Gateways are special places. They are more than simple passages from one place to another, more than any physical boundary, and far more than the limitations of man-made borders. Gateways are portals that go beyond physical dimensions. They defy precise definition. A gateway, no matter in which direction one may be going, leads to something different than what’s been left behind. Gateways tend to open up even more special places.
The Eastern Shore of Maryland is a special place, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, plus the twenty or so miles of Eastern Shore at its foot, are the gateways.
If you need proof, ask the commuter after a long day of grappling with the demands and complexities of the commercial and governmental entities saturating the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis metropolitan corridor, referred to around here, with aversive distaste if not outright hostility and recoil, as “The Other Side.”
Ask the resorts-bound vacationer willing to sit in, to wait out; to make the best of, the worst Friday afternoon summertime traffic jam just to take their turn unwinding when they finally get here.
Ask anybody from here who has crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to return home from extended travel, a hospital stay, or from being deployed.
Gateways take, or return, a person to another place.
I asked my friends and family what heading east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge means to them.
“A sense of calm,” they replied. “A sigh of relief.”
“I relax. The tension leaves my body. I can exhale.”
“I can feel my blood pressure go down.”
“It’s like taking Valium,” said my old high school buddy, Jimmy Ferrier.
Another longtime friend, Wendy Tryon told me, “I’ve gotten two speeding tickets approaching the bridge, and when (authorities) asked why I was speeding, I answered, to get to my side. To get home.”
Every time I cross the bridge,” Karen Dietz Boyer said, “and get back to Kent Island, I say out loud, aahhhh back on my side of the world! (The two sides of the bay) really are like two different worlds.”
Crossing the bridge can be emotional. “I was in John’s Hopkins Hospital several years ago for almost two months, for cancer treatments and a stem cell bone marrow transplant,” said Rhonda Jewell, whom I’ve been friends with since kindergarten or first grade. “I did not know if I would ever see the Eastern Shore again! When my husband was finally able to bring me home, upon approaching mid-center of the Bay Bridge, the sun was shining bright across the water and all kinds of boats were out there, it was so beautiful, it felt like Heaven… All I could do was cry!”
Tears of joy and relief are an oft-repeated reaction to crossing the Chesapeake Bay.
Tears that often spring from the solace of a homecoming.
“It’s the old bridge (original 1952 span) that I love,” said Cathy Kramer. “It symbolizes coming home.”
“It means going home,” said Sheila Stairs. “Some days I roll down my window and just smell the difference in the air…….getting to the bridge from (Annapolis) almost always is a hassle and sometimes stressful, but as soon as my front wheels hit the bridge and the western shore is in my rearview mirror, I know I’m almost home.”
“Calm, peaceful home,” echoed John Caputo.
When Kim and Keith Parkerson’s daughter Danielle was born, she spent her first four months in a Baltimore hospital. Kim remembers how “every day, driving back and forth, some days in ice or snow, I would white knuckle it until I got to Kent Island! Then I would sigh, smile, and say I am home! ”
“(My husband and I) traveled across this beautiful country for 101 days, visiting 12 national parks” said Claudia Jewell. “And this is still the most amazing place to live. We may wander but this is always home.”
“When I lived in Virginia I’d cry every time I got to the bridge,” said Sandy Gray Austin. “I bought the Motley Crew CD just so I could blast Home Sweet Home every time. Oh,” she told me with a deep sense of time and place, “the smell of the saltwater and the cool air was breathtaking.”
Kim Puckett had a similar experience, but one prolonged over years. “When I moved back to Maryland after being gone two decades,” she said, “I crossed that bridge and felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. I exhaled and said to myself…home…I’m finally home.”
“I had one experience that sums up how I feel about crossing the bridge almost every day for the last 38 years,” said Denise Deely Stewart, expressing the almost magical effect the Bay Bridge and the Eastern Shore can have on people. “As I approached the bridge from Annapolis the sky was real dark, almost eerie. Then the hail started. After passing the Queen Anne’s County marker the sky lightened up. And when I was almost off the bridge the sun was shining and there was a beautiful double rainbow.”
Gateways take, or return, a person to another place.
Welcome to the Gateway of the Eastern Shore.
We don’t call it The Land of Pleasant Living for nothing.
Books by Brent Lewis are available on Amazon.com
Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake and A History of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department published by Arcadia Publishing & The History Press:
We were just there a couple of weeks ago. It was so beautiful there.
It is a lovely place- with lots of good food!
Yep. There sure was! 🙂
What a neat piece! 🙂 And those are lovely photos.