Abandoned Party House

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

A storm allowed us to nap away the afternoon before a second morning, so to speak, opened our eyes and the floodgates back to the beach. It was summer in The Outer Banks, and we had a little beach house that opened to the Atlantic Ocean. It was everything we thought it would be and more.

That night, we sat around the dinner table and played the board game Clue. In the middle of the whodunit mystery, another mystery began to unfold with a knock at our door. Mind you, it’s dark, and we left our curtains open with lights on, advertising here’s a vulnerable family of four.

I looked through the front door window at what could only be described as charming young Charlie Manson. He smiled and asked me to step outside to talk with him. I answered that we were already talking; what did you need?

He insisted I step outside.

I looked left and right to see if anyone else lurked in the shadows, and then I asked again what he needed.

He said he was from next door and wanted to let me know he was throwing a party. He would also like to give me his cell phone number in case I need to complain about the noise to him.

“No worries. Have fun,” I replied and that was the end of that.

But then, as we went back to trying to solve a murder, I grew suspicious. A family like ours was on one side of us, and a vacant house on the other. I looked at the vacant house. It was dark, silent, and empty. I wondered if ole Charlie was casing random vacationers to scam in some way, so I decided to call the police to see if any others had called about such a situation.

“No, but we’re sending a patrol car over,” the dispatcher said.

“No-no, that’s unnecessary,” I said.

A police officer showed up anyway. I explained Charlie’s claim and then pointed at the dead house next door. The police officer investigated underneath our house. Beach houses were set up on stilt-like structures so storm surges could flow under them.

Nothing.

The cop left, and soon after, my son saw Charlie returning.

“Did you call the cops on me?” He demanded.

“Nope, not me,” I lied through my teeth to settle him down. “But a policeman did stop to ask questions.”

“So, you did call?”

“No.”

He scratched his head and left.

Now we’re turning off lights and peeking out windows. Next door, lights came on, music cranked up, cars and people arrived, and a party kicked off near Midnight and lasted until 4am. Then the place turned silent and dark again, and some stragglers hauled away a bunch of trash bags, leaving no clue behind.

The place stayed empty the rest of the week. Go figure.

Out on the beach the next day, we befriended a group of families that were on the other side of the abandoned party house. They weren’t happy vacationers after Charlie’s party kept them awake until close to daybreak. I guess Charlie didn’t give them his number.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Having Fun Cruising Highway 1

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

As we left San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in our rearview mirror, we looked forward to driving up the coast on California Highway-1 to Crescent City, where Redwood National Park waited.

I remembered planning the trip with my wife and her, saying we didn’t have to go that far to see giant redwoods. But she soon understood that I HAD to see THE National Redwood Forest. And for reasons I’ll explain, it was well worth the drive!

The whole day was reserved to meander up the coast, stopping wherever we wanted. We were hardly out of the Bay Area when we made our first spontaneous stop – “Let’s go swimming!”

Muir Beach was empty except for one other couple and their toddler. They were struggling to light a fire in the wind. As we walked like penguins in the deep, soft sand past them, we were friendly, but they seemed not to care to talk, so we trudged on to where rocks, large, small, and humongous, littered the beach and shallow water. We delighted in dipping our bare feet into the Pacific Ocean for the first time and instantly realized that you do not go swimming at Northern California beaches—Brrrr!

So the kids ran around as free spirits as we relaxed, took scenic pictures, and breathed the brisk ocean breeze in deep.

“Check it out!” the kids called. “Looks like a Jellyfish.”

I grabbed the video camera and focused just when a wave hurled it at my legs. The kids squealed in delight, knowing my squeal was caught on audio.

As we drove, we took in the incredible coastal views from the twisting hillsides of mountains plunging into the ocean. I had to be careful of bicyclists as we wrapped around blind curves. Pelicans flew by, distracting me.

“Bicyclist!”

The drive didn’t grow old, but my arms grew tense from the constant twisting and turning of the steering wheel as we passed cliffs, beaches, marshland, and dunes. I was amazed at the untouched natural landscape up the coast on both sides of Highway 1.

“Bicyclist!”

Another thing that weaved in and out, rather up and down, was the temperature. As the road curved inland for a bit, the digital car barometer read 83 degrees. Swing closer to the water again, and it plunged to 55 degrees.

“Glass Beach!”

This was a planned stop.

Glass Beach used to be a city dump near Fort Bragg, California. When they cleaned it up, they left only the glass trash behind. The rocks broke it, the water smoothed it, and now, people collected it. All the big pieces were picked long ago, but a seemingly endless supply of little rounded glass stones remained.

Decision-time.

The drive took longer than we thought, but not too far off the course was a drive-thru tree! A TREE YOU CAN DRIVE, THOUGH! C’mon, there’s no decision there.

Before we knew it, we were in Leggett, California, staring at the Chandelier Tree, standing 300 feet tall. It had tourist trap written all over it, but I just couldn’t resist. Besides, we had a rental car. It turned out to be the largest and oldest Redwood we’d see. When we pulled up for our turn to drive through, I realized we might not make it without scraping the sides of this new sporty SUV. I had upgraded the rental when the guy at the counter made it sound like it would only be X more dollars. What he didn’t say was it would be X more dollars per day! One thing I knew I didn’t buy—the extra insurance. My wife got out to meet us on the other side to take pictures and guide me as I inched inward.

The kids loved it. So did I, even though I voiced many “nervous” sounds as I eyed up how close the tree closed in around the vehicle.

“Check this out. We’re like an inch from wood,” came a kid’s voice filled with exuberance.

SCRE-E-E-EACH!

I instantly stopped and was about to drop a “bomb” when the kids laughed and said, “Just kidding, that was us.”

Not funny!

After a pizza and ice cream stop, we drove into the dark. Big sis used little bro’s head as a pillow smothered under her pillow.

Nearing our destination, my wife and I marveled at the bizarre nightscape we were driving through. Our ribbon of road had no streetlights. It was as black as night could be except for a headlight or taillight here and there. Then it was just us. The kids were sound asleep. The sensory feeling was unmatched and one I’ll never forget. It felt like we were transported into the most amazing animation. Looking high above in every direction were ominous tree trunks that stretched into the starry heavens. It was equally majestic and haunting. Our little ribbon road swirled around the wooden giants. We felt like ants. It was surreal. Man humbled by the power of nature. As it should be.

Serenity was on the mind that night.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Oh, Deer!

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Our drive from Northeast Ohio to a family cabin south of North Bay in Ontario, Canada, could take the better part of a day, depending on the Toronto traffic. So, we left before first light.

We lived a couple of miles off I-71, so I was in cruising gear within minutes. My morning coffee was in my hand when I saw a mound of something in my lane after the semi ran over it.  I was approaching too fast to swerve, especially one-handed, as I tried to put my coffee in the holder. With both hands on the wheel and my sister’s family in the other lane, I had no choice but to bear down and hope there was enough height under the van to clear it.

There wasn’t.

I managed to keep things steady as the carcass dragged the bottom of the vehicle. Once the shock of the moment was gone, I signaled to my brother-in-law to pull over at the next exit. I wanted to see the damage and determine if we needed to go back home.

When we stopped, I rolled down my window. My face recoiled into the vehicle as soon as the pungent smell hit me. My brother-in-law did the same. Raw deer guts, meat, fur, blood, and who knows what else painted the entire undercarriage of the minivan. The front bumper had meat with fur hanging from it. The smell was so horrid. It could turn a stomach if it were breathed in for more than a second.

I decided to turn back and go to the gas station at our exit because it was open and had a drive-through car wash. This would also allow me to determine whether I should risk the trip with this vehicle.

I ran the minivan through the car wash once, ensuring the service included the underbody. When I rolled the wet vehicle around, I saw someone get out of their car about a hundred feet away to pump gas. His second foot hadn’t even touched the pavement when he stood perfectly erect, as if he had just inhaled smelling salts. There was no need for him to get coffee; he was now fully awake. He looked around, unable to locate the cause of the worst smell you could imagine. Trying to plug his nose and punch buttons at the pump, he gave up, got in his car, and drove off.

I ran the minivan through the wash again.

This time, I was wise not to roll down my window. I just looked at the woman walking out of the gas station with her coffee and muffin. She stopped three steps outside the door as if she walked into an invisible brick wall. She looked around with an angry face, then ducked her head and made a beeline for her car.

I ran the minivan through the wash again.

Afterward, I decided the highway air and long drive would dissipate the smell. The assuring thing was we did not smell the foul odor inside the vehicle. Nothing was leaking, nothing seemed broken, and no warning lights or tones were triggered, so we bolted the scene just as a couple of workers walked our way.

On a long drive like this, we had to make stops for gas, food, and restrooms every several hours. Each time, these busy places looked like a grenade went off. We learned to be as quick as a pit crew before the offenders were pegged. It was a hit-and-run every time.

Then came customs at the border. The usual questions started, but none about the smell. One thing was clear: we never squirted through the checkpoint faster.

In Toronto, it was the usual stopped traffic on a five-lane highway. I watched people roll down their windows for a fresh breeze only to roll them back up in an instant. I think they all knew where the culprit was, so I thought the old mantra to myself – I’ll never see these people again.

When we finally arrived at our destination, the smell was as bad or worse than when we left. All across the underbody, this meat was cooking from the heat from the motor and exhaust all damn day. It was awful! But the cabin was only accessible by boat, so we parked in a mini field surrounded by trees by the dock. Even though we sat at the waterfront 50 yards from the carnage van, our lift couldn’t come fast enough.

About a week later, we boated in to go into town for more provisions. We all waited for the smell to knock us out as we neared the van, but it didn’t.

A little closer, I said to my wife, “What the heck happened to the paint!”

Half of the van was black instead of gray. As I slowed to take in the scene, thinking vandalism, she moved closer.

“Oh, my goodness, it’s coated in flies!”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Once in a Lifetime Event

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

My daughter called from Washington, D.C., to say she was going to fly in for the Total Solar Eclipse.

“The what?” I asked, unaware of the hype beginning to build for a celestial event nearly a year away.

I wasn’t in the dark any longer. I learned that we could drive just 90 minutes to Greenville, Ohio, or four hours to Avon Lake, Ohio, at the opposite end of the state to see TOTALITY—a word that was becoming all the buzz. These two towns were predicted to have the longest time in “totality.” The weird thing is Greenville, near Dayton, is where my wife’s parents live, and Avon Lake, near Cleveland, is where my family lives.

“So, which side of the family should we make plans with? I asked my daughter.

She said she was not committing until the day before to check cloud cover, etc.

This phenomenon would take place, after all, during spring in Ohio. I was convinced that we were not going to see anything spectacular except the daylight dim no matter where we ended up in Ohio. The once-in-a-lifetime event last happened here about a hundred years earlier, give or take, and wouldn’t happen again for another hundred years from now. So, we had to make an attempt to do it right.

As the magical day neared, the fear-mongers were out in force, saying the roads across the state would be at a standstill. What would normally be a one-hour drive might take eight! The governor even declared a statewide emergency well in advance.

Meanwhile, my sister in Avon Lake took on the role of unofficial promoter for her town. Come here, there are all kinds of activities and events happening that day so even if it’s cloudy, we’ll have fun. No matter the pitch, we were going where our kids decided, and that’s not happening until the day before. Our son lives in Columbus, and he’d pick up our daughter at the airport there, putting them a couple of hours or less from each possible destination, or if the fear-mongers were right, 16 hours.

Being in the world of Ohio tourism as a profession, every town, whether expected to have a partial or total eclipse experience, advertised the best of times if you came there. To each their own, some were seeking the festive atmosphere, crowd reactions, and a communal experience. Others, like me, wanted solitude to really be all-in, so to speak.

Meanwhile, my sister was openly willing good weather in our family text group 3—2—1 day out.

“It’s so nice here right now. Absolutely gorgeous for this time of year.”

Yeah, yeah, sis, but this is Ohio, and what is nice now may not be in 3—2—1 days.

The forecast was as predicted the day before E-Day, with about 50 percent cloud cover blanketing both ends of the state. Our daughter made the big decision—we were going to meet up in Greenville. It was simply closer. Our son had to work the next day and was worried that the roads would be in such gridlock that it might take well into the night to get back.

The more imminent problem was sleeping space at my in-law’s house. They were very active collectors/archaeologists/historians. They had long ago turned spare bedrooms (any spare space, really) into scenes that one would imagine a museum has going on in back rooms. There, mountains of this or that needed to be inventoried, cataloged, or stored.

However, the weather forecast had the overnight temperature a bit chilly, but it was ideal for pitching tents in their country yard. Besides, a night in the natural elements would ground us for the natural wonder to take place the next day. That was my thinking, anyway.

One tent was newish (compared to the other, at least), but although it said 4-person, we all knew four of us inside would literally leave zero wiggle room. That meant bringing the larger and older tent. The one that had the cord in the poles rotted and snapped. I had bought the supplies to repair it but never did. My wife restrung the poles, so we set it up next to the other one.

“Eww, it’s musty inside,” my wife said.

“Hey kids (they’re in their 20s), which tent would you like, the spacious one or the smaller one?”

My wife told them about the musty smell, so of course, they chose the non-musty-smelling one. Later, I was happy they did.

That night, it rained! My wife woke up and said she was getting wet. Sure enough, the tent was leaking, and a puddle formed inside. We picked a dry corner, huddled up, and assessed that if things didn’t get worse and we made it until morning status quo, we’d chalk it up as a win.

Midway through the night, I needed to go inside to use the bathroom. It was about 3AM, so my father-in-law and I startled each other when our paths crossed.

“I woke up with ideas about the project I’m working on over at the fort, and if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget,” he explained.

He’s been known to wake in his man cave at the computer chair to look at the clock, see it say 2:00, and wonder if it was day or night.

At first light, I asked my wife how she slept.

“Well, let me see, one foot kept touching water if I stretched it out, and you were snoring right in my face so loudly my hair was blowing whenever I turned toward you.”

My in-laws were headed to the local park for the eclipse because of the local historical tie to Ohio’s last total solar eclipse. Tensions were mounting in the years before the War of 1812. The legendary Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother nicknamed The Prophet, were challenged in 1806 by William Henry Harrison. Harrison wanted to discredit them before their followers. He asked The Prophet to cause the sun to stand still, the moon to alter its course, rivers to stop flowing, and the dead to rise from the earth. And if he succeeds, then he will have proven he was sent from God. Legend has it that The Prophet leaned into the demand and proclaimed that in just 50 days, when the sun was high overhead, the Great Spirit would hide it, and day would turn to night. Indeed, the prophecy was fulfilled, and Ohio experienced a total solar eclipse.

Being well-steeped in this local history, Grandma and Grandpa chose the Tecumseh experience. The rest of us contemplated the traffic compounded afterward by adding an hour or more to get from the park back here and from here to home and work. We chose simplicity, solitude, and serenity over crowds. At the last minute, my wife’s empty nest cousin drove solo from Cincinnati to join us.

The property next to my in-laws was vast vacant farmland. We walked about 500 feet and laid out chairs, blankets, and snacks. My daughter turned on her eclipse playlist, and we talked, laughed, and waited. The sky looked promising.

We made a pact: There would be no cameras, music, or talking during totality—all four minutes of it.

The event proved to be a bizarre experience none of us expected. I mean, photos of other eclipses online gave us an idea, but the reality was something that will be remembered as a once-in-a-lifetime event (unless you choose to become an eclipse-chaser). The next one is in Iceland. But imagine if, after making that trek, it was overcast!

The horses across the creek sensed the peculiarity and reared, kicked, and whinnied in objection.

Birds were silenced, but some called out. Those were the morning birds, confused, explained the birders in my family.

The stillness and silence made each of us one with the grand celestial event. The black disc slowly engulfed the fireball high in the sky.

Then, there was nothing to see at all.

A warm day was suddenly so cold!

That’s when my wife reminded us it was now safe to remove our eclipse glasses.

When we did…

WOW!

A farm family over the next hill cut through the silence, gasping at the sight.

My son, who never seems moved by much, gasped, “Oh, Wow!” Completely unprepared by the actual human sight of TOTALITY.

It’s how we all felt. No photo out there represented what we saw. Either the pics were just lousy or overly edited or enhanced to show something our naked eyes didn’t see.

It was a moment.

And four minutes of totality was a long moment at that.

I looked away from the spectacle in the sky and was taken aback by the strange, unworldly hue of the treeline nearby and the uncut tall grass field. There isn’t a camera filter made that resembles this hazy Martian-esque look. It was surreal.

We were purely living in the moment. Everything connected in that solemn field.

No other people, cars, planes, or the hum of electricity—you know, the hum you didn’t know was so loud until it stopped.

Someone reminded me, “No camera; use your eyes instead.”

We soaked it in. The scene was genuinely absorbed by our senses.

It was an unobstructed, uninhibited moment of purity in nature (or near so) on an overpopulated planet and culture where peace and quiet are almost extinct—even on nature trails.

When totality ended, we put our protective eyewear back on and chattered non-stop about how much more it was than even our imaginations prepared us for. And speaking of imaginations, the roads were nothing near the Armageddon the news folk warned us about.

But I’ll remember more than just the eclipse. The series of events brought my immediate family together for an unforgettable experience—something rare now that everyone has grown and flown.

“Hey, anyone up for Iceland 2026?”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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The Hyper Coffee Guy

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We pulled off to refresh at a rest stop. My arms and mind needed a break from the constant turning of the steering wheel for hours on end, navigating the endless bends up California’s Highway 1.

I lingered at an outdoor roadside coffee stand at the rest area. The line wound along the sidewalk, down the curb, and into some empty parking spaces. A bunch of Italian tourists, mostly younger, were ahead of me in line. The breeze off the Pacific had nobody in a hurry except for a pacing bus driver.

The closer the tourists and I got to the stand, the more we heard, the older Hippie server yell out a mostly incoherent story as he made drinks for his customers. He never spoke to the customers. When it was someone’s turn, he nodded, and they told him what they wanted. Then he went back to shouting out his tale, even while the drink was made and exchanged for money.

The coffee man was charismatic and full of drama. He kept repeating certain words, but they never seemed to connect to make complete sentences or make any sense other than references to Babylon. Although the Italians and I did not understand each other’s language, we understood that this coffee man was a real hoot.

“In the Tower of Babel …. SINNERS! …. Pagans! ….Concubines ….Nebuchadnezzar ….in 90 feet of gold ….Babylon!” There were words between these, but they were jumbled and lost to interpretation.

Then, the coffee man fell silent. He froze. The pregnant pause had everyone in the line looking at each other, wondering what he was doing or not doing. The bus driver even took notice, growing impatient, pacing more aggressively, looking from his watch to the coffee man several times. Just when the energy in line was leaning toward restless, teetering on the edge of whether the wait was worth it, the coffee man turned to the crowd and belted out a story clear as day for all to hear, ignoring the job at hand.

“A rock hurtled through space at the right time, in the right place, and with all of the right conditions. Over time, a plant and animal emerged from the fertile soil. Both grew to blanket the earth.”

The coffee man made dramatic motions with his hands. His eyes were open wide like silver dollars. His audience looked on with renewed curiosity. The bus driver crossed his arms and leaned on his heels, resigning to the fact he was here for the duration.

Coffee man illustrated by moving a muffin through the air.

At the end of the short tale, the audience applauded wildly as he returned to the job at hand. Maybe the story was fabulous, or maybe folks were happy to be served again. Regardless, the man performed as if he could care less whether there was an audience or not. But there was an audience. Some of it was a bit frightful and curious, and some a bit rude.

Back in the swing of his routine, the coffee man again made no sense, yelling now familiar gibberish into the air, “In the Tower of Babel …. SINNERS! …. Pagens! ….Concubines ….Nebuchadnezzar ….in 90 feet of gold ….Babylon!”

One of the Italians and I made eye contact and smiled at one another in a brief but warm connection. We shared an understood fun in the moment despite our otherwise language barrier.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Stik Man Mystery Solved

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

I got it all planned out—go there, see that, eat here, and all that. But something is going to happen that wasn’t planned, and that is what will be remembered.

Hustling from one attraction to another in a sightseeing frenzy, zipping around Washington D.C., something outside the crosswalk lines caught my attention. I stopped and looked down. A mini robot painted on the pavement stared up at me.

I pointed it out to my wife and kids and said, “That’s a strange sight.”

“Looks like an alien,” my son said nonchalantly.

“It reminds me of a petroglyph,” my wife added.

“It looks like we’re going to get run over if we don’t move,” said my teenage daughter.

I figured it had to do with marking the power lines under the street or something like that.

Later, we saw this peculiar fella painted by another crosswalk. Our imaginations went into overdrive, exploring other possibilities for this fella no bigger than my hand. It was strange. It didn’t quite belong, and we all knew it. But our curiosity dissipated as our other activities mounted.

After hotels, parking, meals, admissions, etc., a third of our trip was over, and what did we remember but a sidewalk performer who rivaled the original recording artist, an all but forgotten side entrance to our hotel – it was where President Reagan was shot. My daughter was being posed for a photo by a feisty old Asian woman we had never seen before. This stranger saw my daughter trying to mimic a statue’s positioning and decided it was all wrong. Despite the language barrier, her charisma made an ordinary stop into shared belly laughter.

We left D.C. a few days later to continue what had been a very expensive trip up the East Coast, exploring our nation’s history.

In Philadelphia, our minds were blown when the peculiar painted fella from D.C. seemed to follow us. First, he appeared—slapped aside a metal newspaper box. Then, there he was, next to another crosswalk. We quickly snapped photos of the robot-alien-petroglyph before we could get run over.

Gazing at the phone photos while we waited in a long line wrapping around a famous Philly steak sandwich shop, my wife explored the Internet in the palm of her hand to solve the mystery.

Soon after that, she yelled, “stickman!”

A man in line turned. I shook my head to say, no-no-not you.

She proceeded to rattle off her discovery, unaware of the ‘excuse-me’ gaze.

A street artist littered this “stikman” everywhere he went, including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities. But he and his creation were largely a mystery.

We became more fascinated with Stikman than any exhibit we saw at any museum. On this trip, where we saw iconic American history, Stikman was one of the more memorable sights. The most memorable moment we shared on this budget-busting adventure was also completely free and unexpected.

Vacations cost money, but the memories are often not ones of expense. It’s the unexpected—like Stikman—that sticks with us.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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10 Places To Go Wild In Ohio

Go Wild, Ohio, with these 10 Animal Attractions 

African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton offers drive-thru and walk-thru safaris featuring over 400 exotic animals. Visitors can also enjoy Camel Rides, Animal Shows, and Pig Races. Click here to plan your visit. 

Akron Zoo has six diverse themed areas where visitors can explore and experience over 700 animals and 90 different species. Click here to plan your visit.

Butterfly House at Wheeler Farms is an enchanting climate-controlled world of over 1,000 butterflies. Also, enjoy the outdoor butterfly gardens. Click here to plan your visit.

Cleveland Aquarium is on the ground floor of a powerhouse constructed in 1892 to provide electricity to streetcars. The unique building and history are woven into a fantastic undersea world. Click here to plan your visit. 

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Rainforest claims North America’s largest collection of primate species. It also has an enormous two-acre indoor tropical rainforest. Click here to plan your visit. 

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden opened 140 years ago. Over 1.5 million people visit over 500 animal and 3,000 plant species annually. Click here to plan your visit. 

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium features species from around the globe, from its world-famous gorilla family to the world’s largest snake in a zoo and unique sharks. Click here to plan your visit. 

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge features bird-watching over 7,000 acres of wetlands and woodlands. It’s a top North American destination for migratory and songbirds. Click here to plan your visit. 

Toledo Zoo and Aquarium houses the internationally famous Hippoquarium®. Other exhibits that make this zoo special are the Arctic Encounter, Frog Town, and Primate Forest. Click here to plan your visit. 

The Wilds offers safaris across its 10,000 acres and is one of the world’s largest and most innovative conservation centers.  It is home to rare and endangered animals from around the globe.  Click here to plan your visit.

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The Roads Less Traveled

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Hmmm. I would have taken the long way around until a park ranger challenged my manhood back at Natural Bridges National Monument. I had asked her if the Moki Dugway posed any danger, you know, because of the kids and all.

She looked me straight in the eyes and actually said, “Take off the skirt.”

Wow! In today’s age. Really? …I laughed like hell.

Nuff said. We’re doing it.

As we sat in our stopped vehicle, pulled to the side of the road, and stared at an intimidating sign warning of what was ahead, I looked at my wife riding shotgun and the kids through the rear-view mirror. We still had a choice: drive the long way around a mountain or go over the top of it. The problem with going over it was that it was described as having a steep, narrow, dirt, switch-back road without guard rails and a maximum speed limit of five miles per hour.

I was still thinking about the death-defying cliff drive we experienced just a week earlier when we rolled up to the Yellowstone gate at dusk. On that day, we were alone except for one ranger in one booth. I got to flash my national parks pass for the second time that day. I couldn’t help but smile.

The Yellowstone ranger said we came at the perfect time. I asked why. He said this road had been closed all afternoon because of the snow but had just reopened 30 minutes ago. It was June. Then he made an offer we should have refused. From what he was hearing, he said the road could be closed again in as little as 15 minutes, so if we’re going, we’d better go now.

Somewhere inside of me, I was naïvely thinking if there were any real danger, a ranger would never …

Yellowstone’s East Entrance was along a cliff down on the left and up on the right. At least the right side of the road had a pitch to it, but the left side was a straight drop to a bottom, too far to see. The music was off. This road carved from a mountainous cliff was covered in snow and slightly pitched toward the can’t-look-at-it-drop! If I went too slow, the vehicle felt like it was losing traction and may drift over the edge—too fast, same thing. So, slow and steady was going to win this race. Nobody so much as whisper except for an occasional gasp. Then our bodies stiffened!

Yikes!

Snow drifted over our lane as high as our vehicle, leaving the slightest space in the opposing lane to maneuver around it. And let’s face it, these weren’t full-width lanes. We couldn’t have turned around if we wanted. As if that weren’t bad enough, there were no guard rails. When we thought it couldn’t get any worse, the road became icy. Driving in reverse was out of the question. I was afraid the vehicle would slide off the edge if we stopped. So we crept ever so slowly, careful not to look over the bare edge. My knuckles were as white as the landscape. My wife clutched the dashboard, and the kids closed their eyes, sensing imminent danger. These driving conditions continued for such a long time I wondered if we’d ever make it.

“STOP!”

In the middle of the road, there was a bison blanketed in snow. All I could think was, how in the heck did he get up here? Then, oh, great, now what do we do?

As I paused to gather my thoughts, everyone felt the car start to slide, and yelled, “Move, move, move!”

We thread the needle of the large animal on the side with the snow drift and the sheer death plunge on the other side.

“Please Mr. Buffalo; do NOT nudge us in any way.”

My wife snapped me back to the present situation and pulled off, contemplating another mountain adventure, “Are you going or not?”

I phoned a friend who had come this way in the past.

“Matt, did you go on this dirt road over Mount…?”

“If you don’t go over it, you will miss some of the most spectacular views,” he deadpanned.

Queuing up Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly, we ascended into the sky. Though, I thought The Turning Away may have been the more appropriate song choice.

This was one speed limit I certainly would not break. Once we were clearly at breakneck heights, I felt my breathing quicken …just a little bit.

The kids loved it.

They also loved my fear. “Dad, how fast would we hit bottom if the road’s edge crumbles around this next turn?”

“QUIET! Let me concentrate!” I was serious.

Meanwhile, my wife was busy taking pictures and some out-of-focus videos. Her sound effects were in awe of the incredible views; she kept pointing as if I was supposed to look. I did, briefly, here and there.

Going up, I had to drive on the outer part of the 1 ½ lane road. Since no other vehicles were in sight, I could hug the rock wall on the inner part of the lane, still conscious of the slight dirt embankment separating us from a death fall.

There were times when I, too, got swept up in the amazing breadth of scenery the closer we got to the summit. It was like looking out of an airplane window (except when rock cliffs were in my peripheral vision) and seeing a ribbon of road stretching for what might have been a hundred miles.

It was a sight to behold.

“Car!” shouted my wife.

“Holy %&#@!*^&%!” I countered.

We passed within inches of each other. I was maxing out at five miles per hour, teetering along the outer edge to provide room for passing. I imagined stones beneath my tires crumbling over the edge.  The oncoming car, with the safety of the inner lane, whizzed by doing nearly 10 miles per hour. Some people are just crazy.

We caught our breath when we landed on the other side, looking back at what we had just conquered as our car entered The Valley of the Gods.

I smiled back to when we landed on the other side of the Yellowstone expedition and entered a valley of paradise. On queue, three pelicans flew overhead from the lake to the tune of Three Little Birds.

So I was reminded, “Don’t worry about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing is gonna be alright.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Cruise Excursions Gone Wrong

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We were first-time cruisers. It was spring, so we bolted Ohio for the Caribbean! What could possibly go wrong?

Our first excursion was on a small island that had not fully recovered from a hurricane. As we were transported to a remote corner of what was still a tropical paradise, you could see where some former homes were now shelled-out buildings or stone-fenced yards with no structure left within them at all. Upon arriving at the beach stable for our horseback riding adventure, we were instructed where to go to use the restroom beforehand. When I was done, I came out a bit embarrassed and said the toilet wouldn’t flush. That’s when an island girl, a bit embarrassed, said that’s what she’s there for. And then she entered the latrine with a bucket of water.

The gentlemen – boys really – handling the horses were so full of life. Their laughter was infectious. Our first ride was on land and sand. We saddled up and trotted uphill and down, learning how to lean forward or back in the saddle. I had never ridden a horse by myself before. Of course, I got a horse with a mind of its own. He’d stop on a hill and snack on the grass, holding everyone up. When I dug my heels into his side and pulled the reigns, he cocked his head to look at me. I could swear he gave me a side-eye as if to say, “You wait, buddy!”

Ironically, my wife had a horse named Frenzy, but Placid would have been more fitting.

