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Northern Virginia Regional Group

2000 Lebkicker Tour

Solomons Island, Maryland

by the Westrates & Girmans

photos by Jim McDaniel

This year’s Lebkicker Tour was one of the best tours that the Club has sponsored.  The weather was wonderful, the tour activities were fun and meaningful, and the company was top notch.  We hope that those unable to go this year can join in next year. All of us were pleased to have Merty Lebkicker join us again this year on the tour.  Her presence is always a pleasure and she inspires us to maintain and improve the Club, as Dick would have wanted.  Thanks Merty! 

We all gathered at Fair Oaks Mall with lots of visiting going on and the usual drive-bys from the mall security officer.  Don Lombard gave a first class briefing and handed out packets with all the details we would need for the two days, and we were off.

As we approached I-95, our leader and ‘President for Life’ Don Lombard said on the radio, “Turn right” and Hank Amster came on and said, “No, turn left”.  Don prevailed and was “right” as everyone settled in.  A VDOT litter patrol crew tried to scoop up a couple of cars as trash, but we escaped.  The Girmans and Westrates were at the end of the pack and got hung up at almost every light.  After a very long one, we missed a turn and wandered around lost for a while.  We caught up with the tour as they arrived at our first stop only to realize that we had never been missed!

Our first stop was at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant where we toured the Visitor’s Center and grounds.  We learned that the plant generates 1/3 of the power for the State of Maryland, as well as facts about nuclear waste management and containment buildings.  We found out that lantern mantles and smoke detectors have radioactivity.  The Center has the 1818 Wilson tobacco barn preserved in the facility and the rich history of the Calvert Cliffs area prior to the power plant is well documented.

A highlight was Jane Wild’s wild ride on a stationary bike, which generated electricity.  She cranked that baby up till it was lighting a 200-watt bulb.  Her legs were flying around, and we were all proud of her.  Now we know why Bob is so relaxed, as he knows that Jane can push the station wagon if it breaks down, no problem.

Outside, we gathered for a group photo in front of the four sturdy chimneys, which are all that is left of the old farmhouse.  There also was a gorgeous view of the plant itself with the Chesapeake Bay as a backdrop.  Don provided snacks for all, which was appreciated.

We pressed on to Solomons Island for check-in, lunch and regrouping.  We next visited the Calvert Marine Museum.  It was very interesting.  Not only did it have the usual collection of water-related artifacts, but also it featured a Muskrat Habitat, a tank of experimental sturgeon, and a wonderful set of fish tanks with live exhibits of bay area water creatures.  There was a restoration shop for a club that restores the watercraft used by the bay watermen over the years and there were several restored examples of these boats.  A must see exhibit was the Drum Point “screw bottom” lighthouse, which has been moved from Drum Point to the museum and restored.  This lighthouse dates to 1883 and its center pole literally screwed into the bay bottom for stability.  It once was one of forty lighthouses, and now there are only four left.

The “outhouse” for the lighthouse is positioned over the railing allowing deposits directly into the bay.  It appeared to us to be the ultimate definition of the poop deck.  It originally had four cisterns for catching fresh water.  A 100-watt bulb replaced kerosene as the light source and through the prism it was visible for 13 miles.  The watermen complained that the 100-watt bulb was too bright and hurt their eyes and wanted the kerosene source back.

The lighthouse had a bell for foggy conditions which ran on a clock mechanism and had an assigned frequency of two rings every 15 seconds.  The next lighthouse up the line had  three rings every 15 seconds, and so on. 

The club sponsored our ride on the Wm. B. Tennison “Bug Eye” Bay Boat, which was magnificent.  We sailed for an hour in the cool of the evening, as the sun was setting, amidst the moored vessels, the movement of waterfowl and friendly conversation.  It was relaxing and invigorating to say the least.  This 101 year-old boat is a true woodie, as its bottom is made up of 9 logs laid in a shallow bowl shape and secured with wooden pins.  It originally was powered by sail and is the oldest Coast Guard inspected vessel on the Bay.  It is 60’ x 17’, and if cared for will last another 100 years.

Our guide pointed out all of the highlights along the way including the location where Navy and Marine personnel were trained for beach landings for D-Day in France and other campaigns in Africa and the Pacific during World War II.  That was a sobering moment considering the sacrifices those brave Americans made after this training so we could, years later, continue to enjoy the dream. 

Dinner followed where it was announced that Hank Dubois was this year’s winner of the Dick Lebkicker Award.  Hank certainly exceeds the criteria for this award, and we thank him and Cindy for their continued contributions to the Club and its members.  Congratulations to both of you!

The boat ride had taken us under a bridge, which stands 140 feet above the Bay.  We all had to cross that bridge the next day in our cars.  There was much discussion about the fact that the Amsters could never make it over that bridge without downshifting and the Amstermobile’s record would be shattered forever.  We turned in with great anticipation and departed at 10am for St. Mary’s City.  Over the bridge the Amsters went, just flying in that old Ford.  They went so fast that when they got to the other side they were in California (California, MD, that is).  Hank swears he never left 3rd!  Let it go guys, its not worth the fight. 

Our last stop was a 2-˝ hour tour of the exhibits depicting how Maryland was first colonized around 1634.  This was fun and interesting too.  Leonard Calvert arrived with his group in two boats to establish a “religiously neutral experiment”.  The Yaocomaco Indians welcomed them and offered them their “witchut” straw houses to live in in exchange for protection from rival tribes and metal implements from Europe.  We toured a reconstructed village as it originally was, and heard from a period indentured servant as to what life was like.  Then on to the Godiah Spray plantation, which depicted a 1660 working tobacco farm complete with house, gardens and tobacco barn as it would have been.  They had the most unusual chickens there – beautiful.

Next, to the first Maryland State House (1676), complete with stocks for the bad boys.  We listened to an informative lecture on the functions of the House and how different religions’ faiths played a role in our early history.  Our last stop was to visit a three-masted ship at the water’s edge.  This ship was the same as Calvert’s smaller ship used in the crossing from England.  How anybody could survive three months on this pile of planks is beyond imagination.

We learned how they navigated by “dead reckoning” (dead being a derivative of the word deduced).  A period sailor explained the use of a “Dutch Traverse Board” to plot the ship’s course and a device to calculate “knots” of speed.  Knotts of speed were literally calculated by letting out a rope overboard with knots tied at intervals to determine the rate of travel.  We finished up at the “Ordinary”, which was a primitive motel where ordinary people stayed while traveling.

We headed home with a lunch stop in route.

Thanks again to Don Lombard and Ken Burns for organizing and leading this expedition.