The fact that BMW Z4's on performance tires are completely hopeless in the snow shouldn't prevent one from venturing out anyway, right? On this doubtful theory, I set out 2 weeks ago to explore rural Maryland along the Mason-Dixon line, the day after a sizable snowstorm. As I drove from Catonsville to Westminster to start the tour, I began to question the wisdom of this decision—there were mounds
of snow everywhere. I suspected that my destination of rural roads might prove "impossibly impassable" in a low-slung roadster with tires that are 10 inches wide.
As I picked up the route described in Maryland: A New Guide to the Old Line State
, I vowed to press on until I came to a road that I felt just couldn't be climbed (or descended), and then I would turn around. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the back roads were fairly clear of the Evil Stuff. By the end of the day, I'd managed to traverse every road that I'd planned (with many a flash from the automatic stability control indicator, I might add!)
The Mason-Dixon line, of course divides the northern border of Maryland from the southern border of Pennsylvania, with West Virginia (originally part of Virginia) and Delaware getting involved as well. It was surveyed during 1763-1767 to settle various (and occasionally violent) disputes among the 4 colonies. As it happens, you can't really drive right along the M-D Line, other than for short distances, so this route should more properly be called a "northern Maryland" tour.
I was hoping to get some good pictures of the "winter wonderland" that was all around me, with snow-covered hills, trees, etc. Everywhere I looked, scenes just cried out to be photographed. Each time, I would hop out (well, lumber out) of the Z4, walk over to the closest vantage point, get a picture, and scrabble back to the car and its warm interior as fast as possible. It never made it above about 27º until well into the afternoon, and it was too much trouble to put the parka and gloves on every time I stopped. Fortunately, there were no other idiots … uh, I mean, travellers
out on the roads, so I could pretty much stop wherever I felt like.
Did I mention that there was no shortage of snow?
Given the sharp contrast between the sunny sky and the long shadows, I did a little experimenting with high dynamic range (HDR) photography, with this picture-postcard scene one of the results. A few of these turned out a bit on the garish side—but I liked 'em anyway. Let me know what you think…
This being a Sunday, I was duty-bound to photograph a few churches. The stately Trinity Church has looked out over the town of Manchester since the Civil War. Its 700-lb bell has been used throughout the intervening 145 years
The countryside was peaceful, quiet, and uninterrupted—other than the occasional gawky, picture-takin' weirdo running around…
I made a bit of a detour to find Beckleysville, which turned out to be blanketed in snow just like everywhere else I'd been.
Just slightly farther on, however, the Prettyboy Resevoir on the Gunpowder River was largely free of the stuff.
Back on Route 137, the view returned to normal, albeit with some evidence that the strong sunshine was beginning to deal with the snow. This is the Cedar Grove United Methodist Church near Parkton, MD.
So far, the mighty Z4 hadn't become too wet or salted-up, thankfully.
I can never pass by a place like this without wondering about its history—who built it, who lived there, what triumphs and tragedies played out within its walls. In the case of this tidy farmhouse, the former must have outweighed the latter, since, unlike so many others, it had not been abandoned and appeared to be thriving.
Now, regular readers will remember my friend Cathy's lament that I never get any pictures of Baptist
churches. When I finally got one, she protested that not every Baptist church looked like a pawn shop and implored me to try harder. Okay, just for you
, Cathy, here is the impressive First Baptist Church of Hereford, MD.
In the virtually nonexistent crossroads town of Black Horse, a private residence sits on a small hill, surrounded by trees. This is the best shot I could get of what was once the Black Horse Tavern, which was converted to a private home in 1849. On June 5, 1773, George Washington slept here, on his way back to Mt. Vernon from Columbia College in New York. (The historic photo is courtesy of Christopher Busta-Peck of Shaker Heights, Ohio.)
Before long, I was on Jolly Acres Road, which proved to be narrow and topped with snow over dirt. The Z4 did just fine, although both the automatic stability control system and my skid control reflexes got a fair amount of exercise.
I was in search of the rumored ruins of a mill on Deer Creek. The creek was easy enough to find…
…but looking for the mill ruins necessitated a bit of a hike upstream along the creek. Negotiating the snowy path required further skid control (and without the benefit of ASC!) I believe this moss-covered stone wall is about all that's left of the mill. One flood too many, apparently.
After retracing my steps, I made it all of one-half mile farther north on Norrisville Road before I felt compelled to see if there was still a chapel on Ayres Chapel Road. As it happened, there was, and it was even complete with a congregation. Most of whom, for some reason, had British accents. (Honest! I make up very little of these reports!)
Back on Norrisville Road, heading for the Mason-Dixon Line, this time I made all of a mile before detouring, yet again, to see if I could find Ivory Mills, which produced flour from the 1780s through the early 1920s. It turned out to be much easier to locate than the one on Deer Creek, thankfully. And nearby there was even a scenic corn field (just in case you were wondering). This area of Maryland featured hundreds of mills back in the days, many of which still survive. I had the feeling I was just scratching the surface.
