Summer is almost here. For those of us from or near the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore who plan on maybe still sticking a little closer to home this year, we’re presented with the challenge of keeping things interesting and new while remaining within the boundaries of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Secrets of the Eastern Shore, a website and series of books aiming to “help people explore, appreciate and celebrate the Delmarva peninsula” will help solve that problem. Operated by writer Jim Duffy, one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, and his lovely and talented photographer-graphic designer wife Jill Jasuta, Secrets of the Eastern Shore wants you to make the most of your precious time here, be it a weekend or your whole life.
Or even just from your favorite space to read.
With origins in postings on their website, Jim’s original plans for a book transformed from a small collection about the region’s tried and true destinations into a bolder territory of exploring the joys and possibilities of off-the-beaten-path detours and discoveries that Jim calls “odd little stories and side trips and historical snippets.”
The first of the Secrets of the Eastern Shore books, Eastern Shore Road Trips #1: 27 One-Day Adventures on Delmarva, features 27 excursions “along the back roads, into the quaint towns, and out to the sweetest scenes on the Eastern Shore and in Delaware.” Classic time-tested tour ideas – lighthouses, Skipjack boats, and vineyards – are here, as are such must-visits as the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels and Dorchester County’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, but there’s a sense of quirkiness-to-come that permeates even the more straightforward sections of Road Trips #1. From Backroads and Small Towns to Beaches, Museums, and The Great Outdoors, the chapters here are the perfect place to start learning, from any perspective, more about our beloved Eastern Shore. Recently updated for the 2020s including two bonus trips and maps, with Eastern Shore Road Trips you’ll no doubt gain a fresh sense for what makes this place, as Jim puts it, “an American treasure of the first order.”
Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures on Delmarva is where the reader/road tripper expands out from the more established regional destinations and forays even deeper into both mainstream and oddball Easton Shore culture. Mixing travel itineraries and insider tips with fascinating tales of days gone by, notable events, and the exceptional personalities who helped shape our history, Road Trips #2 will take you from Kent Island to Ocean City and from the Lower Shore of Virginia to the upper reaches of the Chesapeake with stops in between. Excursions include the Caroline County Countryside, Chesapeake City’s C&D Canal, and the iconic Crumpton Auction. A Baseball Greatness tour and a shipwreck tour are among the specific routes offered up as potential ways to spend a day getting out of a summertime rut.
With Tubman Travels: 32 Underground Railroad Journeys on Delmarva, Jim Duffy was inspired by the heroic true-life stories of the Underground Railroad and “the lives of men and women who set out against all odds in search of freedom from slavery.” In this indispensable book for the historically driven modern day tourist, Secrets of the Eastern Shore not only puts the reader in touch with the most famous of the region’s escaped slaves, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, but also an array of lesser-known figures “whose journeys out of bondage speak volumes about the timeless themes of courage, love, family, and faith.” The 19th century-based journeys laid out in this book begin on the Choptank River and “wander along scenic backroads leading through history-laden towns such as Easton, St. Michaels, Denton, Chestertown, Centreville, Bucktown, Madison, Galena, and Chesapeake City. Crossing into Delaware, the journeys continue through Dover, Middletown, Seaford, New Castle, and Wilmington.” Of all the Underground Railroad books out there, Tubman Travels: 32 Underground Railroad Journeys on Delmarva, presents a practical educational Living History benefit that few others can offer.
In his newest book, You Wouldn’t Believe: 44 Strange and Wonderous Delmarva Tales, Jim entertains and informs readers with accounts of some of the wild events and eccentrics populating Delmarva’s long, colorful history. Full of humor and snappy storytelling, You Wouldn’t Believe is a compelling collection of fact and fable that the writer has stumbled upon during his deep-dive explorations into all things Eastern Shore, and from which even the most knowledgeable of trained historians and amateur folklorists will be sure to find something they’d never heard of before. Developed after stumbling onto the story of the “Del-Mar-Va Bandit”, a recidivist petty criminal and habitual Houdini-level escapee from jails up and down the Shore, this installment of the Secrets of the Eastern Shore books includes chapters dedicated to Critters, Crimes, and Characters, as well as Folklore, Weather, and business Booms and Busts. Personal favorites from You Wouldn’t Believe include the stories of Hurvey Mezick, Fruitland’s Accidental Auctioneer and The Great Delmarva Deep Freeze of 1977. A ‘Degenerate’ on Bolingbrook Creek is about the years the movie star Robert Mitchum and his family lived on the Shore, a topic I have written about myself over the years, including in my most recent book. Jim’s telling of all his tales is insightful and sharp, and he always finds the light even in the dark and stormiest of lore and legends. You Wouldn’t Believe: 44 Strange and Wonderous Delmarva Tales, like the rest of Jim’s works, is a must have for every Eastern Shore bookshelf.
For locals and newcomers alike, SecretsoftheEasternShore.com is the go-to online source among locals and tourists alike for travel tips, local happenings, and engaging stories about a region that captures the imagination like few others in our country. All the books discussed here are available through the website as are gifts, décor, and prints of Jill Jasuta’s captivating photography. As we all gear up for a summertime game plan, add a visit to https://www.secretsoftheeasternshore.com/
to your regular routine and the books to your collection.
And remember that books always make great gifts.
Because after all, who doesn’t love a secret?