Now that I”m back, I”ve jazzed up this post with some pictures and a little editing, and decided to divide the trip into three parts; The Heartland, Columbus and the Reunion, and finally Lancaster Redux and Cincinnati.
If you want to know more about the food, I”m concurrently posting a food centric edition on my eats site.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Our swell United airplane makes a smooth landing at Dulles International (the co-pilot is a woman) 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Doesn”t mean I”ll get home any earlier, what it means is I”ll have some time to kill. I know the concept of Dulles, very European; big transporters go to a plane and load people off, take them to the terminal which is a big room with a few “gates” where the transporters hook up. This is not the octopus type of airport where spiny legs stick out from the main termanel, and people walk, often a long way. Since it was designed by Eero Saarinan and built in 1982, things have changed. The Octopus” legs have been built but they”re not connected to the body. The big transporters go to the detached legs and get people who have assembled at a central gate and take them to another detatched leg or to the main terminal (body). So here I am on leg A, having come from leg D, and never having seen the magnificant terminal. Now that I”m writing this, I”m thinking that I should have gone to see it, I had time. But no… I had to have a Sam Adams Draft at the Cosi bar on the A leg.
The bar is crowded… young woman gets up from a table… her companion remains, talking on her cell phone. I sit down, and when she puts her cell phone away, I thank her for inviting me to sit. She laughs and says, “where you goin”?” I tell her and say it’s for my High School Reunion. What a great opening line. She asks what year and I say, “They only happen every ten years, you guess.”
“I”m guessin” it ain”t 10,” she said. “My tenth is coming up in two years.” Her companion came back and said, “Thanks for holding my seat.”
Oh… but before I could get up, a guy brought her a chair. Worked out. They”re from Detroit… no actually just outside Detroit. The beer was cold and good.
Just when I finished writing the above Dulles paragraphs, I embarked on a new adventure. I looked at my watch, about five-oh-eight, departure is 5:15. I haven”t heard my flight called, but the board says, “boarding.” I hustle to the gate, I can see the plane outside, the gate lady says, “You”re too late, sir. It’s sealed… we have to seal the flight 10 minutes before departure. FAA Regulations. We paged you. Go to Customer service by gate A4.”
You see, theese “express” flights use little planes, and 3 or 4 flights are boaarding from the same gate within a half hour, so there’s no people getting up en-mass to board… and as we all know, being on a computer is mind numbing to all else.
The Customer Service guy, a Jamacian sounding dude, laughed. “Most people won”t admit they didn”t hear the boaarding call.” I had been in line at Customer Service for quite a while… but I was in no hurry, I”d missed my flight. “Bad news, no more direct flights to Cincinnati… I can route you through Chicago but you won”t get in until midnight.” That was actually good news. A scenerio of staying over in a Dulles Airport hotel and flying sometime tomorrow was playing in my head. “Gate C19 at 7:10, don”t miss that one or you”re outta luck.”
So I go to the new gate and get a slice of Pizza Hut cheese pizza… and it turns out to be deep dish with one of those bulbous cheese stuffed crusts. Yuk, but filling. I”m guessing there will be booze on the plane. I”ll be needing that.
The flight to Chicago was quite boring. I like that. As for the booze, if you order a Scotch & Soda (mud in your eye, baby do I feel high, oh me oh my, do I feel high) you get yer little bottle of Dewer’s, a glass of ice and a whole can of soda. Great.
The flight from Chicago to Cincinnati was, thankfully, short. There was plenty of leg room in Economy +, but you can”t make a little 2+2 plane wider. I had a window seat and was praying for a small woman to occupy the aisle seat. No such luck. This BIG guyâ€”not fat, but bigâ€”took that seat. We just had to be good friends with the arms and shoulders. Short flight is good.
At the Cincinnati airport it took forever for the bags to come up… okay, about 30 minutes. My bags were already there, I could see them locked in a case behind a wire glass door. The bag guy doesn”t come around until the bags come up. I wait. It’s midnight.
