Looking at a map I realized I had been in all but 8 Ohio counties, 7 of which were contiguous throughout western Ohio, so I mapped out a day trip to go through those counties, and see some sights along the way, mapped mostly with Roadside America attractions.
First stop – Urbana, Champaign County – Just to the east of Urbana was a berry farm that was supposed to have a rock sculpture of Iwo Jima. It was in reality just a pile of rocks – bust. Next stop was the airport that has a museum, and they did have a nice old airplane out front. On the way through town we passed an old house that had a slate Ohio State roof, as well as a coffee shop called the Teabaggers! Just west of town in the appropriately named Westville in a historical marker for Harvey Haddix, who once pitched a 12 inning perfect game for the Pittsburgh Pirates only to lose in the 13th (and which elicited a letter from a fraternity in Wisconsin that said ‘Dear Harvey – tough shit’)
Second Stop – Troy, Miami County – A local family, the Hobart Brothers, made a fortune, mid-20th century, their welding products company, and have shared with the community by funding many buildings and art projects, including an arena and participatory sound piece for its welded metal sculpture park called the Sound Chamber
The structure, a “hybrid of cultures,” is related visually to pagodas and conceptually to ceremonial drum huts of the Mandailing people of North Sumatra. Visitors to Sound Chamber animate drum gongs and kalimbas with their hands; they use mallets and sticks to draw music from tone rods, musical rasps and mbira, flat steel strips clamped to a resonating surface.
Third Stop – Greenville, Darke County – Greenville is the hometown of Annie Oakley, and there is a statue as a tribute to her in a small park at the south end of downtown. Her burial spot is a few miles north of town. A mural on the wall of a nearby building honors Zachary Lansdowne, the Commander of the Airship Shenandoah, a bit of a dubious distinction as it crashed when it got caught in a storm’s updraft pushing it too high and causing it to explode.
Today Greenville is most known as the home of Kitchenaid Appliances. On the main street of town there is a company store that sells their products, gives demonstrations and has a small museum in the basement. We brought home a mixer, which has paid dividends since in the form of cookies and breads.
At the north end of Greenville is a small restaurant with a drive through that has become a ‘gum wall’, with thousands of people sticking their used chewing gum on it.
Fourth Stop – New Bremen, Auglaize County. New Bremen is the home of Crown Equipment Corporation, makers of fork lifts. The owners of this company are big bicycle fans and a few years ago were able to purchase the Schwinn Bicycle Museum in Chicago and move it’s contents to this small Ohio town, where they have added their own. The result is a World Class museum of bicycles.
As we drove up and parked we noticed a car with Kentucky plates parked out front with 2 high wheeled bicycles on the back, just a precursor of views to come.
The museum has over 300 bicycles including the oldest bike in America, the Draissine built in 1816, and another from 1819, the Hobby Horse. The entire first floor had bicycles from the 1800s and very early 1900s, as well as advertising posters, display cases with small items, including a collection of 1910 wrenches, and a High Wheel bike with steps up to it you can sit on for a photo opportunity.
As you make your way to the second floor you pass a collection of contemporary, ultra light weight mountain bikes and racing bikes. The mezzanine level has bicycles used for military purposes, complete with machine guns mounted to them. Another display on this level includes motorized bicycles, mostly Whizzers.
The top level dedicated to bicycle making in Ohio, along with many of the Schwinn items. There was the obvious tribute to the Wright Brothers, along with Roadmaster. The Schwinn portion had numerous items, including original shipping crates.
The Bicycle Museum of America is easily one of the top museums not only in Ohio, but throughout America.
Fifth Stop – Delphos, Allen and Van Wert Counties. We had stopped in Delphos to see the Postal Museum, but it had been closed as the owner had been called back to his home in Dublin on some sort of emergency. Fortunately, the local man we met on the street that gave us this level of detail was able to recommend a nearby café for lunch.
Baked to Perfection is primarily a bakery but they do sandwiches as well. As we enjoyed our sandwiches you could smell the baking, and we watched the owner decorate a wedding cake. The Postal Museum was a bust but lunch made up for it.
Sixth Stop – Defiance – Defiance County. Defiance is the home of Fort Defiance, used during the ‘Indian Wars’ of the early 1800s. It sits as the confluence of the Auglaize and Auglaize Rivers, which when we were there were in flood conditions.
The park that is situated where the fort was offered a bit of history on the place on plaques, but overall it wasn’t noteworthy.
Seventh Stop – Gilboa, Putnam County. This stop was a very brief stop to pose next to a giant bull near some silos.
Eighth Stop – Kenton, Hardin County. In the 1930s the Kenton Hardware Company, came upon hard times. The toy manufacturer was the only industry in Kenton, Ohio. In 1936, the company received a contract to produce Gene Autry repeating cap guns. The Gene Autry cap gun became the most wanted toy in America! Besides bringing back all their workers, they had to hire considerably more as shifts were added to meet the huge demand.
Autry’s visit to Kenton on August 8, 1938 remains a high spot in local history, and as a tribute they painted a giant mural on a downtown building. Tells you how exciting Kenton is.
And thus ended our western Ohio day trip, leaving only 1 Ohio county to visit.