Excursion 16, Part 1 (Consider the Lilies)

In which our intrepid hero experiences his first ever car chase…

Ohio, it turns out, is not a particularly sunny state.  Ohio’s major cities average only between 63 and 77 days of sunshine (defined as 30% or less cloud cover) per year.  More than half of the days in Ohio have at least 80% cloud cover.  Chicago has more clear days than Columbus (which falls somewhere in the middle of Ohio’s range); Boston has several weeks worth of more clear days; Dallas has nearly twice the number of clear days as Columbus; and Las Vegas has three times the number of clear days as Columbus.   I was unable to find out how 2013 compared to the average for Ohio, but it seems to me, based on my excursions in 2013, that either 2013 was a particularly cloudy year for Ohio or I must have had been particularly unlucky in the days I was able to drive, because when I look back at the photographs I took in 2013, it seems like it was cloudy on almost every excursion.

[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image]

It was certainly cloudy as I set out on my 16th excursion of 2013, heading northeast with the eventual goal of doing some more sightseeing up the Ohio River.


The cloud cover did have an effect on the quality of the photographs I was able to take, me being a novice photographer, making some shots poor that might otherwise have been okay and some shots merely okay that might have been much nicer (as we’ll see).  However, it would occasionally lend to the mood, as in this shot of an old house falling apart (the entire back porch/deck collapsed, it seems).


Cloud cover perhaps made this shot, of an abandoned old house, a bit more moody, with subdued colors.


For some reason, this slightly open screen door made the house seem more lonely—perhaps in your mind you can hear the creaking of rusty hinges in the breeze.

As I headed northeast, the road I was taking led over a narrow little lake.  I can’t remember the exact route I took, but a little investigation makes me strongly suspect that I was driving east on U.S. 22 and crossing a little spit of Salt Fork Lake, northeast of Cambridge, Ohio.  As I crossed over the lake, I looked to my left, out on the lake, and saw that there was some form of lily that happened to be in bloom on the lake at that moment.  I wondered if perhaps I could get down to the shore of the lake and take some pictures of the lilies.  Even now it seems odd to me that I was interested in taking photographs of flowers—flowers and birds are not my thing, that’s for sure—but this was clearly a serendipitous moment, because those flowers would not be in bloom much longer.  Just over the lake, I saw a little dirt road heading north and I took it, thinking it might take me down to the lake.  I was right.


The dirt road circled back around through the trees and actually went right down into the lake.  Salt Fork Lake is a reservoir created by a dam finished in 1967.  I suspect that the road is actually the remnant of a road that pre-dated the existence of the reservoir.  The above photograph faces south, back towards the old U.S. highway from which I turned off.  You can see a large amount of lilies hugging the shoreline.


Here’s the road, going right down into the lake.  This photograph was taken facing west.


Finally, I turned to my right (i.e., facing north) and snapped this photograph.  For those photographs I violated my usual procedure and actually left the vehicle to find a better vantage point from which to take photographs—I ended up simply going out onto the road that led into the lake.  I did not have a tripod with me and, as you can see from the photographs, there was nothing really for me to brace myself against (though, I realize only this instant that I could have braced myself against my own vehicle).  So what I did was sit down, Indian-style, on the road and tried to brace my elbows against my fat stomach.  The problem for me was the relatively low light because of the thick cloud cover, combined with the fact that the lilies above were actually quite some distance away, so I would really have to zoom in to take photographs, which meant that I would have a real problem with camera shake blurring the images.  This then became a battle for me simply to take some passable photographs rather than any truly nice shot.


But I did try, like a trooper.  This was one of the first good looks I had ever really have of lily pads (remember, I grew up in the desert), and I thought it was interesting how they coated the water entirely.  I saw too that these were not pristine plants in a nursery or even a vase, but as the photo above shows, plants that had been eaten, weathered, worn, and torn.


Still, it was nice to sit and take these photographs.  I tried to get different angles and different zoom lengths.  Of course, many of my photos turned out to be too blurry to use.


While I was taking photographs of this closest patch of lily pads, I noticed a distant shape on the lake—you can see it yourself in the upper left corner of this photograph—just trace the shoreline in from the left until you get to the little square shape.  One of the benefits of the Canon SX50 that I was using this day is its superzoom capabilities; the camera has a 50x optical zoom and a 100x digital zoom.  The latter is not going to turn out great photos, but it sure can satisfy your curiosity.  So I zoomed in.


