Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Don't Be a Scrooge

I'm still working on posts, but this time of year can play havoc with schedules. But the key is to remember the reason for the season - and to not get caught being the scrooge!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Snow, Ice: Must be December in Ohio

They were calling for our second measurable snow fall last night. One to three inches mixed with freezing rain, an excting prospect for me with my new camera.

Wound up getting a dusting on the roads and paved surfaces that was iced over. Nothing too pretty, but I was able to get this shot on the garland of our deck.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Knox County: A trip down memory lane

Sitting here one day past my anniversary of thirty years on Earth, I thought I’d go back to where it all began, or at least my memory of it begins. Knox County, Ohio.

Being honest, I was actually born in Mansfield and lived in Butler for a couple of years, but my family moved to Danville in the summer of 1978.

But enough about me, that’s not why you’re here to read this.

Knox County is an interesting county in that it sits at the very foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Head east or south and you’re into Appalachia, head west and it becomes the plains area and if you head north your getting into the glacier region of Lake Erie. But, Knox County blends all of them.

Mt. Vernon (city Web site) is the county seat and serves the county well – now. There is a tale told about how Mt. Vernon landed the county seat. According to local lore, Cavallo and Mt. Vernon were locked in a battle to be named the county seat and on the day when the county elders were surveying Cavallo, Mt. Vernon hired men to serve as “vagrants” on the streets of the thriving river town. The bid went to Mt. Vernon and the community hasn’t looked back since, being named “Ohio’s Most Livable City” by Ohio Magazine a few years back.

By contrast, as the river and train traffic began to leave, Cavallo has collapsed into a virtual “ghost town” with only a few old – and mostly in disrepair – home remaining. These towns dot the majority of the county’s eastern edge. Brinkhaven is even named after one of these feuds. Gann was a thriving river town served by two railroads and was going gangbusters on the Mohican River (just off St. Rte. 62 today), when its founder (Gann) got into a feud with the railroad and they quit stopping in the community. Which gave it the nickname Brinkhaven, of course the numerous Mohican floods – including one that wiped out 65 percent of the community – didn’t help.

But at least they rebuilt, the community of Funk was located off the Kokosing River and when the flood of 1913 came through, it was wiped off the map, never to be rebuilt.

In the extreme northeast corner of the county is Greer a community of 45 residents that used to be home to the most hopping baseball field in central Ohio. It sat a “good ride” from Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Mansfield, and Wooster and the report was that teams would just catch the train to Greer for a game on the weekends. The old backstop is all that remains in this community of less than 50 people.

Danville is the lone “thriving” town in eastern Ohio with about 1,000 residents. The community has undergone a bit of resurgence in the past 3-4 years as more Amish have moved in from Eastern Holmes County. They have brought with them the tourism and travel dollars which is helping the community to shake that “sleepy” look.

Gambier, located about 10 miles from Mt. Vernon is home to Kenyon College and is the “crossing spot” for the Kokosing Gap Trail – one of the most successful Rails-to-Trails experiences in the country. The Gap runs from Mt. Vernon to Danville, through Gambier and Howard. In Danville another trail – this one a multi-purpose trail – will take riders the four miles to Brinkhaven and across the “Bridge of Dreams” – a covered bridge on the old railroad trestle – to Holmes County.

On the county’s western side sits, Fredericktown. The Leedy and Merrin families were cornerstones to this community’s development and I happen to be related to both of them.

Head south and you’ll come to Centerburg, which surprise, sits in the geographical center of Ohio according to the marker on St. Rte. 36 just north of town.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Other Ohio County Courthouse Project

Was just cruising the Web and found this site for the Ohio County Courthouse Project.

Maggie Stewart Zimmerman has an interesting site that uses postcards to depict the courthouses of Ohio.

Revamped Layout

A slightly revamped layout, that has reminded me how many counties I have sitting on my computer at home that I need to get written up and shared.

From memory...
1. Knox
2. Richland
3. Guernsey
4. Union
5. Muskingum
6. Jefferson
7. Seneca
8. Coshocton
9. Pickaway
10. Concord, NC.

and I'm sure there are a couple of more that I'm forgetting from my travels over the summer.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Site to Visit - New Link

Got an e-mail on Sunday night from Mark Spearman about his site, Ohio Sights.

Ohio Sights has some beautiful photography on it! I'd strongly suggest that if you like what is going on on at Ohio County Project to head on over to Mark's page.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Am I a Liar?

Wow, so here I was telling Nanina in the comments on an earlier post, that this was going to be a good week to visit Ohio.


It was 75 degrees on Monday afternoon.

This afternoon, it will be lucky to hit 40.

And it snowed.

Sounds like a good night to kick-back and catch up on some of those county reports I'm missing from earlier this summer.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Licking/Muskingum County: Longaberger Homestead

The wife and I are establishing a ritual where we both take our Anniversary off and head off on a short little “honeymoon” trip.

Last year, we took a long weekend and spent it at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and loved every minute of it. This year, with the new puppy, we didn’t feel right about taking off for a long weekend and leaving her.

So we elected to make the two hour drive east along State Route 37 to Licking County and Newark, Ohio.

We actually passed through Newark on 16 to the Longaberger Basket Company’s headquarters. The giant “basket” can be seen from at least a ¼-mile away and provided some interesting chatter. The corporate headquarters was not that exciting as they only allowed you to visit the downstairs.

The people at the front desk were very nice and quick to share a story about the building. The Cherry wood was cut down from where the Longaberger Golf Course sits and was milled in the company’s own mills. And the baskets’ handles weight 18 tons and are equipped with a special heating mechanism to keep them from allowing icicles to form that could fall through the glass ceiling on the building.

They also made it a point to share the experience that could be had at the Company’s homestead located about 15 miles east of Newark in Dresden (which actually lies in Muskingum County).

We took them up on the offer and made the easy 15 minute drive to the Homestead. Visiting on Halloween was a very good idea, as the place was nearly empty. The Homestead is set-up like a park – with a lot of gift shops. You enter and they have a “welcome station” with another smiling face – you see a lot of those – that gives you the explanation of the grounds and where everything is. It could easily take you 4-5 hours to get through everything. But don’t worry about getting hungry they even have two full-service restaurants on the grounds and numerous snack shops.

We saw the world’s largest basket of apples (photo right) and it was a big basket of “fake” apples. You could take a free walking tour of their basket making facilities and for only $59.99 you can weave your own basket, on the hour. Fortunately for me – and unfortunate for her – we got there about 11:05 and didn’t want to wait 55 minutes to make a basket. There are also several of the original buildings – and replicas of others – where the family got into the basket making process. There is a long building, nearly the entire front of the facility that lays out how you could use Longaberger in every room of your home – and you’d be surprised they also sell the stuff there. While most of it was of little interest to me, they did have some neat foods additives and sample sections in the kitchen section. They also provided entertainment in the “foyer” while we were there. The young lady singing was pretty good, singing a Shania Twain tune.

We left there with a couple of baskets – and $100 lighter – and considered our course of action. There was still the barn, memorial garden, and several other sites that we could examine before heading off into the sunset.

Unfortunately, we’d packed the day very full – wanting to go hiking, pick apples, and make it home in time for trick-or-treat.

We chose to continue our explorations another time and headed off to find our next destination -- which is another issue of "The Ohio County Project"!

If You Go: Be prepared to spend money. They offer some good freebies, but lots of Longaberger baskets and eventually most people have to buy one. This is in a very rural section of the state, so if you are not interested in eating at Longaberger, I’d suggest stopping at Ms. Miller’s Restaurant in Newark.

What’s Special: Nothing too special, for me. They were quick to point out that there are several baskets that you can only purchase at the Homestead. Sounds like an EBay project to me!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

It's all over...

The winter season appears to breathing down our neck.

This is one of the few trees on the block still with its leaves, in the light of a streetlamp.

With the way the wind is hitting the house this evening, I'm afraid our "solitary traveler" will soon join its friends in its winter coat.

One nice thing to the cold front, was that we had three deer walking across our back yard last night.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm now an authority on Ohio?

Scary thought. But, I was browsing sites that link to Ohio County Project and, an ecological travel site, has included the Ohio County Project as one of only two sources for Ohio travel news with "Ohio Tourism" being the other.

You can check out Planeta:

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ohio County Project -- The Plan

Change of seasons, change of plans.

My wife purchased me a beautiful Nikon D-70 camera for our Anniversary. It takes a lot better photos than my old HP point-and-click digital that I was using.

So with that I’m going to change the format of the Ohio County Project a bit, and for a couple of reasons.

