Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cumberland Byways & History

A West Virginia highway trailblazer sign in Maryland

Cumberland, Maryland sits along the Potomac River, and the other side is a piece of land that is in West Virginia, and juts nearly into the heart of downtown. When I lived there, WV 28 came up a very narrow road on the edge of a tall hill, and many accidents occurred along the stretch. Ultimately, that stretch between Ridgeley and Fort Ashby were re-designated as Alternate WV 28, and the main highway was diverted to South Cumberland at Fort Ashby, ultimately crossing into Maryland near the Cumberland Airport.

The picture above was taken on Greene Street, which is the routing of US 220 through the west part of Cumberland. You will notice that although the sign is in Maryland, it is a West Virginia highway sign. I examined the back of the sign to see if it was a MDOT or WVDOT sign, but there were no asset labels on it.

A few feet away is the next sign, which gives directions to various highways in the area. Again, a WV highway shield is indicated, and is correct. There is also an I-68 shield on this sign. Interstate 68 extends from Hancock, Maryland at I-70, and goes west through Cumberland, Frostburg, and Grantsville, before entering West Virginia and terminating at I-79 in Morgantown.

Directional sign on Greene Street (US 220), Cumberland

If you look to the right at the traffic signals in the photo above, you will see the so-called "Blue Bridge" that spans the Potomac and connects Cumberland to Ridgeley, WV.

The Blue Bridge

Once you go across the Blue Bridge, you are in Mineral County and the town of Ridgeley, West Virginia. Looks like they did carry through with getting rid of the silly "Open for Business" signs I blogged about last year.

Welcome to Ridgeley, West Virginia

Ridgeley used to have a sign that speed limits are "Electriclly Timed", and it was indeed misspelled like that. At least that sign has been removed. When I first met the lovely spouse back in 1973, she was a high-school student who lived just outside the Ridgeley town limits on the south end of town. In the distance of the picture above, you can see a West Virginia historical marker. A closer look below shows that this was the site of Fort Ohio prior to the American Revolution, and the completion of Fort Cumberland back across the river in Maryland.

Fort Ohio Historical Marker in Ridgeley

Walking back over the Blue Bridge to Cumberland, I got a nice picture of the clouds and trees reflected in the waters of the Potomac.

Potomac River between Cumberland & Ridgeley

Another place of historic interest at this juncture of river, roads, cities, and states. On the Maryland side of the Blue Bridge is a small cabin that served as headquarters to General George Washington during the French & Indian War, and again as United States Commander-In-Chief. Fort Cumberland sat on a hill diagonally across the street from Washington's headquarters. Today's city of Cumberland derives its name from that fort. A church now sits on the hill, and is noted as a part of the famed Underground Railway that helped slaves escape from servitude prior to the American Civil War. In this part of the country, there is history all around us.

George Washington's Cumberland Headquarters

Flight to Washington

Yesterday, the lovely spouse and I took a flight from Denver to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport via the new Colorado plane of Frontier Airlines. It was a terrific flight, very nice aircraft, and a smooth ride. For most of the way, the clouds were blocking the view of the ground, which is how I usually can tell where we are, since I know the layout of the highways, towns, and landmarks over most of the United States. This flight had a GPS map on the screens, which gave us precise locations, so it was easier than ever to find landmarks if one knew where to look.

As we approached Indianapolis, I saw the Interstates coming into the city, but downtown was under a thick blanket of clouds. When we got near the cities of Marietta, Ohio and Parkersburg, West Virginia, the clouds opened and I was able to see both cities clearly, with the Ohio River winding between them.

As our ultimate destination was to drive from Washington back to Grafton, West Virginia, I started visually following US 50 coming out of Parkersburg toward Grafton. As we got to Clarksburg/Bridgeport, I saw Interstate 79 coming toward us from Charleston, and was able to snap a photo of the Harrison-Marion regional airport from 35,000 feet above. Last year I did a blog entry on WV Highway 279, known locally as Jerry Dove Drive. It is a very short state highway that runs by the airport between US 50 and I-79. I have added labels to the photo to point out the major landmarks. South is to the top of the photo. This gives you a view of WV 279 in its entirety, from end to end.

I also continued to watch US 50 as we approached Grafton, approximately 20 miles east. The town ended up being directly under the plane, but I did get to see and photograph Tygart Lake from the air.

We actually started a gradual descent into DCA as I snapped the airport photo, even though we were about 250 miles to landing. As we approached the runway, I got this photo of The Pentagon from my airplane window. As always, you can click on the photos to view a larger version.