The night before leaving Cumberland Falls, grammi and I perused through maps and clicked on websites looking for another adventure. “What about Niagara Falls?” grammi said with a slight upward inflection in her voice. Hmmmm…I wasn’t planning on going that far north but if she’s thinking about it…maybe. We have never been there and it is a bucket list location. I clicked on Google maps. It was 650 miles and over ten hours of driving time. That would be closer to twelve or thirteen hours pulling the camper. We would have to split that drive up. The route through Ohio looked like it has some interesting places along the way so the next morning we headed north to Ohio.
Our first stop was at Shawnee State Park near the Ohio River. We arrived without a reservation but had no problem getting in at site 28. It was an electric only site so I filled our onboard fresh water tank before setting up for the three nights we plan to stay.
You might remember from middle school history that the end of the French and Indian war opened up westward expansion along the Ohio valley in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The fertile land along the river brought settlers from Pennsylvania and further locations east.
One of those settlers was my gggggrandfather (4ggf) who settled near Bentonville, Ohio sometime around 1800. Taking this opportunity, I traveled the 22 miles to the Adams county seat in West Union on a genealogy expedition. I was not successful finding information on 4ggf but found gravesite of 3ggf in the Bentonville Union Church Cemetery. It’s a small well manicured cemetery with old stone markers adjacent to a simple white church building adorned with a bell turret atop the roof.
I was saddened to see a stack of head stones piled one on another near the middle of the cemetery. Broken and illegible, I wondered if the graves these stones once identified are now lost for eternity. Odd to me however was my 3ggf’s headstone. It is a newer granite marker and looked out of place. Nevertheless, l was glad to see that his grave was not lost and was curious as to who had placed the new marker. However knowing he fathered nineteen children, there are hundreds of possibilities after six or seven generations. It’s interesting family history, and like a puzzle, I can see how it can become a consuming task. I will continue this quest at another time.
We spent another memorable day visiting Portsmouth, Ohio. This city was once a thriving city on the Ohio River and home to the Portsmouth Spartans now known as NFL’s Detroit Tigers. Visitors today come to see the Flood Wall Murals. After the devastating flood of 1937, the Army Corps of Engineers built a wall along the banks of the river to hold back the flood waters. I remember my grandmother, who lived downriver in Cincinnati, would sometimes talk about this flood. Over the years the wall has been tested and it has held up for the city. Starting in 1993 this 20 foot high by 2100 foot long barrier became a canvas for artist Robert Dafford. He and a local student apprentice worked for several years creating murals depicting scenes from the area’s history. They are so well done that you can imagine yourself stepping right into the scene. They have become an attraction for the area helping to revitalize the downtown district. Grammi and I walked along Front street pausing to admire each one.
We toured a small local historic museum that told the story of the flood and the construction of the wall. We learned the area was the boyhood home of one of my childhood heroes, Roy Roger, explaining the mural painted of him sitting in the saddle on top of Trigger. Pictures of him with Dale Evans were hung in the back of a glass case displaying memorabilia from an earlier time. We also walked along Market street in the historic downtown district which had an artsy vibe. Like a lot of areas trying to revive their downtown districts; we saw art galleries, craft beer breweries, antique shops, thrift stores, specialty shops and restaurants doing business from the old brick buildings built so many years ago.
That evening grammi and I made a little fire and sat outside. The air was cool and a fire seemed like a good idea. We talked about our day and agreed this is a lovely area. It was wonderful to experience the nostalgic towns and rolling countrysides. I look forward to the next time we pass through.
We towed the camper further north for our next stop on our travels through Ohio to Mill Creek Campground thirty-five miles east of Canton. It’s an Army Corp of Engineer campground and we have site M40 for four nights. The first thing we noticed was the black squirrels. We’re from Florida and of course we’ve seen many squirrels, but we’ve never seen a charcoal black squirrel. We had to take a picture.
On the first day in this area we went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As a kid I played football. I enjoyed the game. I have followed and cheered for my local team. I’m not sure what I expected to see when I got there. Even now…especially now after having been there, I’m not sure what the draw is.
There’s a journey through the history of the sport…somewhat interesting. There’s plenty of memorabilia like signed footballs and jerseys…big deal. There’s a section showing old trading cards, an area recounting all the super bowls and a display of the rings or more precisely holograms of the rings…yawn. There’s a locker room with a locker for each team. The lockers displaying the uniforms, fact and achievements of each team. Then there is the hall with a sculptured bust of every person inducted.,,cool building. After my visit, I left with a empty feeling. “Is that it?” “Is that all there is to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?” I was looking for that WOW moment but didn’t find it. Like I said, I’m not sure what I expected. I can’t explain it. I’m not’ sure what they could do to make it more exciting for me.
My take is it’s way over priced for what you get. It’s just a museum! If you’re a person that would get a warm and fuzzy feeling having your picture taken in front of a glass case with Joe Namath’s old jersey inside, then maybe the cost of admission is worth it to you. If you would swoon when coming face to face with a bronze bust of O.J Simpson, then you’re going to love this place. Maybe, like me, curiosity overcomes your better judgement and you just have to check it out. If so, by all means buy the tickets and see for yourself. But if you are looking for a better value with a whole lot more interesting things to see and do then go to the McKinley Presidential Library just down the street. Maybe go to both like I did.
On top of a hill less than two mile from the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the McKinley National Memorial. It is the final resting place of our 25th president who was assassinated in 1901. We climbed the 108 steps to the entrance. Inside the large double doors is the tomb on a pedestal high above the floor.
Also on the property is the Presidential Museum and Library. A small fee is charged but well worth it. Inside are artifact from the president’s life. There are handwritten letters on display. A series of storyboards describe McKinley’s life history. The museum shares space with a interactive science museum that is also included with the admission price. There is also a planetarium with a schedule of shows. There’s something for everyone. It was a great experience and I recommend it highly.
The next day we went to Zoar, a small village in Ohio with an interesting history. Established in 1817 by German Separatists, it was the longest surviving communal society in American history. The village has been restored with numerous attractions depicting their way of life. We arrived on a day the village was holding an antique festival. Several tents large enough for a circus were erected on vacate land along the main highway. Inside were antique dealers with high quality antiques for sale. We were told that ”folks come from all around the country” for this event.
The town was out celebrating the festival. There were tents with live music, artisan tents with handmade crafts. and a variety of demonstration located around the village. One such demonstration was border collies herding sheep. It was fascinating seeing how the dog responded to a series of whistles and voice commands.
I spoke to a woodturner that had many vases and bowls displayed. He said he lived on a 150 acre farm just out of town with an plentiful variety of wood to turn causing me much envy. There were ladies dressed in long dresses and bonnets, and union soldiers walking throughout the village eagerly offering assistance with directions to the next attraction. Someone we spoke with said the place reminded him of Williamsburg, Virginia.
The trip through Ohio was more than just driving through. We made it an adventure. No matter what the destination may be there is always places to explore along the way, history to learn and friendly people to talk to. We struggle with slowing down to find these places but I think we are getting better. I am glad we did before moving on to our next adventure at Niagara Falls.