Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, no matter what and where you celebrated it. I was at home in Washington D.C. with my family, trying to catch my breath for a minute, fix some of my equipment and enjoy some holiday cheer. It is, of course, always a good opportunity to look back at the year gone by, and look ahead at the year to come.
A year ago, I was getting ready to set out for the second time on this trip. I had had a fascinating month in West Virginia at the end of 2017, learning about the wonderful history of the Mountain State and seeing some truly spectacular scenery. I had never taken such a deep, in-depth look at a state before, and I really connected with West Virginia on so many different levels. From deep in the heart of coal country to their wonderful state park system to the little big cities of Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling, West Virginia had so much to offer. On the other hand, it was December, so it was cold and the sun was going down at around 4:30 in the afternoon. These were probably not the best of conditions to try and learn the ins and outs of my new van and my new lifestyle, but then again I am a big supporter of a trial by fire. The challenges I faced in my first month of this journey were real, but I persevered as there was no way I was giving up...
Starting in 1998, artist Scott Hagan set out to paint the Ohio Bicentennial logo on 88 historic barns, one in every county of the state. He completed the project in 2002 and when the bicentennial celebration began the following year, every county had its “Bicentennial Barn” proudly on display. You can still see many of these barns as you travel around the state today. Unfortunately I was only able to get these four photos in my travels around the Buckeye State, but every time I saw a Bicentennial Barn, it made me smile from ear to ear.
Ohio. The Buckeye State. A state it seems most people know very little about other than it’s out there in the middle somewhere. I’ve spent much of the summer in Ohio and come away with an intensely different opinion of it than I went in with. It’s a transition state – it connects the east to the west, the Great Lakes to the interior, the Midwest to Appalachia. It’s also a state steeped in history. In the years following the Civil War, it was the third most populous state in the country. During that time, seven of our presidents came out of Ohio, making them second only to Virginia in that regard. Besides presidents, Ohio has given us many legendary Americans. William Tecumseh Sherman, George Armstrong Custer, Thomas Edison, Neil Armstrong, Toni Morrison, Steven Spielberg, Jesse Owens and Cy Young are just a few Ohioans who come to mind who grew up to leave their mark on the country and the world. In the past, when someone told me they were from Ohio, it just passes out of my mind as somewhere in generic Middle America. I didn’t have strong feelings about it one way or the other so I would quickly move past it and forget it. I’m here to tell you I had the wrong idea about Ohio. After six solid weeks of traveling around the state I can tell you it’s a fascinating, welcoming, diverse state with tons to offer and a generally agreeable climate to offer it in. In my travels, I’ve come to think of it as “The Deep South of the Midwest” – a hidden gem and a crossroads which shouldn’t be overlooked.
It’s been a fairly quiet week out here on the road this week. The weather has warmed back up again and the shorts and T-shirts are back on. Halloween stores are still popping up though, and the live haunted houses that have proliferated in recent years are starting to open. I have seen the borders on the leaves in some trees starting to take on some color as well. As for me, I’ve made my way down the far western edge of Ohio and am writing to you today from Covington in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I finished my 2nd Ohio podcast this week (find it HERE), and will be wrapping up my final posts about the Buckeye State in the next few days. I’ve also been doing some planning and trying to figure out where the next few weeks will take me as I begin my journey through the Bluegrass State.
I really love these three photos from my time in Ohio. The top one is from Cincinnati, the middle one from Cleveland and the bottom one I took in Toledo. I love the vertical lines in them and how they have elements of old and new, modern and industrial. To me they speak of what I saw throughout my stay in the Buckeye State: a place holding onto its past but moving boldly towards the future.
After the end of the Civil War, many of Toledo’s wealthiest residents began moving out of downtown and building houses “out in the woods”. This area developed over the next 50 years into the West End neighborhood, now called the Old West End. While it has ebbed and flowed over the years like most old neighborhoods, today it stands as one of the largest collections of intact Late Victorian Era homes in the country. It is a remarkable architectural gem, a living museum and a friendly and welcoming place for a visit. While I was walking around taking photos for this post, I met two long-time residents, Jim and Carol Kutsche, who you will see pictured at the bottom in front of their beautiful home. We sat on their porch for the better part of an hour talking about Toledo and the Old West End. The first day I visited the weather wasn’t in my favor, and the second the light was being difficult, but these photos still came out okay. It was too remarkable a neighborhood to pass by though, and I think you will definitely agree that many of these houses are real gems, even some which are in severe disrepair. If you are in Toledo, you must make time for a stroll around the beautiful Old West End.
