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!

The National Road-Zane Grey Museum

If you’ve been reading here for a while you most likely have noticed my mild obsession with the National Road.  For many people, it’s just a line on a map but I think there’s a sense of romance found along this road. Some might call it roadside kitsch but a drive along some sections is like a journey back in time to days before fast food and hotels could be found along interstate exits.

It’s a fun search for remnants of a bygone era when enterprising farmers and businessmen alike worked to accommodate the cross country traveler. You’ll see old diner signs, faded murals on brick buildings, abandoned motels and the occasional neon sign as well as farms, quaint small towns and modern amenities to make your adventure fun.

I adore the towns where you find mom and pop establishments like the Oasis Diner in Plainfield, Indiana or the fabulous Lynn’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain just a few miles down the road. There are a host of antique stores and cute shops along this route as well as friendly people, eager to know where you’re from and to hear about your rambling trip through their neck of the woods. 

It’s fun. It’s slow travel as the road cuts through small cities and villages, forcing you to reduce your speed and enjoy the journey. In fact, when I travel the National Road, I like to think that the journey is the destination. 

In case you don’t know, the National Road was the first major highway built by the federal government. Construction began in Cumberland, Maryland in 1811 and today it ends in St. Louis. In it’s early days, it was a thoroughfare for conestoga wagons and people on horseback while it was later used for bicycles and then automobiles.

The origins of the National Road are skillfully told at the National Road-Zane Grey Museum near Zanesville. The museum also covers the local ceramics industry and the life of prolific writer Zane Grey. For today, we’ll just talk about the National Road portion of the museum and we’ll discuss the other topics another day.

I brought my parents here on a little birthday adventure last week and was thrilled to learn the museum lived up to its reputation.

There are several things to see here but the most notable may be well over one hundred feet of display case featuring vignettes that depict the road over time. Professionally done and meticulously created works of art, these scenes feature houses, businesses, people, animals, trains, boats, bicycles and necessary scenery to depict the creation and evolution of the road. From the cutting of virgin forests through the advent of the automobile, you’ll find everything in between.

But there are a host of other things – lifelike mannequins look like they could speak to you as they depict work in a blacksmith’s shop as well as a tavern scene that portrays how needed services became available as the road gained in popularity.

There are some fabulous old cars and bicycles as well as a conestoga wagon that was once used for transporting cargo. This piece in particular is fascinating. It exists because someone had tucked it away in a barn to use for storing hay. It remained sheltered this way for many decades before coming into the possession of the Ohio Historical Society and later finding a home here in this museum.

If you look closely, some of the original nineteenth century paint remains – red on the wheel spokes and a sort of slate gray on the body of the wagon.

It’s incredible to realize that this piece, which should have been lost to weather and time, is in such fine condition and accessible to museum visitors in the year 2019.

The museum is operated by Ohio History Connection (the rebranded name of the Ohio Historical Society). One of the museum’s ambassadors is a gent named Jerry who seems to know his history on all three topics – the National Road, Zane Grey and ceramics – both forward and backward. He has an engaging way of telling a story and a fantastic sense of humor, helping guests feel like they’re just here for a visit with an old friend rather than for an educational experience.

My mother will tell you that she doesn’t like history but even she had fun and learned a lot here.

This was a great experience and well worth the few dollars they ask for admission. Interested?  Click here to get hours, admission and other details!

Jerry also recommended a stop at Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl but we (sadly) had to skip it as we were running low on time and ate too much lunch anyway. So I’ll go back another day and check out the ice cream – or you can go on my behalf and let me know how silly we were to not stop!

A Sneak Peak

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Here’s a sneak peak at a story you can read here later this week. It’s from the National Road and Zane Grey Museum in Zanesville. Visiting here has been on my bucket list for a while and I got to visit with my folks to celebrate my birthday last week.

It’s a great museum, packed with lots of information and stories are told in a fun, engaging way. Well worth a visit so stay tuned!

Ready For A Road Trip

Who wants to take a road trip? I have a couple of day trips up my sleeve this month and am dying to hit the open road!

Tell me- if you had a day free to roam anywhere you please, where would you go?

Small Town Art

Public art in a small town always makes me smile. Even if I don’t understand the context, even if I don’t stop for a closer look, it means a lot to know that someone thought to create something that makes their town better.

Coming from a small town, I appreciate the volunteers and the ingenuity that it often takes to make something out of nothing. I’ve been that person and have seen countless others hard at work as well.

This mural can be seen along the National Road in Brazil, Indiana and it really adds something special to their downtown district.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Model T Museum With Dad

A highlight of last year’s Christmas vacation was a stop at the Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana. While I know little about cars and nothing about the Model T, I had a fantastic time touring the museum and learning from a great tour guide. The entire time, I kept thinking about how much my dad would love it there.

In my lifetime, I went places with both my parents or with my mother but rarely just with my dad. So it’s a treat to spend a day just the two of us. We set out early, zig zagging through small towns and then across the National Road into Richmond. Neither of us enjoy highways and we weren’t on any kind of schedule so it was fun wandering down roads we hadn’t seen before.

The museum didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed the tour again and he loved it, getting more out of it than I ever will. He has many of the tools and parts they’re displaying, jumbled into his own random collection of stuff. Good luck finding any of it. He’s sort of a pack rat and, while no one else can ever find anything, he knows exactly what he has.

The museum tells the story of the Model T in the context of what was happening in the country and world. It’s very nicely done and I would recommend it if you get a chance.

We also stopped at a big antique mall near Dayton that I’ll tell you about another day.

It was a good day and I’m glad we got to enjoy it together. Solo adventures are fun but it’s even better with someone you know will enjoy it.