Day 1: Ohio transitions…

Seeing the “Welcome to Ohio,” sign was a relief. It had taken a whole day of driving just to cross Pennsylvania, and it seemed like we were now back “on schedule,” more or less, to arrive at our campsite by 5 or 6 P.M. Just one problem. Grey skies and steady rain. It was really coming down heavily. Neither “Cactus Killer” nor I wanted to bring it up, but finally we had to. We might have to spend the first night of our “adventure” watching the Weather Channel in a hotel!!! Not at all what we planned, and definitely not a great way to start the “trip of a lifetime.”

“Silly Squirrel” had fallen asleep, sprawled out across the backseat. Morale was at the low point of the day. The windshield wipers beat out a rhythm (the ipod had run out of charge an hour or so ago). We drove on. Maybe it was just the rain, but out the window the landscape looked kind of grey too.

Ohio had once been a top manufacturing state, home to Goodrich tires, the Standard Oil Company, and a multitude of aluminum plants and chemical factories along the length of the Ohio River. Industry had brought prosperity, but it also had unintended consequences. By the 1970s, industrial pollution was out of hand. It had gotten so bad that the Cuyahoga River actually went on fire!

Then, in the 1980s, the state began to experience economic and population decline as businesses left for foreign shores or moved down to the “Sunbelt” to avoid paying union wages. The businesses that moved from Ohio were typically manufacturing businesses. In 1980, the typical Ford Motor Company or General Motors worker in Ohio earned twenty dollars per hour, while in Mexico, workers averaged sixteen dollars per week.

With the massive loss of industry, the whole region became known as the “Rustbelt,” characterized by high unemployment and outmigration. The urban parts of the state suffered the most, and while efforts are now being made to revitalize the old manufacturing cities, much of the state is still in transition.

We didn’t see too much evidence of this along the Interstate, the rain just made everything look as depressed as we felt. Then, about 3 exits before the Cuyahoga Valley turnoff, the skies began to clear… We would be able to camp after all!


More from Ohio:
NOTES FROM THE ROAD: Ohio, Camping in Cuyahoga Valley
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL: Portfolio: Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley
REFLECTIONS & OTHER THINGS: A White Bread Town | Fragments from the Road to Chicago
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Time for a New Tent

Back to Pennsylvannia | Complete Trip Log | Start at the Beginning

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