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.

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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.

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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.

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The Sand Man

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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.

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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.

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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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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”

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”

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/

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”

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! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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”

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…

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for the rest of the story
and more photos

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 

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.

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!

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.

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/

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”

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.

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

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

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”

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”

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.

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.

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.

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/.

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 

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

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”

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”

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.

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”

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

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

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”

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.

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.

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

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”

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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

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!

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.

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.

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
.

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.

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.

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

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

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. 😉

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Connecting Flights & An Alligator 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

Click here to read more
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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.

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

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”

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). 😉

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

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/

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.

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.”

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! 

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

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.

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/. 

VW-Henge-ish

Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to fun discoveries. Thank you, GPS. Missing a turn, my GPS rerouted me down Barrhaven (Rd, St, Ave?) which loops to/from Main Street in Hayesville, Ohio in Ashland County. Off to the side of the backroad was an old VW Bug jutting up from the ground, half-buried. I guess it’s Ohio’s version of Cadillac Ranch off Route 66 in Texas. LOL.

(R-R-R-R-ING), “SCHMUCKER’S!”

For A Classic Roadside Diner – It’s the Real Deal!

When I first walked into this Toledo roadside diner 25 years ago, it felt like my kind of place. Back from my Army stay in Europe, now in college treating my girlfriend (soon to be wife) to a great bite I could afford, the road leads here. It was 1992. The waitress said it still looked the same as it did when it opened in 1948.

Recently, my wife and I traveled several hours to see one of our kids and our niece attending school in the area. Their school wasn’t in the immediate area, but it was close enough for a road trip to the dear ole diner still frying up memories after all these years.

When we drove around the place hoping to find a parking spot, I asked the ‘kids’, “Whattaya think?”

A deep voice in the backseat said, “As long as it has burgers, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

So it goes.

We snapped a photo to commemorate the old roadside diner with its nondescript faded yellow brick, glass block windows, and neon sign. It still felt right, even after romanticizing it in our minds from back in the day. And, ooh, that smell: a concoction in the air that wafted somewhere between fresh-hand-peeled potatoes and thoughts of grandma’s pie cooling on a windowsill.

It’s funny how a mere scent can trigger a memory. The most memorable thing about Schmucker’s Restaurant, bar none, is the pie! To quote an old saying, the pie “is to-die-for.”

[To-die-for is popular American hyperbole from the 20th Century and means that something is so amazing that it is worth dying for. For example: “Get the pie! The pie is to die for!” – Idiom Origins]

When we went inside, we crammed the doorway with another cluster of folks waiting for a table to be emptied and bused. I hoped it wasn’t the one within arm’s reach because then someone else was sure to be loitering in my space while I ate. So, ya, Schmucker’s Restaurant is …cozy.

But that’s the charm of it. That, and the fact nothing changes inside these walls unlike the ever-changing world outside. The owner’s name is still Schmucker, albeit the grandchild of the founders Harvey and Nola. Heck, even the chrome stools at the wrap-around lunch counter are originals. Once we nestled into our seats, yes, by the door as feared, we became a quaint world unto our own. All was well.

“What’s that ringing?” my niece asked. “It sounds like an old movie.”

In the back corner of the restaurant, a worn, wooden telephone booth has been there since day one. After we heard it several times, we tried to record it but couldn’t quite get it right. So, my niece called the restaurant. We heard and recorded the old-fashioned ringing telephone a couple of times over until our waiter reached inside it and answered, “Schmucker’s…”

My niece panicked and hung up. We later confessed our sin, thinking we’ll make up for it in the tip.

Our waiter was a young fellow with a bright smile. He was everything you’d expect from a family-diner straight out of Yesteryear. He was friendly, helpful, patient, and attentive. But more than that, he was a conversationalist. And that’s the thing about a diner like this. You learn about not just the place itself, but the community it serves.

“Hold that thought,” he said to us as he backed away to seat some newcomers. Several minutes later he returned to pick up the conversation almost in the mid-sentence he pardoned himself from.

“Whattaya have?”

My son ordered up the Wimpy Burger Platter. I asked if he knew who Wimpy was. Of course, he didn’t. I don’t even know if he knows Popeye (outside of the chicken chain).

I couldn’t resist. I blurted out the catchphrase from the early-era television cartoon, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Blank faces. Crickets. … “Is this a dad joke or something?”

