Thursday, July 19, 2018

It’s A Big, Big, Big,Big Day

What a strange day it was. A day of giant everything. We crossed paths with the great Jack Riepe driving home from a successful outing to the BMW Motorcycle Owner’s Club gathering in Iowa where he was a featured speaker, possibly the biggest draw. 

He’s written a couple of very funny books which he was selling like hot cakes at the rally.   After that you might think meeting the world’s largest gavel was a let down. decide. Here it was in downtown Columbus. 

It was a hot windy day in Ohio but for us it was low humidity and mid 80s hot is not warm for someone used to July in South Florida. Here’s one thing you don’t come across driving the Overseas Highway: the world’s largest basket. It was a marketing design for the headquarters of the Longaberger basket company which unhappily went bankrupt in May this year. The office is there but abandoned: 

Ohio highways are weird.  Lanes vanish with no warning, hardly any lanes are marked when they merge leaving you stuck in a narrowing wedge. Travel lanes in the city can just as easily be parking lanes with no separate markings. Street signage and directional information is random and frequently inadequate. As a result you’ll see cars (not just Florida tags either) dodging and darting across travel lanes apparently at random in a desperate effort not to miss a turn. And then there’s the world’s largest cuckoo clock. 

Rusty couldn’t care less. He was inspecting the AstroTurf, a first for him. 

From there we went a couple miles up the road for the world’s biggest lunch, an Amish buffet for $15 each with plates of old fashioned stodgy vegetables, starches and meats all cooked to within an inch of their lives. It was an experience but American cuisine has moved on from boil and mash techniques.  We all three needed a nap and we found a park alongside the Ohio Canal in the town of Dover. 

My wife was designated to keep us on track and so she did.  I was working off my heavy lunch in a stupor on my back in the grass idly rubbing Rusty’s tummy. I could have stayed there for hours watching the clouds float by while the sun dappled the trees...

“Time to go!” So we piled into the car and on we went with Rusty’s nose poking out of the back window twitching as we went. 

And on the way as Google Maps took us twisting and turning on the backroads we came across what may have been the World’s Largest Toilet.  What do you think? 

We were a bit punch drunk by then but we were closing in on the last giant target of the day. 

Cheesy I know but what fun to be at the tip of the West Virginia panhandle one of those odd corners whose political geography has a particular fascination for me. It’s a bit like the stretched out nature of Monroe County in the Keys, a land peninsula five miles wide wedged between Ohio and Pennsylvania, impoverished certainly but a lovely drive alongside the Ohio River. 

And of course a reminder of home: 

One travel writer gave us a guilty laugh describing the two banks of the Ohio River, West Virginia he said was the Haiti to Ohio’s Dominican Republic. Maybe you need to have been there to appreciate the allusion but one couldn’t drive West Virginia Highway Two without understanding the point. 

A dead steel mill. West Virginia comes next and I want to see more. I don’t think coal is coming back and apparently heavy industry has moved elsewhere. I wonder what comes next in these valleys. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Christopher Columbus!

We decided my wife and I to limit our northernmost point on this trip so instead of Cleveland as originally planned we decided to change direction in Columbus which it turns out is north of Cincinnati. So our journey on Monday was a mere 120 Miles across rolling fields of corn and soy. Postponing laundry till later we went into town to explore the North Market. 

This is a hip neighborhood in the state capital with restoration and twee shopping opportunities. Suitable for black and white Art. 

When Trader Joe’s first came to Santa Cruz, California, decades ago, my best friend and dock neighbor in the marina kept showing up with weird beers and delicious sauces. He warned me off his shopping addiction “It’s packed with crap you just don’t need -and it’s all so cheap!” Rick said. 

You can’t say that about North Market in Columbus. Cheap I mean not least because the food on sale is first rate with all the right ingredients to satisfy a millennial foodie. 

Locally sourced of course with preference to Ohio farmers. 

And stuff from around the world. 

My wife found oils she’s not see before, a ginger infusion as I recall and vinegar flavored with berries and stuff. Lots of banter and chatting while I wandered off. 

You expect Polish in this part of the world but Hubert never expected us to have been to Poland. I think talking about hiking the Tatras made his day. His cheese ball things made ours later, for dinner. 

Mind you, give the chance to eat weird who would say no. Nepalese dumplings anyone? 

I haven’t got over my cold yet so alcohol was off but this place is civilized, give them that. 

Rusty was in the car (with the air) so we hurried back with our loot. Time for a walk where I found evidence of the abundance of the market: 

Can’t dilly dally...

...locating solitary scooters and walking the park...

But laundry doesn’t wash itself. 

Not quite done with Ohio but West Virginia is the target now east of here, not north.  My wife says there is the world’s largest gavel, world’s largest cuckoo clock and the world’s largest teapot in our future. Now would I joke about that?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Cincinnati has the world’s worst traffic light system.  This apparently minor problem means the city sucks. The downtown is a grid of mismatched lights making it impossible to go anywhere even on a Sunday with no traffic.  Sitting at the light waiting for no one to cross...

And in this miserable town you can’t turn right on the red. What’s wrong with these people? No wonder they flood the Keys in winter to get away from this bullshit. 

On the other hand if you can still drive without having a heart attack you need to get to the Museum of Art. Pretty overwhelming. 

Admission is free and we got there early to get into the Terracotta Army exhibit for $15 apiece. Amazing value. 

Thousands of pottery statues were discovered in China in 1974 and have been cleaned up slowly and sent around the world in small groups to show what was possible in China 200 years before Christ.  Qin pronounced “Chin” was the first emporio of a united China after he spent most of his life pulling the various parts together. He planned a tomb with 8,000 figures representing an army, quarters to house them and civilians to serve them for his after life. What was buried was estimated to look like this:

What we see is this:

And look at the detail on the sole of his sandals:

And this was a sword from 2,000 years ago a world away and it is readily identifiable to anyone anywhere- as a sword! How does that happen? All swords look the same and everyone has one?! 

That was a breathtaking exhibition but the permanent halls are overwhelming too. I decided to take a look at American art. 

Looks classically European? There’s a reason for that, and it fooled me too. 

Eventually I had to go. She was right it was time for lunch at a Taste of Belgium. Real waffles, crisp thick doughy and delicious with meat cheese and egg. 

Then onwards! From the sublime to the absurd. 

Let me tell you the American Sign Museum May sound funny but it is astonishing. We took the audio tour included with admission-$15- which was headsets they give you plugged into your smartphone! 

The history is basically wood signs, light bulb signs and neon all the way up to contemporary LED which is not included in this museum. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Tremendous fun. You need to visit this place, trust me. 

Crazy eh? I loved it all. Very enjoyable talk about the history and technology of making signs. Super nerdy but you won’t take a road trip without thinking about what you saw here. Meanwhile...Rusty was languishing with a dog sitter ($20 through Rover very satisfactory) and liberation was at hand. It reminds me of my time in English boarding school but he seems fine after each time we do this. We took him to Smale Park along the Ohio River, Covington Kentucky across the water. 

And the struggle with the damned traffic lights. Cincinnati sucks. Well it does a little bit. Indian food for dinner made up for the traffic lights -somewhat.