First, There are some beautiful courthouses in Ohio, but I’m finding that after a dozen they all have very similar traits and items. Plus – despite living in one of the nation’s fastest growing counties – I’m a rural type guy. So going into downtown Mansfield and taking a photo has me wondering why? I’ve got the opportunity to head to beautiful Mohican State Forest, Malabar Farms, Gatton Rocks outside of Butler and instead I’m taking pictures of this “boring” building in downtown Mansfield.

So I’m no longer “tying” myself to simply putting the photo of the court house up.

This will also allow me to have a little more fun with the blog and the writing. I have a lot of updates to get on here and I’m hoping to make regular updates to the site and developing another side of my “story”

If you’re bored, take a moment and visit Connect2 OWU, it is a six-week old publication that we’ve created in the Office of Public Relations at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Falling into Winter

This was supposed to be such a beautiful time of year. The leaves turn their glorious colors and the Indian Summer gives beautiful days to enjoy the color.

Umm...somebody forgot to share that with the weatherman, and I don't mean the local one, you know that one upstairs.

We got our first killer frost on a Friday morning and the rain and wind came through that weekend and the majority of the leaves were gone. The ones that survived were gone this weekend with the 20 mile-per-hour gusts that visited Central Ohio after causing havoc on those poor people in Indiana.

The photo above is of our new puppy - Sadie Lynn - was an anniversary present for my wife and she joined us about three weeks ago and is now 10 weeks old. She wasn't too fond of the "cameraman" trying to get a cute picture of her with the pumpkin.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Little Brown Jug

The Little Brown Jug
Dave Palone and P-Forty-Seven took 1:52 1/5 to cover the one-mile that makes up the Little Brown Jug and become part of the event’s rich tradition on Thursday.

How big is the Jug? The attendance was nearly 53,000 or double the population of the city of Delaware. Thousands more watched the race live on Ohio News Network and still more read about it in newspapers – from USA Today to London, Ontario.

The 60th running of the Jug – the second leg of the pacing Triple Crown – was my first onsite experience. Growing up in Central Ohio, you know about the Jug but being there provides a completely different perspective. The day begins early, with the first races going off at 11 a.m., but those sitting along the fence needed to be there at least two hours before to secure a prime location.

The first race went off as planned and the man to my right hit the trifecta and won a cool $665 – and the right to buy lunch and supper for his traveling party from Crestline. That was probably the most interesting aspect, standing in lines you met people from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, Kentucky, and New York to name a few. They were all in Delaware because of their love of harness racing and were quick to pass along a tip on a horse or share their favorite racing story.

As the day went along the few remaining seats filled and the tension around the stadium continued to build. By the time the Jug – the day’s 23rd race – went off, the crowd was at a fevered pitch. P-Forty-Seven drew the rail and rode its favored starting position – and raw talent – to the victory. I have seen national championship games in football and basketball, been to a playoff game at Jacobs Field and many other sporting events, but there was something about those two minutes that eclipsed those other events.

It was enough that I can say, “I’ll see you next year at the Little Brown Jug!”

For more coverage of the Jug results read, “P Forty Seven Wins The $569,032 Little Brown Jug In Straight Heats.”

--Toby Boyce

Friday, August 05, 2005

Road Trip: Oglebay Resort, West Virginia

Ohio and Michigan nearly went to war over Toledo.

Toby Boyce (c)

An interesting piece of history, but personally I would have much rather seen us battle Pennsylvania and Virginia for the sliver of land that gives West Virginia its unique northern point.

Recently, I attended the Independent College Advancement Associates Conference at Oglebay Resort just north of Wheeling and had my love of the region restored.

Ogelbay is only a couple miles from the hustle of I-70 and downtown Wheeling, but it could easily be 150-miles from civilization. As you head up Route 88 North, the winding road seems to leave stress and tension behind.

Toby Boyce (c)

As I walked into my room at Wilson Lodge, I kept expecting Jennifer Gray to be getting whisked off her feet by Patrick Swayze. The Lodge has been able to maintain a rustic and classic feel despite being updated and brought into a more recent times. The majority of rooms do not have internet access (there is a library on the second floor with wireless capabilities) or the newest gadgets and toys and the bathroom in my two double bed room was small -- but for some reason this lack of amenities made the Lodge even more special.

The meeting rooms were well-kept and clean and provided a nice environment for the conference. The location's food was very good and I found every member of the staff to be helpful and ready to make our visit even better.

Toby Boyce (c)

But the true beauty of the Resort is located outside the walls of Wilson Lodge. The Lodge has four golf courses for the hacker. Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones give it two premiere courses that cannot be matched for beauty. Crispin Course is an 18-hole course that works its way through the facilities and has some beautiful holes and throw in the driving-range and Par III course and any golfer would be happy for a weekend in the West Virginia hills. Personally, I didn't play any of the courses - something about being in my first year of playing golf that I thought these were a notch above my level - but did walk around the Robert Trent Jones course to get a feel for it and I don't think there was a flat-lie on the course at all.

Toby Boyce (c)

If you don't golf, there are numerous other options for the person planning to visit Oglebay. The outdoor pool is beautiful but I made my way toward the lake and the nature center and walking trails. The trails led you through the steep hills and I would suggest good hiking shoes and being ready for a nice level of physical activity before heading over the hills. But my personal favorite was a butterfly park located behind the nature center, which also became the feeding place of three Hummingbirds while I was watching.

All told the trip was a good one and only sitting 2-1/2 hours from Columbus this is a must-visit for all stressed out Buckeyes.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Coming Events...

Sorry about not getting anything posted earlier today, I’m working on a couple of pieces that I’ll get up over the next couple of days.

Have lots of counties to write up and also “road trips” to Concord/Kannapolis/Mooresville, North Carolina and Overby Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Road Trip: Durham, North Carolina

The old adage is that one of the greatest parts of vacation is the planning. And there is always the “call to confirm” that appears in all the flyers.

For my birthday (which is in December) my wife gave me an “IOU” for tickets to a Durham Bulls baseball game. I cashed those tickets on Monday when the Bulls took on the Charlotte Knights in a game that was featured on ESPN's 50 days in 50 states.

Kenny Mayne

The City: Durham has its pockets of nice areas unfortunately they are intertwined in a way that you never know where to feel comfortable. The city was relatively clean with a lot of trees, but had an overall “blah” feel that didn’t make you feel at home.

The Residents: One thing I did notice in Durham (as well as Kannapolis, Mooresville, and Concord) is the politeness of people. Heading in-and-out of the doors, they’d always hold the door for you, just little things that we Ohioans don’t seem to have time for anymore.

Bennett Place: A State Historical site located on the northwest side of the city and commemorates the final days of the Civil War. The sign on the site paid homage to the Bennett Farm being the site where General Sherman accepted the largest hand-over of men from General Johnson during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the site is closed on Monday. We were able to walk around the site and look at the buildings, but the information center and buildings were closed.

Duke University: As a closet Blue Devil fan for years, hey, I’m a former Danville Blue Devil. So when the Buckeyes were out of the NCAA Basketball tournament earlier it was cool to have someone to root for. This was something I was looking forward too, walking around the campus and getting a feel for this fine institution of higher-learning. I was hoping to visit Cameron and run into golf coach Rod Myers (OWU class of 1961) and introduce myself. But, we found that they charged you $2 an hour to park at the site. $2 is nothing, but the thought that I was going to pay an institution of higher learning to simply WALK AROUND the CAMPUS really bugged me. So we drove around campus for a few minutes, but it wasn’t the same and we moved on.

Duke University Tobacco Museum: Obviously, the state of North Carolina shuts down on Monday, which if I’d made a couple of phone calls, I would have known. The site was closed so we drove by slow and looked at the pretty grounds.

Brightleaf Square: Another disappointment. The Visitor’s Bureau made this area seem like the “it” spot in Durham to hang-out and spend and afternoon. There were several restaurants and some interesting – and expensive – shops but the area was rather a dud for us. It did boast the best Mexican Restaurant – El Rodeo – we’ve eaten at in a long-time. I’ve become leery of eating beef at Mexican establishments, but they had some of the best hamburger – it was juicy without being fatty – that I’ve ever had.

Guglhupf Bakery: Now for another rule, cities don’t always agree on how to name their streets. For example, in Durham, there are four different streets bearing the name “Chapel Hill” and that doesn’t include those with other words included in Chapel Hill – like Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. We spent 45 minutes looking on Chapel Hill Blvd. for the Bakery, only to realize that it was housed in a building on what was listed on street signs as being Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. We also found this to be closed, but by the time we found it was after lunch.

