Volume 12, Issue 21 ~ May 20-26, 2004
Current Issue
Dump It
Projections Not Promises
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Not Just for Kids
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Earth Talk
Sky Watch
8 Days a Week
Music Notes
Curtain Call
Movie Times
Bay Weekly in Your Mailbox
Print Advertising Rates
Distribution Spots
Behind Bay Weekly
Contact Us

Powered by

Search bayweekly.com
Search WWW

Dock of the Bay

Robert Shofuer and the Spirit of Goodyear

For five days each year, the blimp lives among us. Docked at tiny Lee Airport in Edgewater, it bounces like a giant blue and yellow balloon on our western horizon. With its three sister ships, Spirit of Goodyear is a goodwill ambassador for its tire company, much as The Pride of Baltimore II is a goodwill ambassador for Maryland, the Bay and Baltimore.

“It’s like a parade,” said Annapolitan Joe Thompson, who brought his daughter Annabel to join the gathering of avid spectators. “You see a blimp and it’s got that special feeling that something big is going on.”

That something big is officially the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, which television viewers see from a blimp’s-eye view. But unofficially, it’s the soaring feeling we get when we see the blimp with our own eyes.

Crewman Robert Shofuer spoke to Bay Weekly for and about Spirit of Goodyear.

What’s your job on the Spirit of Goodyear?

I’m the chief radio and television technician, programming the LED EagleVision signs on the airship’s side. We do graphics, video animations in 2- and 3-D. Also words.

How many words? Depends on how big the letters are. Two or three lines. Once, it was “Will You Marry Me?”

Photos by Joe Thompson
Six-year-old Annabel Thompson visited the Spirit of Goodyear and crewman Robert Shofuer while the blimp was tethered in Edgewater last week.
Did you fly into Chesapeake Country?

No. Most of the traveling crew of 16 comes on a tour bus, with our equipment following in a trailer truck. Four of the crew are pilots, and two fly the ship at a time.

Who else gets to ride?

Today, six people went up. Mostly, it’s promotions for our Goodyear dealers.

What’s it like to ride in a blimp?

It’s a different movement. We feel the thermals. When there’s more wind, there are no thermals. But on a calm day, your nose will rise up 30 degrees as you go over open pasture or large parking lots — places with large differences of texture and color that make different air patterns. Then it’s more like a slow roller-coaster ride, and you lean back with it.

Winds of five or 10 miles an hour are better than nothing. With no wind at all, you get whirlwinds and little dust devils. A little wind is also good at landing, as it breaks your speed.

What do you see from up in the blimp?

Our ceiling is 10,000 feet, but we typically ride at 2,000 or 3,000 feet. We move more slowly than an airplane, 30 or 40 miles an hour in ground speed, so you can watch things longer, like deer running below us.

What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen?

We were making a visit at Fort Wayne, Indiana, next door to a plant that built school buses. It was like Egypt out there; basically nothing. They rolled out all the buses arranged to spell Goodyear. When they saw us coming — it was night — they cranked up the buses and turned on the lights to give us back a sign to match our own.

What’s the blimp made of?

Its envelope is neoprene no thicker than a pair of jeans. There is no rigid structure inside, just helium. Big air bags inside the envelope help keep the pressure constant so it keeps its shape. They’re called ballonets, and you can see them on each side at the G and the R. The pilots and passengers ride in the gondola below the balloon.

It’s rocking in the breeze. How high can it go on its tether?

It can go straight up on its nose.

Where does your blimp live the other 360 days a year?

This one lives in Akron, Ohio, where we’re based, so it spends its nights in our hangar — though it’s perfectly happy blowing outdoors, tethered to its mast. The other Goodyear blimps live outside. The Spirit of America is based in Carson, California, and the Stars & Stripes lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.

How did you get into blimp work?

I started when I was finishing high school, going to school half a day and working the other half. It was based in Houston then, where I grew up. I just kinda fell into it; got tied up with Goodyear. First I was on the ground crew.

What do you like best about your job?

