In which our intrepid hero reaches his destination and begins his return to the Shire…
One consequence of growing up in the desert is that I came to enjoy rainy days, rare as they are there. This, I discovered, was an attitude quite foreign to people living in the Midwest, where I have lived for the past quarter-century. Yet even so many years later, cloudy days do not depress me as they do so many others and I get a thrill every time a thunderstorm occurs. Ohio gets its fair share of thunder and lightning, but the most impressive lightning show I ever saw occurred in El Paso one summer night in the mid-1980s. I left the house that evening on some minor errand, driving on a wide-open street with an expansive view. The storm had already begun and lightning lit up the entire sky. Indeed, so many simultaneous lightning strikes were occurring each second that it was almost like an eerie artificial daylight. I was virtually the only person on the road, so the whole display seemed as if it were some sort of special show just for me. I have never forgotten that moment.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image]
It was still pretty sunny as I continued my drive into southwestern Ohio (to deliver a work-related presentation), but that would change.
As I got closer I came across a sand and gravel business. What was unusual, for me, was that it was currently in operation. Such businesses are ubiquitous but my whole life whenever I have driven past one it has always been closed or for some other reason not actually working. This one, however, was in full bloom, so to speak, and I got to see actual gravel thrown around.
One thing I never really expected when I started these explorations of Ohio was how many log cabins I would find still standing. Yet the state is full of them. This particular old cabin was now only used as a storage shed.
A typical road view from flat southwestern Ohio. I love to compare and contrast Ohio to west Texas; indeed, some readers may be very tired of my having repeatedly done so in this blog. This is as close as one really can come in Ohio to a “vista,” though it cannot compare to how much one can really see in the west, where wide open views are much more common. Eastern Ohio, like much of Appalachia, is far more claustrophobic. That used to bother me, when I first moved to Ohio, but I got used to it.
Here’s a more close-up shot of that farmhouse, outlined against the horizon. It has the typical traditional Ohio farmhouse structure of a tall building up front, with a lower building (probably built later) stretching away in the back.
I got to my destination and spoke for about two and a half hours. When I left the resort to head home, the weather had changed drastically (compare with previous picture) and now it was quite rainy. This photograph I like quite a bit and it is one of very few photographs that I include in this blog that actually reveals that it was taken from a vehicle. It was actually raining when I took this picture, but I was able to get a clear shot through the windshield by setting my wipers on their highest intermittent and waiting until there was finally one sweep of the wiper blades in which the windshield was still devoid of new drops by the time the blade hit bottom, allowing me to take the shot. Had it been raining even a little harder, that would not have been possible. To me, the most irritating thing about taking photographs during the rain is keeping the lens dry.
I think the most interesting aspect of these decrepit old buildings is the completely half-assed way in which one or more owners tried to keep them marginally viable without doing any actual work or effort.
I had pretty much headed north for my return journey, skirting the Indiana border. This took me eventually to U.S. 40, just shy of Indiana, and I decided to head east on U.S. 40, primarily to see the old motels. As I have said in earlier blog entries covering parts of U.S. 40, this road was for many years one of the most important highways in the United States. It began in the early 1800s as the “National Road,” the first national highway ever. In the early 20th century, with the advent of automobiles, it became a key trunk road for Americans. All along its length sprouted “motor courts” and “motor hotels” (later shortened to motels) to take advantage of the growing number of Americans travelling by car. However, after World War II, the creation of the interstate highway system doomed most of these businesses. In Ohio, Interstate 70 was built, at once paralleling U.S. 40 and rendering it obsolete. The vast majority of traffic now shifted to I-70, rendering U.S. 40 a comparative wasteland. The motels now had no customers. A few, miraculously, managed to survive somehow (in cities like Columbus, often by hosting prostitutes and drug dealers). Most failed. An unknown number of the motels were demolished, others are in ruins, and many were repurposed. In western Ohio, most of the repurposed motels became rural “efficiency apartments,” which could survive because of the lack of such low-cost housing in rural areas for transients and the poor. Above we see an example of just such a repurposed motor hotel.
Here’s another example (U.S. 40 has many, as we will see in this and subsequent blog entries). This motel originally took the form of a series of small cottages; now each cottage served as a tiny apartment.