It is only 164 miles from Annapolis to Bedford, Pennsylvania. A 2 ½-hour drive through the foothills of Maryland via Interstate 70 to the ancient crossroads where America’s third-longest east-west highway, U.S. 30 meets I-70 at Breezewood. Today this area is a jumble of fast-food restaurants. 300 years ago it was a trading post on an old Indian trail catering to the British army and pioneers headed for the forks of the Ohio.
Turn west on U.S. 30 and follow it to Bedford, settled in 1751 as a fort important to the French and Indian War that would be a cause célèbre, the cost of which triggered the American Revolution.
Bedford is a historic town with plenty of stories to tell and a lot of 1930s memorabilia. Linger awhile or venture a bit farther west to the Jean Bonnet Tavern, built on land that belonged to the Penn family, serving drink and lodging as far back as 1768. This tavern is a national historic landmark. It was here that 500 citizens gathered in 1794 to proclaim their dissatisfaction with the new government excise tax on Whiskey. Good grain growing country in an area of rugged mountains that made it impossible to send to Eastern markets, so innovative farmers distilled their crops into whiskey which could be moved over the steep terrains. This was during a time when barter was used in trade, as cash was in short supply. The whiskey excise tax required cash payments and the hardworking farmers just didn’t have it. Tax collectors were tarred and feathered and Pittsburgh, a symbol of wealth, was threatened to be burned by the angry mob. Intent on upholding the constitutional rule of law, President George Washington sent 13,000 troops down the Route 30 trail to quell the potential civil war. After concessions were negotiated the rebellion ceased. Jean Bonnett is a good place to eat and absorb the place where the nation’s sovereignty was established.
Continue westward where U.S. 30 and the Lincoln Highway, America’s first proposed coast-to-coast paved route for the new automobile merge. Off of it is the Flight 93 National Memorial. On 9/11, terrorists hijacked this commercial flight with a plan to bomb our nation’s capital. Because of the courage of its passengers, the plane never reached its target. No passenger reached their targets either as the plane was crashed in a hillside meadow. Visiting this site is an emotional experience that will stay with you forever. At least that is so for me. As I walked the path of the plane I was struck by the silence of the world around me. The path ends at a viewing site marked by a stone where the plane hit the ground and exploded. The air around me seemed to be permeated with the spirits and last thoughts of the 40 souls who perished. Inside the memorial hall, their voices and the voices of the hijackers receiving directions from their boss to rock the plane, up, down, right, left to throw the Americans off guard. When that failed the mission was declared to be aborted. You can hear these sounds recorded from the “black Box.” I think if everyone could visit this site the current climate of hatred of one another would vanish.
Since its beginning Bedford was known as a medicinal center. It had many different Springs that healed the body and soul. After a visit to Flight 83, a trip to Bedford Springs Spa build in 1806, could be a perfect place to end your day. First called “the healing springs,” it was the once the summer White House for President Buchanan.
It was here that the first trans-Atlantic cable message sent by Queen Victoria was received by the President in residence. After the reality of 9/11 sinks in, The curative mineral waters of Bedford Springs Hotel is just the place to relax. Spend the night and explore more of the Bedford country side and its many covered bridges.
Ellen Moyer is a former mayor of Annapolis. She welcomes comments and idea sharing and can be contacted at [email protected]
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