Lighthouses & Sunken Submarines: St. Mary’s County, Maryland

What is it about lighthouses that sparks such fascination? A romanticized notion of the lonely keeper of the flame. Perhaps it has something to do with a mix of quite heroism and tales of the sea. Then again it could just be all about the view.  I’ve set out on a quest to visit the lighthouses of Maryland to try and answer that question. 

Up first is a unique lighthouse with some hidden treasure you won’t find anywhere else. 

Piney Point LighthousePiney Point Lighthouse

Do you imagine a lighthouse as a towering presence standing watch at the water’s edge? Me too. In fact I’d always sort of thought there was a height requirement. Which when I stop to think about it makes no sense. As long as the view is unbroken, the job gets done.

The Piney Point lighthouse isn’t even the largest structure within the historic park in which it resides. It sands only thirty-three feet high.

“…and though she be but little she is fierce.” ~Hermina

Opened in 1836 the lighthouse stands watch over the Potomac River. In the course of its service (it was decommissioned in 1964 by the US Coastguard) the lighthouse and its adjacent quarters were occupied by twenty-one Keepers and their families. Four of those keepers were women.

Some of these women were spouses, trained in their husband’s profession out of necessity. Lighthouses tend to be placed in remote areas where assistance was often hours away. Wives served as backup keepers. Following a ship wreck, Mrs. Goeshy (wife of one of William Goeshy – Keeper in 1939) swam repeatedly out into the water to rescue victims. She may have actually been one of the Coast Guard’s first, famed rescue swimmers.

Who knew lighthouse keeping was a beacon for feminism? I sure didn’t.

I’d also no clue that there was a German U Boat sunk in the waters just off the coast from where the lighthouse sits century. That’s one of the amazing facts that had our entire family’s rapt attention when we toured the Piney Point Lighthouse, Museum and Historic Park with historian and former Park Ranger, April Havens.

One could say that U-1105, or the Black Panther, was one of the first-ever stealth submarines. Commissioned 1944 she was outfitted with a synthetic rubber skin over her hull. One of less than ten in her class U-1105 was turned over to the Allies after the war. The intention was to bring the Black Panther to the United States in order to study the unique radar/sonar blinding technology.  Ah, but the sea had plans of its own.

On day four of U-1105’s journey from England to the States, she was caught in a hurricane while surfaced. A section of the submarine was ripped away by the force of the storm causing it to near keel over. A portion of the synthetic skin lost to the sea. After what research that could be done was completed the sub was scuttled in the Potomac River in St. Mary’s County Maryland in 1949.

The Black Panther sunk 91 feet in 20 seconds on that day. The boat was quite literally lost, for decades. In June of 1985 divers rediscovered the wreckage. Today U-1150 stands as Maryland’s first historic shipwreck preserve.

These enthralling tales are just two of the many we learned from during our visit to the Piney Point Lighthouse.

Piney Point Lighthouse

Tips for visiting the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historical Park

Start at the Museum – There is surprisingly a lot of ground to cover here in the way of things to see and learn about. The main museum is self-guided with lots of vignettes to read through in a small space. They score bonus family travel points for having a small Kiddie Corner with activities for the littlest kiddos.  

Ask Questions – When you head out to the marine portion of the museum you’ll have a guide. These guides are experts with a passion for the history of Piney Point. Asking them questions makes the visit all the more an EDventure. Be sure to ask about the torpedoes! 

Bring a Picnic – The museum sits on a coveted water-front. All that gorgeous beach you pass on the way in with cute decor and colorful beach chairs is private property. Can’t stop for a snack there, but there are a dock, picnic tables and a small stretch of sandy beach at the museum.

Great for Kayaks – There is a public peer to launch your kayak from for free. The parking is free as well. The launch closes at sunset but if you let the staff know what your plans are they can make arraignments.

Hit the Gift Shop – Not only are there cute, crafty and even beautiful treasures to be found in the shop but spending your money here helps support the preservation efforts.

Sand Lot by Spike Gjerde

UPDATE: With the 2018 reopening of this hip spot in the sand off the Inner Harbor, Sand Lot by Spike Gjerde is reported to be upping their game with improved menu options and live music. We’ll report on the results soon. If you’ve been and want to share your thoughts and/or images, let us know. 

Is the coolest pop-up in Baltimore a home run or a ground out to second? We’re adding our review of Sand Lot by Spike Gjerde to the lineup so that you don’t miss it before it closes this season. 

