Vacation Photo of the Day, 6/15

not the first visit by a scary bald dude

For all you LOST fans… my visit to Dharmaville, aka New Otherton, aka (in real life) Camp Erdman.

Vacation Photo of the Day, 6/14

catching a wave, sitting on top of the world, etc.

Steven surfing off Waikiki.

Living the dream, watching it die: The Road Trip to Findlay, Ohio

On the evening of Friday, October 9, 2009, it began… the Mother of All Road Trips: the long-awaited trip to Findlay, Ohio. (If you don’t know why we decided to drive to Findlay, Ohio… well, here’s a refresher.) The players:

Tom, one of the original Findlay boys…

left his razor at home?

Jimmy, the guy with no connection at all to Findlay except he wanted to get out of town for some reason (probably legal trouble)…

look up and to the left, please… yes… work it, work it 

Steven, because he always wants to horn in on our fun…

“horn” in! GET IT

And me (not pictured). Aren’t there enough pictures of me sullying this miserable site? Trust me, you’ll be sick of my pic by the time this is all over.

So we hit the road about 8 p.m. that night, delayed only slightly by detours to Tom and Jimmy’s cribs to pick them up. Twice to Jimmy’s, actually, since he forgot his jacket like the sucker he is and we had to turn around to go get it.

And so we drove… and drove. We passed the time by listening to Weird Al Yankovic songs (at Steven’s request) and to old Phil Hendrie shows (or at least the first few minutes of several old Phil Hendrie shows, until we could figure out whether or not a show was appropriate for sixth-grader ears). I was behind the wheel for the first shift, driving all the way to St. Louis, where we stopped for gas. The gas station was not far from Tom’s ancestral homestead, and so his brother and sister met us to say hi, despite the late hour. After we all took breaks, Jimmy took over driving duties and we took off for the Illinois border. Thankfully, we had not yet crossed that border when I turned around to ask Tom a question and realized that he was not in the van. We had left him back at the gas station.

As we hurriedly flipped around to retrieve our now-confused compatriot, I told Jimmy, “I don’t care what happens the rest of the weekend… that right there just made this whole trip worthwhile.”

Jimmy made it all the way to Indianapolis before we had to take a weewee break. The sun was seemingly rising as I retook the wheel and headed further east. I say “seemingly” because the closer we got to the Ohio border, the darker it got. Seriously… Indianapolis: the beginning of a new day. Ohio:

so much to discover once the sun comes out so you can see it

How did that happen? But we didn’t let our puzzlement take our eyes off the prize. The skies finally started to lighten over the Buckeye State, illuminating gray, heavy clouds. And yet, and yet… the closer we got to Hancock County, the more the clouds parted, and by the time we reached our destination…

glad to be here, Mr. Overpass!

…clear, blue skies. Welcome to Findlay. We had arrived!

who took this picture?

welcome to findlay, we have lots of room for you because all these people are dead

What city puts its big “Welcome” sign in a frickin’ cemetery? Findlay, Ohio, that’s what city.

And so the explorations began. We wandered through the town until we found a sweet breakfast joint, where we quickly and greedily devoured everything edible that was placed in front of us.

poor marie has no idea of the storm about to hit her precious establishment 

After freaking out the breakfasting Findlay natives with our strange outsider ways and weird Missouri odors, we checked out the Findlay downtown area. Some highlights:

Tom is remarkably excited about the possibility of shoe repair.

look! it’s something or other!

Shoes are hot in downtown Findlay, apparently. (I know I used this one earlier, but it’s too weird not to share again.)

why choose one when you can have both?

The Hancock County Courthouse.

we may yet get a summons to come back here

The Great Scot grocery store (where Brian shops)!

Amazing Price is amazed at the amazing prices!

FRESH MEAT

The library (where Brian updates his blog)! Nominee for Best Use of Landscaping to Obscure the Name of the Place.

welcome to the findlublic library

The hardware store where Brian works!

brian was off that day?

