Cambridge Dickens Victorian Village

Every year the town of Cambridge transforms into a charming destination that celebrates Victorian era Christmas. The concept of the Dickens Victorian Village is brilliant if you ask me.

Downtown Cambridge is a special place at any time of year. There are loads of historic buildings that house some lovely shops, restaurants, offices and even a fantastic bakery that has been in business for nearly a century. A gorgeous 1881 era Courthouse holds court (literally) over the downtown, providing a gorgeous focal point and even a backdrop for an amazing light show during the holidays.

The Dickens piece adds something unexpected. You see, it involves about 180 life sized characters in Victorian dress and arranged in about ninety vignettes around downtown. They tell the stories of people who lived here and of the activities that went on in this area. There are carolers, a photographer, a glass blower, a seamstress and many, many more. I was especially taken with the Father Christmas and with the coal miners who looked so lifelike I wanted to sit down and ask their stories.

Characters can be found under lampposts, in doorways and in building windows. A few are placed so unexpectedly, that they were almost surprising when I happened upon them in the dark. I did return the next morning to hit a couple of shops and got to see some things in the daylight I had missed the night before.

Plaques placed with each scene tell a short story, making this public art project an easy history lesson too.

This event always takes place November 1 through December 31 and has been going on for seventeen years. It attracts small groups like families as well as large groups that come by the busload to take part in the fun every year.

Go if you can. It’s free to walk around. As mentioned before, there are plenty of places to eat and shop while you’re there so be sure to support those small businesses. Click here to read about that fabulous light display at the courthouse too!

For all you National Road enthusiasts, note that this is right on that famous route we all enjoy so much! Follow Make The Journey Fun on Facebook to see more pictures from the Dickens Village!

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.