After a pretty lengthy ride, which I was more than ready to end, our guides removed saddles, replacing each with nothing more than a pad. It was time to ride the horses along the beach, basically bareback and into the water. It was along the stables area where all of the arriving and departing tourists signed up for this excursion waited and watched. We only went four at a time for this ride, plus two horses with guides. I wasn’t aware of the short strap for holding in front of me. I should have paid more attention to the instructions. Instead, I just played with the reigns.

When the guide unexpectedly hollered, and the horses went into a full charge in the water, I was hanging on for dear life. It felt like I was rodeoing for dear life. It was only a matter of time – not much, by the way – before I knew I was going for a swim. I might get trampled by the three horses on my tail, so when I came off that thing, I did it with gusto to try to splash clear of danger.

When I came up out of the water, you’d think maybe I’d be humiliated, but I have to say, it was exhilarating. The 13-year-old boy, who had been chasing us on foot all over the landscape that morning, snapping photos for sale, ran into the water with an ear-to-ear grin. I threw my arms up and made the most of the picturesque moment. Then, one of the guides helped me back onto my horse. That’s when I noticed a look in my horse’s eye like, “I told you I’d get you.”

My horse charged like the dickens again, thundering through the water. It was a wild ride with lots of splashing. Then we turned around, barely slowing, and charged back the way we came. This back-and-forth was repeated several times. It was pure fun! So much so that I didn’t mind losing my prescription sunglasses. Well, not entirely. A guide noticed me looking intently at the water swirled with kicked-up seaweed. When he learned what happened, he was on a mission to find them.

Making a spectacle of myself caught the attention and funny bone of everyone watching. It wouldn’t be the last time during our trip that all eyes fixated on my shenanigans. But before I explain the next island’s mishap, I must mention another secret getaway we found.

Oh, I can’t forget to say that just as I put on my shoes to leave, the young boy ran up and handed my sunglasses to me with nothing but kindness and joy. I sure made him aware of my gratitude.

When we returned to the resort area, it was thick with sunbathers. We decided to walk the beach for a while. A band of younger people had the same idea. We wrapped around a corner of the island, out of sight from the masses, and kept going. Eventually, even the college-aged kids stopped in a remote area to snorkel. But we pressed on to a soft sandy area with absolutely no one near us. It was paradise all to ourselves. Amazing when you think about the crowd we just left. The afternoon hours peeled away effortlessly, much like my skin later.

On another island, we had signed up for a dune buggy tour, which is another thing I had never done.

About a dozen dune buggies went off-road on some rough terrain. But the pace and grouping didn’t meet the expectations of every guy in the group who wanted to let loose a little bit. So, you saw some anxiousness mixed with testosterone, little jerks of the wheel here and there as we kept formation as instructed. We were painting slightly outside the lines, careful not to get caught.

At the first stop, you could hear almost every wife quipping about their husband’s driving as we sat two to each dune buggy. We saw a couple of landmarks, and then came terrain that even the guides stopped to warn about twice! As we drove in a single file line, a rather large mud puddle swallowed the path just before a bit of a steep hill we needed to ascend. One by one, dune buggies carefully navigated through the muddy water and gave it a little juice to get up the hill.

My thinking was, finally, we get to really dune buggy!

I slowed enough to allow plenty of open space between our dune buggy and the one in front of us. When the coast was clear, I opened it up, pedal to the metal, and hit that water filled crater hard! The couple behind us later said that they couldn’t stop laughing about it.

“If you could have seen what we saw,” the husband started once we reached our next destination. “Mud and water shot like a tidal wave out of every side. It was absolutely hysterical.”

We knew because most of the water and mud shot up from underneath our dune buggy. There’s no floor, so we got it all in the most unexpected direction. And it smelled! Oh, did it smell!

Fortunately, we ended up at a slice of heavenly beach with no one except our group on it. It allowed us the opportunity to go get a saltwater bath to clean off. Then, we hiked into the rocks for vantage points that say, yep, you’ve found a secluded Caribbean island paradise.

On the way back, it was as if the other husbands noted my bit o’crazy and upped the ante. The winner of the craziest dune buggy rider went hands down to the guy that darn near ended his marriage by purposely taking a turn wide then sharp, putting the dune buggy on two wheels. His wife was so close to the ground before all four wheels finally touched again that if she reached out, her hand could have dragged the pavement. Nobody was sure which way the buggy would go. Most bets were surely on them flipping over. Miraculously, and you could tell in the husband’s expression, he recovered, and they smacked all four tires down in jaw-breaking style.

His wife aired her displeasure for all to hear her emotions were so raw. The other wives nodded in agreement while the rest of the guys smiled, winked, and chuckled in pure approval.

Fortunately, we didn’t do a third excursion the way things were trending.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Vacation Friends

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

On a laid-back island that has somehow shunned commercialization, some struggled with unplugging at the communal inn we stayed in called Greyfield.

After a kind gentleman provided an orientation at this retreat on Georgia’s Cumberland Island, everyone was welcoming, and everything felt comfortable. Even when our host insisted folks completely shut the front door off the grand porch, otherwise, it’ll get toasty inside, and nobody wants that.

Before we were left to explore the island, he showed us a sign-up book for the private excursions offered that day throughout the island. Naturalists and staff members managed these tours, which may include a trip on benches in the back of a pickup truck to the tiniest wedding chapel on the far side of the island, where JFK Jr. had his small and private wedding ceremony. He and his party stayed at the Greyfield Inn and had their rehearsal dinner on the sweeping front porch. The reception was held on the front lawn. Other excursions may be to see the eye-popping ruins of Dungeness, the sprawling Carnegie mansion at Plum Orchard, birding, kayaking, fossil-finding, chimneys, gardens, and more. A new sign-up book with the next day’s tour offerings was set out at 4pm daily.

On this first day, we grabbed our picnic basket from the kitchen and bicycles and headed for the beach, where the inn provides chairs and umbrellas in a storage container at the beachhead. It was like pedaling through a scene only described by Nineteenth Century recreational affluence. The fabled inn faded as we rounded the natural crushed shell paths into lush woodlands, all bathed in pure nature and marked private for Greyfield guests only. We left the bikes and walked where the forest opened to the sand dunes. Halfway to the beachhead was an elevated open-air picnic pavilion. We were the only ones around. It’s where we enjoyed our picnic basket lunch: delicious sandwich, freshly picked salad, and treat. When we hit the beach, it was ours alone. We wondered at the incredulousness of it all in today’s day and age of overrun destinations. It was like being on your very own private island.

As we exhaled the modern world’s impurities and breathed in Cumberland Island’s purity, we had no idea this respite would grow even more magical.

We hosed off our feet and shoes when we returned to the inn. My wife tried transporting a sand dollar back in her bicycle basket, but it had been reduced to dust when she opened its protective towel coating. From our perch in a guest room overtop the corner of the porch, we could see the canopy of massive trees and wild horses in their shade grazing on the front lawn.

That first night, we learned the dining room was at its capacity with about 30 guests (13 couples and a mom with three college-age girls. The guests were mostly from rooms inside the inn, but some were from the two cottages on the grounds. Before the dinner bell rang for all of us, we mingled in the great room on the main floor in our jackets and dresses with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. A guestbook had names and where people were from—mostly Georgians, but a few entries claimed places like Michigan, New York, and now, Ohio. Conversation at the dinner table was among guests and staff alike. Some staff had the best information about the island and some of the best stories!

The best (vacation) friends we ever met would arrive the next morning.

The guests mingled on the front porch that night. One of the naturalists who ferried in with us wore a sea turtle shirt. She encouraged us to bike to the beach in the dark to see the turtle nests but emphasized how to do it without disturbing them, using the inn’s redlight flashlights and keeping a good distance. Then, the night sky opened to let a long, steady rain pour down. It was a perfect night to stay on the grand porch.

The following morning, the breakfast table brought many familiar faces from the night before. But many of those faces wouldn’t be seen again as this ended their weekend stay. After morning goodbyes over coffee on the porch, we readied for our first excursion. After familiar guests left, new guests arrived. We walked past the new arrival’s luggage in the doorway with our prepared picnic basket with our name on it to join the newcomers and our guide in a pickup truck to whisk us away on an adventure.

It was a padded but bumpy ride. But each bump loosened us all up to conversation and laughs. Our guide stopped the vehicle to move a gopher tortoise in the middle of the unpaved road. She brought it to us in the truck bed so we could see it. That’s when she noticed it was loaded with ticks. Diane, one of the newcomers fresh off the ferry and straight into this excursion, asked if we could help it. The guide looked at Diane’s husband, Jim, and asked him to hold it. The tortoise clawed his hands while the guide fetched tweezers to remove ticks embedded across the tortoise’s underside. The sturdy older fellow, who we later learned runs a sawmill and loves everything about working at it, casually let the guide know the tortoise was digging claws into his wrists, and it didn’t exactly tickle. The guide took the tortoise and gave Jim the tweezers. Poor Jim had no idea his vacation would include de-ticking a tortoise in front of a bunch of strangers.

Welcome to Greyfield, we laughed. And vacation friendships that ran deep for the week.

At the long-awaited North End of the island, we exited the truck’s bed and headed for the restroom. A bat flew overhead in the men’s room. Of course, unfazed, Jim shooed it away.

At a picnic table, we ate from our private couples’ picnic baskets as our guide, Katie, showed us pics of an alligator climbing onto her porch to say hello. After we ate, she focused on the tour and walked us through a little rustic museum that told the story of the community formed here from the island’s freed slaves.

Next to these grounds, in clear sight, was a fenced area marking the property and rugged homestead of Carol, known to some as the wild woman of Cumberland. We would meet this fascinating woman later in the week. Another heavy rain came, so we took shelter in the tiny non-descript chapel where JFK Jr got married. It was a long rain, so our band of strangers had no choice but to go deeper into conversation after we exhausted our wonder if the famous wedding in such a modest place invited Carol next door.

Carol is a self-taught naturalist dubbed Jane Goodall of Cumberland Island’s Sea Turtles. She strongly advocates for the wild island’s preservation and has caused controversy with those who do not share her vision. She is viewed as eccentric as she lives primarily off the land and what the island provides her with. Multiple books have been written about her storied life.

The three couples hauled up in that tiny chapel with Katie continued to bond. Jim and his lovely wife Diane shared their miraculous courtship, beginning with the airline groundings on 9/11. The other couple included Paula, a schoolteacher like my wife, and her husband, Brian. He later shared such an incredulous story about a bee infestation at one of his Airbnbs; we had him tell it again for others to hear later.

That night, we were seated together for dinner and had a great time. As we finished dessert, my wife said we would grab flashlights and bikes to see the nesting sea turtles if anyone was interested. It was a bit of a surprise that these new friends, dressed in suits and cocktail dresses, looked at each other and said, sure, let’s go!

After a quick change of clothes, we met at the bicycle barn to pick up our rides. We positioned flashlights in the handlebar baskets. It took a moment for everyone to find their stride in the dark on the non-paved surface with roots, rocks, and other obstacles. Once we got stopped and started a few times, this empty nest gang pedaled in a row into the dark woods on a path we could barely see. None of us were spring chickens. But at heart, we were adventurous that night. Laughter and giggles echoed off the trees as we swerved and bumped our way along the path to where dirt turned to sand.

That’s when we ditched the bikes and carried on, chuckles and all, through the moonlit sand, switching flashlights from white light to red.

We spent a long time chatting quietly while looking for the turtle nests, but we were too low on the beach. Then, we decided to split up and signal if we found anything.

I was sure I was upon one. I didn’t want to disturb it, so I kept my light off it. I signaled the others and waited. When the six of us reunited, I readied for the big reveal – DRIFTWOOD!

As they say, it was about the journey, not the destination.

Our slap-happy crew returned the bikes and washed feet with the hose out back of the inn. Then we slinked in the backdoor into the pitch-dark kitchen, flashlights back on, giggling like teenagers sneaking into the house, trying not to wake Mom and Dad.

Someone knocked the table that, of course, had the pots and pans and things that maximized clatter we hoped didn’t wake the staff or guests. But if that didn’t, the snorting laughter and she-shushing one another surely did. We all froze in silence, turned off lights, and waited for a response from someone, anyone. None came. So, we continued, albeit more cautiously.

Well, we were thick as thieves after this rendezvous.

Each day brought a new adventure. We went kayaking and birding, touring the spectacular ruins of a sprawling castle-like mansion called Dungeness and the still-standing mansion of Plum Orchard. Each adventure led to afternoon naps or quiet time before the dinner bell chimed. A couple played chess in the lavish grand room of the inn. A college student was finishing up summer studies in the library. Others grabbed books and went to the beach or relaxed on the porch.

My wife and I grabbed glasses of lemonade from the kitchen and sat in a garden on the patio adjacent to the inn. A wild mustang reared up a little distance away to keep a filly in line. He raced after her. She let out a noise of terror and shot toward us. It happened so fast. The space between my wife’s chair and the thick, tall shrubs behind it was barely wide enough for this charging horse to squeeze by. We froze to assess the dangers on both sides of us, careful not to make any sudden moves. One of the horses stopped just across the round patio table from us and glared with blood-red and white eyes, grunting and showing its teeth. I secured my hands on the edge of the table in case I needed to create a shield in an instant. The wild horses’ standoff was uncomfortable and long. Then, as fast as they entered our lives, they left. And so did we!

Another unexpected encounter with the island’s wild side was when Carol flagged down our guide to Plum Orchard! Carol had stopped her quad, looking to chat. Our guide that day had been working on the island for many years, so Carol and she had become friendly with one another. The roadside conversation was lengthy, and Carol made it a group chat. Although a very private person, she was not a bashful person. She was bustling with energy and compassion for the island. And oh, she had a sense of humor! Long story short, we learned what she wanted to teach us about the island she is determined to protect.

Each evening, we shared stories of the present and past, growing tighter and tighter.

On the day before our departure, our friends from our group of six, and others like the professor and the festive southern belle sisters, gathered in front of the inn to walk to the docked ferry and depart Cumberland Island.

It was a hug fest. It felt like saying goodbye to dear old friends moving across the globe and knowing your paths may never cross again.

Later in the day, a sweet, young, gentle member of the staff gave my wife, a little bag left by Diane. Inside was a priceless gift and a simple gesture of thoughtful kindness – a sand dollar to replace the one that crumbled.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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America’s Greatest Tourist Trap

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Okay, we embarked on an all-day power drive to The Badlands. My wife always picks out pitstops to break up the drive for the kids (all of us) to see something roadside and quirky. This day would bring two notable detours. The first was the world’s only corn palace in Mitchell, SD, which was said to attract half a million tourists annually.

The other may be the greatest tourist trap in history.

Way back in Minnesota, we spotted the first sign: Wall Drug – 355 miles.

It was followed by periodic signs stretching across three states along I-90 West that read:

  • Wall Drug – Since 1931
  • Wall Drug – Coffee 5 Cents
  • 291 Miles to Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Cowboy Orchestra Daily
  • Wall Drug – Featured on the Today Show
  • Hooked on Wall Drug
  • New T Rex at Wall Drug
  • Be Yourself at Wall Drug
  • Homemade Pie at Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Sheriff on duty
  • Old-fashioned Soda Fountain at Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Western Oil Paintings
  • Homemade Ice Cream at Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Free Ice Water
  • Rx Museum at Wall Drug
  • Have You Dug Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug: A National Treasure
  • Save Energy – Stop at Wall Drug
  • Something to crow about at Wall Drug
  • 150 Miles to Wall Drug
  • Camping Supplies at Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Rock Supplies
  • Take Picture of Buffalo at Wall Drug
  • It’s a Blast at Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Advertised on London Buses
  • Homemade Donuts at Wall Drug
  • Leather Goods at Wall Drug
  • Wallways in Season
  • Wall Drug – Western Home Decore
  • YOLO Wall Drug
  • Chuck Wagon Quartet at Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug – Homemade breakfast & rolls
  • Wall Buys Rocks
  • Find Us at WallDrug.com
  • Wall drug as Told by Time
  • Wall Drug – Boots, Buckles, Belts
  • Just Ahead – Wall Drug
  • Don’t Miss Out – Wall Drug
  • Wall Drug Next Two Exits
  • Welcome to Wall, SD – Home of Wall Drug
  • Glad You Made It – Wall Drug

These are just some of the billboards. Quotes may not be exact. After all, we were traveling at about 75 miles per hour.

So, after all that. Tell me you wouldn’t roll off the exit and into Wall, SD, for a peak to see what this phenomenon is all about. We did. Now it’s your turn.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Super Storm & Roaches

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Eight of us circled a huge wooden dining table, playing a board game and laughing it up. The island rental house had no air-conditioning because the screened windows all around provided a cool lake breeze.

Things were relaxed and peaceful until an unexpected and massive crack of thunder shook everyone out of their skin. The breeze picked up, and the sun dimmed, but we figured we had enough time for someone to finish their turn at the game before we buttoned down the hatches and watched the storm roll in.

But before the dice rolled, a near-hurricane-force wind blasted us and everything in the house!

Contents of shelves blew to the floor, a picture flew off the wall, and darkness fell on us all. At first, we tried to anchor things on the deck and around the house until a rather large limb crashed to the ground too close for comfort. We scrambled everyone to an interior closet, emptied it, and packed it with bodies, wondering if the roof would tear off over our heads or come down and bury us.

We did a quick head count and came up with one short. A flash search party found and retrieved my niece from the upstairs bedroom, closing the windows.

When all was finally clear, we assessed the damage and wondered how long it would take to restore electricity on an island. It wasn’t much of a storm as far as time went. It hardly rained, and after several minutes of wind blasts, it died down as quickly as it kicked up. But in that short time, we’d discover it had done a lot of damage.

We soon discovered that the toilets and water supply also needed electricity.

In the morning, we discovered several telephone poles on the island’s edge had blown over. The other half of the island still had power. But our fate rested in the hands of a crew that had to be notified on the mainland and catch a ferry across before they could even begin working to restore the lost power. It was estimated to take a couple of days or less.

So, we headed to the commissary and bought the last available bottled water. After a while, we decided there was nothing to do but go on a bike ride to hit all our favorite stops.

That evening, the first cockroach was spotted in the bathroom. It was slow-moving, as would be those that followed. It appeared as if the place had been sprayed heavily to keep them at bay, but either time or the storm stirred them.

In the next few days, they ventured from the bathroom and grew in numbers and quickness. Every discovery came with a shriek, “Cock Roach!”

We secured and sealed our food supply and went about our vacation, as there was nothing else we could do. On the last night, power was restored. My daughter read her cousin a book sitting in a recliner. They lept so high they nearly hit the ceiling fan. A cock roach had climbed across their skin.

We made sure that every piece of everything being packed into the cars the next morning was opened and every crevice searched. A car approached, stopped, and observed us. I think it was the owners coming to check on us. When they gathered what we were doing, they turned around and left, not wanting to deal with the thoughts behind our dead-eye looks.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Feelin’ “The Heat!”

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

I was in a melancholy mood when I went to the post office. I had to pay a speeding ticket I received in a little town in Illinois named Galena. I was convinced that I was a victim of a speed trap. However, I was sure there would be hell to pay if I challenged this officer after what I had unknowingly done to him.

Our family of four was on the first-day drive of our vacation across the country. After high winds and plenty of ugly gray windmill farms throughout Indiana and Illinois, we were happy to be closing in on our first destination. The road was winding through trees, up and down hilly countryside, when I saw the new speed limit sign. It was about the same time a patrol car passed from the opposite direction. I didn’t see the cruiser brake, slow, or turn around through my rear-view mirror.

We rounded the bend and turned the music back up.

The GPS provided our navigation and we listened to Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham – a fitting song if you ever saw National Lampoon’s Vacation. Bobbing our heads and singing along, we drove over the hill and became mesmerized by a picturesque town ahead.

The hillside view of Galena was just gorgeous!

Our vehicle echoed with, “Look at THIS town, check out the building over there, no –look at that, we need a picture.”

The spontaneity quickly turned to, “Stop there, no –turn there, turn again…”

“WAIT! There’s a cop behind us with his lights on.”

I pulled into a roadside parking space as I replayed our course in my mind. I could only imagine that I must have rolled through a stop sign.

I rolled my window down, feeling the heat and precipitation only it had nothing to do with the muggy weather. This officer was in my ear, spitting and shouting like my old drill sergeant would to his recruits.

“Don’t they pull over to the right in Ohio!” he hollered. It wasn’t a question.

I thought this guy was gasoline and I was a lit match, so I proceeded with caution and kindness. But he’d have none of it except my license, registration, and proof of insurance.

He remained livid and shouted plenty more before storming back to his cruiser.

Then, we waited …and waited …and waited.

Meanwhile, I had to explain to my nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son that their dad was not going to jail (at least, I didn’t think I was) but was most definitely going to get a ticket. My mind drifted to paying a fine and whether or not my insurance rate would increase. What a way to blow the budget on the first day of vacation!

The policeman returned, and the puzzle pieces fell into place as he rattled on in a huff and a puff that suggested a lot more going on in his life than this. Here, it turned out he had been in the cop car I thought didn’t turn around wa-a-a-ay back on that country road. Now, even though we were playing the radio loud, I’m pretty certain we would have heard a siren if he had it on, especially when we slowed for the town’s speed limits. And the music only blared for a moment anyway because the kids would have complained otherwise. His flashing light was not one mounted to the exterior of the car. Rather, it was flashing from the interior. By my estimation, the officer ensued in what was a low-speed-chase covering a couple miles. He was convinced he was “chasing” defiant tourists when, in actuality, our attention had been bent on taking photographs.

Ticket apparent, I said as little as I had to when he returned to my window. I just listened to him seethe in never-ending anger.

Later, I read in a magazine that Galena was one of the hundred places I must see before I die. I also read that the town was notoriously known for its speed trap. There seemed to be a hundred or more complaints online just in July alone!

We never did take a picture of it!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Attack of the Blood Thirsty Black Flies

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Most of us couldn’t stomach the ferry ride to Pelee Island. It was nighttime, and Lake Erie was white-capped. Grandma regretted her sugary snack and cup of coffee. Her eyes fixed on the bottom of a bag, and the contents of her stomach followed. The boys returned from the bow, soaked head to toe.

The next day, we awoke at our beachfront rental to sunny skies and still pretty big waves. We swam, diving into the breaking waves all morning. Then, we noticed swimming companions peeking out from the water, shooting from waves, and doing wild wrapping rituals on the beach. They were Lake Erie Water Snakes, an endangered species, but you wouldn’t have known that from looking around. That ended the swimming for the day!

Pelee Island was perfect for bicycle riding an afternoon away, so we decided to do that. Our destination was an old lighthouse built in 1834. Before we set out, we all took turns spraying each other with bug repellent.

“I swear they’re biting me more after I put the repellent on than before,” I complained to my wife.

She said it was my imagination. Maybe it was.

It was time to go and Grandma, my mom, zoomed ahead. She lives life like she’s forever 12.

“Why doesn’t Grandma have to wear a bicycle helmet?” asked my 12-year-old daughter.

“Just ride,” several of us sighed.

My niece was not very good at riding a bicycle, unlike her daredevil little brother. So, the pack broke in two. I kept pace with my daughter, son, and nephew. My mom stayed back – much as she loved riding fast with a huge grin and wild eyes – with my niece, wife, sister, and brother-in-law. My niece wiped out every quarter mile or so. But the fractured pack kept moving down the road toward a trailhead that would feed into the beach leading to the lighthouse.

I kept getting bit by black flies. No one else noticed, so I gutted it out and continued. I had no choice. It was more of a nuisance than anything else. Nearly two miles into the ride, there was a considerable gap between my group of kids and my niece’s group of adults. A black fly bit me so damn hard I nearly jackknifed my bike. Another bite and another and another followed it.

I was miserable.

It turned out that I was no longer the only one being bitten. My daughter and nephew were ahead of my son and me. They slowed down because the black flies grew thicker and thicker. We pressed on a little further, hoping to blow through the swarm. By the time we reached the end of the road and the beginning of the trailhead, we were engulfed in a cloud of black flies. My daughter was hurting out loud, my son had no filter as he shrieked from the constant biting, and my little nephew suffered in silence. I yelled at the flies. It was all I could do before we turned around and tried to flee. My daughter was the fastest out of there. I hung back with the two young boys. They needed to keep both hands on their handlebars and that kept them from swatting at the meat-eating flies. The swarm was so thick, and the bites so ferocious that my son was bleeding. I considered maybe it was my scent since I had attracted them long before anyone else even noticed. I told the boys to ride ahead and follow my daughter.

Once they were well ahead, I rode like the wind to escape the misery. But the misery was glued to me. As it turned out, the flies never left the boys, either, nor my daughter for that matter. When the four of us flew past the slower-paced riders, headed in the opposite direction, the kids were screaming in pain – except for my silent nephew – from the constant biting. As the slower group described to us later, when we flew past them, our white shirts looked black, and we resembled a bad Pig-Pen scene from the Peanuts comic strip. As for me, they reported that I looked just like a bee-keeper blanketed in bees. The black cloud stuck to me no matter where I went. As I rode past the slower group, I yelled to turn around, but it was too late. The flies swarmed them, too, unbeknownst to me because I had the boys to worry about. My daughter was too far ahead for me to have any immediate concerns.

It was sheer terror for about two miles. At some point, my wife left her slower group and caught up with us, which was typical of a mother needing to protect her young.

I had to make the painful decision to have the boys stop their bicycles a couple of times to shake and swat the flies away. Their desperate eyes said I should be protecting them; why couldn’t I protect them?

After a while, I said, “Just ride! The only way this will stop is by getting back to the house.”

It was awful not being able to help them. Both boys were downright scared. My son yelled out loud. My nephew had horror in his eyes but never said a peep. I could tell he was traumatized. They both rode and rode because there was no alternative. They looked to me for help, but there was nothing I could do except emphasize that the only way to make it stop was to get back, so ride-ride-ride!

Finally, we got back, shook the flies off, and ran inside to safety. I looked down the road to see how far back the others were. That’s when my sister skidded across the lawn, jumped from her bike before it stopped, and sped off in her car. It happened in a blur.

Because my niece couldn’t ride a bike very far under normal conditions, she was being eaten alive along with everyone in her group. She was in hysterics by the time the rescue vehicle brought her back.

An hour later, small amounts of blood were wiped from the fair-skinned youngsters. Medicine was applied, and tears began to dry. We sat around the room overlooking the beach and lake, completely drained from the experience.

My niece joined us. She was washed up and wrapped in a large towel for comfort.

Since I wasn’t with her on the ride, I said, “Tell me about your awesome bike ride.”

Her bottom lip puffed out as she softly replied, “I fell down a hill, got scraped, and got eaten by flies.”

“So it was fun,” I teased.

“No,” she said sheepishly.

“Was it kind of fun?” Grandma asked.

She looked through sad eyes with that puffy lip expression and faintly said, “Yes.”

The room erupted in laughter because we all knew this was an incredibly unusual experience we’d not soon forget.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

 

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A Smokey Walkabout

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Tucked deep in the Arts & Crafts district of Gatlinburg, we unpacked while marveling at the skyline of mountains piercing the low blanket of marshmallow clouds. Did someone say wine and a hot tub? I did after my wife got a case of the giggles rummaging through my backpack for something but found pepper spray, bowie knife, snake bite kit, air horn, whistle, bells – oh, and a machete.

She couldn’t stop laughing and mocking me.

A little defensive, I felt compelled to explain my survival tools. The snake bite kit was self-explanatory. It may surprise you that the knife and machete weren’t for bear encounters. Rather, they were reserved for the psychopath roaming the Appalachian Trail. As the Boy Scouts say, Be prepared! For the bear, I figured I’d use my blow horn to scare it away or pepper spray if it got too close.

Snow fell with darkness as we read about prospective trails by firelight to explore at daybreak.

After we left Rainbow Falls and the tourists, we only saw one other person on the ascent to summit Mount LeConte. A ranger suggested we backtrack a bit to see a spectacular overlook. Our legs and feet were yearning for the summit and rest. But a view as he described prevailed. Although the detour wasn’t that far, all said, it was far enough to hear my feet bark at me, “Why-whyy-whyyy…”

The swaths of greenery to our sides, stepping stones at our feet, and canopy above all rose together to a blue sky at the end of nature’s tunnel. It was a remarkable visual. Thank goodness film is obsolete because we would have used all we had here. Afterward, we walked and talked, “This one or that one?” Delete. “This one or that one?” Delete. “This one or that one?” Decide later. “This one or that one?” Both.

Just a couple hundred feet from the summit was LeConte Lodge. This rustic batch of weathered wooden shacks, a small provisions store, and a quaint lodge served hikers energy by the pound. It was an unusual sight but welcome. The shacks provided the essentials; a roof over a bed and a tiny porch to strum an acoustic guitar. The panoramic view made us wish we had a reservation to spend the night.

Ironically, the question of the hour was, “Are you staying the night?” Most people spend the day hiking up and another day hiking down. We were the fools who thought we could do both on the same day. We contemplated the time it would take for our descent down a different path called Bull Run. The daylight hours were slipping away.

We topped off our water supply and checked out the store. I asked where I could find a restroom, and the extremely friendly lady in the store pointed the directions. I followed them until I was inside someone’s shack. It was a little embarrassing. Tripping over myself, I scrambled one more row and found the potty shack. They all looked the same, except this one had a toilet.

We chatted with other hikers when it dawned on me that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a non-friendly person on a trail. The irony of my machete sticking me in the back didn’t strike me then.

Relatively rejuvenated, we began down Bull Head. My shin splints and footaches quickly said, remember me – still here!

It was just my wife and I, so I started complaining about my aching this and aching that. About an hour into the one-track conversation, I realized what she was thinking of me, so I spent the next hour trying to rationalize it. She had fun with me the whole time …at my expense.

She was the daughter of a podiatrist and said it’s my hiking shoes causing the problem.

Bull Head Trail was a backwoods paradise. Not a soul was on it except us. The trailside scenery and mountain ledge views made me think of becoming a mountain man – until I took my next step, muzzling my agonizing pain.