At this point, we gave up on our search for the “local” scene and headed to a wine shop. Thankfully that was open, so we picked up a couple of local Carolina brews and a Reisling from a Carolina winery to enjoy later this week. We did a little shopping before enjoying the Hampton Inn’s pool and heading to the Durham Athletic Park for the reason for our stay.

Durham Athletic Park: For a complete write-up on our visit to the DAP, visit "Road Trip: Durham Bulls 5, Charlotte Knights 0" at Minor Details.

Overall: My take on Durham is that is an okay city, but not a real tourist friendly place. I’d probably go back for a Bulls game, but it would be on the way through the city and not another vacation destination.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Road Trip: Delaware Cows vs. Southern Ohio Copperheads

In my best NFL Films voice, “the green walls of Littick Field proved the backdrop for the epic battle between nine Copperheads and nine Cows.”

Last night got out to my first Delaware Cows game of the season as the squad swept the Southern Ohio Copperheads in Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League action. The Great Lakes League is an NCAA approved wood bat league focusing on players with college eligibility. For more information, read my interview with Commissioner Dr. Kim Lance from earlier this spring.

The Game: On Tuesday night the weather was a little muggy but almost perfect for what fans would expect from a late-July ballgame. But the on field action was pretty hot (and cold) as there were some players that really shined and others that well, didn’t. The Cows (16-14) came-from-behind to win both games over the Copperheads (13-19).

In the opener, the Cows plated three runs in the first to tie the game at three and then four in the third to stake a 7-3 lead and held on for a 7-5 (box) victory. George Biddle (4-1) picked up the win going five innings allowing four run on seven hits, walking one and fanning six. Dan Utts recorded his second save of the season working 0-2/3 innings with a strike out. Troy Testerman (2-3) took the loss allowing all seven runs on eight hits and a walk over three innings, Jonathan Nichols followed Testerman tossing a one-hit shutout over the final three innings. Aaron Hauser paced the Cows with a single and double with a walk and two runs, while Jason Zoeller and Daniel Webb added two hits. Ryan Hamilton finished 0-for-1 with two RBI on two sacrafice flies. The Copperheads were led by third baseman Dennis Winn's third homerun of the season, while Mike Folli added two hits and two stolen bases in the contest. (In the nature of full disclosure, I missed the first game because it started at 3 p.m.)


In the nightcap, the Copperheads again drew first-blood and watched as their venom had no effect on the Cows. Southern Ohio plated four in the first inning and watched as a five-run fourth inning lifted the Cows to an 8-5 victory (box). Shortstop Paul Bennett led the Copperheads offense from his leadoff position going 2-for-2 with a walk, run, stolen base (14th on the season) and RBI; but he also committed a costly error and could have easly been charged with a second on a botched double-play attempt. Willie Walker and Josh Miller added a double for the Copperheads attack. The Cows offense was led by Hamilton's 2-for-4 with three RBI while Daniel Webb, Derek Lehrman added two hits. Ryan DeGeeter (2-1) picked up the win going five innings allowing four runs on five hits and two walks while fanning two. Dan Utts worked the final 1-1/3 innings with three strikeouts for his third save - and second of the day - of the season. Jon Oliver started for Southern Ohio and was bounced around in three innings allowing three runs - two earned - on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Richie Frahlick (3-1) took the loss going one inning allowing four hits, three walks, and a strikeout en route to allowing five runs.


The Players: I have to admit that I just got a new 300mm lens for the camera at work, so my “focus” was on playing with the new toy – hence I didn’t keep a great scouting report on the teams, but a couple of guys stood out in the game.

A player that really stood out was Delaware first baseman Aaron Hauser, a 6-1 and 225-pound junior from North Alabama, with the bat and the glove. Hauser made a wonderful play at first base on a bang-bang play, going up and over the Copperhead runner but having the presence of mind to attempt a tag and recorded and out with a tag to the head that sounded like something that happens on the gridiron. He is hitting .301-3-10 with five doubles in 103 at bats. The biggest concern is that he has posted a 3/18 walk to strike out ratio. With UNA this spring, Hauser hit .350-4-50 with 13 doubles and 18 stolen bases in 200 at bats. The ironic thing is that he walked 32 times, was hit by pitch 10 times, and fanned only 14 times. He looks like a guy that should get a shot to play in the low-minors and if some power develops he could become an interesting prospect.

A second player that really stood out was Cows third baseman Ryan Hamilton (.327-1-17, 7 sb). He was solid around the hot-corner making a couple of bang-bang plays (with the help of Hauser) over the course of the game. A native of Houston, Hamilton is a 5-10, 180-pound junior at Louisiana Tech. With Tech he hit .339-8-37 with 11 doubles in 224 at bats. He’s compiled an 8/16 walk to strikeout ratio this spring. He’s athletic and seems to have good instincts. He hits from a wide-open stance that just looks awkward. He looks a bit small to play third in the minors, but he has enough skills around the hot-corner that a move to second wouldn't be out of reach.


Southern Ohio’s hottest pitcher was all-star Richie Frahlick (3-1), of Ball State University, who had not allowed an earned run this season. From the “picked a fine day to see him” file, I watched him allow four hits and walk three en route to allowing five earned runs in a single inning of relief in the nightcap. Even with that Frahlick’s number now stand at 13 hits, 12 walks, 33 strike outs in 21-2/3 innings. He’s posted a 2.01 ERA with a 3-1 record and a save. He’s limiting opponent to a .176 average.

The Facility: Delaware Cows games are played at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Littick Field. The field is very nice and has limited seating right behind home plate and an open area down the foul lines. Take a blanket for the aluminum bleachers behind home plate. The fence around the field is a little high for a traditional lawn-chair but a couple of fans were able to prop lawnchairs up enough to enjoy the game from the first base line. The playing surface was beautiful and the hops looked pretty true on the infield.

If You Go: Ticket prices are $2 per person and you'll get a classic no-frills baeball experience. The stadium is located off Henry Street in Delaware on what is known as the East Side of Ohio Wesleyan's campus. There are currently no ammenities at the stadium, a couple of good restaurants - The Brown Jug (named for the famous horse race at the Delaware County Fair), Buns, and Old Bag of Nails - are located a long-walk from the Stadium in downtown Delaware.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Map Updated: 14% Complete

I've updated the map with the 12 counties that I've been able to visit. The goal is to begin posting on a daily basis until I get caught up with the counties I have yet to profile.

Ross and Pickaway Counties were the latest additions being visited on Friday night.

Ross County: Hidden Baseball Gem

Road Trip: Chillicothe Paints vs. Mid-Missouri Mavericks (VA Memorial Stadium – Chillicothe, Ohio)

I made the trip down the Chillicothe on Friday night. I had planned to visit the Court House, but after dealing with rush hour traffic and spending 20 minutes in Circleville; visiting the Hopewell Burial Mounds and V.A. Memorial Stadium will have to do.

Getting to the Stadium: V.A. Memorial Stadium was built in 1954 and stands on the grounds of the Veteran of Foreign Affairs Hospital northwest of Chillicothe along State Route 104. After spending an hour fighting the traffic of Columbus’ sprawl it was rather refreshing to head away from downtown Chillicothe, 104 heads north along the Scioto River past the rather large and very intimidating Chillicothe Correctional facility, past the National Park honoring the Hopewell Indian Mounds, and then turning at the golf course. It was another world from other Ohio stadiums that have taken up residence in the concrete hearts of their cities. I made a pit-stop at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park and was offered a short, but very informative, chat session with a Park Ranger. I’m sure that he would have been much more detailed, but I’d arrived as they were locking up the doors and he stopped to speak with me on his way home. The park was a neat place to stop but not worth a trip to Chillicothe on its own unless you are a big fan of Indian burial mounds.

The Stadium: As you meander back the entry-road to the stadium, you pass a golf course and it really has that type of setting. You really feel like this stadium is hidden back in this golf course setting, reminded me a lot of a small college stadium that tries to integrate the facility into the greater campus. The first-base side is directly in the sun and Friday’s 90-plus degree day made the bleachers along that side a nice spot for a person wishing to escape the inebriated non-baseball folk that had gathered along the third-base side.