The Ohio State Reformatory was built in Mansfield, Ohio starting in 1886. Designed by Levi Scofield, the reformatory is a combination of three different architectural styles: Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne. The prison opened its doors in 1896 to 150 inmates, but at its peak it housed 5,235. It closed permanently in 1990 and was slated for demolition before the producers of the film The Shawshank Redemption decided it would be the perfect setting for their film. I love Shawshank and remember reading the novella it’s based on long before the movie came out. It is one of the very few movies which lives up to the book it was based on in my opinion. While all of the outdoor scenes were filmed on location at the Ohio State Reformatory, many of the inside scenes, including the cell-block, were built as a set in a warehouse in Mansfield. The OSR has also been the filming location for other movies like Tango and Cash and Air Force One - the pictures of Lenin and Stalin you see below were placed for the gulag scenes in the latter. I loved visiting this prison for its actual history and for its Hollywood history. I hope you enjoy these photos from my visit.
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…
Holmes County, Ohio is home to over 10% of the world’s Amish population. The first Amish settlers arrived in the region in 1809 along Sugar and Walnut creeks, and today the area is home to over 35,000 members of the Amish community. Holmes County is also home to a large Mennonite population, who are similar to the Amish in their religious beliefs, but socially are more accepting of modern conveniences like cars and electricity. This area is mostly agricultural, but there are some small to medium sized towns as well. Visiting Amish Country in Ohio was similar to my experience doing so in Pennsylvania. There is great curiosity about the Amish which brings many visitors to the area, but in reality the Amish are busy working on their farms and would probably prefer to be left to their work. This leaves other people scrambling to scoop up those tourist dollars with things like the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock (or Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park in Pennsylvania - nothing is more Amish than a good roller coaster) and can create a Disney-like atmosphere. You can definitely get some wonderful bread and cheese in these regions and also some delicious baked goods. I also really enjoyed visiting the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Millersburg. There is a fascinating Cyclorama there which tells the entire history of the Amish and Mennonite religions and how they evolved over time. They also have a wonderful video which explains the key differences between the Amish and the Mennonites. Both point out that in many ways the Amish and Mennonites are like anyone else - they have marital issues and rebellious teenagers too. But they also point out that because their lives are simple with all of their basic needs met, they don’t long for material goods and are more likely to feel satisfied than those of us who live in a modern world of mass consumerism. I can certainly agree with that...
Stan Hywet is the one-time home of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company co-founder F.A. Seiberling and his wife Gertrude. The Seiberlings started plans for Stan Hywet in 1912 and construction continued until 1915 when the house was completed. Cleveland architect Charles S. Schneider designed the house in the Tudor Revival style, and the completed home covered 64,500 feet and has 65 rooms, 23 bathrooms and 23 fireplaces. When the Seiberlings passed away, Stan Hywet passed down to their children who opened the doors for tours to the general public in 1957. Because of this continuity, the house is remarkably intact with all original furniture, artwork and many household items like sheets and clothing. Stan Hywet is an Old English term for “stone quarry”, one of the most prominent natural features on the grounds which was later turned into a lagoon for swimming. The estate is located just a few miles from downtown Akron, a town which Goodyear helped turn into the “rubber capital of the world”. I loved my visit to Stan Hywet and would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the area. It is a beautiful home and is beautifully appointed, but it also feels lived in. I chose a guided tour when I was there which was definitely worth the extra $4 on top of the admission price of $15. The sun was really bright and intense during my visit which didn’t help my photos, but I think these will give you a good idea of what the house and grounds look like. I hope you enjoy them.
It’s been a great week out here in North Central Ohio. Even though I haven’t gone very far, I’ve been seeing a lot of cool things and spent the entire weekend at the Little C Music Festival in Canton. The weather has warmed up again, but the days are starting to get noticeably shorter. The first hints of fall are starting to show up in the natural world, with more obvious ones like pumpkins at the stores and Halloween shops opening in the man-made one. I love the fall and am very happy to welcome the cooler weather and beautiful changing colors. It means warm apple cider and campfires and that all of my favorite holidays are right around the corner. I’ve had a great summer, but I am definitely ready for the change of season.
My week started with a second great day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I enjoyed a few walks in the park including out to Blue Hen Falls, one in The Ledges area and another through the Beaver Marsh. The weather was a bit overcast that day…
From the wonderful lakefront communities of the northeast like Geneva-on-the-Lake to the tiny Lake Erie islands like Put-In Bay, and from the bright lights of Cleveland to the natural wonders of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, there is a lot to do in Northern Ohio. The three big mega-attractions, though, are definitely the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, and Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. I visited all three during my time in the area and thought I would jot down some thoughts on them for anyone who might come for a visit to one or more of these attractions in the future.
First and foremost, there are a lot of different ways to get tickets to these attractions, and the worst possible way seemed to be buying them at the ticket-window. Navigating the ticket buying process is a bit of a nightmare, but you definitely need to figure out how to buy your tickets in advance which will save you a considerable amount of money..