[“A dad joke is a short joke, typically a pun, presented as a one-liner or a question and answer, but not a narrative. Generally inoffensive, dad jokes are stereotypically told with sincere humorous intent, or to intentionally provoke a negative reaction to its overly simplistic humor. Many dad jokes may be considered anti-jokes, deriving humor from an intentionally unfunny punchline.” – Wikipedia]

Perusing the menu, it was hard to make a decision between meals that had side notes like, “Just the way Mom makes it on Sundays.” Or, “Grandma Schmucker’s secret recipe since 1948.”

“Hot Roast Beef” seemed like such a staple comfort food for an old-time roadside diner experience. But then again “Fresh Perch” considering our proximity to a Great Lake was alluring, too. The menu had everything you may imagine for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast! I was usually the quick and decisive one to order but I seemed to be channeling my wife … “Uh, I’m sorry, can you come back to me?”

So, with a homestyle dinner, fresh garden salad, homemade soup of the day (Nola’s recipe), and an old-fashioned strawberry soda (they also had chocolate and cherry), I wondered if I’d be able to save room for pie.

Then I laughed and laughed and laughed.

I had to decide on one of Nola’s 54 pie recipes:

  1. Almond Joy
  2. ANDE’s Mint Delight
  3. Apple (daily)
  4. Apple-Raisin-Walnut
  5. Banana (daily)
  6. Blackberry
  7. Banana Split
  8. Black Bottom
  9. Black Forest
  10. Blueberry (daily)
  11. Blueberry Crumb
  12. Burst O’ Berry
  13. Butterfinger
  14. Candy Apple
  15. Caramel-Apple-Walnut (daily)
  16. Cherry (daily)
  17. Cherry Berry
  18. Cherry Crumb (daily)
  19. Chocolate Chip Pecan
  20. Chocolate Cream (daily)
  21. Chocolate Peanut Butter (daily) Our waiter said this is the most popular. It was my choice. And it’s my recommendation. It was … to die for!
  22. Chocolate Raspberry Cream
  23. Coconut Cream (daily)
  24. Coconut Custard
  25. Custard (daily)
  26. Dutch Apple (daily)
  27. Fresh Strawberry (seasonal)
  28. Fresh Strawberry Banana (seasonal)
  29. Keylime (seasonal)
  30. Lemon Chiffon
  31. Lemon Crunch
  32. Lemon Meringue
  33. Mince (seasonal)
  34. Mounds
  35. Nestlé Crunch®
  36. OH-IO Buckeye Pie
  37. Oreo Cookie
  38. Peach (daily)
  39. Pecan (daily)
  40. Pineapple Cream
  41. Pumpkin (seasonal)
  42. Pumpkin Apple Streusel
  43. Raisin (daily)
  44. Raspberry Cream
  45. Red Raspberry
  46. Rhubarb (daily)
  47. Snickers
  48. Scutterbotch (daily)
  49. Scutterbotch Mousse
  50. Strawberry Rhubarb (seasonal)
  51. Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel
  52. Sweet Potato Streusel (seasonal)
  53. Triple Chocolate Indulgence
  54. Vanilla Peanut Butter (daily)

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

Field of Giant Concrete Corn Cobs in Dublin Ohio

Being Corny in Dublin, Ohio

Field of Corn (with Osage Orange Trees) is the name of this curious roadside attraction in Dublin, Ohio’s Franz Park, at 4995 Rings Road.

There are 109 ears of corn made from concrete, each standing over 6 feet tall in this creative artwork; you may walk through year-round from dawn to dusk.

It’s a favorite stop for Ohio travelers passing anywhere near the Greater Columbus area. Stop for the awe, history, or pure novelty of it. Have a picnic, take some fun photos, and have a few laughs. A cell tour is available at 614-368-6999.

Click here for further details about this unique artwork, why it was built, and how it represents the agricultural history of the area.

Pieces of Ohio – In Cooperstown

Pieces of Ohio – In Cooperstown

Photo by Dominic Satullo

A “Piece of Ohio” was found at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. This 1893 board game depicts the early use of a baseball player’s endorsement. Here, the Cleveland Spiders catcher Charles “Chief” Zimmer lends his persona to this unusual mechanical baseball parlor game.

