Riding the wave of O.C. obstacles

Getting There

May 23, 2004|By Larry Bingham | Larry Bingham,Sun Staff

If you're thinking about Ocean City as a destination, you're thinking about this trip all wrong. The smart traveler, the traveler who sat and sat -- and sat -- in traffic last summer, knows to think of Ocean City not as a destination, but as a journey. For every obstacle you encounter while getting there, you should think opportunity.

Let us offer a few ideas to jump-start your new way of thinking:

Obstacle: The Bay Bridge

U.S. 50 leads to a precious few lanes over the mighty Chesapeake Bay. But try crossing between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., the peak hours, on a weekend and it's enough to make you want to jump and swim.

The Maryland Transportation Authority says an average 92,000 vehicles cross the bridge any Saturday or Sunday in June, July and August. To avoid the crawl, travel at off hours or consider an E-Z Pass for $25. That will get you out of the toll plaza line sooner and shoot you through the far left lane designated for E-Z Pass customers only. The $2.50 toll is deducted automatically and your account won't expire until the money is gone. For more information, go to www.ezpassmd.com.

Opportunity: Kent Narrows

As a reward for making it over the bridge, take Exit 42 and stop at Kent Narrows. Going early? Consider Anglers Restaurant & Marina for breakfast (3015 South Kent Narrows, Grasonville, 410-827-6717). Sunday check-in? Try brunch at Annie's Paramount Steak & Seafood House (500 Kent Narrows Way North, Grasonville, 410-827-7103). After 11 a.m., go to Harris Crab House (Route 50, Kent Narrows Way, Grasonville, 410-827-9500). Sit outside overlooking the draw bridge or climb to the open-air dining room where oyster-can memorabilia plasters the walls. Let the waves ease your muscles, let the seagulls prepare you for the beach, let steamed crabs and something tall and frosty -- perhaps a root beer -- fortify you for the rest of the journey.

Obstacle: Red lights

Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

There may be nothing more frustrating about the drive than all the red lights in Easton and Cambridge. Doesn't it seem like there are 542 red lights in that stretch between Queenstown and Vienna?

And you thought you were leaving the headaches of city driving behind.

Opportunity: Coffee break

If you make it to Easton, virtually halfway, think of the red lights as an excuse to stop and see the sights. Just when you can't take another light, turn right onto Goldsborough Street or Dover Road and venture into downtown. Start at the Talbot County Visitors Center at 11 S. Harrison St. (open 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturdays, 410-770-8000). Pick up a map and mill around the quaint shops. There are a couple of nifty coffee shops but if caffeine is the last thing you need, treat yourself to ice cream.

Obstacle: Restrooms

U.S. 50 is home to wonderful views -- marshlands and rivers, cornfields and silos -- but seldom do you see a clean public restroom. And if you've seen one fast-food restroom on a busy summer Saturday, you've seen one too many.

Opportunity: Visitors Center

The best public restrooms are at visitors centers. The first is the Chesapeake Exploration Center on Kent Narrows. (Take Exit 41 and follow signs to 425 Piney Narrows Road, Chester.) The second is on the right after you cross the Choptank River and enter Cambridge. (Take the first right-hand turn after you cross the bridge.) Not only are the restrooms nice at the Dorchester County Visitors Center at Sailwinds Park, but there's a path along the water to take a stroll and a playground to let the kids kick something other than the back of your seat.

Obstacle: Car Fatigue

Three hours sitting in a moving vehicle is hard on the back, the legs and the gluteus maximus. No matter how much you love your loved ones, there's nothing like being confined with a week's worth of belongings. Do the words "He started it" ring any bells?

Opportunity: Wide-Open Spaces

You can't check in until the late afternoon so you might as well make a day of it on the Eastern Shore. If you want to get away from the traffic, turn right onto Route 16 West in Cambridge and go to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. (Call 410-228-2677, or visit blackwater.fws.gov for more information.) Bring the bikes or hike the trails among the marshes and soak in the wide-open spaces.

You'll be in Ocean City soon enough, waiting in line to check in, waiting in line at the Bonfire buffet, waiting in line to make a U-turn on Coastal Highway.

Think how much happier you'll be that you took your time getting there.

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