“I hurt too, but I just don’t complain about it,” she said, sarcasm dripping from the corners of her grin.

“Bear droppings.”

I moved my pepper spray and air horn to where I could easily grab them from the sides of my backpack.

My wife wasn’t convinced, but I saw more and more as we walked. We were definitely tracking a bear down this desolate path in early spring when I imagined they were especially hungry.

“What do I need to prove it – a bear?” I said in frustration.

“If you see one, just know that while you fumble with your weapons, I’ll be running the other way,” she joked …at least I thought she was joking. “Outrunning you shouldn’t be difficult, considering you’re limping on bloody stumps to hear you go on about it.”

So, this was our memorable adventure. When we hit bottom, literally and figuratively – speaking for myself of course – my mind had prepared for the car to be right there. But it was miles away, so we had to trek another trail to get where we started just as night closed in on us. Finally, she even complained of her aches and pains and said we pushed our limits too far (14 miles of mountain hiking from dawn to dusk). We were slap-happy, laughing as if delirious, going on about our sore muscles and joints.

A funny thing happens when you walk up and down a mountain, as we did for an entire day, and then suddenly stop. And by stop, I mean put our feet in the car and drive. When we put our feet back down in a restaurant parking lot, joints like knees didn’t function like the brain intended. We both waddled into the restaurant, determined to feast as a reward for our stupendous journey.

On our way out, having nothing alcoholic to drink, two people wanted to get us a ride so we wouldn’t drive. Our bodies and minds were pretty rubbery, and it was clearly no secret. We clutched each other to avoid collapsing, laughing hysterically at our failing bodies, saying, “Naw, naw, we got this.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Border Crossing

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Border stories are what all visiting families usually talk about upon arrival. Ours was unusual because we had taken two cars for our family to fit our kids’ friends, everyone’s belongings, food for a week, and the dog.

You need a passport or other paperwork proving citizenship to cross the U.S. and Canadian border. The border agents are usually strait-laced with little tolerance for even the slightest irritant. If you want to kill an hour or more because you tried to be cute, you can join the long line of cars learning a lesson off to the side.

I prepped the teenage girls in my car for the Q&A session about to happen with Mr. Happy—the border agent peering in our windows. I explained he’d ask, “Citizenship?” to which my daughter’s friend in the back asked, “How do I answer?”

Oh boy! My hands clenched the wheel a little tighter.

“Citizenship?” barked a deep voice in my left ear.

I actually paused to think about it. I saw the man’s impatience, so I spit it out. Then came the question about relationships, to which I had to explain why I was taking an unrelated minor across the border. After handing our passports, the dog’s paperwork, and the forms showing I had permission to bring my daughter’s friend, I did the unthinkable – and got a little chatty with Mr. Happy.

He had asked whom I was traveling with, and I explained that my wife and other kids were two cars back. I realized he was only speaking about our car, so this opened a new series of questions. As he stacked our passports to hand back with the other paperwork, I asked if I could pull a little forward to wait.

“No, but there’s a McDonald’s around the corner,” He deadpanned.

Entering Canada, we had to turn off our cell phones to avoid international charges at the time. I parked at McDonald’s and paused to put passports back in their holders before flagging down my wife’s vehicle. That’s when extreme panic ripped through me.

My daughter’s passport was not there!

“SHIIIIIIIIII……..!”

I turned on my phone and called my wife – son – my son’s friend. Nobody answered.

I jumped from the vehicle and headed back to the border on foot. I wondered how much attention I’d draw by running up to the booth I was processed through. My mind didn’t care. I needed to get that passport back. The shortest distance from point A to point B was a straight line. The quickest solution was to get what I needed where I knew it was left. I had a one-track mind.

Then I saw my wife coming down the four-lane road. I jumped out like a raving lunatic to flag her down.

She finally calmed me down by waving my daughter’s passport in my face. Here, my phone calls were heard, but the border guy told my wife not to answer.

He said, “That’s your husband calling for this.”

And he handed over my daughter’s passport.

Later, deep in Ontario, phones were all off. I needed gas, so I signaled to the other car, old-school style. We pulled into a very busy gas station. My daughter’s friend asked if it would be okay to get a candy bar quickly.

“Sure,” I said.

The card reader wasn’t working, so I went inside to pay. I remember thinking it was odd that I did not cross paths with my daughter and her friend. I returned, and two cars were jammed bumper-to-bumper on an angle to get my pump. I tested their patience and found my wife’s car to see if the girls were there.

They weren’t.

We pulled into a larger parking lot where a strip mall spread across the far side. I went into store after store, searching. Finally, I entered the grocery. I looked through another set of doors and saw the two 15-year-olds in line, arms full of crap. With a head of steam (and relief they weren’t abducted), I burst through the exit door when someone left – otherwise, I’d have to sprint across the store and might miss them had I gone through the intended entrance.

I had a loud voice, and my anxiety had peaked.

Not only did I get their attention, but every judging eye in the place was fixated on my seething face. The girls left their armloads of junk where they stood, and together, we made a march of humiliation to the car.

I was never happier.

The last border story was crossing into Canada from the U.S. by ferry. We hopped in our car once they rolled it off the ferry and headed for the customs checkpoint. Anyway, I was in an honest mood, so when the customs officer asked if there was any pepper spray in the vehicle, I said yes. Now, I did pause to consider how to answer. I quickly wondered if they already knew because we were separated from our vehicle on the ferry where it was parked below and out of sight. When I said yes and had my wife hand me the tiny bottle from the glove compartment, my 17-year-old daughter said, “I have Mace in my purse. Is that illegal?”

So, I was escorted to a little building to find out.

I could tell that these two men were not in a good mood, and I was trigger enough for them to blow off some steam.

Inside, it was explained to me in a harsh tone and threatening words that if I did not voluntarily give them the spray, I would have been in serious doo-doo if they had found it on their own. According to the irritable agents, pepper spray is considered a weapon, and if they had found it, the situation would have been treated the same as if I were trying to smuggle in any other type of weapon. I just nodded at their raised voices and threats of jail. I sensed the theater-level drama was not going to escalate beyond idle threats, so I calmly filled out some paperwork and left the spray bottles with them. When I rejoined the rest of the family, it was quite a reunion. I was anxious to get to the beach house, especially since we were now smuggling pepper spray my wife had discovered while I was inside being interrogated.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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A Tale of Two Spring Breaks

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Spring break can look wildly different through the lens of a 21-year-old versus a 40-some-year-old.

Let’s call the 21-year-old’s adventure Down the Road. 

“Pull off here; I have to take care of something,” Jimmy said.

“Already? We just left!” I complained.

Having officially started our road trip, I just found out my driving partner had to test to get his driver’s license back. I had just moved back to the U.S. from Europe, so I didn’t know. But I did start to see lives heading in different directions.

Between the written exam and the driving exam, I asked how he did.

“I think I got a hundred percent this time,” he smiled as an officer came out to meet him. “Let me have your keys.”

I had a small sports car, Mazda RX 7, packed to the gills.

“What’s all this?” the officer asked, somewhat surprised as she opened the passenger door.

“When I blow this popsicle stand, we’re Florida-bound!” Jimmy said with his signature grin and enthusiasm.

She shook her head as if to say, NOW, I’ve seen it all!

Winding through the mountains of West Virginia on the Interstate proved difficult. It was dark, the fog was especially thick, and Jimmy was sleeping. I almost turned into the dividing wall numerous times as my mind played tricks on me. My eyes followed the reflecting strips with such monotony that they danced in my head. After a close call, I woke Jimmy to have a co-pilot.

We switched driving duties at every fill-up. The gas tank was nearly empty, and we hadn’t seen signs of a gas station in a quarter tank or so. We were desperate, so we decided that the next time we saw a sign, we’d follow it no matter where it took us, as long as it eventually led us to gasoline.

This was the late 1980s, so GPS, the Internet, and cell phones did not exist in our lives yet. We only had a road atlas and roadside signs to guide us.

We ended up miles from the highway, navigating the hilly terrain deep into no man’s land until we finally spotted a glow on the edge of the rural road. It was a run-down place with nothing—and I mean nothing—else around. We pulled in, pumped the gas, and went inside together to add munchies to our purchase. It was very late at night, so we were surprised to see several guys hanging out.

As we walked past two of them sitting on top of a floor cooler, I noticed their filthy bare feet. Nobody said anything to us except the guy behind the counter, and even that exchange was minimal. His West Virginian backcountry accent was so thick when he spoke that I couldn’t understand him. We could feel the heavy eyes examining us and even heard whispers. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. And it became obvious how easily we, including our car, could disappear. Nobody would ever know what became of us.

When we plopped back into our car seats, we looked at the dimly lit place and then at each other, relieved we were where we were.

“Get the hell out of here!” Jimmy said.

I didn’t notice until later that I drove two consecutive shifts. It may have been an honest mistake, but my co-pilot’s nickname was “The Shyster!”

Somewhere in Florida, Jimmy woke me up. I squinted; the sun was so bright. He pointed my attention to the car, keeping pace next to us on the highway. I quickly ran my fingers through my hair, trying to get rid of my “window head.” When we looked right, we got an eye-full from the car full of girls pacing us.

About an hour later, we were still full of energy, traveling at our cruising speed, well over the speed limit. A police car flew up on us like we were in a school zone. Jimmy pulled to the slow lane, thinking we were busted, but the cop car blasted past us, trailed by several other cop cars.

“What the hell, Jim!” I yelled in dismay.

Jimmy was in hot pursuit of the police convoy, traveling in the three-digit range.

“Oh, they’ve got bigger fish to fry, so I’m taking advantage of our police escort,” Jimmy said with a grin.

Soon, we found out why. It was a horrific sight. A van of springbreakers must have lost control and rolled for nearly a quarter mile, based on the carnage strewn alongside the highway. Jimmy slowed down considerably after that.

We stayed with one of my old Army buddies on the Atlantic coast and hit the beach. We drove to Ft. Lauderdale one day but spent most of the day at an outdoor bar with a roof. It was raining steadily. That didn’t dampen our time. At least that’s what I gathered from the other partiers pointing video cameras our way – until “Naked Man” on a balcony across the street stole the show.

Before scooting up the coast to Daytona, Jimmy spent an evening “working” for a friend of my Army buddy. The friend repossessed cars, and Jimmy was invited to help him. Jimmy had the time of his life.

We rolled into Daytona wondering if we had enough money left for a room and if any rooms were still available. If not, we decided to live out of the car for a few days. A hotel on the beach advertised Playboy Bunnies and MTV as their guests. We were amazed that a room had recently become available. We snatched it, no questions asked.

We ran into friends from home, so I’ll skip some of the other shenanigans we got into, but worth a mention was the start of our last night, once our friends from home were gone. We left the outside concert at our hotel and retreated to an indoor club. Sitting at a long bar, we were an island unto ourselves. Partying was going on all around, but not where we perched. Our little pocket of paradise disappeared quickly when a bunch of guys surrounded us. They seemed intent on squeezing us out to claim the bar as their own.

Jimmy nodded my attention toward one of the guys and said in a star-struck voice, “I think that’s Tone Loc!”

“Who?”

“You know, the guy that sings Wild Thing,” Jimmy explained. “This must be his entourage.”

Tone Loc may have been a one-hit wonder, but he was now riding a full wave of fame.

I clanked my beer glass against Jim’s and loudly broke into song, “WILD THING! YOU MAKE MY HEART SING. YOU MAKE EVERYTHING …”

Jimmy tried to shut me up, insisting I was singing the wrong “Wild Thing,” but the entourage finished “…GROOVY.”

Fast forward over 20 years. We’ll call this tale Spring Break for Old Dudes.

Spring break means different things to different people in different stages of life. For me, as a middle-aged man, married with two young children, it meant a long weekend getaway for Easter break with family and friends.

Every January, my friend Matt and I get our families together for a three-night stay in a nice large cabin with a hot tub somewhere in Ohio. But for whatever reasons, January drifted into February and then March. So, we decided that since both of our wives were teachers, we’d book a place over their spring break. That way, the wives and kids all had time off. Perfect, right?

When we arrived, it was not what we had expected. First lesson: don’t trust what you see online. It was a mini cabin in the woods, located on a cul-de-sac road and near a lake. The surrounding cabins were bursting at the seams with college kids on SPRING BREAK! That is every cabin but ours and, as I would later learn, one somewhere across the street.

Matt was unusually quiet as we drank beer and fired up the grill. Bon Jovi music was bouncing off the trees all around us. I guess that’s what the “kids” considered classic rock these days. The only good thing was that these small cabins had thick enough walls, soundproof enough, to block out the noise from all-night partying next door. Fortunately, there was a vacant, tree-filled lot separating us. We decided to brave the night and express our disappointment to management at the main lodge in the morning since it was already getting late and the kids were ready for sleep. Our kids, that is!

Stepping out back, Matt and I drank beer a little faster than we had in a long time. That’s when “Mr. Buff” appeared. Buff had a chiseled …everything.  I tried to stick out my chest but realized it was left behind in Germany when I was in the Army years ago. Either that or the good life had softened me.

Anyway, Mr. Buff said, “We were talking over there and decided, ya know what? Let’s give these old dudes our cell phone number so we’ll know if they need us to pump down the volume.”

I was puzzled and looked around for these old dudes. It was like a truck hit me when I realized Buff was referring to us! He was so nice, though, in that fake, but believing he was sincere, kind of way.

I kept having visions of us in the middle of one of those insurance commercials—“LIFE! It Comes At You Fast!”

All things inside the cabin were quiet – proof that miracles do exist.

The next day, we did some sightseeing, ate lunch at a nice place, and then someone suggested we go antiquing.

Although I wanted to, something inside me screamed, “Nooo!”

So after we spent two hours in the antique mall, we went to the lodge, swam, played games, and had a fine time. On the way out, we stopped at the front desk and said we hoped there would be patrols to keep the college kids at bay but that there were no complaints at this time.

We drove back to “cul-de-sac Ft. Lauderdale” to see nearly every rooftop shingled with girls in bikinis and guys with no shirts. Below, there was a wiffleball game going on at the end of the cul-de-sac. Our kids asked if they could play, too. Yeah right.

At dusk, I had to take some trash to a nearby dumpster. There were raccoons. Yippee! So, I got the kids, walked back, and showed them “wildlife.” After the little scavengers entertained us, it grew darker, so we headed back to the cabin.

Fortunately, only I saw the streaking from afar. At least this night, the party was at the cabin across the street instead of next door. Things were definitely getting wilder.

In the morning, after packing the van, I had to make another walk to the dumpster. On my way back, I was startled to see a family of four emerge from a cabin kitty-corner from ours and next door to last night’s party.

Here’s their story:

“In the middle of the night, my worst fear came true,” said kitty-corner dad. “Someone was banging on the back door yelling, let me in. I yelled back, ‘You better get out of here; this isn’t your cabin, now go away.’ To which the drunk on the other side pleaded, ‘Come on dude, stop mess’n with my head and just let me in.’ This repeated a few times before the stranger at the door fell silent.”

And he remained snuggled up to the door until Kitty Corner Dad rousted him this morning.

And so, it goes.

I could tell us “Old Dudes” had a new story to tell.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Ohio’s Sand Dunes

Ohio’s Sand Dunes at Oak Openings Preserve and Metroparks Toledo

Travelers to the Outer Banks or Great Sand Dunes National Park temper your expectations. Ohio’s sand dunes are not that. But it is unique because these dunes, much lesser as they may be, are tucked into prairie woodland trees and brush tangled with the leftovers of an ancient shoreline.

When pioneers traveled Northwest Ohio, they suffered many setbacks in the Black Swamp area. When they reached drier land, it seemed like an endless woodland of oak trees. But the oaks were spaced so wide apart that they earned the name Oak Openings. Horses and wagons navigated them with relative ease, at least until those wagon wheels sunk in the sand.

The Sand Dunes Trail may seem like a mirage at first. It’s at a slightly higher elevation, so when splotches of the light brown hue come in and out of view through the woods, one may wonder just how much, or little sand awaits. It’s not a grand view to take an all-in-one panoramic scan of the eyes. It’s a winding adventure revealing surprises around every foliage-filled corner, revealing a new vista dotted with ferns, flowers, and trees. Look before stepping, and it’s likely plenty of animal tracks will be stamped onto the surface, especially after a rain. Plenty of benches are perched along a ridge for more of a bird’s eye view of nature’s collage. The trailhead is picked up at the Mallard Lake pavilion and playground parking area next to the Buehner Center. It’s marked as the Red Trail.

Today, Oak Openings Preserve at Metroparks Toledo spans 5,000 acres and has 70 miles of hiking, biking, and bridle trails. The park’s ecosystem combines wetlands with oak savanna and dunes. The combination makes it a popular respite for migrating birds.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Little House on the Prairie

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Rather than power drive 12 hours from point A to point B, my wife planned an overnight stay to break it up. It was against my objection, but that stay would be to see The Little House on the Prairie in De Smet, a.k.a. nowheresville South Dakota.

“Now I don’t know if this is the best little house site because there’re five or six across the Midwest,” my wife revealed casually.

My translation was – Great. Torture for the day.

Unlike the television show in real life, the Ingalls family didn’t live all that time in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. They were there just a few years. They actually lived in many places, including De Smet, South Dakota. And it was here that many of the books in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series were based. Much of the family is buried in the De Smet Cemetery.

WE’RE HERE!

We tumbled out of the vehicle, stretched, and wandered into a building adjacent to the parking lot. Inside it was a store. A nice lady took our money, explained a few things, and handed us a map.

WOW! From our vantage point on a hill, a beautiful panoramic view of deep green grass met the blue and white sky. It was as flat out there as flat could be. The wind breezed through our hair as if it were right on queue, and the sun shone, and the birds sang. Welcome to another world.

A teenage boy appeared by our side and said a group was about to head off to the schoolhouse by horse and covered wagon. We walked with him. The kid was as nice as nice can be and very informative.

Once we joined the other families on vacation in the covered wagon, we were off. One by one, each and every kid had a turn to take the reins and drive the horses. The trip to the schoolhouse wasn’t short, so it allowed us to marvel more at the lush green grasses that swayed back and forth in the gentle breeze against a contrasting blue-white sky. The colors were saturated to the point of seeming somewhat cartoonish.

There went the outhouse. Way up yonder, we saw the schoolhouse. A day later, we arrived. Not really. The whole ride probably only took 10 minutes at best.

As we rolled up in our horse-drawn wagon, the bell atop the school roof rang loudly. The schoolteacher invited us in, and instead of giving a boring description of this and that, she had the kids dress like prairie school children. Once they donned their new duds, they took their seats at desks in the one-room schoolhouse. Parents gathered along the walls and some desks in the back and watched the school take session. Each kid was asked to stand at the front to participate in hands-on learning demonstrations.

They LOVED it!

The session ran long, so a couple of fathers and I headed back outside. After some small talk, we haphazardly did a series of solo circles kicking rocks, gazing around, breathing the prairie air deeply, and listening to the kids enjoy themselves inside, ringing the school bell. We reconvened with a mystery that seemed to dawn on us simultaneously.

What happened to our guide?

Considering the flat fields of tall grass allowed us visibility to see forever and a day, the mystery began to unfold. Where did the kid go? We all seemed to receive non-verbal orders and went searching. One gent walked around the schoolhouse, another checked around the horses and wagon, I meandered back into the schoolhouse, scanning every nook and cranny.

When we reconvened at the schoolhouse steps, we laughed aloud, “WHERE DID HE GO?”

We squinted, looked as far as the eye could see, and determined the boy couldn’t have walked back to the house and barn. It was simply too far to cover that kind of ground in that short a time.

By now, the kids and wives had had their fill and filed out of the schoolhouse. Instinct kicked into the women, and they noticed, too, something was awry. In fact, it took them much less time to question the whereabouts of our guide.

Once we all did another round of rounds, we reconvened in a large group in front of the schoolhouse. Only this time, laughter at the situation faded, giving way to thoughts such as, “That’s a far walk back” and “Will this throw the day’s schedule out of whack?”

Interestingly, the kids didn’t give the fact we were all standing around stranded a thought or care in the world. They picked up sticks, rocks, and tall grass, made things, played with things, and then disappeared deep into the rhythmic blowing fields to where you could only see little heads bobbing up and down.

A light went off in several mothers’ heads. They whipped out cameras quicker than a gunslinger could draw his six-shooter. My wife captured our kids running through the golden glow of majestic grassland right at us with ear-to-ear grins. It was just like the opening scene of the TV show Little House On The Prairie. You could even hear the music!

Once the diversion ended, we summoned the schoolteacher. She picked up an amazing piece of technology called a telephone (go figure) and called the main complex. A handful of minutes later, a much-anticipated call came back. No sign of the kid anywhere.

Now, there was restlessness and murmurs of disapproval.

Just then, as if someone said “POOF,” the boy was among us. Our minds were as one when our puzzled looks revealed the same thought – “How did he do that?” This was followed by, “Where did he come from?”

Upon closer examination, we noticed his hair was awfully messy – a kind of matted mess as opposed to wind-blown. His eyes were unfocused, and one side of his face was beat red with some long stringy impressions in the skin. I think there may have even been a trace of drool that wasn’t entirely wiped away by his flannel sleeve.

He kind of looked puzzled as he looked back at us, going about his routine of getting the horses set for the ride back. After the schoolteacher said something to him that none of us could hear, his entire face turned beet red. He could barely make eye contact with anyone. His voice even cracked with humility.

So it goes.

On the return trip, everyone began chatting about the other things to see and do back at the Ingalls homestead. Our guide pointed out how crops were planted and explained how you can see clearly between each row straight on and diagonally. It was pretty cool to see.

It was because we were transfixed by the planting precision as we slowly rolled by that we noticed a section that was completely off. It zagged and zigged in no coherent pattern at all.

Our teen guide had a self-effacing chuckle in his voice when he saw how intently we all silently gazed at this section of mess.

“This section here is the section I planted.”

Everyone rolled in their seats with pure belly laughter. And so did he.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Little Miss Tour Guide

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We took a cab to New Orlean’s Garden District for a tour of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.  We had been warned not to explore cemeteries – even by day – unless you were with a group. Some are unbelievably huge, and every burial site is above ground because you can’t dig down and not hit water. This created a paradise for muggers.

We watched tour group after tour group gather and depart. Finally, a little old lady asked gravelly, “Are you my tour?”

Apparently so.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of our 81-year-old, four-foot-eleven guide. She was very kind and thanked us about 16 times for coming despite the rainy weather.

She stumbled and said, “That’ll happen when you have too much to drink in the morning.”

I hoped that she was kidding.

“Can I persuade someone to carry my bag for me?” she asked, giving puppy dog eyes to my teenage daughter. She looked around for help before reluctantly accepting and holding the lady’s purse.

This guide was good. She was really good. I could overhear some younger guides in nearby groups, and they had a command about them, but the information didn’t match the level of knowledge and style of delivery we were getting. She even wobbled over and corrected another tour guide from another company in front of his group. It was hilarious.

“Watch your step. Don’t trip,” she often cautioned like a grandma might.

“Did I say I’m really glad you all came even with the threat of rain?”

“I’m glad this is such a small group, so I can take my sweet time and just talk.”

Those were just a few quips of the many she dropped along the way. Her storytelling was much slower-paced and personable than the other guides buzzing about. Her tales were very interesting. We learned why burial sites were above ground and had multiple people laid to rest in each. She told us of movies like Interview with a Vampire that were filmed there.

“You can check these motion pictures out at your local library.”

We also learned the ins and outs of a jazz funeral. At times, people hung on the edge of our group, consisting of our family of four and one other lady. They were also hanging on our guide’s every word.

“You can join our group for just the cemetery portion of the tour for five dollars,” she’d bargain.

Every time, the freeloaders quickly disappeared.

We learned she was of Sicilian descent with some Irish, too. And we learned she could be feisty in an enduring way when she told us of a dashing young Spanish guide who once stole her tour.

“I wanted to wring his neck!”

As we walked the sidewalks of impressive mansions in the surrounding neighborhood, she told us about her chance meeting with actor John Goodman and other famous people who stayed at or owned this house or that.

During our leisurely walk with this wonder woman, she even described her personal experience living through Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath and recovery.

“We have a very nice young Spanish man in our neighborhood who is a contractor, and the other girls and I decided to go with him to rebuild our homes. All of us but Doris. Doris did her research and went with the best outfit. Our homes were done better than ever soon after, but poor Doris. Her people took her money and blew out of town with a job half done.”

When our 10-minute goodbye finally parted us, she pointed to where we could catch the St. Charles Streetcar to return to Canal Street. Halfway back, the streetcar stopped, and the operator explained that she couldn’t continue because it had lost its brakes. We waited a bit, and eventually, another streetcar came to rescue us.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Only in San Francisco!

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

It was early morning in Fisherman’s Wharf.  While waiting at a street corner, a strange sight grabbed our attention. A lady was walking backward, ever so casually, at a pace somewhere between not too fast and not too slow.

I quickly reminded the kids and myself not to snicker when she neared. We missed the “walk” sign because although we faced it, we concentrated on our peripheral vision. She passed us, backside first. Our eyes shifted to the other peripheral. Now, we could see this lady’s front side as she faced us walking away. She kept a steady pace, looking in our direction, totally without expression. And we looked in her direction, no longer coy, with wonderment written all over our faces. Straight-faced, she crossed a street as if she had eyes in the back of her head. We were mesmerized. How could she see where she was going? Why was she doing this? She seemed so at ease, as if this was her daily routine. It probably was. We held a downright stare until she finally turned a corner. We looked away, scratched our heads, and wondered out loud what the heck just happened.

Mixed in our visits to the usual tourist attractions – Alcatraz, Chinatown, wild sea lions at Pier 39, Little Italy, and Lombard Street – we got in line to do that thing you feel you must do because you’re in San Francisco: ride a trolley. We waited in the trolley line for a very long time. It was near the bay and chilly. The park next door had a lot of people chilling out. Then, I noticed a smell wafting in the air. It made me think back to my college days. So, we passed the time talking about hippies while we watched them dancing and singing around a man strumming an acoustic guitar.

Later in the afternoon, while resting in a park, I remembered a documentary – The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I convinced my family to walk up to COIT Tower on Telegraph Hill to find this fascinating flock of wild parrots living there. It was a steep, long walk, but we got there! By the way, the views of the street-laced hills were incredible. So, apparently was my lung capacity.

A group of college students were lying in the grass by COIT Tower. I approached them, thinking they were locals and could direct me. As I stood over them, they casually looked up at me as if to say, what’s up with this dude? That’s when I asked where I could find the parrots flying around.

Our awkward exchange made me think they might have had a hippie discussion of their own after I left, especially as I backpedaled away, not unlike the lady at the crosswalk.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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The Sand Man

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We checked in at the Petroglyphs National Monument visitors’ center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to figure out where to go. Down the road, we found ourselves parking and taking in a panoramic view of dusty, sparse, flat, arid surroundings interrupted only by a huge ridge jutting out of nowhere. So we climbed it.

If ever there was a place where we would have a rattlesnake casualty, this was it. The ridge was made of rocks and boulders piled and strewn all about, together forming a hill. It was like a mini mountain range. But there was a pathway zigzagging up, around, to the front – side – back and around to the front again of this earthen formation accumulated by the remnants of volcanic activity, the byproduct – basalt. To the Native Americans, it was their canvas, and they used it for thousands of years, carving approximately 24,000 images into the rocks found everywhere.

At the summit of the volcanic core, we heard thunder and froze! Standing atop the highest elevation anywhere around, we listened for more thunder, nearly jumping off the steep ridge when lightning lit up the sky.

The race down was awkward. We were tripping on each other, wary of a misstep that could send us tumbling head over heels to the nearest hospital. The wind kicked up with a fierce vengeance as if we had just pissed off the spirits of the land. It was a mad dash for the vehicle when we finally hit bottom. Once safely inside, we marveled at the driving rains and high winds blowing viciously against the windows, determined to get us.

Then, nothing. The wind was whipping on and off in the distance.

“What’s that?” I asked.

Sandstorm!

To locals, it was probably not that big a deal, but to us, we had never seen one, not even a small or moderate one.

So, like any tourist, I rolled down my window to get a better look …and picture.

BAM!

Just like that, it went from what appeared to be a safe distance away to me spending the next day grinding sand between my teeth and forever finding granules in every crevice of the vehicle we bought brand new only four months earlier.

“What were you thinking?” my wife asked – over and over, shaking sand from her hair.

The kids thought it was awesome. So I had that.

Once we recovered and swept as much sand as possible from the vehicle, we returned to continue exploring the petroglyphs.

The images were mostly rudimentary. They looked like something a first-grader might bring home to hang on the fridge. “Look at my picture of the dog,” and by dog, they mean alien. Some of the rock etchings indeed looked like aliens – no imagination necessary. Others were unmistakably snakes, birds, and other animals. Some were just designs.

When we drove back out to the main road and passed the visitors’ center, fire trucks had just finished extinguishing a blaze caused by a lightning strike.

We all just sort of looked at each other, dumbfounded.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Swamp Rats

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Umbrellas in hand, we ventured into the elements. From the smell up and down Canal Street, there was a lot of waking and baking going on. We had another great meal to kick start a waterlogged day that began with all things – a swamp tour!

We wondered if it was worth it. After all, it was chilly, and seeing a gator was highly unlikely. Still, truth be told, I was in it for the airboat ride. I had never been, and it was on my bucket list of things I wanted to do. I had to seize the moment.

Once wrapped in rain gear, we boarded an airboat. Our Cajun guide grumbled aloud about the lousy weather and the pressure to find us an alligator.

“No worries, man, we’re here more for the boat ride than wildlife.”

His cold face warmed with relief.

This guy seemed to have a screw loose, and before we knew it, we were stuck in the swamp!

He was trying to navigate places we probably shouldn’t be. You could tell by how long it took for him to resign himself to radio for help. I’m sure a bit of pride was at play. And jokes he’d later have to hear from his Cajun buddy.

Back in action, damn, that airboat could fly!