When I zoomed in to the maximum amount, I discovered that way down the lake was a little pontoon boat out on the lake for some fishing.  I felt a little voyeuristic taking this photograph, but it was fascinating to get a glimpse of what people were doing, so far away.


I soon got myself back to the business of taking photographs of flowers.  A number of the books on landscape photography that I have bought have sections on flowers, but I skipped all those sections, never thinking that I would actually be taking photographs specifically of flowers, so I don’t even know all the things I did wrong.


This photograph isn’t the sharpest, but I was happy that I was able to capture this bee that I noticed buzzing around.


The above photograph is probably the best photograph I was able to take of the lilies.  Considering my lack of skill, the poor conditions, and the need to zoom in from a considerable distance, I have to say that it’s not that bad.


I did notice that bees were not the only little flying creatures amongst the lilies.


But so much for the birds and the bees.  Let’s get back to the real world, a world often much uglier than an idyllic, peaceful lake—as this roadside sign shows.


Some miles up the road is another reservoir, the Piedmont Reservoir, and not far from it I found this old motor hotel, the Lake Piedmont Inn.  With only five rooms, it is quite tiny and perhaps more like a bed and breakfast in terms of experience.


I headed east for some time and was probably somewhere in the vicinity of Cadiz, Ohio, when I came across what appeared to be a nameless little hamlet, where I saw the above house.  And herein lies a little story.  The house was dilapidated, which readers know already is something that interests me, plus, to the side and back of the house there were a very large number of dogs chained up, which was also interesting (in the above photograph, you can see one of the dogs if you look just to the left of the large shrubs flanking the house).

So I thought I would photograph the house and the dogs.  I didn’t really think things through, however.  Even though my vehicle was actually across the street and some distance away from the house and yard, I basically was the only thing happening that Saturday morning in this sleepy hamlet, so all the dogs were intently interested in me and started barking up a storm.  This apparently awoke one of the residents of this little meth lab house, who decided to see what the clamor was all about.  He went to his upstairs window and peered out—and saw me, in my SUV, some distance away, with a camera attached to a device mounted to the vehicle that was clearly taking pictures of his residence.  In the photograph above, you can actually see Mr. Shirtless in the upstairs window.

I was not aware of this, intent on focusing my camera on the dogs, having already taken a couple of pictures of the house.  But a distant and angry “Hey!  What are you doing!” jolted me out of my reverie and I glanced back at the house to see Mr. Shirtless poking out of the window and angrily waving his hands at me.

Now, my usual practice whenever anybody notices me taking photographs is to wait until they approach me, then explain what I am doing and talk about my blog and so forth.  This almost invariably gets people interested and excited and I have had many wonderful conversations as a result.  I could tell this wouldn’t be one of those times.  This guy was already angry and probably suspected I was a private detective working for his ex-wife or even worse.  So I decided to give up on taking any photos of the dogs and just drive on.

About five minutes later, as I’m driving down the road, I hear a faint high-pitched honking behind me.  I look in my rear-view mirror to see Mr. Shirtless, still sans shirt, following me in some little dusty red car, honking and gesticulating and probably still shouting.  Clearly he had run down the stairs, not even bothering to put on a shirt, and jumped in his clunker to get on my tail.

This caused me to review my options as I continued to drive down the road.  Option number one was to pull over and explain what I was doing.  This still did not seem like a viable plan for dealing with angry Mr. Shirtless.  I noticed while he was following me and honking that I was leaving him behind every time we drove up a hill, and I realized that this gave me option two, which would be to use my GPS and superior horsepower to simply lose him by turning off on some side road on the other side of a hill while he was still trying to climb the front side.

That still did not seem like a great option, so I opted instead for number three.  Since my plan from the beginning was to head to Steubenville, I decided I would stick with that plan.  Perhaps he would simply tire of following me and stop his pursuit.  And if he did not, I would simply use my GPS to navigate to a police station in Steubenville and pull over there.  If he stuck around, I could explain myself while being under a bit of protection.  So that is what I did.

In the end, he followed me for a good 15 minutes more, but in the end he grew weary and broke off his pursuit to head back, one presumes, to his ramshackle shack and his pack of dogs.  This was an interesting experience and certainly gave me some adrenaline.  I never felt in any danger but it was an unusual experience to have someone chasing after you like that.  It was, in any case, a good reminder to be careful when out on these excursions.  Later that day, near the end of my excursion, I would come across a house whose residents might possibly be a lot more dangerous than this guy, as we’ll see.

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