I love Baltimore. There, I said it.  

History, art, sports, sailing, the food scene, there is just so much to dig about B’more.  J’dore! 

Sand Lot by local culinary heavy-hitter, Spike Gjerde,  is the hottest pop-up eatery in Baltimore this summer. Naturally, that meant we had to go check it out.

The name is an homage to the baseball history of the town that birthed The Great Bambino and the best damn sports flick ever – The Sand Lot!  

The Lot (venue)

Gaint Jenga, bocce ball courts, sidewalk chalk, beach chairs, strings of lights, hammocks, and SAND. The vibe is decidedly summer and certainly cool. 

From the shiny Airstream serving as the bar to the cargo container kitchens, the laid-back feel is fun and inviting. Hip menials, cocktails in hand,  toss cornhole bean bags. The high chair crew climbs through cargo nets waiting for their corn dog delivery and it works! 

The Lineup (menu) 

Don’t expect Woodberry Kitchen. The summer vibe extends to the menu which I can best describe as ballpark chic. While some dishes are certainly elevated it is still pretty much street food –  which I don’t mind but wasn’t expecting. 

Corndogs with Ranch – Strike

They weren’t impressive at all and serving them in a pool of ranch didn’t help. Even the 10-year-old was unimpressed… with a corndog! 

Pulled Pork Nachos – Walk-Off Double

The meat had a deep layer of flavor, owing no doubt to being smoked. The sauce was flavorful but not a huge wow. Combining the meaty favorite with crispy chips was a texture win.

Crab and Corn Fritters with Pepper Jam – Sacrifice Fly 

 Spike is well-known for keeping it local at all of his restaurants. Makes sense that crab would make the lineup at the lot. These fritters showcased very little of our iconic blue crab. Maybe understandably so since they were very small. The saving play here was an outstanding pepper jam that was the perfect pitch of sweet and spicy.

Smoked Meatballs – Home Run! 

OMG! Seriously, my mouth is watering at the mere mention. Mr. Gjerde, I’m not sure what you did to these but they are good enough to kick a vegetarian off the wagon.  

 

The Scorecard 

Food = Hit or miss but for the most part it is a solid Double 

Location = It isn’t the easiest place to find but I feel that sort of works in their favor. I’d say this is a 1 Run Single to Left. 

Atmosphere = Between the cool reclaimed vibe, the unique seating options and free activities (hello, bocce on the beach!) they get a Walk Off Homer. 

Family Friendly Score = Grand Slam! Pets welcome, lots of free activities, finger foods, and the best place to catch a Charm City Sunset, it’s a total win! 

Sand Lot Baltimore vs Pizza Delivery on a Friday Night – 10 to 0 

 

 

 

Ode to the Icelandic Hot Dog

Sometimes you eat something and magic happens. Yes, magic. No really, like full-on expecto patronum and junk. This sort of alchemical reaction can lead to uncontrollable drooling and really bad poetry, as is evidenced below in my ode to the Icelandic hot dog. 

Icelandic Hot Dogs

Sappy, savory, hand-held treat,

Iceland’s cheapest thing to eat. 

After fish that smelled so foul, 

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur makes the stomach growl.

Snuggly nestled underneath, 

saucy, salty, savory, sweet… toppings. 

At each baseball game and boardwalk jaunt,

my taste buds will you ever haunt. 

Pathetic prose aside, Iceland might actually make the world’s best hotdog. I say this as a connoisseur, a life-long devotee of ground meats stuffed into a casing. I might even suggest one venture to this amazing island simply to ensure the life-changing experience of these dogs. 

 

 

when the sky falls

Jennifer was in her thirties and married to her best friend, Lance. They had picked the perfect place among the towering trees and stunning sunsets of Washington State in which to build a life and raise their two beautiful girls. That life was busy, the girls were growing fast, their little family was strong and they had big plans.

Jennifer would be headed back to school soon to finish her degree in communications. Lance had a good job with the state and could cover the loss of her salary. He’d take care of dinners for the girls, help out with laundry, and make sure Jennifer had plenty of time to study for exams. They’d keep the weekends free for family time. That was all part of the plan. A blood clot was not.

When the sky falls from above your head, you don’t see it coming. Jennifer’s sky came crashing down the day that blood clot took Lance away from his family.

Jennifer never imagined a life without Lance. She never planned to be widowed in her thirties with 9 and 3-year-old daughters. After all, she was only in her thirties. She didn’t see this coming. How could she have? None of us could. The sky doesn’t warn us before it falls.