“Chief” Zimmer, despite modern-day folklore, was not of Native American descent. He was nicknamed “Chief.” According to Wikipedia, the genesis for the nickname is as follows: “Since we were fleet of foot, we were called the Indians. As I was the head man of the Indians, somebody began to call me ‘Chief.’ It stuck,” said Charles Zimmer.

There are pieces of Ohio across the continent and beyond. Find them and bring them home to OhioTraveler.com. Take a pic and write a short description of what you found in a museum or on a plaque, etc., and how it connects back to Ohio along with who to credit for the photo. Make sure it is tourism-related.

Click to pick up more
PIECES OF OHIO

Cornering the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock

Play Video

The world’s largest cuckoo clock as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records (1977 cover) is at the corner of Main and Broadway in Sugarcreek, Ohio – also known as “Little Switzerland of Ohio.” This giant cuckoo clock is operational from 9am – 9pm April through November. It measures 23 feet tall by 24 feet wide. On the half-hour, its cuckoo bird pops out, the band appears, and couples dance away to Swiss polka music. Click here to go to Ohio’s little Switzerland.

Meet the Hafners!

Travel back to the 1800s and meet Mr. & Mrs. Hafner at Ye Olde Trail Tavern in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

The Hafner is a mouth-watering combination of grilled corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss drizzled with thousand island on toasted pumpernickel rye or Udi’s gluten-free bun.

The Mrs. Hafner combines grilled turkey breast, sauerkraut, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing on Pumpernickel Rye or Udi’s gluten-free bun.

Either way, it’ll be a scrumptious choice set in the ambiance of a historic tavern.

Plan your foodie adventure at https://www.ohiotraveler.com/ye-olde-trail-tavern/ and meet the Hafners.

Pilgrimage to Miracle Meals

Make a pilgrimage to Do Good.

If anything, the journey to rural Ohio is worth it just to have a Miracle Mocha, Prodigal Burger, Trinity Grilled Cheese, or Little Fishers served in a Noah’s Ark with animal crackers.

Welcome to Do Good Restaurant in Osgood, Ohio. Blink and you might drive right through the tiny town without knowing it.

The servers are volunteers and tips go to a worthy cause. Ask your server whom you are helping today. Remember, “Brothers and sisters, while we are here let us do good.”

Plan your pilgrimage for a divine breakfast, lunch, or dinner by clicking here.

Saturdate at Sunwatch …with Tina the Turkey

It had been 20 years since we had last visited Sunwatch Indian Village & Archaeological Park in Dayton.

The layout is wonderful in that upon the approach you cannot see the 800-year-old Village before you walk out of the back of the interpretive center. Then, from an elevated view, you begin to see into the ancient culture of the Fort Ancient people. Marvel at the recreated structural designs that reveal apparent astronomical alignments from a complex of strategically placed posts. Closely examine inside and outside the five lath and daub structures with grass thatch roofs, and portions of a stockade.

Although insightful eye-opening tours are provided, we ventured into the wide-open space on our own. Along the way, a wild turkey named Tina befriended my wife and walked alongside her. When the nesting (atop a grass roof) geese (the male) flew a warning overhead, Tina sought her adopted human mother to shelter her from the bully of the Village. LOL. When we circled the grounds we had to make an impromptu detour as the Canada Goose swooped from the rooftop to cut us off at the pass and chase us into adrenaline-filled laughter and retreat.

It was a wonderful visit, just as we had remembered. There are so many interesting learning opportunities at this national historic landmark. The 3-acre village site produced an abundance of artifacts, including turkey eggshell fragments (maybe Tina was visiting her ancestors too ;). The interpretive center features many of these well-preserved relics that had been recovered from the site.

If you go, say hi to Tina. She’s a friendly unofficial tour guide.

To plan a visit, click here.

