Monday, August 01, 2005

Midwest Road Fest, Day 3

Day 3:
Our evening on the southern outskirts of Indianapolis was fun, even though Kyle was awaken at 2:00 in the morning by stomach cramps so violent that a movie about them would be rated R, and after packing up our clothing and foodstuffs, we hopped onto I-74 en route to Cincinnati to visit Kyle’s and my cousin, Nikki. The interesting thing is that Kyle and I hadn’t seen this particular cousin since we were about 5 and 7 years old, so we were both pretty interested in “meeting” her, her husband Charles, and her brand new baby girl Kaitlyn. We had about a 2-hour drive and a time change once we got into Ohio, so we hit the road pretty early. On we go!

Tree in Clock Tower, Greensburg, Indiana

Our first stop of the day was actually an impromptu visit off of I-74 east early on Friday morning. We passed a sign for “Beautiful Downtown Greensburg” that pictured a clock tower with a tree growing of it. I remembered seeing this when planning out the road trip, but for one reason or another, I forgot to include it. There’s not much to say about it other than it’s a tree growing out of a clock tower, but the real story was the “Get’r Done” sticker we saw on the gas station window. It brought us to the realization that we really were in the heart of Whitetrashville, and that if we stayed in Greensburg much longer, we’d end up on the Board of Trustees, which was obviously not something any of us had much aspiration to achieve.

Nikki & Charles, Cincinnati, Ohio

It’s amazing how much more interesting the drive is in Ohio than Indiana and Illinois. In the latter states, the ground is completely flat and adorned exclusively with corn. Ohio is much hillier with more trees and fields. I’ve got to say that I’d much rather drive through there than the Illiana area, but I’m digressing. In Cincinnati, we pulled into the wonderfully quaint home of Nikki and Charles. It was the perfect home for a young couple with a baby. As they grow older and Nikki starts producing babies by the baker’s dozens, they’ll want something bigger, but as the kid count stays in single digits, their current place of residence is perfect.

We sat around and chatted for a little while, touring the house, meeting the dogs, and playing with the baby, but as it was growing close to lunch time, we asked Charles to direct us to a restaurant with some local color. He immediately suggested Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati exclusive, and since it sounded so delicious we compliantly followed the Elder family to this local eatery. Kyle got spaghetti noodles covered in Chili and about four pounds of cheese, while Ed and I indulged in chili cheese dogs. Our meals were delicious, but on the cusp of an evening at the 8Lucky Buffet, any meal causing further intestinal discomfort was probably a bad idea. We, of course, realized this in retrospect, but as the chili wasn’t actually poisonous (as was the Chinese food of the previous evening), we emitted what was necessary from our bodies, as only three males in a tiny car are able to do, and prepared ourselves for our next destination.

Author’s Note: I understand that there has been a lot of detail as to the amount of pooting that took place over the course of this trip, but as I am trying to give you all the most accurate trip recap as possible, I find it necessary to omit no details, no matter how unpleasant. We’re all grown people, right? Okay fine, I’ll keep the fart stories to a minimum from here on out…

Jungle Jim’s Grocery Store, Fairfield, Ohio

Since Charles had taken the day off for our visit, and we were pretty much done with lunch by 12:30, he and Nikki (and the baby) decided to join us on our venture to Jungle Jim’s themed grocery store, which is a few miles northwest of Cincy and a very short distance from Nikki and Charles’s old place. They knew their way around the store and served as more than affable tour guides, and in a place as huge as this, tour guides were almost necessary!

The store itself is jungle themed on the exterior, but the inside is full of crazy novelty exhibits and strange departmental oddities. For example, the liquor department was one of the most extensive I’ve ever seen. We found some of the most oddly-named alcohols we had ever seen (example: Old Leghumper Beer and Fat Bastard wine). We snapped a shot of the three of us with Charles in front of The Cold Beer Cave, which was awesome. We also located all sorts of disgusting meet products, such as boar’s head and chicken’s feet. There were all kinds of novelty sections, including a seafood area with live fish and shark meat, and an isle devoted entirely to hot sauces (affectionately nick-named “The Inferno”). Overall, the place was incredible, and we probably could’ve spent an entire day just in this one store, but it was time for us to bid adieu to the Elder family and continue our quest through Ohio.

Chateau de la Roche (The Rock Castle), Loveland, Ohio

And so begins the story of an old World War I veteran who was pronounced dead in a wartime hospital, only to be brought back to life by an early experiment with adrenaline. He moved back to the states, fell in love with a woman who spurned him at the altar, and settled in the Ohio backwoods to build a stone castle with his bare hands.