(As an aside: this was perhaps the creepiest hardware store I’ve ever patronized. I guess I didn’t really patronize it since I didn’t buy anything, but still. As soon as we walked in the door, every eye in the store was upon us. A middle-aged fella, probably a member of management, asked us in a deep, Karl Childers-esque voice, “Kin I help yew boys?”, and then literally followed us through the entire store, one aisle away. We’d walk past an aisle and there he’d be at the other end, watching us. We’d try to trip him up and walk back an aisle, and there he’d be. We could not get out of there fast enough. Jimmy kept imagining his face appearing all over town the rest of the weekend, popping up out of mailboxes and freezer cases to ask, “Kin I help yew boys?”)

The University of Findlay, home of the Oilers, who were playing an away game that day.

F-U! F-U! F-U!

Also home to the UF Bookstore… nominee for Least Convenient Operating Hours (Saturdays, 11am-1pm).

closed 12-12:30 for lunch

And something that was actually pretty cool: The Stately Raven Bookstore, housed in an old church.

thanks to shan for finding this place via the magic of the interwebs

“The Weird Room” full of weird guys

books (what did you expect, it’s a bookstore)

Steven kept begging to return here all weekend. Not that I blame him, it was pretty cool. But Findlay waits for no man, and we couldn’t spend the entire day in the one interesting place in Findlay. (Oops, I did not mean to say that out loud.)

By this point, the three grown-ups—who did not sleep all night in the backseat like certain 12-year-olds who will go unnamed—were getting pretty tired and cranky, so we headed to our hotel.

this picture brought to you by the good folks at marriott

It was on the east side of town, which seemed… I don’t know… kind of newer and more developed, with a mall and large chain stores and that kind of thing. It still seemed vaguely run-down and depressing, though. It was still unquestionably Findlay, Ohio.

Anyway, we checked in to the hotel room, which was pretty nice although it very oddly kind of smelled like curry, and then collapsed for a solid two hours. (Except for the ever-energetic and youthful Steven, of course, who stayed up playing video games on his Nintendo DSi.)

The brief restful respite gave us the energy we needed to explore the rest of the bustling Findlay metroplex. We went to check out the north side of town, passing Kimmel’s Mountain Man Meats.

juicy, juicy man meats

(We took this picture just because Jimmy giggled uncontrollably every time we said the phrase “man meats.”)

The surprisingly attractive and architecturally modern Owens Community College. (Why? Because a fictional character’s fictional girlfriend went there. Fictionally. I know, I know… I have a problem.)

kin I help yew boys?

The Cube! (Home rink of Findlay’s minor-league hockey team, the Grrrowl.)

phew, I almost wote grrrrowl, which is obviously wrong

After The Cube, we wandered around town looking for an Oktoberfest thingy that we had seen advertised on the Internet (yes, Findlay has the Internet). We were pretty pumped about this thing, as it promised an appearance by Grammy-nominated polka powerhouses Fred Ziwich and His International Sound Machine. We expected a busy, boisterous street fair, with the aroma of sausages and sauerkraut and the sound of accordions and oompah-oompahs wafting through the air. But as we approached the site, our hearts sank. Not only was there hardly anyone there, it wasn’t even outside. It was inside a small senior center—sponsored by the Agency on Aging!—and there was a $5 cover. Disgusted and cheap, we turned our backs on the Oktoberfest and drove away, searching for souvenirs.

On the way, we briefly stopped off for a walk around the picturesque Blanchard River, which periodically overflows its banks and ruins everything.

today we were the ones ruining everything

Around the river were plenty of ramshackle, dilapidated buildings covered with graffiti. It was frankly kind of creepy, and this was the middle of the afternoon. I can’t imagine how scary the area would be after dark.

the only way I’d hang around here at night is if I was dead, which is not too hard to imagine

Anyway, back to FindlaySouvenirQuest ‘09. Turned off by the high prices at the University of Findlay Bookstore, we decided to check other retail options: Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Meijer, and so on. Of course, as it turns out, UF won’t license its stuff to anyone, so we couldn’t find any Oilers memorabilia anywhere. (You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a display chock-full of Ohio State crap, though.) Finally, after making phone calls and checking ye Internette, we located a sporting goods store at the Findlay Village Mall that would suit our purposes nicely.