Environment (Food, Ambiance): I arrived at Memorial Stadium about one hour before game time and easily parked, for free, within three rows of the stadium. The Party Pavilion was hopping and the three youth-league teams were already amassed and enjoying the open grounds around the facility. The Paints appeared to have enough staff to handle about anything that could pop up and they were friendly and seemed to be having fun at the ballpark, which made for a more pleasurable experience. It really felt in a lot of ways like a “family” experience where you were being included in their family gathering that just happened to have a baseball game surrounding it. The Paints players were very accessible to fans right up until the first pitch and, despite a less-than stellar game, right after it as well. I discovered the high number of drunks may have had to do with $2 draft beers, which could be dropped to a $1 if the “Budweiser Batter of the Game” proceeded to strike out during the contest. A whiff by Mid-Missouri catcher Matt Oakes in the fifth sent many a fan to the beer truck for a refill of what appeared to be the favorite beverage. After having a cold hot dog, I relived why the beer was the food and beverage of choice for the Paints’ faithful.

The Game: This is Frontier League action so unless you are a fan of the league you will not know the names of any players on the field. The Paints’ dugout contained former major leaguer Glen Wilson as the manager, but the players are guys battling for their professional life. The game was smooth and a well-played for the most part. There were a few times when the game seemed to get away from the players and the Paints’ coaching staff seemed a bit reluctant to go deep into their bullpen much to the dismay of the three fans that were rather vocal near the Chillicothe bullpen.

Steve Soja: I was excited to know find that Mavericks starter Steve Soja, a 6-1 and 210-pound righty, was among the league leaders in earned run average entering the contest. Soja didn’t look impressive, his physical make-up reminded me of Bartolo Colon and he’s got a hitch when he pitches from the set-up that makes it very easy to run against him. But, in Soja’s defense he didn’t allow very many Paints on base all night. He limited the home team to six hits and three walks over eight innings while fanning three. With the win he improved to 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA on the season.

Thomari Story-Harden: Thomari Story-Harden stood-out from his competition from his size. The 6-6 and 250-pound first bagger for the Mavericks crushed a Matt Blanton pitch to left-centerfield in his first at bat, for his sixth round-tripper of the campaign. He finished the day 3-for-3 with two runs, two RBI, a walk, and hit-by-pitch. He raised his average to .372 with his performance.

Dusty Hillman: I’m a sucker for those Adam Eckstein type scrappy players that just find a way to play the game the right way. Hillman looked like that type of player to me. No chance for him to play in the majors standing at 5-9 and tipping the scales at 190-pounds, but the Mavericks second-bagger just has a great approach to the game. He finished the day 2-for-6 with a run and two RBI.

Overall: The Paints’ organization put on a good show with a lot of on-field promotions and excitement to keep all the fans in the game. If I’d had to drive more than 1-1/2 hours to get home, I’m not sure it would have been worth the trip.

Complete Box Score

Martin Lawrence in Mt. Vernon, Ohio?

Watching television this afternoon and the advertisement for Martin Lawrence's new movie, Rebound, was advertised.

Martin Lawrence in 20th Century Fox's Rebound - 2005

According to the advertisement, Lawrence was a star basketball coach that falls on hard times and ends up going back to his junior high and taking over the basketball team. The movie is the typical "feel good" sports movie that Hollywood likes to produce.

But what caught my eye, was that when they repossessed his Cadillac it had Ohio plates. A little later he's coaching the Mt. Vernon Junior High boy’s basketball team.

Could it be? This team is based in Ohio?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An Apology, Take 230,000,132

The old adage goes something like sometimes your the dog, and sometimes your the tail.

Well for the last couple of months, I've been that flea at the very-end of the tail.

There is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, and I've been able to emerge from the real world and get back to enjoying life outside of Tar Heel Drive.

I've got at least six county photos to write-up and get posted, so hopefully lots of new stuff coming from the Project in the next couple of weeks.

Special thanks to "" for linking to the blog. Unfortunately, I saw it in blog explosion and can't find the actual page that linked to the site.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Weekend in Pittsburgh

Loaded up the Blazer and took the wife on a trip to Pittsburgh over the Memorial Day weekend for a Rascal Flatts concert at the Post-Gazette Pavilion. (c)

We took advantage of the long-weekend and left for Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon and spent some time heading around the city before we headed to the concert on Saturday night and back to the concert on Sunday morning.

A little bit of this and that on the trip…

PITTSBURGH ROCKS: Okay, so Cleveland is still my favorite sports city, but if I ever had to pack up and move to a city Pittsburgh would be it. Sitting only 28 miles inside the state of Pennsylvania it is still close enough to be “Buckeye Country” but a walk through Robinson Mall proves that you are really in “Joe Pa Country” and Pitt basketball rules. The city is gorgeous and a friend of mine lives on South Shore and we had a great lunch at the Main Street Grill in an area that is completely being revitalized.

NO LIGHTER, NO PROBLEM: As Rascal Flatts went into a ballad and the number of cell phones got raised up above heads it dawned on me that the age of lighters was through. As smoking has continued to fall out of favor in public spaces, the increase of cell phones has to be growing exponentially during concerts. The two “teenagers” next to me were on the phone basically from start to finish during the show. I have never understood this, you drop $50 a ticket for this show – one of the cheaper ones – and you are more interested in talking to the people that wouldn’t/couldn’t fork over the money to attend with you?

PAVILION FALLS DOWN DRUNK: Might have been the holiday weekend, but the amount of public intoxication was utterly amazing to me. I have seen people thrown out of bars for being less intoxicated than many of the lawn-seat fans were.

: It was great to cross over the river into Steubenville and return home to our Buckeye family!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

SCOUTING THE TALENT: Browns Name Rees Director of Player Personnel

"With the third selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select…"

When NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue makes this statement on April 23, there will be an Ohio Wesleyan connection to the Browns' pick. Bill Rees '76 will be part of his first draft as the Browns' director of player personnel.

New Browns General Manager Phil Savage brought Rees to Cleveland from the same position in San Francisco. "This is a great opportunity to work with Phil Savage, a guy who has been a good friend for a long time," said Rees. "There is a great tradition associated with the Browns, and Cleveland is just an outstanding football city."

However, Rees' start in college coaching was 30 years ago and 130 miles southwest of Cleveland Browns Stadium. Former OWU coach Jack Fouts got Rees, a three-year member of the football team, started on a career in coaching and scouting in 1975.

"Coach Fouts gave me the opportunity to coach the wide receivers my last year," said Rees. "I'm sure that experience helped me getting a coaching position at Northwestern."

Rees spent three years coaching the Wildcats, earning his master's degree in the process, before moving on to UCLA and spending 15 years with the Bruins.

In 1994, Rees decided that he wanted to move into player personnel and the NFL was the place for him. Rees joined the Kansas City Chiefs for three years before becoming the director of college scouting for his hometown Chicago Bears.

"In Chicago, I was responsible for college players, and that obviously put a major emphasis on the draft," said Rees. "When I went to San Francisco it was a dual role working with both college and professional players."

Rees estimates that he is on the road up to 60-70 percent of the time, which reaches its peak during the football season. He spends part of a typical week watching practices at the major-college level before traveling to wherever the Browns are playing that weekend. "The schedules are worked so that I can get to our games on Sunday," said Rees. "You usually watch practice on Tuesday through Thursday, do film study on Friday, and travel to the NFL game on the weekend. There is simply no substitute to seeing a player in person."

With all that travel, it has been a couple of years since he had the opportunity to return to campus.

"The quality of students," is what Rees, a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, remembers most. "Ohio Wesleyan has been able to attract a high level of students from all over the country. It was an extremely invigorating experience for me."

He also holds the faculty in special regard. "The faculty at Ohio Wesleyan was excellent. I've spent time at Northwestern and UCLA and put the quality of OWU's faculty on par with their better people." While Rees was hesitant to name a faculty member that stuck out, he commented on a history course with Dr. Richard Smith, professor emeritus of history. "It was exceptionally hard to get an 'A', but you learned a great deal."

Browns fans are hoping Rees' stops in Chicago and San Francisco have taught him a great deal about bringing a winner back to the city.

I know this is about my "trips" around Ohio. But I wrote this for work before the NFL draft about Rees returning to Ohio to work for the Browns after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University. So thought I'd share. Might have a couple more of these "Ohio tied" pieces coming on a couple of unique Jazz musicians that spent four years in Ohio as they slid through to other pursuits.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oh where has April gone?

Hard to believe that April has almost come and gone. Sorry to dissapear, this is the worst time of year for me at work, with about 20,000 things have to be done by the end of the year.

And I've had a bad case of "spring fever" which has me outside working in the yard, on the golf course, or sitting at the baseball stadium taking in a couple of games.

Basically put, anywhere than writing these posts.

I have visited Richland (Mansfield) and Madison (London) counties in the past month and need to get the photos and write-ups posted. Wife is home this weekend and as a stress-break hoping for some time to get a couple more out of the way.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Baseball's Back in Ohio -- Three Times Over

The weather may be wet and gray, but that is not going to kill my mood today.

