rhode Rivers on up, and along most of the Eastern Shore, the Chesapeake is a watery lacework cut by rivers, streams, coves and harbors. Past Herring Bay, the Calvert Cliffs rise and rivers recede. You can hunt quite a way, virtually from Chesapeake Beach to St. Leonard going south and Solomons to St. Leonards going north, and find no shelter.
Until you find Flag Harbor. Flag Harbor shouldnt be quiet: its something of a residential marina, nestled in a valley with homes on either side. Even so, things are quiet down here, and youll have a long way to walk to St. Leonards if you need provisions or hope to eat out. Luckily people are pleasant; a neighborly fellow drove us to the store and said hed do the same for any traveler.
Dock nearest the Bay: youll have a front-row seat on its moods from safe harbor. Youll also be right on the spot where Clint Eastwoods In-the-Line-of-Fire partner struggled to breath with a plastic bag over his head (410/974-8088).
4. Hop in a Kayak or a Canoe
You may be missing out. Paddling the shores of the Bay and its tributaries is the finest unsung pleasure we know about. Were talking clean, green and healthy and as exciting and challenging as you want.
Along the western Bay, expanses of undeveloped shore line are beckoning. Sure, you see the autumn colors from your powerboat or your sailing vessel. But in your kayak or canoe, you can smell and touch the changing season.
Paddle in the shallows, as quickly or languidly as you desire. Then pull up on a beach and hop out for awhile. Explore. Unpack a lunch. Sit a bit, but dont let the sun get away from you. Leave everything as you found it, then shove off for more adventure.
We kayak like this all year, but fall may be the best. You dont sweat much when you decide on a little work out, digging hard for a hundred strokes or so. The air is cleaner now, and the boat traffic is thinning out. And fishing is at its finest, if you like to combine your pleasures.
If youre looking for guidance or partners, join the Chesapeake Paddlers Association (202/537-4600 x 257). This band of merry paddlers has figured out many things: where to put in; ways to have adventures; and how to do it all safely. They have expeditions and parties scheduled for October.
For equipment, instruction or planned excursions, a good bet is Annapolis Coastal Kayaking (410/956-5031). Or south a bit in California, Md., Blue Wind (800/442-5834) will get you ready.
5. Wet a Line
Fall is ripe for fishing on the Chesapeake. Best of all, rockfish season opens Oct. 1, and signs abound that many stripers are out there.
The bluefish are back, too, so youre trolling with the added thrill of not knowing whats caused your reel to scream.
For the more sedate, bottom fishing for spot, and maybe some flounder and trout, likely will stay hot into October.
Its bestthough not necessaryto fish out of a boat. If youre short on Bay know-how, let the birds find the fish for you. Where you see the gulls diving, you know that the rockfish and blues are pushing the baitfish to the surface. Get there in a hurry and get ready for some memorable action.
You cant go wrong taking a fishing charter in the fall. Bay charter captains seldom disappoint. Their fish-finders are amazingly accurate, and they can put you in schools that the birds havent discovered.
You learn a lot about fishing when youre out with a pro, and you can keep your knowledge for later adventures.
Among the experts, try Capt. George Prenant in Deale (301/261-9075) or Capt. Russ Mogul, president of the Chesapeake Beach Charter Captains Association (301/855-4665).
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The French at Cafe Normandie Are Snobbish only about the Cooking
720 plus recipes
Stepping into Annapolis Cafe Normandie is like stepping into a small cafe in France: wood beams, whitewashed walls, and the rear wall of the restaurant devoted to an open-to-view kitchen that turns out some very good food. Up front, discreetly atop a small chest in the microscopic vestibule, is a quaint black-and-white photo of a young boy in a kitchen who turns out to be the 13-year-old Jean-Louis Evennou, owner/chef/manager of Cafe Normandie, at his first job.
I worked for my brother-in-law, reminisces the restauranteur, and I started scrubbing vegetables and pots. At the end of three years, an accomplished chef trained in the classic French manner, he moved on to another job with his brother-in-laws blessing.
In 1981, Jean-Louis and his American-born wife and their infant daughter came to the United States, where he began working in the French restaurants around Washington: Le Provencal, Rive Gauche, La Chaumiere. But working for others wasnt enough and, when he saw a newspaper ad for a small Annapolis restaurant, he checked it out. It wasnt a pretty sight, certainly not up to the standards of a professional French chef. But he bought it. Out went the decor, the menu, the entire kitchen, the furnishings (the patrons had pretty much left before he arrived; Jean-Louis was to win them back quickly). In went the areas most consistent French restaurant.
The original name was spelled Normandy, with a y not an ie. I changed it to the correct spelling. Jean-Louis did more than that; he made the cuisine a true reflection of French cooking. Pure French? No, there have been some accommodations to the American palate.
Currently, for instance, the menu reflects our concern for healthy cooking. I use two percent milk instead of cream in the sauce for, as an example, our Pasta with Shrimp, Chicken and Walnuts, says Jean-Louis. This dish, a favorite with regulars, is now not only delicious but very low in calories. Is it easier to cook this way? No: it takes four times longer to prepare as the old method of reducing heavy cream. But its healthier, and I want to cook healthier. Another example is that we cook with olive oil, not commercial frying oil, so dishes are lighter, he says. At breakfast, Cafe Normandie will be happy to make an egg-white-only omelette.
