After a weeklong visit in Vermont, we headed west and settled in for a good long drive toward home. It’s a 1000 mile trek, and I looked for an interesting route that would take us home without having to scale too many mountains. We ended up following a course of waterways, starting with the Mohawk River in New York State.
It’s my habit to pick up a road map at every state line we cross. Each Welcome Station has a nice pile of official state maps waiting on the counter. It’s one of the small courtesies still offered to travelers for free. There’s something about a paper map that’s just deeply satisfying – the creases of the paper, the colors of the lines, and the staggering size of the unfolded map. You can see the whole state at once in fabulous detail without having to scroll a tiny electronic screen. A paper map gives you a sense of your place in the state; where you’re going and how far you’ve come. And the detail offered in a paper map just can’t be found anywhere else. Google Maps will happily show where you can spend money, like the closest Starbucks or Arbys. But only the Official State Map will lead you to the Shrine of Saint Kateri.
After 145 years, we are bidding farewell to Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. This was the big one – the combination of three famous traveling shows into one giant extravaganza. A real three ring circus. It was P.T. Barnum who said, “A sucker is born every minute.” And who isn’t a sucker for a big flashy circus show?
We’ve spent most of March recovering from the flu. Influenza A, specifically. Can’t remember the last time I felt so rotten. And it came on so suddenly. There was a little cough, then a couple of hours later, Oh, I don’t feel so…KABOOM! The A-bomb hit. Down we went for a week with fever and chills. And after that another two weeks of trying to get back on our wobbly feet.
Feeling fit at last, we packed up the new coach and headed up to my folk’s house in Ohio for some Easter fun. Many swell events were planned – casino night, shopping trips, relatives coming in from Vermont, big 65th anniversary celebration. We were all ready for a big party week.
But when we arrived on Saturday we found Mom prostrate on the couch and Dad dealing with a nasty cough. Influenza A-Bomb. Ohhh Noooo!
So we let the folks rest and puttered around their driveway for a few days. Spent an afternoon power washing their back deck, and Dad was game enough for a couple of dinners out. Poor Mom never made it off the couch. By Tuesday the decision was made to call off the Vermont visitors and sadly we motored home early, our fridge still full of swanky hors-d’oeuvres we never got a chance to share.
Coco is finally becoming a good camper. We had a tough time with her last month on our trip to Florida because she was cutting her adult teeth and it made her a miserable booger for the whole two weeks. But now she’s older and all those big white teeth have come in – she’s getting closer to being a Nice Dog. She spent the time at my folk’s house happily poking around their back yard fending off the feral cats that have taken up residence under their deck, and napping in a pile of old potting soil instead of on the lush green grass.
Back at the farm there’s some big changes happening. We decided that it’s time the farm earned some income for us. Tim’s folks used to raise cattle and grow tobacco, but these are labor intensive ventures we don’t just want to commit to. Livestock are difficult to deal with – you’ve got to tend to them a couple times a day and constantly Run the Fences to patch up holes, which means that you can never take a vacation. Not our style. Especially with a brand new RV waiting in the driveway.
So we’ve leased about 60 acres to a Land Cropper. This is an outfit that leases empty fields to work the soil, sow crops, and reap the harvest. The deal is that we earn a portion of the profit for providing the land. To maximize efficiency the Cropper has been bulldozing around the margins for a couple of weeks now, eliminating scrub brushes and overhanging trees in order to maneuverer his giant equipment in the most direct path. He’s also installing drain pipes in a couple of swampy areas to improve the run-off.
One of those areas is where Tim’s grandfather moved the path of the creek from one side of the field to the other. That’s what they did 100 years ago. Get yer mule and plow and move that gol-durn creek bed. Well, that creek has been looking for its original path ever since, and it made a giant swamp in the middle of prime Bottom Land where many 4-wheelers, trucks, and tractors have been stuck in the mud up to the wheel wells. So it was fascinating to see the solution the Cropper came up with when we returned from Ohio today – twin drainage ditches dug deep and laid with pipe. Betcha that old creek finds a way around that too!
Once again we have made our annual pilgrimage to the Blacksmith Convention in Troy, Ohio. It’s held about the same time as more devout pilgrims are heading to Mecca, but unlike the Hajj there are fewer casualties at SOFA.
Here at the Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil meet, avid members (who I affectionately call The Dirty Pants Club) can swap tall tales of rusty iron conquests, watch demonstrations of advanced smithing techniques, and select goods and bads from an array of bearded venders. And so the warm and sunny afternoons this weekend were spent ambling around the fairgrounds in search of tools for this antique trade. A long list of rusty supplies was procured and stuffed into the motorhome, including a spanking new 110 lb. anvil that even I thought was pretty cool.
The keynote speaker for the conference, what little he actually did say, was a lean and lanky gentleman from Alabama who demonstrated foundry casting. He and his team poured a couple hundred pounds of fiery molten iron into a casting mold to create a signature anvil for SOFA. It took a whole day to cool, and was presented to a long-time member of the Ohio club.
This large gathering of Smithy’s is located at the Miami County fairgrounds in Troy – a vast and sprawling complex of white-washed buildings, horse barns, and trotter practice tracks. SOFA takes up the entire north side. At the main gallery in the center, artists and pretenders can display their hand-forged items and compete for rewards and recognition. Tim was feted with a Third Place ribbon, a cash prize, and a round of applause for his entry of Assorted Door Hardware.
