Excursion 54, Part 1 (The Minibus of Memories)

Sometimes the passage of time becomes abrupt, almost jarring.  For example, almost overnight, it seems, people stopped referring to taxis and began referring to Uber.  “When did Uber become a thing?” I couldn’t help but wonder. Sometimes it is far less apparent—just as you may not notice that someone you are constantly with has aged.  One personal example of this involves the Volkswagen Beetle.  Like many families of an earlier age, my family used to play “lovebug,” where occupants of a car would compete to count Volkswagen beetles, the first person seeing one shouting “lovebug!” to claim their prize (there is a less genteel version of it called “slugbug,” the parameters of which are presumably clear to the reader, but we did not stoop to that).  Once upon a time, the Volkswagen Beetle—the original Volkswagen Beetle—was everywhere.  Then, gradually, it was not everywhere.  Eventually, it was hardly somewhere.  And that’s when you notice time has passed.

[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image.  Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken.]

On Thanksgiving Day, 2015, my friend Tsuki and I decided to go on an excursion into the wilds of southeastern Ohio.  Everybody else would be getting their tryptophan on, we reasoned, so the roads might be quiet and empty—just the sort of setting you want for roadside photography.

Tsuki, it turned out, had a semi-hidden agenda as well.  She started directing me towards the old house where she grew up.


We headed out more or less the way I had returned from my last journey, by way of Baltimore, Ohio, an outlying village to the southeast of Columbus.  A bit east of Baltimore, we came across a derelict building that looked as if it might at one point have been a restaurant or drinking establishment.  It was rather the worse for wear, now.


We discovered on the side of the building a rather odd, and seemingly unfinished mural of sorts, depicting a stagecoach moving across a landscape.  It was a little eerie.


East central Ohio is still pretty flat—that changes the further east you go—and intersections were often the spot for corner businesses were once situated, as well as the occasional residence.  I presume this abandoned building was a residence, but there is an old sign leaning against the right front of the house that apparently used to stand in front of the house.  Did it indicate a business of some sort or merely the name of the residents?  It is hard to make out what the signage said.


In our meandering, generally heading east, more or less paralleling I-70, we came across an abandoned building that could only have been a schoolhouse—though it was distinctly different from the typical one-room schoolhouse architecture that readers of this blog are probably (all too) familiar with.  It may have even been a two-room schoolhouse. I tried to do some research on it, but all I could get was that it was called the Bruno School and/or the Rosebud School.  I rather liked this school.


Eventually, we came upon Tsuki’s childhood home, an attractive, but old and rather the worse for wear farmhouse.  Along the way, I had realized that I had been on this particular road before—I recognized a distinctive nearby church—and thought it was quite possible I had photographed this house before.  I eventually discovered that indeed I had photographed this very house—before I ever met Tsuki herself.  It is one of those small world things, I suppose.



Here’s the other half of the house.  It is hard to see, because the shrubbery somewhat obscures it, but there is even an old-fashioned “come and get it” dinner bell outside in the yard—look at the white part of the house.  Eagle eyes will also see an old piano left on the front porch for some reason.


It is an old-timey house but I think we can make it a bit more old-timey looking still, don’t you?  Anyway, I was glad Tsuki got to see her old house again.



After her house, we resumed our journey to the southeast, which meant passing through Somerset, Ohio, because all roads in the area lead to Somerset; it is like a vortex that sucks in travellers from the whole region.   Somerset is a village (population 1,481, salute!) that was an early settlement in east central Ohio (and, in fact, allegedly boasts of the oldest Catholic church in the state).  It is also the home of Civil War general Philip Sheridan, its only other claim to fame.  The village has had more or less the same population (give or take one or two hundred) for the past 160 years, so I don’t expect it to fade away any time soon.

These two VWs, a VW Bus (known popularly as a microbus or minibus) and a VW flatbed pickup truck, were parked outside a business in Somerset, presumably to attract attention.  I couldn’t really tell what sort of business it was—it is kind of in an alley and has no signs, though it does have a van with “Versatile Works” painted on it.


An old commercial building in Somerset.  I wonder how old it is.  It looks like the upstairs is completely empty now and the bottom left office is being used for “Cardio Drumming.”  I don’t know what “Cardio Drumming” is, but I am pretty sure I don’t like it.  However, the other business, Montell’s Pizza, is probably more to my liking.


I had been through Somerset before and had not found anything particularly unusual about it, but this was different.  Late November is when people start putting their Christmas displays up and as we drove east on Main Street, we came across an elegant old house (built in 1901) with an elaborate Christmas display featuring mannequins dressed up as old-timey figures (not too dissimilar from what the entire town of Cambridge, Ohio, does each holiday season).


The mannequins are rather unusual, with peculiar faces, very broad-shoulders, and odd accoutrements, but their effect is rather striking—and certainly festive.


I thought that the old residence might house a business, like an antique store or something, but when I researched the address, I could not find any associated business.  So apparently the owners of the house erected this elaborate display.


I thought this black and white photo of part of the display captured some nice textures and contrasts.  In any case, it is always exciting to be driving along and suddenly discover something new and interesting that you haven’t seen before!  That is the adventurous part of roadside photography—you never know what awaits you around that next bend in the road.


Soon we were out of Somerset and heading southeast again.  The country changes as hills begin to pop up.  The nice thing is that hills give you vantage points—from which you can look down at interesting farms, like this one, with its iconic 19th century farmhouse.



One last photograph for this half of our two-part excursion—of a rather less than iconic residence, one that shows a gritty reality about Appalachian Ohio—which, like the rest of Appalachia, is stricken with poverty.

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