Riverside Motel

If you have ever traveled First Street in Gallipolis, Ohio, you likely have driven past this sign. It’s outside the Riverside Motel which, as the name promises, is just across the street from the river.

I think it’s darling and always look for it when traveling by. Modern advertising and signs err on the side of boring so cool pieces like this stand out from the pack and are just fun to see.

That is all, friends. I just wanted you to see this creative sign and hope you enjoy it as I do. Have a great day!

Reminiscing About Arches

As winter begins to wind down and adventure season dawns before us, my mind is wandering to some favorite past trips. This is what I do when I’m itching to travel but not able to go just yet.

The Wandering Canadians’ account of their visit to Utah and Arches National Park made me nostalgic for the glorious week I spent wandering through that area with my western adventure friend. That was back in 2018 and still stands up in my memory as one of my best trips ever.

This place is drastically different from my Ohio home. The red rocks, wide open skies and desert climate are like the surface of the moon compared to the lush, green hills of home. Here in Ohio, forests grow thick and tall. In Arches, the trees are small and gnarled curiosities that have fought to survive each passing year. Arches features spires, giant stone arches, balanced rocks and monoliths.

Maybe it’s the drastic difference in landscape that makes it so appealing. When you find something growing here like a cactus flower, a tree or an insect, it seems so miraculous that anything can survive in the sand and heat of this place.

This is why we travel – to understand the world beyond our daily reach and to better appreciate the places where we do live. It encourages us to ask questions and drives us to seek answers about the world and ourselves.

Traveling feeds a curious mind and a wandering soul. My feet itch just thinking about it!

A Walk Through Point Pleasant

Yesterday was magnificent. The weather was as perfect as we could expect for February and the open road called my name. Truthfully, I didn’t go far but the day confirmed my belief that the best things are often in your own backyard.

First up was a leisurely drive to Gallipolis for lunch at China One Buffet. Then it was time to ditch the car and walk off lunch just across the river in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

Their downtown district is mostly along a street that parallels the river. There are some local interest museums, a few shops and restaurants, local services, a magnificent post office and a historic hotel.

Point Pleasant is a destination for many seeking the Mothman, a giant in West Virginia folklore. There’s a popular museum, a statue and even a festival dedicated in his honor. The Mothman is in the ranks of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster but many people take the story seriously while others just enjoy the intrigue.

I’ve shown you some other Point Pleasant landmarks before including the old State Theater.

This advertising mural has appeared here as well.

I also strolled the riverwalk, enjoying the flood wall murals and bridges.

This bridge is eye catching.

I’ll share more pictures and tell you a couple of interesting stories about the history of this area soon.

I ended the day at the Markay in Jackson, where my boss was in a play put on by the local community theater company.

It was a good day and made me crave more like it. I’m dying for a real road trip – the kind where I head somewhere new just to see what’s what along the way.

To say I have been struggling for the last couple of years is an understatement. I haven’t been myself and am beyond sick of dealing with it but yesterday was a lovely reminder of how life used to be. I am grateful for the opportunity and hopeful there will be more soon.

A Good Barn

It’s a picturesque scene from somewhere in Ohio’s Amish Country last fall. I didn’t love it there but there were some bright moments including a peaceful drive in the country and just sightseeing.

This farm was a favorite, possibly because I liked how the vibrant blues and greens accentuate the wood barn.

Greek poet Hesiod is alleged to have said “Do not let a flattering woman coax and wheedle you and deceive you; she is after your barn.”

I don’t know if he really said this but it made me laugh and it sounds pretty accurate to me. I do like a good barn!

St. Joseph Church

Everyone should have friends who are willing to derail their plans to slam on the brakes whenever you gasp the words “look at that!”

My Pittsburgh pal is a champ in this category. When we spotted this Catholic church atop a hill in a tiny western Pennsylvania village, she didn’t hesitate to look for the entrance.

The door was open so we were able to let ourselves in. My friend prayed while I admired the quiet and the light of this beautiful sanctuary.

It really is gorgeous.

It was built in 1893 and, while it feels historic, it also feels fresh and well cared for.

The stained glass is magnificent.

The cemetery contains numerous old graves with interesting, finely crafted headstones.

Lovely, eh?

Just before we left, we met a woman who is a longtime congregant. We had a quick chat with her and she confirmed that the church has an active congregation and she seemed positively thrilled that we showed an interest.

It made my heart happy to think there are still people out there so devoted to their church and faith and that they would make strangers feel so welcome.

Solo Travel 101

Traveling with a companion is wonderful but there’s something special about solo travel. People tend to use the word brave when they learn that you travel alone and it always surprises me. In fact, I’m a little taken aback that someone would think me brave because I can function on a road trip without someone else in the car.

If you can take yourself to the grocery store, chances are you have the life skills needed to take a road trip, check into a hotel and find your way around a new town. Google and phone navigation apps make mastering a new place as easy as can be.