Most amazing is the joy when you go out and talk with people They’ve got such positive attitudes. This gives them a good feeling even if it’s been a bad day.


to the top

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor
Sudden Oak Death May be Lurking in Your Garden

Q My new lilac looks fine. Do I still need to have it tested for Sudden Oak Death?

A Yes! With this insidious disease, plants may not show symptoms for a time. Some plants never show symptoms but still spread the disease. All lilacs, viburnums, camellias (plus rhododendrons/azaleas showing unusual symptoms)purchased in 2003-2004 must be tested to locate infected plants. Call us for a free test kit (special envelopes to mail leaves.) Never move a suspected plant. You might spread the disease spores.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

to the top

South County Connection Hits the Road
If you’ve got $3.50 and 50 minutes, you can bus from Annapolis to Deale

The world grows smaller each day. And for folks looking to span the divide between the southern reaches of Anne Arundel County and the city of Annapolis — without a car — the distance has been bridged by a new 16-passenger bus, launched last week with fanfare and dignitaries.

“I’m from South County,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens. “Eighteen years ago, when I was with the Department of Aging, people were telling me, we need more vans.” Now, as county executive, she said, “I get personal complaints — a letter here, a letter there, someone at a community meeting — about how hard it is to get to Annapolis.

“It isn’t a ground swell,” she explained. “But it’s been a consistent issue.”

Owens was joined by Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer May 14 to officially launch the new C-50 Bus Route and to christen the bus The South County Connection, a name chosen by Heidi Mudd of Tracey’s Landing and Debbie Grauel of Deale — the two winners in an Annapolis Transit contest that garnered nearly 150 entries.

For each person we get riding the bus, said Moyer, that’s one less car on the road.

photo by J. Alex Knoll
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens and Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer pose with the new South County Connection, along with Heidi Mudd and Debbie Grauel, who separately suggested the winning name.
“My wife works in Annapolis,” said Buzz Winchester of Galesville. “I can catch the bus with my bike and meet my wife in town. Then it’s only one car instead of two.”

Winchester won’t be alone, according to the prediction of Gerry Ciche of the Maryland Transportation Administration. “We’re expecting 11,000 riders over the next 18 months,” he said.

That’s because bussing is good for riders as well as good for the environment. “Riding the bus, you can afford time to read, you can afford time to work,” Moyer said. “Buses are a positive alternative to reduce our own stress. We’re all time-starved.”

“It’s a minor step environmentally,” Owens said. But it is a significant accomplishment, fulfilling one of her major transportation goals.

“Too often,” Owens said, “many people in the south of the county were cut off from the services that they needed in the city” — services at a senior center, medical services, shopping or business and work opportunities.

To all those advantages, Donna Dudley, — director of Four Rivers: the Heritage Area of Annapolis, London Town and South County — added another. The new route will “create linkages between all the historic sites in Annapolis, London Town and South County,” the heritage tourism promoter said.

The bus itself is more accurately a large van, capable of holding 16 passengers plus, on a front-mounted rack, two bicycles. Both the bus and its route are part of a joint effort between county and city. The city of Annapolis owns the bus, but the county helps fund the route, which falls within its own Transit Development Plan and therefore qualifies for federal funding.

Of the $60,000 the bus itself cost, “90 percent of the capital comes from federal money,” said George Cardwell, planning administrator of Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning.

As plans are laid for a second bus along the C-50 route, the first is an investment that must pan out.

“We need to use the bus to ensure its longevity,” said Anne Arundel County Councilman Ed Reilly. “So get on the bus!”

The South County Connection departs Spa Road in Annapolis at odd hours — 7, 9 and 11am; 1, 3, and 5pm; dropping off a final load of passengers at 7pm.

From Annapolis the bus runs to the South River Colony in Edgewater (at 15 minutes past each odd hour); Galesville (at 25 minutes past each odd hour); the West River intersection of routes 486 and 256 (at 45 minutes past each odd hour); the Deale library (at 50 minutes past each odd hour). From Deale the bus turns around and heads north, stopping in West River again at five minutes after each even hour; in Galesville again at 15 minutes past each even hour; at South River Colony again at 30 minutes past each even hour. Each direction, it makes over 30 scheduled stops plus other stops on demand.

