Entries in ‘Ohio’ Journal

Enchanted Highway, North Dakota: You’ll be glad you made the drive

Wednesday February 19, 2014 at 9:09 AM | 5 Comments

The largest tin family in the world is a folksy beacon to Regent, North Dakota

The largest tin family in the world is a folksy beacon to Regent, North Dakota

The first indication that there’s something amazing off of I-94 west of Bismarck, North Dakota is the scrap metal sculpture “Geese in Flight.” You can’t miss it. Depicting Canadian geese flying over the seemingly endless expanse of prairie, this intricate sculpture stands at 110 feet tall and 154 feet wide. Its size landed it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture.

This sculpture is only the beginning of the scrap metal wonders along the 32 mile stretch of quiet two lane road in the middle of farmland between I-94 and Regent, North Dakota. Gary Greff, “Geese in Flight’s” creator, started his scrap metal creations back in 1997 when he made the world’s largest tin family. Dad, mom and son, standing at 45 ft., 44 ft., and 23 ft. tall, serve as Regent’s welcoming committee of sorts. Their folksy how-de-do has worked like a charm.

Part of Fisherman's dream

Part of Fisherman’s dream

See, Greff, noticing that Regent was on its way to ghost town status if something didn’t happen to change the tide of small town flight, came up with the idea to build enormous sculptures as a tourist attraction and call the endeavor “Enchanted Highway.”

Greff’s idea worked. I know that first hand. There I am one day in my office in Ohio listening to NPR when Greff is being interviewed. The story about the former teacher and principal who built the largest scrap metal sculptures in the world to save his town of 200 people in North Dakota caught my attention. How could it not?I pulled out our atlas, pointed to Regent, North Dakota and said to my husband, “We have to go here. We have to see the largest tin family in the world.” Besides, what’s a few more miles when one is driving from Ohio to Philipsburg, Montana? It seemed to me that the fact the hat of the tin dad is the size of a Volkswagon Beetle was reason enough to make the drive.

The sculptures along the Enchanted Highway that now include: “Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again,” “Pheasants on the Prairie,” “Grasshoppers in the Field,” “Deer Crossing,” and “Fisherman’s Dream” did not disappoint. Serving as a lesson in prairie and North Dakota history, they also amaze with their variety and whimsy. We were so enthralled with them that we’ve made the drive to Regent two more times.

Another kind of pheasant in North Dakota

Another kind of pheasant in North Dakota

This coming summer may be round four. Last summer, we were close but headed to Teddy Roosevelt National Park, a place we had yet to see on all our trips west. I sure did miss seeing the tin family, though. Happily, the “Geese in Flight” soared as magnificently as ever as we drove past them on I-94.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association

A Christmas Story House, Cleveland–30 years later

Wednesday December 18, 2013 at 10:10 PM | 2 Comments

1940s era nostalgia on a movie set

1940s era nostalgia on a movie set

This is the 30th year anniversary of the movie “A Christmas Story,” the now classic film where Cleveland served as a backdrop during the time when a leg lamp was “a major award,” and a Red Ryder BB gun was a boy’s Christmas wish. In Cleveland, you can step back into 1940s nostalgia and get the feel of the set of “A Christmas Story” at A Christmas Story House Museum.

The actual house used for the outside shots of the Parker family’s home has been restored and appointed with period furniture and details so that the inside of the house is a close match for the sets used for the living room, the bathroom, the boys’ bedroom and the kitchen.

Who wouldn't want a bunny suit?

Who wouldn’t want a bunny suit?

Climbing under the kitchen sink is allowed—and so is dressing up in a bunny suit. There are even different bunny suit sizes so adults can bring out the kid within. There’s bar of Lifebuoy soap in the bathroom, but the most beloved detail is the leg lamp at the living room window.  A mock-up of the crate the dad so eagerly opened to see what he won is also there.

For more “A Christmas Story” details, the museum across the street is a perfect companion to the house. Each room has display cases of movie set props and costumes like: the hats worn by some of the boys, Randy’s snow suit, and the chalkboard in the school classroom scene.  Here’s where you can find out movie trivia details like how Flick’s tongue stuck to the flag pole during the “triple  dog dare.” The flag pole was hollow with a small hole on one side and a vacuum. When Flick put his tongue on the hole, the vacuum was turned on. There you have a boy with his tongue stuck to a flagpole. Movie magic!