this picture could have been taken in 1987 and you’d be none the wiser

The store had a nice selection of Findlay High School Trojans togs, and the three of us spent a solid hour pawing through every single shirt and hoodie and sweatsuit on display, trying to decide what to purchase. (There were only three of us because Steven wanted no part of the Findlaywear search, opting instead to browse a nearby bookstore.) Tom, Jimmy, and I wavered and dithered so long I was afraid they would throw us out, but we finally made up our stupid minds and bought some relatively plain T-shirts that just said “FINDLAY” on them. GO TROJANS!

By this time, the Scramble Marie’s breakfast had long since worn off and we were a mite peckish. Thus, we made our way to a place I’d been pretty excited about trying: a dive-y local burger joint called Wilson’s Sandwich Shop. I had seen lots of cool things on Yelp about it, plus George Motz sang its praises in Hamburger America.

so cool they didn’t need the ’s Sandwich Shop on the sign

And brother, it didn’t disappoint. All the place serves is “hamburgs” and fries and “frosted malts.” Totally old-school, and wicked delicious. Steven tore into his hamburg like nobody’s business, and the rest of us followed suit.

CAN’T TALK, EATING 

(It was so good that I saved my little Wilson’s-branded Styrofoam cup and have it on display in a curio cabinet at home. Seriously.)

HEADBUTTS APLENTYStuffed full of beef and chocolaty dairy products, we decided to turn in for the night. We headed back to the hotel to kick back, chill-ax, and watch bizarre, unsubtitled Japanese variety shows on the cable system. Oh, Japan… something is so dreadfully wrong with you, and I. LOVE. IT.

The next morning dawned bittersweet, as we knew that this was the beginning of the end. We cleaned up, then cleaned out the continental breakfast buffet downstairs. We wolfed down the pastry/cereal/fruit in front of the TV, still glued to Japan TV. Even the news is hilarious on this channel! (Can I just say that “Salaryman Kintaro” is ten kinds of awesome?)

And so… we tossed our junk sacks suitcases in the van, and pulled away from the hotel. But there was so much more to see, we couldn’t stop ourselves from taking a few more photos on the way out, including:

A shot of the gorgeous intersection where Findlay High School sits.

if you look closely there’s an FHS sign hidden among the powerlines and street signs and junction boxes

The KFC where fictional Tommy worked back in the old-school web site daze.

love that chicken!

A drive-thru liquor store… apparently considered a good idea in Ohio.

drive up, load up with alcohol, pay, and drive away… SHEER GENIUS

And some other random junk.

i much prefer the international house of butts

coming soon: shredded lamb by the kiloton

if i lived in findlay i would own this place

????????

I pulled over to the side of the I-75 on-ramp to get one last shot of Findlay, in the form of an overpass emblazoned with the city’s nickname.

Farewell, Mr. Overpass!

And that was that. South to Dayton, then west on I-70 all the way back to Kansas City.

you're very welcome, governor strickland

Well, almost all the way… first, there was the Incident in Brookville, a little town west of Dayton where we stopped to get gas and somehow got roped into changing a lady’s tire for her. Oh, to have recorded a video of that comical process… it took all three of us almost 45 minutes to change a single tire. Yes, there were some unique problems that kept it from being a run-of-the-mill tire change, but a single real man probably could have completed the task in 15 minutes.

Still, we got it done, and got back on the road for 10-11 hours of boring, monotonous driving, enlivened only by:

  • Dropping by the old high school where I used to teach in Marshall, Illinois
  • Fearing for our lives as Tom took the wheel for a while
  • Getting a phone call from my mom and trying to explain to her why on earth we drove to Findlay, Ohio
  • Laughing as Jimmy, who had taken the wheel in St. Louis, slammed on the brakes and threw his Jack-in-the-Box burger to the filthy floor
  • Singing along—loudly and annoyingly—to the extensive 80s-pop playlist on my iPod 

life is this 

Finally, around 10:30pm Sunday night… home. Two days on the road, covering nearly 1500 miles, staying in Hancock County, Ohio for barely 24 hours. It was a fabulous weekend, not because of the bizarre destination, but because I had three buddies to share the experience—laughing, pointing, being laughed at, being pointed at. We did something goofy, something unquestionably odd, just because. Why not? It’s as good a reason as any.

