Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip: Day 1 and 2: Ohio and Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Continuing on my quest to visit all the National Parks in the Continental United States (Goal #22), I set out on a road trip with my mom this week past. We were to visit Ohio/Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Kentucky/Mammoth Caves National Park and Tennessee/Memphis and Graceland.

Somewhere between Cleveland and Columbus, our 1996 Mercury Villager quit suddenly at 65 miles per hour. For no discernible reason. Mom and I waited for about an hour and a half in the blazing afternoon sun (and 100°+ temps) for the tow truck to arrive. By the time our driver arrived, it was near on 5pm and the shop we were initially towed to was closing. They were, however, kind enough to make some phone calls on our behalf up to Columbus and directed us to a Goodyear. Thankfully, we decided to call them on the way which was a good idea since apparently their tech wouldn't be in on Saturday. We were redirected to one right next to a Red Roof Inn and down the street from a rental car agency. We thought it was a match made in heaven.

Or not. Our tow truck driver, with our permission, helped switch out a woman's tire on our way to Columbus (because no one should be stranded in that kind of heat). He took us to the shop and dropped off the car. That's when the trip became even more interesting. The Red Roof Inn had no rooms. Ohio had suffered through that large straight-line wind storm and many people were still without power — a fact we would discover after calling the nearest 10 hotels. Totally devastated, we were calculating the cost of a bed and breakfast plus a cab ride, when the hotel informed us that they had a two-bed smoking room. Deciding that a smoke-infused room was better than spending the night at the Waffle House across the street, we took them up on the room.

The next morning, we were up far ahead of the rental car place. Hopping over there almost right after they opened, we were immediately disappointed. No cars available. We could check back in a few hours. Devastated, we headed to a Tim Horton's to regroup. We settled on trying to rent online from Enterprise, the company that will pick you up. Turns out, that's a load of B.S. because they don't really. Within a 'limited geographic area' the size of a handkerchief. The place that was closest to us was sold out and not answering their phones. Thinking that we were consigned to staying in Columbus until the car was fixed... we headed back. Finally we decided that it couldn't hurt to try again. Thankfully, perseverance and patience paid off. We ended up getting a Chevrolet Captiva - room enough to store the ice chest and food provisions as well as our luggage.

We headed out and made our way towards Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This park was newly formed in 2000 (having been a Preserve) before. It was the oddest park - you wove in and out of the park without much warning - there were tons of private residences within 'park borders'. Unfortunately for us, it was BLAZING hot still and we were really disinclined to get out and enjoy all the natural wonders that we had wished for.

But we did see the two highlighted ones that I had researched prior. Brandywine Falls and Beaver Marsh. Brandywine Falls was still a respectable waterfall despite the lack of rainfall.

Brandywine Falls   Brandywine Falls

We also visited Tinker's Creek Gorge, a National Natural Landmark. It was beautiful - and it would be stunning in the fall.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park  Cuyahoga Valley National Park

And finally, we spent an evening at Beaver Marsh, just around sunset. No beaver spottings but we were serenaded by tons of frogs.

Beaver Marsh   Beaver Marsh   Beaver Marsh    Beaver Marsh   Beaver Marsh   Beaver Marsh    Beaver Marsh

Beaver Marsh   Beaver Marsh

Part of the fun of Cuyahoga Valley was the fact that it was part of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath. This is Lock 26:

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Cuyahoga Valley National Park

It was a brief visit to Cuyahoga Valley, and I'd like to return in cooler weather in order to enjoy the hikes and the potentially amazing fall foliage.

Next up: Mammoth Caves!

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