I lived in Ohio for 27 years, but it never really felt like home. Before I even visited New York, I knew I wanted to live here and as a result I feel as if I never truly invested much time into getting to know Ohio. I knew no matter how long it took me, I'd eventually leave, so what was the point in getting attached? Even though I got my license quite soon after turning 16, I never really took advantage of the freedom that having a car afforded me. In the four years since I've moved away, I've visited Ohio several times and have probably seen more of the state on those short visits than in all of the years that I lived there.
On my most recent trip back to Ohio, after I had visited Achor Valley Cemetery, and while I was on my way to the World's Largest Cuckoo Clock, I was driving with my windows down and the radio up. I had no way to play my iPod in the Olds, so I was at the mercy of Northeast Ohio radio station Gods. They blessed me with a song from my all-time favorite 90s album, Jagged Little Pill right as I passed the Shortest Covered Bridge in the US.
I immediately turned around—the joys of a meandering road trip and a full free day!—to snap a few photos and refresh my limited knowledge of covered bridges (based entirely on Bridges of Madison County—the movie, of course). The bridge is no longer in use but has been standing in Colombiana County since the 1870s.
After we visited the World's Largest Teapot, my dad, grandma and I drove down the road to the Homer Laughlin outlet in Newell, West Virginia. The Homer Laughlin China company started in 1871 East Liverpool, Ohio, but moved to nearby Newell in the 1920s. The best part of the factory is actually outside—there's a huge pit where they throw the broken dishes and it killed me that it's surrounded by several, stern "No Trespassing" signs.
They started producing the Fiesta line in 1936 and they were having a huge sale when we visited. Fiesta retails for $30+ a plate, but at the outlet you can get seconds for as little as a dollar. I love all of the colors and I wish I had enough room in my apartment to justify raiding the clearance bins—but my dad did buy me a piece of their Halloween collection that I literally could not have lived without.
I drove miles out of my way to go to Grandpa's Cheesebarn in Ashland, and while they aren't as free with their samples as Heini's Cheese Chalet, I did stock up on cheese, buckeyes, puppy chow and wasabi peas. They do have a squished penny machine—I got the cheese with eyes design—and I love their huge "Cheesebarn" sign.
I also fit in a visit to Mary Coyle, the cutest ice cream parlor where time seemingly stopped in the 1940s. I had an exquisite (and huge!) root beer float that proved my theory that judging a restaurant by its sign is never a bad idea.
But the standout of the entire trip just might be the incredible tombstone that my dad showed me while we were out walking his dog. It's in a field with two other regular stones in what is apparently a potter's field for an institution that is long gone. I can't think of a better stone I've seen in all of my cemetery exploits than "unknown skeletal remains."
I'm continually annoyed with myself that I seemingly squandered so much of the time I spent living in Ohio not properly exploring, but it's nice to feel as if I have an entirely new state to explore every time I go home.