At Hertz after midnight, the shuttlebus driver is the check-in guy. He was waiting for me, the last guy of the day; “Your car is in space 52 Mr. Rector.” A KIA of some sort.
Long day. Missing the flight at Dulles turned out to only cost me hours… I wonder if I got hours for those extra miles. I was in bed at the Downtown Cincinnati Ramada at 1:33.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I left a wake-up call for 8:30 but woke up about quarter of eight after a pretty good sleep. Dozing back off was fruitless, so I got up and showered. All I wanted tao do was find the best breakfast in Cincinnati, so I asked the desk clerk in the hotel. She suggested Friches. “Surely, you can do better than that,” I said.
“Well, you could go downtown to one of those diners, but those aren”t as fast… go down 7th and turn left on Walnut.” Well, Walnut is one way the other way, so I ducked into the parking garage mid-block.
“My motel clerk said there were some good breakfast places on Walnut. Which way?” I asked the parking guy.
First Watch, right next door. You won”t be disappointed,” he said. I entered First Watch just about the stroke of nine, it was mobbed. Businessmen were buzzing around and two waitresses were frantically working the cash registers. Minutes later, all was quiet, the dining room was comfortably occupied, I was seated and ordered Eggs Benedict.
I automatically got a thermal pot of coffee and a pitcher of ice water. When the eggs came they were perfectly poached on tomato slices and thin slices of ham over english muffins, the ham spilling out onto the plate. On the side were ‘seasoned” potatoes and a little ramekin of red grapes and strawberry slices. Good stuff, maybe the best in Cincinnati. It made me compare to the Pine Cone Diner in Point Reyes, but that’s a whole â€˜nother situation.
Satiated, I walked down Walnut to stretch my senses and Bang! there’s the Contemporary Art Center, not yet open. I walked around it and around a few more blocks. I”ll be back.
I want to see Heartland America, or at least Heartland Ohio, so instead of taking the MapQuest quick route to Lancasterâ€”I-71 northeast to I-270 around the bottom of Columbus and back southeast on Route 33 to Lancasterâ€”I can take US-22 directly from Cincinnati to Lancaster. Carol’s parents, with whom I”m bunking for a night on my extended trip to the reunion, lived on US-22 until recently. I started up I-71 but soon saw an exit for US-22/Ohio-3 and took it. Now I”m in the Great Cincinnati Suburban Strip and looking for someplace to get a cheap pair of shades and some water. I can be picky. If the store’s on the wrong side of the road or not convenient in any way, there”ll be another one. I experienced a horrendous traffic jamâ€”Right Lane Closed Aheadâ€”and after clearing the construction saw a Walgreen’s. Bottle of water, bottle of V8, $10 “driving” sunglasses at the checkout. Sir, these sunglasses are buy one get one free… get another pair. What a country! So now I have two pairs of shades. I hope the sun stays out, it’s about 80 ° with blue skies and little humidity. Nice.
Soon the road emptied out as I”m passing through Morrow and Rochester, I can tell only because of the Town signs and slightly reduced speed limit. Houses and subdivisions pass by, generally masked by foliage. No cornfields yet. Where is my Heartland? Wilmington has a stoplight and a downtown with substantial brick buildings, and is strips and chains free. Nice little town, it seems, the kind that would be in the Heartland. As I hit the outskirts of Wilmington, there is the strip. The strip thins, open country begins and there on my left is a new building with a new parking lot. Skyline Chili! I brake hard and hang a left into the parking lot. Skyline is the inventor, they say, of Cincinnati Chili, three ways, four ways and five ways. I”ve made it from a recipe from Sally Redmond and written about it; now I can sample some of the real thing.
Before I”m through the door, a pert young waitress asks if I know what I want to drink and I say I”m not even in yet and she says some people do. I can sit anywhere… it’s one-thirty… I take a table by the window, open the menu and ask her about portions… portions tend to be big in the Heartland. She suggested small, I can always get another one if its not enough. I take a deep breath and order a small Cincinnati Chili, Five Ways, spaghetti, chili, kidney beans, onions and cheese. Oh boy! It comes quickly, I guess they”ve got a vat of each in the back. Looks just right. I dig in, twirl my fork, and it is just right. Yummy. And the size is just right, I polish it off.
