Freedom Of The Open Road

There’s nothing more freeing than the open road. It’s especially nice if you get up early to watch the sun rise and make time to brake along the way for roadside attractions.

I especially like neon signs, great downtowns, old churches, rustic barns and covered bridges.

As I begin planning this year’s adventures, I have been looking back on the road trip by which I measure them all. It was in the days following Christmas 2018 and I set out on the National Road through Indiana all the way to Terre Haute and back to Springfield, Ohio. There is nothing like rambling down the National Road if you want a slice of Americana.

I had no hotel reservations but a list of places to see – the Model T Museum and an old firehouse turned restaurant in Richmond, Lynn’s Soda Fountain in Brazil, the magnificent Oasis Diner in Plainfield and a host of antique stores along the way. I talked to people, saw murals and learned so much that trip.

The last day, I left Richmond in the pitch black with a breakfast sandwich in hand and a camera on the seat next to me. It took hours to make it to Springfield because I rambled down side roads and around the block in small towns just to see what was out there.

The journey was the destination and the plan was to have no plan.

It was the epitome of freedom and adventure and the absolute best vacation from reality. Everyone should experience such joy and independence as I found on the National Road for those cold late December days.

Will I get to experience this type of joy again? I honestly don’t know but have my sights set on some new places to visit and some familiar spots in Indiana. Perhaps a few days rambling through small towns in the Hoosier State will be just the ticket.

So, roadies- where will your rambling take you this year?

York Steak House

Sometimes you find adventure and fun around every corner and without even trying. Sometimes the thing you looked forward to doing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That was the case yesterday.

I belong to a Facebook group called Ohio Road Trips where I occasionally get adventure inspiration. I try to not get too excited about the recommendations because people often pan things that I like and hype things that I think are terrible. But when a gentleman shared his pictures from York Steak House in Columbus, I thought it sounded fun.

York was a popular chain in the sixties and seventies, using a cafeteria format to serve mostly steak, chicken and seafood. It was a contemporary of chains like Bonanza and Ponderosa which were enjoying their heyday when I was a kid. While York peaked at about 200 locations that were located largely in shopping malls, most locations closed in 1989.

The Columbus restaurant opened in 1966 and is said to be the only one left. It remains family owned and operated and has the feel of an early eighties time capsule.

Everything is made to order in an open kitchen. Most meals come with one trip past the salad bar. And take note, it’s an actual salad bar where you make a salad. There’s not a lot of extra stuff like cottage cheese and fruit and the like.

It’s feels like a sort of odd process if you’ve never been there. When you get in line, you grab a tray, cutlery and napkins before placing your order with someone behind the counter. That person will provide you a salad plate and cup. Next, you can pick up your dessert if you see fit before fixing your salad. Keep going to fill your glass with the Coke product of your choice. Past that you’ll find complimentary butter and little cups of sour cream for a quarter apiece. This is a step up from years ago when they also charged you for the butter.

Finally, you’ll make your way to the cash register to pay for your meal.

After that, it becomes like a regular restaurant. You seat yourself with your salad and drink. A waitress will refill your drinks and bring your meal when it’s ready.

You’ll exit the dining room via a different door than where you entered.

The regulars who came through before us seemed as happy as clams but we were a little perplexed as to how everything worked.

My food was great – fish, a delicious baked potato and a tasty yeast roll. I forget sometimes how much better a baked potato is when it comes from the oven rather than the microwave!

I actually went with my parents to celebrate my mother’s recent 70th birthday. In retrospect, this wasn’t the best choice for a celebratory meal but it certainly was a unique experience.

My favorite part was actually this sign.

Don’t ask why. I couldn’t begin to answer you other than to say it reminds me of the menu boards of the old Ponderosa steakhouses of my childhood

York Steak House is located along the National Road and is certainly unique to the National Road experience. All you roadies out there looking for a blast from the past might consider a stop here. Learn more at their website.

No Vacancy

Once upon a time, the nation was not crisscrossed with interstate highways. Instead, roads like the National Road were the routes you took to get places. As such, there were plenty of motels, truck stops and diners for the weary traveler to stop and take a load off for a meal or for the night.

The construction of I-70 to parallel the National Road all but killed businesses and towns along this route. There are still a number of interesting things to see and do along this road and nothing makes my heart sing quite like going out to find them.

I have traveled it through all of Indiana, Ohio and part of Pennsylvania. One of these days I’m going to see the whole thing.

Meanwhile here’s an old motel near Norwich, Ohio. The Siesta Motel dates to the fifties. It’s been closed for a while but the sign is still fantastic.

You might see it if you visit John Glenn’s home place in New Concord (which I just realized I haven’t told you about) or the National Road Zane Grey Museum.

A Barn And The Road

There’s nothing better than an American flag on a great old barn. This particular barn is located on the National Road in Ohio, not far from Route 37 where you turn to go south to Lancaster.

I had surrendered my search for a bridge that a stranger had told me about (yes, I take adventure tips from strangers) and was pretty excited to see this. It was as pretty as a picture in my estimation.

Sometimes the road we call life doesn’t produce exactly what we’re seeking. If we’re lucky, it gives us something better.

Go for a drive, fellow road warriors and see what’s out there. Most of all, enjoy this day.

It’s For Sale!!

This little gem is parked along the National Road not far from Hebron, Ohio. Best of all, it’s for sale! Who needs a fantastic old tow truck for their collection? The sign in the window says $7,500.

The truck speaks for itself so here’s one more picture. Enjoy this day, friends.

Scout and the Christmas Tree

Having a rambunctious little cat has changed my life in ways I cannot begin to describe. But one thing I can describe is how it has changed Christmas. Years past saw a tree in nearly every room but that won’t be happening with an eight month old kitten.

He’s a good little cat and doesn’t get into a lot. Yet he’s still a kitten and all those fun things hanging off it would be tempting.

I plotted for weeks to design a tree situation he couldn’t knock down while climbing and swinging. Just when I thought I was ready for anything, he threw a curveball.

Turns out, he’s not interested in climbing so much as chewing on the pine.

He loves to chew on artificial pine. While it seems that he’s just chewing and not eating it, I don’t trust that he won’t try. And this is a chance I’m not prepared to take.

So there’s just one tree in my house this year (behind a closed door) and it’s devoted to my adventures. It’s my travel tree. I wrote all about it last year but, in a nut shell, I collect ornaments from my adventures. Each ornament is hung with a postcard that relates a trip memory.

Most of my ornaments aren’t real Christmas ornaments and I like it that way. There’s a stuffed jackalope bank from Douglas, Wyoming and a small metal airplane to mark my first biplane ride this year.

There’s a vintage snowman found at an Indiana antique store during last year’s antiquing adventures across the National Road. I even have a pennant from the Ernest Tubb Record Store in Nashville and a small handmade quilted piece from Ocracoke Island.

The list goes on and on and each ornament evokes countless memories – both happy and bittersweet. One new ornament represents the daily adventure of having Scout in my life.

The tree is now up and Scout gets supervised playtime in that room. So far he has only tried to chew and has batted at a couple of low hanging ornaments. I’m hoping he will outgrow that chewing thing and that next Christmas will be back to normal.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, Click here to read last year’s description of the travel tree. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start a new tradition of your own!