We set out on our cross-country road trip in our rented Jeep Compass. We used RoadTrippers.com to set a trail through using all of our destinations. We chose several destinations for our first day on Saturday. We thought we would stop at Hershey Park to see Chocolate World, not to go into the park itself, but just the making of chocolate, as a quick stop between our destinations to break up the long travel day. We also added a couple of other stops, including Falling Water, Ohiopyle State Park, and the abandoned PA Turnpike Tunnel with a stop in Pittsburgh, just to have seen Pittsburgh. There could be another stop on the way to Cleveland, our final destination, to see a co-worker race his car in a demo track run.

Unfortunately, we could not get tickets for Falling Water on such short notice, and having Ohiopyle as a destination took us an hour out of our way on an already long driving day. So we skipped those two destinations and instead hit some of the other sites we intended to see that day. We did make it to Hershey. Hershey’s Chocolate World has changed a lot from when I was younger. Riley and I had a good time walking around their gift shop, looking at some of the t-shirts with old Hershey ad campaigns, like “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” Ultimately, we got on that ride to see how they make chocolate. There were samples available at the end of the ride. Riley got a chocolate bar, and I got some Twizzlers, a company that Hershey had apparently acquired a long time ago.

We got back in the car from Hershey and headed out on the road. Our next stop on our list was at the abandoned PA Turnpike. The abandoned PA Turnpike was a weird destination because you can’t just park outside it even though it’s the Turnpike. Its odd location instead forced us to go to where the area was for the original Turnpike. There was a very long hiking trail. They turned the road into a trail that people could walk. We were trying to get to the tunnel, which is kind of the key point of the abandoned Turnpike. But the hike to the tunnel from where we parked was a good half an hour’s walk. We just wanted to see the tunnel and then get on our way. So we went back to the car instead of taking that hike and tried to drive a little bit closer.

It turns out that there’s a lot of private property near the tunnel entrance, and there’s no easy way to get to the tunnel. So we took a bunch of backwoods roads toward somewhere potentially closer to a different tunnel on the same stretch of road. We traveled on a dirt road for quite a bit, and it was rather treacherous. It was like we were going to fall off the side of the mountain, being that this area is one of the more mountainous areas in Pennsylvania. At the end was a small park with a ranger station. We stopped at this park and parked there, and it turned out we were
pretty close to the tunnel entrance, which was cool since it left us with a very short hike to the tunnel entrance. When we got up to the tunnel entrance, there was a group of people on electric bikes that were all lit up in different colors. It was captivating to see the lights on the graffiti inside the mouth of the tunnel. As we went down the tunnel, the electric bikes passed us and went off into the distance, fading into the distance of the tunnel with their lights.

After a while, we thought they had taken a radio with them because we heard music playing. Still, something about the music’s timbre made me say to Riley, “I think that’s people.” He doubted it, but we got farther down the tunnel, and we kept hearing this ethereal choral music. Eventually, we got to a point where some lights flipped on. A bunch of Mennonites appeared in little groups along the sides of the tunnel in the new light. They had been standing there singing in the darkness, singing choral music, which was unreal. They said hi to us as we walked by. After we passed them, they turned off all their lights and started singing again. It was pretty wild.

We did finally see light towards the end of the tunnel. It was obscured by mist because, unbeknownst to us, there was a lot of fog towards the end of the tunnel. The temperature in the tunnel was a good bit cooler than the blistering heat outside. Some of the moisture in the tunnel had created a fog at the end. We walked out the end of the tunnel. There’s greenery and foliage outside. It was a lot warmer, but it was good to get through the entire thing, even though we hadn’t really planned on doing the entirety of the tunnel. Music kind of drove us on to see the end. It took us about half an hour to get through the tunnel, so we walked the half an hour back to the car and passed the Mennonites as they were leaving. It was still pretty cool to hear and see all the people and get through the tunnel.

We got back to the car and headed back out to Pittsburgh. By this time, it was too late to make any of the car racing, which was an extra 45 minutes from Pittsburgh. We just wouldn’t have made the timing, and we hadn’t had lunch by this time, so we went to this place called Church Brew Works, a church that they had refitted to be a brewery and restaurant. They had a bunch of fermenters sitting in the back where the altar was, and we had lunch. Both of us had barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, which were okay.

From there, we drove to Point State Park in Pittsburgh to see what was down there. We walked around the fountain and where the boat docks were on the Ohio River. It’s neat to see all the boats out there. I got to add the Steelers Stadium to my collection of stadiums I’ve been near, which was nice. There was a woman at the fountain who was going around interviewing people.
She wanted to ask us questions about history and pop culture. I let her interview me since Riley was not interested in being on camera.

We got back in the car and left Pittsburgh, heading north toward Cleveland. Riley got a good picture of the Welcome to Ohio sign. Hopefully, we can get more photos as we cross into more states. The road to Cleveland was uneventful, and we arrived in Independence, where the hotel is located. It was a strangely happening place, with lots of people at the hotel and using the pool. We had a quick check-in, got our cookies from the Hilton help desk, and went directly to our room, which was freezing cold. We should have adjusted the thermostat before going to bed.

On Sunday, we have plans at Cedar Point, but there might be thunderstorms. We’ll try it out and see what happens. Hopefully, the storms will keep most people away, making the lines at the rides short and giving us a good day after the storms clear. We hope to spend a few hours at Cedar Point riding some rides, before we need to move on. Our next stop is four hours from Cedar Point, going west towards Chicago. For more information, visit www.FEMA.gov.

We’ve been listening to a couple of playlists in the car, mainly focusing our travel time on music and conversation. I’ve been playing classic rock road trip music and opining on what qualifies as a road trip song. Some modern road trip playlists have songs that don’t fit the road trip theme. We also reviewed some music from the morning playlist I made for the kids when they were getting up for school, trying to remember which songs were on it. It’s been fun so far. The original intent was to get some good audiobook time in, but I enjoy listening to the music as we go and chatting with Riley. However, it feels like we’re close to running out of music, so I’m wondering what we’ll do over the next eight days as we drive to other places. We shall see.