The better half and I have made almost a dozen day trips in the past two or three years. While they were all great, I have to admit there was a certain redundancy to them - historic sites, coffee shop, quaint restaurant, shopping, walking around town.
I would have been ok with another such visit, but then came an article in The Washington Post last month. Michael S. Rosenwald writes about the impact novelist Nora Roberts has made on Boonsboro, Maryland. Neither of us reads romance novels, but we agreed it would be a fun to visit “Noraville.” I also recalled my brief visit there in October, remembering I only had time for a few photos.
Holding a population of about 3,000, Boonsboro is located about halfway between Frederick and Hagerstown, (about 70 miles from Alexandria). Two of Daniel Boone’s cousins, George and William, founded the town in 1792. Lying at the foot of South Mountain in Maryland’s piedmont plateau, Boonsboro owes much to the National Road, a turnpike that took travelers westward from Baltimore into Western Maryland. In a new process called “macadam,’ the crushed stone workers put down must have seemed like the 8th Wonder of the World.
Alt Highway 40 uses the same bed. The road also was filled with soldiers on both sides during the Civil War. Sharpsburg and the Antietam Battlefield are just a half dozen miles to the west.
Our drive up on I-270/I-70/Alt 40 was a smooth one. After you exit off I-70 onto Alt Highway 40, the next few miles wind you through the southern most portion of South Mountain, followed by a dramatic view of the valley down below.
After passing through Middletown, Boonsboro is about 8 more miles. Halfway there lies Turner’s Gap, and more brief snaking. Along the way, keen eyes will spot quartzite milestones, which mark the original route of the old National Pike, part of a system that linked Baltimore with St. Louis. This toll road opened in the early part of the 19th Century, part of the first federally-funded highway.
Here are the highlights of our trip.
The map and the road signs say Boonsboro, but the town really is “Noraville.” Roberts, born in Silver Spring, is as prolific as they come - over 200 romance and detective novels (J.D. Robb is her pseudonym for the latter), 400 million copies in print, awards galore.
We decided to take in her latest event, which was held today. Roberts’s newest novel, “The Perfect Hope,” hit the shelves last month. “Delusion in Death,” her latest J.D. Robb novel came out in September.
This cramped bookstore is a Mecca for her legion of fans. Roberts holds five or six signing events a year, and draws readers from across the region and country. While we were there, a crew from Germany TV filmed.
A handful of other authors were on tap to sign books, including Bob O’Connor, an area historian and author, and Antonio Mendez, the retired CIA officer who helped rescue six Canadian hostages out of Iran in 1979 (Ben Affleck played Mendez in Argo, the movie). His book is titled, “Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History.”
Next door to the bookstore is Gifts Inn Boonsboro. The play on words may not be original, but the regional artistry and hand crafting on display here is. Glass ornaments, wood-carvings, hand-made jewelry, photography, sculpting, the better half was in heaven here.
A bonus for those entering the store around 11 am was the appearance of Turns out Mendez, who lives on a nearby farm (He could tell you where but he’d have to…), is quite the artist too.
Vesta Pizza, 2 S. Main
When your tummy growls in Boonsboro, hopefully you like pizza. Vesta Pizza, owned by Roberts’s brother, is the only Zagat-rated restaurant in town. Its digs are a rehabilitated pre-Civil War building. We waited longer than our tummies wanted, but the New York style pizza was fresh with generous toppings portions, and our tab stayed under ten bucks.
Roberts’s legacy goes beyond her writings. She owns the “Inn at Boonsboro” which she and her husband rehabilitated, reportedly for $3 M. A long line of fans waited for a guided tour. Her latest trilogy is set here.
George Washington Monument
You can escape Washington, but you can’t escape George. Just a few miles to the northeast of town lies the Washington Monument State Park. Built by residents of the town in 1827, the Washington Monument rises to 30-feet. Made of rugged stone, it is the first monument to our first President.
Another great road trip in the books. Every town claims someone famous. This time it was refreshing to see history as it was being made.