Record 70,000 walk across the bay, and most enjoy it


ANNAPOLIS -- Dan Daniels could think of better things to do yesterday than walking 4.3 miles across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. But his last-minute excuse failed him.

"He called the 800 number for the weather, hoping they'd say it would rain," said his wife, Coralie, as they limbered up for the 18th annual Bay Bridge Walk.

The Danielses were among the record 70,000 people who took advantage of a once-a-year chance to stroll across the Chesapeake Bay, said Thomas E. Freburger, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Mr. Freburger estimated that 67,000 people walked across the bridge and 3,000 people ran across it in an annual race. The crowd topped last year's combined estimate of 68,000.

Mr. Daniels, 52, of Annapolis, is more accustomed to watching the walkers from below. During past walks, he has glided under the bridge in a speedboat, but he sold the boat last year. At his wife's urging, he went along yesterday, although, really, fairways were on his mind.

"Truthfully, I'd rather be on the golf course," Mr. Daniels said while swinging his arms in a golf motion.

Mrs. Daniels said the walk signals the start of summer and brings state residents together.

"We have been in this area for 16 years, and we have never done this," she said. "I have a sense of Maryland and things that make Maryland go round. And this is one of the things that make Maryland go round."

Most walkers in the mid-morning wore shorts and T-shirts. Many strapped jackets and sweat shirts around their waists as they pushed against a stiff breeze and inhaled the fresh 70-degree air under a mostly sunny sky with dissipating clouds.

"This is enjoyment," remarked Willie Abdul-Khaliq, 41, of Annapolis, who was crossing the span for the third straight year. "You're outside in fresh air, and you're always meeting people."

That was a typical response from walkers yesterday. Most seemed to be in good spirits. They weren't even complaining about having to wait in long serpentine lines to board shuttle buses that took them to and from the bridge, with a stop at the Bayfest festival at Sandy Point State Park.

The MTA charged a $1 bus fare for the first time -- to help offset costs of the walk to the budget-strapped state.

Walkers ranged from youngsters such as 4-year-old Devin Rouzer of Queenstown to Arthur Richmond, 73, of Cadillac, Mich. Some pushed babies in strollers. They marched in a steady stream, though people did stop to gaze into the sailboat-dotted horizon, snap pictures, grab refreshments and wait in line for the portable toilets.

Mr. Richmond was visiting his daughter in Bowie when he heard about the walk. It was his first time traversing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. He has walked eight or nine times across the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge across the Mackinac Straits. He said the walks are comparable, except for the absence of an identifiable leader here. "In Michigan, the governor always leads the way," he said when told that Gov. William Donald Schaefer was not present yesterday.

Mr. Richmond said he would treasure yesterday's memory.

"You get to tell people you've walked the Chesapeake Bay Bridge," he said.

Isaiah Rouzer, 34, who was out with his his son, Devin, and daughter Sharvonne, 11, said the walk gave him a chance to see the Chesapeake from atop the bridge at a slower pace than the one he gets while driving to work in Baltimore from his home in Queenstown.

"I've always wanted to walk across here," Mr. Rouzer said. "I never had a chance to walk it before. There was always something to do. You get a chance to see boats that you ordinarily wouldn't. I think it's picturesque."

Tina Kreiner, 42, of Davidsonville has done the Bay Bridge Walk five times and calls it invigorating and exciting. But she's not content with walking across the bay anymore.

"I'd like to swim it," Mrs. Kreiner said. "It would be a challenge."

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