Having almost exhausted the states which lie within a plausible weekend driving distance from Chicago, the logical candidate for the extended Memorial Day weekend trip was Ohio. Ohio! The land of John Kasich’s triumphant first victory and desperate last stand in the 2016 Republican primary, I generated the same general level of confusion about going to Ohio as going to Iowa. To which I remind people that it wasn’t me who divvied America up into 50 states.
Together with partners-in-crime and people-who-can-drive-cars Randi and Jason, we arrived into the capital Columbus at a distressing late hour, argued for a bit about what time to set an alarm (“but I need to make the tour of the statehouse!”) and went to bed. The next day, Jason and I sauntered down to the Book Loft (a cool, higgledy-piggledy 32 room bookshop) before marking that all-important tour of Ohio’s capitol. Our guide was certainly trying her best, but despite a lot of confusing Lincoln references (who’s pretty well claimed by both Illinois and Kentucky already) there was no blockbuster politics. Outside the gift shop, a flashing dot matrix screen posed the question of our age: should school buses be fitted with seat belts?
After lunch at Yats (and it’s no exaggeration to say that we structured this entire trip around eating at Yats) we moved on to the town of Chillicothe and their annual Feast of the Flowering Moon. While the website very much played up the Native American angle, it soon became clear that most of the feasting was on deep-fried fair food, and while there was allegedly some Native American dancing in the park (we saw none) the main stage was instead given to an ageing cover band who opened – somewhat ironically – with a spirited rendition of We’re An American Band.
If I sound bitter, it’s only because Chillicothe rained on me quite a lot. An even-handed analysis would also include the fact that the park was beautiful, the fair clearly popular with families, and that deep-fried Oreos were very tasty. Sadly I missed my chance to witness a beauty pageant, although I didn’t miss the gaggle of young girls staring up at the pageant winner’s outfit in a shop window.
But enough distractions. Our real destination in Ohio was the Hocking Hills State Park, and we stayed at the Wildwood Inn & Lllama Farm (llama farm!) as a guest of Mike – a really interesting guy with a fascinating life story. Not only did he cook us a delicious breakfast casserole, but we were also invited to roast s’mores around his fire at night and walk his llamas in the morning. This led to worrying moment when my llama bolted free at the first sign of rain and ran off down the path, at which point I wish Mike hadn’t told us that each llama cost him $3000. (Thankfully, it had just ran home.)
In the park itself, we went zip lining in the morning and canoeing seven miles down the river (“technically a creek”) in the afternoon. This was great fun, even when we got stuck on a log and had to be rescued. I could easily have spent a very relaxing and secluded week here, with its pleasingly lack of phone signal and windy rural roads. Ohio, you’ve won me over.
Not pictured below: the ‘Oldest Concrete Street in America’ of Bellefontaine, Ohio. You can use your imagination for that one.
Creepy Confederate flag watch: small but noticeable numbers by the roadside. What’s up with that?
Carrie Schedler, Sharon Dinkin, Jen Vermeulen, Simon T Abernethy, Abigail Osbiston, Randi Lawrence, Ben Kozlowski, Kristina Francisco, Beth Dubowe-Lawrence liked this post.