Entries in ‘Ohio’ Journal

Unusual Junction–A Destination Least Expected

Wednesday December 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM | 0 Comments

unusual junction outsideOne of the best things about being a travel writer is when a story assignment takes you to a place you hadn’t heard about before and want to go back to right away. A story on restaurants in train stations brought me on a road trip to Unusual Junction in West Lafayette, Ohio, east of Cochoctan.  

Unusual Junction is a fun, worth the drive to get there, tourist destination with the Lava Grill restaurant, a gift shop, and a wide assortment of Ohio-made products.

The main building is an 1895 train depot that used to be in Fredericktown, Ohio but ended up in pieces on a farm until 1978 when Jerry McKenna saw an advertisement,  “Railroad Depot For Sale. “ Until he saw the ad in a magazine he happened to leaf through one day, McKenna didn’t even know he wanted a railroad depot.

lava rock grill hamburger and ice cream sodaAfter months of pouring over photographs of the depot people gave him, McKenna put the station back together adding it to his antique business that also boasted an ice-cream shop. The station purchase led to the purchase of antique railroad cars that still grace the property. 

The railroad cars are now used for storage, and McKenna’s son Bob, who recalls putting down the train tracks with his sister when they were teens, now owns the business. His sister owns the bridal shop next door.

 Bob, a memorabilia aficionado, incorporated the family’s antiques into the decor of his brain child The Lava Rock Grill.  But, he added a LOT more. Bob McKenna’s eclectic collection includes a Partridge Family board game, a signed photo by Joan Rivers and vintage telephones that grace the Formica tables. The Lava Rock Grill also has a 1950s diner counter adding to the fun, family-friendly atmosphere.

While savoring one of the best hamburgers you’ve ever eaten, and a bowl of made from scratch soup that you’ll want to take a quart home with you—it’s that good–browse the record album covers on the ceiling and the walls. You’re sure to find your favorite group from way back when.

price is right signMcKenna’s most prized possession is the original Price is Right sign. It was signed by Bob Barker and still lights up. Before you leave make sure to pick up Ohio-made gourmet food items. McKenna is huge on promoting his fellow food producers and has some of his own recipes in the mix. All of it is a taste treat. The caramel corn and roasted corn snacks are yummy. I know that personally.

If you go, Unusual Junction would make a great road trip combining historic Roscoe Village and Raven’s Glen Winery. The Raven’s Glen Winery  is right across the street, and Roscoe Village is about 10 minutes away.

Post and top photo courtesy of Jamie Rhein. Inside photos courtesy of Unusual Junction.

Unusual Junction
56310 US Route 36
West Lafayette, Ohio   43845
Phone:
Deli     740-545-9772
Office     740-545-6007

New Adventure Thrills in Hocking Hills, Ohio

Wednesday September 17, 2014 at 10:10 AM | 0 Comments

Fly like Superman across the river down below

Fly like Superman across the river down below

Recently, I saw the woods and the river in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio from a whole different angle–flying like Superman. At the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours Adventure, the SuperZip is quarter of a mile zipline that begins at the top of an 85 ft. tower and ends across the Hocking River where strapping young men await your arrival. It’s their job to help you get earth bound once you stop.

The swift journey–an up to 50 mph speed, is a blast. I did it twice and managed to capture the flights of some of my traveling companions.

The end of the line of the SuperZip

The end of the line of the SuperZip

One of the terrific things about this zipline is that there’s the thrill of speed and height without the stomach drop that comes with a roller coaster ride. Plus it’s eco-friendly. Nothing but pulleys, zipline cable and the laws of physics at work.

The SuperZip is also a perfect thrill for anyone who doesn’t have the couple hours it takes to go through the full Hocking Hills Canopy Tour–and it’s cheaper. One trip on the SuperZip is $30. Two trips cost $45 and one more is $55.

Segway trip past folks in flight

Segway trip past folks in flight

Because the SuperZip doesn’t require reservations, this way to tour Hocking Hills can be a spur of the moment decision. It can also be paired with a canoe trip from nearby Logan. It’s possible to paddle up the river, take time out for a SuperZip trip or two and then resume your river travel.

For those afraid of heights, or just wanting a from the ground view, Hocking Hills Canopy Tours has added another adventure–the Off-road Segway tour.

Wildflowers and butterflies abound

Wildflowers and butterflies abound

I tried that too and give that trip along trails mowed through sections of the property a thumbs up as well.  At first, as I almost ran over the guide, I wondered if I would ever get the  hang of Segway travel.  Fortunately, he was patient and taught me well. After a session of practicing,  I was able to navigate hills and turns without any trouble.

The guide did warn us a few times that Segways can be dangerous, particularly if one isn’t paying attention or getting too cocky. For anyone who has water skied, cross-country skied or skated before the movement felt similar. A helpful hint is to remember is that you’re the boss. Don’t let the Segway take over. If you step off by accident, let go–the thing will stop.

As I rode along on my Segway, following the guide who pointed out details about the area and woods, I was relaxed enough to enjoy the scenery.

Because  the Hocking Hills Canopy Tour Segways don’t go over 12 miles an hour, I wasn’t speeding by the butterflies flitting among the purple thistles and golden rod.

A way to enjoy the woods

Enjoying the woods in Ohio

For sections of the off-road trip that wound through woods, across fields, and up and down hills, we skirted by part of the “X- TREME”  zipline, a series of 11 ziplines that tower above the ground with a birds eye view of some of Ohio’s prettiest landscape. It was fun watching folks fly by overhead as I moved along on my own adventure.

If you go, make reservations soon for the Hocking Hills Canopy Tour if that’s your aim. Fall foliage season is on its way. Again, the SuperZip does not require reservations. The Off-Road Segway tour has only been in operation for 3 months. Reservations are required for that as well.

By the way, the Off-Road Segway tour is for people 14 and older. Check Hocking Hills Canopy Tours website for other age and size regulations.

If you go: Hocking Hills Canopy Tour is about 45 minutes south of Columbus, Ohio. There is a snack bar, gift shop and places to picnic.

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours
10714 Jackson Street
Rockbridge, Ohio 43149

1-740-385-9477

I was a guest at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours for research purposes.

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

 

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