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

Shadowing The Great Seal of Ohio

Summit of Mount Logan at Ohio’s Great Seal State Park

Casting a shadow on The Great Seal of Ohio as we stand atop Mount Logan near Chillicothe, Ohio is the culmination of a great winter-spring hike. With no leaves on the trees, the view is panoramic. It is a pretty steep ascent and descent on par with Appalachian hiking. Mount Logan is famously shown in the official seal of Ohio, The Great Seal of The State of Ohio, and is located at Great Seal State Park near Chillicothe (the first capital of Ohio). Plan your visit at  https://www.ohiotraveler.com/great-seal-state-park/ 

Autumn Bursts on The Hargus Lake Trail

Hargus Lake Trail

Hug a lake during a 4.4-mile autumn trek on the Hargus Lake Trail at A.W. Marion State Park near Circleville, Ohio. Hiking its woodland hills and taking in the gorgeous lakeside views are a great way to spend an afternoon, especially when the setting sun bounces off of the colorful leaves and mirrors them in the water below. It’s a loop trail that permits leashed dogs. Oh, and there’s an island in the middle perfect for a kayaker picnic. The grounds and parking are free. Hargus Lake provides 145 acres of water, boat launching ramps, and public docks. Rentals are available from the concession on the northwest side of the lake. Electric motors only are permitted. Click here to plan your visit.

Abracadabra

Abracadabra (1992) by Alexander Liberman
Photo courtesy of Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum

Abracadabra (1992) by Alexander Liberman is one of the largest works that Liberman ever constructed. It’s made of a mix of sheet and cylinder steel, painted a vibrant red. Liberman was primarily known for working with cylinders, but later in his career, he started to work with more sheet steel. Abracadabra is influenced by Liberman’s several trips to Greece in the mid-1960s to study the remnants of Greek and Roman architecture. In the case of Abracadabra, Liberman built this piece full scale, meaning there was no model or moquette. He would draw on steel sheets; the fabricator would cut them out and use cranes, sometimes multiple cranes, to put them in temporary positions as the piece was built.

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum features over 80 outdoor sculptures on 300+ acres of land. Enjoy nature and art by walking, driving the park, or renting an art cart to explore! The park also has hiking trails, so one can immerse themselves in nature. Take a break from the outdoors and visit their Ancient Sculpture Museum featuring Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Syrian, and Egyptian antiquities dating to 1550 B.C. Plan your trip at https://www.pyramidhill.org/

The Gulla Dog

Gulla Dog at Gulla’s Lunch
photo is courtesy of Belmont County Tourism

This “FoodtEase” serves up…THE “GULLA DOG” at Gulla’s Lunch in Bellaire, Ohio.

Gulla’s Lunch is home to the famous “Gulla Dog”. Paul Gulla is the fourth generation to serve up the sauce on Belmont Street. A tradition that started more than 4,000 miles away in Sicily. The recipe is Paul’s great-grandmother’s. His great-grandfather ended up in Bellaire, opening the first version of Gulla’s Lunch, just down the street from their current location. It was called the Columbia. In 1984 they moved two doors down to their current location, where the menu expanded and so did the clientele, as generations passed on the tradition that is grabbing lunch a Gulla’s. The fish, the chili, the vegetable soup, all of our soups are homemade. The staple lunch is a Gulla dog, fish and fries and gravy, Even though they sit on a small street in a small town, Gulla’s can go nationwide. If you bring in your own mason jar, they can jar you up some sauce to ship to someone as far away as Texas.

Top 50 Attractions in Ohio

OhioTraveler’s
Standouts in Ohio Tourism

Over the years, we have recognized 50 of the top attractions or destinations in Ohio travel and tourism. In the coming years, we’ll continue our journey until we discover the TOP-100 attractions in Ohio. See 51-100 as they are added over time by clicking here.

Here are our top 50 out of 100 Standouts in Ohio Tourism in no particular order:

Dennison Railroad Depot Museum

Clifton Mill 

Contemporary Arts Center

The American Sign Museum

Great Mohican Pow-Wow

COSI

Bear’s Mill

Historic Sauder Village

African Safari Wildlife Park:

The Toledo Museum of Art

Castle Noel

Toledo Zoo & Aquarium

Rainbow Hills Vineyards

Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival

All American Soap Box Derby

Historic Roscoe Village

Ghostly Manor Thrill Center

Cedar Point

Freedom Center

Hocking Ice

House from a Christmas Story

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Circleville Pumpkin Show

Ohio Renaissance Festival

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

Cincinnati Union Terminal

Wake Nation

Original Bob Evans Farm

Hartman Rock Garden

Allen County Museum

Warther Museum

Ye Olde Mill

Shadowbox Live

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours

Buckin’ Ohio

USS Cod

Topiary Park

KD Guest Ranch

The Wilds

National Museum of The U.S. Air Force

The RainForest

Ohio State Reformatory

Jungle Jim’s International Market

Lehman’s

West Side Market

EnterTRAINment Junction

Ohio Caverns

The Unusual Junction

Memphis Kiddie Park

For a guide to all Ohio travel and tourism destinations listed on OhioTraveler.com, CLICK HERE.