And most importantly, it helped me get Findlay out of my system. It helped exorcise those Findlay demons from my soul. I’m over Findlay. SO OVER FINDLAY. So I need a new obsession, a new destination for next year’s pointless road trip.

Fall 2010… Who’s up for Osaka?!

You can’t have one without the other

why choose one when you can have both?

Main Street, Findlay, Ohio.

I’m gonna make it after all

not pictured: the incredulous stares of Findlayite passersby

In front of the Hancock County Courthouse on Main Street. Findlay, Ohio.

Vacation photo highlights

Some photographic highlights of our Glenwood Springs trip…

These are a few of my favorite things

Two gifts I received years ago, one I received today. (Only one of those gifts will be on display in the basement.)

one made in China, the others made in… well, you know 

Happy Father’s Day 2009 to me.

A bunch of pictures from the weekend… as good a Weekend Roundup as you can hope to get

Long, exhausting weekend… so I’m just going to throw up some pics and hope for the best.

We went camping at Smithville Lake.

too tired for alt text

This is where we slept while there.

like savages

Here’s our friends Rob and Corrie, who were there at the same time. Coincidence?

I’m glad someone’s happy, this is because I was not

Here’s Steven with their kids Justice and Gracious.

remember when Steven was this cute… so long ago

We were finally able to get the kids to sleep… sleep which, for me, never came.

not pictured: me, not sleeping

The next morning, I cooked breakfast in the rain (thanks, Jon, for sheltering the precious bacon)…

nothing worse than sodden pork

… while all the kiddies romped about in The Party Tent, aka our place…

better here than in my house

… and Maya made a new friend.

that dog should be riding in a psychedelic van and solving mysteries

We eventually packed up and left, much to my allergies’ relief. By Sunday night, I was feeling better, and we were visited by a couple of old friends of mine from my college days. Steve, shown here with his wife Sara:

finally a happy couple in our home

And here with me…showing either how much he has grown or how much I have shrunk.

hairlines have shrunk in both cases

Our mutual friend Sande was also in town that day, shown here smiling despite being forced to be in my presence again after years of freedom.

time has only been kind to one of us

And finally… the three of us, who hung out together back in the day (along with Kathy, who could not join us, probably because she hates me–not that I blame her… who doesn’t hate me?) are together again.

and only one of us has matured

Just like college, except with more baldness and less maturity.

Sometimes you just gotta walk around downtown in your underwear

An empty pair of pants, lying on the sidewalk in downtown Kansas City, just outside the old Fed building.

Pants-free and loving it

You, too, can view the Zoo Crew

Alas, Maya’s days of preschool are ending, and as the school prepares to send the kiddies off to kindergarten, they decided to go out with a bang by letting the kids get close to dangerous wild animals. That’s right… a trip to the zoo. Dozens of five-year-olds running amok, their parents chasing deperately after them, the atmosphere redolent with the pungent odors of musk and feces. Let’s take a little photographic trip through the day, shall we?

before the madness

yay! our parents are spending money on us!

not pictured: jack, kate, hurley, and sawyer

an okapi, I think? maybe? they start to run together after a while

the murder in his eyes is palpable

stop staring! I’m 300 years old and I’m not in the mood

this was just before the big musical number with the warthog

where’s that meerkat again? god, I am so hungry

a study in contrasts

a hippo real

a hippo not so real

young man, have my daughter home at a reasonable hour on that rhino of yours

mom! cut it out! the humans are totally watching!

no, I don’t want to ride this one!

okay, that’s better

those popsicles cost 17 dollars apiece

the human has brought us food! ATTTTAAAAACCCCKKKK!

a sea lion real

a sea lion not-so-real but more expensive and useless

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