The tiny raindrops felt like hail pelting my face as we zoomed up and down swamp channels, sometimes creating paths where there weren’t any before.

I winked at my wife when we zipped past signs that read, “No Airboats” and “No Trespassing.”

When we stopped for stories, it was like this dude was an old drinking buddy with no filter. He told stories that were probably inappropriate for our PG-13 tagalongs but hey, this is New Orleans, right?

Whatever the case, he was a hoot, and we enjoyed the ride …every bit of it (minus the wet and cold and not seeing an alligator).

On our way back to the airboat shack we started from, our Cajun guide looked at me, smiled slightly and…

We left the waterway altogether!

Our airboat climbed onto dry land up a ridge and continued as if we were in a Star Wars land speeder. For the girls on the edge overlooking the ridge, you could see panic drowning their faces. Concern for the children rushed through their veins.

I just laughed the whole way. In part out of the adrenaline jolt out of the calm cold, and in part because I recognized one tip and I don’t even want to think about what could happen.

I’ll admit, I looked back once to make sure my light-as-a-feather son didn’t blow out. It’s not like we had seatbelts or anything to secure us.

We slowed to a stop and turned, and the front of the airboat dangled over the edge of the ridge for a moment. Then, we plunged,  submerging the floor, which quickly popped above water again. We had to quickly lift our feet to avoid the brief rush of water.

The guide looked at me on the sly and asked, “That is what you wanted, right?”

I laughed a reassuring “Yes.”

As we pulled in, our guide spoke loudly for the onlookers to hear as if this ride had been completely routine, “For your safety, please keep your hands and feet in the boat until it comes to a complete stop.”

I’m not sure if people around the dock realized why our guide’s professional-sounding safety advice produced so much laughter from our group. But we rolled out of there as if this was the ride of our lives, which was perplexing according to the expressions of those about to board.

I made sure to tip him generously for the memorable experience …and getting us back alive.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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The Three Bears

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I have three bear stories to tell. Here they are.

Pool Bear

We were already running late. We attempted what should have been a two-day drive to Vermont in one herculean effort.

The motel we booked said we had to be there by a certain time to check in. Otherwise, we could camp out until they opened the office again in the morning. I looked at the clock and knew any setback would be nerve-racking. I was following GPS-guided directions, so I knew, by the minute, what little cushion remained.

That’s when we slowed to a turn and stopped at a little building with a big breezeway and a lake on the other side.

“Now, the ferry board, you must,” the GPS said in the Yoda voice she programmed for the trip to liven up the drive.

We all looked around. A storm was brewing. There were no signs of life. And a little sign out front said, “The Ferry is Closed.”

“Why in the world would the GPS route us on a ferry to cross the lake ^#%%$#!!!,” I added some color commentary at the end of that.

Clearly, there’s a command in the system I should have unchecked saying no ferry routes.

Bam! The skies opened, and it was a POURING of rain.

Every water-drenched turn and the GPS wanted to reroute us back to the ferry. I figured to hell with the GPS, hug the roads around the lake to the other side, and our road must pick back up there.

I was right, but we lost precious time.

We had ten minutes to spare when we finally rolled into the tucked-away place.

The lady at the desk was already looking like she was packed and ready to cut out five minutes early.

When I turned to head back out, key in hand, she warned, “It’s been slow lately, so the bears have moved in. I’d look around before walking out your door and if you take any walks on the property.”

I relayed the news to my family. They deadpanned, “Okay, so there’s that!”

And that there was!

Our unit was nice and spacious. It would be the perfect retreat from the hiking we had planned over the next few days. There was even a typical motel-sized pool with a little fence around it on top of a hill off to the side of our corner room of the one-story row of rooms.

Everyone in my family likes to sleep in. So, I’m up early with a couple of hours to kill before I get any company. I figured nothing like a morning swim.

I walked up the grassy lawn in my bathing trunks, key and towel in hand. I unlocked the waist-high gate, tossed my towel on a chair, and jumped in. When the water settled, the silence of nature at that hour was just what the doctor ordered. I was at peace. I found myself in a lazy back float, lapping the pool enough times that I learned when to flip around to go the other way without looking. The clouds in the sky drifting my speed hypnotized me. The relaxation was so deep I fantasized about adding a pool to our backyard at home.

Snap, crack.

I stood up in the shallow water to look around. I figured another guest discovered my secret spot and opened the gate. But there was nobody there. I shook the water from my ear and went back to my dreamlike existence.

I stood again, instinctively, as soon as I heard the crackling sound. That’s when my gaze scanned the wood line, studying it with vivid senses.

“Do I have company?” I asked out loud.

There was no sound. After a while, I laughed to myself. I must have been imagining things.

When I stood up the next time, I jumped out of the pool, leaned against the back fence, and looked into the woods intently. That’s when I saw about a seven- or eight-foot cluster of branches being disturbed.

“Hey there, big fella, am I in your pool?”

Silence.

“Are you just curious? You want to just watch from a distance?”

I looked at the long stretch of grass from the gate to the corner of the building I’d have to turn to get to the room.

I shouted for it to “Go! Git! Leave me be!”

For the moment, I reasoned, my safest place was the middle of the rectangular pool. I stayed there long enough. I looked around. I no longer wanted the rare solitude I discovered out there. Where are the damn people! I want people!

I hadn’t heard anything long enough to consider how fast I could run downhill if I got a good jump on the bear. I imagined this enormous, muscular, hairy beast thrusting from the brush with a roar as he barreled at his bear speed to catch up with me just as I got to the corner, front, and center for my family to awake to the noise to see me being mauled next to the car.

No sight, noise, or movement for a while now.

I readied my key card for a quick swipe, leaped the fence like an Olympic hurdler, and flew downhill. I thought I heard him behind me, but I’m sure now it was just the adrenaline unfurling. I slid on my feet in the dew-covered grass to slow without faceplanting to pivot the corner of the parking lot pavement. As my skin glided from a harmless slip-and-slide surface to asphalt with pebbles, I surely woke the whole damn place up. I flung open the door and jumped inside.

My wife opened her eyes to my commotion.

“Oh, hey there, Hun. Did ya go for a morning swim?”

When I Wrestled a Bear 

There was a time when I actually wrestled a bear!

We were minding our own business in a back room of a bar, shooting pool. We were celebrating Scott’s 21st birthday. We were fresh out of the Army, and our other best friend, Matt, was home from college.

A stranger walked in and casually asked if we wanted to wrestle a bear. No’s quickly turned to contemplation quickly turned to hell yeah, as long as we’re all in.

We were led to the parking lot to sign our “rights” away on some forms. Years later, the same owner of Caesar the Wrestling Bear would be in the news for one of his bears mauling a trainer to death. There were multiple bears that the outfit labeled as Caesar.  It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how a captive bear trained to bar fight week after week would turn. We were wrapped in a cocktail of invincibility that combined bravado with ignorance on this night.

We needed to capture this life experience, or death, for the record, so we called – of all people – my mom. There were no cell phones yet, and she was the only person nearby who would have a camera ready with film and all that. She agreed to drive across town, bringing her camera. Unfortunately, her camera had died. Later, we’d get very grainy copies of a videotape shot by a neighbor’s friend who was there that night. The neighbor thought he was just watching a bunch of crazies on film until he recognized me, so he dubbed a copy of a copy of the VHS tape to give to us. It was hardly watchable; the quality was so degraded.

Caesar was a full-grown black bear. He looked enormous, especially when he stood. Plus, he had his teeth, and his mouth was not taped closed as some anticipated. He also had massive bear paws and claws that were not restricted at all. The smell of real danger began to seep in as we were introduced to Caesar and given some pointers. Sudden movements, loud noise (remember, we were in a raucous bar atmosphere), and over-aggressiveness by any of us could make the bear “defensive” and not “playful.”

Oh, and one particular pointer stuck with me, “Just make sure he doesn’t accidentally hook you in the corner of the mouth with a claw because he’ll rip your cheek straight up without knowing it.”

The handler sized us up and looked at Matt, Scott, and me, saying, “Usually, smaller people have a better chance of pinning him down because he is more playful with them.” I was the smaller people.

The reward for doing so was something like a cool grand – certainly an incentive to give it our best shot. The pecking order went to Matt, Scott, and then me.

Matt was a tall guy with a solid build. He entered the closed-off mat (a.k.a. dance floor) and definitely had a serious look on his face. The bear must have gotten a bad vibe from Matt because he got rather aggressive. The trainer separated the bear from Matt and gave Caesar a firm reprimand, and took him outside to calm down. Meanwhile, Matt looked at us as if to say; I want out. But he was in – up to his neck in. The match continued. Matt tried hard, maybe too hard, and the bear got all crazy again – even rearing up on his hind legs. They ended the match and took the bear out to the parking lot to calm him down.

I was so happy Scott was next and not me. When that thing came rumbling back in, it was ready for business. Scott’s a scrappy fighter and wasn’t fazed by much in those days, but he quickly hit the mat hard and looked up …fazed and then some. You could tell there was nothing to be done once that bear had you. Its weight and strength determine your range of movement. What happened in there wasn’t up to you; it was entirely up to Caesar. Moving Caesar would be like trying to move a brick house. It wasn’t going to happen unless he allowed it to happen. He wasn’t allowing Scott to do much. When Scott came off the floor, he was dripping in sweat, exhausted from the energy he expended to move parts of his body mere inches.

My turn came. I had tried to learn from observing Matt and Scott, plus remembering the pointers the trainer gave us.

Once in the ring with this beast, a voice popped into my head screaming, “What the hell are you doing here?”

I wasn’t fairing much better than Scott and Matt. The bear used one paw and swatted me down like a rag doll. Before I knew it, he was on top of me, and I couldn’t budge. It took every bit of strength I could muster just to move my hand an inch; even then, I could only manage to do so because Caesar allowed it to happen. I talked with a friendly, playful, and calming voice. I moved slowly and didn’t look him in the eyes.

That’s when the unthinkable happened. We were both on our feet. I moved in, and he went down – because he was playing and took himself down. In an instant, I was on top of this massive creature.

Now, let me slow this description down and zoom in. I went from not knowing what happened to staring at powerful jaws inches from my face, breathing in the animal’s hot, stale breath. I slid one hand over, and Caesar let me press his paw to the mat. To get the other paw stretched out and down meant I’d basically have to get close enough to kiss Caesar on the mouth, my neck fully exposed.

“A-A-A-A-And we have a …” Before the DJ could say “winner,” Caesar was up, and I was down.

And that’s where I stayed for the rest of my time.

When I regrouped with my friends, none of us felt well. The acid in our stomachs, the exertion out on the floor, and the rancid bear smell all over us were all we could stand. We went behind the building, saturated in sweat, and heaved everything from our stomachs and then some.

When I looked up, one of my friends said, “Dude, your neck is bleeding.” 

My only other bear story also came about unexpectedly.

It was about 20 years later, and we were vacationing at Yellowstone National Park. Our first full day in Yellowstone started with sleeping in …late!

Once we were up and at ’em, we decided to do laundry before some afternoon sightseeing. There was a smaller rustic lodge nearby that had a Laundromat and restaurant. We drove over there and started our loads of laundry. Then we sat, sipped coffee, and played games in the oversized lobby filled with chairs and fireplaces.

“BEAR! BEAR! BEAR!” Came screams from all around.

Just like that, every guest and employee was in front of the lodge, staring at a very rare sight indeed. Not only was it a bear, but it was a grizzly. Not only was it a grizzly, but it was a mamma with two cubs out for a morning stroll.

Traffic on the road in front of the lodge stopped, and people flew from their cars in reckless abandon, cameras waving. I grabbed my wife’s camera and tried to get closer, then closer, then even closer still. Still, I was further back than many people. Before I knew it, I was in the grassy area and ….NOTHING! The camera froze.

“GET BACK RIGHT NOW OR GO TO JAIL,” a ranger yelled directly at me.

When I turned, there was my 8-year-old son at my side.

I quickly retreated to where my wife and daughter were watching from the crowd, a safe distance away.

“Fix the camera, hurry, hurry,” I said in a panic, watching the bears get further and further away.

Before the handoff was complete, I withdrew my hand prematurely, and the camera, which my wife so enjoyed, fell to the ground.

She had words for me that others had no trouble making them out. It wasn’t just the chipped camera she was upset about but putting myself and our son in harm’s way. I was going to argue that we were a safe distance. Instead, I faded away from her gaze. Her damaged camera had its scars, but she got a few pictures to prove we saw the grizzlies.

My wife cooled off around the time our laundry did, and then we were off to see an eruption of a different sort – geysers.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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Penguiny

 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Most kids have a favorite stuffed animal or some sort of sidekick to share conversations and adventures in their early years and sometimes beyond.

Our daughter Cara had a soft blue stuffed Stitch from the animated film Lilo and Stitch. She wasn’t really into the princess scene when we went to Disney World. When we said she could get a souvenir in a gift shop, she chose Stitch. She loved Stitch, and he accompanied her to sleepovers and on trips.

Several years earlier, she had a new stuffed animal to give to her new brother, whom she was about to meet for the first time. It was a cute, soft, yellow stuffed chick about the size of my hand.

Our son Dominic later named the little yellow chick Penguiny. He loved penguins. We were going to get him a stuffed one, but he revealed he already had one. For Halloween, he put a white sock around that yellow chick up to its neck like a protective egg and named the concoction Penguiny.

Penguiny, like Stitch, was a part of the family, so when we took a long driving vacation out west to see The Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc., the two stuffed animals joined us. Cara usually left Stitch in the car when we’d make tourist stops during the day because he was a little bigger to lug around. Not Penguiny. Dominic could clutch him in one hand, stuff him under an arm, or even put him in his hoodie pocket and go. The little fella in the white sock had the wear and tear to show for these adventures, from trails to whatever was worthy of a family photo, which could have been anywhere.

We never had a screen in our SUV for the kids to watch videos, and they were only allowed to play video games for thirty minutes after every hour of non-video drive time. So, during that hour, their imaginations would sprout out of boredom. And that’s how they invented a new language together. This foreign language was called Penguiny.

Think about how parents may try to figure out what a baby is saying when he or she is learning to talk and would ask an older sibling what the baby said because they seemed to understand better than anyone. Well, on this wavelength, a baby-type language—Penguiny—was forged.

Penguiny language simply dropped the consonants in words, so only the vowels were uttered.

“Hi, how are you?” would phonetically become, “I ow ah oo?”

The two of them became so fluent in this bizarre-sounding new language as the trip went on that my wife wanted to know what they were saying because they’d carry on conversations, laughing up a storm. So, she learned Penguiny and could understand it, but not at the level that these two would carry on.

When we returned home from our great adventure trip, I noticed how filthy Penguiny the stuffed animal was, especially his white sock err egg! There was the scuffed spot from a spill at Mt. Rushmore, another dirt mark from Capitol Reef, and so many more that he was dingy all over. I thought of the germs that thing was carrying and tossed him in with the laundry.

When little quiet Dominic saw the bright white and yellow friend come out of the dryer, he blew up!

Tears in his eyes, he yelled, “All of my souvenirs got washed away!”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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The Walk of Shame

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Long before 9-11, terrorism was in my consciousness. When I was overseas, posters of the most wanted terrorists were prominently hung in our barracks. Those who drove were taught to examine the underside of vehicles for bombs.

During the last years of the Cold War, I had to fly out of West Germany from Frankfurt to New York on the Fourth of July. Just before my trip, a broadcast warned of a terrorist threat planned for July on just such a flight. I remember expecting things to go boom hours into the trip over the Atlantic Ocean.

With that backdrop and the world we live in today, I can understand the necessary precautions when we use airports, government buildings, and other public places. Sometimes, I complain about the loss of freedom, but I’m really complaining about my personal inconvenience.

About a decade after 9-11, my wife and I took the kids to Washington, D.C. We stayed at the same hotel where, just outside, a sniper’s bullet almost killed President Reagan and did kill his press secretary. We woke early to get a head start on a busy day. We had a pre-scheduled tour of the Capitol Building, located at the far end of The National Mall. This would kick off a full day of walking through the Mall and visiting many museums and monuments. The heat was definitely going to be a problem. In recent days, the temperature had been in triple digits, and more of the same was expected. So, like a good Boy Scout, I would be prepared and fill my camel pack (a small backpack that only holds water). Then I filled plastic bottles inside my wife’s and kids’ backpacks. Since we’d be on the go all day and into the evening, I also threw in a fistful of snacks consisting of granola, crackers, and trail mix.

I thought I was smart. But my wife said otherwise.

She mentioned something about restrictions and security checkpoints at the Capitol Building. I blew it off. I mean, c’mon – it was going to be a hundred degrees! We only had water and snacks. Open the packs, take a look, and let us through. There was no doubt in my mind that that would be the extent of it. It’s not like we live in Russia (my mind sometimes sticks to the 1980s).

“Subway?” My wife suggested.

“Let’s hoof it. It doesn’t look so bad,” I said, glancing at a map. –Another mistake!

I definitely underestimated the time it would take, something I am not known to do.

“Look, kids, White House,” snap-snap, and we had our pic to show we were there. Then we were gone.

Once at The Mall, we ran in spurts to meet our time slot for our scheduled tour. The length of the Mall was grossly underestimated.

“Damn map maker,” I muddled.

My wife didn’t let it slide. I was to blame.

Little did she know, I was just warming up.

We joined the line, which was snaking outside far outside the doors, and waited. It was early, and it was already getting hot.

The kids asked for water, and I said, “No, we need to conserve it.”

You know, kids, no foresight. They would deplete our water supply by the time we got inside and then complain that they needed a bathroom. That was my thinking, anyway.

Now and then, as tourists entered the building, we noticed they were sent back outside to dispose of things not approved for entry.

“We should dump out our water,” my wife said.

I looked at her like she was crazy, “Are you kidding me – it’s going to be a hundred today. It’s water!”

When we finally entered the building, there were scanners and commotion everywhere. People were funneled into many different aisles for inspection. We had to remove bags, belts, shoes, and you-name-it for inspection.

“This can’t go in,” said security.

I was directed to take my camel pack outside to pour it out and return. A guard at the door would let me out and back in. But I wasn’t permitted to dump water just outside the door. I had to go into the grass to the side of the long line of people waiting to get inside. They looked at me like I looked at others coming back out earlier. As I poured, I saw some couples exchange words, resulting in either water being dumped or a shake of a head no.

When I got back inside, my wife was smiling, and security was frowning.

“This has to go, too,” security said, handing me a baggie of snacks.

I made a basket out of the front of my shirt, dumped in what I considered lunch to save a few bucks, and headed back outside. This time, I was directed to the other side of the line where dumpsters were. I felt self-conscious on this walk of shame.

Back inside, my wife and security guard were both frowning. Now I had to dump the water bottles. I could have kicked myself for not thinking to dump them when I dumped the camel pack. As I poured away hydration in the greenest grass I had ever seen in July, I couldn’t even bear to look at the crowd of people who certainly recognized me by now.

A guard at the door smiled out of familiarity when I re-entered.

My wife and son were standing in the clear on the other side of the metal detectors. It struck me a little off that my daughter was still on my side, so I nudged her forward, anxious to put this freak show behind us.

“Hold up!” came a voice I was growing to despise.

“Gotta take it out,” I was told.

“Really?” I gave a look of c’mon!

I didn’t mind the three shame walks because it was my fault for trying to get over on them. They got me on all my goods. Yes, I was an idiot for thinking I was sensible. What could possibly be the hold-up this time, I wondered. Security pulled out sunscreen from the bottom of my daughter’s backpack.

“The dumpster is just over there, outside the doors,” I directed my teenage daughter.

She looked startled. I had rattled her from her comfort zone. I was sacrificing my flesh and blood to avoid a fourth strut down shame alley. Reluctantly, she complied. The doors and wall were glass, so I could watch her the entire way.

Meanwhile, my wife and son were shooed off to keep the throngs of people flowing.

Commands echoed, directing us and others, “Clear the area, keep it moving.”

“We’ll catch up inside,” I called out to my wife as she and our son disappeared.

“You too, sir,” said security, putting a hand on me, pushing but not shoving.

I stood pat and explained, “I have to wait for my daughter; she’ll be right back. She had to dump something outside.”

“Doesn’t matter; you have to move on,” he said, pushing against me again.

I understood the rules and why water and crackers had to be thrown out to keep large crowds from being bogged down by deeper inspection of such items. This way was easier and more efficient, especially considering it was the Capitol Building. But there was no way I was leaving my daughter to fend for herself in that crowd.

“She’ll be here in a second, sir,” I said with a pleading smile.

As he started to repeat himself, my look changed. Something about it made the guard step to the side as if I had complied and wasn’t there anymore.

I felt terrible for wimping out on a fourth trip outside, but I was so familiar with the surroundings by then that I had convinced myself that my daughter would be fine. Standing there was the most shame I felt. Although each second seemed like a minute, my daughter was by my side again, and we entered the U.S. Capitol Building, safe and sound.

The Supreme Court may ponder whether they are an equal branch of government because, by the time we entered that building, we had replenished our water supply, compliments of a drinking fountain. Security looked at everything we had and let us through without having to dump anything.

By the end of the scorching hot day, having walked who knows how many miles, we took a break on a curb before walking back to the hotel. Our last water fill-up was at the FDR Memorial hours ago. We were parched and exhausted. Then there it was, a frozen lemonade food truck. It was cash only, so we scraped what little change we could muster from everyone’s pockets. Added together, it bought ONE serving. We sat right there on the curb and took turns enjoying the cold, sliding down our raw throats with tasty pleasure. It ranks up there as one of the most satisfying things we ever tasted. Everyone agreed. And nobody was taking this from us!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Connecting Flights – What’s on the Wing!

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Do you remember the first time you took notice of the white lines being drawn against the blue sky?

“Look mummy; there’s an aeroplane up in the sky” —Harry Waters (son of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters), at the start of the song “Goodbye Blue Sky,” recorded for The Wall album (released in 1979), when he was two years old.

I was a kid on a car hood with my grandfather parked under the inbound flights at Cleveland Hopkins Airport when I first took note of the ‘metal birds.’ Although their wings eclipsed the sky, they were so low that the overpowering sound stuck with me.

My grandpa told me stories about when his father took him to see The National Air Races, which were held in Cleveland from 1929 to 1949. He saw Aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart fly there.

Human flight is ingrained in Ohio schoolchildren, considering the state’s long list of history-changing pioneers of the Heavens above. And it’s not just names like Armstrong, Glenn, and the Wrights, but Eddie Rickenbacker, Zachariah Lansdowne, Jerrie Mock, Jean Hixson, Judy Resnik, and Sunita Williams.

Imagine my excitement on a field trip to the airport to board a flying machine. It was the most luxurious plane I had ever seen. There were tables with lounge chairs and so much space to walk about. I couldn’t wait until the day I flew in such a fantasy.

But it would forever remain a pipedream.

Soon after that, I boarded a plane bound for Disney World with my parents and sister. I remember thinking, this doesn’t seem right. I craned my neck past the slow-stepping torsos of the undead to see down the single-file aisle, hoping for the lavish opening to come into view. Instead, we wedged into our bus seats, fighting for the window.

“Take some gum,” Dad said, handing each of us a piece.

It was his trick to help swallow and “pop your ears” when the cabin pressure became too much during take-off.

“I’ll be right back,” Mom said as she disappeared to an empty seat behind ours. It was the dividing line between the smoking and non-smoking sections of the plane. But the smoke did not honor it.

When it came time for me to fly as a newly minted adult, I was joined by a bunch of northeast Ohio Army recruits at the Cleveland airport headed for Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In those days, anyone could come to the gate with you to see you board—the setting for so many saved relationships in romantic movies. Our gate was packed with crying mothers and shirtless teenage boys. The only security was a quick walk through a metal detector. I made my mom promise not to embarrass me by crying. She kept it … in vocals, at least.

On the flip side, I had a chance to come home on leave before jetting to Europe to finish my enlistment there. Our standard-issue duffle bags didn’t seem big enough for what I was packing. I bought a super-sized duffle bag at the post exchange (PX). At 5’6”, I looked like a caricature hoisting that like-sized thing on one shoulder. That’s when I learned about size limits for luggage at the airport. I had no choice but to leave a good portion of my belongings in a trash can.

On the flight, I saw an old friend. It was quite a reunion. We managed to sit next to each other, order drinks like we wanted to fly forever, and talk about old times (just a couple of years in the rearview mirror). The drinking age was younger back then. When we deplaned, we were holding each other up drunk. Our slack-jawed moms were at the end of the ramp to greet us. It was still the old days when you could hug someone coming straight off the plane.

When I departed West Germany a few years later (and just shy of the fall of the Iron Curtain), I was on edge. Weeks before take-off, our base was alerted to a terrorist threat to bomb an American flight out of Frankfort within the next month. I signed the cross after taking my seat on The Fourth of July! It was probably halfway across the Atlantic before I relaxed my sphincter.

After college and after planning a national sales conference, I got in a Chicago cab, exhausted. There were several of us sharing it, so I sat next to the cabbie.

“Have a mint; they’re ‘curiously strong,” he winked at his clever reference to the tagline for Altoids.

My mom should have been in the back of my head saying don’t take candy from strangers, but it sounded like it would be refreshing. So, I snuck an extra when I dug into the tin between us. I’ll never know if I was slap-happy-to-the-max or if this dude had laced mints, but my co-workers were convinced of the latter. I boarded that plane as such a chatty Kathy I was told—between laughter—to cool it, or they would throw me off the plane. Fortunately, we were in the sky when the flight attendant tried out her singing voice over the microphone to her captive audience (captive as in trapped, not captivating, to be clear). The Altoids finally wore off when the seatbelt sign came on before being tossed around like we were tied to a mechanical bull. All the clasped hands in prayer must have saved us.

Like father like son, but his poison was sugar. It was our first big family vacation to … wait for it … Disney World.

Our last leg of the flight was on a puddle hopper with a column of single seats. Behind me was my rambunctious six-year-old boy, and behind him was his new friend, and behind him was that boy’s father.

The seatbelt sign was on. We descended before our stomachs. That’s when I heard two remarkable imaginations echo through the hollow tube with a play-by-play for everyone to hear.

“Oh my god, we’re gonna crash!” One boy yelled at the other.

“Pull up—pull up!”

“Whew, that was close.”

“Holy moly, there’s an alligator on the wing.”

The plane bucked in the air and then tilted to turn.

“The alligator is gone, but seaweed clogged the engine, and now it’s smoking.”

From the other side of the plane came an elderly voice, “Is there really smoke?”

I tried to squeeze my face between the back of my seat and the metal wall with desperate “SHHH” noises, but these two were on cloud nine all the way down.

In a post-Nine-Eleven world, airports have changed. My wife and I knew to get to the airport early. But now, living in Cincinnati, the Cincy Airport was a good trek into Kentucky. Go figure. This meant crossing a bridge dubbed the second-worst bottleneck in the country. So, we left super early to beat the morning rush hour. When we arrived, it seemed like a comedy sketch. None of the gate checks were open. No human being was there. Indeed, we were the only souls. Us and the old man on a riding carpet sweeper. He went in mesmerizing circles as if he were riding a Zamboni. I believe he slowed down time itself.

We watched the luggage turnstile circle endlessly when we arrived at our destination. Our bags were nowhere in sight. Many bags turned to none, and none turned to many again but from a different flight. We had nothing except boarding passes for a weeklong cruise and a couple of small carry-ons. I waved my credit card. We had better get to a store for some clothes and luggage quickly! But my wife asked for directions, and we were pointed to a door and a small room on the far wall nearly out of sight. Our suitcases were on the wall outside of it in a well-trafficked corridor for anyone to snatch.

Soon after this trip, we were on another when I became aware of the swell change exiting an airport. A sea of Uber or Lyft drivers pulled up and away with riders in a frantic efficiency. Three cabbies waited patiently at the end of the line before cussing something, getting in their empty company cars, and speeding off to join the 21st Century.

Like father-like daughter, our college girl was headed to Chicago to see a roommate she had at The Ohio State University. It was her first time flying solo. Silly me thought we could walk her through everything to teach the ropes right up to the boarding gate.

“No ticket, no entry!”

“But…”

It wasn’t happening. So, I sounded like I was calling a play in a hurry-up offense with time about to expire, explaining to my daughter what to do from there on out.

“Sir, keep it moving.”

“Ya-ya!”

And off she went.

A news crew grabbed us and asked about our experience on what they claimed was the busiest flying day ever because of the way the Fourth of July fell, with just a day between it and the weekend, allowing many to take a four-day trip. Well, it was only half of the story. Our girl’s return flight was canceled, and she was stuck in the Chicago airport. Another was delayed, then canceled, and again. She reticketed for the morning. I told her I was willing to drive there by phone, but it would be several hours, or she could find some chairs or floor to sleep on.

Our spring break flight from a Death Valley trip was for the birds in a mostly post-mask but germaphobe world! It started okay even though our departure was set further and further back. It didn’t matter, six of one or a half dozen of another, because we had a very long layover at the next airport, so it just made it that much shorter. We grabbed food and chairs and nibbled our way through the hours, waiting. I chuckled at some wall art, appreciating the sly humor. Two headshots were framed next to each other. One was Marilyn Monroe and the other was Jacqueline Kennedy.

Before boarding the first leg of the flight, I had to go for a walk because my stomach did not agree with my spicy airport food. It was announced that the plane’s carry-on luggage capacity had been exceeded, so they tagged luggage to be checked upon boarding. My wife and I couldn’t sit next to each other, to boot. And to add insult to injury, I had a middle seat between a younger and older lady. We were in the air when pressure began to build …within.

At first, I thought I might be alright. Then, the pressure looked for alternative escapes. I wondered if the ladies touching my elbows could hear the noise of essentially farting inward rather than outward; we were so close. The pressure upped its game. I knew I was in trouble. I imagined what a sneak release might be like. I knew it would be anything but stealth. The older lady in the aisle seat was asleep. I nervously looked around. It was go-time.

“I’m so sorry, but I need to get up.”

