FREDERICK, Md. — I always love driving out of the nation’s capital on roadtrips. There’s always a sense of great anticipation of a scenic drive over the mountains plus the relief of escaping the often hellish traffic conditions in the city.
For years, Interstate 270 has been the first leg of the trip (or last leg on the return trip) between D.C. and my parents’ home in East Grand Rapids, Mich., where I grew up. I’ve driven the route countless times and when I’m driving at a good pace, I can do do the trip solo in about 10 to 11 hours.
The primary route heading connecting the nation’s capital to the Midwest does not have any grand directional signs pointing the way to Chicago or even Pittsburgh or Cleveland. It’s just I-270 North to Frederick, a city of roughly 60,000 people about 45 minutes from the Capital Beltway, depending on traffic. The city and the county that surrounds it is a growing bedroom community for D.C. and Baltimore.
About 20 minutes before Frederick, the gigantic commuter route narrows to two lanes in each direction after being a huge suburban complex of express lanes and local lanes.
For this trip, I could have stuck to the official Lincoln Highway auxiliary route linking D.C. to Gettysburg — which follows the old road, today’s MD-355, to Frederick via a jog up to Mount Airy, Md., and the former National Road — but for a quicker trip, I decided to stick to the Interstate Highway System.
Plus, I wanted to stop at the scenic overlook where I am right now. It’s not necessarily a breathtaking vista — it’s scenic nonetheless — but from here you can catch your first glimpse of the Appalachian Mountains. Beyond Frederick is Catoctin Mountain and beyond that is South Mountain.