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The Trip to St. Michaels

People enjoy getting away from daily life. Sometimes they go on vacations, other times it can be one day excursions. One version of a one-day trip would be the humble bus trip. Though I’m sure various companies offer such trips, in our area Wolf’s Bus Tours is the major provider. Today we will embark on a trip to the little town of St. Michaels located on a peninsula in the state of Maryland.

The trip was planned in advance. My family had information about the trip, but I only became aware of the 6:00 AM leaving time the day before! With the bus terminal being located in York Springs, we needed to leave at 5:20 AM Thursday morning to arrive in time. They wanted passengers to be there a little bit early.

On August 26th, I got out of bed at 4:45, barely giving me time for my morning routine. At 5:20 we left, and Dad drove us to the bus terminal. When we arrived it was still dark, but I noticed that the buses were primarily green (two shades), and had a large picture of a wolf on them. The bus filled, and we were off. We actually left early! Being on a bus, we had other stops to make. Though the destination was Annapolis, Maryland where we were to meet a small cruise ship bound for St. Michaels, the bus actually took us north at first. Our first stop was in Carlisle at The Point at Carlisle Plaza which is a shopping center. An area in the back parking lot was designated as a bus stop for Wolf’s Bus Lines.

Some trivia for the reader is that The Point at Carlisle Plaza wasn’t always a shopping center. The site was a shopping mall (Carlisle Plaza Mall) back in the days when I was a child. The mall was anchored by a K-mart, JCPenney’s, and a Bonton. The mall had a few unique features compared to other malls in my area. It had a Sears Surplus which was a Sears store that sold extra and old merchandise. Through the nineteen eighties and until ninety-two, Sears sent Wishbooks which were one of two Christmas catalogs I’d look at every year. Don’t be fooled, as Sears might have had a great selection of toys in their wishbooks, they didn’t have many toys in their stores. Sears Surplus was different; they had toys. I remember buying a number of toys there. The mall also wasn’t flat. It had a series of steps and or ramps that mall goers would use after every couple of stores. The mall also contained a store with green lights, though its name seems to be lost to time. Back to the present, the shopping center is only a fraction of what the original mall had been, and even then, many stores have left the shopping center since its opening in the mid-nineteen nineties.

From the shopping center, the bus went to stops in Camp Hill, and to a stop in York in a parking lot of a hotel. Most of the riders picked up the bus at these two stops with twelve of them using the York stop. The bus hopped Interstate 83 and finally headed towards its destination. The bus had a guide, who part-way there, talked to us a little bit about Annapolis and most importantly St. Michaels.

She told us about the history of St. Michaels. The town was affected by the War of 1812. Being by the water, they could have had major problems from the British. They hung lanterns on trees, so that the British would fire at the trees instead of the town. They received the nickname of “The Town that Fooled the British.” Originally ship building was a major industry in the town. As it waned oyster fishing took over. We were told about their famed restaurant, “The Crab Claw” located by the dock.

We also learned about Annapolis. This city was laid out like a British town. It had two circles: one religious that contained the Puritan church, and one political which is made up of the governmental buildings. A statue depicting Alex Haley reading to three children stands in the city. Alex Haley wrote Roots. Also unfortunately being a port, Annapolis was a site of slave trade in the seventeen hundreds. Though not pleasant in nature, it’s simply part of the history of the town.

Annapolis was where we boarded the cruise ship that would take us to St. Michaels. Now, I’m not talking about a large cruise ship such as a vessel that a person would ride to tropical islands that contains a nice dining room, and individual staterooms. I’m referring to a small boat primarily used for entertainment, but that also can be used for travel. These vessels are vehicles featuring opportunities for socialization, and of course music. I’m not a fan of socialization or of loud music. If the music is some kind I don’t care for, its especially annoying.

Our boat was the Lady Sarah. Every rider received a ticket for a free nonalcoholic beverage from their bar. They had soda, water, and coffee. The bar also had alcoholic drinks, as well as snacks that had to be purchased. Upon boarding the boat, the rider could either climb steps to sit on an open deck, or go in a door to an inside air-conditioned room which had large round tables with padded seats, the bar, and the restrooms.