A tour of the main floor kitchen, the immaculate basement prep room, and the coolers illustrate the restaurants commitment to freshness and flavor as well as health. Everything is made from scratch here, and everything is fresh, with daily deliveries of fish, meats and vegetables.
But not everything is so health-conscious. Some dishes have plenty of calories and fat. We use over 12 cases of brie each week, Chef Evennou says, explaining that even if they order a low-fat entree, they will not give up the baked brie! The country pate is still flavorful and made without shortcuts. And if youre really serious about your calorie intake, dont even look at the desserts.
The wine list, recently updated, is not big but covers a nice array of wines that will blend with your meal, and at prices that arent the usual gouge.
Cafe Normandie opens at 8:00am, serving breakfast until 11:00am, then lunch until about 5:00pm. Dinner is served till 10:00pm.
In late afternoon, youll find this cafe a pleasant oasis. You could do a lot worse than their Early Bird Special, served between 5:00PM and 6:30PM, a three course meal for $11.95. Or try softshell crabs Provencal, or the blackened redfish on a Caesar salad. As with many items, the blackening spice is Jean-Louis own. A half dozen fish dishes are on the menu, always fresh, never frozen.
Dishes are not trendy cuisine minceur; theyre plentiful, pretty and served provencial style on enormous white plates. Whatever meal you enjoy here, you can count on carefully prepared food in a pleasant, low key atmosphere.
The cafe initially took no reservations; since the move to the new location, half the tables can be reserved. Unless you want to be in the small group of anxious would-be diners watching the trays of food whizzing by, call 410/263-3382 to make your dinner reservation.
CAFE NORMANDIE, 185 Main Street, Annapolis: 410/263-3382
Chef Evennou agreed to share two of his painstakingly created and closely guarded recipes for salad dressings. The first, Honey Dijon, is served at Cafe Normandie with a smoked turkey breast and apple salad. The second is a low-cal adaptation of a classic Cafe Normandie favorite. Both keep well in a jar in the refrigerator.
Honey Dijon Dressing Cafe Normandie
1 C Dijon mustard
1 C honey
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
6 C olive oil
4 egg whites
Tabasco to taste
Beat egg whites in bowl until frothy. Add mustard, honey and lemon juice; beat until incorporated. Add olive oil, beating vigorously. Add hot sauce to taste.
Diet Dressing Cafe Normandie
1 C red wine vinegar
1 C water
2 C olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 packets artificial sweetener
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
Black pepper to taste
Beat together first four ingredients; add sweetener and lemon juice and beat well. Add black pepper to taste.
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Clash of the Giants
Headlines might read Uranus over Neptune this month when in a rare conjunction Neptune and his teamum, moonsTriton and Nereid, disappear behind Uranus, who receives mighty assists from his moons: Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon. Uranus shouldnt get too cocky since history informs us that this personification of the heavens, husband of Gaea, or Earth, was overthrown by his son Cronus, known to us as Saturn.
Neptune himselfwhose trident will not help him out this timewas not originally a sea god but rather an Italian god of fresh water whose now-forgotten female counterpart, Salacia, was ruler of leaping spring waters. Neptunes festival shows up in the oldest calendars in the heat of summer (July 23) when water was most wanting. We know about that.
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What Hearts Review
NOT JUST FOR KIDS might well be a label added to the cover of Bruce Brooks Newberry Honors Award winning book What Hearts. NOT FOR ALL KIDS is another label at least one mother would like to see.
When I read the first story of four in What Hearts, I felt a twang of recognition. Heres Asa walking home from first grade with all As and no one has time to care. Ten year old Tami Heath reacted just as I did. Everybody ignored him because he was really young. Ive felt that way myself. I felt so sorry for him.
Similar words come from Shannon Crandall, 11, I felt really bad for him. Ive sometimes felt ignored too. I wondered what was going to happen to himif his life was going to get any worse. I had to keep reading.
And his life did get worse. I never thought anyboys life could get so bad, continues Shannon. Tami too wanted to know what would happen to Asa, but she didnt get to read any further. Tamis mother, Darline Heath, read the book for herself and voiced strong objections.
Ms. Heath explained to me, I felt bad that no one paid any attention to Asa. Even more, I didnt like the part when his mother overdosed on pills. It left the kid and the reader confused. Why would someones mother try to kill herself? There should have been some reason given. My best friend killed herself with a pill overdose last year. I didnt want all that stirred up again. Towards the end Tami knew what was happening and we talked about it a little. My friend got addicted to prescription drugs. What happened to Asas mother?
This book requires adult interference. The scary part is that I have four children and I dont always have time to read all their books. It was a very adult book although its about a kid.
Shannon agrees that it bothered her a lot not knowing why the mother was ill, but at age 12 her attention moves quickly to the budding love between sixth grader Asa and a girl in his class. Shannon was pleased that the girl liked Asa and, through a friend, gave him two candy hearts. She wonders if the friend acted on her own, trying to fix things up between them. I tried to fix up my friend once. It worked out awful. We wound up being enemies.
