Maryland Route 30 and its twice-daily traffic jams may be the bane of commuters and local businesses.
But a trip down the road "which everybody curses today" reveals the themes underlying the early settlement of northeastern Carroll, said Joe Getty, executive director of the Historical Society of Carroll County.
On Thursday, historical Route 30 was the subject of a tour organized by the Northeast Tourist Bureau, a project of Manchester Town Councilwoman Charlotte Collett, Hampstead Town Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt and Anna May Schaffer of the Schaffer Bus Service.
"The road is the earliest artifact existing" in the area, Mr. Getty said. Before European settlement, he said, it was a trail used by local Native Americans.
About 20 people took Thursday's tour. Many were older Carroll Countians.
The tour stopped first at the Pennsylvania line to see one of the Mason-Dixon crown stones, which were placed every five miles along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border -- the dividing line between North and South through the Civil War.
The two-foot stone, carved in England and taken to its current site by wagon in 1765, has the seal of Lord Baltimore on the Maryland side and the seal of William Penn on the Pennsylvania side.
When Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the line, Mr. Getty said, disputes over land ownership that had at times led to violence were settled. However, he said, "Maryland probably got shafted in the process," losing land and tax revenue to Pennsylvania.
The tour then passed through dense woods, which Mr. Getty said would give an idea of how Route 30 looked in 1737, when it was laid out as a wagon road.
The bus topped Dug Hill, the highest point in Carroll County at 1,119 feet, before dropping into Melrose.
There, the tourists examined the old roadbed of the Bachman Valley Railroad, which was built to service the area's iron ore industry.
Melrose is "a community created by the railroad," Mr. Getty said.
The first building in Melrose was built in 1872. Within two years, the town blossomed into a collection of homes, stores and craftsmen's shops, all nourished by the rail line.
The town of Manchester tried to attract a railroad, Mr. Getty said, but failed.
From the 1870s on, he said, "the savvy businessman left Manchester and went to Hampstead," which had access to rails.
Hampstead grew into a center of commerce because of its rail service. Evidence of its relative prosperity can still be seen in the wrought-iron facade of the old H.R. Lippy department store, now Timeless Creations, a flourish no Manchester business could have afforded.
In the mid-20th century, Mr. Getty said, road traffic replaced rail traffic as primary means of transport. This set the scene for the suburbanization that began in the 1960s and continues today. Shopping centers were built, replacing neighborhood grocery stores.
Towns became less self-sufficient, Mr. Getty said. Instead of remaining close-knit, he said, "the community . . . just sort of dissipates across the landscape."
During Thursday's tour, Mr. Getty said he acted not as a tour guide but as a facilitator.
"A lot of you know some aspects of local history more than I do," he told the participants. "If anyone's familiar with houses or sites along the way, feel free to shout them out."
They did, calling out if they knew who had owned a particular farm or worked in a particular shop. They told of bicycle rides and dances and summer jobs of decades past.
During a stop at the old Greenmount station, Marie Eburg, 88, said there had been times in her youth, during pea-harvesting season, when she worked through the night at the Greenmount cannery for 25 cents an hour.
At a stop at the old flour mill in Hampstead, Ruth Joiner told of playing in the mill as a child, in the mid-1920s, while wagons waited in line for hours to drop off loads of wheat.
The nicest part of the tour, Mr. Getty said, was hearing all the stories.
"Everybody on the trip knows a little bit of something," he said. "Everybody participates."