July 6, 2010
I took a lovely drive over the holiday weekend along the National Highway. You might think I'm referring to I-95, the east coast mega-freeway that stretches from Maine to Florida. But the National Highway is I-68 from Hancock, MD to Morgantown, WV. Whaaaa? How did that become the National Highway? Well, I decided to look into it...
The National Highway follows the route of the National Road. This was the first federally funded turnpike in the United States, authorized by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806. The original path was used by indians and soldiers back in the 1700's The plan for the "Cumberland Road", it's original name, was to upgrade and extended that road to connect the Potomac and Ohio Rivers, a task that was completed in 1818. When car travel took over from horses, the National Road became part of US 40 which was the first highway to traverse the entire United States.
Today, sections of I-68 parallel the old National Road, which you can still see winding its way alongside it's newer, faster counterpart through the hills and valleys of scenic Western Maryland. A ride along the National Road is a beautiful trip with more than 200 years of history behind it.