Thursday, May 16, 2019

[35mm Ohio] "RN, like a nurse spells it"

- Cincinnati.

It didn’t matter how much time I spent on the map, how many sources I had culled information from, how many friends I talked to, or how many recommendations I took to heart. I had the shape of Ohio formed via virtual pinpoints, destinations in every direction. But now, I couldn’t decide which direction to head. So the highway chose for me.

The road didn’t speak in some romantic, spontaneous way or beckon me to follow it on some whimsical, carefree adventure. Rather, it dictated travel orders via a traffic clogged, exhaust strewn, slow crawl of a voice that was now cutting into the time I had set aside for and from myself. There was only one route to take: the most direct one. And maybe if I was lucky and this traffic cleared, I’d still have time to stop and see some of the things from that map.

- Digital and film cameras on my car's "workspace."

Pulling out of a parking garage, the sun had been spotty, but by the time I climbed onto the circle freeway north of Cincinnati, the sun was making its presence known in that stereotypical almost-summer-getting-warmer-bright-evening kind of way.

I stopped in Wilmington for a while. There was an abandoned drive-in theatre, a VFW Hall, a historic Valentine Diner repurposed as a boutique, and some wandering on the streets of the city center.

- The abandoned Wilmington Drive-In Theatre, covered in this post.

- The abandoned Wilmington Drive-In Theatre, covered in this post.

- VFW Post 6710 in Wilmington.

- A repurposed Valentine Diner in Wilmington. Valentine Diners were pre-fabricated, mail-order diner's manufactured in Wichita, KS.

- Wilmington.

- Wilmington.

- Downtown Wilmington.

Several fading advertisements, overlaying each other on a multi-story brick wall, reminded me that I once wrote a book about such things. The Coca-Cola logo and the claim that the soda “relieves fatigue” were still showing as the most prominent and gave a clue to the ghost sign's age. The window that broke up the sign/brick wall slid open.

“Take my picture,” he said, smiling.


“What’s your name?” I asked.

“RN. Like a nurse spells it.”

- RN.

We waved and went our separate ways. Him returning to his room, me to my car.

Driving Northwards on N. South St., I realized that the beautiful evening light had been a bit deceptive. I didn’t have as much time as I thought. I didn’t really account for the fact that the sun was no longer setting in the early, depressing hours of the colder months. I needed to keep moving if I wanted to make it to Cleveland by any reasonable time.

- Stop and go traffic on Interstate 71 through Mt. Sterling.

One lane highway work gave glimpses of small cars packed with belongings—people moving, traveling, starting over, who knows. We were all about ten feet apart, stopped in traffic, no one saying (or able to say) a word.

I made a quick stop in Columbus when a nasty highway snarl rerouted me around the downtown. There was a juxtaposition I had wanted to see: a vista I learned about on Reddit and added to my map. Now it was a stop I had to make since I was so close. The user who posted the original thread described it by saying “there isn’t a more Ohio picture than this:” the skyline of Columbus—a major city in the distance—with a lush, flat farm in the foreground.

- Columbus.

The postcard view shouldn’t play up the capital’s reputation as “cow town,” though. The farm is part of a research center at the state university, one of the largest in the nation. When I pulled away and off the gravel road, I was firmly back in suburbia—a subdivision that’s a bit older. One with nice houses that look like the place the antagonist of an 80s teen movie might live.

I listened to the voice of Nate DiMeo for a bit, then stopped to buy a sandwich. I spent the rest of the evening with the windows down listening to the Reds stick it to the Cardinals.

Just like old times.

A few days later I departed Cleveland en route back to Cincinnati. I was racked with anxiety as soon as I hit the gas. I couldn’t bring myself to get started on the drive. I kept stopping and photographing random things. Then I stopped again for coffee. I felt an unyielding nervousness despite an afternoon ahead of me that should’ve been free of both inhibitions and obligations. I tried to breathe steadily as I hit the road and listened to the Reds once more. This time the Cardinals stuck it to them.

Just like old times.

- Cleveland Airport Marriott.

- Somer's Restaurant, Cleveland.

Finally, I hit a groove—a state of mental clarity soothed by the monotonous tones of the highway and my sedan on cruise control. I pulled off near Mansfield. Drive-In Theaters once again.

One was active: a twin screen getting ready to show the new Avengers film that very night. The other was abandoned: its box office and sign slowly losing their paint.

- The active Springmill Twin Drive-In Theatre.

- The abandoned Sunset Drive-In Theatre, covered in this post.

I followed OH-325 and some gravel roads back to the main interstate, ultimately arriving at a giant-American-flag-touting truck stop I had been to once before.

- OH-325/Kocheiser Rd. near Mansfield.

I had a choice to make here. Because I had allowed myself to get distracted earlier on, I had wasted valuable time that could’ve been spent exploring. The light was gorgeous, the sun was warm, and I needed to attend to some important matters in Cincinnati*. There was a diner nearby, a unique placed lauded via roadside recommendation websites, a pin in the map. I wouldn’t have time to eat in, but I could grab something to go and make a few quick photographs while I waited.

Or, I could choose from the quick dining options prepared by Wendy, Ronald, and The King.

Or, theoretically, I could’ve packed something healthy, grabbed some fruit from a gas station, or sought out a light meal at a Panera along the way—but you only come across diners built into old train cars every so often. 

I opted for the diner, waltzing past the statues of Native Americans on horseback and other western scenes, up to the locomotive and the railroad cars behind it. I met the polite proprietor and asked if I could place an order, as well as, make some photographs of the place. He was happy to oblige both requests, recommending a plethora of things, but the chili dog sounded best (me giving no thought for how I was going to properly eat the thing in the car). 

- Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville.

- Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville.

- Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville.

He gave me a brief tour while some folks dined in the former train cars decorated almost exclusively in Ohio State paraphernalia. We discussed sports and the various ways to drive between Cincinnati and Cleveland. It was a really nice conversation, one that started to reverse how I was feeling when I first got in the car this day. The man’s insistence to “drive safe” felt like a hug from an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile.

- Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville.

- Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville.

The hot dog looked delicious and the second box, filled to the brim with fries, seemed a fitting appetizer. I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to eat this stuff in the car, though, so I stopped at a gas station down the road and parked. I scarfed down the chili dog, made a few last photographs, and then stopped in for something to drink.

- Dinner. 

Strangers holding the door for each other, and me, was a small action that meant a lot. It was a nice break from the “reclusiveness” of the road (I’m not sure if driving and wandering actually felt reclusive on that day or if the word was just stuck in my head because of the Neil Finn song that came on shuffle).

Thanks for holding the door at the Speedway off of exit 165 in Jefferson Township, folks.

*I had to get back to watch Game of Thrones with two of my best friends, because no matter how much I want to look away, I can't stop watching.

- Self portrait at Speedway, Jefferson Township.

View the other entries in 35mm Ohio


  1. Buckeye Diner is an awesome stop. The burgers are pretty good, but the "Woody Burger" is really a complete mess. And, if you don't understand it, the owner gets pissed. Haha. It happened to me. I asked to modify the burger, and he was not kind about it. I get it, though. He is passionate about the burger. It is an awesome stop, with awesome foods.

    1. hahaha, this is interesting—what exactly does the burger consist of?

  2. Wow. Haven't seen an old school "3D bucket in the sky" KFC sign in eons! I wonder if Wilmington ever recovered from the loss of DHL?

    1. It seems to be doing alright. Much better than when I was there in 2008/9 right after DHL was packing up. The Downtown had quite a few shops/restaurants open on a Friday night when I swung through.