We sat outside on a bench at the aft, riding backwards, but with a great view. It was an overcast, steamy ninety degree day, though while the vessel was moving, there was a breeze blowing. I saw a number of sailboats, and jet skiers towards the beginning of the journey. Sea gulls flew overhead. On the way to St. Michaels, the trip was fairly pleasant, although it became long. I had a great view of the Bay Bridge from the water. We didn’t go underneath it, but we saw it from a different perspective in the distance. Though there was a little music before the boat started it actually was silenced for the trip over. Only the sound of the motor of the boat could be heard.

I spotted some large ships early on. These vessels were container ships. They contained cargo imported to the United States from other countries, and were bound for the port to get docked, and unloaded. I didn’t know what the ships were, and Dad explained to me about them. Container ships also transport exported goods.

Part way through, my mom and I went downstairs to redeem our free drink vouchers. Mom also bought me a bag of pretzels and herself a bag of goldfish crackers. At a few points on the ride, the water became choppy, and the ride bumpy. Dad recalled that when the water gets rough the best way to avoid getting sick is to be above on the boat, and look into the horizon. We were already on the upper deck, and I looked into the horizon during these parts, and did not get sick.

Around 12:30 we reached St. Michaels. The port was actually inside of St. Michael’s Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. To return to the boat without having to pay to get an admissions price to enter the museum, each rider was given a sticker to wear when entering the building. The museum itself was like a college campus in the sense that it was a large outdoor area with multiple buildings to be entered to see the artifacts.

We declined the chance to go to the popular The Crab Claw. Two tour buses of people were riding the cruise we were on, and part of the package of the other company was to have lunch at The Crab Claw. We deduced that it would be busy, and we’d be better off to go somewhere else to eat. Another important note is that we had to be back to the boat by 3:00 PM. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend.

We went to The Carpenter Street Saloon for lunch since I really wanted to have a beer. I thought we were going to a place with the city’s local beer, though most of their selection seemed to be major American brands like Budweiser and Yuengling. I’m a craft beer person, so I was underwhelmed with their selection on tap. They did have Guinness Stout in bottles, which is what I got. I enjoy stouts. For lunch we shared jerk shrimp tacos for an appetizer, and each ordered a broiled crab cake sandwich with onion rings. The food and beer were good, though pricey for what it was. I could have been served better at the brewery down the street, though we probably didn’t have time to walk down there anyway.

After lunch we went to a few gift shops. Though we didn’t buy anything the one store had framed maps. This is how I discovered that St. Michaels was not an island, but a peninsula. I’ve heard of the place before, but thought it must have been my imagination when I found out that it was a destination for a cruise which caused me to assume it must be an island. This fact made it seem to me like it must be an island. My original thought was correct after being confirmed by a map and a store clerk. It can be reached via car by driving down U.S. 50 to the town of Easton, and taking MD 33 the rest of the way.

Because of the time, we didn’t have much time to explore and stayed in the vicinity of the vessel. It didn’t feel like we had enough time to do the town justice. I did notice a lavender colored house that made me think of my maternal grandmother, as well as a friend. There also was a house clad with green siding. A couple of buildings were Colonial Style bed and breakfasts.

Way too soon, it was time to enter the museum again as it was almost time to board to head back to Annapolis. Mom also wanted to look in the gift shop the museum had. The thing we didn’t do was actually tour the whole museum. I did see an old river tug that was being restored. They expect it to be completed by 2023.

On the way back is where the trip started to get on my nerves. Annoying music was played on the vessel for the whole duration. It was hot that day, and we were sweated by then. We became tired of sitting. Though getting to port was a victory for me in terms of getting away from the music, we still had a long bus ride back. I felt that the break for supper was nice.

We had an opportunity to choose from four fast food restaurants: McDonalds, Hardees, Taco Bell and KFC. We chose KFC. We were the only people there, though their drive through was busy. It was nice to get away from the crowd. And of course, I love KFC!

Something interesting was people’s attitude about masks. At the beginning of the tour, most people were masked. As time passed, fewer and fewer people wore them. As a note, they were not required at the given time, though we were told that the regulations for them change from day to day.

The St. Michaels bus trip was a nice idea, but in reality, it had a few problems. The big one being that we were in transit more than we were on the peninsula. Between the bus ride and the cruise, we were traveling more than we were at our destination. Travel times could be cut by people traveling to York to board, but it still wouldn’t fix the incredibly long travel time compared to the time actually spent in the town. Having a structured lunch in town before being given time to explore the peninsula could help as long as it was figured into the time. Of course, receiving more time in town would also help mitigate that issue.

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