A brush fire and summer weekend traffic jams on 50. Idiot drivers. Clogged two-lane arteries pumping steel through commuter colonies and past groves of white crosses. Rude drivers. Big rigs lost tire treads hurtling into traffic at 65 miles per hour. Worsening smog. Being stuck in a traffic jam on I-97 on a hot day with no air conditioning while downwind of a pig truck. Route 4 congestion. A dumptruck dangling precariously off the D.C. beltway at an overpass after being run off the road by a 74-year-old man. All this and still barely a whiff of mass transit in our own little corner of Bay Country.
You got a problem with this vote?
Bays Best Friend
This lowly bivalve, which remains stationery but for a fleeting few days in its early life, is the darling of the Bay. The oyster is perhaps the epitomy of Mother Natures rule of simplicity. Anchored as they are, oysters feed by ingesting water, filtering out and retaining nutrients while discharging cleaned water. Scientists estimate that before humans surrounded our great Bay, the mass of oysters in the Chesapeake completely filtered its water every week or so. The same feat takes todays besieged oyster population a year.
When Capt. John Smith sailed into Chesapeake Bay, he reported oyster bars like underwater mountains. Groups around the Bay like Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Oyster Recovery Partnership are working with commercial watermen, waterside property owners, community organizations and government at all levels trying to rebuild the oyster population.
Bay Enemy Number-1
Like the Blob from the so-named 1958 sci-fi horror flick, sprawl threatens to overwhelm Chesapeake Country. Many one-time water-side hamlets would be suffering population loss were they located in the mountains, the Midwest or the Plains. But the charms and treasures of the Bay have attracted newcomers to the Chesapeakes shores while retaining large numbers of longtime residents. More people means more growth in housing and in businesses, services and traffic. As open space diminishes along and around the Chesapeake, the accompanying growth takes on a life of its own, threatening to overrun us and wipe out the quality of life that made this place so appealing to begin with. The monster, it turns out, is us.
Best People Watching
City Dock, Ego Alley
Its no wonder Ego Alley at City Dock in downtown Annapolis is the best place for people watching. Milling about the concrete-walled basin and within the waters is a piece of everything that is Chesapeake Bay.
Look to the water. Busy is this narrow creek of sorts, and confident - or brash - is the boater who navigates these waters. Tanned men steer from the helm of rumbling muscle boats, while bathing-suit beauties stare from the decks. Perhaps, under motor, a sailor comes in, giving the crowd gathered ashore a moments thrill to see whether the skipper can mannage the tight 360 to get out of Ego Alley. A group of school children clamors aboard Chesapeake Bay Foundations working skipjack, Stanley Norman, for an educational cruise.
Not so long ago, watermen sold their catch just a stones throw from the Gap and Banana Republic.
Ashore, watch the khaki-clad tourists drawn as if by magnet toward the Alex Haley statue. Dont be surprised when one asks you to take their groups picture. If youve been people-watching properly, you should already have the image well conceived in your mind. Providing a study in contrasts are the St. Johns students crossing paths with the Navy midshipmen.
Early mornings offer another face of Annapolis. Busy executives grab a cup of Joe at Starbucks - if theyre not in the know - and City Dock Cafe - if they are - and rush to the office. Young mothers push their three-wheeled jogging strollers to their daily coffee clutch.
Look, over there. Sitting by the Market House. Someone else is people watching, and theyre looking right at you.
Best Bay Festival
North Beach BayFest
Good news: The Best Bay Festival is nearly here. North Beachs two-day-long BayFest (for the 18th time on August 25 and 26 this year) wins Best of honors with revelry sprawling across boardwalk, beach and streets. A classic parade kicks things off; following it up are live concerts, pony rides, the tug of war, a sack race, a watermelon-eating contest, crab feasts on the pier, 150 artisans with crafts and plenty more. Be there or be square.
Best Place to Take Children
Chesapeake Beach Water Park
Water slides, pools, a lazy river and wonderfully kitschy faux-island decor earn Chesapeake Beach Water Park honors as the best place for kids. Its cool waters are the hottest spot in the twin beaches during these dog days of summer, when even the littlest ones can get refreshed in the relative safety of chlorinated shallows. Though a crowded watering hole, theres always room to get wet. And wet kids make happy kids, which make happy parents.
Best Place to Commune with Nature
Quiet Waters Park
A recipe for witches brew?
No, a very abbreviated list of wildlife living in Quiet Waters Park, just off Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis. With three types of habitats - including wetlands, deciduous forests, and open meadows - Quiet Waters is home to a grand sampling of the species roaming the state. Go moon about on your own, or join an official park program. Recent ones have included reptile and amphibian hunts and seasonal wildflower walks.
Best Place to get Bay Weekly
Since day one for Bay Weekly - New Bay Times those eight-plus years ago - no place has compared with Fresh Fields for distribution. Each week, nearly 1,000 people pick up Bay Weekly while shopping at Fresh Fields, and by closing time Sunday, our green, wire rack is usually empty. Thats more than 20 percent of Bay Weeklys 17,000-paper distribution, with the other 80 percent at more than 400 businesses, libraries, post offices, etc. from Severna Park to Solomons.
Thanks to Fresh Fields and all of the other spots distributing Bay Weekly. And by the way, if your favorite spot is out of papers, click here for a list of distribution spots.