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
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