The Trip Part 1: Connecticut to Maryland
How did we end up in Frederick, Maryland this summer? Boredom combined with curiosity.
As Covid shut down everything last summer, I buried myself in the hope of travel for the summer of 2021. I booked Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a week in early August but I was also determined to make the long drive from Connecticut more interesting and less stressful by visiting places of interest along the way.
Eventually, our route took us through eight states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Research led me to the perfect overnight stop after the first day’s drive: Frederick, Maryland. We drove six and a half hours that first day (including stops), and happily didn’t encounter any traffic. We arrived early enough, in fact, to explore the Frederick Visitor’s Center. There, we obtained a map of a self-directed historical walking tour through downtown Frederick and pamphlets for local attractions, including an incredible local used bookstore.
Sights: Frederick, Maryland
We spent the night in the Hampton Inn and Suites, Frederick-Fort Detrick, in Frederick, about a five-minute drive to the downtown. We had a nice big room for the four of us, with two queen beds and a sofa bed. The husband and I shared and our adult twins occupied the other bed and the sofa bed, so all were happy with those sleeping arrangements, at least for a night.
We woke up early in the morning, ate the free breakfast at the outdoor seating provided by the hotel (very nice touch during Covid!), checked out, and drove to Frederick, where we parked at a parking garage just across from the visitor’s center. The center promised they’d validate the parking stubs, so another nice perk of planning ahead.
We set off on our 2.5 miles walking tour. I say “we” but what I mean by that is I had the map, and the others followed directions. The day was hot, so it’s good we started early as we’d have melted on a mid-afternoon walk.
A little background on Frederick, Maryland. It was founded in 1745 near the banks of Caroll Creek and settled by mainly German immigrants, at least in the beginning. The town, only a mile from Baltimore and Washington D.C., is at a crossroads. It’s close to the route of Lee’s invasion during the Civil War. Many battles took place within a short driving distance. For instance, Lincoln stayed overnight in Frederick on his way back from the Antietam Battlefield. Frederick was also a stopping point for colonial armies during the earlier French and Indian War.
All that makes downtown Frederick a fascinating walk, as many of those early structures survive. It was also clear as we walked that considerable recent work had been done to revitalize the area and attract tourists like us.
My highlights, with descriptions from the map:i
Carroll Creek Park and Community Bridge:
The mile-long creek park was started as a flood control project back in the 1980s. It’s now a showcase for the downtown area. It’s a beautiful spot, with benches all along the walk, and fronted on one side by several restaurants with outdoor seating.
The Community Bridge that spans a section of the creek was created as part of a community art project. The idea was to make a trompe l’oeil (French for “trick of the eye”) illusion of stone and ivy. It doesn’t photograph well but this angel looks three-dimensional if you stand in the right place next to it. The stones are part of the painting and another eye-defying illusion.
Asbury United Methodist Church.
It’s excellent that all sides of history are represented on this walking tour. This beautiful brick building is a reminder of a community that has been in Frederick for a long time. It’s located in the All Saints Street neighborhood, which became the center for Frederick County’s African-American community, according to the information on the map. The community first worshipped on the site in 1818. The current building was completed in 1921. Quoting from the brochure: “At the corner of Ice and W. All Saints Streets is the “Mural of Hope,” depicting rays of sunshine gleaming down from a blue sky upon people of varying ages and ethnicities,”
Museum of Frederick County History
This is a small museum but it has plenty of charm. The museum’s home was built in 1824 as a residential house and became the museum in 1959. What I loved most was the garden out back, complete with a “fairy” spot used for children’s story hours. I wished we’d lingered in the garden but the twins were a little less patient than me, plus, yes, it was getting hot.
Among the other spots on the walking tour:
- The Ramsey House, where Lincoln slept. These are now private residences. You, too, can also sleep where Lincoln slept!
- The Tyler Spite House, built by a prominent resident on the spot where the town wanted to place a road. The house still stands, so spite won in the end.
- Shab Row and Eveready Square, where we stopped at the Frederick Coffee Co. & Cafe for lunch. Bonus for tea lovers, right next door to the cafe was the Shab Row Tea Emporium. I bought a mug and 4 oz. of their Wise Shaman Chai,
- Sweeties, an ice cream place fronting Carroll Creek. I indulged in the Cookie Monster ice cream (cookies & cream flavor) because how could one resist?
There’s also a miniature railroad museum on East Road near Shab Row but, alas, it was closed the day we were there. For the comic geeks, there’s a small comic book store downtown as well but opened after we had to leave.
We did make one stop, however, that will satisfy book lovers of all kinds, and, bonus, it has a huge video collection as well.
Wonder Books was our only significant stop in Frederick outside of downtown. I knew I’d love it when we pulled into the strip mall where it’s located and saw carts and carts outside with books for $1. This place is larger than some libraries with a knowledgeable staff to help customers navigate through all the sections.
Outside is a jumble of genres and authors. Inside is ruthlessly organized, making everything easy to find. So organized that they shelve Harlequin books by subgenre. So organized that there is a comic/graphic novel section with single issues in organized boxes and a trade collection that some small local comic shops would envy.
In short, it’s a place all book lovers will adore, no matter what genre is their favorite. If you are a book nerd, this is a must-stop.
Turn the Page Bookstore
This destination was for me but, hey, everyone was tired after walking Frederick and was up for a quick drive in the car. Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland is about 20 minutes from Frederick. Boonsboro is the town made famous by Nora Roberts. Literally, as she wrote the town into a best-selling book series, and several of the retail establishments are run by relatives.
The Turn the Page Bookstore is the center of Boonsboro, a bookstore on the smaller side with 4 little rooms from various genres. Of course, they carry all the Nora Roberts books and various connected items. In non-pandemic times, they host epic book signings that can last for hours, not only including Nora herself but other authors from all fiction and non-fiction genres. I signed the GeekMom book there one winter and it lasted from 10 a.m. to after 3 p.m.
This time, I bought an Eve Dallas NYPSD t-shirt because Eve Dallas is awesome. But the clerks were also helpful in finding local history books for my husband and YA books for my daughter.
I’m going to wear my Eve Dallas shirt to comic cons and see if any romance readers find me. Come see me, genre crossover nerds!
Next, it was time to drive to Lynchburg, Virginia for a one-night stopover on the way to Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park. I’ll cover that in part two.
But I leave you with this image of an awesome stoop we passed on our walking tour. The dog is real. The mouse, well, I don’t think so.