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.