It is a joyous week as baseball is back and I have had two opening days – with the third staring me in the face – already this week.

Of course, the Indians and Reds opened on Monday and both played very well. Joe Randa’s walk-off home run off course made the Reds look a little better, but both teams played very good games. Then last night, the United League of Moderate Gamers, a Strat-O-Matic baseball league I’m in opened the season and I won my first (and maybe last series) of the year.

Today is the official opening day for Minor League Baseball with the six Ohio squads opening. Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees, is on the road to open the season, but returns home next week. Already ordered my tickets for April 18 when the team takes on Charlotte for Dime-A-Dog night. Baseball and cheap hot dogs, what else could a married man want?

The infamous Toledo Mud Hens (AAA, Detroit) have become a house-hold name thanks to their unique nickname and Toledo native Jamie Farr donning the team’s colors on M*A*S*H.

The Indians have three affiliates in Ohio, Akron Aeros (AA), Lake County Captains (Low-A) in Eastlake, and Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season-A) in Niles. The Reds have their High-A affiliate in Dayton where the Dragons often sell-out.

Coming later this summer is professional independent baseball action in Chillicothe where the Paints are a founding member of the Frontier League. In addition, some of the best college players in the Midwest take part in the Great Lakes Baseball League, a wood-bat college league, based in Delaware. The league has teams in Toledo – playing at the old home of the Mud Hens Ned Skelton Stadium – Delaware, Columbus, Athens, Celina, Indianapolis, and Canton.

So grab a lawn chair and get-out and support baseball in Ohio!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

And the Winner Is...

In the first-ever Ohio Wine Producers Chili Cook Off, there is a winner.

Tarsitano Winery was the winner of the two-day event, held on February 25-26 at five different Northeast Ohio wineries. Tarsitano’s also topped Gretchen and I’s ballot (Chili Cook Off, Wine Tasting in Northeast Ohio”, posted on March 3) for their original presentation and great tasting chili.

The event drew 80 people to the wineries and the OWPA is promising it to become a yearly endeavor. Attendees received all the chili recipes and a collectable glass and had the opportunity to win a special gift basket or the grand prize being an overnight stay at The Lodge and Conference Center in Geneva.

Donniella Winchell, executive director of OWPA, wrote in a letter to attendees, “In future years the Great Chili Cook Off is sure to become known as a fun way to warm up from the mid-winter blues, add to your recipe collection, and enjoy the atmosphere of Ohio’s unique wineries.”

The next OWPA event on the docket for the Wines and Vines trail is the Wines N’ Bloom scheduled for the first two full weekends in May.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Medina Native Tells Tale of Civil War Preaching Grand Father

Saw this article in Today's Akron Beacon-Journal and had to retell part of the story.

Elizabeth Menges Ramirez-Graham has a leather-bound diary in a velvet-covered jewelry box. It has been in her family for more than 130 years, but it has only been in the last couple of years that she began to feel the power of the words.

"It was in my family but we never looked at it very much," she said. "We heard about my grandfather, just through the family. We always felt proud of him, but we never knew many details."
Elizabeth's grandfather was Reverend Louis Miller Albright and the diary is his 1865 Civil War Diary. Rev. Albright was not a soldier but rather a volunteer for the YMCA sponsored U.S. Christian Commission which formed in 1861 to meet the spiritual needs of soldiers in the field.

February 1865: Today I was assigned to General Hospital No. 3 in Nashville. Spent all the forenoon distributing periodicals and conversing with sick soldiers in the hospital. Distributed 50 papers and magazines and conversed on the subject of religion with six soldiers.

It was entries like this that led Elizabeth and friend and self-publisher Stanley Graham to write up the entries into a collection of his journal entries, Civil War Diary, which is available for $19.95 from Belding Publishing.

Albright attended Ohio Wesleyan University and following the War returned to campus as a math and science teacher. He married Eliza Lewis Downing in 1867 and the couple became a "Methodist Power-House" in central Ohio. Albright is the founder of Asbury United Methodist Church, which still worships in the sanctuary built in 1888.

"It just seemed the thing to do. I didn't like to think that his life and his contributions had been forgotten."

Monday, March 21, 2005

New Riegel Cafe -- Ohio's Best BBQ

Best ribs in Ohio. Period. End of story.

I have had ribs from all over the state and found many good ones, but there is something about getting BBQ from New Riegel Café in tiny New Riegel, Ohio, that takes the cake.

New Riegel -- all 220 people -- is the essence of quiet small-town life. A large Catholic church, a small "community" store, a bar, a bank, and the Cafe. Not much else, and the people of New Riegel like it that way. Just like thousands of other small towns all over Ohio and throughout the Midwest.

New Riegel Cafe

What makes New Riegel different is the Cafe.

I was in a Strat-O-Matic baseball league with a guy that lived between Dayton and Cincinnati, and when he found out that I'd lived in Tiffin. The first question was "Have you ever been to New Riegel?" People come from all over the state to enjoy a hearty-meal at the Cafe.

What should you expect. Great food, but really not much else. The ambiance of the place is 20th century bar motif, in other words it is your typical small-town diner. Uncomfortable wooden benches, or long-tables with uncomfortable chairs. The waiting room - always crowded - is not well-planned and you are often pressed into a corner. A gift shop sells items, but the only thing that I've been interested in is the wall that has all the news clippings on the Cafe. Neil Zurcher's One Tank Trips made a trip to New Riegel along with numerous other food editors over the years.

The place doesn't take reservations, barely has a menu. Up until about 3-4 years ago the only menu was the one printed on the wall; they must have gotten tired of being asked because now each table has a small stand with the menu on it. Not sure why though, only New Riegel rookies need to look at it. Personally, I'm a rib-and-a-half with extra sauce, the wife rotates between ribs, chicken, and shrimp. The salad is a couple bucks extra and is really not worth the money -- lettuce with a couple slices of carrots -- but the homemade salad dressing are worth the extra cost. The house, a sweet-and-sour, is excellent.

Service is a regional joke. "So what do you want?" is a common statement. They aren't there to be nice just to get you on to the food. The dinner is served in paper-tubs and you don't even notice.

If you were ranking New Riegel on all the pieces, it would not look very good. But the food out-weighs everything. It is a wonderful place to eat and honestly one of my favorite places to go.

If you head to New Riegel take cash, as they do not accept any form of plastic. The meals are reasonable, the 1-1/2 order of ribs is about $11. No free refills on drinks.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Waldo to be Featured on Travel Channel

Waldo's bologna fascination will lead to a second 15-minutes of fame for the community off U.S. 23 in southern Marion County.

Travel Channel's "Taste of America" was in Waldo in September and will debut the new show on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Host Mark De Carlo was at G&R Tavern and Engle's Sports Bar and both are expected to be featured in this show.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Travel Trip: The Western Basin

Since it is going to be a week or so before I can get out and visit any new counties, thought I’d do a couple of posts on my favorite places to travel to within the Buckeye state.

We’ll begin the journey in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. Anywhere from Sandusky to Maumee Bay State Park is fine with me, but the Marblehead Light House draws me in all the time. Living in Tiffin, I could be in Port Clinton or the lighthouse in about 45-minutes and after a stressful week at work, I spent many Sundays just sitting on the rocks that mark the exterior of the Lighthouse. Listening to the water lap the shore and the distant screams of thrill-seekers at Cedar Point provided a soothing calm as the water just washed away the stress from my day.

The Lighthouse is often crowded and while the state has dramatically improved parking in the last couple of years, it can still be a hassle. I like to take the first sunny weekend of the year, those days when the beauty shines through the 20-degree thermometer, and make a trip to the Lighthouse.

Port Clinton has a nice downtown section. However, in the off-season it is not quite as striking as during the summer. Downtown has the historic hotel, which during the off-season has offered a weekend dinner theatre program which offers a great deal and is quite entertaining. There is also a neat popcorn shop – that has been featured on FoodTV – making unique flavors for the popcorn. Among my favorites is the Walleye.

Continuing westward, Maumee Bay State Park was the crown jewel of the State Park Lodges until Geneva State Park opened last summer. Maumee Bay offers beautiful views and tons of things for the family to do. The wife and I spent our one-year anniversary at the park and enjoyed walking the grounds, visiting area shops, and just relaxing. We took the nature trail walk on two occasions and saw 15 deer over the two days.

