Owings Mills, MD
Miles Today: 0
Total Miles: 610
Days on the Road: 24
MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY
Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
This was how Ernest Shackleton advertised for crew to accompany him on Endurance to sail to Antarctica and attempt the first land crossing of the continent via the South Pole.
The 'Hon' Thing
Calling people "hon" is Baltimore's unofficial mantra -- made famous several years ago by a man who periodically tacks a handmade "Welcome to Baltimore, Hon" sign on the official city welcome sign on the Baltimore- Washington Parkway. (The state highway crews keep taking it down.)(source: The Washington Post)
The Land of Milkshakes and Hon
Our book "Roadfood" promised the uniformed-in-white waitresses would "know us as hon". It's on that promise that we drove to the Bel-Loc Diner in the outskirts of Baltimore for some greasy breakfast grub. Another unfulfilled promise -- we were known to our lovely waitress Vicky as mere "folks". Though she did say we were "fun to wait on", whatever that means. Other than the whole name mix-up, the place did fool us into believing we really were on a road trip, if only for a minute, and what a blissful minute it was. Silverware clinking, grills steaming, milk shaking - there's nothing quite like the bustling sound of a well-seasoned Diner. Then we returned to our borrowed minivan in the parking lot and the silly reality that we are, in fact, still only about 200 miles from where we started three weeks ago.
From the Bel-Loc we drove downtown to the Phoenix Shot Tower, which was used to make lead shot for all the local musket-loaders from 1828 to 1892. (It was also the tallest structure in the U.S. until the Washington Monument was built after the Civil War.) Apparently modeled after the process of falling raindrops, molten lead was dropped from a platform at the top of the tower through a sieve-like device and into a vat of cold water - surprisingly similar to a process used to make fiber optics cable nowadays. Go figure.
The tower's open by appointment only during the winter, so we just stood outside with our necks craned toward the sky, wondering how in the world they were able to build a 234-foot tower without any scaffolding. Again, go figure.Last stop was the Baltimore Science Center for the Imax movie Shackleton. It was there, at the concession booth, we met someone who recognized us as "hon". In fact, she recognized everyone within earshot as "hon", at least three times.
If ever our road trip hits some hard times, it won't be anywhere near the misery and struggle Shackleton and his crew faced during their ill-fated Antarctic expedition. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the movie curiously made no mention of why the 68 dogs featured during the beginning of the trip are out of the picture by the end. I'm again reassured that our decision to send Roo to an official cat sitter was indeed in his best interest. One just never knows what can happen on these odysseys, do one?
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.