Friday, June 20, 2008
The summer before I entered seventh grade, my mother (the consummate organizer) and two of her friends decided to take their gang of six kids on various day trips throughout the hot months. The point was fun, of course, but we were also supposed to learn something. We went to Baltimore, Manassas, Chesapeake Beach and (what we all recall most vividly) Vera's White Sands restaurant in Lusby, where the pictures on the walls drove us to fits of laughter.
I realize now that those trips were not just about the kids. They were about the moms, too. Driving in the car to some random place solidified their friendships, which have lasted long beyond the day we got stuck in that rainstorm or the day we were spooked by the "ghost" of Edgar Allan Poe.
So this summer try something new, and break out of your regular routine with a day trip or two. My mother had only two rules for our day trips, and you should, too: Bring your sense of adventure, and always pack a bathing suit.
Bayfront Park, Chesapeake Beach
Throw a beach bucket, a few small plastic bags and a sand sifter (if you have one) in the car. Today, you are archaeologists!
Millions of years ago, Southern Maryland was underwater. That means that today fossils (mostly sharks' teeth) are waiting for you to find on the shores of Bayfront Park in Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County. Wade into the calm water, no farther than kid-knee deep, scoop up a couple handfuls of sand, put it in your sifter or bucket, and then look carefully.
Jeff Anderson of Falls Church was collecting fossils recently with his daughter Marie, 10. "You can find 50, 60 fossils in a day, if you're lucky," he says. The best time to go is after a rain when more of the fossils have washed ashore. You have to go during low tide to access the small beach. Check the tides at http:/
For adults looking to relax, this is much more of a day at the beach than your average drive across the Bay Bridge. The water gently laps on the shore. The breeze blows softly. No crowds. And you won't have to watch the kids' every move in the waves. (No waves here.)
Where is it? About 35 miles from the Beltway. From the Beltway, take Route 4 south to Route 260 south/east into Chesapeake Beach. Take a right onto Route 261 when you get to the water. Drive about a mile. At the bottom of the hill, there is a parking lot on your left. Park there, and walk the short paved path to the beach.
What's it cost? Free.
What now? In the 1920s, before the Bay Bridge and before the 1933 hurricane that took out Chesapeake Beach's boardwalk, which ran 350 feet into the bay and featured an amusement park, verandas and bathing houses, this was where beach-goers from Baltimore and Washington came. Today, it still has that beach vibe. Leave your fossil hunt to walk the boardwalk into town for lunch at the Boardwalk Cafe, where you can sit outside and have a burger ($9.99) or a crab cake sandwich ($17.99).
On your way out of town, drive down Route 261 to North Beach. Go right on Seventh Street to Bay Avenue and Sweet Sue's (9132 Bay Ave., North Beach) for dessert and coffee.
Mackintosh Fruit Farm
You know there are many kinds of apples out there, but did you know there are that many types of peaches, too? Pack a picnic for this day trip. You're heading to the Shenandoah Valley for fresh fruit and fresh air.