Maumee Bay State Park is about as far west as I like to go. Heading further west on highway 2 lands you in the industrial section of Toledo. This area provides a vital cog in the region’s economy, but doesn’t offer the most welcome view for the beauty-thirsty traveler.

Grabbing a ferry from Port Clinton or Catawba Point will allow you to visit the islands. Kelly’s Island has traditionally been the quiet family spot with glacier grooves. I haven’t been to Kelly’s in several years, but the increase in “bar shirts” that I see advertising a location on the island makes me wonder if it isn’t beginning to take on the shape of its more famous brother to the west.

South Bass Island is probably the most famous of the islands in Lake Erie, as Put-In-Bay has been labeled the party town of the Midwest. If you head to South Bass in the early afternoon, you'll be rewarded with the peaceful beauty of the island. I have always enjoyed spending the morning riding around the outskirts of the island on a golf cart. However, head into Put-In-Bay about “happy hour” time an you will see a very different town. The small quant village becomes a thriving metropolis with more bounce than any spring break party in Daytona Beach and is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Marion County: Popcorn, Presidents, & Bologna

“Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing (now get that – is the one thing) that ensures the successful outcome of your venture.” William James, from Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking

Popcorn, Presidents, and Bologna. All find themselves at home in Marion County.

It doesn’t really matter what direction you enter Marion County from, as it provides large quantities of wide-open spaces (see photo at bottom, taken at the intersection of 95 and 98) for you to see.

But tucked in between the fields of corn and beans are some fun and interesting places.

One of the most popular is the Marion Popcorn Festival held the weekend following Labor Day each year. Marion is home to Vogel Popcorn (sold under Newman’s Own Gourmet Popping Corn and Act II), ConAgra Snack Foods (producers of Act II, Healthy Choice, and Orville Redenbacher) and Wyandot, Inc. (produces millions of pounds of caramel popcorn annually). The festival is an end-of-summer ritual for many in the Central Ohio area and a good one at that.

Marion is also home to the Warren G. Harding monument as the home of the 29th President. Harding is considered by many to be one of the worst President’s in American history; but don’t say that around Marion. Students in the city attend Harding High School and the team nickname is the Presidents.

Harding is buried in Hillside Memorial Cemetery but is not the only famous tomb in the city. The Gypsy of Marion County is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery and is one of the area’s larger ghost stories.

The Harding Memorial is located on 423 just north of the Marion “mall.” With more “coming soon another great store” signs than actual open store fronts, the mall appears to be losing its battle with the growth of stores on Marion’s East Side and the growth of Polaris Parkway, about 40 minutes to the south.

Downtown Marion is a classic downtown. The revived Palace Theatre and a beautiful court house are anchors and a lot of small shops greet visitors – as long as they arrive before 5 p.m. The downside is that the community directly north and south of the downtown section are some of the more impoverished sections of the town. The Warehouse is located just down from the theatre and offers great Italian food at the right price. Heading out State Route 95 East towards U.S. 23 and the quaint Marion turns into a “neon paradise.” The chain shops clutter the road and bring commuters upon the exit ramp.

Getting out of Marion, heading south on U.S. 23 and driving for about eight miles travelers come to a Food Network favorite, Waldo. Last year Al Roker visited G&R Tavern and he wasn’t the first to enjoy a bologna sandwich in the community. G&R started the bologna trend and now you can find the treat in two of the cities restaurants. Ingles Sports Pub even offers a fried treat of bologna “poppers” which taste a lot like corn dogs. J. Angelo’s is a classic Italian place and a favorite of the wife and mine, with large portion sizes and great taste it is well worth the trip.

Marion County also is home to Green Camp, Prospect, La Rue (pronounced LAY roo), and Caledonia, along with numerous cross road towns. My personal favorite, for obvious reasons, was Tobias until I drove through the “town.” Sitting at the corner of Tobias and Kirkpatrick Road northeast of Marion off State Route 4, Tobias has a small workshop and one house. In an earlier – less mature time – the road signs might have been in jeopardy.

Toby's Note: Sorry about the poor photo of the courthouse. It got dark on me and this is the best I could get out of my little HP Digital Camera. I plan to retake the photos in soon, this Courthouse is very beautiful and deserves better than blur.

Key Facts (from The Ohio Almanac)
Population (2000): 66,217
Established: April 1, 1820
Per Capita Income (1999): $22,136
Persons Below Poverty (1997): 11.9%
Name Sake: "The Swamp Fox" of the Revolutionary War, General Francis Marion
Items of Interest: The Edward Huber Machinery Museum displays many examples of early farming and roadbuilding equipment; Delaware State Park, Warren G. Harding Home and Museum, Harding Memorial, Claridon Prairie Reserve, Killdeer and Big Island Wildlife Areas, Palace Theatre, Stengel True Historical Museum, and Wyandot Popcorn Museum.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Crawford County: The Way It Was

Looking off in the distance she smiles to hide the pain

Another storm rolled in her life and the weather is not the same

Then she posed the question could they never be again

“Change” by Myopia off Radius

Crawford County is one of those quiet counties that people will drive through, and outside of butchering the pronunciation of Bucyrus, they won’t even know they passed through it.

Which is quite a shame as the county is rich in heritage and tradition – and corn and bean fields.

One of my finest memories occurred in Crawford County, New Washington to be more exact. I was a high school freshman and we traveled to take on the Buckeye Central Bucks in my first game ever as a high school football player. The Blue Devils varsity handled duties well enough that a slow freshman got a chance to play in his first varsity football game.

The football field is located just off the railroad tracks that intersect State Route 602 in this small town. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how important the railroad still is in present day Northwest Ohio.

Growing up in the “hills” of Eastern Knox County, we watched them take out the stretch of track that ran between Danville and Brinkhaven on a summer morning. I thought the railroads were dead, I mean if they weren’t in my corner of the world then why would they be any where else ... ahh the blissful ignorance of youth.

But as you head into the open farm country of Western Ohio, the long trains stretch for miles. In Crawford County, you are introduced to it quickly as you pass over a set of tracks in as you enter the county from the East on U.S. 30. The county has three cities, Crestline, Bucyrus, and Galion and each is intersected with Conrail and Norfolk and Western rail lines. All three of these cities are situated in the southern portion of the county and are either located on or within ten miles of U.S. 30.

Downtown Galion has a lot of charm that is very similar to a lot of the old towns across Ohio. The community has a quaint charm that makes it feel like Silvertown from Joe Dirt. Get away from downtown and Galion becomes a typical small town, and the south side has a nice stretch along 98, but the majority of the community is struggling.

Downtown Bucyrus is even more interesting than Galion. The town has several murals that have been painted on the sides of buildings and are so amazingly life-like. The stretch of State Routes 4 and 98 that makes up downtown Bucyrus is a historic treasure. Would be wonderful for someone to reclaim the old theatre in town and bring back in a fashion like Tiffin did with the Ritz Theatre. The city has a theatre but it is a rather small venue and when I went to see “Fiddler” there a few years ago the community theatre had to perform it at one of the schools. The square is another neat part of the community with a fountain in a small park. The community isn’t wealthy, and it shows once you get off downtown especially in the community’s North side. On opposite side of the square from the park is the bar formerly known as the Mad Bull (the building on the far side of the square in the picture below). This may have been the most famous thing associated with Bucyrus for a few years -- and that is not a good thing.

Crawford County seems to have less of the small towns than other Ohio counties. But there are a couple that jump out at you.

Chatfield and New Washington are in the northern section of the county. Chatfield sits of State Route 4 and was probably a happening place when the railroad was carrying people across the area. The size of homes on the community’s single street shows at least a level of wealth in the community, unfortunately, many of the homes have fallen in disrepair. New Washington is very similar and has that same level of architecture, but is a larger community than Chatfield.

Oceola sits along Sward Creek on U.S. 30 in the western section of the county. I remember making the trip from Mt. Union to Bluffton in college and driving through Oceola. I promptly annoyed my passenger by repeating it over-and-over-and-over again until we reached Bluffton. It is still one of my favorite little communities, and I can’t really tell you why. These type of towns dot the Ohio landscape and many have more charm than this community.

The last is one that I’ve only been to once, Tiro. My wife keeps telling me that Tiro is home of the Testicle Festival. I didn’t believe her so I did a little Internet research…

When writing a story on bizarre Ohio festivals, one need no more than utter these four words: The Tiro Testicle Festival. Held annually at the Tiro Tavern in Tiro -- in the middle of nowhere between Columbus and Cleveland -- the fest's motto is "You'll have a ball," and who wouldn't? Pig and bull testicles are breaded and deep-fried to within a short hair of perfection. (Hot Spots: Weird Food Festivals , CityBeat, June 6, 2000)

In case you thought it was a one-time thing…
All I'm saying is stay away from The Tiro Tavern in Tiro, Ohio during the annual - I swear, this is true - Tiro Testicle Festival. This is the one festival in the world that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have completed depleted the world's non-renewal supply of festival themes. ( FOOD - IT'S ENOUGH TO MAKE BETTY CROCKER CRINGE, Oct. 2, 2002, Welland Tribune)

If that wasn’t enough…
This biker-bar-based festival has been going strong for 29 years, usually in April but call ahead to be sure; the supply of good balls is erratic. Non-gonadal food is provided by the Tiro-Auburn Volunteer Fire Department. (Attu Sees All, Web blog, Nov. 24, 2004)

How do you come back from that? I don’t know either, so until next time I bid you happy trails.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Chili Cook Off, Wine Tasting in Northeast Ohio

Pour out the wine without restraint or stay,
Pour not by cups, but by the bellyful,
Pour out to all that wull.
Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599)
Epithalamion, 250

The Ohio Wine Producers Association sponsored a Chili Cook Off Trail on Friday and Saturday at five northeast Ohio vineyards.

Biscotti Family Winery (Conneaut), Laurello Vineyards (Geneva), Tarsitano Winery (Conneaut), The Lakehouse Winery (Geneva-on-the-Lake), and Old Firehouse Winery (Geneva-on-the-Lake) all provided visitors with samples of wine and chili.

The Chili
We went for the chance to get away and enjoy the wine, the chili was just a good excuse. We found some good tasting chili and some, well, not so good.

Our final score card looked like this...
1. Tarsitano - The red chili was about what you would make at home with stewed beef in it. The bread bowl and broiled cheese was an awesome touch that we would have probably appreciated more if this hadn't been our first stop. They provided us with a bonus Southeast Asian soup that was great.

2. The Lakehouse Winery - It was a red chili with a "Tex-Mex" feel adding corn and some extra spice. The presentation was in glass bowls and if we hadn't arrived in the small tasting room as the same time as the other 100 people on the tour it would have probably been more enjoyable. The workers did a great job of trying to keep everyone happy.

3. Biscotti Family Winery - The chili was your basic chili. It was a good bowl of chili, but in a cook off, I guess I expect more. My wife liked this one, but the Lakehouse presentation gave them the nod over Biscotti.

4. Laurello Vineyards - This was our last stop and left a sour taste in my mouth, while the wife thought it was okay. They went with a vegitarian chili that lacked the depth of flavor and blended tastes that makes for great chilli.

5. Old Firehouse Winery - If I had been selecting on my own, this would have been No.1 on the list. But, since it was the only place she wouldn't eat the chili it has to fall to last place by default. Old Firehouse did a seafood white chili with scallops, fish, and shrimp. I thought the flavor was more like a New England chowder than a chili, but the creativity was awesome and I really like the flavor. Gretchen on the other hand...well...

The Wine
If Old Firehouse was last on the chili list it was definately tops on the wine side. We walked out with six bottles of their finest, and I'm already looking at ordering a case online after we ended up giving away most of the bottles to friends.

The only other bottle of wine we purchased was a summer blend at Tarsitano.

It was a great time and we've been exploring other opportunities available through the Ohio Wines.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Where has the relaxation gone?

Pardon this "rant" -- something that has been bothering me for a couple of days and needed to vent it in an informal way...

Take it easy, take it easy
Don't let the sound of your own wheels
drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don't even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand,
and take it easy
“Take it Easy,” by the Eagles

Where has the relaxation gone?

It feels like it has been forever since the wife and I got a “quiet” weekend. With March already booked, we jumped at the opportunity for a weekend away in Ashtabula County this past weekend.

And all looked great, until Friday afternoon. We got a last minute call inviting us to dinner with a couple of dear friends. We both knew what we had to do – and wanted to do – though we didn’t want to admit it at the time. So we cancelled the Jacuzzi room and altered our plans to make it back to Tiffin in time for dinner on Saturday.

It was the right thing to do. The events of Saturday and Sunday proved that to me.

But still, during that trip when the miles were blowing past the Blazer’s tires faster than an American Idol winner’s fifteen minutes of fame, I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to be greedy. I wanted a quiet weekend without the hustle and bustle of running from site to site.

After the selfishness bled out, I began to wonder what has happened to our society that has created a “drive” that forces us to run-run-run during the week, but then when the weekend comes we try to pack everything we’ve missed from the previous week into 48 hours.

It is the drive that has me sitting here as the midnight our approaches trying to update this Web blog and staring at a “to do” list 15 items long that I want to have finished before heading on another trip this weekend.

The relaxation will come...right?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Morrow County: Quiet In the Heart of Crazy

Can't you see
I don't want apologies
Why won't you just follow me
Give it a chance again
Hang around
Onto a cross you're bound
I don't believe you knew
That you'd end up like this
"On and On" by The Cringe off Scratch the Surface

Heading north on State Route 42 out of Delaware County and into the open arms of Morrow County, I couldn't help but wonder if it was any coincidence that 42 departs from one of the roughest sections of Delaware and into the quiet, downtrodden community that is Morrow County.

Morrow County is only downtrodden in an economic sense. The county reports a little more than $15,000 as the per capita yearly income. A per capita income that is a far cry from the $35,000 seen in its Delaware County neighbor to the south and about $10,000 less than Marion County to its west.

While the developments and insurgence of "sleeper communities" that are swallowing the culture of Delaware County whole, Morrow County has preserved its sense of self.

The first thing you notice pulling into the county seat of Mt. Gilead (pop. 3,443 in 2002) on State Route 42 is the lack of newly built homes. The community has been able to hold onto to its heart as you roll upon the historic downtown. Downtown features one of the most unique round-a-bouts to ever be seen. A small oblique is the feature in the center and the businesses continue to be built around it while not encroaching upon the old village square. There are even a couple of businesses that sit back off a small green with no street access from the two main areas that feed the town square. The charm in Mt. Gilead is not in the immaculate pristine restored nature that you feel pushed into in other "classic" communities, but rather a working class rustic form of classic. Beautiful houses - with blemishes - are all over State Route 95 as you head east and west from downtown.

Heading East, you'll go towards Mt. Gilead State Park and its numerous opportunities for rustic entertainment. If you continue east the rolling hills begin to pick-up as they become the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains east of Fredericktown.

Morrow County has only two communities of any major size, besides Mt. Gilead is Cardington (pop. 1843), sitting about five miles south of Mt. Gilead on 42. The economic climate has been lifted by its proximity to I-71 and the growing Columbus community. Among the other communities are Chesterville, Sparta, and Marengo which have combined for Highland High School, the alma mater of former major league pitcher Tim Belcher.

Another attraction is Lake Candlewood, which was designed to become the Apple Valley of Morrow County. The community is still a gated one, but the home values and influx of money didn't happen as they had hoped. On the north side of Lake Candlewood is the village of West Point. West Point defines numerous cross-road communities spread around Morrow County.

Heading West out of Mt. Gilead on State Route 95, you'll pass quickly through the community of Edison and one of the most violent rail-road crossings in the state. The location of two car dealerships right next to the tracks cannot be a coincidence as the height and lack of repair has been known to lift a semi’s trailer right off the truck.

The railroad quickly appears to be the end of the rolling hills, as western Morrow County is flat and on this cold February evening the turned brown soil was prepared for a spring planting to be filled with fresh corn and beans later this summer.

Much like the rest of Morrow County, the beauty lies in its tradition and classical nature.

Yahoo Group Created ...

I created a Yahoo Group for anyone that would want to have an e-mail sent to them when I update the blog.

You can sign up in the box in the lower left of the navigation column; or by visiting

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Is this really what I was looking for?

When I started this project, my wife laughed and asked me if I was going to follow in the footsteps of Larry McMurtry's Roads or William Heast Least-Moon's Blue Highway.

I got defensive with a "no way!" But I'm afraid it might be happening.

I have to admit that Blue Highway, was actually a pretty good book. For those unfamiliar with the book, Moon is a professor out West and loads up one summer into his old van and just starts driving America's back roads. Moon does a wonderful job of capturing the monotony that is the American heart-land. Every town has a diner and it appears that every waitress is named Flo. What was Moon trying to get from the trip? I don't recall now and to be honest the book is buried in the back of that closet I've been promising to turn into a bookshelf for the past 10 months. Personally, I found comfort in Least-Moon's solidarity towards the mission.

