I spent a pleasant day in Mansfield last month. The purpose of the visit was to tour the Ohio State Reformatory, a former prison where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed. About halfway through the day, I began to wish this were an overnight trip to allow time for more exploration.
It’s clear that a return visit is necessary.
Expect to read a little more about Mansfield this week but I wanted to mention something that we haven’t talked about here but that enhances the quality of your adventure, especially when traveling alone.
First of all, never be shy about asking someone to take your photo. I own a selfie stick but rarely carry it because asking a stranger for a favor is a terrific conversation starter. They are typically happy to help and sometimes ask you to reciprocate. On this particular day, I met some wonderful people who all added something special to my day, all because they took my photo.
On a related note, never be afraid to talk to strangers when you’re out touring an attraction like this. Chances are, you are going to encounter the same people repeatedly during your tour and you may as well be friendly. You never know who you might meet!
First, there was the brother and sister – about my age – who were visiting the prison for the first time. It was an important day for them because their grandpa was once a prison guard here. They grew up hearing his stories and even had with them an old photo of their grandpa with a prison sports team. Football, I think? They shared a few stories, took my picture (and I took theirs) and giggled at my sign. Our paths crossed a few times and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their joking, reminiscing and discoveries.
There were also two ladies, sisters-in-law (Hi, Gilda!), who were an absolute hoot. We joked about the bathroom arrangements and agreed that none of us would do well in prison. I ran into them again in downtown that afternoon, having lunch at a local diner, and they offered some tips for fun things to do. Being local, they had some great ideas, and they’re part of the reason that a return trip to the area is necessary. In fact, we have them to thank for the top photo which I took while exploring downtown on foot after I encountered them at the Coney Island Diner.
I also loved chatting with a woman who was traveling alone. A retiree, she had driven from Indiana to New York for a bus trip of some kind. But when the tour was over, she didn’t want to go home. Thanks to direct deposit and online bill pay, she said it didn’t matter if she was home or out globetrotting. Consequently, she was taking the scenic route home, didn’t know where she was going next or when her family could count on seeing her again.
She got a kick out of my sign and said that her eighty-something year old father still treats her like a child, despite the fact she is a grown woman with grandchildren. I chuckled and felt a little better about my own overprotective parents.
I also admired her sense of independence and adventure, saying a silent prayer that I will be so brave at her age.
While I advocate that you be friendly, I’m no fool. Take steps to protect yourself and your valuables. Never make it easy for a pickpocket to take your wallet or phone and always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. If someone seems suspicious or maybe a little too friendly, listen to your gut. You can never be too safe.
My visit to Mansfield was a lot of fun partly because of the things I did and partly because the people I met enriched the experience in some ways. Stay tuned for more about this day.