Bay Reflection

Vol. 8, No. 18
May 4-10, 2000
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Feet, Don’t Fail Me

If the 26th Annual Bay Bridge Walk is like the 25th, you’ll be doing a bit more walking than 4.3 miles …

by M.L. Faunce

Crab pots pepper the water far below and the big blue sky seems close enough to touch when you’re striding over the big Bay Bridge.

Of course every journey begins with a single step. On this journey, you take that step at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, where walkers stand in a serpentine line that adds a not-inconsiderable distance to the 4.3-mile length of the span across the Chesapeake Bay.

From the stadium, you’ll eventually be ferried to the bridge and across to the Eastern Shore starting point by buses flashing digital messages: “Maryland You are Beautiful” and “Bridge Walk.” But it can take a couple of hours before you climb aboard. First, you’ve got a long, slow serpentine warm-up in the huge parking lot.

“If you have the patience to go through this,” said ’99 walker Charles Jackson of Temple Hills, “you can enjoy the walk.” As he has every Bridge Walk since 1982, when, Jackson said, the Blue Angels entertained.

The seemingly endless line makes for plenty of quality time getting to know your neighbors. New-found friends exchange notes on children, the cost of education, investments, personal philosophies, places to go, even medical treatments. Many pick up tips for next year’s walk, like bringing a flag so members of their group can find their way back in line when they return from standing in another line — for port-a-potties.

“Why are you walking” everybody wants to know. It’s the second most popular question, following “have you walked before?”

Jackson’s walking partner, Theresa Blackburn of Mitchellville — a fifth timer dressed in a crisp, emerald green wind suit — gave her reason as “something to do.” Both also “do it for the exercise.”

1999 walkers Dennis and Mary Rose Grinestaff of Baltimore “wanted to do the walk for years, but something always came up.” This was their year, though they’d only learned last year’s walk date at a shrimp feast the night before and were walking on “only a few hours sleep.”

When you finally get on the bus, you’re in for a treat. Crossing to the Eastern Shore to begin your walk, the view from the bus of thousands of walkers is a marvel. Your excitement is fueled by knowing that soon, you, too, will be out there, walking high over the Bay.

But even when you get to the other side, you’ll have to run a gauntlet of vendors selling hot dogs, crab cakes and funnel cakes.

Finally, the real Bay Bridge Walk begins. Babies and grandparents, teenagers and toddlers join moms and dads in a high-minded sea of humanity rolling along the bridge deck, 186 feet above the Chesapeake Bay. Pods of fishing boats and sailboats bob in the water below. A gunshot piercing this peaceful all-Maryland Sunday is only the start of a sailboat race below.

Dressed in tank tops and Polartec, earmuffs and sandals, pushing strollers or pulling red Radio Flyer wagons piled with kids, the sea of walkers rolls on. Some roll along to the finish line with the help of canes and wheelchairs. All wear smiles a mile wide — though they might be thinking “feet — bridge — don’t fail me now.” All walk away with a certificate signed by Gov. Parris Glendening.

Then it’s back in line for the buses back to the stadium. But the line moves swiftly, thanks to efficient MTA bus drivers who have also had a long day.

In the new millennium as in the old, the day to walk is the first Sunday in May.

Begin early to finish in time for Bay Weekly’s noon-5pm Birthday Bash. Find your invitation inside.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly