A story by Gene Betts and the
Ross-Chillicothe Convention & Visitors Bureau
During winter, my wife Amanda and I began discussing ideas for long weekend getaways for the family. Because of our jobs, we knew it would be difficult in the coming summer to plan a full week vacation, so we had decided on smaller getaways throughout the summer for us and the boys.
In January, at a family dinner one Sunday with my parents, Amanda, began telling them of our plans for the summer. She explained to them that we were trying to pick some destinations for a few long weekend getaways. As she tossed out some of our ideas, my father Jim spoke up and shared that one of his favorite trips was the summer he took us to see the “Tecumseh” Outdoor Drama in Chillicothe.
As the youngest of three siblings, I barely remembered that trip, so I asked him why it was so memorable. He spoke of the adventures he had taken us on during that trip, from paddle boating to the moment when we sat in the amphitheater and the “Indians” came on stage. His laugh was infectious when he remembered how we jumped when the first gun went off during the production.
An idea came to me while he shared his memories about the trip from so many years ago. What would it be like to recreate this family getaway with my kids and include my parents? Of course, I’d have to get Amanda’s approval before I mentioned anything about it to my parents or kids. However, the idea of making a lasting memory for my dad, kids and myself seemed like the perfect option. That evening, after the boys were tucked in to bed and Amanda and I was watching some television, I brought up the idea and without any hesitation she agreed.
Come June, we made our journey to Chillicothe with tickets to see the “Tecumseh!” Outdoor Drama on Saturday evening. Friday afternoon we pulled in to the hotel’s parking lot and the fun was about to begin. After spending a few hours in the van, we got checked-in at the hotel and needed to get some exercise.
It was a beautiful summer day, so we made the short drive from the hotel to Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. This was the first stop from my father’s memory of our visit twenty-five years ago. Although I saw images of the park online, seeing these expansive earthworks was more than we could have imaged. The park ranger who gave us a guided tour was wonderful, not only did he give us information that we were looking for about the site, but he also interacted with the kids and provided details on their level.
After walking around the park for a few hours, we were off and heading into the historic First Capital District in downtown Chillicothe. It was getting close to dinnertime and we found a wood-fired pizza shop that we figured the boys would enjoy. We sat outside on the patio that gave us a great view of the shops and buildings in downtown. Amanda and my mother had already began planning to visit the shops Saturday morning while me, my boys and father went on an adventure of our own.
Saturday morning dawned, as the ladies planned their shopping and spa day, us guys packed up the van and headed to Bainbridge in western Ross County. During the original visit, Dad had shared that he had taken the family out in a canoe but couldn’t remember where it was, so I did a little research and decided we would make a new memory with the boys and visit Pike Lake State Park where we could rent pedal boats. My youngest son, Matthew went in a pedal boat with me while my dad took Caden with him. My dad and I both did most of the pedaling, but the boys were having so much fun that neither of us could complain. After a little while, we returned the boats and moved on to our next stop, some miniature golf at Paint Creek State Park. It felt really good to “hang out” with my dad and sons, I couldn’t remember the last time we spent such quality time together.
We had decided to meet back up with Mom and Amanda that afternoon for lunch. As we got back into Chillicothe, Amanda text that they had decided on a place for lunch, and we met up with them at the Old Canal Smokehouse. We all enjoyed the smoky flavored BBQ, as the boys raved about their mac and cheese and shared our morning adventures with Grandma and Mom.
We had two more stops planned before returning to the hotel to get ready for the evening’s performance of “Tecumseh”. After lunch we took the boys down the street to see the two cabooses that were parked along the street. The volunteer who was working that day gave us a wonderful tour, and really connected with the boys. They couldn’t stop asking questions and were fascinated by the model train.
My mother had specifically wanted to visit the 19th century mansion known as Adena Mansion & Gardens. We all loaded back in our vehicles, followed our GPSs across town and up a hill to this gorgeous estate. After taking care of the admission, we began exploring the interactive museum they offered. This helped keep the boys engaged during the visit, I was afraid it would have been a “look but don’t touch” experience, and I would spend most of the time trying to keep the boys from touching. After the museum, we met up with our tour guide for a tour of the mansion, which I knew the boys wouldn’t be able to touch anything. She greeted us at the steps of the mansion dressed in period clothing and the warmest smile. She was endearing and interacted with the boys along the entire tour, while providing the adults with the information we were there to discover.
The time had arrived for us to take the boys to see “Tecumseh!” and I think I was just as excited about this part of the trip as they were. This was the part that my father most remembered about the trip twenty-five years earlier. We arrived early so we could enjoy dinner at their terrace buffet. After dinner we made our way to the amphitheater for the show. The boys settled in their seats between Amanda and me, and my parents took the aisle seats on my left. The show began and just like Dad remembered, we all jumped when the first gun fired in the production.
Not only was I watching the boys’ reaction to the production, but I kept an eye on my father who was also watching our reactions. During the final rays of daylight my father and I made eye contact and the smile that grew across his face told me that this trip and experience would be something that would remember for the rest of our lives. I can only hope that I get to share a similar experience with my sons and grandchildren.
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By Gene Betts