Chance Encounter With Barry Gunderson

A recent trip to the Mount Vernon area led me to go looking for some old train paraphernalia in Gambier. As I turned into the park where the trains were located, I noticed a large sculpture at the side of the road.

It was so striking that I made a mental note to pull over on the way out.

I will be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t know what it was or what it meant but I found it striking and wanted to know more. So I pulled over on the way out and went bounding up to the sculpture just as a man stepped into view.

He had a hoe and wore a straw hat to protect against the sun. He smiled and waved and asked “what do you think?”

I called it extraordinary and he beamed.

“I’m so glad you used that word. Extraordinary. I’m not just the gardener, I’m the artist,” he said.

And thus began a long chat with artist Barry Gunderson.

The piece is called “Understorms.”

It’s painted aluminum to represent clouds, rain and butterflies. It was commissioned for the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus thanks to the State of Ohio, Percent For Art Program. It remained there from 1992-2008 when it was removed from that site and relocated to its current location.

Gunderson lives there in Gambier and has taught sculpture at Kenyon College since 1974. It was dumb luck or good fortune perhaps that he was there doing some work that day. He takes care of the weeding and the upkeep around his sculpture. It’s clear he takes great pride in his work and meeting him was a highlight of my day.

It reminded me of something I have been missing this last year. Some of the best travel memories I have are of interactions like this one. I didn’t have an appointment, I just had a chance encounter that was enriching and fascinating.

This is one of the reasons we adventure!

If you’re in the Gambier area, be sure to swing by 302 Duff Street and see this unusual piece of art!! While you’re there, go see the train caboose and locomotive too!

All Aboard In Gambier

If you’re a train enthusiast and near Gambier, Ohio, there’s a neat site at a trail head for the Kokosing Gap Trail. This paved 14 mile trail follows the former Pennsylvania Railroad line from Mount Vernon to Danville.

There’s a trail head in Gambier where you’ll find a 1940 American Locomotive Company (Alco) locomotive and a 1924 Chesapeake and Ohio caboose. If you’re a train enthusiast, these pieces have a lot of history. You can read some fascinating facts about that here.

If you’re not a train enthusiast, they’re still cool to see. One thing that’s unusual about this place is that they encourage visitors to climb up in the locomotive and step up on the back of the caboose for photo ops. A lot of places frown on touching and climbing so this is a fun change of pace.

This site also includes a railroad switch and a crossing sign.

Here you’ll find restrooms in a building that resembles a train station. You can access all this from the bike path or by parking next to the tennis courts in the town park. If you follow this trail into Mount Vernon, be sure to hop on the HOOT trail and head over to Ariel Foundation Park which I wrote about this week. Click here for that story.

If you’re into geocaching, there’s a trail of eleven caches associated with this rail trail. You can get the scoop here!

Quarry Chapel

Gambier, Ohio is home to a lovely sandstone church not far from the town’s limits. It’s called Quarry Chapel, a simple name for a picturesque church with a long history.

The British stone masons who were brought to Gambier to build Kenyon College also decided to build their own house of worship in the 1860s.

The chapel, with both Celtic and gothic influences, has been restored and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It would be a beautiful setting for a wedding. Learn more about the church and how to host an event at their website.

Village Market

It’s inviting, isn’t it?

For a while, there were a couple of guys sitting here just watching the day go by and it made me feel at peace.

It’s in Gambier, just down the street from the Amish folks who sold me some goodies. The town has a number of local shops and restaurants with some sidewalk space. These types of establishments lend character to the town and give visitors cause to slow down and even linger a while.

That is my kind of place.

Amish Goods In Gambier

This scene in Gambier, Ohio a couple of weeks ago was so enchanting I had to get a closer look.

An elderly Amish couple had for sale lots of handmade items including baskets, masks, aprons, quilts, candles and canned items.

I purchased a jar of pure maple syrup and one of black raspberry jam which she am said is her favorite.

The Amish do not want their picture taken and it’s important to respect that but I hope they don’t mind having pictures made of their buggies and goods. It was too pretty to resist.

A Walk Around Gambier, Ohio

The town of Gambier is quaint. Home to Kenyon College, it’s hard to tell where the downtown and the college begin and end because they’re so closely aligned.

The university buildings are largely stone and old, in some ways resembling backdrop for a Harry Potter film.

I’m dying to go stay at this cute bed and breakfast. The weird thing is that I really don’t enjoy a B&B as I typically prefer more privacy and personal space than they offer. But I have a burning desire to curl up here with a book and blanket on a cold winter day.

There are some cute shops and restaurants including some with sidewalk cafe space for these warm weather days during the age of Covid.

And there’s an overall sense of civic responsibility and human decency that you often find prominent in a liberal arts college town. Be kind to your neighbor, shop local, be a good citizen are common themes found on many of the posters and signs here. People are also very careful to wear their masks and keep a safe distance.

My brief walk around town left me wondering about real estate prices and wishing that I had gotten my education here. What a delight it would have been to study here!

But that ship has sailed and I can take solace in the knowledge that visiting is always an option!