David Shuster recalls the time John Bourgeois, a fellow principal at the Baltimore firm of Kramon & Graham (K&G), “rolled off his bike” somewhere around Denton.
“He sort of collapsed on the grass and said, ‘Put a fork in me, I’m done,’” Shuster chuckles, recalling Bourgeois’s ill-fated bid in June 2002 to pedal his way from the firm’s South Street office to the MSBA Annual Meeting in Ocean City.
In the 20-odd years since K&G co-founder Andrew Jay Graham and a trio of area attorneys first biked to the beach, the so-called “Ride to the Tide” has drawn a growing handful of intrepid riders like Shuster and law partner Kevin Arthur, who together also organize the event.
“It’s the easiest 115-mile ride that you’ll ever take in your life,” Arthur quips, regarding the predominantly level terrain. “But it’s still 115 miles on a bicycle. Most people who don’t have a certain level of physical fitness aren’t going to try it to begin with.”
There are no guarantees, however, even for those who do.
“Plenty of people have DNF’ed,” says Arthur, who has made the trip himself at least 10 times.
Shuster clarifies: “Did not finish.”
But that doesn’t stop them from trying. Weather and schedules permitting, a dozen or so hardy souls gather each year at the Kramon & Graham offices in downtown Baltimore for a 7:00 a.m. departure. Covered by a fleet of “three or four support vehicles” (hauling everything from luggage to tools, food, water and spare parts and driven by the firm’s law clerks), the riders pedal down southbound Ritchie Highway with the unspoken intent to arrive in Ocean City around 5:00 that evening, though a variety of factors – from weather conditions to “how robust the group is” – determine just how long it takes to complete the ride.
“We’ll ride from here to the entrance of Sandy Point State Park then we’ll load up the cars with the bikes to take us over the bridge,” notes Shuster. Feet firmly planted on terra firma, the riders mount up for a unique perspective of the highways and byways of the Eastern Shore.
“From Route 50 we take 404 to Denton and beyond,” explains Arthur, who, like Shuster, regularly rides throughout the year. “Plenty of people have driven these roads, but being out there on a bicycle is different.”
“Kevin’s great because he points out all of the things that you don’t see [while driving],” says Shuster, citing points of interest ranging from a plaque in Talbot County marking the birthplace of Frederick Douglass to an otherwise unassuming stretch of Route 54 through Delaware’s Cypress Swamp.
Arthur calls the Woodland Ferry, which carries traffic on Delaware Route 78 across the Nanticoke River, “one of the high points of the ride.”
“You’re really seeing the Eastern Shore,” says Arthur. “Chicken farms, rural countryside…they’re parts of this area that most people don’t see. Even when you’re on the big roads, you’re [still] seeing it from the perspective of a bicycle.”
Despite the length of the trip, however, “you’re not riding from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.,” Arthur stresses. Following the respite mandated by the crossing of the Bay Bridge, there are “enforced breaks” at Denton (somewhere around the 50-mile mark), followed by lunch roughly 20 miles later, in Federalsburg.
“We try to get people to ride with a small measure of discipline,” says Arthur, noting that participants tend to ride together as a group for reasons of both safety and comfort. “One year we had two parallel columns. It’s just amazing how fast you can go without a great deal of effort.”
Still, even the best-laid plans can fall victim to circumstance. According to Arthur, a strong headwind (“It’s as difficult as riding uphill”) driven by an encroaching storm left Bourgeois wanting “to bail halfway to Denton” during the 2002 ride.
“We actually sent the truck out to get him,” Arthur recalls.
“[But] the bike rack was locked,” Shuster laughs, “and the key was back with the rest of the group. So, the guy went to rescue John…”
“And he wound up having to ride the rest of the way [to Denton], anyway,” Arthur chuckles flatly, noting that it was only a matter of time before the rest of the group succumbed to the elements, somewhere around the 90-mile mark.
“We were literally turning blue from the cold rain,” he says.
Though a number of K&G attorneys and support staff participate each year, the ride is open to virtually any interested member of the legal community.
“We’ve had attorneys from lots of different firms,” says Shuster. “We’ve had clients and friends of attorneys who want to join us.”
But be warned: this year, Arthur entertains going “the long way” – something he’s not done in more than 10 years.
“The long way is to go up to Elkton and then go down the shore to Denton,” he explains. “It’s about 170 miles, plus or minus.”
Long way or short, one thing is certain: the Ride to the Tide has never been round-trip, and Arthur has no plans to make it one now.
“I once thought it would be an interesting thing to do,” he admits, “but I don’t have that much time, really.”