Rides are free through June 30, when the full four-zone fare rises to $3 plus 75 cents to transfer onto Arnold.

—J. Alex Knoll

to the top

Maryland Gets a New State Sport
Jousting’s OK for one, but for teams it’s lacrosse

It’s about time. These are the sentiments of many a Maryland lacrosse fan as Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed Senate Bill 428 into law last week, officially naming lax as our state team sport.

Lacrosse players, coaches, athletic directors, parents and NCAA officials testified at the 2004 state legislative session on the merits of lacrosse legislation, pushing Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller to sponsor the bill.

“Maryland has long been recognized nationally as a hotbed for lacrosse,” said Miller. “It was time to give it the recognition it deserves.”

According to Miller, there are more than 40,000 current lacrosse players in Maryland alone, and all but two of Maryland’s counties have high school leagues. Combine that with tens of thousands of fans and a rich history dating back to colonial days, and lacrosse, as the state team sport, seemed a no-brainer.

Most players and fans of the game agree that lacrosse has always been Maryland’s sport. Making it official took some time, however, because Senator Miller’s great-grandfather was an avid jouster, and Miller saw no reason to unseat jousting as the state sport.

But jousting, arguably, is not as popular in Maryland as lacrosse. Some believed its standing was misrepresenting the state.

“I don’t know anybody that jousts,” said lacrosse madman Wayne Gebelein of Huntingtown. “I think it’s [the bill signing] about 20 years past due.”

Gebelein, who played at Loyola College and for the Pittsburgh Bulls and the Washington Wave pro lacrosse teams, thinks that the move is good for the state.

“With the way lacrosse is growing, it was only matter of time before another state like New York — where lacrosse is big — would grab it,” said Gebelein.

Vicki Fretwell, spokeswoman for Miller, said she received many e-mails from Marylanders insisting that the bill be signed immediately before New York stole the game. Fretwell — whose son Michael is a lax goalie at Loyola College — helped research and push the bill to Miller.

“There was definitely some personal involvement and satisfaction with the senator’s decision,” said Fretwell. “It was the right thing to do.”

Right, too, is the timing. Maryland will be hosting the national lacrosse championships again this year at the Ravens’ stadium in Baltimore on Memorial Day Weekend. Last year, the three-day event brought nearly 100,000 people into Baltimore and an estimated $10 million boost to the city’s economy.

Those figures are expected to jump this year as four Maryland schools have made it into the men’s and women’s tournaments. John Hopkins University, Navy and Maryland have been seeded one, two and three in the men’s tourney.

While the economic benefits are evident, lacrosse as the state team sport is more about recognizing a large group of athletes who are passionate about a lifestyle.

“Lacrosse is a fraternity,” said Gebelein. “Once you play, you’re in for life.”

Whether or not the new law recognizing the state sport will boost membership into Maryland’s lax fraternity is hard to call. But one thing’s for certain: players and fans have cause to boast.

—Matthew Pugh

to the top

Way Downstream …

In Cecil County, workers at Conowingo Dam counted the millionth American shad passing through the dam’s lifts this season headed up the Susquehanna River to spawn — a record, the Cecil Whig reported last week. It was good news indeed given that several decades ago, as few as 50 shad would be counted by dam workers…

In Detroit, SUV manufacturers are worried mightily that people have stopped buying those muscled gas-loving behemoths due to soaring gas prices, Reuters reported. Several companies sweetened cash-back incentives after sales slumped in April, and American manufacturers are under heavy pressure from foreign companies making SUVs that are cheaper at the pump…

Our Creature Feature comes from the Sudan, where a little-known tragedy is showing once more the horrors of war. We’ve heard the sad stories about a new round of human suffering in Africa, but the United Nations also reports that Sudanese rebels have begun killing the world’s last 27 northern white rhinos in the Congo’s Garamba National Park along the border with the Sudan.

Seeking money from rhino horns and tusks, rebels were gunning down the nearly extinct rhinos and elephants last week with automatic weapons, a United Nations official said, adding that without outside intervention the wild rhinos could be extinct in a matter of months.

to the top

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated May 20, 2004 @ 12:47am.