I hurried to the plane’s rear and hung out for a while. Then I returned to my seat. About three nerve-racking minutes later, I had no choice but to roust my sleeping aisle lady again. This trip to the back saved me. When I returned to my seat, both seatmates went from strangers to chatting companions. I wondered what they knew. I wondered what was said between them in my absence. In any case, they seemed friendly. I was relieved.

Now for the rest of the story …or connecting flight.

I was reunited with my wife. She won the window seat. I was directly across from a rather unhealthy-looking woman. She even had a hospital bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Once we were in the air, it began. A cavernous cough from deep within whooped with no discretion, visibly shaking her from head to toe. And she kept whooping …and whooping …and whooping. I figured whatever she had; we’re all getting. Thirty minutes later—no exaggeration—she stopped to eat and drink. Then, it kicked in again for another 30 minutes without a full minute at any time to catch her breath. I thought for sure I would be on my deathbed within the week.

My mind drifted to that old pipedream. If only this airplane had the space to walk about like the luxurious plane I boarded for that childhood field trip.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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A Jessica

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Breakfast for dinner was on the menu. We were seated in a peculiarly empty restaurant at dinnertime on a weekend. Hmm.

Still, it took a while for a server to seat us at this “popular” chain. One family of four was in a booth near us. Another across the dining room.

We were eager for a sugar frenzy of pancakes, French toast, and all the staples that come with it.

Our waitress moseyed up to us to take our order. To this day, we can’t be sure what I said about needing her to come back, but she deftly replied in a way I later jested, did anyone get the number on that truck that just ran me over?

I usually look to be the fun table for servers because everyone at the table and I had several jobs in the service economy here and there. And Lord knows, when I worked with bigshots in the financial services industry, I witnessed some reprehensible superiority complexes.

As the saying goes, “I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter.”

One waitress was so humiliated by the COO of my company that when we left, I slipped a sizeable tip onto the table without anyone seeing. But the gig was up when she raced to us at the door, tears of joy in her eyes, saying thank you—thank you—thank you. Suddenly, I felt like my job was in jeopardy: No good deed goes unpunished.

Anyway, everyone at the table had their foodie war stories. So, we try to be the bright spot in a person’s day.

Back to Jessica, our waitress.

I figured she must have mistaken my words or intent, so I set out to win her over. After all, you never know what someone is bringing to the table that has nothing to do with you but soon may be.

It was quite a pause before she came back. But when she did, there it was! I found her funny bone. We all agreed she even seemed stunned by her laugh. So, with our order in and stomachs twisted with anticipation of the sugar injection coming, we were here to stay.

And stay we did. And stayed, and stayed, and stayed. It didn’t matter; we had a great conversation until it faded.

“Shh-shhh, listen,” my wife nodded to the door to the kitchen. We were seated along that wall.

Loud voices escalated.

“You can’t tell me what to do!” Jessica shouted.

“You are on your damn phone all the time. There are people out there. Do your job!”

The back and forth overheard without anyone having to shhh to do so took us aback.

I leaned out of the booth to take a better look around. The father, a few booths down, did the same. Our uncomfortable eyes met. We did the bro nod, then shrugged and tucked back into our respective booths with a false sense of reassurance.

“Look, if you hear gunshots, run for the door, got it.”

Maybe that was an overreaction, but hey, in today’s age, it crossed our minds.

But our order was in.

I can see the headlines later, “Flap Jacks so good, they were to die for!”

Things simmered. But you could tell the tail was wagging the dog back there. Jessica had the control the manager wished he had.

A new character appeared from the kitchen when our hungry bellies had had enough, and we were about to shimmy our butts across the sunken plush booth seats to get the hell out of there.

The young man was obviously the cook without him having to say so, but he did anyway.

He was doing Jessica’s job AND cooking the food! He spoke softly and politely and wore a look that was both apologetic and embarrassed.

If I had not met the cook, I would have paid for the meals without eating and left. But something about this young man’s soul made me know we’d be alright.

And we were. The sugary fix really hit the spot.

Hell, even Jessica reappeared for an encore … AFTER the cook switched hats yet again and greeted a couple at the door to seat them.

We laughed hard at the whole ordeal when we piled back into the car. None of us had ever left a review for anything online, but we were tempted. My daughter pulled up previous reviews. We sat in the parked car, thoroughly entertained by what we were reading. Jessica definitely had her pack of mean girls praising her waitressing and punking the manager.

We asked ourselves, “Is there a name for a Karen on the other side of the equation?”

You know, a pushy and insensitive “me-first” complainer, usually from the suburbs – but server, not customer.

And to all of the poor Karens out there. I mean, one day, you have a regular name, and the next, your name is associated with public enemy number one, like the Beckys before and the Felicias before that.

We couldn’t find any reference for a server-type Karen, so we took it upon ourselves to dub them Jessicas!

What a shame; I love that name.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Steve Evans Country Sausage

I had lunch in this old movie theater turned restaurant in Gallipolis, at The Colony Restaurant.

It serves Steve Evans Country Sausage. Steve is Bob Evans’s son. Many decades ago, he was given a faded piece of paper written by his father containing a family recipe for their genuine country sausage. This is a different recipe than the one used in Bob Evans Restaurants. This one was reserved for family and close friends visiting Bob and the family on the farm until now.

The Colony Restaurant & Entertainment Venue in Gallipolis converted the town’s historic Colony Movie Theater into a restaurant and more. It’s a unique setting that has preserved much of the old theater’s heart. It has become a popular destination restaurant as well as a favorite local hot spot. The movie screen still hangs and entertains the dinner crowds with classic films. It sits on a vast stage that now hosts a variety of live entertainment.

Of course, the sausage sandwich was highly recommended by my friend, Bob (different Bob), but so was the white chicken chili. Both will make your taste buds pop with mouth-watering flavor.

Plan your foodie adventure at https://www.ohiotraveler.com/the-colony-restaurant/

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Spring Break in Death Valley

Around the spring equinox, Death Valley comes alive. But don’t expect to find huge crowds at the popular jaunts. Set out to explore the Racetrack Playa and its mysterious sailing stones, and paths may cross with one or two other souls, but that’s it.

Early spring heats up enough to feel that Death Valley vibe; otherwise, what’s the point? Granted, it’s far from its recorded record as the hottest place on the planet. It’s only about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, so day-trippers come and go. The popular stops along a scenic byway will have their share of vehicles, yet it’s no problem finding a parking space, unlike most national parks and monuments. Traffic between the hot spots is sparse.

An ideal itinerary is spread over a three-night stay. That enables daylong treks to further out places few brave to go. The park covers 3.4 million acres and is the largest in the continental states. Warnings galore scare most people enough not to consider venturing far from Furnace Creek, the closest thing to civilization. Rough non-paved terrain frequently ruins plans when tires are slashed open by sharp-edged lava rocks. And if it’s a rental car, guess what? Most don’t even have a spare tire anymore, not even a donut! Death in Death Valley is something to consider! …Click here for the rest of the story and many more photos…

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Motel California

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Welcome to the Motel California

We left Redwood National Park for a lesser-traveled wonder called Lava Beds National Monument. It was one of those Herculean driving days.

For a bit, we left California and were in Oregon. I stopped to gas up. When I popped out and pumped my gas, an attendant rushed over to me in a fuss and exclaimed, “You can’t do that!”

“Really?”

“$15,000 fine for pumping your own gas in Oregon!” he said seriously.

“Really!”

It didn’t seem like he was pulling my leg, so I could only take him at his word. It turns out it’s true not only there but also in New Jersey.

Once we were back in the land of self-serve, I noticed a peculiar topography. It looked like the hillside all along the roadway was lava rock.

Eventually, we were in no man’s land. And when I say no man’s land, that means only one place to stay (that we could find), and it wasn’t in any brochure, on GPS, on any travel website, or in the Triple-A database. The Triple-A advisor even advised against it. But I wanted to be close to the gate by opening because our itinerary had a full day drive to and from this geological wonder. There was only one such place. Their basic website described it as an old hunting lodge dating back to the Great Depression. I booked it. It was the closest (and by closest, I mean only) place I could find near the entrance to Lava Beds National Monument.

On a desolate road, the sun finally handing the sky over to the moon, we closed in on our destination.

I saw the lodge on a hill as we passed a strip of about six rooms encased in cinder block walls just off the roadway.

I joked to the kids, “Hey, wanna stay there?”

They laughed uncomfortably, looking at the site, creepy-perfect for a horror movie.

I went to check in while the family stayed in the vehicle. Up at the house, a.k.a. lodge, hanging on from the 1930s, I entered a long and dimly lit hallway.

I found the “office” inside an old bedroom. I was relieved that the manager’s name wasn’t Norman Bates. The live-in lady manager said she didn’t think we’d make it. I thought to myself, the night is still young.

“Follow me to your room.”

And by room, I mean out of the lodge house and down the hill to the strip of about six rooms encased in drab cinder block walls on the side of the road.

She carried an old, metal, square floor fan. That was our “air conditioning.”

Had I known of any other accommodations or thought we could get away with sleeping under the stars without fear of ever being seen again, I would have run back to the car and high-tailed it out of there.

Inside were two beds (single and double), old carpet, and drab cinder block walls on the inside as well. The bathroom came with a huge wolf spider. The back window was unlocked. I promptly locked it and set a booby trap consisting of things that would fall over and make lots of noise if anyone came through it that night.

“Can you help me with your son’s cot?” the manager asked.

I followed her to a nearby shed to retrieve the cot. This was after she offered the alternative: a mattress on the floor.

We were so doggone tired; I asked my wife if we should sleep in the car.

“For all this place has going against it, I will say it’s clean,” my wife whispered as we set up the cot.

The manager exited the front slab of cement when I called from behind, “We still need a room key.”

She laughed over her shoulder as her gait quickened.

“A room key? I mean, where ya gonna go!”

I stood dumbfounded.

A vision of Norman Bates to the sound of Hotel California danced in my head.

“Maybe we should sleep in the car,” I said.

“Oh my, this bed is so comfortable,” were my wife’s last words just before snoring in chorus with the kids.

I decided to take the first watch in my mind, thinking back to my Army days. I sat on a plastic chair on the concrete slab outside our door. Leaning back, I took note of the seven holes that had been filled in the door. What were they if they weren’t bullet holes?

Dead silence.

That night was the soundest sleep I had had in years.

With the cinder block in the rear-view mirror, we entered Lava Beds National Monument and enjoyed the time of our lives spelunking on our own.

The park was like nothing we’d ever seen. On the surface, it was nothing more than endless high desert nothingness all the way to the base of the mountains, which were way in the distance. But beneath the desert floor were over 700 caves, and dozens waited for explorers like us – completely unprepared and raring to get lost. Well, we had a map, flashlights, extra batteries, as suggested by a ranger, and water.

We could drive up to and enter a wide array of lava-carved caves. They had names like Blue Grotto, Golden Dome, Catacombs, Labyrinth, and Skull Cave. No guides, no lights, no nothing, just you and a pitch-black subterranean adventure. We hadn’t seen another soul anywhere for a long time.

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I became brazen in my quest for excitement and pried my body through tight crevices or slid down lava tubes that were sure to lead to the bowels of a monster’s lair. The caves began to echo with, “Don’t go in there, Dad!”, “You’re on your own!”, “Let’s get out of this one!”, “What’s that sound?”, “BATS!”, “I’m scared!” and “Wow! Check that out!”

When we left, I felt like a kid protesting, “Do we have to go?” I wanted to keep exploring. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time.

This wasn’t your ordinary national park or monument. It had hardly any visitors and was in the middle of nowhere. The southbound road we took, leaving the park, was listed as unpaved. But its surface was ancient, crumbly blacktop. It looked like a thin airstrip that had been bombed. And I mean carpet bombed! We went under 10 miles per hour, snaking around depressions and mounds of loose, pulverized blacktop chunks.

There had to be a better way to go! I kept thinking about the time this was costing us and the power drive ahead of us to get to Yosemite. We had stayed well beyond our plans, exploring the lava tubes. Briefly, I thought of turning back to stay another night at the Motel California. Instead, I sped up to 15 miles per hour to hightail it out of there.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Drive-Thru Dad

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Am I known to exhibit some anxiety or impatience from time to time? Perhaps.

Certainly, my flare-ups happen when I’m at a fast-food drive-thru. Not when I’m alone and not when I only have one passenger. But put my whole family in a vehicle where I’m Johnny-on-the-spot having to relay their indecisiveness to the poor soul behind the drive-thru speaker, I may need to medicate!

I try to prep the fam ahead of time. We’re pulling into McDonald’s, so know what you want!

As I look at the “split screen” in front of me and the rear-view mirror, too, deciding which of the two drive-thru lanes will beat out the next guy, I hear, “I can’t see the menu, Dad.”

This one is probably fair most of the time. You’d think places could angle that thing for the approaching cars to decide before pulling in front of the speaker to order. And what is it with Chick-fil-A? They always have people walking the drive-thru lane taking your order well before you can see the menu, expecting me to have memorized it or something.

“It’s okay, Mr., I have it here,” and then they proceed to rattle off combo 1 through XYZ, verbally, as if they’re helping me!

My self-awareness has me reading what I wrote so far and asking my wife, “Whattaya call a male Karen?”

“I think it’s a Ken.”

Okay, let’s get back to the drive-thru lane with my whole family in tow.

“We’re next. Be prepared,” I say.

“I may need a minute, Dad. I need to read the menu on my phone. Unlike you, I would normally not stop at McDonald’s.”

I defend the greasy spoon by saying something like, “They have salads,” even though it won’t get ordered.”

“I’ll need a minute. You guys go first.”

The other kid is a lock: Burger, fries, and a coke. You’d think that’s a good thing, but it just means we’ll get to the rest of the passengers faster.

By the way, this is just about the only place where I can order a Coke, and the reply isn’t, “Pepsi, Okay?”

I don’t know what happened in the cola wars, but Pepsi is king in the restaurant world, it seems. And I actually do prefer Coca-Cola.

Sidebar. Years ago, when I lived in Europe, if you ordered Coke, the server would ask, “What kind?”

“What?”

“What kind of Coke would you like: Sprite, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Root beer…”

So, Coke there is the same as saying pop here. Well, that’s another thing: when we moved from Northern Ohio to Southern Ohio, pop became a foreign word. Pop is soda in these parts.

After years of growing up as southern Ohioans, I asked my teen kids at one point, “Do you say pop or soda?”

I felt like a failed dad when they said, “Soda.”

And to add insult to injury, they made fun of me for saying POP!

Oh, the divide. After all, it started with unified soda pop.

Anyway, after the first kid relayed what I already knew, I blurted out my order, knowing my wife was having trouble deciding between two things and really wanted to ask the drive-thru worker which one they would prefer. My order is something spicy. It’s why I always have Tums in the glove box.

Meanwhile, cars are ten deep behind me, putting some pressure and urgency on the situation.

I try to move the situation along with a couple of finger snaps and a “C’mon, hurry up,” to no avail.

My wife orders in piecemeal. By piecemeal, I mean she pauses mid-sentence, so I look at the drive-thru speaker, say part of an order, and then pause to hear the “Have it your way” details, which usually have a question or two. It’s like pulling teeth. I feel like I sound like someone who has an attention deficit disorder, and I want to explain it’s not me, dude.

I tell the drive-thru person I have one more order to relay. I usually try to say something humorous if the process is somewhat of a doozy.

“Dad, move your head. I need to see the menu.”

“I thought you had it on your phone.”

“They’re different.”

I feel like Chevy Chase losing his shit in one of the National Lampoon Vacation movies.

“I. NEED. YOU. TO. DECIDE. RIGHT….NOW.”

“Forget it. I’m not hungry.”

I’m finally done.

Or am I?

As I go to pull forward…

“Wait! Can I just get some water?”

Grrr.

Then, the pleading with the universe began. Two cars in front of us were inevitably told, “Please pull up, we’ll bring your food out shortly.”

Sidebar: I mentioned at the outset that my flare-ups happen when I’m at a fast-food drive-thru. Not when I’m alone and not when I only have one passenger. But that’s not entirely true. When it’s just me and my wife, and I get to the Starbucks pay window, she suddenly remembers something and scrambles to open her phone to the app so she can get points or something. As I wait, my card in one hand and her phone in the other, the drive-thru worker appears just in time for my wife’s phone to go to sleep. So, I’m like, wait a minute, as I hand the phone back to my wife, she wakes it up, hands it to me, and I hand it to the worker, smiling uncomfortably.

I digress.

Anyway, they had our entire order ready! Oh, the little victories.

I pulled into a spot so my wife could dole out the grub.

“Oh, honey, they forgot…”

And, of course, even though I’m the driver, I don’t even bother asking anyone else to get out anymore because the answer will be, “I’m cocooned in … I’m buried here … It would be easier for you,” or something along those lines. Besides, I’m probably going inside to use the restroom anyway.

I open the door. As soon as one foot hits the ground, six hands appear in the window holding trash from the last stop, “While you’re out, can you throw this away.”

My short wick in a drive-thru has earned me the nickname “Drive-thru Dad.”

And they all think that’s funny!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Ski Trip Gone Wrong

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Matt was “Mr. Ski Club.” We stood atop a hill at Brandywine, ready for the day’s first run for him and my first run ever.

He was checking down with everything I needed to know, and I just ya-ya’d him, impatient and ready to go.

Finally, I said, “Got it!” And shot downhill like a bullet.

I heard, “But …” and nothing else as my friend’s voice faded.

I sailed so fast over the snow, straight down the hill, that I freaked out. I could not turn, stop, or even slow down!

As I bore down on a man skiing up ahead, I cringed. He crisscrossed effortlessly, kicking up powdery white stuff. I was sure he would be knocked from here to eternity when I collided with him in about two seconds flat.

Why didn’t I stick around to listen to Matt explain how to turn, or better yet, how to stop?

As others described later, it looked like I was shot out of canon and about to kill somebody. They watched from above in horror, waiting for my impact with this unsuspecting stranger. Precisely at the very last moment, everyone closed their eyes or took a deep breath, and I woosh-wooshed around the man. In two quick movements with my feet, I skirted disaster – barely. My friends said the guy stood straight up, shocked by the brush back, but was otherwise uninterrupted.

When I got near the bottom, I managed to wipe myself out to stop along a flat straightaway.

Matt came down the hill like a pro. This was baby stuff to him. He hit a raised area near the bottom to get fancy in the air. When he came down, he injured his ankle. Go figure.

Later in the day, the guys thought I was ready for the meanest slope at the resort or were willing to see me die for laughs. As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

The ski lift reached the top, but I was snagged and couldn’t shift to get off. The chair turned and rose higher off the ground, circling the control shack at the top. I mentally foreshadowed the humiliation of returning to the bottom of the slope, alone on a chair lift.

NO WAY!

I flung my body in a pathetic but successful last attempt to free myself. The problem was that I was not as close to the ground anymore, but I landed on my feet and then fell to my butt with quite a thud.

The lift stopped, and a guy popped his operating shack door open, yelling, “You alright?”

Laughing uncomfortably, I said, “Ya.”

He laughed, said, “Crazy,” shook his head, shut the door, and started the lift again.

Looking downhill, it was clear that this course was not for beginners. In fact, it looked wickedly dangerous for someone like me. My depth perception was off. The slope was laden with terrain characterized by a large number of different bumps or, as I heard others say, “Moguls.” Not only that, but this slope was the steepest by far.   

Much like the beginning of the day, I became a human, heat-seeking missile.

Unlike earlier in the day, these moguls posed a different experience altogether. Quickly, my knees vibrated violently up and down at high speed. I should have wiped out, but instead, I found myself lying straight on my back but upright on the skis. I could see the lift chairs overhead, off to the side, even though my head bounced violently off the never-ending moguls.

From my friends’ perspective, when my skis finally turned in on each other, and I wiped out, it was like a scene from the 1970s Wide World of Sports promo highlighting what was dubbed “The Agony of Defeat,” which was an infamous ski jumping clip gone oh-so-wrong. When I tumbled, it was bad. My body looked like a rag doll plummeting down the slope amidst an avalanche of snow and debris. By everyone’s account, they thought I broke every bone in my body. I lost both skis and poles; one boot and the other had every buckle burst open.

Matt was the first to get to me. “He’s conscious!”

The others gathered my stuff strewn all over the slope.

It was all we could talk about for the rest of the evening as everyone recalled, in vivid detail, my spectacular flight down the slope. The laughter roared like the fire we perched in front of with hot cocoa.

I never skied again.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Acadia National Park’s Quiet Side

The nickname, The Quiet Side, rang a bell when we searched for a destination for our first empty nester vacation of length. Acadia National Park in Maine has two sides as opposite as our grown kids. One is all about activity and people. The other is laid back and …quiet.

But the available places to stay in the heart of it all were pretty expensive. That’s when our two laptops synchronized and found the same place by two different names on two different Air BnB platforms. Mine called it the Writer’s Cabin. Hers called it the Teacher’s Escape. We both heard the calling. More about this gem in a minute. Anyway, the serendipity (and bargain) of the moment didn’t escape us, so we booked it.  …Click here for the rest of the story and many more photos…

CLICK HERE

for the rest of the story
and more photos

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Northeast Ohio Cheese

Say, Cheese, Northeast Ohio!

Northeast Ohio is the heart of the cheese wheel! Great cheese shops and houses with delicious varieties abound. But know this: nothing is more untrue than the saying, “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Be sure to visit Guggisberg, Heini’s, Middlefield, Shisler’s, and others. Each one is a treat!

Formerly a Northeastern Ohioan, I’ve played house in Southwest Ohio for over 20 years. Holidays and special occasions mean trekking up I-71 from Cincinnati to Cleveland to see the rest of the family. My daughter was in from Washington, D.C., and shared that her friends are amazed that she’s never been to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn. I had to admit that I had never been either. She laughed and said something to the effect of, “Some OhioTraveler you are.”

Well, I couldn’t let that stand. I saw the billboard and counted the miles. Exiting, my daughter perked up, noticing this was no ordinary pitstop. As we rolled into the parking lot, only a few hundred feet off the highway, we rattled my son’s cocoon to tell him to get ready to get out. It was cold, snowy, and quite crowded. It was a novel place, quaint and grand at the same time, attracting locals and travelers alike.

We spent much longer browsing and shopping than we ever thought we would. Even the college-age son was impressed, and that doesn’t happen often. Albeit, it took him a bit to come around. Maybe it was his sister filming him with her phone when the song Dominic the Donkey started playing across the store. His name is Dominic, and he learned to despise the festive holiday sing-a-long because his family and friends always targeted him when it played. Anyway, he smiled and bobbed his head and shoulders with the tune like a good sport until he subtly shared a hand gesture with perfect rhythm for his sister to see. She squeaked an approving laugh, proud of her teasing.

Our basket turned into baskets. In them went Amish country jams, local honey, home-smoked meats, cheese, cheese, and more cheese.

Oh, my goodness, homemade chocolates and fudge, too!

It’s good that this was the holiday season, so we didn’t have to barter with a weight-weary conscience. Anything goes until the New Year!

My daughter started blurting out strange words like “Charcuterie” and pairing our selected cheese varieties. My eyes glazed over until my attention turned to the history of this cheese establishment, which dates back to 1978.

It’s the tale of two grandpas. Grandpa Yarman came on the scene a little over a hundred years ago. After selling his prized portable RCA radio for his first wheel of Ohio Swiss cheese, he fell in love and opened his own cheese house in West Salem, Ohio. But Grandpa’s Cheesebarn in Ashland, Ohio, was started by Yarman’s daughter Vera and her husband, known as Grandpa Baum, along with their daughter and son-in-law. The generational handing of the baton created the family tradition of seeking the best cheese makers around. And today, two additional locations are in Norton and the Summit Mall in Fairlawn.

Grandpa’s Cheesebarn’s collection of 120 kinds of cheese features varieties produced by small local Amish farms and nearby Holmes County cheese makers. They also import from Scotland, Ireland, Finland, Holland, and elsewhere.

Just as we rang up the grocery list that we didn’t know we had, my daughter exclaimed, “Now let’s go over to the other building where there’s a café and CHOCOLATE.

Plan a trip to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn and Sweeties Chocolates at https://www.grandpascheesebarn.com/. And as the sign says, “Savor the Experience.” We did!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun 

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Best Ohio Christmas Destinations

Ohio’s top Christmas Destinations and Holiday Attractions include but are not limited to:

America’s largest year-round indoor Christmas entertainment attraction at Castle Noel.

A Christmas Story House where you get to walk through a movie set location for the popular holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” which has been restored just as it was when it was filmed.

Holiday Parades like the legendary Lebanon Horse-drawn Carriage Parade.

Historic Homes like Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, where you may walk through affluent Christmas past.

Magnificent Ohio light displays like the Journey Borealis at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.

Christmas Towns like Cambridge and Steubenville: Stroll old-world England in Dickens Victorian Village or among a hundred life-size nutcrackers in the Nutcracker Village.

An immersive Christmas experience at Kringle’s Inventionasium Experience.

Special Events like the Christmas Candlelighting in Historic Roscoe Village.

Christmas on stage with a variety of performing arts across the state.

And, of course, Christmas Trains from the Polar Express to Santa Junction.

That rounds out our TOP-1O ideas to enjoy Ohio’s Christmas and holiday season.

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Cornering Carousel History

On the corner of Jackson Street and W. Washington Street in Sandusky, Ohio is the Merry-Go-Round Museum. Grab your popcorn, cotton candy, and wooden token — and take a ride through carousel history. The museum is housed in an old post office building which is, fittingly, rounded. Inside there are displays with hand-carved carousel horses and other animals. Visitors can ride the carousel. And at times, there are carvers at work on new carousel pieces.

CLICK HERE
to Ride the Pictorial!

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Newark Holy Stones

The Newark Holy Stones, displayed at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum (JHM) in Coshocton, were discovered in Licking County between 1860 and 1867 by surveyor David Wyrick. One was found at the Newark Earthworks, and the other was at the Jacksontown Stone Mound. The collection comprises the Keystone, the Decalogue Stone, a two-piece box made to house the Decalogue Stone, and a bowl. Both the Keystone and Decalogue Stone are inscribed in Hebrew. The Decalogue Stone also bears an image of Moses. This controversial finding infers that these ancient Indians were the descendants of the “Lost Tribes of Israel,” the ten of whom were said to have been deported after Israel’s conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire around 722 BCE.

This and most of the museum’s collection were once the private collections of John and David Johnson, who grew up in Coshocton, Ohio. It’s not precisely known how the Johnson brothers came to possess the Newark Holy Stones, but it’s believed that they purchased them directly from David Wyrick.

There was correspondence between the Johnson brothers and scientists, among others, trying to authenticate the Holy Stones. After a time, the stones were just stored away. In a letter, they asked someone at Tiffany’s Department Store in New York City what they should do with them. The correspondence back from Tiffany’s offered to display them in their storefront. Instead, the brothers held onto them until they showed up in Coshocton by railcar with the rest of the Original Collection, which initially comprised the JHM Museum collection.

JHM had the Newark Holy Stones in a drawer, not even on display until Robert W. Alrutz, a professor at Denison University, authored a book. As a result of this book, belief in the authenticity of the Newark Holy Stones grew.

Countering Alrutz’s book, Bradley T. Lepper and his colleague Jeff Gill researched the stones. They published an extensive article, The Newark Holy Stones, published in the May/June 2000 edition of TIMELINE, a publication of the Ohio Historical Society. However, despite their effort, the controversial documentary The Lost Civilizations of North America also fueled the validity of the Newark Holy Stones. It largely ignored the archaeological community, particularly the Lepper/Gill findings.

“We think these forgeries were created to support a particular idea of the past that conflicted with the then-popular scientific theory that claimed that the mounds disproved the bible and that it supported slavery, in a convoluted sort of way,” explained Lepper. “So these holy stones, even though they’re fake, have a very fascinating story to tell about this early period in the history of archaeology.”

At the time that the Holy Stones were discovered, the issue of slavery engulfed the nation. One year later, the Civil War had begun. Lepper said the Holy Stones should be displayed because of this connection, even though he believes the stones are forgeries.

“We get many people interested in the Newark Holy Stones,” JHM director Jennifer Bush said. “I tell people my opinion based on scientific analysis, but some don’t want to hear that. They want to hear that they are real.”

Throughout the museum, many attention-grabbers open a new world of curiosity. Be sure to add http://www.jhmuseum.org/ to your list of places to explore later this year.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

This is an excerpt from a much larger story, “Collecting A Legacy …And Controversy: Small Town Museum Hails Worldly Artifacts,” sponsored by Visit Coshocton.

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Cornering Zoar

“Cornering Ohio”
at Zoar Village

On the corner of Main Street and Third Street in Historic Zoar Village is Number One House (Kings Place), built in 1835, where you may visit the Zoar Museum.

The museum tells the story of a group of about 200 German Separatists seeking escape from religious persecution in their homeland and settled in this community in 1817.

Learn more about the town, its history, and its offerings today, ranging from shopping, dining, gardens, and history all around at https://www.ohiotraveler.com/zoar-village/.

* * *

“Got Nothing Against The Big Town,”
but we’re cornering small-town Ohio.

See More of Ohio “Cornered” at
https://www.ohiotraveler.com/cornering-ohio/

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Home for the Holidays

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

This is for anyone trying to make it home for the holidays.

It was just several weeks past basic training and my 18th birthday. I walked to the travel office at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to book a bus to Cleveland, Ohio, for Christmas. It would be my last chance to go home before shipping to Europe.

I congratulated myself for thinking months in advance to secure my passage home so that everything was set well ahead of time. No worries. But when the lady behind the window handed me my ticket, she had a peculiar smile. Something was off, but by the time I walked back to the barracks and stuffed my ticket away, I had other things on my mind.

One of my best friends from home joined the Army with me. We were stationed at the same place for basic training – Tank Hill, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Now, we were both in advanced skills training to learn our Army jobs at Fort Gordon. Even though we were on the same base, we only saw each other twice in three months. Back then, to communicate, we had to mail letters to each other at the post office even though we were just a couple of miles apart. He had procrastinated getting his bus ticket, but sometime after Thanksgiving, he assured me it was in his hand.

