The first three states are the hardest

Traveling west  through Pennsylvania ranks low on my list of favorites. Three hundred plus miles of PA Turnpike or Interstate 80 gets you across the Ohio border, rattled by potholes, hundreds of passing tractor-trailers,  narrow defiles created by construction projects, and various other obstacles. Having endured this gauntlet several times, each new iteration finds me less eager to face it. Yet I did not see any reasonable alternative. So I grit my teeth, fasten my hands on the steering wheel, and proceed: west out of Philadelphia beyond Valley Forge until the first rural scenery relieves the grungy landscape of deteriorating factories, sad boring semi-urban bedroom communities, prosperous and boring suburbs, and newly designed exurban communities sporting their walking and cycling trails, designed retail spaces, and other inducements for those with the wherewithal to enjoy life more (in the time not spent commuting). Do I sound disenchanted? I’ve been in the East too long.


Late in the evening, after traversing the entire length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I pull into a rest area on the Ohio Turnpike boasting an RV area with electrical hookups for the bargain price of twenty dollars a night. Be clear: it’s a parking lot with plugins, but electricity makes life better if you’re in an RV. Also, it guarantees you won’t be hassled in the middle of the night to enforce some “no overnight parking” rule that most rest areas keep on the books but rarely follow.

A restful night follows, if you don’t mind passing diesels every few minutes, bright lights in the windows, and the background rumble of the passing traffic on the turnpike. Years ago I added black panels to my curtains to block light from seeping out when trying to camp unobtrusively (“boondocking” it’s called)  in areas where maybe no one wants you to camp. I’ve not done that much, but the blackout curtains have been very useful for camping in areas with bright lights that interfere with sleep. Insulated foil panels made from Reflectix cover the front windows to completely seal out outside light. I cut them to fit each window and hold them in place with Velcro. In the morning I roll them up and slide them behind the driver’s seat out of the way.

About mid-morning I reached my limit with Interstate 80, and searched for alternatives. One of my forays into the geography of the area on the Google Maps app revealed a landmark I never, ever considered as a destination:  the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library at the Hayes family compound in Fremont, Ohio, a few miles south of the Interstate. A slanting course away from I-80 would take me away from the teeming highway onto quiet byways. Getting away from the Interstate was the goal. Visiting the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library was my means of doing it.

Being intent as I was on getting to Michigan, I had no intention of visiting the museum, but found the library and museum building substantial and impressive.

Like most U. S. presidents, Hayes enjoyed a privileged life before taking the office, and more so afterwards, as the family home suggests.

While I was there, a few visitors passed the warm afternoon in a game of croquet, a timeless scene marred slightly by the anachronistic presence of  aluminum and plastic lawn chairs.

After snapping a few photos, I returned to the camper and we rolled West.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.