Jennifer now found herself with no job, two children to support and a life to rebuild. The benefits Lance’s job had provided would be running out all too quickly. She knew that going without health coverage may be an option for her, it certainly was not for her children.

Growing up in a small Washington state logging town of fewer than 4,000 people, Jennifer had seen families in need. But they were always other families, not hers. Families that struggled to make ends meet needed public assistance like Medicaid. She’d had a good job. They’d had a plan. This wasn’t part of it… until it was.

“The rural town I grew up in was economically depressed. I knew families who needed things like Medicaid,” Jennifer shared, “I’d seen the need but it had never been my family before this happened.”  

When Lance’s benefits ran out, Medicaid stepped in to fill the gaps for the girls. Medicaid helps countless families, cutting across all social, educational, and economic divides. It was the safety net that this family needed.

So much of our energy as parents go into building a life, giving our families all we can. How often do we pause to truly plan for the day when the sky might fall? After all, it could happen to any of us.

“Don’t be too proud to think this could never happen to you. I hope it never does, but know that jumping through any hoop you need to for your children is something you may one day have to do.” ~ Jennifer

Jennifer’s girls were on Medicaid for around two years, just until she got her footing again. Slowly, bit-by-bit, the sky floated back into place. Jennifer now works in the healthcare industry, a career choice shaped in part by her Medicaid story.

Ali, Jennifer and Lance’s oldest daughter, is now in her twenties and planning her wedding. Sidney, who was only 3 at the time that Lance passed away, is a bright and vibrant teenager currently mulling over her college choices having earned acceptance to three of her top choices already.  

Medicaid isn’t something that any of us wants to have a need for. Personally, now knowing that it is there should the sky fall, gives me a small amount of peace as a parent.

This story was written as part of a paid partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health. I was honored to be able to share the honesty and humanity in Jennifer’s story. I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about the many faces and stories of those for whom
Medicaid has been a lifeline.

Coney Island Nostalgia

coney island Home to the first enclosed amusement park in America, the famed Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,  and the site of countless American tales Coney Island, New York was once billed as “Heaven at the end of a subway ride.” After decades of neglect, this once vibrant seaside attraction has been given a major facelift, but has that caused it to lose its historical charm?

My first trip to Coney Island was almost two decades ago when my husband – a Brooklyn native who grew up blocks from the famous boardwalk— and I spent a quasi-honeymoon weekend eating Nathan’s, watching a guy hammer a nail into his nasal cavity and holding on for dear life in Deno’s Spook-A-Rama. For a kid from the California coast, this place was a dirty, gritty, run-down piece of nostalgia. You could almost see actual fleas in the Flea Market. It was every stereotype I’d imagined Brooklyn to be… and I loved it!

In the years since that first visit, many of the things that gave Coney Island its uniqueness have vanished. The Nickle Empire, a nickname it earned back in its heyday when visitors could enjoy a knish and rides for five-cents each, is quickly becoming a Jackson Hole. {try to get out of there without spending at least $20} Gone are the rickety stalls selling oddities and baubles, carnival games with chipped paint facades and character. In their place sparkle the glowing beacons of chain stores and restaurants.

Come to Coney Island, eat at Applebees?

My youngest daughter sitting in the same spot her dad loved growing up, but seeing a far different Coney Island
My youngest daughter sitting in the same spot her dad loved growing up, but seeing a far different Coney Island

As Goliath thrill rides designed by the same folks responsible for Six Flags crowd into the new Luna Park, I wonder how long the Cyclone has left {not that I’d actually ever get on the thing}. It’s not that the “new” Coney Island won’t be a wonderful place in its own right, but rather that with the gentrification of the area comes the end of an era.

Certainly, there must be enough chain restaurants to sustain the appetite of those who love an afternoon outing at Applebee’s, endless breadsticks and bottomless appetizers. As dubious as eating fresh oysters from a stand on the Brooklyn boardwalk may sound, I’d still rather give those a go when in Coney Island.

The thought of heading to Whalburgers for fries in the shadow of the Cyclone is simply bonkers. Then again most people in Brooklyn are Mets fans and might not have a problem with South Boston’s own serving them up meat on a bun. You Yankees fans should be ashamed.

It seems that progress is steaming along down Surf Avenue. Sigh

Coney Island Mermaid ParadeI suggest you go visit Coney Island now. Soon the only mermaids marching in the parade may be Disney princesses and not Drag Queens.

 

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