When I showed up in a vast parking lot jammed with damn near the whole base, leaving, I scrambled to find my bus. I had an overstuffed duffle bag hoisted on one shoulder, weaving around buses with signs to Memphis, Denver, Boston, you name it. Then I saw Scott. He was hanging out the window of the bus marked for Cleveland.

I flashed a big smile of relief and pointed to him as if to say, “Save me a spot; I’ll be right there.”

Then, the unimaginable happened. The bus driver said the bus was full. I shoved my ticket into his chest with pleading eyes, unwilling to take no for an answer.

He looked at the ticket and said, “Nope! No good. We’re full.”

He boarded, the doors closed, and my buddy cruised by me, making hand motions and expressions, saying, “WHAT THE….”

One by one, buses kicked into drive and pulled out.

I desperately grabbed a sergeant and rattled off the horror of my predicament.

“Private, you’ll be the only person in a ghost town in about three minutes! I suggest you land yourself on any bus with room headed north.

I turned and saw “Pittsburgh” in the bus window right in front of me. I stepped on and saw plenty of vacant seats. As a Browns fan in the 1980s, the humor didn’t escape me. I told the driver my story as he glanced at my ticket and waved me on.

Somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia, we pulled off for a 15-minute break to get gas and food. I used this opportunity to make a collect-call home. Fortunately, my mom picked up the phone and accepted the charges.

“Mom, listen carefully. There was a mistake with my bus ticket, and now I’m headed for Pittsburgh. You will have to pick me up there,” I spoke clearly but concisely.

“What…” she responded and began to babble.

“Mom, I have to go now. I can’t explain. Just pick me up at the Pittsburgh bus station at about Midnight. I will not have another chance to talk. I’ll see you there.”

She had no choice but to say okay.

And just like that, I was off the phone and just made it back on the bus before it pulled out of the stop.

My parents got in the car and headed for Pittsburgh. There was no GPS or even an Internet to get directions. Time was of the essence, so they just got in the car and drove, looking at a roadmap stuffed in the glove compartment. As luck would have it, they saw a Greyhound bus on the road when they neared the city.

“Follow that bus!” Mom yelled at Dad.

And that’s what he did. They figured if a Greyhound was headed for the city, it must be headed for the station. Quickly, they realized that the bus station was in what seemed to be a rundown part of town.

When I got off the bus and waited at the Pittsburgh station, I wandered. I saw all walks of life up close. Most of the people wandering at this desolate hour were the kind that triggered a little voice in my head that said, “You need to get the hell out of here or at least keep moving.”

So much time passed that I wondered if my parents would make it. And if not, what would I do next?

“ROCKY!” cried out my mom.

I wrapped my arms around her and my dad. It had been months since I had seen anyone I loved. And in this lonely, dark, cold terminal, they were a sight for sore eyes.

There I was, a grown man (barely) enlisted in the Army, about to depart America for nearly three years before I’d see family again.  A huge smile spread across my face in my embrace at the thought of my mom and dad traveling through the night to rescue me. It made this the most memorable trip home for the holidays I had ever had. And although I would never have wanted this to happen the way it did, I wouldn’t change the fact it had. Still, I would never want it to happen again.

My dad picked up my duffle bag and said, as any 1980s Browns fan would, “Pittsburgh sucks. Let’s go home.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Mouth Watering Stacked!

Okay, the signature dish at Scott’s Diner in New Concord may be their Rueben, but the Stacked Ham & Swiss was perhaps the most delicious ever. It’s hand-carved, sugar-cured, hickory smoked tavern ham and Swiss cheese topped with Scott’s signature Dijon mustard dressing and is served on an artisan bun with crisp lettuce and vine-ripened tomatoes. Add the cole slaw for a perfect combo. It is freshly made, in-house, with the right amount of tangy-sweet balance. Plan your next diner visit at Scott’s Diner | Ohio Traveler.

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Enlivening Communal Vacation

 

At The Greyfield Inn
On Cumberland Island, Georgia

An Out of Ohio Special But with an Ohioan’s Perspective

In a world of tourist attractions overrun, there are still roads much less traveled, albeit the toll to ride them is a little steeper.

When we heard about the communal atmosphere of the Greyfield Inn on a mostly untouched Georgian Island and the jacket requirement for evening dining, I pictured a cruise experience where you may opt to dress up and dine with strangers at your table. The beauty is that you are not strangers for long. But this communal tourism experience was far more affable and enjoyable.

We stood at an empty dock in front of a tiny sign that read Greyfield Inn Ferry. A young man walked up and introduced himself as the captain of our private charter. We boarded with a couple of the staff members for the Inn. One wore a tee shirt: Save The Sea Turtles. When we docked on Cumberland Island, it showed no other signs of modernization. Several wild horses casually grazed in the grass nearby. It was shaded by live oaks draped in Spanish moss, highlighted with a hint of piercing rays that even the most talented painter may dream of capturing on canvas.   …Click here for the rest of the story and many more photos…

CLICK HERE

for the rest of the story
and more photos

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Mysterious Marion Revolving Ball

Mysterious Revolving Ball
at the Marion, Ohio Cemetery

The mysterious “Merchant Ball” revolving in the Marion, Ohio cemetery is a two-and-a-half-ton black granite orb atop a five-foot pedestal. Tiny stone balls surround it in its grassy perimeter. There is one spot on the giant orb that was not polished – the spot that originally rested on the pedestal when erected in 1896.

The Merchant family created this gravesite in the 1890s. The smaller balls mark individual burials around the centerpiece marker. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not featured it in 1929. Why? Because the two-and-a-half-ton black granite orb was mysteriously turning over time unbeknownst to the naked eye. But the movement was obvious because the original unpolished resting spot became visible, eventually traveling to the ball’s side.

Needless to say, this strange phenomenon has become a peculiar tourist attraction ever since. And to this day, nobody has affirmatively answered the question, why? Although plenty of speculative theories and scientific analyses swirl around the enduring oddball.

Click to enlarge the map to find
the Merchant Ball in the Marion Cemetery

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It’s Thanksgiving! What Could Go Wrong?

BBQ-Turkey-Thanksgiving

This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We were hosting Thanksgiving for the first time! How exciting.

Our first arrivals were my mom, sister, niece, and nephew. They came a day early. The men would arrive on Thanksgiving Day.

Based on previous visits, my mom’s rescue dog earned a reputation as “a runner,” among other things. So, we learned to leave an opening in the garage for the crew to pull inside. Then we shut the garage door and let everyone inside the house through the connecting side door.

What was easily forgotten was that the poor dog had been traveling for hours. Coming straight into the house among the happy greetings and hugs between family members who had not seen each other in months, he instinctively headed for the back door. But nobody noticed. Then, he decided that the oversized cloth chair would suffice to do his business.

He’s a big dog, and he took a big leak down the side of the chair and then shifted to saturate the carpet thoroughly – of course, missing the adjacent tile floor by mere inches.

After supper, my sister had pies to cook. Don’t ask me why, but something went terribly wrong!

After my little sis bellowed – “Oh no!” – we all came running to find the oven was caked in hardened pie remains.

Good grief, what a mess it was! So we figured we’d just set the oven to self-clean and let it do its thing overnight.

The oven was long cooled down in the morning, but the doggone door wouldn’t open. There was a 20+ pound turkey to cook! We burned up Google for a solution, but no matter what we tried, it didn’t work.

I looked at the time. I glanced out the window at the patio. I looked at the time again.

“Let’s just grill this bird!” I yelled.

People looked at me like I was crazy – as they often do.

I sprang into action and grabbed the propane tank to get it filled. I just knew that if I didn’t, it would probably run out halfway through cooking. Besides, my Google solution for grilling a turkey said I needed indirect heat, so I searched for a suitable cooking sheet. I found an aluminum solution at the hardware store while I waited for the propane tank to be filled.

When I returned home, I fired up my modest grill. Within a minute, my aluminum solution caught fire. I cleaned that mess and zipped to the grocery store and back with a commercial-grade baking pan. I slipped it under the grate. Perfect fit.

My dad and brother-in-law arrived about an hour and some beers into my roast.

“What are you doing?” they both asked simultaneously.

“Barbecuing turkey,” I smiled casually with a slight buzz.

Their jaws dropped, and eyes grew wide in disbelief.

“This is going to be a bust of a meal,” I could read them saying in their minds.

I weathered the cold, tending to the manual temperature controls, toggling around 325 degrees for hours. Sometimes, the temperature reached about 350 degrees; at others, it went down to 300, but I managed to keep it as steady as the pouring beer.

I couldn’t jeopardize the temperature by opening the lid. I had to wait for the halfway point to glimpse what was happening inside.

That’s when I flipped the bird.

It looked pretty darn good, but my dad and I suspected looks could be deceiving. It might be one raw mess deep inside that meat.

I kept at the controls, catching parts of the football game while fetching sanity refills.

On one trip to the kitchen, tensions grew, and some stereotypical sibling squabbling was exchanged between my sister and me. Others joined in. Oh, this was going to be a Thanksgiving to remember.

I huffed off to my patio retreat. My sister simmered over the top of the stove. Inside the stove, her pie disaster from the night before remained trapped. Its warming aroma wafted in the air as the burners on the stovetop heated the side dishes.

Then came the moment of truth. I shoved a thermometer inside a breast. Then, I took the turkey into the house for my brother-in-law to carve it. At this point, nobody trusted me with sharp objects.

My brother-in-law’s heart sank because he couldn’t get the carving knife through the bird. He was afraid to say anything. He just stared and wondered how he’d break the bad news. When he looked down again, he realized the thing was upside down.

We sat around the table – everyone silently praying for a meal that wouldn’t send us to the Emergency Room.

One by one, noises of pleasure passed around the table. Some declared that it was the best turkey that they ever had.

And when nobody got sick, I gave thanks.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Gore Orphanage

This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We moved a temporary “bridge out” sign so we could drive our car across. Clearly, the bridge was not out, but we were—for a good time.

We had driven well across rural Lorain County in pursuit of a late October fright night like generations of Northern Ohio teens before us. It was a rite of passage to try and brave the dark valley and legend of Gore Orphanage.

Matt and Dusty wanted candy. We pulled off at a rickety old roadside store, and they went inside.

“Look, is that someone leaning out of the window above the store?” asked one of the girls in the backseat.

I rolled the window down.

“Do-o-o-on’t go-o,” the stranger lobbed down to us, face flickering in neon against the dark.

We looked at each other inside the car, silently mouthing, “What the …!”

When we looked back up, the stranger in the window was gone.

“What the heck was that?” asked one of the girls aloud.

Surely, it was just some guy having fun with us.

Matt and Dusty jumped back in the car. They didn’t believe a word out of our mouths about the stranger in the window.

Eventually, we arrived at a desolate country road that led down a steep, narrow hill. We noticed but ignored the “no trespassing” signs riddled with bullet holes. Near the bottom of the hill, a turn-off to the left veered so sharply it was difficult to see. This offshoot was even steeper and narrower and led to blackness. Our other option was to continue the main route and ascend the other side of the valley.

We chose blackness.

With windows rolled down on a crisp fall night, we listened as we puttered to “Crybaby Bridge.”

“Kill the engine!”

We listened. Then, we got out and leaned against the metal bridge.

“I heard it.”

“Me too.”

“I don’t hear a thing!”

The legend was that long ago, there was an orphanage that burned to the ground, taking with it dozens of kids. If you listened closely, you could hear their faint cries echoing through the valley. Oh, and if you turned your car off on Crybaby Bridge, it wouldn’t restart until you pushed it across to the other side. So, we intentionally left it out of gear to spook the girls. They even gave it a try before we pushed it to the other side. Wouldn’t you know it, it started right up. You could probably catch us winking and smirking at each other on the sly if you were looking in the rear-view mirror.

We continued down the all-but-forgotten road, winding around a bend one way and then back another before pulling over to park along the edge of the road.

“They say the foundation of the orphanage is that way,” Matt said, pointing a flashlight toward the trailhead, where woods met an open field.

Before going there, we ventured up the road ahead on foot. A lonely house was at the end of a long, wooded driveway.

“No way! Someone lives down here!” Dusty whisper-yelled.

Pushing uphill, around a bend, the road was barricaded. We went back to the car.

“Oh no, cops!” I said.

“Those aren’t cops,” Matt noticed as they neared.

They were a friendly group and led us straight to the foundation. But not before passing a lone pillar with graffiti warning, “You are now entering Hell.”

We sat on the remaining foundation blocks and befriended the new carload of strangers. They decided to leave before us, but we weren’t far behind.

As they drove away, I went for some kicks. I threw my flashlight as hard as possible, end over end, high over their windshield, freaking them out. They sped off. Pleased with my shenanigans, I ran, laughing, to pick up my flashlight. Within minutes, it died. Worse, unbeknownst to me, my car keys bounced out of my unzipped jacket pocket.

We knew we were up a creek without a paddle after our failed attempts to search for the lost keys. The other flashlight went dead. So, Matt and I left Dusty with the girls and went to the old house to ask for batteries or a flashlight. It was pretty late at night.

A freak rain shower drove down, forcing us to return to the car. Anxiety and tempers flared.

“Shut up!” Matt yelled.

“What the …”

We were all staring out the back window at a clunker of a pickup truck pulling off the road near our car.

“Get down.”

Our car was a clunker, so it probably looked abandoned.

Peeking over the back seat, we all witnessed a man jump from the truck. He was carrying something long. He let three dogs out the passenger door, and they all ran into the field together and out of sight.

“What do we do?”

POP!

“What the hell was that?” the girls cried.

“Was that a gunshot?” I asked aloud.

“Here he comes!” Dusty warned.

The man emerged with two dogs, hopped in his truck, and slowly motored away.

When we finally peeled ourselves from the floor mats, the rain had stopped. It was past midnight. We were stranded …far from home…in an era before the public was armed with cell phones and GPS.

Amazingly, another vehicle eventually appeared. No, it was two cars carrying more teenagers. They were locals. One agreed to drive me back to his parent’s house so I could call my mom. She would have to come out with a spare key.

“Now, listen carefully, Mom. At that point, you’ll have to get out and move a sign that says bridge out, but don’t worry; you can cross. Ignore the no-trespassing signs. Go down the road that looks like a car should not go down. It gets steep and narrow…” continued my directions to my mom. As I heard myself explain, I knew I wouldn’t see the light of day for quite some time.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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World’s Largest Basket

Welcome to The World’s Largest Basket! The Longaberger Basket Building in Newark, Ohio, has long been a favorite roadside attraction. Formerly the Longaberger Basket Company headquarters, it remains a fixture in the imaginations of those who unexpectedly see the world’s largest picnic basket rise out of the treetops along Ohio State Route 16.   Map It.

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Watlao Buddhamamakaram

Watlao Buddhamamakaram is a remarkably beautiful Buddhist Temple in Columbus, Ohio 

Location: (Map It) 3624 Bexvie Ave in Columbus, Ohio

This stunning Loa Buddhist temple is nestled in the Bexley neighborhood on the east side of Columbus. The beautiful structure is amidst a sprawling park-like setting among a community of residential homes. It is a place of peace. Although it is open to the public, be respectful, as it is a place of worship. The monks were very welcoming when I parked in the Temple parking lot and asked if I could walk around and take some photos. It’s an inspiring place for those looking to reach a deep meditative state or simply relax and unwind. It’s truly an awe-inspiring site.

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Funny Tree

Hey, you lookin’ at me! …Sometimes, when traveling, you may think people look at you funny …  But when trees do it, that’s just next-level paranoia! LOL.   FYI: This tree has a naturally grown face. It’s not one of those fake faces.  Pic taken at a McD’s in Canal Winchester, Ohio.

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This is a Serious Fudging Business!

Schmidt’s Fudge House has mastered an old-world technique for making Belgian-inspired fudge! Cooking with Paula Deen named it the fourth-best fudge made in America! After it’s cooked in copper kettles, it is hand-crafted and finished on marble tables. It achieves a sophisticated flavor by combining ingredients like Belgian chocolate, creamy caramel, smooth peanut butter, fluffy marshmallows, walnuts, almonds, and roasted pecans into the mix. It’s so good that celebrities such as Martha Stewart and Adam Richman (Man vs. Food Travel Channel Show) have made special journeys to get a taste of this treat nestled in the brick streets of German Village in Columbus. Their chocolate is also out of this world delicious! Plan your visit at https://www.ohiotraveler.com/schmidts-fudge-haus/.

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My Most Memorable Diner in Ohio

My parents moved from the big city of Cleveland to what was then the sleepy farm town of Avon Lake before the I-90 freeway stretched that far west. Mom took a break from being a secretary while my sister and I were preschoolers. Dad drove Lake Road daily to get to his tool and die factory job in The Land. There and back, he’d see the alluring roadside family diner in Rocky River – Bearden’s, advertising their famous steakburger – always fresh, never frozen! – since 1948.

We were the signature blue-collar household from back in the day. Eating out was a true treat. And we only did it once per week, on Friday, for supper. There was always an air of excitement when we’d pile into the car without our seatbelts, roll down the windows, and feel the crisp breeze coming off Lake Erie, waves glimmering in the golden hour.  Mom and Dad would laugh—argue—laugh in a weekly ritual that washed away their stress and paved the way for a weekend to get lost in. It usually started with the lit-up sign appearing through the windshield, luring my sister and me to cross the territorial imaginary line in the middle of the backseat to take in the ceremonial view, smile, and then retreat to our corners, saying, “Eww, don’t touch me!”

Inside, we always grabbed a booth, plopped down, and waited for the waitress (always the same lady) while the model train wowed my sister and me with its loops around the dining room from overhead. We never needed a menu. We ordered the same thing time after time. Dad got the steakburger with everything, fries, and Coca-Cola. Oh, and a side salad. The rest of us got the Kiddie Special – yes, even Mom. She said the proportions were more to her liking. Afterward, Dad ordered shakes all around.

For this hour per week, life was never better.

Try it. Bearden’s is still there—now a cool, cheerful, remodeled retro 1950s roadside diner that’s been kid-friendly since 1948!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun 

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Cornering An American President

Cornering Ohio…

My son looked out his side window and said, “Wow!” He was surprised to see a Washington D.C.-type monument pop into view as we navigated the streets of an Ohio small town – Marion – returning from his college graduation. My son isn’t easily impressed, but he wanted to pull off and explore this lovely 10-acre site. He had nodded off, and when he opened his eyes to see the stunning white marble memorial against the lush green grass and trees framing the grounds, he must have thought we were visiting his sister again in the nation’s Capital.

At the corner of Delaware Ave. and Vernon Heights Blvd. in Marion, Ohio, lies our 29th President and his wife in a wonderous circular monument akin to something you may see in Greece. The marble steps lead to the open-air cloister at its center. Atop the grass are the tombs of our 29th President of the United States, Warren Gamaliel Harding, and former First Lady Florence Mabel Harding.  Harding lived in rural Ohio most of his life except for his years in the White House from 1921 to 1923.  His presidential term was cut short, and he died of a heart attack. He was a popular president, but his legacy is marred by scandals that surfaced later.

Nearby are the https://www.ohiotraveler.com/harding-presidential-sites/. For more “Cornering Ohio” and other blog posts, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/ohio-travel-blogs/.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Camping Out for Concert Tickets

Remember, Camping Out for Concert Tickets?

This generation will never experience what it took to get concert tickets back in the day!

My friend Matt was an 80s teen who defined the Generation X reputation for growing up unsupervised. His parents were avid RVers. Matt was allowed to stay home while they went on weekend road trips when he was in high school.

On Friday, I was called out of class because of an emergency in my family, and my dad was coming to pick me up in front of the school. I waited, very concerned, wondering if a grandparent had passed. A huge RV rolled up in front of me in the bus lane. The door swung open. It was Matt!

“Get in!”

“What the heck, man?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “What are you doing?”

“Picking you up!”

“Dude (we used to say ‘dude’ a lot), my dad is …”

“I know; hop in, sonny,” he interrupted.

Here, he skipped school (and HE was the honor student) because his parents went on a trip without the RV. He grew bored, so he pretended to be my dad and called the school, staging the whole family emergency hoax. I laughed, somewhat shocked at the magnitude of this. Then I jumped in and didn’t look back.

That day, we learned Springsteen had announced a summer concert tour, and Cleveland was one of the stops. We circled the date that tickets would go on sale and made a pact that no matter what, we’d do whatever it took to go.

It was late at night when we opened our house after a long family vacation.

I had plans to meet Matt in the morning to go downtown and buy tickets for the concert. It would be the first day for tickets to go on sale. This was back when The Boss was selling out stadiums in just hours.

A local television news station reported a line forming around Cleveland Municipal Stadium hours before the box office opened; some were already camped out for one or two days.

It was the middle of the night, and I was wide awake. I couldn’t wait. So I grabbed my car keys, and before I knew it, I was on my way to get Matt – but he didn’t know.

I didn’t want to wake up his parents, so I climbed on top of their motor home to get on the roof of their house. Matt slept on the second floor. His window overlooked the garage roof, so I navigated my way there.

He didn’t share his room with anyone but slept on the top bunk of a bunk bed. His head was right by the open window. The only thing between us was a screen. His dog Bandit started to growl – low and then louder. I tried calming the dog, letting him know he knew this cat burglar. I feared he’d wake the whole house if his growling became full-fledged barking.

It was dark inside, so I didn’t see Matt rolling to see what his dog was snarling at. When his eyes met mine only inches away… Well, talk about a wake-up call. Imagine opening your eyes from a dead sleep to see a face peering in your window inches from yours. Matt sprang from the mattress, slammed his head on the ceiling, and fell off the upper bunk onto the floor.

I almost rolled off the roof in terror myself. Then, I just tried to contain my laughter, which came in snorts as I tried to hold it in. Matt gathered his senses, climbed back to the window, and gave me an obscenity-laced greeting, albeit in a whisper-yell.

It was a small miracle that nobody else in the house woke up.

Down at the stadium, we circled the parking lot and found the end of the line where others were camping out. We parked nearby and joined the growing throng of people. Some were better prepared than we were. Leaning up against the concrete wall, sitting on the asphalt, we soon realized it would be a long night.

“Ya know, the backseat ‘ell pop right out in your kind of car,” Matt surmised.

Within minutes we were sitting in hillbilly comfort. Then a guy returned to his group behind us with so many doughnuts they shared with us. They were the best doughnuts I ever had in my life.

Hours later – most people around us sleeping – I opened my eyes and noticed it was dawn. I got up and stretched. When I did, I drifted away from the side of the building and peered around the corner – nobody was in front of us. I casually walked up to Matt, kicked his foot several times, and motioned for him to quietly check it out.

Without words being spoken, we both walked. Our pace quickened. We thought we were sly, but our movement didn’t go unnoticed. There was a chain reaction. We peeked over our shoulders. A mob was thickening and gaining. We flat-out sprinted from there. It probably looked like we were rock stars trying to outrun hundreds of rabid fans when in reality, they just wanted tickets as badly as we did. We turned another corner of the stadium and plunged into a sea of people. Police were holding everyone back.

“If you’re on this side of the barricade, I’m sorry, you’re not getting tickets,” said one cop after another into megaphones. “Please turn around and go home.”

People were disgruntled but reluctantly complying, for the most part. Some tested the officers and were met with more forceful directives. We quickly assessed the scene and bolted over a concrete barricade into some sort of cement trench. We were able to run, hunched over, avoiding being seen. I don’t know how we found this and why nobody else did, but once we were past the police barrier, we sprang from our trench and joined the mob on the other side.

There was only one gate, one turnstile, one ticket window, and thousands of people fighting to get to it.

The head of the production company pleaded over loudspeakers, “We don’t want another Cincinnati.”

He referred to The Who concert several years earlier, where people stampeded eleven fans to death as they stormed the entry doors.

“If this doesn’t get orderly RIGHT NOW, we’ll close her down, and NOBODY will get tickets,” the man shrieked at the top of his lungs.

The unruly crowd somehow demonstrated just enough civility for the mayhem to continue.

More than an hour later, Matt and I were in the final stretch. We were jammed in like sardines between two metal railings leading up to the ticket window.

“Give me your money so we can make sure we get tickets together,” Matt said.

I didn’t want to abandon him, but I had an idea. Believe it or not, the other side of the railing was relatively calm. I slipped through and then turned to help Matt. The space between the railings was wide enough for one and a half bodies. However, there were three and a half in that space, at times with nothing but Matt’s arse on the inside. He was getting crushed. Whenever that happened, he fought with flailing elbows and fists, cursing, to regain space so he could breathe. I helped by pushing and shoving people so they’d give him room. It didn’t matter that most were just as innocent as he was – just victims of circumstance. But this was survival of the fittest. Matt’s reprieve would last about 90 seconds before the shoving from others forced a repeat scenario. It was grueling for Matt on the inside. I had the easy task – shove without getting hit, mostly. Others saw the brilliance of our teamwork, and before I knew it, I had company on my side of the rail.

Eventually, Matt scored tickets. Battle-scarred, Matt more than I, we walked away from the mayhem to the other side of the stadium, which was mostly vacant now. We popped my backseat into the car and drove home, elated.

The concert rocked for over three hours, while a typical concert lasted 90 minutes. Later, a Springsteen gig made the record book for one of the longest concerts ever by a musician.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Real-Life Caddyshack Stories

This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

I was called into the principal’s office at my middle school along with a close friend. He told us that we were too young to work, according to child labor laws. So, that spring, we had to quit our jobs as caddies at the nearby country club. Instead of caddying there, we rode our bikes twice the distance to another country club. It was across the county line, so we figured the law wouldn’t catch up to us. After school let out for the summer, we returned to the crime scene. Anyway, you sliced it; these were long bike rides.

It amazed me how cold it could be early morning and how hot it got later in the day. And when you rode a bike, it was colder still. An adrenaline rush got my blood flowing like clockwork every morning when I neared the country house on the other side of the railroad tracks before meeting up with my friend. I pedaled as fast as I could down the slope on the other side. I had to gain enough speed to coast by the farmhouse and put my feet up by my handlebars. There he was, barking and running into the road, nipping at my empty metal pedals. No sooner than he gave up the chase did my momentum slow enough to force my feet back to the pedals. It was always a close call. If that dog stuck with it for 15 more feet, I’d be breakfast.

At the caddy shack, the caddy master called me over to a foursome ready for a loop. There was snickering behind the first tee. Later, someone intentionally matched a preacher with a repeatedly loud foul mouth. His running with the potty mouth was as sure a bet each time out as the dog who gave chase to me every morning. Not until the third hole did the foul mouth know he was in the company of a man of the cloth. That’s when everyone except the foul mouth burst into laughter. Soon, more cursing drowned out the laughter. Later, I heard people say they could hear the laughter and cursing back at the clubhouse.

My golfer was on the quiet side compared to the others. I didn’t know if he was new, subordinate, or just quiet by nature. He was a stroke or two in last place. I handed him a wedge for a chip shot out of the sand trap. He got a hold of that thing, and it screamed out of there so fast and hard that I thought I might have to yell, “Fore!”

It ricocheted off an oak branch overhead, abruptly sending it into the pin’s flag, falling straight down into the cup. It happened in the blink of an eye. I had never seen anything like it, so I broke character and roared in delight. It was a fantastic shot in my mind. When I caught the facial expression of my golfer, I was puzzled because he looked downright embarrassed.

I asked him, off to the side, “Wasn’t that incredible?”

He gave me half a smile on the sly, tasseled my hair, and walked to the next tee. Later, he tipped me the most I ever got that summer.

After my morning round, I decided to hang out for some caddy baseball and try to get a second loop after lunch. One of the caddies in this group was just plain tough as nails. He was older than me and from a much tougher neighborhood. I wondered how he got to the country club every day. His golfer was one of those who had to insult people to act like a big shot, and he demeaned his caddies.

Nobody wanted to caddy for him, but this city kid said, “I don’t care; a loop’s a loop.”

It was a scorcher of an afternoon, so we rolled up our short sleeves to try and fade out the infamous caddy-tan lines on our arms. Some called them farmers’ tans. We called them caddy tans. When the city kid rolled up his sleeves, his homemade tattoos showed.

His golfer insisted that he keep his sleeves down, “A little more class here….”

When nobody else looked, I saw the tatted caddy drop a mouthful of spit into the guy’s golf bag. He took more verbal abuse than I figured even he could stand. I began to think he must really need to make a buck. He sucked it up, rebelled behind the scenes, and marched like a real trooper.

It was somewhere along the back nine that fate and justice crossed paths.

The big-shot golfer sliced a shot off the fairway into a tree. You could see the ball fall down but not out. It rested on a branch about 15 feet high. The golfer out cursed the morning foul mouth. During his tirade, he spun around and released his iron. The golf club flung round and round, landing in a pond.

“Get my club! Then, get my ball!” he said to the tough kid.

To his credit, the kid casually walked to the pond, never uttering a word.

But then, he turned and waited for the golfer to look.

“Come on, come on, we don’t have all day,” the golfer said for the kid to hear.

When he turned toward his friends, he uttered some more insults under his breath. His friends didn’t look at him. They looked past him and nodded that he better look for himself, too.

The kid was standing with the entire golf bag and its very expensive contents over his head.

“What the …”

Before the big shot could finish his sentence, the kid spun around as the golfer did before launching his club. Only this time was the kid launching the entire bag …deep into the pond. Then, he turned, flashed two flagrant middle fingers, and walked off into the sun, a renegade and Caddyshack legend, never to be seen again.

You never knew what you’d get from one day to the next at these country clubs.

When I first started caddying, we started our training as cart runners. Like in the movies, our caddy master sometimes threatened that golf carts at the club would replace us if we didn’t do well. I didn’t understand why some people would take a golf cart and ask for a caddy. But, on my only cart running day, it became clear that it was either to make sure a ball never got lost or for unhappy people to take out their frustrations on us kids. An older kid and I were assigned to one couple and a cart each. It was two husband and wife teams.

