Sunday, December 10, 2017

From Cincinnati to Huntington, Indiana

My Father is an incredibly thoughtful person, always coming up with great ideas of places to go or things to see. When I was six years old, he took me to my first air show. When I was in the sixth grade, he was a chaperone on our school trip to Wasington D.C., finding better historical stories and more fun facts than any tour guide we encountered. This weekend, he wanted to go visit my cousin's University campus and see a basketball game. I worried whether or not I had the time to go along and in the end I opted to.

I'm glad I did, because my Dad understands a key aspect about driving long distances: what's the point in going somewhere if you can't stop a thousand times along the way and see cool stuff?

- Camden, OH scene.

We drove north from Cincinnati through the familiar suburban sites to some places that felt completely foreign despite being so close. Camden and New Miami, Ohio just past Hamilton had been names I'd heard before, but places I'd never stopped to see.

- Sharing the road.

We left the metro area, finding snow on narrow roads cutting across landscapes that seemed far more rural and remote than they actually were.

In Eaton, my dad pulled over to a breakfast place he had wanted to try. "Let's see if we can get a table," he said. "You'll never get a table," a man passing us in the parking lot replied, apparently all too familiar with the breakfast time rush of The Eaton Place in Eaton, Ohio. Counter seats were plentiful, though, as walked around families clutching baby carriers and waiting for booths. We ordered up bowls of eggs, gravy, cheese, and hash browns served with toast. Wood paneling lined the walls, regulars were greeted excitedly by servers, and a portrait of Jesus sat atop a Christmas tree. We ate breakfast and discussed politics, history, plans for the day, and the demises of various minor league sports teams. The service was friendly, honest, and inviting, but not disingenuously enthusiastic like you'd see on an IHOP commercial. The coffee refills were frequent and our orders taken on iPads that didn't detract from the diner's warm and classic interior.

Back on the road, we headed off towards Richmond, Indiana, going over the features of my dad's new car, ready to test it in the snow if the roads got bad enough.

Near the Ohio/Indiana border we stopped to photograph the defunct New Hope AT&T Long Line station. I'm working on a story about these towers, and their significance to communication and national defense. More on that at a later time.

In Boston, Indiana we stopped briefly to look at the abandoned high school/middle school. Peering through the broken windows, collapsed floors and stacks of vintage desks could be seen while mold and mildew pierced your nostrils. My dad had passed this place so many times on his trips through here and now we finally stopped to see it up close. At noon, the air raid/tornado siren blared out from the fire station down the road, the only sign of life in the village as most people presumably stayed inside and out of the cold. The cornerstones of the building signified the initial year of construction as well as the years of extensions. Other plaques read "ENTER YE TO LEARN" and "LEAVE YE TO SERVE."

Arriving in Richmond, we swung by the municipal airport to see an A6-E Intruder on static display. Manufactured by the Grumman Aerospace Corporation, the A-6E was an all-weather, carrier capable attack aircraft in service with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Replacing the piston-engine based propeller aircraft used by the Navy in Korea, Intruders saw plenty of action during Vietnam. The A-6E variant seen here is considered the "definitive attack" version and entered service in 1970. A total of 445 types of these planes were built and they could be used for anything from attack to reconnaissance to refueling other aircraft or even delivering nuclear payloads by jettisoning a warhead while climbing before turning and accelerating away as the bomb glided to the ground and the shockwave caught up. Thankfully, it was never used for one of those roles.

The retirement of the Intruders began in the 90s, with all aircraft out of service by 1997. Replaced primarily by the F-14 Tomcat of "Top Gun" fame, Intruders were also prominently featured in an action movie centered around Navy pilots. "Flight of the Intruder" isn't as well known a film, nor does it really do justice to these aircraft or the men who piloted them. Hell, even as someone who enjoys bad action movies, I don't even recommend that one.

Leaving the airport, we made a quick respite at a truck stop before reaching Richmond itself.

- Hat selection, Indiana truck stop.

My Dad and I had been to Richmond together once before, to take in a Richmond Roosters game with some friends. The Roosters played minor league, independent baseball in a classic ballpark known as Don McBride Stadium. The stadium is still there serving high school and college teams, but the pros have left. Thankfully, it still stands. It was also the only thing I remembered about Richmond, which I assumed was a small town based off of childhood ballpark memories.

Just driving around, though, Richmond captivated our interest. Whether it was the classic, Googie-style drive-thru convenience stores or the abundance of historical buildings, Richmond was a place we longed to spend more time in. Pressed for it, we had to keep on heading through, regretfully speeding by the historic railroad depot area and vowing to return.

Another place on the list to get to one day.

- Downtown Richmond, IN.

On the outskirts of the city, the massive Reid Memorial Hospital sits in decay. Evolving over the years with additions built in the architectural styles of their time, the massive complex has been replaced by a more modern one further out. All the glass of the windows are gone and it's hard to get a full shot of the building through the fence.

A good read on the building's history and some aerial drone footage can be found here.

With more snow falling and people to meet up with, we drove through the Indiana countryside taking note of roadside oddities we wanted to stop and see at another time: the giant fiberglass man, the halfway burnt down building decrying Hillary Clinton.

Near Huntington, the snow went from minor inconvenience to actual storm. Passing over the Roush Lake Reservoir, no water could be seen to the side of us or below as my dad put his new car's all-wheel drive to the test.

In Huntington, we met up with my cousin and uncle while watching the Huntington University Foresters fall to visiting Aquinas College in NAIA Division 2 college basketball action.

For dinner afterwards, our group loaded up on wings and massive chili dogs. The kind of good hot dog you can't find in Cincinnati because (while delicious) there's only "root beer stand thin style" or "artisanal" available at local joints back home.

I watched the MLS Cup as we made our way back towards Cincinnati and discussed the MLS expansion candidates, hoping our local club would get some good news this week.

Stopping for coffee on Huntington's main drag of N. Jefferson St., we passed places with names like Blue Collar Bar and Nick's Restaurant that made us realize (like a lot of places we'd seen that day) we'd need to come back here again with more time. I ran to snap some photographs of carolers down the street who were visiting local businesses. I don't care at all for Christmas music, but appreciated the kindness of these folks who turned to me and my camera after finishing "Joy to the World" to sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful" just for me. That moment was one of the few times I've appreciated Christmas songs in my life and just a nice reminder of kind, thoughtful people in the world.

Excellent, local coffee didn't come without excellent, local candy, enjoyed while making one last photograph of Huntington's main thoroughfare. The sun setting earlier in the winter always makes the evening feel like the middle of night, but the below photograph isn't quite honest. It was only 7:38 p.m. and the street and city were both busy. It took quite a bit of waiting in the cold to not have any passing automobiles or passersby streaking across the long exposure.

We got on the road back to Cincinnati. Aside from one stop for me to question whether or not I really should've eaten a massive hot dog coated in chili and cheese, we spent our time swapping stories and listening to hockey on the radio.

Thanks, Dad, for coming up with cool adventures whether I'm 8 years old or 28 years old.

Check out the other QC/D road trip stories.


  1. You like the same type of road trip I do. Did it as a kid with my parents (stopping at every roadside park, memorial, etc.)and still do it at 67. Thanks for the photos!

    1. Thanks for checking it out, Guillermo! Glad to hear you're still doing good road trips at 67! What's life if you don't stop to go look around?