Despite the traffic I crossed into Indiana within an hour, thereby entering my 6th state since the border crossing in Wild Horse in Montana. The highway eventually opened up again and I set the cruise control for 75, happily moving along with the music up and listening to occasional chatter on the CB and HAM radios in the cab of the Jeep. By the late morning I was into Ohio, the sun shining overhead and casting its light down on the vast fields that skirted both sides of the highway. Shortly after noon I stopped for a quick lunch at a highway rest-stop and found myself staring at a map of notable locations in Ohio; there hadn’t been much by way of beautiful photography opportunities in the past few days and I was itching to see something aside the paved roads and reflective paint lines that sprawled out endlessly ahead of me. As far as accessibility was concerned my options seemed few; I could go an hour out of my way to photograph a lighthouse on the shore of Lake Erie, arriving far too early for any kind of sunset opportunity, or I could move forward an hour or so to the small town of Milan where I could visit the childhood home of one Mr. Thomas Alva Edison. The latter option quickly became the obvious choice.
Hopping off the highway and following signs for the village of Milan, I wandered down quiet streets with beautifully homes on either side until I arrived at a small brick home on a dead-end road. I hopped out of the Jeep and entered through a door labeled “Office” as a half dozen other people walked out. Paying the reasonable $7 entry fee for the tour, I joined the family I had just seen next door in the brick home and began what ended up being an absolutely fantastic tour of the Birthplace of Edison. Being in the technical industry where Edison and Tesla are often argued against each other, I know a fair bit about Thomas’ inventions and mishaps in the invention process, so naturally as the tour guide quizzed the group I would answer as best I knew. By the end of the tour she simply referred to me as “Boston” and seemed to expect I’d have the answer to every question she inquired. At the end of the tour as the family made their way back to the car, I spoke with the tour guide a bit more as she asked what brought me by Milan. Her husband is a backcountry hiker and son was attending school in Vermont, so we spoke at length about the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail hikes. Before leaving I asked about her opinion regarding places to stop for the night and she pointed me towards Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located another hour east on I-80. I plotted the destination in the iPad’s navigation software and eased my way back out of town as quietly as I had come.
Somewhere between Milan and the National Park, on the phone with Dani as she finished work, I looked down at the odometer to witness the Jeep (now 8 months old) roll from 9,999 miles over to 10,000. Being the first brand new car I’ve ever purchased, I’ve never had an odometer be that low to witness this moment, which I found to be very exciting.. quite the long trip this had been! As the sun began sinking in the sky I pulled off towards Cuyahoga Valley and found myself a nice open field in the park to have dinner at. I laid out my laptop and the Coleman stove on a picnic bench and began cooking a tuna and pasta meal and blogging simultaneously as families and their dogs wandered around the park grounds. As soon as my meal was completed I washed my dishes and packed up my gear, returning to the Jeep and doing some research as to any known “wild-camp” sites I could reach on the western side of Pennsylvania before calling it a night. Using a little creativity with Google’s Earth View mode, I found a little dirt clearing on the side of a forest access road on the outskirts of of Punxsutawney, PA where I’d aim for.
The ride would take another 3 hours, the majority of which I’d spend in the pitch black on an otherwise empty highway with the 30” LED bar blazing the path ahead of me with light. My music was loud and the moon roof open allowing the warm summer night’s air into the cabin. Shortly before 23h00 I pulled off the interstate and found my way along the breadcrumb trail of the GPS to the wild-camp site I had selected. I backed the Jeep up off the dirt roadway and turned on the reverse lights to illuminate the area as I set up my camp for the night. The stars shone brilliantly overhead, leading me to snap a few images with my camera before climbing into the Jeep and laying down for the night, hearing the crickets chirp outside through the windows I had vented for air circulation. In a million years I’d never have guessed I’d be camping in Punxsutawney Phil’s hometown, but here I was… another day further east, closer to home, and absolutely exhausted.