Remembering Cycle Across Maryland; crossing the Bay Bridge

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Somewhere in this mass of bicyclists wearing T-shirts and “beer-cooler” helmets you can find my friend Bruce and me.

We’re riding our bicycles across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as part of Cycle Across Maryland — a wonderful event that petered out in the latter part of this decade.

As you can guess from our cycling gear, this photo was taken in the early 1990s. It was 1994, in fact, the first and maybe only time [update: the state closed it down for westbound cyclists in 1998 (see comment)] that the 4.3-mile-long eastbound span of the Bay Bridge on US Route 50 was closed to everyone but bicyclists.

The photo was taken by Bob Gilbert, a former colleague at the Annapolis Capital newspaper who loved shooting pictures from anything up high. I just stumbled across this photo and some others from the CAM tour recently.

This was such an unusual event that the Capital leased a gantry to get these shots; the Baltimore Sun rented a helicopter.

The planning involved in getting 1,600 bicyclists across a bridge was a logistical nightmare. The previous year, the entire entourage made it to the western shore landing of the bridge, where we loaded our bicyclists onto trucks and took a ferry boat across the Chesapeake Bay.

There was no stopping us the following year. We gathered at the western shore bridge landing again and waited until everyone arrived, then headed out onto the bridge.

There was just one rule — no stopping. That made it difficult to take photos.

While the photo at top never made it into the newspaper (a more interesting photo made the edit, above), Bruce and I made a front-page splash the following year.

The photo at left made the front page of the Hagerstown Daily-Mail on July 26, 1995. That’s me wearing the same “beer cooler” helmet next to my friend.

We weren’t identified in the cutline or interviewed for the story. We thought we looked pretty awesome pedaling up Sideling Hill in mountainous Western Maryland. While the photo did make the front page, it appeared at the bottom under a confusing story about an adopted dog that had been returned to its rightful owner.

The state of Maryland had long passed into my rear view mirror in 1989
when Gov. Donald Schaefer launched a brilliant tourist draw — Cycle
Across Maryland.

The following year, my wife and I chose this as a
perfect time to head back East for me to renew old acquaintances on my
bicycle and for her to catch up with her family.

I must have attended nine or 10 of these Maryland bicycle tours until it just became too difficult to get away, and my friend was hit by a car, which cooled him on the idea of bicycle touring.

Over the years, the state transferred the bicycle tour to a nonprofit. It could never regain the momentum it had during the ’90s and eventually died. But while it was active, it got a lot of people off the coach and gave us great memories of Maryland’s small towns and beautiful scenery.

If you want to read more about CAM Tour, see the Baltimore Sun archives.

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    • Mary Kolodz on May 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm
    • Reply

    The Cycle Across Maryland tour in 1998 also crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The bridge was shut down to traffic while we cycled from the Eastern Shore to the Western Shore. The week long ride ended at Sandy Point State Park.

    1. Thanks for the info. Sorry I missed the return ride!

        • John G on February 10, 2013 at 9:32 am
        • Reply

        I was on the bridge that day in 1998, too. It was somewhat marred when a fellow on a tandem with his wife was hit by a heart attack. He recovered, and I believe, rode again. That morning, I was riding alongside a gal who was a doctor. She stopped to give aid (one of several doctors on hand) and I paused to wait for her. The pause was long enough that the full tour of riders had continued to ride – at that point, other than those rendering aid, I was the only cyclist still on the bridge. I was asked by emergency personnel to go ahead and leave. Although saddened by the medical emergency, I was treated to a solo ride over the second half of the bridge. Nearly fifteen years later, the memory of those minutes alone on the Bay Bridge is rather special to me.

        I was in Hancock the prior year, too.

        1. Glad to hear you were there, that’s quite a story. Don’t you miss the CAM Tour? It was big, but not too big, and it was a good bunch of folks.

            • John G on February 7, 2014 at 8:10 am

            I do miss CAM. I think the primary reason it folded was a shortage of corporate sponsorship.

            Mostly, I miss being in the physical shape I was in back then! A year or two later, a frined who I was with at CAM was hit by a truck- that, timed with the birth of my daughter, caused me to get off the bike.

    • Mike H. on February 7, 2016 at 8:55 am
    • Reply

    My wife and I did both those rides (and the ferry crossing) in fact we did CAM 16 years in a row. I remember jumping off my bike when I saw the half dozen people around the downed rider. I asked if anyone was a doctor and someone said “We all are” I replied that in that case I would just add my prayers and I got back on my bike. I really miss that tour, we developed a lot of camaraderie over all those years. It kind of lost its way when the well meaning organizers tried to do too much.

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