My couple had me stand down the fairway a bit from the tee to better keep my eye on the ball. There was a creek that split the fairway on this hole. When the guy hit his shot, I thought I saw it thud into the mud with no splash into the far bank, so that I couldn’t be sure, yet I was.

He was not a bad guy, but his wife was plain mean to me all afternoon.

“Didn’t you see it! Where did it land?” She barked at me, sure that I lost it because they could not find it.

“It landed right there,” I insisted.

But the ball had completely disappeared. To my surprise, the husband shuffled down to the water’s edge and had me guide him. I knew he was over the spot, so I said it should be there.

“If you are wrong, this will be your last day here!” the wife deadpanned, glaring through me.

In my mind, I was praying. Unlike the tough kid, I was pretty shy at this time.

The husband rose a muddy forearm with a smile and the ball.

“Check it. Make sure it’s a Titleist 4,” she said with anger in her voice.

She sped off with the cart without him to find her second shot when he confirmed.

“Damn good eye, kid,” he winked at me.

Once we seemed to be caddies that’ll last the summer, we were rewarded with caddy golf day. Caddies were allowed to golf on the members’ course Monday evening. It was a big deal for us. But none of us had ever really golfed before, except maybe Jimmy. Jimmy was swinging and missing. It was with a fresh divot and not the ball when he connected. The golf pro for the country club rolled up on a cart and watched the circus for about three minutes before jumping to his feet and walking over to us.

“Look, I can’t let you tear up the course,” he said. “Somebody better show me I can trust you out there.”

I never held a club other than a putt-putt putter, but my friends gave me up to sink or swim for us all. Now, I had plenty of hours watching people golf, and I had taken some practice swings earlier. I stepped up, put a ball on a tee, and positioned myself. Silence fell across everyone’s lips.

SMMMMACK

That ball went a decent distance and bounced some more straight down the fairway. It was pure beginner’s luck, but we all contained our giddiness and looked to the pro for approval.

“That was a nice shot,” he said with surprise.

He got on his cart and moved on.

On a slow afternoon, the caddy master came to me and my friend Scott.

He wanted us to drive a rigged-up cart out onto the driving range to shag balls. It was a treat, and he promised some favors in return. Well, Scott and I together doing something like this needed very little to get a serious case of the giggles.

Scott was behind the steering wheel, and I was in the passenger seat—the only part of the cart unprotected by a cage-type enclosure to keep balls from hitting the driver. Whenever he turned and exposed my bare side to the golfers teeing off, our narrative grew louder and louder.

We were dramatizing being under attack, but I was under attack, not him.

Some balls hit the cart, and we reacted without a filter. Then one rattled into the cart and bounced into Scott. That got us to peak form.

The golfers were clearly delighted in aiming at this raucous duo for entertainment. Meanwhile, we were out there exploring George Carlin’s list of words you could never say on television …with gusto… laughing at the top of our lungs.

But we didn’t think we were loud enough to be heard by the people at the range.

Then, our caddy master raced out to us on a golf cart.

He tried to yell through his gut-busting laughter,

“You clowns are done! Head back to the Caddyshack!”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Hell Is Real Sign

What are the chances our car overheated here?

Where is here? The most talked about billboard on I-71 near Mt. Sterling, Ohio, on the Northbound side, known as
The  HELL IS REAL sign.

It looks like something was added to the lower right of it.
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My Tribe: A Cleveland Baseball Story

This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

When I was seven, Dad took Grandpa and me to a ballgame. It was my first.

Grandpa told me how he fell in love with the sport when he was around my age, several years after emigrating from Sicily. Dad went to get some foot longs, and I sat beside my grandpa, holding onto my little league glove. I heard the crack of the bat and saw the ball coming closer – Closer – CLOSER. We were in the upper deck down the third baseline. When that ball whizzed in slow motion directly over my head, it looked as big as a basketball. I yanked back my outstretched glove because I wanted no part of it.

I shook Grandpa afterward and screamed, “Did you see that!”

He grunted while he looked through his binoculars at home plate, “See what, see what?”

He had no clue what just happened. Little did he know that was the moment I became a fan of the game and his team, the Cleveland Indians, just like my father before me. 

It’s funny, but I don’t remember my childhood friends or classmates being Cleveland Indians baseball fans in the 1970s and 1980s. Maybe it was too painful to admit openly.

When I was in high school, the manager was probably best remembered for charging the mound at an opposing pitcher, pathetically failing to land a karate kick. To add insult to injury, the pitcher dropped our manager with one punch. But this was my team, my lovable losers. I played in a world of possibility, whereas nearly everyone else I knew played in a world of probability. Life is safer their way. But perhaps it’s with my mindset that I entered an essay contest by a Cleveland newspaper – “Why Do You Like The Indians?” Now a teenager, I read the newspaper’s sports section daily, so I wrote and sent in my essay.

I won!

Thinking back, I wonder if I was the only one who bothered with the contest.

Nonetheless, the prize was “dinner” with the Indians and a free ballgame. Dinner with the Indians meant I got to invite a friend to accompany me to the old Municipal Stadium for a luncheon that launched the team’s winter press tour. Only the manager and a couple of players showed up to talk to the room full of reporters, and afterward, I got to wait in line to shake the hand of a forgettable rookie infielder.

When Mom dropped me and my friend Scott at the stadium, we immediately seized a plush booth. It was long – very long – and center stage. It was in the back of the room next to huge windows high above the ground outside. It had our names all over it, so to speak. It was ours! Until some lackey in a suit scrambled across the room to us as some old guy, and his entourage entered.

“Hey kids, you can’t sit there!” he said alarmingly.

“Sure we can,” I said.

“We are,” said Scott, shooting a smile my way, knowing he had just slipped a cocky remark under the radar.

The man demanded we move.

“But I won the contest,” I said, as a matter of fact.

He looked dumbfounded. Then, he saw the entourage nearing and looked back at us in desperation.

“You gotta go now,” he pleaded, reaching for my arm.

I pulled away and scooted farther into the long and deep wrap-around booth out of reach.

“What seems to be the problem?” asked the old man arriving next to the table. His entourage fanned out around it.

The scared-looking man (lackey) sounded like he had diarrhea of the mouth, so I explained.

Laughing, the old man said, “You boys have a good time,” and left us to the enormous booth.

Then, he and his entourage pulled tables and chairs together in the center of the room, displacing some adults.

As they crowded around a hastily made large table by clustering together smaller tables right in front of us, we sat back and ordered meals fit for kings. I sat at one end of the long booth, and Scott sat on the far end. You could have sat half a dozen adults on one side between us.

This was our day, and nobody was going to take it away.

Later, the old man was introduced as the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. My instinct was to boo, but I bit my tongue. We all knew how the Indians were mishandled, but I couldn’t help but appreciate his kindness toward us.

On the way out, Scott and I shared an elevator with a rising star named Pat Tabler. He had a giggling girl under each arm, making him a bigger hero than just a moment earlier, even though he didn’t notice us in the tight space we shared going down. 

Many years later, it was time to pass down the family tradition.

My daughter, Cara, was only four years old, and we were going to move from Cleveland to Cincinnati because of a job offer. Before we left, I wanted to take my little girl to experience the magic of Jacob’s Field.

We got on what Cara called “the train ride,” or the Rapid Transit, and settled into a seat facing backward. She liked that. I didn’t.

The man sitting in front of us had really big hair.

“Dad – look, that man has a comb stuck in his head.”

I saw the big hair shift, but it did not make a complete turn.

After that, we arrived, stood at the end of the line, and walked into the ballpark.

I didn’t give my kids a lot by modern standards, but I flat-out spoiled my daughter on that day. Program – yes. Hot dog – yes. Peanuts – yes. Cracker Jack – yes. After all this and three innings, Cara saw a man with a big tray of clouds on sticks, colors dancing in the light one section over. She followed him with her eyes. Finally, she asked about this strange sight. Now, her only mission in life was to try this thing called cotton candy.

Half an inning later, she was twisted backward, thumping my shoulder without looking, as she panted, “He’s coming, Dad. Dad, here he comes.”

I decided to make her earn this treat and said that she had to get his attention to come down to us, or she would be out of luck.

She asked how to do it, so I told her to yell, “Cotton Candy here!”

So she did! LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY.

Seeing how she handled the entire transaction herself, many in our section gave her a standing ovation.

Her head swelled.

I had to tilt my head back to contain the pooling water building up in my eyes.

When the game was over, we soaked in the experience for a while longer until we were among the last people in the stands.

“Dad, I love our team. Did they win?”

“I’ll always remember this day too, honey.”

And whether their name is Indians or Guardians, Cleveland will always be my tribe. 

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Peanut Clusters in Amish Country

This Amish Country staple is one of the tastiest stops you’ll find. I stumbled upon Coblentz Chocolate Company on a rainy travel day last week. Oh, I’ve heard rave reviews about it, so I popped in. And what a treat it was!

There was a viewing window to see the hand-made sweet concoctions on their way to my goodie bag. Known for fresh ingredients and premium chocolate, I tried to decide between Almond Bark, Cherry Cordials, Chocolate Caramels, and Peanut Clusters. Since the Peanut Clusters have reached legendary status over the 30+ years since Coblentz opened, I chose those … and MORE!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Mother Mohawk Sandwich

Taste the Legendary Mother Mohawk Sandwich at the
Old Mohawk Restaurant in German Village
 

Yah-yah, the true staple of the Old Mohawk Restaurant, is its famous Mohawk Turtle Soup, a tradition for more than 70 years, but it was the legendary Mother Mohawk Sandwich that I look forward to tasting again.

Heck, it was so good, I think it knew it because the sauce flashed me a smile! See the pic if you don’t believe me!

Anyway, this tasty bite is grilled roast beef and homemade chicken salad topped with Swiss cheese on marble rye bread served with a side of caraway horseradish sauce.

Old Mohawk’s historic building dates back to Prohibition when it, as legend has it, served as a Speakeasy. It’s even rumored that the original owner raised the turtles for the popular turtle soup in the basement of the building.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Our “All Ohio” Playground

This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

The creek was long, and on one side, it had rolling hills. Shaped like three sides of a square, we’d pick it up at a corner where our trail led. There was nothing but a mile or so of woods between our backyards and this “playground.”

One day, we followed the creek up around another of its bends. Next to the grocery store was the American Legion. This was the time of year they would have live fire shooting ranges – turkey shoots, I think they used to call them. I imagine if you missed the target, the round ended up in the woods. They weren’t shooting, so we didn’t have to get our feet muddy in the creek. The creek on this stretch had no hills, but its earthen walls were steep, camouflaged by bushes and saplings.

We decided to venture up to the grocery store. Men were at the dock unloading huge sides of beef. Out of the truck, they would slide one slab at a time down a cable attached to a hook. It would slam into the other slabs at the end of the tilted line. We sat on the concrete ledge and whooped it up when a good slam could be heard. We went nuts when meat parts flung off. The workers were grinning as they worked, letting us carry on.

When they were done, they took a break, so we slipped inside to see what happened next. The saw noise was deafening, so when a guy yelled at us, we only saw lips moving. We exited at the nearest door and were now inside the store by the meat department and a water fountain. We strategically hit an assortment of free sample tables and actually satisfied our hunger.

Eric suggested we play hide-and-seek. The game had never been this much fun. After a while, we decided on one more round. Then, we’d go back to our playground.

I found the perfect spot. It was the cereal section. I moved enough boxes to slide my little body behind an outer wall of cereal. Then, I pulled one box over to hide my face. I was so proud of my creativity. I knew I’d never be found.

About the time I was cramping and dozing off, I thought about ditching my spot to see what everyone else was up to. That’s when I heard someone closing in. They were onto me. They must have been. Box after box was being moved to see what was behind it, I presumed. My anxiety from the anticipation of being found was off the charts high.

That last box I placed in front of my face was moved. I looked out and saw the slacks of a lady. She was holding the box between us. It looked like she was reading the back of it because staring at me was Count Chocola. I held my breath and remained motionless. I don’t know when she sensed me, but when she did, she dropped the Count and screamed so damn loud I felt like bursting from my hideout and sprinting for the exit. But my body would not move.

I got a good scolding in the manager’s office, but before he was finished, someone came in and alerted him of more boys creating mischief.

He pointed at me and said, “Don’t you move!”

He disappeared, and so did I.

Cautiously, I walked out of the office, looked around, turned the corner, and strolled right out the front doors. Once I was in the parking lot, I sprinted around the far corner of the building into an open field, heading for the woods. I kicked into overdrive when my friends flew around the opposite corner of the building and into the field. Three men were in hot pursuit. We made a “V” toward each other and the creek.

We ran right up to the edge of the creek and jumped. We knew we couldn’t clear it, and that wasn’t what we had in mind. We splat into the far bank, righted ourselves, and splashed down the middle of the creek in the direction of the American Legion. The men weren’t far behind.  They drew closer quickly, running along the upper edge of the creek, peering down when their view wasn’t obstructed.

We stopped when they stopped.

Everyone took notice of the gunfire.

One of the men made a motion with his finger for us to come his way, thinking we were at a dead end, so to speak.

My friends and I looked at each other, smiled, and then bolted toward the gunfire …and to “safety.”

Later, we took to our playground again, this time emulating the veterans at the American Legion, BB guns in hand.

We had been in position for 30 minutes, firing BBs into a hornet nest.

It wasn’t just any hornets’ nest – it was the mother of all hornets’ nests! Our BBs seemed to have no effect. We shifted our strategy to the base, where it hung in the tree, but we were just too far. Granted, it was a safe position when calculating how far the hornets were seen buzzing around the nest. However, we needed to get closer since our target went from a huge gray mass to the base, where it clung to the tree branch.

Some of us dressed in green camouflage, others in white tee shirts, blue jeans, and ball caps. We low-crawled through the waist-high, light brown brush of the open field and found a new position much closer.

It was close enough to put the slingshot into action with more accuracy.

“Wow! Nice shot!” was the consensus as the hole was visible and the flurry of hornets thickened.

Twenty minutes later, several holes torn into the nest, we realized this could take all day to bring it down. We needed a bolder plan.

“Danny, run up closer and throw this at it.”

“Screw you!” was the reply.

“C’mon, man,” the peer pressure poured on until Danny, the youngest of our group, went home.

Down a man, we re-examined the pecking order.

“Don’t look at me; you go,” Joey said to Kevin.

“Heck no,” said Kevin.

“Wimps!” I yelled as I sprinted in an arch pattern at the nest with a chunk of shale and whipped it like skipping a rock. It missed.

“Crap, I think I got stung,” I said when my adrenaline level came back down as I returned to our position.

Like a dam giving way, the throbbing-stinging pain spread across my left hand. I tucked it into my gut, bending over.

“Who’s the wimp now,” said Eric.

Joey and Kevin laughed.

Meanwhile, I spotted what looked to be a section of a telephone pole on my loop back. We low crawled to it. Weird as it was; indeed, a small cut section of a telephone pole lay in the brush. It was the perfect size to get two of us on each side and have room to spare. Plus, it was light enough to …

“Ahh, that’ll be awesome!”

“Did you fall and crack your head or something,” they replied.

But when I really wanted to be persuasive, I could usually bring my friends around to do the most stupid of stunts.

So there we were, rushing at a mega hornets’ nest with what can only be described as a battering ram. We hit it solid, launching it straight into the ground, where all hell broke loose.

We scattered, running for our lives, running for our homes – more to the point, our moms – screaming bloody murder the entire way.

At first, I was okay, running through the field. I laughed heartily, seeing Joey fall, get up and cry his eyes out; he was getting stung so badly. Just when I thought I might have escaped unscathed, it felt like I was sprayed by tiny, potent bullets from a machine gun. From my fingers waving frantically in the air, across my outstretched arms to my head, neck, and shoulders, even down my back, butt, and legs, I went from thinking this prank was hysterical to being hysterical.

I stumbled through my back gate and fell to my knees, head cocked back, arms wide in the air like a scene from Platoon, except I was crying like there was no tomorrow, as my mom ran to me.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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World’s Largest Bobblehead

The World’s Largest Bobblehead is on a hill behind the Buckeye Express Diner at 810 State Route 97 in W. Bellville, Ohio. Watch closely; the head will bobble when the wind blows. The restored 35-foot-tall statue is named Chef Jacques. He spent half a century headless, toppled, and neglected after he first served at a location in nearby Mansfield. He has a close cousin, Handless Jacques, in Marblehead, Ohio. What’s with the severing of body parts for these cousins’ Jacques? 😉 Visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/ohio-roadside-attractions/ for more fun.

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A Toast to Ohio

A TOAST TO OHIO
I know I’ve been doing the OhioTraveler thing for a long time when I start seeing Ohio in my toast.
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The Ruins at Ariel-Foundation Park

Ariel-Foundation Park is a fascinating 250-acre park in Mount Vernon, Ohio, that blends industrial ruins with reflecting ponds and landscaped terraces. It makes for a wondrous walk through an eclectic scene of beauty and art mixed with a working town’s history and its ruins dating back to the industrial revolution.

This was formerly the site of the Pittsburg Plate Glass (PPG) manufacturing plant. The complex was one of the largest of its kind in the world. Now, it’s a wonder of Ohio, and it’s free to roam daily from April to November.

The Ruins include the 1900 Coxey Building, an adjoining clay storage building, the 1945 carpenter shop, the 1951 smokestack, an event center, three stair/elevator towers, and the clock house. The PPG ruins spread across a vast grassland of rolling hills so visitors may appreciate the large-scale glassworks operation of Yesteryear. Its preservation and enhancements together pay homage to the town’s industrial legacy.

These ruins are an Americana complex of preserved and modified structures. Among them are the vestiges of the late 19th century Coxey Building pylons. A plaque, plenty describes the sites, and claims that historians report that the structural steel that sat atop the brick pylons was salvaged from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. That repurposed steel found re-use once again over 125 years later. This time, it was used to create sculptures within Ariel-Foundation Park.

There are stunning landforms that surround visitors at Ariel-Foundation Park. They are reminiscent of the ancient burial mound-building traditions of the Adena and Hopewell cultures, who once populated the ancient Central Ohio landscape. That said, the purpose of these terraced mounds is to create sweeping vistas that invite visitors to enjoy an assent to their summits.

Another plaque on-site explains that the contemporary inspiration for The Terraces in the park comes from the work of American landscape architect Charles Jencks. His works are located principally in the British Isles and are monumental in scale, measuring 1,200 feet wide by 100 feet tall with miles of walkways. Ridge trusses salvaged in 1893 from the World’s Columbian Exhibition and in 2013 from the Coxey Building stand guard in a canyon formed by the terraces. Climb to the summit of the park’s highest terrace to experience a dramatic view of the reflecting pools, ruins, terraces, and sculptures crafted of steel salvaged from the historic PPG Glassworks.

No doubt, the most interesting and captivating feature of the park is its surviving 280 feet high chimney. It served PPG from 1951 to the time of the plant’s shuttering in 1976. It was constructed of reinforced concrete by the slip form method. To preserve it as part of The Ruins, it was transformed into an observation tower. The tower is free to climb its 224 steps to the observation deck at 140 feet high. But the tower stands 280 feet high. It’s all open grate, so every step is like climbing the sky. At the top, the view is breathtaking…in more ways than one. This historic chimney is the highest structure in Knox County, Ohio.

Meander every nook and cranny of the park’s ruins and beyond. There are so many angles of view that create “wow” after “wow.” After venturing through the labyrinth of ruins and climbing the vantage points at each end for vast views, cut through the tree line and find hiking trails, lakes, and even a little island to wander, paddle, and picnic. The park also offers pavilions for groups and plenty of grassy areas for Frisbee tossing and kite flying.

Learn more about this fascinating newer Ohio park at https://www.arielfoundationpark.org/.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Cookies, Brownies, And A Runaway

Ah, the early trips! Those first couple of times, I could feel freedom and adventure leaving home without Mom and Dad.

On my first trip, I was sandbox-age. My buddy Eric joined me. It would be a sign of the times ahead of us as we explored the boundaries of independence and our knack for mischief.

It was an early summer morning, and we wanted cookies, but my mom said, “No.”

I knew of another friend, Kyle, down the street, and his mom always had a full cookie jar in her kitchen. So, Eric and I were off to get our fix even though I knew Kyle was at his dad’s for the weekend.

I guess you could say it was our first foodie outing.

The house was locked, and nobody was awake, so we did the natural thing … and slid through the doggy door. We were little tykes, so we staggered the kitchen counter drawers to use as climbing steps.

I was on the counter, hand in the cookie jar, when Ms. E. appeared as a silhouette down the hall leading to the kitchen, “Rocky, is that you?”

My middle name is Rocco. I was named after a saint.

Ms. E. rubbed her eyes in utter disbelief as if she were still dreaming.

The next thing she saw was two tiny butts simultaneously squeezing through that doggy door.

Minutes later, my mom stepped outside to see us in my sandbox and asked, dumbfounded, “Were you in Ms. E’s house just now?”

Tasting chocolate chip on the corner of my mouth, I licked it and said, “No.”

There would be some time I had to chore off before I would get a taste of freedom again.

Three houses down, that was the length of my leash – on a bicycle. Coincidentally, my turnaround spot was in front of Ms. E’s house.

I was a beginner and loved the freedom my new wheels gave me. Our street didn’t have sidewalks, at least not down by my house. Still, it was safe. Sort of. I guess.

The third house was approaching. I was on the edge of the road traveling opposite traffic, just like I was not supposed to do. A car came behind me as I turned into the middle of the road. I was startled when the driver beeped at me. Not a hello beep but an angry one.

Back home, I came to a stop against the side steps. This was the only way I could end a bike ride without crashing. We had a long blacktop driveway. Mom was outside, and I was about to go in for a glass of water when a police car pulled all the way up to the house. This was an incredible sight for me. The officer spoke with my mom, and I didn’t quite understand what it was all about. Finally, he approached me. Mom just stood off to the side.

Mesmerized by the uniform, holster, and all, I didn’t pay one bit of attention to a word he said. But I caught the gist. It was a lecture about bicycling safety. I was intimidated, to say the least. In my mind, when you do something wrong, and the police come, there’s but one conclusion – jail!

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I squeaked out.

The officer paused, looked at my mom, and she said to be quick.

I was quick, all right. I sprinted to my bedroom, grabbed underwear, a shirt, and my favorite stuffed animal (a monkey holding a banana), and then found a towel in the bathroom to wrap it all up. I only had cartoons and kids’ shows as a guide, so in lieu of a stick to tie it to, I improvised and used a yardstick. I slipped out another door and headed for the woods.

My mom saw me.

“What are you doing? Where are you going?”

When I stopped and turned, the yardstick snapped, and my sack flung to the ground.

At this sight, my mom and the officer seemed to burst out something but quickly contained it.

Now I really did have to use the bathroom.

Instead, I had to listen to the rest of the safety lecture and then got the bonus lecture on running away. It all seemed so threatening to me.

As the black and white pulled out of the driveway, I remember being very surprised that I wasn’t in cuffs in the backseat.

After my bust, I felt on the lam, always looking over my shoulder.

Okay, one more for the foodie crowd.

I looked up from my chair, which was attached to my desk, and wondered if I had heard my teacher correctly.

Yep! She said it again – “…brownies!”

I put my pencil down from doodling on the desktop and refocused on the classroom.

“…So if you want to stay after school tomorrow for brownies, you’ll need a note from your parents,” she concluded at the bell.

When I got home, I promptly remembered to relay the information to my mom. She didn’t bat an eye, wrote a quick note, and tucked it inside my folder for tomorrow.

At the end of the next day, my mouth was watering. I gazed at the clock three times, and all three times, the long minute hand didn’t budge. One minute to go, and it seemed to take an hour.

Then, finally, brownie time!

“If you’re staying after for brownies, line up here,” my teacher directed.

Bam! I was second in line, eagerly waiting to satisfy my sweet tooth. My focus slowly turned foggy as background noise penetrated my one-track mind. It was laughter.

“Rocky wants to join the Brownies, Rocky wants to join the Brownies …” was the chant gaining volume around me.

I looked around. I was the only boy in line. My teacher looked at me with an expression of …unease.

“Rocky, boys can’t join the Brownies. Brownies are Girl Scouts.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Centerburg: The Center of Ohio

 

Welcome to Centerburg,
the geographical center of Ohio 

In case you were wondering, the geographical center of Ohio is in the town…. wait for it …Centerburg!

And if you ever wondered what happened to the old Ohio slogan, “The Heart of it All,” it was relocated to this small town in Knox County. Well, technically, their slogan is “The Heart of Ohio.”

One day, I was going from point A to point B and happened to pass these signs. Of course, I had to pull over and take some pics to share this unexpected roadside discovery.

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Futuro Ohio UFO House

Ohio’s Futuro House is also known as the UFO House, The Flying Saucer House, The Mating Flying Saucers House, and even the Martian House. This Ohio roadside gem is at the corner of Highway 123 and Chamberlain Road in Carlisle, Ohio. Click here to map your directions.  This style of house is a prefabricated home design dating to the late 1960s by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. Now, I’m curious, do the homeowners also prefer Dippin Dots – The Ice Cream of the Future? By the way, the “ice cream of the future” was first tasted back in 1988. Who knows, with a Flux Capacitor, this spacecraft turned home just might travel “Back to the Future” when space dot ice cream was out of this world. For more information about Futuro Houses, click here.

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Color Me Orello

In its heyday, Packard was a household name even though most households couldn’t afford one.

The American Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio, features a 1934 Super Eight Sport Phaeton, made special for the New York Auto Show that year. Its color, Orello, was a unique blend of orange and yellow, although this color wasn’t in the Packard catalog. Its price tag was more than $3,000 when the average new automobile only cost $700. The cost was double the average annual salary and half that of a new house. The story behind this particular car on display is that wealthy parents gifted it to their sweet 16-year-old daughter. She hated the color.

The museum is in a former Packard dealership that opened in 1917. The Orello gift car is featured on the historic showroom floor.

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The Giants of Seville

Formerly Ohio’s Biggest Entertainment Couple

She stood just one inch shy of eight feet tall! He was two inches shorter. But he outweighed her 470 pounds to 413. They met on the circus circuit traveling Europe in the early 1870s. The “Giantess Girl from Nova Scotia” was Anna Haining Swan. The “Kentucky Giant” was Captain Martin Van Buren Bates. After they married, P.T. Barnum billed them as “The Tallest Married Couple on Earth.” Years later, the history books would recall them as “Barnum’s Famous Circus Giants.”

They later moved to Seville, Ohio, and built a house for giants. The doors were eight feet tall, and the ceilings were 14 feet high. Soon, their giant house and 130-acre farm ran up bills so they joined up with The W.W. Coles Circus to make ends meet.

They had a second child after their first died at birth. This one only lived 11 hours but his birth length of 30 inches long and weight of 23 ¾ pounds earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. On a side note, when Anna was born, her mom only stood 5 feet 2 inches!

All three giants are buried in Seville at the Mound Hill Cemetery.

A replica of “The Tallest Married Couple on Earth” is in the living room at the Seville Historical Society surrounded by memorabilia from their famed days wowing onlookers at shows across the globe.

Click here to learn about other “Discoveries at the Museum”. “Discoveries at the Museum” highlights exhibits that museum visitors may brush past without knowing the profound story they tell. Here, we want to call attention to the museum pieces around Ohio that may be overlooked but shouldn’t. Although, the Giants of Seville can hardly be overlooked!

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Mt Adams Bar & Grill

Mt Adams Bar & Grill in Cincinnati
was the first drinking establishment in Ohio
to obtain a liquor license post Prohibition

Let me tell you about the historic Mt Adams Bar & Grill in photos, the back of the menu, a couple of selections from the menu, and a plaque on the brick wall outside.

The Back of the Menu 

“The Mt Adams Bar & Grill backbar reputedly came out of a speakeasy owned by the infamous Cincinnati bootlegger, George Remus. Speakeasys were illegal bars operated during the Prohibition of alcohol decreed in 1919 by the 18th Amendment to our Constitution. Remus, a Chicago criminal attorney, moved to Cincinnati and bought a distillery to produce legally bonded whiskey for medicinal purposes by prescription only. Not surprisingly, a great of Remus’ whiskey found its way into speakeasys. At the height of his success, he employed 3,000 people and $20,000,000 in bribes to local police and officials. His success brought him $45,000,000 in profits and the unwelcome attention of federal agents. Scheduled for trial, he gave his diamond collection to his wife. For unknown reasons, she promptly filed for divorce, but in a diabolical twist, just two hours before the trial was scheduled to begin, Remus tracked her down in Eden Park and killed her. He pled guilty due to insanity, spent three months in a state mental hospital, afterwhich he was found sane and released.

Prohibition was repealed in 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment and the Bar & Grill in it’s present location was the first drinking establishment in Ohio to obtain a liquor license.” 

A Plaque on the Brick Wall Outside

“When Prohibition ended, Mt. Adams Bar served the second drink in Cincinnati at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 6, 1933 to the Mayor of the Queen City, Russell Wilson.”

A Couple of Selections from the Menu

OMG, try this appetizer: Fried Jalapeno Ravioli. It’s to die for!

“It’s a ravioli filled with chopped jalapeno peppers and ricotta cheese. Fried to a golden brown and served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.”

And for a sandwich, try the Southwestern Chicken. “It’s fresh chicken breast marinated in their special sauce and grilled to perfection. Topped with sour cream, green taco sauce, pepper jack cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise, and served on a grilled buttercrust bread.” 

A trip here will also whet your appetite for culture and history. Mt. Adams is a legendary Cincinnati neighborhood built on a steep hillside. Much of it was once part of the Nicholas Longworth Vineyard, which developed the Catawba grape from which America’s first champagne was produced. Also rooted in Mt. Adams’ story are the world-renown Rookwood Pottery and the first public observatory in the western hemisphere—Cincinnati Observatory.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Ohio’s Mystery Rocks

Forgive me, but I must start by sharing a song I couldn’t stop singing to my wife’s embarrassment as we hiked, searching for spherical geological wonders. It goes like this…

“I believe in sphericals
Where you from,
You sexy thing.”

