On the way back from DC to New York last week, I took the iPhone map’s advice and headed up Georgia Avenue into Silver Spring rather than cutting east along New York Avenue. And I hit so much traffic at the Beltway that rather than circling around that way, I continued up Colesville Road, thinking I’d cut east somewhere (Laurel? Columbia?) and back to the Parkway.
I didn’t stop in downtown Silver Spring, but I did drive through. I haven’t been to Silver Spring in more than a decade. Obviously downtown Silver Spring has tarted itself up nicely in that time, and in the best light, with its prettiest face to the camera, it now looks to compete with Bethesda for the role of queen of Montgomery County.
I kept expecting traffic to get lighter, but as I headed north further and further without any slackening, getting more and more off course, I lost heart, and decided I’d cut east anyway. And on the spur of the moment, I decided to bypass Baltimore entirely, and turned south on 97 toward Annapolis and the Eastern Shore route. You wouldn’t think it, but once you’re out of DC and moving, travel times via I-95 and via US 13 are roughly comparable, give or take half an hour, and the Eastern Shore route is more interesting.
Annapolis is always worth a stop, and so I stopped. When I lived in DC, I used to drive to Annapolis for a couple of hours just to escape. People who don’t know DC don’t realize that despite being along the “Eastern Seaboard,” the city itself is a zillion (well, like 2) hours from the beach, and heading to a little historic seaport city, with a boat dock and a maritime culture and the Naval Academy and so forth, is a nice little getaway. And so I made my rounds of the places I remember from past trips to Annapolis, like the City Dock Cafe (where I bought a new T-shirt to replace the ancient one that’s falling to pieces), and then got back on the road, heading over the Naval Academy Bridge and east to the Bay Bridge.
On the islands crossing over to the Eastern Shore, I remembered the place I used to stop for crab cakes, but I couldn’t think of its name, so I wondered if I’d find it. I did — it’s Holly’s, serving holidaymakers and locals since 1950 and still very much in business, and looking more or less the same as it did when I was last there in about 1997. I’m not a big crab eater in general, but when you go to the Eastern Shore, you sort of have to, and I did.
The drive up US 13 is so different from the turnpike, passing actual farmhouses and actual farms on a four-lane highway for most of the way, until you cut east through the most awful first-growth suburbia to Delaware Route 1 to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. I had Rdio playing and the time passed much more pleasantly than the turnpike drive does.
From the Delaware to New York, you’re back on the regular route — but now that I’ve tried 295 in place of the New Jersey Turnpike, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. If you can get almost all the way to New Brunswick on a regular Interstate highway, within easy reach of towns and diners and services, rather than in the hermetically sealed travel tube that is the Turnpike, why wouldn’t you?
All in all, with all the delays and all the stops, and a stop for coffee and a stop for crab cakes and a stop for gas (at a gas station in the middle of nowhere near the Maryland-Delaware line, where I was the only customer not on a ginormous motorcycle), and a stop for a milkshake at a New Jersey diner, it was still only a six-hour trip, and even via turnpike with no stops at all it’s hard to do in less than four and a half. So I think I’ll try this route again.
New Jersey photos: