February 2, 2016

Finding Our Chesapeake Dream

By Phyllis Bonfield

For nearly 30 years, I held various positions at nonprofit associations in the Philadelphia area. I spent many hours working at large hotel chains doing workshops and assisting with conferences. When thinking about a vacation, the thought of staying at a hotel, no matter how beautiful, held little appeal.

To relax and get away, my partner and I headed down to our favorite bed & breakfast. The Wades Point Inn in McDaniel, Maryland, is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a few hours south of Philadelphia. The Inn was beautifully situated on a small peninsula on the Miles River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Dating back to the 1800’s, the Inn truly lives up to its claim as an historic place “where the stress of the world washes away.”Picture1

As the years went by, we began planning for our retirement and the Bay kept drawing us home. We looked for a home on the Eastern Shore, but houses on the water were out of our price range. Maryland’s Eastern Shore, especially St. Michaels, was a pricey place even before a former U.S. vice president and a defense secretary called it home.

In February 1998, we planned a weekend getaway even though Wades Point Inn was closed in the winter. Searching the Internet for a place to stay, we found a B&B in Solomons Island, on Maryland’s western shore. Our experience in that charming boating community helped us shift our housing search westward. We would still have spectacular Bay views, but with a lower price tag.

On a sunny fall day in 2000, we went house hunting in the Solomons area. As we told the realtor, “we are serious buyers, but not now.” That afternoon, we drove up to a two-story home overlooking the Bay. Even before I walked in, I knew this house was the one. I stood in the driveway looking through the dining room window and I could see the Bay! When we walked out on the deck, a bald eagle flew overhead. That was it. My partner agreed.

Picture2When we went back to Philadelphia, we owned a home on the Bay. We used it as a vacation rental for the four years from 2000 to 2004.

We bought new bedding for the three bedrooms along with gently used furniture, inexpensive dishes, glasses, pots and pans and TV. In no time, we were set with our Chesapeake Dream.com website one of our sons set up. I wrote the copy, another son took the photos and my partner qualified prospective renters. Over the next four years, rentals paid the mortgage. It also paid for improvements including a new roof, water heater and fencing for backyard to keep our dogs safe from our 70-foot cliff.

outside view lower deck 014

Chesapeake Dream living room overlooking Bay
Love at First Sight! This is the one.

The Takeaway: This is the beginning of my retirement story and life on the Bay at the Chesapeake Dream. Share your story about getting ready for retirement. Did you look for a new home — downsize and move to smaller quarters? Or did you decide to chuck it all and see the world while you are young and healthy enough to do so? Share your story at [email protected]

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Phyllis Bonfield

About Phyllis Bonfield

Phyllis has been writing for publication since she was an editor on her high school newspaper. After graduating with a degree in journalism, she worked for more than 30 years with educational and not for profit organizations in public relations, marketing, conference planning and development. Prior to her retirement in 2004, Phyllis was the marketing & development manager for a Philadelphia-based regional library resource network. She was in charge of web development, publications, membership recruitment and conference and event planning. Phyllis also served as vice president of public relations for an association serving the financial services industry. She directed an award-winning public awareness campaign in conjunction with the American Red Cross. She was also instrumental in developing a campaign to promote business ethics in America that received front page coverage in USA Today and recognition on CNN, ABC and other national news outlets. After she retired, Phyllis waged a personal PR campaign to curb shoreline erosion at her home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The project included organizing other shoreline homeowners and Maryland’s elected officials to take on 17 federal, state and local agencies who opposed her property receiving a building permit for revetment. After a two-year effort, she received the first permit on Maryland’s western shore to build a continuous nearshore breakwater. This project paved the way for neighbors to receive similar permits for erosion control. Phyllis has a bachelor of journalism degree from The University of Texas-Austin where she majored in advertising and public relations.