Sunday, July 4, 2010

Enjoying the Eastern Shore: Cambridge, Oxford, and Easton, MD

Tuesday, June 29 - Thursday, July 8, 2010
Talk about slowing down the pace! We've decided to spend a couple of weeks exploring the towns and creeks off the Choptank River on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake. After averaging 30- to 50-mile trips, we're looking at an average of 7 miles per trip: 7 miles between San Domingo Creek and Oxford, 7 miles from Oxford to Cambridge, and 7 miles from Oxford to Easton. We figured we'd tackle our longest trip first: San Domingo Creek to Cambridge, for about 15 miles anchorage to anchorage. To be fair, we were told not to expect much in Cambridge - the town hasn't gone through the revitalization efforts that other historical towns in the area have. Still, we knew it had a good bus system to groceries, Walmart, hardware stores, etc., plus a laundromat in town. (Yes, we boaters do have our priorities...) We left San Domingo Creek with dark clouds behind us; said it would be 4pm before the storm would hit us. In reality, it was closer to 2pm when a town 10 miles to the north was put under a severe thunderstorm warning: 50+ knot winds, damaging hail, lightning..."all boaters should be in a safe harbor, and anyone in a building should seek an interior room." GREAT. We were still 45 minutes out of Cambridge! We gunned the engine to 6kts as commercial fishermen and motorboats went zooming past us at 20, looking at us like we were crazy to be out in this stuff. The waves started getting pretty rough, and the wind gusted to 40kts as we made the turn into the Cambridge jetties. We managed to get into the well-protected harbor (more like a turning basin) in front of the county building and Snapper's Waterfront Cafe. It was a relief to be out of the wind and waves, and incredibly, the thunderstorms managed to pass north of us. Spared again!

The next morning we dinghied to the wall of the county building ("dock at your own risk") and walked five blocks to the nearest bus stop. The bus took us out of downtown to the shopping area, where we took advantage of the local Walmart, Food Lion, Dollar Store, and ACE Hardware. We were loaded down with shopping bags by the time we caught the bus back to the boat, and our shuttle driver was kind enough to drop us off near the dinghy. As it turns out, the drivers aren't too worried about "official" stops; if you see a bus, flag it down and it'll likely stop for you.

Such a productive day deserved an adult beverage, so we dinghied over to Snapper's...situated all of 100 yards from the boat. The beer was cold and the TVs showed everything from the weather channel to golf to the cooking channel. Seeing the Paula Dean show for the first time was quite an experience: just how much butter does that woman put in her dishes? We need to get a cookbook! After another quiet night on the boat, we spent the morning doing laundry and walking through downtown. Our sources were right - Cambridge certainly isn't St. Michaels. It was interesting to see the old buildings and their original storefronts, but it seemed like 75% of the places were empty and the other 25% were struggling.

Next on the agenda was some on-the-hook time in La Trappe Creek. We had a cold front coming our way (mid-70s instead of mid-90s) and we were taking advantage of it to do some overdue boat projects. Rene changed the oil and the impeller on the generator while Stacy scrubbed the dinghy and re-organized the galley, and we even managed to get the kayaks in the water to explore the creek. La Trappe Creek has some beautiful old homes (some once occupied by Maryland governors), and it's a gorgeous area. We ended up staying for four days and left only because we wanted to see the fireworks in Oxford Saturday night...

...Which brings us to Oxford. What can we say about Oxford? Well, it's a lovely place with historic homes and manicured gardens...and not much else. Talk about a sleepy town! As one visitor told us, not much happens here, and that's just the way the locals like it. The guidebook mentions (warns?) that "this place isn't much different than it was in the 1950s." No kidding! The main street has a museum, a small grocery store, a bookstore, a waterfront park, and a few B&Bs. If you want to shop or get a good meal, go elsewhere. Now what Oxford does have is some amazing homemade ice cream. We'd met a couple on another Catalina Morgan 440 in the harbor who recommended we try the Scottish Highland Creamery, and boy were they right. We even got a scoop of their "4th of July", a mascarpone-flavored ice cream swirled with blueberry pie filling and raspberry preserves. They only make three batches a year, and our taste buds felt honored! and watched a World Cup game at Schooner's Landing. Fortunately the real reason for our visit didn't disappoint: Oxford put on an awesome fireworks display from a barge in the middle of the Tred Avon river. We were anchored with 100 other boats and got to watch the celebration from the bow of our boat. It was like shooting off fireworks in your living room...priceless!

Sunday we slowly made our way towards Easton, with a stopover in Peachblossom Creek. Peachblossom Creek is four miles north of Oxford, and its claim to fame is that it's where the Eastern Shore's first peach trees grew in colonial days. (Per our Dozier guide, "Maryland was the country's largest peach producer until a devastating blight killed the trees.") We may not have seen any peach trees, but we saw some incredible - and incredibly HUGE - homes. We kayaked throughout the creek admiring the huge estates before leaving the next morning for anchorage #2, Dixon Creek. FYI...Dixon Creek is a mile from Easton; since the channel to Easton is narrow and quite shallow at the edges, we weren't sure whether we'd have enough depth or anchoring room off Easton proper. It seemed safer to anchor in Dixon and dinghy a mile to the boat ramp and dock. From there, it was a half-mile bike ride into historic downtown Easton, or a 1-1.5 mile ride to shopping and groceries. Granted, a half-mile doesn't seem like it's worth the trouble to dinghy the bikes into town, but we're in the middle of a 3-day heat wave. After being spoiled by a cold front in La Trappe Creek, Easton temps are 99 degrees with a heat index of 105. At least a bike ride gives you some kind of a breeze! Our friends warned us about the summer in the Chesapeake when they tried to convince us to go to Long Island Sound, but it doesn't look like they're escaping this any more than we are. The weather gurus say it should be closer to 90 later this week, and may even dip into the high-80s. It's pretty sad when that sounds like a massive improvement!

And now for the really important news: the Netherlands have made it to the World Cup final!!! Rene couldn't believe that they beat Brazil, who'd been ranked #1. We hadn't been able to watch the Netherlands-Brazil game, but there was no way we were going to miss the Netherlands-Uruguay game! We found a pub in Easton that showed the game on Tuesday. Rene bought a bright orange shirt to show his support, and that must've helped. They beat Uruguay 3-2, which means they're in the final. We've even adjusted our D.C. schedule to make sure we can watch the game; we were supposed to be en route to D.C. on Sunday, but now we'll stay in Solomons to watch the game. On the plus side, the delay has allowed us to stay in and around Easton for a couple of extra days. We were able to watch the Germany-Spain match to see who the Netherlands would have to play in the final (Spain), and got an extra day for boat projects in Tripp Creek (north of Oxford). We should be in Solomons by Friday, and will hopefully leave for our jaunt up the Potomac on Monday. GO HOLLAND!!!!!!!!

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