Before long, I re-encountered Deer Creek and drove alongside it for a ways on Carea Road and then Eden Mill Road.
St. Paul's Church beckoned for a backlit photo, complete with spiritual aura.
Needless to say, I was searching for the Eden Mill. I first found this old farm harvester…
…and then the stately Stansbury Mansion, home of the original owners of Eden Mill. It was built in about 1800 from bricks that were made from Deer Creek riverbank clay, fired on the spot. It's now a private residence, looking down over the mill and nature center.
The dam for the mill was upgraded over the years. The mill was originally powered by the creek but eventually was electrified, with water-driven turbines producing the electricity.
The small nature center was fun to look through (although it felt like I
was being looked at the entire time).
The mill museum was even more fun. The mill sat unused for decades while the county tried to decide what to do with it. When it became a museum, it could feature all of the original equipment, since it was all still sitting there.
Rocks State Park was a little too snowed in for any hiking, so I contented myself with the La Grange Iron Works—or what was left of it, anyway.
A little further on is the Holy Cross Episcopal Church, founded in 1887. The church was a handsome sight, but in taking the picture I realized how besmirched my poor Z4 had become. I vowed to give it a thorough wash, including the suspension, when I got home.
Rocks State Park seems to have a large number of specific sites, none of them connected to each other. I traveled to the Falling Branch Area of the Park in hopes of getting a look at Kilgore Falls, the second-tallest waterfall in the State. I couldn't locate any signs suggesting where the falls might be, so I picked the most promising possibility and set off on foot along Deer Creek (which seems to meander just about everywhere in this part of Maryland). As I walked along, I was constantly pelted by clumps of falling snow and ice as it melted enough to fall from the tree branches overhead. It felt like it was snowing ice! Here's one of the little buggers:
Oh, and I gave up after hiking for awhile alongside the stream without hearing any evidence of a waterfall in the distance. It's always good to want to go back. For the meantime, I headed off (finally) in search of the Mason-Dixon Line itself and marker no. 32 in particular. I found the Line, which is pretty hard to miss. The marker, however, proved to be a lot more elusive. I think I was within a couple hundred yards of it—but it was on private property, with a stout chain across the driveway. Oh well, this is what it might have looked like (photo courtesy of Pete Zapadka of exploretheline.com. These original markers were shipped from England. Sadly, many have been stolen or vandalized over the years.
Back on the road, I crossed the Susquehanna River over top of the Conowingo Dam, and turned down (naturally) Susquehanna River Road toward Port Deposit, MD. As I crossed over Octorara Creek, I spotted a photo-op with a handsome stone railroad bridge upstream. Now, as happens so often on these trips, in the process of doubling back to get the picture, I took a couple of other, smaller roads—and they proved to have their own scenic interests. For example, I ran across what turned out to be the long-lost right-of-way for the Chester Creek Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Dr. Jack Road crossed an extremely narrow passage that had been blasted out of solid rock for the railroad tracks—and which led to this about-to-cave-in bridge over Basin Run. And yes, I plan to go back to see if the bridge can be approached by foot from the other direction.
Naturally, there was more to see on this very rural road, including this apparent cousin to the La Grange Iron Works. I don't know what it used to be, but I know that when it was actually something
, it was a long time ago. There were several impressive trees growing within its interior.
Oh, and here's the railroad bridge across Octorara Creek, which I eventually meandered back to for the picture.
Port Deposit, MD, is a great little town, with a long and convoluted history. Its fortunes have waxed and waned, initially thriving as a port on the Susquehanna, with the country's finest granite quarries and masons. Somebody invented concrete, however, and the demand for granite as a building material collapsed. A prestigious private school for boys opened up but closed 50 years later. At about the same time, the Navy established a major training facility here during World War II, partially on the site of the boys school. The Bainbridge Naval Training Center subsequently scaled back its operations and closed altogether in 1976. These days, tourism is probably Port Deposit's main business—but who knows what its next phase might be?
The Rock Run grist mill on the north end of town was constructed in 1725:
The late-afternoon sun gave this house a dramatic appearance (aided slightly by a dose of HDR).
Boy, don't you just love these old places? They don't make 'em like they used to! (Or paint them like they used to, either…)
The train station is another good example of the "they don't make 'em" claim. If you look carefully, you'll see a "For Sale" sign. How cool would that
be for your next house??
Unfortunately, Port Deposit is only a few miles from Interstate 95, and it marked the end of my tour. I'll leave you (and Cathy) with one last picture—of the First Baptist Church of Port Deposit. I have now conclusively demonstrated that Maryland has at least two
Baptist churches that don't look like pawn shops. Who knew??
It was another fine trip. While it would have been a blast on an R1200GS (or other BMW bike), I have to admit that the Z4 was plenty adventurous, tackling open highways, unpaved tracks, snow-covered roads, hills, descents, and every corner imaginable with aplomb. Even the 3.0i variety has plenty of punch, and the sports suspension grips the road tenaciously, wet or dry. But not snow covered!
Happy riding, everyone.