Sightseeing in Baltimore with a five year old

We started out slightly later yesterday than we had intended. We got gas, got on Route 288, got off 288 so we could get breakfast. Then got on the Powhite; correctly pronounced Pow-Hite, although most people I know call it the Po-white. It’s a toll road. A badly kept toll road, so by the time you get to the end your are pale and poor.  I drove as we headed north.

Traffic was fairly light and we made good time. Joshua was impressed by the planes, trains, and boats we saw along the way. He is firmly convinced that Baltimore must be, like, at least, on another planet. He was well behaved on the journey north, fascinated by all the new sites… We pointed out monuments and significant spots, as well as trains, boats, and planes. We talked up the idea of the aquarium. He was going to love it – fish, turtles – whole oceans of excitement under one roof. He called it a library and then a museum… he couldn’t quite say aquarium.

Tunnels, however, were not his idea of a good time. We don’t have any tunnels here in central Virginia. He did not like the idea of cars inside. At all. And it didn’t help that Chris told him, more than once, that we were under water. I think Joshua may have held his breath for the entire length of the tunnel, exclaiming at the end, “I don’t like that, let’s not do it again.”

Well, Nick was staying with a friend, north of Baltimore and we were going to the Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, so, yeah. We drove through the tunnel to pick Nick up, back through the tunnel to go to the Aquarium. Back, again, to drop Nick off, and then again to get home. By then, Joshua was suggesting that we find a short cut.

So we drove north, picked Nick up and headed into Baltimore. Baltimore, by many standards, is a comparably small city, but not so for a five-year old from rural Virginia. Joshua was amazed at the size of the buildings, chided us for driving in circles in the parking deck, and is not a fan of elevators.

We walked the two city blocks from the parking deck to the aquarium without incident; Joshua looking about in wonderment. He looked warily at the seagulls and pigeons. We paused briefly crossing a foot-bridge to watch a mallard duck try to climb into man-made fens in the harbor, but they were fenced off. This struck all of us as odd – you know – what’s the point of having small tufts of marsh land in the harbor if the marsh animals cannot access them? But we walked on. Joshua stayed very close after Nick pointed out the mallard perched on the edge of the walkway that looked heavier than he was.

We arrived at the ticket line and we all froze. $25.00 per person without the dolphin show. We stood there a moment considering our, somewhat limited, options. We had spent three hours convincing Joshua that aquariums were the best thing this side of heaven. The great aquarium would be worth the three hours of sitting still, strapped into a booster seat. As if on cue he looked up expectantly. His ticket was a bargain at just $20.

Chris said he thought that the ticket price paid for food for the fish, but I believe it pays the electric bill. There were escalators and moving walkways at every turn, so obese Americans didn’t have to put any effort into seeing the large fish in small tanks looking trapped and depressed. The little fish seemed to be dancing in the water, but the sharks and rays floated listlessly near the bottom of their enclosures; trapped. I suppose, if they’d never seen the ocean they wouldn’t know. Otherwise, it could be compared to moving from a limo to a smart car. It felt criminal. Joshua, oblivious to the moral and environmental implications, loved it. He actively sought to find every turtle in the place. He was in awe of the nature-in-a-can.

Chris wanted to take Joshua into the submarine docked outside the aquarium, but that was an additional $20, so we let that go.

We brought Nick back to his friend’s apartment. He lives in an … interesting … colorful neighborhood. The nicest building we saw was the Harley Davidson dealership. I thought when we drove by the trailer park it might be a sketchy part of town…

While waiting for Nick’s friend to arrive home from work, we watched people wander out into an empty field into the woods – not high school kids looking for a place to be away from the established authority – but grown people. Ok, so they all looked like homeless drunks and crackheads, but still… One drunk approached the car.

“Gots a smoke, man?” He was a scruffy looking man of indeterminate age. He had bloodshot eyes, straggly facial hair, and unkempt clothes.

“Naw, smoked my last.” Chris replied, through the closed window.

“S’ok, man, I loves ya anyhow.” He was clenching and unclenching his fists.

Another man pulled into the parking lot. He had a suspicious look about him. He pulled in and sat in his car watching us for about 10 minutes (Nick’s friend was running late). He then got out of his car and disappeared around the corner for a few minutes. He returned, got a book out of his car and walked into the apartments like he lived there. Okay. He came out a minute or two later, still with his book, and rummaged around in his trunk, before getting into his car and driving away. Draw your own conclusions.

Joshua asked when we were going home. He wondered aloud if the trip home would be shorter. We tried to explain rush hour to him.

Another man of indeterminate age wandered into the field…

We decided to spend some time at the Target next door while we waited. I sat in the car, taking care of some work issues, and the boys went in.

A police car pulled up, rather hurriedly. The officer entered the store in a trot.

I sat on hold with work issues.

The officer emerged from the Target with a young man in cuffs.

It was all sort of like the aquarium, only different. Very, very different.

Nick’s friend arrived. We said goodbyes and started back to the car. Nick walked us out. The man with the book returned. Taking my cue from Joshua, I called the aquarium a museum.

Chris corrected me.

Nick said, an aquarium was really a fish museum.

Chris shot back, so a zoo!

Nick said, a zoo is an animal museum…

Joshua asked how far it was to Powhatan.

I watched the man with the book.

By the time we were back on the road, we were all tired. We argued with the GPS. She kept recalculating. She sounded annoyed. Joshua was asleep by the time we crossed back into Virginia. I think a good time was had by all, except maybe the fish.

More pictures on Facebook.

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