2006.01.25 Time to plan a wacky Ohio vacation

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I think Jerome Pohlen is my new hero. He gets to travel to strange places and record them in book form, one state at a time. His “Oddball” series, featuring Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Indiana and Florida so far, has been joined by “Oddball Ohio.” That leaves him 43 states to go, so job security is hardly a problem. He just has to decide where to go next.

The Ohio book offers dozens of great destinations for those planning an extended vacation or just a weird day trip or two. Heck, one attraction in our own backyard even makes the cut: Archbold’s Bathroom Museum.

Actually, as Pohlen explains, this isn’t a museum per se, but rather a display inside Sauder Village consisting of 954 various obsolete bathroom fixtures, including sinks, tubs, toilets, etc. As Pohlen says, “It’s kind of like going to Home Depot, but a century ago.”

He goes on to mention “costumed guides who will show you how to weave a broom out of broomcorn, churn butter by hand, shoe a horse, and make a dress out of a flour sack-skills that will come in handy if the economy keeps going the way it has recently.”

Or, if you’re on a tight schedule, you might consider a short jaunt to Bellefontaine, home of the world’s shortest street. McKinley Street on the town’s west side runs for only 15 feet. If you really like strange streets, continue on to Alliance, said to be the only town in the country with a Main Street that dead ends on both ends.

Remember the Maine? The battleship whose sinking set off the Spanish-American war? Back in 1911, the ship was raised from its underwater grave in Cuba and artifacts were removed before the remains were resunk at sea, with honors. The captain’s bathtub ended up in Ohio, where it can now be seen at Findlay’s Hancock Historical Museum.

In Akron, there’s the former Goodyear blimp hanger, now owned by Lockheed-Martin. When it was built in 1929, it was the world’s largest building without internal supports, measuring 320 feet wide, 1175 feet long, and 211 feet high.

Not that impressive, you say? Consider this. When atmospheric conditions are right, the building’s size allows it to generate its own weather systems inside the building, including clouds and rain.

Rain inside a building might explain why Akron is also home to the world’s largest cockroach, a 15 foot specimen climbing the headquarters building of TNT Exterminating downtown.

East Liverpool is home to the death site of notorious 1930s outlaw Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. After being shot and killed by a FBI-led posse, his body was taken to the local funeral home, where swatches of his bloody suit were handed out as souvenirs. The funeral home is now a bed-and-breakfast. The laundry room still contains Floyd’s death mask and a metal stand that held his head during his embalming. And a delicious breakfast is included with your room!

North Canton is home to the Hoover Historical Center, honoring the invention and history of the vacuum cleaner. And please don’t tell them the museum sucks, I’m sure they’ve heard that a thousand times.

Then, maybe you can find your way to Columbus’s Optometry Museum, on the campus of Ohio State. Marvel at the eyeglasses of the stars exhibit, with dozens of pairs donated by celebrities such as John Denver, Richard Petty, Orville Redenbacher, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Buffett and Colonel Sanders. Then go get an eye exam.

And finally, there’s the story of President Harry Truman, who hated Ohio. Not really Ohio itself, but Ohio senator Robert Taft. But it was the state that got the punishment. It’s said that whenever Truman flew over Ohio, he would use Air Force One’s comfort facilities, then order the pilot to dump the holding tanks. This very plane can be seen at the Wright-Patterson museum in Dayton

Visitors to Ohio these days don’t have to watch the skies for falling presidential excrement, however. Since the state helped keep the current president in office, I’m sure the holding tanks are being dumped elsewhere. Just don’t go to Michigan.

– Jan. 25, 2006
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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