Fall has definitely arrived here in Northern Ohio and I couldn’t be happier to see it. I am definitely a warm person and summer is always tough. When the weather gets cooler, I get cooler and I feel more comfortable and happier. I feel like I can wear nicer clothes because I’m not sweating through them and I become happier with how I am presenting myself. Shadow Catcher will be happier too. Although she handled really well through the summer, cooler weather is easier to deal with if you’re a van. I visited my first pumpkin farm of the season this week, just on general principle, and it definitely made me smile. The good apples will be out soon, and fresh cider is already in the stores. Soon, the leaves will start to change and I’m looking forward to the color changes and the photographic opportunities that come with it. I all but missed out on fall last year, so I’m really looking forward to it this year.
After we last met, I set off from Akron and headed south into Amish Country in Holmes County (see photos from the day HERE). On the way, I stopped by Nickajack Farms who were beginning their Fall Fest. I loved walking among the pumpkins and seeing all the Halloween stuff around. I bought a delicious fried pie and then got back on the road.
My next stop was in Sugarcreek, where I got to see the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and some fun Swiss architecture around town. I also went out and bought some sausage and cheese at the Broad Run Cheesehouse. From there, I made my way through Walnut Creek and Berlin to Millersburg and stopped in at the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center which I thought was very interesting. Finally I made my way out through Nashville to Loudonville. I stopped at Mohican State Park because I desperately needed to flush out my sewage tanks and fill up on fresh water (the least pleasant part of the van life, but necessary), and then I headed on into Mansfield.
I had a wonderful evening in Mansfield at the Red Fox Tavern, a fantastic little local bar just outside of downtown. Drinks were cheap and they brought in free pizza for the Thursday Night Football game between Cleveland and the Jets. It was the first Cleveland win in over a year, and by the way people reacted you would’ve thought they won the Super Bowl. It was a lot of fun to see people that excited over a regular season win (not that my Redskins have been big winners lately). It was a fun place and a fun night.
The next day I went out in the morning to visit the Ohio State Reformatory, an active prison from when it was built in 1886 all the way until 1990. At its peak it housed 5,235 prisoners. It has also been used in several films including Tango and Cash and Air Force One. Most famously, though, it was the location used for the filming of The Shawshank Redemption. It had actually been slated for demolition before this film, but afterwards became a huge draw to the area for tourism. Now it is open to the public for guided and self-guided tours. There were no guides there the day I visited, so I wandered through on my own. It was a really interesting place and I loved seeing some of the rooms which were used in the movie.
After I finished, I headed just up the road to see some of The Bible Walk at the Diamond Hill Cathedral. The Bible Walk is an incredible undertaking which took the congregation many years to build and which they continue to add to today. It is essentially a series of life-sized dioramas of Biblical stories like the life of Jesus or the Old Testament, accompanied by a recorded narration. I really enjoyed meeting the volunteers running the place, and it was certainly something to see. I only had time for one “walk” of the 5 that were offered, and it was interesting. I would return to see more of this attraction.
When I finished with the Bible Walk, I headed back into downtown Mansfield for a little wander. I loved the carousel and some of the great old buildings. It was also fun to see some of the other filming locations from Shawshank, all of which was filmed in the Mansfield area. Trying to get out ahead of a storm though, I left in early afternoon and made my way north to Toledo. It was a super windy and unpleasant drive, but at least the rain held out for me.
When I arrived in Toledo, I headed to a place called Andy’s Sports Bar to catch the Penn State football game. It was “Steak Night” so I ordered a surprisingly good steak which came with fries and a salad for $9.99. I also appreciated that their draft beers were 22 ounces, not the 12-14 ounce beers most bars try and pass off as “pints” these days. Those things and a Penn State win made for a really good night out. The next day I headed out of Toledo and drove up to Lansing, Michigan for the day. One of my old teaching friends from New Orleans has recently moved home to Lansing and was opening his own insurance office, and I wanted to be there for the Grand Opening. I didn’t tell him I was coming, and the look on his face when I walked in after not seeing him for 10 years was priceless. It was great to catch up a bit with him, and then I turned around and headed back to Toledo.
