I got up early, hitched a ride to the train station to the airport to a bus and another bus and then finally I picked up a rental car for his week’s summer trip along the Harriet Tubman Byway along the Eastern Shore. And of course I brought my bike with me. Today’s ride started from the Dorchester County Visitor Center. I eschewed the one or so mile path that goes between the center and the one giant golf spa resort hotel in town and went for a ride through town instead. The woman gave me excellent directions and three different maps, but I got so caught up in her use of the highlighter to show me where I should go, and where I shouldn’t go, no matter what, that I failed to pay attention to the first direction. I took a left instead of a right and got myself lost–I take after my dad that way. My map reading abilities are so weak, I’m not sure if I was in the “wrong” part of town or not, but I eventually did make it to where I was headed, which was downtown Cambridge. I rode to the courthouse where Harriet Tubman’s niece escaped, where Samuel Green, a free Black man was tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years for owning a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and a plaque marking the spot where John F. Kennedy spoke in 1963 in an attempt to quell racial unrest in this small town. I then followed the signs to the public marina–Long Wharf Park. This used to be one of the major docking points for slave traders, and it’s marked with this this sign That place is marked by a plaque and a stack from the USS Potomac that hid a hand-powered elevator aboard the presidential yacht in case the ship caught on fire and he needed a quick escape. I followed the signs to the public marina, here at Long Wharf Park. The historical marker tells the story of the river as a slave trading site but also a route to freedom–funny how the power always has its resistance built in, eh? And then I got myself lost trying to get back to the car, riding up and down Race Street and High Street and Gay Street until I finally saw a sign pointing to the visitor’s center, and then it was back in the car to hit the hotel. I drove back for dinner, a farm-to-table gastropub on the one side of Race Street. I crossed Race Street afterward to hit up the corner store for a six pack of beer, dental floss, and a candy bar for the thrilling night I expected back at the hotel. Crossing that street was like walking into a completely different world, away from the white folks at the gastropub and toward the Black folks on bicycles shopping for snacks at the corner store. I didn’t have my map, but I was pretty sure I had crossed into the visitor center lady’s nightmare. Turns out this is the Race Street that divided Black and white back in 1963, too. The present sure makes the past seem close up, and vice versa.
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