*miracles

As in the song, You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate

The optimism from the funky ‘70s song must have put good mojo into the universe because we went from disappointment to a garden of perfectly rounded stones.

Anyway, these miracle/spherical rocks look like they could be dinosaur eggs. Some mistake them for cannonballs or meteorites. Others imagine stone-chiseled Death Stars crashing into Earth.

But these mystery rocks are over 300 million years in the making.

What caused these geologic irregularities to take on such spherical forms, often in perfect balls (“Where you from, you sexy thing”)?

Like an egg, the peculiar rocks had an organic nucleus. Nobody is certain, but the prevailing theory is this. When sea creatures (preceding dinosaurs, by the way) from the Devonian Period died, they had sunk to the seafloor. At the time, Ohio was covered by the sea. Minerals cemented to it layer after layer filling in the porous surface. The forming rock may have slowly rolled from time to time along the ocean floor, smoothing it as it grew, becoming what is now termed – concretion.

When Ohio shale beds erode, concretions protrude from cliffsides and creek beds. These phenomena are in scenic clusters at Highbanks Metro Park just north of Columbus. Imagine the layers of shale as pages of a book. Then imagine placing a rock in the middle of the book and compressing it. The pages warp around the rock. This is how the eroding shale beds look when a concretion surfaces again. The contrast is astounding. Such geological time capsules may or may not have a fossil at the center. Usually, anything organic at the core likely dissolved, leaving a void.

Explore Dripping Rock Trail from the nature center at 9466 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center, Ohio. The hike ascends high cliffs. Follow the woodpecker trail markers for a time. When the trail comes to a “T,” go left over a footbridge. A map there shows a dotted hiking trail to pick up on the other side of the bridge. The hiking trail isn’t marked, so trust where you may see evidence of a dirt trailhead that’ll snake back to hug the creek bed. Follow the creek until concretions make themselves known. If the water is high, many of them may remain hidden.

Enjoy the hunt for Ohio’s mystery stones. Or enjoy this song by Hot Chocolate.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!

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First Black Sports Superstar

Anyone can remember the first time that they rode a bicycle independently, and with that memory, the freedom they felt running through their hair.

Black Americans felt the liberating feeling on a bike like no other in the late 1890s – the golden age of bicycles.

But nobody rode a bicycle like Marshall Taylor. Over 120 years later, Taylor is still recognized as the earliest and most extraordinary pioneering black athlete in American sports history.

Taylor was so fast on a bicycle that his nicknames included “The Ebony Wonder,” “Whirlwind,” and “Black Cyclone.” And a time when black Americans felt liberated riding them.

Bicycle advancements made racing them the thing to do.

Taylor rode like the wind, making him the target of bigoted competition. Flimsy excuses were used to ban him from races. But he never let racism or death threats stop him. His first professional race was at Madison Square Garden, where his motivation outpaced all others to the point that he lapped the entire field.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, cycling was the most popular sport in the world. And with that, Taylor proceeded to become a world champion and the first black sports superstar in American history.

Several years later, today’s pinnacle of bicycle racing – the Tour de France – began in 1904.

Taylor’s story and others are preserved at The Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio.

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Airstream Treehouse

Spend a night
in a Luxury Treehouse that
houses an Airstream 25 feet in the air!

The Mohicans Treehouse Resort and Wedding Venue features the popular Airstream Treehouse with a new Airstream cabin on the way. In addition, updates are being made to the world-famous Little Red Treehouse over the next year. A new project is the glamping tent treehouse. In addition, they offer ground cabins and country homes.

The Silver Bullet Treehouse is a treetop cabin made from a 31-ft classic 1978 Airstream trailer perched 25 feet off the ground. Equipped with black walnut flooring, some barn siding walls, indoor and outdoor showers, skylights, and a sauna, it mixes the old with the new by blending vintage barn materials with the aluminum details of this iconic aerodynamic trailer.

The Mohicans Treehouse Resort is owned and operated by husband & wife team Kevin and Laura Mooney. It is one of the nation’s largest treehouse villages offering stunning rustic-chic cabins and treehouses – three of which were designed by the guys from Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters, including The Little Red Treehouse, which was featured on the show and was originally built by Nelson’s team as a brewery and tasting center before it was converted into a treehouse.

The Mohicans sits on 75 private acres of uninterrupted natural landscape overlooking the Mohican River Valley. Today, you will find seven finished treehouses and four ground-level cabins named after rivers from the local area (The Mohican, The Killbuck, The Walhonding, and The Kokosing). The three newest treehouses include El Castillo (a 2-level honeymoon suite), The View (floor-to-ceiling windows), and The Silver Bullet. The resort opened its doors in 2011 with a few cabins and Mooney’s long-term goal to become one of the nation’s most exclusive eco-resorts with up to 20 treehouses.

Sustainable design concepts are incorporated into the properties of The Mohicans Treehouse Resort, including passive solar design, radiant heat, on-demand hot water, reused and repurposed materials (100-year-old barn siding, hand-hewn barn beams, windows, doors, ladders, sliding barn doors, and cabinets).

Click here to plan your stay.

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The Plier Tree at the Warther Museum

Photo by Ernest Warther Museum

When Ernest “Mooney” Warther, the world’s master carver, was just a boy, a stranger whittled him a pair of working wooden pliers by making just ten cuts in a single block of wood. Mooney was fascinated and he would take this concept to staggering extremes, which culminated in The Plier Tree. The Plier Tree consists of 511 pairs of pliers all cut from a single block of wood. It took Mooney just around 8 weeks to complete, making 31,000 flawless cuts. The work was so intense, he only could work on it two hours a day. Mooney took his Plier Tree to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 where he met Robert Ripley who just could not believe the tree would fold back up! The two men sat down and for two hours, closed each pair of pliers until Mr. Ripley saw that it came from one single block of wood (and it took them two more hours to open it back up—which is why it stays open permanently at the museum). The tree is a mathematical highlight and it represents (and has been featured in textbooks) exponential function. ​

Click here to plan a visit to
Ernest Warther Museum & Gardens
.

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Bridge to Nowhere at Hillandale Park

Admission to the bridge to nowhere (Hillandale Bridge) in Euclid, Ohio, is Free.

  • Open: Daily from dawn to dusk
  • Location: (Map It) 27598 Tremaine Drive at Hillandale Park in Euclid, Ohio
  • PLAY VIDEO

The Bridge to Nowhere is open daily from dawn to dusk at 27598 Tremaine Drive at Hillandale Park in Euclid, Ohio.

It’s over 90 years old.

No expense was spared when constructing this bridge. It even has an elaborate “S” curve. No streets are leading to either side of the bridge, so no cars have ever crossed it that anyone knows of.

It was meant to be a part of a subdivision planned during the 1920s. But the completion of the project failed when the market crash of 1929 began the Great Depression.

Today, it sits in the middle of the woods as part of the trails in Hillandale Park. Use caution when crossing it. After nearly a century of decay, there are holes through its surface to the valley floor. There is also a guard rail missing.

It’s definitely a peculiar site.

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It’s Tom & Jerry Time!

It is a yummy, warm Wapakoneta holiday tradition that dates back about 130 years. Welcome to the Alpha Café, where the Tom and Jerry cocktail is served in a coffee mug. It’s warm, contains alcohol, and is also sweet, frothy, and has just the right touch of holiday spice. Click here to plan a visit to this historic establishment.

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Mt. Adams Steps

The Pilgrimages to the “Church of the Steps”
at Holy Cross Immaculata Church
of Cincinnati’s Mt. Adams Neighborhood

The famous steps of Mt. Adams have a powerful lure for locals and internationally. What started as a Catholic tradition now includes the faithful the world over. Praying the steps for Easter is now a year-round practice for many. Take a step, put a new bead of the Rosary between your finger and thumb, and repeat. Or say your own set of prayers, adding a new one for each new step. Some just come to meditate on each step as they take an inward journey of their own. Eighty-five prayers later is the summit of the steep climb and the base of the Roman Catholic Immaculata Church, its steeple stretching skyward. Turn around, and a sprawling heavenly view reveals the skyline and majestic river of the “Queen City” – Cincinnati – in an eye-popping panoramic scene from high above.

A lady from Seattle was in town taking care of a friend’s dog while they traveled. She stopped to chat and offered insight into some of her favorite overlooks and other breathtaking views that Mt. Adams provides. She beamed a smile as if she were the city’s unofficial ambassador, even if for a short time.

Mt. Adams Steps at Holy Cross Immaculata Church have been a celebrated place of worship for more than 160 years. Since 1860, it has been the site of the annual Good Friday Pilgrimage, where the devout say prayers on each step to the summit. The “Church of the Steps” was built in 1859. The church and steps are near the corner of Pavilion Street and Guido Street. Click here to map your way to 30 Guido St. in Cincinnati’s Mt. Adams.

At the top of the steps, against the church, a plaque reveals the history: The “Church of the Steps” (Immaculata), built in 1859, was constructed from stone quarried from the slopes of Mt. Adams. Early it was known as the “Archbishop’s Church” in honor of Archbishop Purcell (1800 – 1883), who donated the land and supervised construction. It was conceived as a votive offering for his safety at sea during one of his many journeys to Europe. Since 1860, it has been the site of the annual Good Friday Pilgrimage, where the devout say prayers on each step to the summit. Originally the parish served the German-speaking Catholics of Mt. Adams. In 1970 it was consolidated with nearby Holy Cross Parish and is now known as Holy Cross Immaculata Church.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Ready. Aim. Coshocton.

Hunters across the United States recognize Coshocton County, Ohio, as the place for game. It’s often ranked as the top county in Ohio for deer kills and is consistently ranked in the top three. But it’s really open season year-round for a variety of prey.

Hunting animals is what put man atop the food chain. It was essential to his evolution. Meat-eating supercharged human brain activity by giving it the calories needed to advance. Man’s brain uses far more energy than any other muscle in the body. Once this incredible energy source was introduced to his diet, man surged ahead of all living creatures on Earth. Today, man still has an incentive to hunt that dates back over two million years – food.

“In my family, we don’t kill it unless we are going to eat it,” said Scott Hosier, an avid hunter, and fisherman.  …Click Here Read More…

Click here to read the rest of the story

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Cornering Ohio’s Coziest Theatre

Ohio’s coziest theatre sits at the corner of Broadway and Jackson Street in Grove City.

This little gem of a theatre seats a whopping 92 people! Cozy, personable, quaint, adorable, historic, intimate, and other words have been used to describe the Little Theatre Off Broadway in the heart of Grove City — a jewel of small town Americana just south of Columbus. Oh, and the productions by all accounts are simply fantastic. Every seat is up-close and personal. Get tickets while they last. After all, space is limited. 😉
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Ohio With A Side of Christian Rock

Ohio with a Side of Christian Rock’s
We Are Messengers

So, I let this gentleman go ahead of us at Adesso Coffee. In turn, he bought our coffee with a God bless. 🙌

His name is Antjuan. His Christian rock band, We Are Messengers, performed later that night in Mason, Ohio.

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Hamilton – The City of Sculpture

Walk “The City of Sculpture” – Hamilton, Ohio!

There are over 40 sculptures, many in candid settings such as a couple reading under a tree, a father teaching his daughter to ride a bike, and a boy walking down a sidewalk playing the harmonica with his loyal dog in tow. Along the way, enjoy a few tasty cafes and novelty shops.

Click here for a map for the sculptures walking tour. There’s also a nearby sculpture park with 60 more sculptures nestled in nature and gardens at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.

Explore the wonderful shopping opportunities downtown and across the river in a revitalized boutique shopping district. Throughout, there are great eateries dotting the sidewalks. Some favorites are True West Coffee (great sandwiches) in a two-story coffee shop on the west side of the river at 313 Main Street. Look for the sculpture of a man and umbrella being rained on. Across the street is delicious ice cream at The Village Parlor. In the heart of downtown are two popular eateries. Alexander’s Market & Deli is where the locals flock for lunch. And just down the sidewalk, you can eat and shop for interesting items at High Street Café.

To learn a fascinating story, venture to the southeast quadrant of 3rd Street and Sycamore. For geo-explorers, coordinates are N: 39° 23.711 and W: 084° 33.699. There lies the Father of Hollow Earth Theory on a most peculiar gravesite.

Hamilton, the City of Sculptures (and murals, too), is a great place to walk, shop, and eat a day away.

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Ohio’s 200-Year-Old Lighthouse

Climb the 77 steps to the top

The oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes has been shining its light for 200 years to guide sailors past the rocky shores of Ohio’s Marblehead Peninsula.

Although folks may climb to the top of the Marblehead Lighthouse (and visit the museum) from Memorial Day to Labor Day, it is still a treat to see during the off-season. Marblehead Lighthouse State Park is a perfect setting for a lakeshore picnic, lounging in the grass, or walking the grounds. Come, read a book, skip some stones, and take wonderful photos at this Lake Erie gem.

The Marblehead Lighthouse is located at 110 Lighthouse Drive in Marblehead, Ohio (Map It). The grounds are open daily. Click here for more information.

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Trails By Kathy

Avon Lake’s Best-kept Secret

A retired lady named Kathy traveled from Avon Lake, Ohio halfway across the country to save a dog from Texas that was scheduled to be destroyed. When she met up with an activist in a rest area somewhere in between, what she saw was the utmost neglect. The grown dog was depressed, riddled with fleas, mites, you name it. She called her veterinarian after hours en route home. This wasn’t the first such cross-country rescue for Kathy. So, the vet said she’ll meet her. It took two days to clean the pooch, and Kathy’s car, for the dog’s short trip to his forever home – Kathy’s place.

She named him, not knowing there was a Pink Floyd connection.

Side note: Kathy, before retirement, had her reservation messed up at a hotel in Cleveland during a real estate conference. The hotel had an entire floor off limits with a private key for the legendary band Pink Floyd. The band and hotel allowed Kathy to stay in a room on that floor. She would later say that she never met this man named Pink Floyd, but she enjoyed her morning chats with “a really nice fella named David.”

Kathy had many stories from her trailblazing past: kicked out of Catholic school for pranks in the 1950s, apron-to-punch card mother in the 1970s, a victim of sexism in the workplace, and then all-star realtor and manager. She was also a popular catechism teacher for high school students, but her teaching style to connect with them made the head nun have to talk to her from time to time. But through all her trailblazing, she was about to embark on the real thing.

When she drove her new dog to a nearby park in Avon Lake, she was excited to walk the dog trail someone had told her about. When the spry Kathy in her late 70s completed the walk, neither she nor her dog was satisfied, so they walked it again.

Kathy thought to herself, this will not do.

She later returned with her dog and yard tools. And went to work. She began clearing a new trail. But it ran into a middle-aged man’s secret binge drinking post. When Kathy completed her trail extension and marked it with a wooden homemade sign that read, “Trail by Kathy,” and an orange paw print to mark the way, a bit of a war broke out between her and the beer can litterer. He would leave his empties piled up at her marker and break the sign into pieces.

He didn’t know whom he was dealing with.

Kathy rebuilt what was destroyed and added to her quest to make more trails. More wood signs marked each trail: Pooch Path, Canine Crossing, Bow Wow Bend, Doggy Detour, etc. So, this cycle of trails by Kathy being met with piles of beer cans and some unmentionable protest by the beer guy went on for over a year. But in that time, Kathy would hear firsthand from many dog walkers that they loved whoever this “Kathy” was for making trails they loved to walk with their best friends. Within the next year, Kathy went from being anonymous to being known and loved as she was found adding a new loop trail here or a connection there.

One day, she looked across a ravine and thought, we need a bridge here. So, she had the lumber company deliver a load of precut wood to her measurements at the park’s parking lot. At 76 years old and with osteoporosis, she hauled 16-foot timbers to the ravine which is no short jaunt. And after watching a YouTube video, she built a bridge to start a new trail on the other side. She tumbled into the ravine once, knocking herself unconscious. Her dog guarded her until she opened her eyes. She called her grown kids in her fun, uplifting humor to say she almost died. After that, her daughter added a tracker to her phone as a precaution since she was so outgoing and often threw caution to the wind.

Side note: She started a senior biking club a couple of years earlier. At one time or another, each of the seven members ended up in the hospital after taking spills on the pavement.

One of her appreciative dog-walking friends – she has made dozens of them by now – said he was walking Kathy’s outer trail when something shocking caught his attention, and his head snapped up with jaw wide open. He blurted out, “She built a #$&%! BRIDGE!”

When Kathy took her dog Koda-Maria for a walk to the trailhead she had started on the other side of the bridge, she came upon the head city park engineer, a park worker, and another dog walker.

As she neared, she overheard the dog-walker exclaim, “Oh Kathy won’t like this. She won’t like this at all.”

When Kathy joined the conversation, the park people discovered that she was THE Kathy. But to Kathy’s surprise, they said they were very impressed with her sturdy well-constructed bridge. But they are going to bring a backhoe in to create a land bridge wide enough for a dog and person to walk side-by-side. And that they’d stack her wood if she wanted it.

Kathy said to the engineer, “This is a good thing because I was thinking in just a few years, I’ll be over 80 years old, and I may not be able to redo the bridge once it starts to decay.”

When Kathy came back another day to check on the progress, she noticed that her new trail work on the far side was blocked by a pile of dirt. She asked the engineer if it could be cleared. And when she returned the next day, she was amazed at the nice job they did to make her trailhead even nicer.

But what really caught the trailblazing Kathy off guard was an official street sign that marked the spot, “Kathy’s Bridge.”

This tribute melted her heart. She and the engineer and other park workers have become very friendly. She is charmed that they ask her opinion about things when they catch each other out on the trails.

Today, word of the “Trails by Kathy” is spreading. Delighted dog walkers have made it a local thing to post photos of them and their pooch at the sign, “Kathy’s Bridge.”

I wanted to publish this story much earlier but waited for other media to do it first. You see, Kathy is my beloved mom. And she lives to quietly make the world a better place, even if she creates a bit of “good trouble” along the way.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Alms Park

Sometimes you just need to stop the world and take a break.

Whether it’s for an amazing view to sort your thoughts, a quiet place to read a book, or the perfect park bench to chat with a friend, Alms Park in Cincinnati is that kind of soul-searching place.

Perch yourself high atop a hill at an overlook with a clear view of a large bend in the Ohio River, surrounded by foliage, and lose track of time. Watch airplanes from a nearby airport rise to the clouds. Take a stroll through the gorgeous architecture of the pavilion.

There are hiking trails (leashed dogs are permitted), paved walkways, benches, restrooms, vast natural areas, and a playground. Hours are dusk to dawn at 710 Tusculum Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Handless Jacques Got New Hands

At the corner of Ohio State Route 163 and Harbor Cove, look closely at the nearly 30-foot Maître d’ of Marblehead, formerly known as Handless Jacques, but he recently received new large hands. He was initially located in Marion, Ohio, where he used to stand in front of a sandwich shop. Stop by 6020 E Harbor Rd. in Marblehead, Ohio, to shake his new hands. His cousin, Chef Jacques, is in Bellville, Ohio, and is said to be the World’s Largest Bobblehead.

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Painted Ladies of Cincinnati

The Painted Ladies of Cincinnati are Ohio’s version of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies.

These Queen City historic Victorian homes are located at the corner of Tusculum Avenue and Sachem Avenue in Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhood of Columbia Tusculum, which dates to the 1700s.

For more “Cornering Ohio” sharing the best street corners in Ohio Tourism, click here.

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Portsmouth Flood Wall Murals

The Portsmouth, Ohio Flood Wall Murals Project is one of the largest in the world stretching about 20 feet high and 2,000 feet long between Front Street and the Ohio River. Renowned mural painter Robert Dafford. His works, including the Portsmouth murals, create a 3-D illusion. The painting of the floodwalls lasted a decade, reaching completion in 2002. It has ever since been a great Ohio tourist attraction. The murals are a walk thru the Portsmouth area’s history from the time of Native Americans living on the banks of The Ohio River to the modern era. The floodwalls were erected after the Ohio River invaded the town in 1937, wreaking havoc. The gorgeous murals were painted soon after to replace what was a beautiful river view from the Historic Boneyfiddle District. The murals number more than 50! It’s a great walking tour or drive-by. Work up an appetite for the delicious eateries a stone’s throw away. Click here for more area attractions.

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Ohio’s Legendary Zeppelin Crash

The Wreck of the USS Shenandoah

Commander Zachariah Lansdowne was a cornerstone in Ohio’s reputation as first in flight. But his name is perhaps not remembered as much as Armstrong, Glenn, and the Wright Brothers.

Unfortunately, this national hero was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in September 1925 just weeks after a fiery crash in Ava, Ohio killed him and 13 other crewmen aboard the zeppelin airship USS Shenandoah on September 3, 1925. It was 12 years before the Hindenburg disaster.

The Shenandoah was the first large airship built in the U.S.  It was the first to be inflated with helium instead of explosive hydrogen. And it was the first rigid airship to serve as a commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy. It launched on August 20, 1923. It was fabricated at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, PA, and assembled in Lakehurst, NJ. The Shenandoah measured 680 feet long and 93 feet high.

Zachary Lansdowne was a Greenville, Ohio native. Under his command, that fateful last flight of the Shenandoah was met with a severe thunderstorm sending it violently to the ground near Ava, Ohio. There’s a memorial monument there today complete with a miniature replica of the airship. Zachary Lansdowne was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

There are several sites in Greenville, Ohio that memorialize Lansdowne and the Shenandoah. A display telling their story is at the Garst Museum. A mural is on a brick wall facing Annie Oakley Park at the end of S. Broadway Ave. The commander’s birthplace home is still in town at 338 E. 3rd St. It’s a standout in the neighborhood and has several signs and plaques on the house and in the yard that read The Lansdowne House. And at the Greenville Episcopal Church, the Lansdowne family pew is marked with a plaque.

So is the short story of Ohio’s forgotten cornerstone of its illustrious history in flight. But in the words of that Time Magazine cover story, “Hereafter the name of Lansdowne will be the rhythm for a proud measure in the epic of the skies.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Chasing Pavements

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

The evening was ripe with life and laughter strolling the pavements of an outdoor marketplace. Evening diners with spirits and appetizers chattered. Beyond their reach, a twenty-dollar bill appeared. A college-age kid with his girl was stunned by the sight. He pointed for her attention before swooping down to seize the unexpected bounty. Just as he did so, the wind moved it just beyond his grasp. He quickly adjusted and went for it again.

Damn, wind. It skirted the cement top just out of reach again.

By now, every patio patron and passerby had taken intermission to their life course to watch this peculiarity unfolding. The young man, who may have been used to being a spectacle in a positive sense, drew unwanted attention. He went into athlete mode so as not to be defeated. Coming up empty-handed was no longer an option. This trophy would be his for all to see. And just as he attacked the bill, his girl tugged at his shirt a bit too late as she caught on.

The bill moved, and the young man moved with it. Both scampered the pavement to the howling laughter of, well, everyone but him. His girl giggled, too. The bill kept moving until it climbed into the lap of an old-timer reeling it in on an invisible string.

The young man met eyes with the old man and realized he was had. They both shared in the laughter that infected the scene. The younger guy shook a naughty finger at the old guy. The old guy returned with a wink.

As the young couple walked off, the crowd applauded, and his girl kissed his cheek and nestled her head into the crook of his neck.

Life was good.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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Olympic Torch in Ohio

Vintage Ohio Photo Circa 1984

OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY COMES THRU OHIO
crossing the United States to the Los Angeles summer games, where Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton would become household names. The photo was taken on Lake Road in Avon Lake, Ohio (the houses in the background have since been replaced by mega-mansions along the shore). The photographer was the OhioTraveler at 15-years-old (he still had a ways to go). 😉
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Vintage Ohio Postcards

I was in #Greenville, #Ohio yesterday to visit a friend who shared his postcard collection of the town and Darke County with me at The Coffee Pot …Now I’m sharing some with you because, well, just because…
And yes, they used to race ostriches at The Great Darke County Fair.
And yes, there used to be a streetcar service from Greenville to #Dayton, so I’m told.
The other two #postcards are a play on the word Dark(e) as in #DarkeCounty.
Visit
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Meatballs with Lingonberries

Munching on some IKEA meatballs in their cafeteria (having nostalgic thoughts of the K-mart cafeteria growing up – lol), looking to help furnish one of the kids’ new places. Hey, these meatballs with lingonberries are pretty tasty.

Ohio has two IKEA stores (Columbus and Cincinnati areas). The Swedish home furnishing brand known for assemble-yourself affordability and comfort the world over put out its first catalog in 1951. The world’s first IKEA store opened in Sweden in 1958. A year later, self-assembly furniture was produced to reduce shipping costs by keeping the packaging more compact. In 1974, a supplier turned a plastic bucket into a chair (pictured), illustrating the concept of innovation at low cost.

Bring your walking shoes. There’s a lot of walking to browse this store. Maps are everywhere, so you don’t get (too) lost.

Plan your visit at https://www.ohiotraveler.com/ikea-in-ohio/

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Ohio Memorial Weekend Destinations

Here are 16 Ohio Memorial Weekend destinations that truly symbolize the holiday and our remembrance of those who died in active military service.

Champaign Aviation Museum

Fallen Timbers Battlefield

Fort Jefferson

Fort Meigs

Fort Recovery

Fort Steuben

Mansfield Soldiers & Sailors Memorial

MAPS Air Museum

McCook House Civil War Museum

Motts Military Museum

Ohio Veterans Museum & Hall of Fame

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

National Veterans Memorial & Museum

Spirit of ’76 Museum

USS Cod Submarine Tour

WACO Museum

These are just 16 Ohio Memorial Weekend places to go or things to do out of many others, with military collections at various historical museums, events, and sites. Visit www.OhioTraveler.com to see these sections of the website for more ideas of where to go on Memorial Day in Ohio or discover other places for long weekend getaways.

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VW Bug Tower

Volkswagen Bug Tower In Defiance, Ohio
is at the corner of Hwys 18 & 281

The VW Bug Tower is a fun little stop in Defiance, Ohio. Five colorfully painted vintage Volkswagen Beetles rise to the telephone wires.  There’s a large parking lot at the corner to park and walk around the tower to check out the artwork and subtle touches. I gasped looking through my camera lens in the high wind and rain when I saw a man climbing out of the windshield of the fourth car up. My wife’s laugh said, “I told you about the mannequin when we first pulled in. See, you don’t listen to me.”

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Giant Trolls at Aullwood

Three giant trolls made from recycled materials now live among the natural habitats at Aullwood Audubon in Dayton, Ohio, in an exhibit called “The Troll That Hatched an Egg.”

Two of these towering pieces of art are placed subtly in the woodlands. They blend in so well; visitors may be stunned when they come into view. Out on the prairie is one you can see from across the open field at quite a distance. It, too, is a stunning sight. Together, these majestic creatures named Bo, Bodil, and Bibbi tell a story about birds, flight, and why preserving habitats is essential.

The giant trolls are the creation of internationally renowned artist Thomas Dambo. There are only nine other exhibitions of this kind in the country. But this one tells explicitly a story that combines the area’s environment and history of flight.

Dambo is from Copenhagen, Denmark, and is recognized around the globe as a master recycle artist. His giant trolls have been popping up around the world for the past decade. Aullwood’s trio of trolls was created from locally sourced materials. It’s why they blend so well with their surrounding ecosystem. Dead branches in the area made the troll’s nest.

People of all ages are enjoying the opportunity to get out and see such a wonderous imagination come to life among the natural jewel that is Aullwood Audubon. Plan a trip to see “The Troll That Hatched an Egg” at Aullwood.org.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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The Sky is Now Her Limit

Pieces of Ohio … In Maine

“The Sky is Now Her Limit” by E.A. Bushnell published in Sandusky Star-Herald August 23, 1920.

The top rung reads, “Presidency.”

Click the photo to enlarge and read each rung of the ladder.

Note: The placard under the piece errantly cites “Elmer Busnell” misspelling the last name of Elmer Andrews (E.A.) Bushnell.

Bushnell was a cartoonist who worked at newspapers in Ohio and New York. This piece was created upon the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to represent the opportunities now open to enfranchised women. Source: Google Arts & Culture

Traveling around the country, we often run into “Pieces of Ohio,” so we decided to collect them and bring them home to OhioTraveler.com.

This piece of Ohio was found at the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Mount Desert Island, Maine, by Acadia National Park on what is called “The Quiet Side.” It was a traveling exhibition illustrating the struggle to win women’s right to vote.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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3-D Wood Carving By Hand

Paul Weaver, a local Amish man, spent 20 years honing his skill at three-dimensional wood carving. Each piece usually takes three months to complete, using only hand tools.

Most of the carvings are from a solid block of butternut wood, sometimes with leaves still growing out of it. No adhesives are used.

His collection is on display, daily, at the historic Lehman’s Hardware Store in Kidron, Ohio. Every fourth Saturday of the month, Paul Weaver is there to answer questions and explain his process. It’s free but donations are appreciated.

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52 Hand-carved Carrousel Figures

On the corner of Fourth Street and Main Street in Mansfield is old-fashioned fun in a modern setting. Here, the Richland Carrousel Park has merry activities year-round.

When it opened in 1991, it was the first new, hand-carved carrousel to be built and operated in the United States since the 1930s.  Each of the 52 figures was carved by Carousel Works in Mansfield in the style of G.A. Dentzel, a famous carver of the 20th Century.

Take a ride for just a buck on any of the 52 hand-carved carrousel figures. Enjoy cotton candy, popcorn, slushes, and more. Look for special events around holidays throughout the year plus semi-annual Wine-d Down Wednesday Ladies Nights. Plan a birthday party or anniversary here for a very memorable experience.

The Richland Carrousel Park is located at 75 N. Main St. in Mansfield, Ohio (Map It). It is open daily from 11am – 5pm. For more information, call 419-522-4223 or visit https://www.richlandcarrousel.com/. 

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