Attention Ohio Foodie Lovers

Eli’s BBQ in Cincinnati is located in a place that’s not well marked but everyone knows where to go for great-tasting barbeque and atmosphere. It’s in an old river neighborhood a stone’s skip from the Ohio River. When you walk into the weathered building, you first notice the worn wooden floor. On one wall there’s a collection of rock’s finest vinyl records. On another wall, there’s an old stereo system with a turntable spinning records from the collection.

You’ll walk to the counter in the back and order your food. Then, find a seat in the front dining room with the most peculiar art for sale, hanging on the walls. Or you may sit outside or in an adjacent tented eating area. They’ll bring the food to you when it’s ready. The pulled pork, ribs and creamy southern coleslaw are to die for! But there are plenty of other great options to feast on. If you enjoy Jalapeño, try the cheddar grits and cornbread.

Eli’s BBQ has been listed in national top-10 lists for best barbeque and is also available at some Cincinnati area Kroger stores. They also have a stand at the historic Findlay Market for take-out in downtown Cincinnati. Elis is open daily from 11am – 9pm. You’ll find it at (Map It) 3313 Riverside Drive in Cincinnati, Ohio. You may call 513-533-1957 or visit http://www.elisbarbeque.com/.

For more of Ohio’s unique eateries, vsit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/restaurants-eateries/. If you want to suggest a place for our taste buds to determine if it gets added to the list, email scoops@ohiotraveler.com.

By Rocco Satullo, your Tour Guide to Fun

The Last Road Trip

“The Last Road Trip” is a
Farewell to Another Generation’s
Traditional Family Vacations

The all-American family vacation harkens images of the Griswold’s out on the open road trekking cross-country in a station wagon to the sound, Holiday Road. And it repeats with each generation. It’s a rite of passage that comes and goes in about a 12-year period from when the kids are old enough to remember something to old enough to fly the nest. But it goes by in the blink of an eye. Thousands of dollars are spent seeing places like Disney, Yellowstone, and countless other destinations and attractions. Littered along the way are tourist traps and roadside gimmicks to lure the weary family and break up dad’s power-drives to get somewhere special.

In the end, what does everyone remember? The moments between geological wonders and architectural gems. The unexpected.

After a dozen years of summer vacations, we decided to take one more before our daughter headed off to college. Some call this the senior trip. In all likelihood, it marks the end of an era. Never (most-likely) will just the four of us be packed in a car for two weeks, forced to get to know each other better. It wasn’t always rosy times, but even the meltdowns are remembered, fondly. Every trip, I’m good for one, earning the nickname – Travel Dad.

“Uh-oh, Travel Dad just got behind the wheel,” could be uttered from the backseat when I grumble out loud about a traffic situation.

Alas, it really is about the journey and not the destination. Here are some of the more memorable experiences our family had together over this blip in time. I’m sure our stories are your stories or at least they’ll get you talking about yours, too.

Our first real vacation had us flying on a small, bumpy flight with one row of single seats on one side of the plane. I sat in front of my six-year-old son and behind him was another six-year-old. 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. “We’re going to crash!” One boy yelled at the other. “Ah, 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.” I tried to squeeze my face in 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.

On a long driving day, we approached a small town I had read was one of the 100 you had to see before you died. The distance was deceiving, and it came in and out of sight as we rolled over hills and turns for about 10 minutes as we neared it. Coming closer, we “oohed and ahhed” looking for a place to pull off and snap some photos. In town, I had stopped and started at a few signs and lights before a flashing light caught my attention. When I found a place to pull over, it was revealed in short-order that this popping mad policeman was in silent, slow pursuit of us for …miles. After he spits his displeasure and ripe words at me he returned to his cruiser to write my ticket. That’s when my young daughter wondered out loud if I was going to prison. I unconfidently replied, no.

In a desolate part of the country, I was proud to have found a motel close to a remote national monument that Triple-A didn’t even know existed – and for a good reason. Our cinder block accommodations overlooked nothing for as far as the eyes could see. There was a cluster of puddied-over bullet holes head-high in the door. The “inn-keeper” fetched my son his bead (cot) from a shed and when she turned to leave, I asked for the room key. She said there was none. There was a pause between us before she turned away, laughed, threw her arms in the air and said, “Besides, where ya gonna go?”