Maybe it was because I had enjoyed Blue Highways as much as I had, maybe it was because McMurtry had won a Pulitzer Prize for Lonesome Dove. But for whatever reason, I found McMurtry's book to be one of the most boring reads I've had since High School.

The premis of Roads is completely different than Blue Highway. McMurtry spends hours driving across the country on the super highways (many only slightly more exciting than his description). What did this book do for me? Besides turning me off to travel style writing; it made me realize how passionate some people can be for books. McMurtry repeats numerous times about being a rare book dealer and such; but it is how he describes the books. A description that borders on sexual desire for the book; not the words in the book which is usually all I see or care about.

Okay. So now why have I waisted your night reading this??

Last night, the wife had to work late and after a very unfulfilling day at the office, I headed north on State Route 42 towards the village of Mt. Gilead (and county seat of Morrow County) and found myself writing eloquent descriptions of these roads I transvered in my mind as the stress of the day flowed from my body and the communities of Cardington, Mt. Gilead, Denmark, Edison, Waldo, and Marion bowed before the Blazer. It was then I realized that I was feeling the same desire for travel, for new experiences even ones only 20 miles from my home, that Least-Moon and McMurtry must have felt as they pinned their novels.

So I raise my ice cold mug to anyone that writes about travel - and I'll buy a round for those that can do it well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ohio's Symbols and Emblems

The following animal, bird, flower and tree are the symbols/emblems of the State of Ohio:
Animal Symbol - White-tailed Deer
Bird Symbol - Cardinal
Flower Symbol - Scarlet Carnation
Insect Emblem - Ladybug
Reptile Emblem - Black Racer Snake
Tree - Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

I can see all of these and I thought the Walleye was the state fish, but maybe that was just "chit-chat" and never happened.

The Ladybug might be working its way off the list with the recent attack of Japanese Ladybugs that have become a nuisance throughout homes in central Ohio. I know that at my parents the first glipse of sunshine and the windows are littered with them.

You'd think I'd look into it BEFORE posting. But the I found on Class Brain, that the Walleye is an unofficial state fish.

From Class Brain: I looked into it and found that Ohio doest have an official state fish, but it does have an unofficial State fish. It is the Walleye. The walleye is also known as Walleyed Pike, Pickerel, Jackfish, Do.

I found this link that should be uesful:

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Best Laid Plans Go Array

We had planned a trip to my in-laws to enjoy the Daytona 500 in Seneca County. But unfortunately, the threat of 3-inches of snow mixed with freezing rain had us instead making a last minute trip on Saturday. This nixed the opportunities to visit several of the counties along the way and get photos. We tried to get pictures in Bucyrus, but at 9:30 on a Saturday night, my little HP camera just didn’t quite cut it.

So I’m going to start adding some write-ups over the next couple of days. These are the “known” counties for me: Marion, Knox, Seneca, Wyandot, and Morrow. I am not going to “mark” them off the list until the pictures go up and they actually can be seen.

I’ll start with Marion – the land of Popcorn, Bologna, and Presidents – on Monday.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend and enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Power of Advertising?

Yesterday at this time, I'd had less than 50 hits on the site. Today I've hit 110 according to the hit counter.

So that work yesterday sharing information on the Blog worked! How cool! I love it when a plan comes together!


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Updates Coming Soon: Schedule Over Next Two Weeks

I'm hoping to hit a few counties in the next two weeks.

We are heading to Seneca County to watch the Daytona 500 this weekend. So if I play the cards right, that could nail Marion, Wyandot, Seneca, and Crawford counties.

Then we are heading to a wine tasting sponsored by Ohio Wine Association in Northeast Ohio the following weekend. I'm hoping to hit the NE corner that weekend with maybe some bonus counties along the way.

So hopefully we'll be seeing a lot of updates through the end of the month.

Third Time a Charm

This is my third attempt at taking a photograph of all 88 county seats in Ohio.

The first time was in 2001 and I nailed down quite a few of the counties in the Northwest quadrent. Then a computer virus wiped out all the photos -- and well the inclusion of an ex-girlfriend in most of the pictures -- life is easier for me to just restart the photos.

Then in Spring 2003, I visited a few of the counties in southeast Ohio that I had never had a chance to "stop and smell" the roses in. It was cold and nasty day as we were returning from a Tim McGraw concert at the Charleston (West Virginia) Civic Center. The rain and cold got the best of these photos and in the move to our new home they have dissapeared from sight.

So I've been to many of these cities and counties in the past; but now need to redo my pictures.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Six Weeks and One this pace...

Here we are six weeks into 2005 and I've reached a grand total of ... one county.

And that is the City Hall standing about two miles from my home and I can see the top of the building from my office at work.

Thought I'd pass along an update and say that I have my write-ups done for several counties (Marion, Knox, Morrow, Seneca, and Wyandot) that I'm hoping to get too in the next week or so. Most of these counties are pretty easy for me having spent about two-thirds of my nearly 30 years on this planet living in Knox and Delaware County. Now I just need to get to the city centers and take some pictures!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Delaware County: Two Counties In One

Standing on the corner beside Delaware County Courthouse on a cold winter day, it is easy to get caught up in the quandary that is Ohio.

Delaware, the Sunday-afternoon drive type city, serves as the county seat of the 10th fastest growing county in the country and the fastest in the state. But on this quiet winter day it is hard to see the hustle-and-bustle of the big city just 25 miles south as the northern suburbs of Columbus continue to encroach upon the county.

Hop onto State Route 23, and head 15 minutes south and suddenly the housing developments form and large retail locations explode onto the horizon. It is an area with formerly tiny towns that have grown into medium-sized cities fighting for their identity survival as the retail giants look to build another strip mall in the community.

Powell is battling against the onslaught and has turned down the rising tide of Wal-Mart (at least for round one) in an attempt to retain its quaint charm, granted a trip down Powell Road at 5:15 p.m. heading towards or away from State Route 315 would not bring kind words from any traveler. An example of the growth, Powell had 2,315 residents in 1990 and by 2000 it had grown to 6,247; an example that is repeated throughout the southern section of the county.

Head about 10 minutes east will lead to the intersection of Powell Road and Route 23, or Lewis Center and begins the section referred to as Polaris. Polaris was nothing. Five years ago, I remember taking a lady-friend to a country concert at Polaris Amphitheatre (now Germain…the same people that sell you a car are making $7 off that beer, something about the irony of that isn’t lost on me.) and we drove about 25 miles north to find a restaurant to eat at after the show. Now the area has become the ultimate women’s dream and one man’s attempt to up-stage a counterpart leading to the establishment of the Polaris Fashion Place Mall. Along with the surrounding retail locations it is a one-stop smorgasbord for the wealthy or those not afraid to go into debt. The area continues to grow and it seems there is another “new development” announced on a weekly basis.

The tale of two counties can easily be seen if we headed north on 23 rather than south. Heading north will lead you into plush farmlands in the Delaware Lake watershed region of the Olentangy River. The communities here are left alone, no $300,000 houses, no big-box retail stores. There are lots of churches and cemeteries and great people. The Delaware Lake and Alum Creek flood basins keep the central and east sides of the county busy, while the Scioto River keeps the west side watching the skies – especially in the small town of Prospect. Travels through northern Delaware County resemble Appalachia more than they do the rich suburbs of the south. Small towns like Ashley, Radnor, and Prospect dot the landscape between large fertile farms.

Caught in the middle of these two extremes are Delaware and the county government. The city of roughly 25,000 is famous as the birthplace of former President Rutherford B. Hayes and the Little Brown Jug harness race. Downtown resembles this battle between two powers. The shoppers – and thus retailers – are moving south to the Polaris development. Downtown has become a small collection of antique shops and a favorite for those that grew up enjoying Buns Restaurant or The Brown Jug Restaurant. Eastern Delaware resembles the cities of northern Delaware County, while the West side has exploded into large housing developments – enough that the city enacted a moratorium on building in 2004 to allow for a planned city infrastructure that could handle the expected growth to come.

A trip down Route 23 towards Polaris shows the farms up for sale and the large “Development Property for Sale” signs dotting the roadway. It is only matter of years before the city of Delaware becomes just another suburb of Columbus.

And what a sad day that will be.

Key Facts (from The Ohio Almanac)
Population (2000): 109,989
Established: April 1, 1807
Per Capita Income (1999): $35,042
Persons Below Poverty (1997): 4.5%
Items of Interest: Hayes Birthplace; Alum Creek State Park; Delaware Lake State Park; Perkins Observatory; Wyandot Lake and Columbus Zoo; Jack Nicholas Golf Memorial Tournament; and Little Brown Jug Harness Race.