Now I”m in the Heartland, cornfields on one side of the road, soy beans on the other, Moody Blues/CSN/The Who (Tommy) on FOX FM radio, the road straight and empty with a dashed yellow line down the middle and solid white lines on each edge. In younger days I have done 100 on roads like this, but here and now I lope along at about 60 and soak it all in. Melvin, Sabina “The Eden of Ohio,” Washington Court House… after that Ohio 3 splits off to the north. The(former) 3C highway, the main connecting road between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati… traveled it many times as a youth, never the whole way, but often. I remain on US-22. New Holland is a beat up town. I pass through Williamsport and then reach Circleville, a nice Ohio town with a Main Street more than a block long.
Main Street Circleville
“Wondering when you will be here,” she says.
“Well, I”m in Circleville, so it won”t be long.”
“How did you get there?” she says.
“On Route 22.” I continued to Lancaster and was, indeed, there before long. About 4 p.m., four easy hours from Cincinnati.
After heartfelt greetings and me talking about my travels and them talking about Alan and Jon and so on, Bus allowed as how it was time to eat and Liz said it was too early and then went on describing the Texas Roadhouse, a new place. They”d been there once, but that was just after it opened and it was okay. I said it sounded good, but no, we don”t have one of those. Liz held Bus off until five but could hold no longer, and we left.
The Texas Roadhouse is up 33 about a mile toward Columbus and Bus drove the big Ford into the parking lot. The lot is packed, but he found a space directly in front of the door. Inside, a 10 to 20 minute wait was announced. I swear to God, it’s 5:15 on Thursday, this is a big place, and we wait the full 20 minutes, and there aren”t that many blue hairs like us. And while we”re waiting, more stout Ohio folks and families are pouring in the door.
Once seated, we”re in a booth on an aisle leading to the kitchen door and we get to observe streams of young, cute waitresses who all seem to be between 5″-3″ and 5″-5″ and walking with purpose; there were only one or two males. (The UPS Manual says that their drivers should walk quickly, but not look like they”re hurrying.) Our waitress, Kristen, was so bubbly it was almost uncomfortable.
Liz and I both wanted the Prime Rib, but they didn”t have it that day, so we settled for New York Strip. Bus ordered the kabobs. The meat came cooked right and tasty. (I”ve had better steaks, but not for $15 with two sides!) Good food, ebullient service… no wonder there’s a wait. But still, at 5:15???
Back at Cobblestone Village we sat and wondered who would “drop by to see Marc.” Jon finally saved me, and Michelle arrived a few minutes later. I got to rehearse my slide show with someone who doesn”t really know me or much about me. That was good. Jon brought a bottle of Shiraz to smooth my evening (thanks Jon).
Friday, August 18, 2006
I drove downtown Lancaster for my walk. It’s difficult and ugly to walk around the folks place as their condo is situated between the seemingly endless, connected together strip centers south of Memorial Drive and the too narrow and busy Ety Road, bordered by soybean fields. The only place to walk is the strip center and I see up close such a dearth of thought and abundance of ugliness that I just get angry, which cancels out the benefits of the walk. From my parking place on Main at Memorial Drive, I walked up to Broad, over to Fifth, up to High Street and back. That was good. I looked for the Methodist Church where Carol and I were married, but didn”t recognize any of the several churches I passed.
The Four Reasons Deli and Cafe is across from where I parkedâ€”which is why I parked thereâ€”and I got a small coffee. Back at the ranch, I got some large curd cottage cheese and a jar of Dole pineapple and mango mixed fruit out of the refrigerator. It’s remarkable how, even Dole, can make sweet wonderful pineapple and lively mango a shadow of themselves.
Breakfast done, I pack, put on my most winning smile and thank them for having me and I”ll see you on Sunday. “Leaving already?”
“Yeah, there’s some exploring I want to do, Michelle mentioned Victorian Village near Short North. I haven”t been there (true).”
Next installment: Columbus and the Reunion