Ohio, March 1993

Please read my license notice before copying my photos.

When I go to Ohio, I always seem to attract the attention of the authorities. I think it's the Michigan plates on the Centurion. On a recent trip to Bellefontaine I was scrutinized by the local cops, who were concerned because my front plate is from 1972. I explained to them that in Michigan we haven't had front plates since 1972, but they had never heard of such a thing. I don't think many Michigan tourists make it to Bellefontaine. They certainly should. Bellefontaine claims to have the first paved street in America, a claim that I was there to verify, since Detroit makes the same claim of Woodward Avenue.

While we were waiting for the police computer in Bellefontaine to clear my name ("no wants no warrants"), the friendly officers filled me in on a lesser-known tourist site in their town, the "shortest street in America." It certainly was short, so short that 17 feet of Buick wouldn't fit without hanging over the ends on either side. The officers gave their permission for me to block traffic long enough to get a photo, then sent me on out to Kate's Kitchen on US route 68 for donuts and coffee.

I don't think there is a state in the Union that boasts more Presidential birthplaces, memorials, estates, and final resting places than Ohio. Harding Memorial in Marion looks like a smaller version of the Jefferson Monument. Harrison's tomb in North Bend sits on the crest of a hill overlooking the Ohio River.

When I'm driving US 6 east of Cleveland, also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, I always swing by the President Garfield home and museum in Mentor, just a few miles off the Buckeye Trail. I feel a special connection to this place because the man who shot Garfield, like Iggy Pop, was a graduate of Ann Arbor High. Was it frustration over a failing grade in American History that made him pull the trigger?

On my current trip to Columbus, I ran afoul of the law while parked at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery, typing in my last trip report while parked on the grass. A concerned lady told me that she had taken down my license number (from the front 1972 plate?) and was considering calling the sheriff. Perhaps she was from nearby Wayne, which boasts "948 nice people and one sorehead." She disappeared down the road in the direction of Bradner, and I headed on down US 23 toward Risingsun, out of the local sheriff's jurisdiction.

I think it's this industrious minding of other people's business that made Ohio such an industrial powerhouse earlier in this century. The steam locomotive factory in Lima and the furniture plants in Findlay would not have had such an ample supply of cheap labor had the local workers been free to sit around the local cemetery undisturbed. The work ethic is strong in Ohio. The traditional greeting in this part of the country is, "Something going on here I should know about?"

If Fred Flintstone were alive today, he would certainly live in Ohio, where his Water Buffalo Lodge would fit right in. Even the smallest towns all have, at the very least, a VFW, American Legion, FOE (Eagles), IOOF (Oddfellows), Moose, and that mother of all lodges and subject of conspiracy theories, the Masons. Perhaps the Lodge provides a necessary respite from the omnipresent scrutiny of others, a place where you can wear your buffalo horn hat and not feel out of place.

I had dinner at the Point Drive-In, just south of Carey at the intersection of Ohio 199 and 103. The light was fading fast, so I snapped a photo before going in to the dining room. The owner came running out, wanting to know if there was "something going on here I should know about?" Seems I was the second person this year to photograph his drive-in and he was curious to know why. I assured him it was just for my vacation photo album and asked for directions to Marion.

Sunday night I found a room at the Day's Motel in Upper Sandusky. The breakfast talk around the counter at Ike's Restaurant the next morning centered around the price of Holstiens (57 to 84 cents a pound) and whether you should leave the barn door open in the winter so the cows don't overheat and get pneumonia. I had brought my own cream since you can't get dairy products in this corn and soybean growing part of the state, where the farmers put corn syrup and soy milk "Coffee Rich" in their coffee.

Writing all this down gives me road itch as I ponder the drive back to Ann Arbor. Should I swing east to spend the night at Mount Vernon, with its downtown motor lodge, movie theater, and the High Restaurant? Or west along the Scioto River to check out Dublin for a friend considering taking a job there, and take a ride on the bike path on the south fork of Indian Run? The western route holds the possibility of stopping at the Mount Victory Truck Stop on 31 south of Kenton. Or I could go up the middle and take in the tour of the potato chip factory in Tiffin. The best choice, though, is always the road I've never been on before, in hopes of seeing something I've never seen before. So many roads, so little time.

Boat Back to Travel.

Jim Rees