The next day was Sunday, and I found an open library so I could get some work done and a lot of photos edited. Then I headed downtown for a bit of a wander. Toledo is really quiet on a Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed walking down by the river and around some of the old buildings downtown. The baseball field (home of the Toledo Mud Hens) looks like a good one. I stopped into the Black Cloister Brewery for a really nice Dunkel beer and then headed around the corner for a Hungarian Hot Dog at the iconic Toledo institution: Tony Packo’s. Corporal Klinger used to always talk about Packo’s on M*A*S*H, so it was definitely a must-try. I really liked it. From there I headed out and called it a night.
Monday I started working in earnest on my next podcast in the morning. I hope to get it done before we meet back here next week. The weather was particularly bad out and not very inspiring for being a tourist so I stayed in the library most of the day. It was good to catch up on a little bit of work.
Tuesday, however, I spent the whole day in the city. I went to the Toledo Museum of Art in the morning and stayed there for a solid three hours. What a wonderful collection! They have some great old pieces from Egypt which have held up remarkably well for 4,000 years. There were also some great old pieces from Greece and Rome as well as Asia and Africa. They had a lot of modern art as well (some beautiful and profound, some absolute garbage), and some great visual art productions. As you might imagine, I was partial to the American landscapes and portraits. And the best part was that the museum was free. Apparently Toledo is passionate about exposing their children to the arts and this is their classroom and has been for many years. I really loved this museum.
Feeling inspired and deeply satisfied, I set out with my camera into the adjacent Old West End neighborhood. The Old West End of Toledo encompasses the largest collection of intact Victorian homes east of the Mississippi. The weather and light were pretty bad, but I really enjoyed shooting some of these houses and hope to bring you some more photos soon. As I was strolling around, a wonderful couple named Jim and Carol chased me down. They asked me what I was taking photos for and when I told them they asked me to come back to their house with them. They gave me a map to help me get around and then we sat on their porch and chatted for an hour about my journey and about Toledo and what I should see and do there. They were really wonderful to meet, and I loved hearing their stories about Toledo.
As the light was fading I had to bid them farewell and try and utilize what light was left to get some more photos of their beautiful neighborhood. Then I headed down to the old Oliver House hotel, once Toledo’s finest, which now houses some great bars and restaurants. I enjoyed an excellent flight of craft beers at Maumee Bay Brewing Company and then got a bottle of Buckeye Beer, a Toledo tradition since 1838. It was actually a really good beer, but sadly I got their last one in stock so I only got one. From there I headed out to uptown Maumee for a visit to the Village Idiot Pizza Restaurant. This was a fantastic place with delicious ultra-thin crust pizza (cut in little squares, the southern Ohio way), a great beer selection and live music every night of the year. I was there for about an hour, but I really enjoyed it.
Today I’m back at the wonderful library here in Holland, just outside Toledo. When I’m done with this, I’m going to go out and enjoy the sunshine which I haven’t seen in a few days. I’ll probably be in Toledo tonight and then it’s time for me to head south and start making my way out of Ohio. It’s been an amazing stay, but it is definitely time for me to move on.
When we meet again next week, I will hopefully be ready to begin my exploration of Kentucky. If you have any suggestions of where I should go, what I should see or who I should meet, please leave them in the comments below. I’m looking forward to getting outside and enjoying some beautiful hiking opportunities, sipping some Bourbon and listening to that sweet bluegrass music in the state where it all started. The fall colors will be setting in soon so expect some great photos. Kentucky’s history is also fascinating so there will be some great podcast stories as well, I am sure. Until next week then, I hope you have a great week and a wonderful weekend. Get outside and enjoy the cooler weather, I know I will.