Asas love doesnt work out either, but he takes it well, just as he seems to have the secret strength to bounce back from all the woes in his life. His intelligence brings him understanding as well as trouble. He finds a temporary truce with his stepfather in the discipline of football and basketball. He finds grace and beauty in the perfect baseball play even when the umpire makes a bad call. He finds the compassion to give up reciting a poem guaranteed to show off his own brilliance in order to allow a slower classmate to shine. He takes to heart his mothers words about love: Its a gift...When you get a gift, you feel good. Doesnt matter if you havent got a gift ready to give in return. Something as fine as love from someone as nice as youwell, knowing about it means a lot.
Shannon sums up the book, If youre going to read it, prepare to have your heart broken. So when you read What Hearts make a good friend or a parent read it too and start asking questions. Did you ever feel ignored? Were you ever in love? Why would someones mother kill herself? How can you get along with a stepfather? Should you really give love even if youre not sure the other person is ready to love you back?
Tami Heath, 10, and her mother Darline live in Shady Side. Shannon Crandall, 12, an eighth grader,also lives in Shady Side. See our interview with author Bruce Brooks in the July 29 issue of New Bay Times.
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Fancy Ducks and Fair Rabbits
At age 12, Benjamin Buchanan raises fancy ducks and judges State Fair rabbits.
The ducks arrived at Bens St. Marys County home in three shipments, some live, some as eggs. Theyre shipped in from Oregon in a 12-inch by 6-inch cartonabout 30 day-old ducks packed in together, peeping and annoying the postmaster whos been known to send them home with a neighbor, shouting, Get them out of here.
The first two flocks were kept in the garage but Daddy didnt like the smell so the third flock went into a hutch out in the yard surrounded by a shower curtain for warmth and protection.
Ben incubated the eggs with the help of his mother, Pam. As his mother put eggs into the incubator her six-year-old daughter demanded to know what she was doing.
We want to raise ducks, Mother replied.
Clearly, the six-year-old didnt see the connection, but the light was dawning on her mother. Theres a duck in every egg, she explained.
Where do you think they come from? asked Mother.
Twenty-nine days later, she believed me, says Mrs. Buchanan.
Just now Ben has 41 ducks. Even their names are fancy: Khaki; Dark Campbell, Blue Indian Runner, Black Indian Runner, Silver Apple Yard, Saxony and Magpie. At the Charles County Fair coming up September 16-19, hell show four ducks in 4-H competition, which is open for members aged 8 to 18. Hell show 11 more ducks in open competition against all comers.
Ben sizes up his chances. I entered last year. My male duck was competing with best of show but wasnt fully grown yet. It got a blue ribbon. Pretty good. We kept that one.
Oh yeah, I stand a good chance this year. Im entering two pairs in 4-H and five females and six males in open class. Theyre all good. One Dark Campbell duck called Big Man I think will get a pretty good rating. We get the ducks in early spring and then we just have to get feed and make an automatic watering trough. Its pretty fun.
Ben also competed in judging rabbits at the State Fair in Timonium on September 4. This event is open to 4-H and FFA members aged 8 or older. How do you learn to judge? Coaching and practice. Each breed has its own standards. You have to learn all of those. You have to know all the parts. Mom made me a parts chart. She drills me. I know every single thing about it.
Of the breeds I know the most about Chocolate Silver Martin, a medium size fryer. I check to see if its meaty, not too boney, with a nice round head, unbroken ears, straight hind feetnot bowed. Guard hairs come out further than the regular hairs to protect the rest of the coat. If you push the hair back the roots should be silver. Check for the sex. You have to check just about everything. And then you get tested. We dont get ribbons. We get points for our judging. I didnt place but had a good time.
Ill probably be a paleontologist or something, but this is a good hobby for now while Im going to school. I may do more with rabbits this year. My brother and sister are starting to get involved and my mom helps out. We just have to obey Dads rule, No stinkin ugly chickens.
Ben and his family live in Country Lake, St. Marys County.
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Baking takes some accurate measuring, but this recipe is fun to show off to your friends.
First youll need
12 small rectangles of paper to write fortunes on.
Use your imagination and write up 12 outrageous fortunes on the papers.
For baking youll need
2 Bowls, 1 large & 1 small
12- cup muffin tin
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
Make sure you have a grown-ups permission to use the oven.
1 C flour
1/2 C quick oats
2 t baking powder
Put them into the large bowl.
Now measure into the small bowl
1/4 C honey
1/4 C cooking oil
3/4 C milk
Stir until the eggs are well mixed in. Pour this into the mixture in the large bowl. Stir just a littleleave the lumps.
Fit paper muffin cups in your tin or grease it with butter
Fill each cup 1/2 with the batter; you'll have some left over.
Place one of your outrageous fortunes on top of each half-filled cup. Then cover up each fortune with more batter. Don't fill all the way cause it needs room to puff up while it bakes.
Place tin on middle oven rack
Bake for 20-25 minutes. If your stick a knife into the center of a muffin to test, it will come out clean when the muffins are finished.
Invite friends and family to enjoy.
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