This has been an interesting week for me out here on the road. Not only have I covered a reasonable amount of ground and seen some great places, but I also spent time in the hometown of my grandfather (and his father). He died when I was just 3 years old, so I never really knew him or much about that side of my family. It was fascinating to visit tiny Dillonvale, Ohio and walk where he walked and learn about where he grew up. I also visited my great-grandparents' grave while I was there and introduced myself. The week brought me from Columbus all the way back to the Ohio river, north to Lake Erie and west into Cleveland. The weather is turning cooler and overall, it's been a great week out here as usual.
My week started out, as mentioned last week, in the Ohio History Museum in Columbus. What an absolute disappointment that was. If you like dishes and pots and pans, then by all means check it out, but if you like history, this is not the place to go. Every state I've been to so far has a museum like this in their capital city, and this was, by far, the worst of them. West Virginia still sets the bar in my mind, although North Carolina had an excellent one as well which kept me there for two days. This one I kept walking around and looking for the history part. There was some natural history and some nice sections on Ohio's Native American groups, but that was about where it ended. For a state that gave birth to SEVEN U.S. presidents, built the first airplane and produced the man who would be first to step foot on the surface of the moon, you would think there would be some mention of these things. There really wasn't. If it hadn't cost me $11 to get in (with my AAA discount), I wouldn't have been there an hour. Please, Ohio, do something about this disgrace of a museum.
From there, I went out to Westerville to visit the equally awful Anti-Saloon League Museum. The one tiny room of artifacts was definitely not worth the drive, but at least it was free.
From there, I headed out of town, sadly without a lot of great things to say about Columbus beyond the two wonderful festivals I went to last week. I headed out to quaint and quiet Zanesville with it's weird Y-shaped bridge and beautiful Catholic Church and Courthouse. I didn't spend a lot of time there, but did enjoy an ice cream at a really cool place called Tom's. I also went for a quick beer at Terry's Tavern, which had a beautiful location right on the Muskingum River. I always love a waterfront bar, and this one was really cute and pleasant.
The next morning I was up early and headed out to visit my maternal grandfather's side of the family. I plan to write a full post about this soon, so I won't get into it too much in this post. Needless to say, it was fascinating to learn more about where my people come from. Too often, we don't think too far beyond those relatives we knew when they were alive. It was great to learn more about these people, and where and how they lived. In so doing, I learned a lot about myself as well.
From there, I traveled up the Ohio River to Steubenville, where I enjoyed some of the old buildings and definitely some of the beautiful murals they have around town. It was a nice city to walk around, but there were some strange ones out on a Friday night, and I'm getting a little too old or perhaps just know better than to mix with the strange ones. I've learned to follow my instincts and after such a wonderfully nostalgic day, I called it an early night.
Saturday I made my way further up the river to East Liverpool, before cutting northwest through the lovely small towns of Lisbon and Salem on my way into Youngstown. I had a nice long wander around Youngstown, which seemed nice enough but didn't really have anything that captured my interest. I spent most of the day in the library getting some writing and photo editing done, but did sneak in a quick beer or two downtown. I also had a beer at the Royal Oaks bar, just outside of downtown, which was having some sort of big outdoor music festival. Normally, I would have loved this, but it had been a long day, so I only stayed for one and then headed off to bed.
The next morning my first stop was in Niles, the hometown of President William McKinley. They are in the process of building a recreation of his modest birthplace, but there was still Tyvek showing and it was all a little too shiny for my liking. I did enjoy the massive memorial to him in the center of town though. It being Sunday morning, I didn't get to visit the museum or presidential library, but it was still a neat place to visit. I really wanted to find a bakery for some reason, and I finally found the wonderfully old Warren Baking Company in Warren. This place has been around since the 1920s and still uses the same oven it always has. I like a local bakery because they aren't just smothering some fried dough in sugar, they are actually making wonderful baked goods from scratch. A little less sweet, these are far more my style. This was a great little stop.
