It's been another busy but wonderful week out here in Western Ohio. I started the week in Dayton, returned briefly to Cincinnati and then made my way out to Columbus, Ohio's capital city. I've met some great people, taken some sweet photos, learned some interesting history and attended some great events. The weather has turned pretty hot and some amazing Midwestern thunderstorms have passed overhead, but I'm keeping cool and dry and really enjoying my time in the Buckeye State. As I've been driving, I've been enjoying a great podcast called Ohio V. The World. It is an interesting , in depth look at some of the history of the state and it's really given me some great background as I travel. This week has brought me into some of the flat, farm filled landscapes Ohio is most known for, but even these are dotted with cool old farm buildings and Rockwell-esque small towns. It's been another great week exploring all the great things America and Ohio have to offer.
As I left you last time, I was on my way to the incredible National Air Force Museum in Dayton. This museum stretches across four giant airplane hangars and each was full of dozens of cool old aircraft from the very beginning to present day. Bockscar was there, as was the Memphis Belle and every Air Force One except the one currently in use. It is an impressive museum in size and scale, and the docents were mostly retired Air Force, so they brought a lot of expertise with them. I really liked the art painted on the planes and took a lot of photos of it. You can see the results of that shoot HERE. After walking for many miles around the museum, I went for a wonderful Polish dinner at The Amber Rose. I grew up eating Eastern European food, and really look forward to seeking some out in some of the old ethnic communities around Ohio. The Amber Rose was a really cool spot and the food was delicious.
The next day I spent some more time in the library trying to catch up a bit. In the afternoon I paid a visit to Bob Mills at his office in Beavercreek. Over the last 10 years, Bob has helped raise millions of dollars to fund cancer research and patient and family programs in Southwest Ohio. He has also helped with several organizations providing resources to abused women and children in the community. I really enjoyed visiting with him and hearing his story. You can read that whole story HERE.
Friday I was up early and off south back to Cincinnati. My friend Doug had arranged for me to visit the Green Diamond Gallery, the largest private collection of baseball memorabilia in the world. I loved wandering through their collection and seeing all of the incredible pieces they had on display. I was there for several hours reading the plaques and taking photos. This private, members-only club hosts monthly events with baseball legends and superstars and it was great hearing the stories from some of these events. It was an amazing way to spend a few hours, and you can read all about my visit and see more photos HERE.
After several wonderful hours at the Green Diamond Gallery, I set off towards Columbus. I stopped for a while and had a wander around Wilmington. While there I stepped into the glorious General Denver Hotel, a remnant from 1928 built as a stopover between Cincinnati and Columbus. It has an old hand-crank elevator which is apparently the oldest functioning one in the entire state. Still open for business and busy on a Friday night, I only stopped in for a look, but it was a pretty cool place.
I wandered around a bit more before making my way on to Washington Court House. Perhaps most famous as the site of a race riot in the 1890s, the courthouse itself still has bullet holes in the doors. It was fascinating to see and read about the history of the town and the riot. With a serious storm threatening, I took refuge in the Rusty Keg Tavern. Along the coasts, we don't get a lot of freshwater fish other than catfish, so I was thrilled to get a basket of fresh-caught perch and hand-breaded mushrooms. Their's was some of the best I've had. The bartender was friendly and the food was great, making this a great stopover on the journey and highly recommended.
I spent the night there and then headed on into Columbus in the morning. I stopped to get a little work done on the way into town, and then made my way out to the Ohio State Fair. Although it was pretty hot out, I had a great time wandering around the fair, looking at everything it had to offer. My highlights included a butter carving of scenes from A Christmas Story, a sow and her 11 piglets, some great German potato pancakes, a cream puff and a ride on the cable car overlooking it all. I also enjoyed seeing all the arts and crafts and those things which don't normally have an audience the rest of the year. I really love state fairs, and it was great to see this one.
I took off from the fair in the early evening and went to visit with my old friend John. John had actually gone to school with my older brother, but he always chatted with me at alumni functions and events. I had connected with him a few months ago on Instagram and was happy to hear he had relocated to Columbus. I met him at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room where they had convened a meeting of the Fraternal Order of Moai, an organization dedicated to the preservation of tiki culture. It was fun to be included with this group in their Hawaiian shirts and to enjoy some of the Grass Skirt's signature drinks like Pele's Curse and an old favorite from my island days: the Painkiller. It was also fun to catch up with John and his wife and to hear about their move to Columbus and what they've found here.
Sunday I was up and off to the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, Ohio. The largest three-day Irish Festival in the country, this was a great event. Phenomenally well organized, this festival was a celebration of all things Irish from music and food to arts and crafts - there was even a massive darts area. I enjoyed the fiddle workshop, bagpipe showcase, Irish dance demonstrations and especially the highland games' "Stones of Strength" competition. A few pints of Guinness and some good food had me dancing a jig, and smiling from ear to ear. This may have been one of the best festivals I've been to all summer, and I've been to a few. If you're ever in Ohio the first weekend in August, you should definitely put this on your calendar.
Two festivals and a tiki bar left me pretty tired after the weekend, but I was up early on Monday to get to the gym and try and catch up on some things. I had posts to write and photos to edit and a podcast to research, so I spent most of the day at the library.
Tuesday I spent the morning doing the same and then headed over to North Market for some chicken from Hot Chicken Takeover. Then I went downtown for a wonderful tour of the Ohio Statehouse. Our tour guide, Pat, was wonderful and had a lot of great stories and information to share. After the tour we carried on talking until they had to close the building. It was a great tour. Afterwards I went to a for a couple of beers at the Ringside Cafe, one of Columbus' oldest bars, and the really cool Elevator Brewing Company. I got some writing done on my podcast and called it an early night.
Today I'm back in the library writing this post. When I hit "publish" I'm headed to the Ohio History Center to check that out. I'll be in Columbus for another day or two and then I need to push east and up to Lake Erie. A week from now I'll be on a plane headed east to New Jersey. I'm going to lead one quick tour for my old tour company this month, a two-weeker from New York to Miami. Don't worry, you can come along for the ride too. Then I'll be back to finish off my visit to Ohio and head on towards Michigan.
This week it was really great to catch up with my old friend John who I haven't seen in 20 years. This week, you should reach out to somebody you haven't seen in a while and catch up. Most of us have the best of intentions when it comes to keeping up with our old friends, but days have a way of turning to weeks which quickly turn into years and then decades. It's never been too long to reach out and say "hi". Until next week then, keep on keepin' on! -Mike