Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crawling Up the Left Side of Ohio to the Right Side of Indiana

Dayton, Ohio Parking Garage
- Parking Garage. Dayton, Ohio

These images have been twenty two years in the making - so to speak. Since I was born, I've lived in Cincinnati with lots of family still in Fort Wayne, Indiana where my mother hails from. During the countless trips to see relatives in The Summit City, I've looked out the window and remembered landmarks along the way. I've never photographed them and with a family reunion coming up, I took the opportunity. I skipped photographing anything in Cincinnati because, well, what else have I been doing on this site for the past four years?

The plan was to wake up early, get on the road and get to a truck stop by 11 A.M. for lunch. This truck stop always marked the "half way" point during the trips to Fort Wayne. The truck stop had significance. Our family had never stopped there, I planned to.

Dayton Building and Bridge framed by Ruin
- The ruins of a demolished factory in Dayton, with a back hoe framing a Gem City "Skyscraper" and bridge.

Things didn't start out well though. I woke up on time, fell back asleep. Woke up again, laid in bed and then motivated myself to get up, grab my camera and finally get on the road at noon. I abandoned waiting for a truck stop lunch for the Arby's drive-through. Eating curly fries and pulling up to the nearest Radio Shack, I needed a new cassette adapter for my car. I was way behind schedule and was soon doubting how much time, if any, I'd have to stop for photographs.

Dayton, Ohio Skyline
- Dayton, Ohio skyline.

As my car ran up I-75 with a pirated version of the new (and wonderful) Red Hot Chili Peppers album playing on repeat, I realized I was only remembering landmarks I wanted to photograph as I passed them, often times missing the exit. I'd have to go up to the next one, turn around, back track and then get out to shoot.

I-75 near Dayton
- Collapsed fence shielding I-75 from the parking lot of an abandoned Dayton hotel.

I would've loved to spend more time at a lot of these places, taking more photos, but I was on a deadline and already behind schedule. In a way, it was fitting, I'd get out to make quick snapshots just as I had made snapshots in my head when I'd pass these places in our family car as a kid. In another way, maybe that's just an excuse for my laziness and lack of punctuality that day.

Abandoned Dayton Hotel
- Dayton Executive Hotel. Boarded up windows, dead plants and all.

Our family, particularly me, doesn't make this trip as often as we used to. Roadside landmarks I remembered have changed, crumbled, been torn down, converted or still exist just as they once did. Vandalia in particular went from an area of farmland and new highway to a skyline of restaurant and hotel signs over the past two decades.

Also, it's harder than you think to shoot a photograph through your windshield while driving with your knees and trying to mind the traffic flow around you.

Vandalia Sprawl
- The skyline of Vandalia, Ohio and its variety of signs.

The Ohio rest stops get updated, but always keep one distinguishing feature: their non-descript vending machines and wanted posters for people who never pay child support. These days they also feature "informative" posters from the Department of Homeland Security.

I-75 Rest Stops
- Rest stop off of I-75.

Rest Stop Vending Machines
- Nondescript vending machines of an I-75 rest stop.

Sidney, Ohio
- Sidney, Ohio.

Sidney Hampton Inn
- Sidney, Ohio Hampton Inn.

Near St. Mary's, Ohio - I got off I'-75 and picked up US 33, passing by the St. Mary's industrial landmark.

EDIT: I was trying to find a giant cow statue somewhere in this general area of the state, but was unsuccessful. I ended up locating it eight years later.

Saint Mary's Ohio
- The St. Mary's/U.S. 33 Landmark.

The Motor Inn truck stop was found next. I didn't have time to stop in and the aftertaste of processed Roast Beef killed any appetite I had for trucker food, but the neon sign that read "Eat" was reminiscent of the stereotypical "Eat at Joe's" signs you always see in movies and television.

Motor Inn Truck Stop
- Motor Inn truck stop, the half way mark.

This is where I strayed from the traditional path though. My family had mostly always gone through Van-Wert. I followed the GPS of my cell phone and ended up going the other direction towards Neptune, Ohio.