As I made my way through downtown Warren, the Harry Potter-esque courthouse made me stop in my tracks. Wow, what a beautiful building it is. While I stopped to get a photo of the courthouse, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble into the Warren Italian Festival. Some of the older men were playing some much younger women in a championship game of Bocce, and everyone was dead serious about it. This isn't something I see very often, so I tucked in as a spectator for a while and had fun doing it. The smell of Italian sausage cooking was just too much for me, and even though I had JUST had a pecan roll at the bakery, I had to have one. It was great! I love the fact that people seem to be celebrating their heritage with these ethnic festivals as I travel around Ohio. In addition to the Irish Festival in Dublin that I went to last weekend, I've seen signs for many others. Having just learned more about the German side of my family only two days earlier, I reflected on how great it is that people are celebrating their heritage out here in the Heartland.
From Warren, I headed due-north until I ran into Lake Erie. It is always cool to visit the Great Lakes and see how big they really are. They must have been really something to see when the first explorers stumbled across them. I traveled down to the beautiful seaside town of Geneva-On-The-Lake and spent most of the day there, learning about the interesting history of the old resort town and the people who worked and traveled there. It was a lot of fun. I loved being there as the sun was going down, and the colors of the clouds reflected in the lake were spectacular.
The next day I went to the library and put in a full day working on my podcast. I'm very happy to say that the wait is over and my first Ohio episode is live. You can find it HERE or by searching "American Anthology" wherever you get your podcasts. After some revamping, you will find this episode shorter and more to the point than the last couple. I am still telling five stories, but instead of telling the entire thing I am choosing to tell the interesting parts that were what drew me to it in the first place. If you haven't listened to my podcast yet, please give it a shot. This was my 10th episode which is hard to believe. It has definitely been a labor of love, and I'm already looking forward to the next episode.
After winding it up, I made my way out to the lake again, this time to the town of Fairpoint Harbor. I enjoyed a quick beer with a great view at the lakefront Sunset Harbor Bar and Grill. I love a bar on the water and anywhere that posts the sunset time by the front door. From there I made my way downtown to photograph their beautiful old lighthouse as the sun was setting. I really love lighthouses and this was a nice one to shoot.
Tuesday I got some work done in the morning and then headed on down to Cleveland in the afternoon. I went and picked up a very old tour leading friend at the airport who was just getting back into town from a business trip. I ran him downtown so he could catch a show with his family and then we reconvened later at his house. It was great to sit down and talk with him about the good old days when we worked together, and catch up on what each other has been up to since. He is doing me a huge favor by watching after my van while I am away from it for the next few weeks, which was a huge favor to ask and I really appreciate his help with it.
Wednesday morning he dropped me off at the airport (a big enough favor in its own right) and we will reconvene in early September. I flew Jet Blue, which I really like, to Boston, and then connected and arrived in Newark mid-afternoon. From there I took the train out to Dover where one of our new tour leaders picked me up and brought me back to our base.
For those of you who don't know me very well, I spent 12 years of my life guiding multi-week tours across the entire U.S. and Canada. Our East Coast Base is about 45 minutes west from New York City where we stay and work between tours. It was nice to get back to the house we stay in and hang out with a group of first year leaders and a couple of old faces as well. I love their energy and enthusiasm for the job and just enjoyed sharing stories of how great a job it can be. I hope I can inspire some of them to stick out the difficulties of learning how to be a good tour guide. Despite what many people think, it's an incredibly challenging job dealing with a dozen different people from different backgrounds and with different expectations. But once you figure it out to some degree, which can take a couple of years, it really is an amazing job. Anyways, while I didn't plan on guiding this summer, it is great to be back.
For the next couple of days I'm just going to be getting all my paperwork and planning done. On Sunday we are off and headed on a two week trip from New York to Miami via D.C., Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Orlando. I've got 10 passengers coming along and it should be a really good trip. That's my plan for the next couple of weeks, but I have a few posts to catch up on and plenty of planning to do for my return to Ohio as well.
One last note on the week: my 69 year old mother is out camping for the very first time as I write this. She's with my brother, so she's in good hands, and seems to be enjoying it. I'm really proud of her for doing this and trying something new. If my mother can go out into the woods and try something new like camping, you can go out this week and try something new yourself. Whether it's a new recipe or restaurant or an activity or hike you've always wanted to try, go give it a go this week and let me know what you chose in the comments below. Have a great week out there, and when we meet again next week I'll be somewhere back in the south.