There’s nothing like hiking to the top of a mini rock mountain searching for Petroglyphs when lighting strikes. What had been a careful ascent due to the multiple “Beware: Rattlesnakes” signs became a mad dash for the car. The winds and rain whipped up, but we managed to get to our four-wheel shelter before the brunt of it nailed us. Winds still churning albeit it not as powerfully, I rolled down my window trying to get a better look at an anomaly headed our way. “Roll up the window!” my wife screamed, but before I could, a wall of sand slammed into our faces and all over the car.

I withdrew some cash before stepping out of our hotel and into the early morning sun …and the chest of a homeless man. He asked for forty-nine cents or some odd number like that. I only had twenty dollar bills. When I said that I couldn’t help now but certainly would later, he yelled and threatened, “You won’t always be together,” waving his finger at my children in a threatening manner. Now I know he probably wasn’t playing with a full deck, but I couldn’t help myself. I stopped, turned around and said, “Did you just threaten my family?” He proceeded to shout at me and called me this and that for an entire block.  He crossed a street, so we walked a bit more before we crossed. But first, I paused to see which way he was going to head on the other side. He turned and scanned my side of the street until he found me. Then he waved me over in sharp motions as if to say, “Bring it on!” I laughed to myself, and we walked away.

After police confiscated all of our water before entering a building (plus snacks, sunscreen, you name it), we walked for miles from one site to another on a record hot day all over a city. But if you ask anyone in our family, what was the best thing you ever ate on all of your trips, the answer is unanimous. Frozen lemonade from a food truck. We scrounged up just enough coin to splurge on one five-dollar frozen lemonade. The four of us lined the curb, each taking a spoonful of heaven and passed it down. We were that desperate and elated.

A cottage stay put us on what amounted to a cul-de-sac street in the woods with every cottage in the cluster having been rented out by college kids, partying like there’s no tomorrow. Every cottage except ours and one other, kitty-corner from us. Ours was remarkably soundproof so as long as we could sleep, I wasn’t complaining. But kitty-corner family had this to say, “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 cottage, 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 exchange repeated a few times before the stranger at the door fell silent.” The father of that family couldn’t open the door in the morning because the college kid had passed out against it.

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 our “walk” sign and stood still, gawking, as her back-side passed us and now shown her front side. She kept walking backward, looking at us, us looking at her. She crossed a couple of streets as if she had eyes in the back of her head and finally turned a corner, all the while walking backward. When she finally tuned out of view, we looked at each other and said in unison, “Well, you don’t see that every day.”

The stories go on and on. There’s the time we were trapped on a back road trying to navigate through a herd of wild bison. There’s the coffee cart sermon from a crazed vendor talking about end times as he waited on a long line of snickering, but caffeine-addicted customers. The coffee was to die for by the way. Then there was the white-knuckle Cliffside drive up and down a mountain dirt road. Oh, and who will ever forget those black flies and cockroaches! Falling off a horse charging through the water was a good one. And there are the slap-happy moments where you laugh so damn hard you think you’re going to be asked to leave a restaurant. But the time together always leads to the most memorable times of all – conversation that tighten bonds in ways that only a family vacation can.

My favorite memory was from a generation ago when I was the kid. My mom was reading a plaque inside a museum aloud to my sister and me. We lost interest just like Dad and faded back. Filling the void came interested tourists hanging on my mom’s dramatic reading. Soon, we couldn’t see Mom because a whole horde of folks gathered around her. When she finished, she turned to see the sea of people gathered around her. Without missing a beat, she waved her arm and said, “Now if you follow me over here…”

And so it goes, another generation experiencing the all-American family tradition. Happy travels to you and yours.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Cornering Childhood Memories

Welcome to “Cornering Ohio” where we share the best street corners in Ohio tourism!

If you mention the intersection of Memphis Avenue and Tiedeman Road to most Clevelanders you will probably evoke a big “Huh?” Until, that is, you mention Memphis Kiddie Park. The iconic children’s amusement park has been located where Tiedeman dead ends in Memphis for the past seven decades. Selling its first ticket on May 28, 1952, Memphis Kiddie Park was one of a few kiddielands in the greater Cleveland area. Over time, and for various reasons, all of the others shuttered, except for Memphis Kiddie Park which is still going strong. And thanks to I-480 and a busy cloverleaf at Tiedeman, Memphis Kiddie Park has never been more accessible to all of Northeast Ohio.

