You love the beach. You hate the drive: two and a half hours - assuming you don't get caught in weekend traffic - of cornfields and chicken farms, soybeans and cemeteries, bait shops and outlet malls.
Whether you are zigzagging your way to the beaches of Delaware via Route 404 or following the sweeping arc of U.S. 50 to Ocean City, you find yourself numbed by the sameness of it all, cursing the time it takes and wishing you were there.
Take it along on your next trip, as a guide and as a reminder - as you sit stalled in traffic - that life is not about reaching the destination, but enjoying the journey.
Why does it take so much longer to get to the beach than it does to get home?
It doesn't. It just seems that way. It's anticipation - basically the grown-up version of whining "how many miles?" from the back seat. Even though you're grown, you're still excited about getting there, and may be carrying a little work stress with you as well, and that makes the trip seem longer, especially the last 30 miles.
Really? I thought it was because I spent two hours backed up at the Bay Bridge.
Well, that can happen, especially on weekends. More than 300,000 cars crossed the bridge the last weekend in July, and half of those - the eastbound ones - were stopping, or slowing, to pay tolls. It can be a long wait.
Is the state doing anything about it?
A task force is studying alternatives. Meanwhile, there's E-Z Pass. That has helped. And there's the state's "Go Early, Stay Late" campaign, imploring beachgoers to visit other spots on the Eastern Shore on their way home, thereby avoiding the bridge at peak times.
What are peak times?
The Maryland Transportation Authority lists these as times to avoid: Thursday between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday between noon and 10 p.m., Saturday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m.
In other words, during waking hours?
Pretty much. The state also started a program last month called "Pace Your Space." To cut down on traffic-stalling collisions, hot-pink panels have been installed at regular intervals in the eastbound lane of the Bay Bridge. A pamphlet handed out at toll booths tells bridge-crossers to leave at least two panels between them and the car in front of them. It's too soon to tell whether the pilot program is working or how many rear-end collisions are caused by drivers reading the pamphlet.
Can we just put the Bay Bridge behind us and move on?
If I had $2.50 for every time I've said that ...
Hey, is it true people used to stop on their way to the beach to look at a tree?
Yes, but the Wye Oak was more than 460 years old and 96 feet tall, with a circumference of nearly 32 feet. Maryland bought the 29 acres around the largest white oak in the United States and created Wye Oak State Park, about a mile off U.S. 50. In June 2002, though, the tree was toppled in a thunderstorm. People still stop to look at where it stood.
What is that crop - not corn - growing in fields all along U.S. 50?