A detour down the National Road

Looking back through photos from the last couple of years I found a few from a trip I took to Lancaster in September 2020. It looked like a typical visit to see my family, complete with a dinner at Oregon Dairy and a game of Settlers of Catan. The return trip, though, was anything but routine.

I turned left onto US 11 south in Chambersburg, PA, having taken Route 30 west out of Lancaster. I recall trying to stop at some of my favorite snack food outlet stores in Hanover, only to find them closed due to the pandemic. Crossing the Mason-Dixon line happened all too fast, and I could just make out a post on the side of the road noting the line instead of the more typical interstate signs that welcome you to a new state. When I looked up this part of the trip on Google Maps, I was surprised to see that State Line is the name of a town in Pennsylvania, and had thought the sign in my photo referred to the actual state line.

The point of taking Route 11 into Maryland was that it connects to US 40 in Hagerstown. After making the connection and leaving Hagerstown, I grew so enchanted with the road that I made a spur of the moment decision to stop in Clear Spring to take the photo below. But really, when the speed limit is only 25 miles per hour, and there are parking spaces available, it was an easy decision to make.

Clear Spring, Maryland

I continued west on the National Road, but much to my displeasure the road merged with Interstate 70 less than 10 miles later. It’s only now when I look at the map that I truly understand where I was. This part of 70/40 follows the Potomac River, which separates Maryland and West Virginia. As I drove around Hancock, Maryland, though, things got confusing.

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped following Route 40, but all of a sudden I realized that I was on a different road running parallel to the highway. I was on MD 144, which is in fact part of the original US 40, and I saw a woman feeding chickens in her yard. As I like to say: you can’t see that on the interstate! Although I’d gotten off track I soon found my way back to the road I wanted and continued on a different interstate, Route 68. I was familiar with this highway, having driven it some years ago on a return trip from Washington, DC.

“Scenic US 40” is also known as the National Pike, but is not exactly the old route.

Route 40 runs concurrently with I-68 for about 67 miles in Maryland, from Hancock to Keysers Ridge. The more direct route would have been to stay on 68 until it ends at I-79, but I chose to follow 40 as it cut away to the northwest back into Pennsylvania. This is another stretch of road that I’d driven before, but in the opposite direction heading east. This time I had a better sense of where I was going and knew that I could pick up the interstate in Washington, PA, to get back on track home towards Cleveland. I don’t remember any other specifics from this segment of the trip, other than that I stopped at a Sheetz for gas and took this screenshot to record my location.

When I sent this to my parents, I got a confused emoji in reply.

Judging from the time stamps in these photos, it took me three hours from the State Line photo until the Sheetz stop, and I probably still had four hours to go until getting home (the entire trip likely took 9 hours versus the normal 6 hours). Writing this reminiscence has me longing to go back to Maryland and do some more exploring, but that will have to wait until 2023.

One thought on “A detour down the National Road

  1. Thanks for the interesting, and meandering, journey, Stasia! I don’t know that part of the Mid-Atlantic at all. It might be a good road trip one of these days. – Dad

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