It's amazing how a few years of separation can inspire a whole new outlook on things previously unnoticed. Having grown up in Annapolis, Maryland, I was aware of the region's deep historic roots. But, like most teenagers, my coming of age concerns centered on girls, parties, and bikes. The Eastern Shore was that place across the bay you had to ride through to get to Ocean City and the beach for the girls, parties, and bikes.
My, how things have changed in the 15 years I've been absent from my old stomping grounds. One irreplaceable woman, Kathy, my wife, has replaced all of the "girls." The parties are family functions and, on this day, the bike is a scooter. I can't help chuckling as I motor across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the ultra-comfy Piaggio X-9. This is probably the first time I've crossed the bay when scenery, not the promise of a kegger in a trashed motel room, is on the agenda.
The morning begins in Annapolis on a rather dreary note. Low clouds and damp, chilly breezes conspire to make my Eastern Shore expedition a bust. Added to that, the annual powerboat show has invaded the downtown area and the normally scenic city's dock area looks more like an expensive euro-car convention that's being crashed by a band of marauding beer trucks. This is not my Annapolis and I certainly discourage you from making it yours. I'm outta here.
As I head east on Route 50, I keep reminding myself that the weather on each side of the bay is not always the same. In the meantime, I'm happy to be behind the ample windscreen of the Piaggio. Halfway across the 4.3-mile-long Bay Bridge, the skies suddenly begin clearing, the sun pops out, and the temperature makes an impressive recovery. Things are looking up.
The urban sprawl plaguing the Annapolis area has not been stopped by the Chesapeake Bay. Although a formidable obstacle, it's been but a minor inconvenience to the tentacles of progress that have crept into the Eastern Shore. Chain stores, outlets, and strip malls have come to occupy this once lonely stretch of freeway. In search of the "real" Shore, I peel off onto Route 662 and leave the Ocean City-or-bust crowds to their own speedy devices.
In the blink of an eye, the incessant blur of SUVs hung with bicycles and coolers and doing 90 mph is replaced with delicious solitude. This winding ribbon of pavement is the perfect elixir to melt away the past two days of tension-filled, elbow-to-elbow, DC-area traffic. Out here, the X-9 and I are the traffic. Not too long after being sprung from the Route 50 maelstrom, we ease into the historic community of Wye Mills where the Wye Grist Mill stands as a defiant reminder of days gone by.