Actually, the original reason for building the castle was to have a giant clubhouse for his “Knights of the Golden Trail,” a boys group he started to help young men do woodsy things with an old guy (I guess… Believe me, we have many theories as to his adoration for the youthful male). The story is kind of weird, but the castle itself was one of the coolest stops on the entire trip. It took the old man his entire life to finish building the thing, and the final results are amazing. There was a dungeon, castle towers, and a beautiful garden out back. We spent some time joking around in the dungeon, wondering what Michael Jacksonesque activities had been undertaken down there (Kyle’s Off-Color Comment of the Day: “Now, if you want to be a REAL Knight of the Golden Trail…”), and we got a more than complete view of the rest of the building before leaving. Off all the things we visited on this trip, I’d definitely file this one under the “Definitely Recommend” section.

The Santa Maria, Columbus, Ohio

We were in a hurry to make it to Columbus because the last boat tour ended at 5:00. Kyle put the peddle to the floor, and we pulled into our parking spot at about 4:58 and ran down to the river where the boat was docked. All of our hustle was for naught, as the one remaining female employee was lifting the bridge to Chris Columbus’s replicated vessel. We spent a short period of time mourning our missed opportunity, but soon realized that there wasn’t much to see inside anyway, and the worker chick took a picture of us in front of the boat as Kyle mumbled under his breath that this was an inadequate replacement for a boat tour. The boat was pretty cool, and we got a few shots of it just so we could try and convince somebody that it actually WAS the real Santa Maria. Seriously, it is. Columbus was even there, and he told us so.

The First Wendy’s, Columbus, Ohio

Kyle and Ed treat food at Wendy’s like it’s going to turn their bowels into solid gold. I enjoy the place, but the other guys would have made love to Wendy herself had she been there to present herself. We ordered our food and popped squats in a booth so we could take in all of the Wendy’s memorabilia around us. There was the dress that young Wendy posed in to create the logo, a costume for the Wendy mascot (which we affectionately called “Hot Wendy”), and a giant portrait of the young girl who inspired the design for Hot Wendy (who we affectionately called “Mungo”). There was even a small part of the restaurant that saved the decor and furnishings of the original store. It was quite 1970 (translation: "brownish"), but still pretty cool. The food, of course, was rather tasty, and after taking a few posed camera shots inside the restaurant, we hopped back in the car for the third of our triumvirate of Columbus attractions.

The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio

Hands down, this was the most remarkable book store in which I have ever stepped foot. It’s located in Columbus’s beautiful historic German Village, and it really reminded me of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Inside, the store is partitioned into 32 separate rooms, each of which represents a different genre of book, and all of which is packed completely full of books. Again, this was an attraction where we could’ve spent an entire day (at least I could have, but as a nerdy 23-year old English teacher, what does one expect?). We stayed for a good hour, but eventually had to leave. Kyle and I finally found where Ed had been hiding the entire time, and we hit the road for the day’s final attraction.

Giant Ears of Corn, Dublin, Ohio

Overall, Columbus was the most beautiful area of the entire trip. The city itself was pretty large, but was essentially immaculate, and the suburban areas were some of the most beautiful I’d ever seen. Dublin is actually a north ‘burb of Columbus, and the three of us were all in shock as to how beautiful the area was. The grass was so green that it made Green jealous, the trees were full and lush, and the roads and buildings all looked like they had been built or renovated in the last five years. It was all in just beautiful condition. If I was forced to stay in any one town for our road trip for the rest of my life, I think I’d choose Dublin. I’m not kidding; it was BEAUTIFUL!

The giant ears of corn were definitely… different. They just sit out in a field on the edge of town. There’s 109 of them, and each one is a six-foot tall concrete statue. There’s not much more to say about them then that. I think they were built as a memorial to one of the area’s prominent farmers, but don’t quote me on that. Ed spent some time romping through the field, and we all happily seized the chance for some terrific pictures. At this point in the day (which was a long and entertaining one), the sun was starting to hang low in the sky, and we had plans to stay with a friend of Ed’s that night in Cleveland Heights, which was two hours away. So, we wasted little time and hurried back onto the road to end our wonderful first day in Ohio.

Ed’s Friend’s Place, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

We ended up at the house of one of Ed’s medical school friends pretty late in the evening, but that didn’t stop us from having more fun. We were actually supposed to stay there for that night and the night following, but the couple inhabiting the house had plans to visit Pittsburg the following evening, leaving us to scramble for a hotel near Sandusky Ohio for the following night. After a helluva lot of internet searching and phone calling, we found a hotel through Priceline for only $50 (the previous winner was $120—it was a weekend, and we were looking for lodging near one of the country’s largest theme parks). We were set for a Holiday Inn about 30 miles south of Cedar Point, so we put away the stressfulness and enjoyed the rest of our evening with our new pals. Exhausted, we all slept like babies that night.

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