Continuing my regiment of road trips around Ohio and into neighboring states which I started in 2007, I racked up about 3,500 miles in 2012, and visited many interesting towns and attractions that I hadn't seen before.
I took about 22 trips that passed through 33 counties.
People frequently ask me which trip was my favorite, and I honestly can't give them a definitive answer. Some trips are more exciting than others, but they all are fun and enable me to learn history about the areas and attractions visited.
My longest trips in 2012 were to Parkersburg, W. Va., Athens and Moundsville, W. Va., where there are many neat things to see. All of those trips were overnighters around the Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day holiday weekends.
Another fascinating overnight trip I took was to Stockport along the Muskingum River in Morgan County, where I spent the night at the historic Stockport Mill Inn.
The 13-room former mill turned into inn, a dam visible from the room balconies and the small river town provided a great setting for a peaceful Friday night spring stay away from bustling big cities.
I enjoyed it so much, I might make it an annual thing, or at least an every-other-year journey.
Before 2012, I hadn't been through Parkersburg. I found it to be a pleasant and historic river city featuring the Blennerhassett and Oil and Gas museums, stately Blennerhassett Hotel and charming Julia-Ann Historic District, where I strolled by several mansions built in the 1800s by wealthy city residents.
I also visited historic
Blennerhassett Island in the Ohio River between Parkersburg and Belpre, Ohio, which is reached by a sternwheel passenger boat. It was the third sternwheeler I've ridden on in the last few years.
The night before, I stayed in Marietta, which I fell in love with during a two-day trip in 2010. I love the Harmar Village Tavern and its famous fried bologna sandwiches, and walking over the Harmar pedestrian bridge, an ex-railroad span.
I explored the campus of Ohio University in Athens and also attended a great music performance at Stuart's Opera House in nearby Nelsonville, as well as visiting some small former coal mining towns in Athens County.
Then the next day, I wandered around the majestic Hocking Hills State Park, enjoying the outdoors, hills, caves and cliffs.
High in the hills east of Moundsville, W. Va. the weekend before July 4, I found Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in the Hare Krishna community of New Vrindavan to be an impressive sight.
It was a place that just about everyone I've talked to has never heard of. After my column appeared, a handful of Advocate readers told me they'd love to go see it.
Also on that trip, I visited Independence Hall and walked around the exterior of the famous Mail Pouch Tobacco factory in Wheeling, one of my favorite Ohio River cities.
Another place I found fascinating was Blue Rock Station in southern Muskingum County, Ohio's premier sustainable living farm with an "earthship" house made out of mud and old tires.
SOME SINGLE-DAY TRIPS
For the first time in years, I ventured to Mount Vernon, the governmental seat of Knox County, which has a great historical museum. Walking around the campus of nearby picturesque Kenyon College was a treat.
It was fascinating to see the old Knox County Poorhouse, but sad that the structure is in deplorable condition, with a part of the roof collapsing and walls falling over. It's a landmark which won't be around much longer.
In Coshocton County, I visited the small town of Warsaw and Mohawk Dam for the first time in years, and for the first time ever toured the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in the old canal village of Roscoe and Gospel Hill Ministry's inland lighthouse.
The village is a place worthy of visiting on a regular basis. The Warehouse Restaurant is one of my favorite eating places.
I had been to Thomas Edison's birthplace home in Milan on the Erie-Huron counties border when I was in college, and got to go back there during the fall. I also strolled around Norwalk, the Huron County seat, where I enjoyed eating at the famous Berry's Restaurant.
During last year's mild winter, I drove to Carroll County to see what was up with that area's oil/gas well "fracking" boom.
I talked to a couple of Carrollton residents, who told me about the boom, and directed me to a couple of wells which were being drilled.
Carroll County is the busiest fracking area in the state. Several wells have been drilled and are on line, and I passed by pipelines being drilled there during two of my 2012 trips.
I enjoyed one Saturday walking around downtown Willoughby and checking out the Willoughby Brewing Co. and Lake County Historical Society Museum in Painesville's old county poorhouse.
And I enjoyed another Saturday in Ashtabula County, visiting Ashtabula Harbor, a maritime museum, Geneva-on-the-Lake, Geneva, a covered bridge museum and the giant Our Lady of Guadalupe statue at Servants for Mary Center of Peace.
One of my last trips of the year was to the old canal town of Hanoverton in Columbiana County, where the famous Spread Eagle Tavern is located.
While watching the Berlin Hiland Hawks (Holmes County) girls and boys basketball teams in the state finals in Columbus, I checked out several landmarks, including the Statehouse, Fort Hayes, Camp Chase, Center of Science and Industry, Ohio History Center, old Ohio School for the Blind, Nationwide Arena and some quirky sculptures.
My other big city trip was to Cleveland to tour the Great Lakes Science Center and Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Cleveland Aquarium had just opened and there was a very long line waiting to enter, so I passed it up.
SOME FUN OHIO FESTIVALS
For the first time in its 42-year history, I visited the Algonquin Mill Festival south of Carrollton. It is an old-timey festival on grounds to which many old structures have been moved.
The main building is the Algonquin Mill, which dates to 1826. The festival features folk music, crafts, a building full of antique farm equipment, classic tractors and steam traction engines and great food.
Also for the first time I attended Adena Heritage Day in a small Jefferson County former mining town which holds a place in my heart from the days when the Norfolk & Western railroad yard was there.
Sadly, the single track which runs through town is now inactive under the jurisdiction of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway.
I returned to the Millersburg Antiques Festival for the first time since 1986. Millersburg is one of my favorite small county seat towns, and I've stayed in the 1847 Hotel Millersburg on Thanksgiving Eve for the last four years.
For the seventh straight year, I continued my tradition of attending the Tuscarawas Valley Pioneer Power Show at the fairgrounds in Dover, one of my favorite annual events.
However, I've heard rumors that the three-day event will cease to exist after it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013.
And for the fourth straight year, I've motored down Interstate 77 to Cambridge for the annual Dickens Victorian Village and Guernsey County Courthouse light show during the year-end holidays. It's something I'd recommend Advocate readers witness if they possibly can manage.
I also attended the Portage and Tuscarawas County fairs, and walked around several other county fairgrounds when fairs were not in progress.
I didn't take any rail excursions in 2012, not even on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. I'm waiting to see what trips the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society offers this year.
I know it will offer the Medina loop excursion in the fall, which I've been on a couple of times. I really miss the Pittsburgh excursion, which the group discontinued four years ago.
The Midwest Railroad Preservation Society hasn't had any excursions from Glenwillow to Kent in recent years.
WHAT'S UP FOR THIS YEAR
God willing, I hope to continue my trips in 2013. I have dozens of visitor
guides piled up on my kit-chen table and plenty of destinations I want to see.
I want to visit the busy railroad town of Fostoria, Lancaster, Fremont and the Hayes Presidential Center, the Bellevue-Clyde area, Sandusky and the Marblehead Peninsula, Chillicothe, Toledo; Erie, Pittsburgh and Beaver Falls, Pa.; and perhaps Charleston, W. Va. and the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich.
I visited the latter when I was kid. Nothing like getting back 50 years later!
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