Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Maryland Road Trip

Last Saturday after landing at Reagan National on the Virginia side of the Potomac near downtown Washington, we rented a car and started our trek to the home of the lovely spouse's parents. Our journey took us up the George Washington Parkway; the Washington Beltway (I-495) for a short distance; then up I-270 to I-70 to I-68 west to Morgantown, WV; then US 119 south to Grafton. As I was driving, the LS became my photographer for some of the photos, all the while saying she doesn't know how to use my camera. Still, we got some decent pictures, a few of which I have prepared to show here. Click on any of them to see a larger version.

The pictures start on 270 North. This highway was once I-70S before the powers that be began to eschew numbers and letters for numbering Interstate Highways, a stance I agree with. One noticeable thing is that Maryland is using some pretty big reassurance shields on this stretch of highway. There is also a stretch of I-270 in Denver, running between i-70 near Aurora and I-25 and US 36 (Boulder Turnpike).

The next photo is at Exits 10 & 11, and displays good examples of the Maryland state highway shields. One thing that 270 has is inner express lanes with exits to outer local lanes. The express ones have exits only every several regular exits. The local lanes are where traffic can get on and off the highway without slowing down the express lanes. An oddity on this particular sign is the mixed font sizes used.

As we approach the end of I-270 at I-70, the last exit before the merge is Exit 31B, Maryland 85 South to Buckeystown.

In advance of the I-70 junction, we see that the main lanes of I-270 will continue northward as US 15, on the Frederick, Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We can exit and go east on I-70 to Baltimore, or west to Hagerstown.

As we approach the exit, we get to the gore point, and are in the proper lane to merge onto I-70 West.

Once on the exit ramp, we get to another decision point.

From here, we travel west through Hagerstown. As we get close to the eastern terminus of I-68, we get advance notice of its exit. The alternate route west is an free alternative to staying on I-70 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A little bit farther down the road, and we have a giant-sized trailblazer for I-68.

And getting closer to the start of 68 . . .

Now we are at narrowest point in the state of Maryland. Here the Mason-Dixon line where Pennsylvania and Maryland touch almost cuts Maryland in two, since the Potomac River is close to the south. Here is the last I-70 exit in Maryland. We will be taking it toward Cumberland.

Here is the actual exit. As you can see, US 40 is duplexed with I-68. As this is the eastern terminus of I-68, you can also see my photo of the western end of this highway taken last November, by CLICKING HERE.

And here is the first set of I-68 / US 40 reassurance shields. This freeway largely replaced old US 40. When it was first built, it was new US 40, then it was designated as US 48 from 1975-1989, and finally gained Interstate status as I-68. There is now a new US 48, which runs between I-81 and I-79 in Virginia and West Virginia. I still recall vividly how old US 40 ran through the Western Maryland mountains and that it took quite a while to get to and from Cumberland. This new road, also known as National Freeway, opened up a vital link to both Cumberland and Morgantown.

Maryland Wildlife . . . deers and bears...oh my!

Here is a mileage sign on 68. People sometimes don't believe there is a town called Flintstone. Here is the proof.

"Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They're the modern stone age family!"

The next shot shows Sideling Hill straight ahead, complete with the cut through for the highway visible to the left side of the picture.

Now, we are approaching the cut through Sideling . . .

Sideling Hill Cutout below. Old US 40 used to run about a mile or so toward the south, reach the summit, and come back to the north as it winds its way down. This cutaway reduced travel time significantly, and gave a four-lane freeway alternative to the two-lane, winding road. This is the eastern face of Sideling Hill, which is in Washington County. The opposite side is Allegany County. The building on the right of the freeway is a visitors center, with information about attractions in the area, as well as a history of the road cut. I have never seen a center dedicated to a cut through a mountain before, but here is one. Somewhere in Maryland, road geekdom must prevail!

As we get to the bottom of the other side, we cross Sideling Hill Creek and find an official MDoT Allegany County line sign.

And following that, is a fancier sign welcoming you to Allegany County.

Old US 40 is MD 144 as we get into the Flintstone area.

Cumberland city limits!

As we approach the heart of Cumberland, the county seat of Allegany county, we approach the Hillcrest Drive exit. Allegany County, Maryland is pronounced the same as Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (home county of Pittsburgh), but is obviously spelled differently.

Now we are at Exit 43C, which we will take into Downtown Cumberland to meet up with my friend Bob on our way to my in-laws. Bob and I worked together in radio back in the 1970s right here in Cumberland.