telegraphic memories of a weather-induced flight

Draft of 2012.03.03 ☛ 2015.03.17 ☛ 2016.07.25

May include: personaltravel&c.

Barbara and I decided a week back to “drive south until the thermometer read 60°F.”

We left Ann Arbor Wednesday around lunchtime, in freezing fog, thinking we’d need to get all the way to Louisville or Lexington to reach our target, and expecting gray skies and storms all the way. By the time we reached Wapakoneta, we’d hit not only 60°F, but an amazing sunny 70°F. A quick fast food lunch and an admiration of the mosque-like Neil Armstrong museum exterior, then a sudden junk west. Why not visit Hueston Woods, a place we hadn’t been since I was in grad school at Miami University?

Cross-country driving west of Dayton is a trip back in time; the little linear towns along the road, with their tiny front yards and surrounding fields are so 1830s German, the rolling hills so similar to south-central Pennsylvania. 25 years later, only a few intersections were familiar.

Hueston Woods State Park has a lovely lodge, and every time we’ve stayed there before—since I was 12 years old, actually—I recall it being packed. Because it wasn’t February, I’m guessing. The front desk girl grinned when I walked across the silent lobby and asked if there was space; two rooms were occupied in the lodge that night, and one other “dog-friendly” cabin besides ours.

Actual sky, bare branches whistling as the 50-mile-an-hour winds poured in after dark, an absolutely empty restaurant with delicious food, more staff than guests on hand. Our elderly dog was confused by the whole thing, but it was an utterly unexpected treat on the whole.

The next morning, we found the old fossil-collecting sites [PDF] I knew were all under water, down below the dam spillway. We picked up a few bits and bobs, but decided coffee would be preferred.

As we drove into Oxford, I knew something was strange. Green Beer Day had always been St. Patrick’s Day when I was trying to teach lab courses and the stupid kids were puking in the sink. Here they were, March 1. A local explained that they imagined it would be “safer” to have the bacchanal “during break” rather than during active term; I imagine that’s true.

We scampered.

Since we’d already launched on a nostalgic side-trip, I decided we should drive past the farmhouse in Old Bath (Indiana) where I’d rented a room from Old Doc Clark, who must’ve been 95 25 years ago. Needless to say, it had changed hands. Then we ended up here

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on that little floating pier thing you can see. Surrounded on all sides by the dry river bed, which was filled with damp but quite findable fossils. Win.

And heading out, we were headed out the road cuts on the west side of the park here

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where we will go again….

But south once more.

Rambled down the old Whitewater Canal road to the Cincinnati beltway, and then a coin-flip decision took us to Lexington rather than Louisville just as the temperature reached 60°F again for a second day.

Lexington is small, nice, people are friendly, and they really mean it when they say you won’t be able to find a brew pub, no matter what Google Maps says to the contrary. We had a long and affable conversation with the security guard at the brewery Google sent us to about how, yes, there had once been a brew pub there, but they closed that and now it was just hard to keep the basketball fans from parking there when there was a big game in town (as there was that night). So back to Ramsey’s, which was our original (but disdained) recommendation from the motel, and indeed it was a fun little spot where they offered to fry us up whatever fried bread-and-meat food we might want, with a little gravy and sugar and pie on the side if we left room.

Next day, we saw the writing on the map, and decided to flee. Met “Big Ed” Roller at the Murphy’s on Winchester in Lexington and jawed about macro photography and camera straps, then spent an unproductive hour poking around in an unheated book pile in Georgetown before the antique mall people told us “the kids were gettin’ sent home from school cause of the tornadoes.” So we skedaddled.

God I hate driving in the driving rain. But we did. And we’re home.

And it’s fucking snowing. But it’s better now. I was in short sleeves admiring blossoms on the fruit trees yesterday. That will do for now.