Home » 2005 Cross Country Road Trip

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - 9:00am by Lolo
446 miles and 9 hours from our last stop


With the usual feeling of excitement and anticipation, we pulled out of our driveway and began our journey west, with the intention of getting to our usual first night's stop at the Toledo, Ohio Flying J (about 10 hours away). However, things do not always go as smoothly as planned. Less than 2 hours into the trip, we were abruptly brought out of our early-journey, contented reverie by the high-pitched squeal of an alarm inside the RV. I immediately jumped up to check the propane and carbon monoxide alarms as that seemed the most likely and dangerous source of the problem. We had had the propane alarm go off in the past after one of us bumped into the stove and accidentally turned one of the knobs. No, that wasn't it. The smoke detector was fine as well. All of a sudden a light bulb seemed to go off in Herb's head. He quickly pulled to the side of the road, ran back to the cabinet under the sink, ripped off the velcroed panel, and yelled "Water!" Apparently, the filter on the water pump had come loose with the highway bouncing, and water was pouring out into the area under the cabinet and out under the rugs in the RV. Three quarters of the family jumped into action--teenage son #1 somehow managed to sleep through the entire crisis. Tommy and I grabbed towels and tried to stop the flow of water out to the rugs. Herb ran outside and started dumping our water tank out onto the highway. Thankfully, no state troopers came by. Then Tommy and Herb got to work on the pump. Fortunately, Herb is quite handy and was able to quickly diagnose the problem and tighten the filter so that the pump could go back to doing what a pump was supposed to do--only supply water when you wanted it. In the process, Herb somehow managed to chip his elbow, which still hurts to this day. Crisis averted, we all sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. Andrew continued to snooze.

Having lost only about ½ hour, we headed back out on the road towards Ohio, stopping at a Flying J in Pennsylvania to refill our water tanks and test to see that was the pump was working. Thankfully, everything seemed to be fine and we could continue our journey as planned--with showers and running water.

The next order of business was finding a place for the boys to run. Both boys are high school cross country runners and needed to build up a lot of mileage over the summer. I had a feeling they would object to running around the Flying J parking lot, so as we drove along Route 80 across Pennsylvania, I scanned the National Geographic's Guide to the Interstates to try and get some ideas. This book has been an invaluable resource for finding interesting places to break up long driving days. I couldn't believe it. I found the absolutely perfect place to stop--Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, just 2 miles off of Route 80, with miles of gravel towpaths along a canal--a runner's paradise.

We arrived at Cuyahoga 10 minutes after the Happy Isles Visitor Center closed, but fortunately were able to pick up a National Park pamphlet that gave us the lay of the land. Immediately Herb got all worked up that this park had been upgraded from a National Recreation Area to a National Park. "This place was nice and all that, but National Parks were places like Yosemite and Yellowstone, not a towpath along a canal! As this was my plan for the evening, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction, but I'd have to agree. This park was nice and all that, but it definitely wasn't of the same caliber as most National Parks. Still, it was a very pretty place and just what we needed that night--a place to run, so I told him that I didn't really care what they called it.

It was close to 6:00 by the time we parked in a lot near Lock 29 by the Peninsula Depot Visitor Center. We quickly donned our running clothes and left the RV only to discover that the skies had darkened, the wind had picked up, and thunder was rumbling in the distance. Not wanting to let reality get in the way of my plans, I proceeded to stretch and get ready to run. Tommy--always the most sensible one in the family--did not at all like what he saw. "You're not really going to make me do this in a thunderstorm, are you?" After convincing him that we would come right back if the storm moved any closer, we set out on a run together. Well, not really together--the boys were quite a bit ahead of us. Fortunately, the storm did move away and we were able to have a really nice run along the canal. Tommy's new Garmin GPS Watch worked great, except that somehow his big brother convinced him that he should be the one wearing it. It accurately told them their distance and pace and would have guided them back to the RV if they got lost--which is my favorite feature.

After driving for 8 hours, the run felt great. Time for a quick shower and then on to the Flying J in Toledo about 2 hours away.


Located about halfway between Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park encompasses 33,000 acres of deep forests, rolling hills, and picturesque farmland along a 22-mile stretch of the Cuyahoga River.

The park is rich in history in that it contains a major section of the Ohio & Erie Canal, which was originally part of the national system of canals built in the 1800s to connect the East Coast and the Midwest. When this canal opened in 1827, it replaced the river as the primary mode of transportation between Cleveland and Akron. Today, bikers and hikers use the gravel Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail that runs alongside the canal to explore the beautiful Cuyahoga River Valley. The Canal Visitor Center at the northern end of the park has exhibits illustrating the history of the canal.

The Hale Farm and Village at the southern end of the park is a living history museum depicting farm life in the mid-19th century. In this re-creation of a farm village, live interpreters portray blacksmiths, glassblowers, weavers, candlemakers, and potters and demonstrate their crafts.

A great way to explore the valley is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad which runs through the park on tracks dating from the 1880s. There are a variety of route packages to choose from.

Randy on December 4, 2005

It would be really cool to link your itineraries with Google Earth and allow visitors to your site to "virtually reenact" your trips. The 'traveler' would get an reasonably realistic visual sense of the changing topography and variety in your journeys!
Great site!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park location map in "high definition"

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