Today, I want to share some ideas on how a beginner can travel solo.

1. Start Close To Home – Before you plan a big trip, start by being a solo traveler in your own backyard. You don’t want your first adventure alone to be to another country where they don’t speak English. Start somewhere easy.

Find a tourist attraction like a museum or a historic home in a neighboring town and take a tour. Eat alone in a cafe you’ve never been to. See how it feels to be a tourist in an environment that feels comfortable.

If I were going to experiment with solo travel for the first time, I would choose a place like Marietta, Ohio (pictured). It’s just a couple of hours from home, has lots of small town charm plus history, museums and some neat restaurants. Look for a place that has lots to do so it’s easy to stay entertained.

Someone once told me they would be terrified to eat alone in a restaurant or to even sit alone in a movie theater. The very idea of all that they are missing made me sad. The movie is a no brainer to me. Splurge on the extra butter and get there early so you can stake out your favorite seat. Sit back and enjoy!

Restaurants are admittedly harder. I often have something to do. It’s rare to catch me without a book or a to do list of some kind. There’s no shame in that. However, I have been known to just sit and eat and people watch and enjoy my meal. Look around you. People are so absorbed in their phones and conversations they don’t care what you do.

2. Plan….. or Don’t – Maybe you would be more comfortable with reservations and an intiniary to define your trip. Just remember, the best thing about solo travel is that you don’t have to plan around someone else. In fact, you don’t have to plan at all.

Read that again. You get to do as you please.

I have booked multiple nights in a hotel only to learn that I was ready to go after one day. I have had some of the best meals by randomly choosing a place because I liked the awning out front. I have awakened early by chance and decided to hit the road in the dark with a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich so I could watch the sunrise from the next town. Flexibility is a tremendous perk to solo travel because you can follow a whim instead of a plan and without worry for someone else’s needs.

3. Find The Unusual – I cringe when someone tells me they want to go on “a Brandi Adventure.” It’s a compliment but the very notion stresses me out. When I have someone else in the car, I feel pressure to entertain them, to keep them comfortable and fed. I get distracted with conversation and am not prepared to slam on the breaks for a quick turn because something about a road looks interesting. When you are able to be in tune with a whim, well, that’s where the magic happens. It’s where the fun starts. Don’t be afraid of the fun.

If you see a building with cool architecture, get a closer look. Park the car and enjoy a town on foot. Read the historic markers, track down the restaurant with the best pie, look around the museum, talk to strangers. Find out what makes a place special. Find out what makes it tick.

4. Talk To People – Ask a local for lunch recommendations. Talk to a museum security guard about the artifact they like best. This is actually my favorite thing to do. I got to see the only DaVinci painting on public display in America because a security guard recommended it. Strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper and ask about the town, the business, the broach they’re wearing. Anything. If you show a little interest in people, they typically are happy to share a story and a laugh. I have gotten the best tips and the most enriching interactions out of simply showing interest in someone’s opinions or stories.

5. Be Safe And Smart – Talk to strangers but don’t be too free with information. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t take chances. Do a little research so that you’re informed when choosing your hotel. At least google the hotel and the neighborhood to see if it’s a safe area. For example, I booked a budget hotel in Jasper, Indiana a few years ago. I don’t recall which one but it would be easy to find. I got to my room and looked out the window to see a very large group of extremely spirited bikers pulling into the parking lot across the street. It was a jail. No one mentioned in the hotel reviews that there was a jail across the street. I might have chosen someplace else had I known. I learned from this experience.

When I travel alone, I like to scope out the hotel before dark. Ideally, I’m in my room at dusk but that doesn’t always work well so be strategic about parking. Let me tell you, after a long day of adventuring, it feels positively luxurious to take a hot shower and sit in the middle of a soft king bed to eat Chinese food while watching bad tv.

Most of all, be smart and listen to your gut. If something feels off, get out. Don’t leave food or drink or bags unattended. Don’t flash a lot of cash or anything valuable and do your best to blend in with the crowd. Don’t look like a tourist or look lost. Walk with purpose, even if that purpose is to duck into a store to ask directions and regroup.

Most tourist attractions don’t allow weapons but it’s smart to carry something where you can – pepper spray, a taser, a small handgun or a knife might be appropriate options for you. Years ago, when I was a young reporter, I had a state trooper advise carrying a large Maglite flashlight. These metal flashlights, when loaded with batteries, are heavy and double as a nice club in a pinch.

I wrote a lot about safety because that’s the part everyone asks about. But guys, please note that this is advice I would offer for any outing, even just a day of shopping in your own town. You can encounter trouble anywhere.

Solo adventuring can be the most rewarding, the most fun, the most liberating experience of your lifetime. Take control. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Go forth and adventure. Most of all, have fun!