We were up and out the door at 9 a.m. today, hoping that we missed the worst of the rush hour traffic. It was an easy 33 mile drive to Annapolis, but finding parking at the U.S. Naval Academy was a little tougher. The guards didn’t appreciate that we drove onto the base to ask where the parking lot was – we couldn’t find it! They didn’t tell us, just acted mad, took Dan’s driver’s license and one walked with us as we drove 50 feet around a little circle and back out again. So silly. It’s been open since 1845; you’d think they would have figured out how to treat lost visitors by now. Not a good start to our tour.
We found a spot on the street, but it was only good for two hours, so we weren’t sure how that was going to work with the tour. We walked onto the base without incident and found the visitors center. The next tour started at 11 a.m., so we looked around the tiny museum, watched the orientation video, and waited outside in the sunshine for our guide. Who was 15 minutes late. She hadn’t been able to find a parking place. How funny is that?
The tour itself wasn’t anything special, and I was wishing we hadn’t spent the $36. They say the fee goes toward the midshipmen, so at least we were helping someone. Our tour guide was wearing a “2017” hat, so I asked if she had a child there and she said her daughter was a sophomore. They live in the town of Annapolis, so it’s quite rare that she would get to attend there also. Her mom volunteers as a guide and was quite proud of her daughter. I asked her how the harassment was, and she replied that it was tough, but that’s just what they have to go through. (Really? That makes them better naval officers?)
Our guide walked us through the workout building, which also houses the swimming pool. There was a class swimming laps, then they got out and walked over to the high dive platforms. They had to jump about 20 feet, and you could tell that many of them were scared. They were people of all sizes and colors and I was happy to see it was almost half females. (If we can get those females into positions of power in the military, perhaps they can keep us from entering all these meaningless wars the old caucasian men get us into. Or maybe that’s just my dream.) Our guide said that before graduation they have to swim a mile, fully clothed, in under 20 minutes. With or without shoes?
Our next stop was the crypt of John Paul Jones, under the cathedral. It was a beautiful room, and the black and white marble crypt was spectacular. He’s been a hero here at the Naval Academy since 1775 because he was instrumental in helping us win the Revolutionary War. His remains had been buried in France, then he was interred here and this area was dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt. There’s much more meaning to it than that; you can look it up online!
Dan left to go move the car, but I don’t think he was sad to be leaving. (Once again, our expectations were too high!) Our tour group headed into the huge hall that serves as a an indoor gym, dance floor, and hang out area. I had been to a dance here 30+ years ago, and the kids were thrilled to hear about it. Back then, the midshipmen were in full dress uniforms, and they looked very nice. I had fun with Tom Bailey, an old friend from my neighborhood, and we laughed that our moms were making us do this. We danced until late, then we visiting dates were escorted back to our housing, ours provided by a local widow. We would have stayed out all night, but it wasn’t allowed.
We were walking outside, on our way somewhere else, when the guide noticed the midshipmen lining up in formation for lunch. Evidently this happens for every meal and is meant to instill discipline, foster camaraderie with their fellow cadets, and is an efficient way to get over 4,526 underclassmen to meals. It was fun to see, and the perfect opportunity for us to beg off the rest of the tour and go find Dan. I’d have to tell the kids the naval history later. Neither one was impressed with the idea of going to school here, anyway.
We were hoping to have a picnic, but after driving around Annapolis for 15 minutes and not finding one parking place near a park, we headed up the road to the Baltimore Inner Harbor. It was only 26 miles, and the traffic moved along steadily. There was a science museum I had read about right on the water, and I wanted the kids to see the Inner Harbor itself. We ate a quick sandwich, then headed into the museum. We started in the dinosaur area, which was a little weak after the D.C. Smithsonian, and Nate passed out of his dinosaur phase 10 years ago. We headed to the top floor and had more fun. There was a whole exhibit about electricity, solar energy, and a stress test. Nate and I didn’t do as well as Dan and Eliza at this test; I’m certain it was reading our energy levels wrong. We played all the games, took all the tests, and had the computer measure us. Which set off a whole round of “I’m taller than you, Eliza” from Nate. He’s so excited to be 1/8″ taller now! He’s grown almost 6 inches on this trip.
The next excellent exhibit was all about the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to Dad’s suggestion, I am reading James Michener’s book of the same name, so the whole area was full of light bulb moments for me, which I annoyingly shared with my family. It was great to see a blue crab up close, but sad to read about all the pollution in the bay that threatens them. Over fishing also plays a role, and the states that border they bay are trying to get a handle on both problems. I read that you could start blue crabs at home and then bring them to the scientists and they place them on the man made reefs, but everyone else vetoed the idea of doing so in the rig. It would have been so easy, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have smelled that bad.
It was a sunny day, almost 80 degrees, and we’d had enough of being inside at this point, so we wandered out to the Inner Harbor area. It was a little crowded, but fun to see everyone out and about. There was plenty of shopping, but the kids and I limited ourselves to “It’s Sugar.” We had seen one earlier on the trip and hadn’t had time to stop, so this was our chance. To get sick on sugar. Oh, excuse me, to buy treats. The most expensive treats ever. $17 for three little bags! We shared with Dan as we walked all the way around the harbor, then headed back to the car. It had been an interesting day, but we were ready to head back to the pool.