Hats used as costumes in the movie A Christmas Story

Hats used as costumes in the movie A Christmas Story

Although December might seem like the perfect time of year to visit the house and museum for that Christmas feel, don’t limit yourself.  A Christmas Story House Museum is open year long. If you go, take time to browse through the gift shop. Of course there are Red Ryder BB guns but there are also Lil’ Orphan decoder pins and all sorts of leg lamp options. Yes, you can buy a bunny suit and a bar of Lifebuoy.

The house is located in Cleveland’s Tremont District at 3159 W 11th St. Cleveland, 216/ 298-4919

Admission Adults: $10.00
Children 7 to 12: $6.00
(Children 6 & under: FREE)
Seniors: $8.00

The admission price includes both the house and museum.  The house and museum are open 7 days a week except for major holidays.

 Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association

 

 

James Thurber Country in Columbus, Ohio

Wednesday December 11, 2013 at 6:06 AM | 4 Comments

James Thurber's college years home

James Thurber’s college years home

Which high schooler reading James Thurber’s short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” didn’t dream of having a secret life? I know I did. Happily, what I envisioned when I doodled in the margins of math papers has come to pass. I am a traveler. In my travels, I’ve had the pleasure of learning more about James Thurber’s genius as a social commentator and humorist through his connection to Columbus, Ohio.

James Thurber was born in Columbus on December 8, 1894 and now enjoys status as one of the city’s favorite sons. Thanks to a dedicated, enamored with James Thurber following of staff and volunteers at the Thurber House Museum and Thurber Center, Thurber has a firm footing in Columbus’s must see landscape.

The Thurber House at 77 Jefferson Ave. is at the edge of  Columbus’s downtown. The tree-lined street divided by a picturesque boulevard evokes thoughts of Thurber’s era when people took Sunday strolls, even though, most of the Victorian-style red brick, once private homes, now house businesses and non-profit organizations. Thurber’s home on the left, towards the end of the boulevard, looks just like it did when Thurber lived there.  The house is both a house museum that showcases James Thurber’s legacy, and a literary power house that, in conjunction with the Thurber Center located next door, promotes literary excellence.

Poet and author Charlene Fix at the last of 2013's Literary Picnics

Poet and author Charlene Fix at a Literary Picnic

The literary power house role of the Thurber House Museum and Center starts with the tidy side yard by James Thurber’s former home. Its wrought iron fence provides the boundary for the Literary Picnics that take place each summer.  The Literary Picnics feature renowned Ohio authors who read their works from the house’s back porch to a rapt audience of picnikers who bring their own food or order a gourmet box meal ahead of time.

At other times author readings are held either at the Thurber Center or at other Columbus venues. Both local and nationally known authors are featured. The mix is a literary banquet that happens throughout the year. Last month, I delighted in Tom Barlow’s reading of one of his short stories from his newly published collection Welcome to the Goat Rodeo.

Self guided tours of the Thurber House are daily from 1–4 p.m. These tours are free. Guided tours are on Sundays for $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors.

Formerly The Great Southern Hotel where Thurber visited

Formerly The Great Southern Hotel where Thurber visited

For more James Thurber travel (and food and libations), head to the Westin Columbus Hotel (formerly The Great Southern) 310 South High St. 614-228-3800. Here, James Thurber would visit his mother and brother, Robert, who lived at the hotel from the mid 1940′s to 1950′s.  In Thurber’s, the hotel’s bar/restaurant you can take in framed prints of James Thurber’s cartoons while enjoying the ambiance and offerings of this AAA 4-Diamond hotel that first opened in 1897.

At The Ohio State University, Thurber’s alma mater, Thurber Theatre is located in The Drake Performance and Event Center. The theatre is named for Thurber who began his time at OSU in 1913 and served as a staff member of The Lantern, the university’s paper.

James Thurber's grave at Green Lawn Cemetery

James Thurber’s grave at Green Lawn Cemetery

Although James Thurber did not live in Columbus as an adult, his grave is in Columbus’s historic Green Lawn Cemetery. Thurber died November 2, 1961. The cemetery, founded in 1848, was designed to serve as a park as well as a cemetery and is known for its birdwatching opportunities, as well as its notable residents.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @ThurberHouse on Twitter.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association. Photo of Charlene Fix, courtesy of Jamie Rhein. Other photos courtesy of The Thurber House and Westin Columbus.