Boondocking in Baltimore
Baltimore would be a test. This was the week that I was nervous about. I was not nervous about Michael's work, or the host. I was nervous about the Airstream. We knew that we could survive in campgrounds. We had learned how to fill the fresh water tank and use the water pump. We had new batteries. We had no idea how long we could survive given only those provisions.
Usually it is no problem to find a campground within a few miles of where Michael is working. There are a couple of camps this summer that are in major cities. I asked Michael to get permission to park on-site instead of having to deal with a commute, traffic, tolls, and sharing a vehicle. My goal was to spend the days out sight-seeing while Michael was working. We would try to limit the use of the trailer to night-time use only in hopes conserve on water and electricity. That was the plan, but it was untested. Baltimore would be the test. We hoped that it would go well because there are several other weeks like this on our schedule.
Right away, Michael confirmed that we would have the ability to plug in at the site. Great! We don't use a ton of electricity, but we can't run the A/C off our battery. If we could plug in, we could run the A/C - which turned out to be a huge advantage that week. All I had to worry about was water. When we have an unlimited supply at a campsite, we can go through a tank of water in about 18 hours. I was hoping to stretch that to 3 days. I could handle taking the Airstream to dump the tank and refill on Wednesday and then go another 3 days. We could limit showers, wash our laundry elsewhere, and use paper plates and hand sanitizer when possible.
It worked! We made it. The temperatures were in the 90s that week with rain many of the days, so it was a huge help to run the A/C to get rid of the stickiness in the air. (Not to mention having 110 power to charge our electronic devices.) Our host from Young Neighbors in Action invited us in for meals, so we had little need to do dishes. They even invited us to use their shower, but we were able to take short showers in the Airstream and make it through to Wednesday as planned. I used the last drop of water washing my hands on the way out in the morning. Perfect! (finding an easy dump station in Baltimore did not go so perfectly, but it's a long story - on to the fun)
The temptation of our RV life is that it is easy to fall into "vacation mode" everyday. We want to take advantage of seeing new areas, but we also need to have some down time as well. In Baltimore, we decided to forego the harbor pass for the Science Center, Aquarium, Children's Museum, & Zoo. Aside from the Aquarium, we have done similar things in St. Louis on a regular basis. We did take the chance to see the more historic sites.
On Monday I visited Fort McHenry with the kids. It was nice. GPS took me right there, the parking was free, and we entered just as the movie was starting. One adult ticket for me and all 6 of us got to tour the grounds. Gabriella and Trinity actually took some interest in the war and the writing of the Star-spangled Banner. MJ2 and the other girls enjoyed running freely and exploring the rooms of the Fort. We finished before the weather got hot and had time for lunch!
In the afternoon, we wanted to visit a public playground with a splash pad. I thought this would be a nice, easy afternoon. After circling the block a few times we finally spotted the splash feature, only to see that it was turned off. I rerouted the GPS to take me to a public swimming pool. Unfortunately, we arrived just behind 4 school buses. After assessing the situation I decided that it would be impossible for me to properly supervise the kids. I tried to calm them with a promise of ice cream and a movie, but meltdowns ensued. The next day we did make it to the pool. We had a fine time, but I will summarize by saying that the lifeguarding was less than desirable and that I was glad that I had made the choice to avoid it the day before.
On Wednesday, I took all the kids to the laundry mat. Our host was nice enough to recommend one in a safe neighborhood with a church playground right on the corner. This made the task manageable with all 5 kids in tow. I let the kids load the washers.The kids talked me into buying them real BUBBLE gum (as opposed to chewing gum). They spent the rest of the week practicing blowing bubbles. By the time the clothes were dry, I had them buckled into carseats ready to pull out. It was a good thing, since the dryers were so hot that I got a second degree burn! I was glad that it was me, not them.
On Friday, Michael was free to explore with us. We decided to tour the USS Constellation Ship and the USS Tursk Submarine. I was happy to have Michael with me as none of the parking garages had an 8 foot clearance that was needed for our van. We ended up having to walk quite a while. The kids made it through and enjoyed seeing the ships. This was definitely the tourist area of town. MJ2 spotted a "pirate" ship - which offered theater-style boat rides for kids. We stopped at McCormick to find out our taste profiles and then headed back toward the van.
Michael had eaten the day before at the Lexington Market. He claimed this was more of a "real" Baltimore instead of just the touristy attractions. Since Baltimore is such an old city, many things were known as the "oldest" of their kind. This market has been open since 1782. We started out our morning later than planned, so we were stumbling in for lunch closer to 2 PM. We were starving.
This was, indeed, a more "real" environment. We walked passed people laying on the sidewalk. We pushed our way through crowds of people who all seemed to be muttering curse words under their breath. We stumbled inside to a sea of food booths and other vendors. It was loud. It was crowded. It kind of smelled funny. Michael rushed the kids upstairs to a less crowded area and had them sit at a table. He sent me to gather some food. Our goal: fish tacos and crab cakes. (Afterall, it was Friday.)
We had already talked to the guy at the Mexican Delight he was more than friendly and grilled us some fresh fish tacos on the spot. I thought I would be able to grab crab cakes anywhere, but as I looked around, I saw none. Pizza, Deli, Pretzels, Stir-fry, Fried Chicken, etc. Finally I made it to the far corner past all the fresh fish markets and found a booth frying up all sorts of seafood. The worker was less than friendly. It was unclear where to order. She did not smile at anyone. The soda machine was broken, so the only choice of beverage was sweet tea or bud light. I ordered a sampler platter. She fried it on the spot and I made my way back to the table.
The food was delicious. Maybe it was because it was 2 PM and we had just walked a few miles, but even the kids ate the shrimp, crab legs, crab cakes, fries, & fish tacos (OK, I'm not gonna lie - we didn't share the fish tacos). Naptime was overdue. We managed to make it back to the Airstream without any meltdowns. Another good memory logged in the books!
Michael spends most of his days with fellow work-camp leaders and participants, so he does not get to do as much sight-seeing as we do. He does manage to have a bit of down-time, though. During his week at Baltimore, he wrote this song. It was inspired by the teens that week, the agencies they served, and the needs of those whom they were serving.