Excursion 7, Part 2 (Urban Urbana)

In which our intrepid hero encounters a county seat…

What makes you love a place?  I grew up in El Paso, Texas, and though I have not lived there in over a quarter century, I am still possessive and protective of the place.  When I left Texas in 1988 to move to Ohio to go to graduate school, I really did not know what to expect.  Having grown up in the west, I had a number of prejudices against the eastern United States.  To the extent I knew anything about Ohio, I knew that it got very cold there in the winter and humid in the summer and that the state was part of the “rust belt.”  I also knew that it had none of the grandeur of western geography.  It had no mountains, no gorges, no big waterfalls.   When I arrived in Columbus, Ohio, I was pleasantly surprised (except about the humidity, which is indeed nasty).  But between then and now I somehow moved from being pleasantly surprised to loving the state.  I can’t say how exactly Ohio started to grow on me, but I know it started early on and I was soon defending my adopted state from the disapproving remarks of some of my stuck-up fellow graduate students.  I came to love the diversity of Ohio, the quiet beauty of the Midwest, the little places.  Over the years, more and more, it just seemed like home.

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Excursion 6, Part 2 (The Deception of Distance)

In which our intrepid hero encounters dead trees, dead cars and dead buildings…

One of the most interesting things about taking back-country drives is that the scale of everything changes.  The distance scale, for example, grows enormously.  Ohio is a relatively small state, and I am centrally located within it, so theoretically I can reach even the most distant parts of the state in three and a half hours.  But that is making a bee-line on a highway.  Once you start driving on curvy, back-country roads, especially driving relatively slowly to spot potential subjects for photographs (and stopping on occasion to actually take them), 20 miles somehow becomes a great distant, not a short jaunt.  Sixty miles is a huge distance.  On the other hand, the time scale slows down.  Because you are in no particular hurry, and paying attention to your surroundings rather than the clock, time passes quickly for you.  The combination of these two means that you can spend many, many hours in a vehicle and discover that you have really never driven more than 60 miles away from your starting point (though your total mileage may be much greater).

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Excursion 4, Part 2 (…But You Can Never Leave)

In which our intrepid hero, his hour come round at last, slouches towards Zanesville…

A number of subjects in this blog will no doubt interest only me.  One subject that fascinates me but may leave others wondering is the small standalone ice cream shack.  They interest me for several reasons, including the fact that no such thing seemed to exist where I grew up.  I never saw one until I was in college—there was a “Dairy King” in one of the small towns that lined the 550 mile-long stretch of nothing between El Paso and San Antonio.  They also interest me because they seem to me sometimes to be one of the last types of truly independent small businesses.  That’s kind of funny, because they are all imitators of Dairy Queen, which actually invented soft-serve ice cream.  Dairy Queen went on to be a huge chain, but these ice cream shacks still look a lot like Dairy Queen looked in the 1940s.

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