Friday, July 20, 2018

City Of Churches

Getting up at 5:30 netted me a 61 degree morning and I was close to getting goose bumps when I let Rusty out of the car at one end of the Main Street in old town Steubenville, Ohio.

This is the part of town obviously abandoned by a town that has turned to the inland valley away from the Ohio River where shopping malls car dealerships and chain restaurants represent the Steubenville of 21st century commerce. But this is the town I find fascinating because it attracts my camera the way the weeds and bricks attract Rusty’s nose.

To me these buildings represent waste and unused opportunities. I wasn’t very impressed when cities wanted shopping malls made out of styrofoam to replace their sturdy Victorian architecture and here despite neglect the place still stands. Look at these buildings and think of what a waste of a great space. 

There are too many churches to photograph in this town but I did my best to get a sample. 

There are some small businesses hanging in but there are also homeless services and a job center and the dreaded temporary worker jobs housed in a glass mausoleum. Not proper work. 

Then there is that other mark of poverty in the neighborhood. 

Ohio went for Trump, barely, but enough to get him elected and you can see why. There has been too much neglect. Now they want to knock off unions.  I live in a right to work state and it isn’t right. I hope the next generation brings back some of the greatest generation’s gains that we Baby Boomers threw away. Looking at the kids I work with I don’t think it’s likely. 

There again Trump hasn’t followed up on his extravagant promises most likely because he has no better idea than anyone else how to restore the Rust Belt. It turns out tariffs are driving manufacturers even further offshore. No one seems to have an answer.  Help yourself I guess.

It was a great hour in the cool morning air in the company of my dog.  And Rusty gave no hint he cared how this town got to be so interesting to him. 

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?