Neptune Cemetery
- Neptune, Ohio cemetery.

Neptune, Ohio
- Dick's Service Center.

Outside of Neptune, Ohio
- Collapsed barn near Willshire, Ohio.

Wilshire, Ohio
- The main street of Willshire.

Wilshire Ice Cream Stand
- Willshire Drive-In.

I was enjoying myself. The road trip was no Route 66, but it is what it is to me. However, I felt like I hadn't found anything that really stuck out to me as a photograph. Nothing that really didn't feel like any other small town off of the "back roads." That is, until I got to Decatur, Indiana.

Decatur Drive In
- The remains of a Drive-In Theatre in Decatur Indiana. The screen overlooks a man-made pond built for a local church that separates it from the foundation that once held the projector and snack bar.

I drove by a giant white board. I wasn't sure if it was just an old billboard or maybe the sign of a forgotten Drive-In Theatre. The lot surrounding it was home to a church and man-made pond. I pulled into the church parking lot and got out of the car, walking up to a man who was getting into his. I intorduced myself, explained what I was doing and asked what the board was. The man informed me it had been a drive in and kindly invited me to stick around and take as many photos as I wanted. It was my favorite thing that I had seen so far and the man in the parking lot summed it up best. "It's a little piece of Americana."

Other abandoned Drive-Ins documented on the Urban Exploration section of QC/D:

Decatur Indiana Rail Lines
- Decatur, Indiana industry.

Decatur slowly turned to the outskirts of Ft. Wayne. Industry and abandoned drive-in screens turned to shuttered shopping centers and liquor stores before eventually reaching downtown. I met up with the rest of my family to enjoy the family reunion and a Ft. Wayne Tin Caps baseball game.

Abandoned Fort Wayne Cap N' Cork
- Fort Wayne, Indiana abandoned Cap N' Cork.

As soon as it was over, I had to head back, I worked the next day. What is normally a 3.5 hour drive had been a 5.5 hour drive for me with all the stops I made. I figured the road home would be a lot quicker. I was tired, had my coffee and chili peppers album and figured I'd just fly back to Cincinnati as quick as my car and a lack of police officers on the side of the road would let me.

I didn't expect to take anymore photos until I got out of Decatur and into the farm country where the stars were so bright, I couldn't ignore it. I've never seen so many stars in my life. I pulled to the side of the road and set up my tripod on the edge of a corn field. The photo is grainy and technically poor, but I like how it turned out. It was a fitting end to the trip.

Stars over Decatur, Indiana
Stars over Decatur, Indiana.

I got home, fell asleep and woke up the next day for another mundane week of work and school.

Updates | Oct. 19, 2017:


  1. Welcome to my neck of the woods :) I grew up on the other side of Grand Lake St. Marys. If you ever get the chance to eat at that truck stop in Mercer, do it. It's amazing. As well as the ice cream stand. Best Sundaes ever!

    And those stars... Thats the one thing I miss since moving to Cincy. The next time if you actually make time, you should think about taking 127, to either the truck stop, or Van Wert. There's all sorts of random things, including a giant 10 ft ceramic chicken that the owners dress up for the holidays >.< (i really wish i were kidding) Glad you enjoyed my old stomping grounds. Its nice to see what others think of it.

  2. Good Stuff....Living in Celina, and having worked as Director of the Van Wert County Health Department....I have passed most of these places many times, and still do in my retirement gigs as a baseball umpire and football and basketball official...Good Work!

    1. ^Thanks! It's certainly a beautiful area and made for a nice drive. Did you ever eat at East of Chicago Pizza in Van Wert?

  3. I grew up on a little farm just south of Willshire, and spent some hard-earned dollars at the ice cream shop that you photographed there in Willshire (earned at the grain elevator where I worked summers, less than a quarter mile down the road from that ice cream shop!). Ate lots of late night meals at the Motor Inn Truck Stop im Mercer, Ohio that you photographed - great food! I also spent many enjoyable weekend evenings at that now-abandoned drive in theater just south of Decatur which you also photographed. Seems like it all happened just yesterday, but it was a long, long time ago now.