In which our intrepid hero llooks at llamas…
There are different types of driving and the way you feel with each type is very different. For example, one type of driving is Getaway Driving. Now, this is a type of driving with which I luckily have no experience, but I assume it is very distinct. Mostly, we experience Driving from Here to There; that’s what we are familiar with. It can make you anxious or relaxed, depending on the circumstances. What I’ve discovered is that my excursions produce a very different set of feelings than Driving from Here to There. First, because you do not have a final destination, you never feel, not even at the beginning, any particular sense of urgency. There is no end goal; the drive itself is one of the desired results. Moreover, the drive takes on a different intensity, because the environment I am in matters more. I am not simply alert so that I do not run into another car or off the side of the road. I am actively scanning my surroundings—looking for something interesting to photograph. So I drive leisurely but very intently. It is a good feeling, but it is definitely not the sort of zen state that you can reach while Driving from Here to There, where the middle doesn’t matter very much.
[Please note that you can click on each photograph below to see a larger, better version of that image]
My third excursion brought this fact home to me. With this trip, I decided to drive on the Interstate from Columbus to Zanesville, a town about an hour’s drive east of Columbus, then leave the main thoroughfares and head east and south. Thus the first leg of my drive was a typical “get there as quickly as possible” sort of trip, but my mindset changed completely as soon as I got off the freeway.
I passed through Zanesville on my way. Some time I will come back and spend a lot more time driving around the town, because it has a lot of fascinating old buildings in it. When I originally moved to Ohio, I naively assumed that the town must have been named after western writer Zane Grey (it was not, of course, being far older). Zanesville has around 25,000 inhabitants and was known for its pottery, as were several towns in the region. As a town, Zanesville has seen better days; its population peaked in 1950 at a bit over 40,000 and has been declining every since (today, population is around 25,500). Its per capita income is 25% less than Columbus. Those are the sorts of statistics that make for a lot of dilapidated old buildings.
With this trip, I snapped only a couple of quick shots of some residences on a small hill as I was passing by. When I was a kid, I couldn’t even imagine why people would want to live on the side of a hill. How could they even ride their bikes, I wondered. I still am not sure that I would ever want to live on a hill slope.
It didn’t take me long until I got into the countryside. I took this excursion on April 13, so the ground had gotten pretty green, but the trees were still leafless, as the below photograph of a well-kept farmhouse indicates. It also illustrates something that amazes me about rural Ohioans—how much they love to mow. So many of them deliberately create huge lawns for themselves, an entire field’s worth of a lawn, then spend all their free time on riding mowers keeping the darn thing looking nice. If we could somehow harness the energy of Ohio lawn mowing, we could power the world. This is something that is alien to me. When I was a child growing up in El Paso, my father made me do all of the yardwork. This included forcing me to use a pick-axe (!) to chop at grass growing against our rock wall (because he wouldn’t buy a weed-wacker). That used up my entire lifetime supply of lawnwork energy. Today I pay a guy to keep my small yard looking nice. But if I had a huge gollywhopping lawn? I don’t know what I’d do.
One of the things that most amazed me when I began making backroad treks into Ohio were how ubiquitous oil wells were. As I noted above, I grew up in West Texas, which meant that the oil fields of the Permian Basin were not too far away. So I had seen many oil wells. And I knew that in the 1800s, Ohio and Pennsylvania were two of the main oil producing states. But I had thought most of that had run out long ago. From the main highways you’d see an oil well every now and then, and once in a rare while even one that was pumping. Little did I know that once you got off the main roads of northeastern and southeastern Ohio, oil wells would become commonplace, virtually everywhere. There are many areas of Ohio where basically at least each property has had at least one well on it, somewhere. Now, it is true that many of those wells don’t pump any more—but the majority of them do (you just may not realize it, because, as one Ohio oilman informed me this spring, many wells are set to only pump for one or two hours a day). And all this is aside from the fracking boom that is just getting going here in this state.
Because oil wells are so common, I haven’t taken very many pictures of them in my journeys (you will find that they show up now and then). When I turn a corner in some parts of the state, I pretty much expect to see an oil well. What I do not necessarily expect to see is a herd of llamas. But the harbinger of just such a herd greeted me along one road.
When I drove past this building, I knew immediately that I had to stop and take a picture. I really can’t tell what its function was, but I wonder if it wasn’t built to house some sort of pumping station.
The below picture I took because it was such a nice example of a tree-lined country road. Alas, this picture was taken before I learned the necessity of avoiding shooting through the very top part of my front windshield, which is tinted. The sky was not such a vivid dark blue.
Indeed, the sky looked much as in the below picture, grey and overcast, as it was for pretty much all of my April 2013 excursions—I couldn’t catch a sunray with a net most of the time. Still, the small house looks nice against the backdrop of that grey sky. These two houses are additional examples of the Ohio Lawn Care Frenzy to which I earlier alluded. This photograph also contains an example of a phenomenon that I encounter occasionally on these trips and which I find utterly dumbfounding: the use of miniature outhouses as lawn decorations. Just think about that. Somehow a toilet facility has become cute in American pop culture.
Here’s another good roadway shot, showing a gravel road running through the woods (of which there are quite a few in southeastern Ohio). I had lived in Ohio for many years before I had ever seen a non-paved public road. It turns out that there are quite a few of them in Ohio, some of them rather ragged indeed (the below road is pretty well kept). Interestingly, I think every one I have driven on so far has been in eastern Ohio, not western Ohio.