Memphis Kiddie Park is truly one-of-a-kind. Its whole point is to appeal to small children without the noise or intimidation of teenagers and adults found at larger theme parks. With 11 mechanized rides from a traditional Merry-Go-Round to North America’s oldest steel track kiddie coaster, the Little Dipper, one may think of Memphis Kiddie Park as the “training wheels for Cedar Point”. Add to that a miniature golf for the whole family and a concession stand featuring the best Hot Dogs and Funnel Cakes in the County. And, because Memphis Kiddie Park caters to small children, access is easy and affordable, parking is free, there is no gate fee for anyone, and rides are just one ticket per ride for each rider. If it’s too hot for your child or there are unexpected rain showers (it is Cleveland after all), no problem. Tickets never expire so you can come back as often as you like without the steep penalty of a gate fee and parking.

Click here to join the fun.

Cornering “Little Miss Sure Shot”

Welcome to “Cornering Ohio” where we share the best street corners in Ohio tourism!

On the corner of N. Broadway and Wilson Drive in Greenville, Ohio is The National Annie Oakley Center at Garst Museum. It houses the largest display of Annie Oakley items in the world. Learn who Annie really was, a petite and fashionable lady, instead of the Hollywood image depicting her as a tomboy in the Wild West. This gem of a museum is tucked away in her hometown. The gift shop has plenty of Oakley memorabilia that may make for great stocking stuffers. Nearby are a statue and gravesite for Annie Oakley.

Click here to plan your trip to see Annie.

Amish Fruitcake to Die For

“An Amish Fruitcake Like No Other”

Yoder’s Bakery & Furniture
(Formerly Keim Family Market)

I’ve heard this about Yoder’s (formerly Keim’s) holiday fruitcakes for the past 13 years I’ve worked with them. The recipe goes back to the 1970s when Roy Keim sold them and his wife’s homemade pies roadside from a horse and buggy. Now, people around the country order them. We think word spread from truckers over the years. This year, I decided to have one mailed to me so I could finally try it. In a word: YUM! There are plenty of fruitcake jokes during the holiday season, but at Yoder’s, fruitcake is no laughing matter. Like many fruitcake lovers across the country, you may order one from this quaint Ohio Amish shop to be shipped to you by calling them at 937-386-9995.

Ohio’s Miniature Circus

The Miniature Circus Features 2,620 hand-carved pieces

Tucked away in the second floor of the Massillon Museum (MassMu), visitors of all ages are delighted to find a 100-square-foot miniature circus containing 2,620 hand-carved components.

The late Dr. Robert Immel relived his fond memories of going to the circus as a child by carving tiny circus figures beginning when he returned from World War II. By the time he donated his imaginative circus lot to MassMu in 1995, it used 36 elephants, 186 horses, 102 assorted animals, 91 wagons, 7 tents, and 2207 people to depict vignettes of the circus parade, an elephant act, a sideshow barker, and three-ring acts in the big top.

Can you find a vet treating a sick zebra, workers repairing a fire-damaged wagon, a crew preparing food for the menagerie, a team sledgehammering a tent stake, a boy running for the bathroom with balloons flying behind him, and a man who’s going to lose his job for drinking behind one of the tents?

Surrounding the diorama is a rotating exhibit of circus artifacts from Dr. Immel’s collection.  Guests may see sequined trapeze artists’ costumes, animal trainers’ overalls, P.T. Barnum’s gold tipped cane, Lavinia and Tom Thumb’s wedding album, clown shoes, colorful posters, or sideshow photographs.

When you visit the Immel Circus, don’t forget to also see the Paul Brown Museum; contemporary art in Studio M, the local history, fine and decorative arts, and photography galleries; and rotating exhibits in the main and lower level galleries. Remember your visit with a local history book or artist-made memento from the unique shop.

The Massillon Museum is located at a 121 Lincoln Way East (Ohio Route 172) in the heart of downtown Massillon.  Admission and adjacent street parking are free.  For more information, call 330-833-4961 or visit massillonmuseum.org.