I lucked into an estate auction on the far end of the fairgrounds on Saturday. The departed was a gentleman from Dayton, and obviously a Mad Scientist of the highest order. He had amassed a collection of radio parts and equipment from the 1930s thru the 1960s that was unparalleled in scope and size to anything the auctioneer or audience had ever seen. I’m talking oscilloscopes and Geiger counters and naval telescopes and tables filled with every voltage meter ever invented. There was a device inside a steamer trunk with such strange knobs and tubes that I was sure it was a time machine. It was the best auction I’d ever seen and I happily stayed for hours. Bought a bunch of cool old stuff, including a brass telegraph key from 1876 that may turn out to be a very special artifact indeed. It will all be catalogued and placed for sale at my Etsy vintage store soon – www.Booth88.etsy.com
And if you’d like to peruse Tim’s prize-winning blacksmith items, you can visit his store at www.dancingmantis.com
Tim is forging ahead with his plans for a new blacksmith shop at the farm. So we’ve made the trip up to the annual Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil Quadstate Roundup, one of the largest blacksmith conventions in this part of the country.
This is our fourth trip to SOFA, and we always begin the weekend with a stay at my folks’ house, camping driveway style. It also happens to be close to my birthday, so we celebrated with Mom & Dad – and big double thank you for the birthday gifts!!
Noon on Friday found us lumbering into the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy, Ohio, where we will camp for the weekend. Tim scurried out to do a look-around at all the vendor wares. He was on a mission to purchase a new forge, and this is the place to buy one. If you’re interested in blacksmithing as a hobby, this convention has all the rusty iron implements you could ever need. There’s dozens of sellers lined up along the gravel drives, and they’re all willing to make a deal.
Tomorrow Tim will spend the day watching various experts do demonstrations. I’m going to leave the crockpot cooking in the motorhome and backtrack south to the Cincinnati IKEA store. My folks are going to join me for some shopping and they’ll have no trouble finding me, as I’ll be in a big blue truck with a bright red forge strapped on the back!
We’ve made the big turn South and are at last heading for home. It’s been a wonderful couple of weeks in the mountains and at the lakes. The weather was perfection, we found many new places to love, and visiting with family was a bonus.
Tonight we’re camped at Cross Creek Resort, a few clicks from Columbus. It will be an easy ride home from here, where it may take us a week to unpack the coach.
Thanks for following along with us. We’ll be heading out again in a few weeks on some shorter trips, so stay tuned!
Z is for Zanesville, where we will catch some Zzzzs tonight.
We’re out adventuring again, on our way to parts known and unknown. Tonight’s stop-over is a sweet little campground tucked in the hills of Zanesville. It’s on Route 666, and we did have a devilish time getting here! The crawl through Cincinnati took hours on a Friday afternoon – traffic was backed up for 40 miles on all sides of the city.
But the weather was pleasant, the skies blue, and a few hours later we made it here to Zanesville, on the east side of Columbus, without undo incident. Tomorrow we’ll head out for—-well, you’ll just have to wait and see!
A big family weekend in Ohio was the perfect excuse to pull the RV out of storage. We loaded up the coach and headed to my folks house to join up with relatives from Vermont. The weekend was a whirlwind of parties and food to celebrate Aunt Bon’s big birthday.
Brunch was enjoyed by about a dozen of us, and Dad entertained the crowd with his excellent Italian-American reading of Goldilocchese and Di Tri Berese.
Di Tri Berese
Uans opponna taim uas tri berrese, mamma berre, pappa berre e beibe berre.
Liva inne contri nire foresta. Naise aus, no mugheggia.
Uanne dei Pappa, Mamma e beibe go bice, orie a furghetta locche di doore. Bai enne bai commese Goldilocchese. Sci garra nattinghe tu du batte meiche troble.
Sci puscie olle fudde daon di maute, no liva cromme. Denna sci gossa appesterrese enne slipse in olle di beddse. Leise slobbe! Bai enne bai commese omme di tri berrese, alle sannebronne enne send inne scius.
Dei garra no fudde, dei garra no beddse. Enne uara dei goine du to Goldilocchese? Tro erre aute inne strit? Colle pulissemenne? Fette cienze! Dei uas Italiane berrese, enne dei slippe onna florre!
Goldilocchese stei derre tri uicase, itte auta ausenome!
Enne giosta bicose dei esche erre tu meiche di beddse, sci sei “Go tu elle” enne runne omme craine tu erre mamma, etellenerre uat sanimabicese di tri berrese uere.
Uatsiuse? Uara iu goine du? Go compleine sittiolle?
We continued the festivities at a nearby casino. Recently opened and not widely promoted, Miami Valley Racetrack is a sparkling new property with acres of slot machines and live harness racing in the evenings. On Saturday the place was jumping. We all signed up for their Player’s Card, which gave us each $15 in credits for testing the slots. Happy to report that most of us made money on the free play!
Sunday afternoon found us parked at the giant IKEA store for a big look-around. Tim and I strolled about for three hours, drooling at all the contemporary furnishings and doo-dads. Okay, I want pretty much everything in the place!
On the way home a giant traffic jam on I-71 stalled us near Carrollton, Ky. According to my traffic app it looked like there would be a delay of several hours. Already gun-shy from slogging through an Epic Traffic Jam last fall, we diverted to Butler State Park. Our thought was to have a little supper in the coach and wait for the traffic to clear. But a couple of hours later it seemed easier just to camp overnight in the peace and quiet of the state park and hit the road Monday morning. Ah, the joys of owning an RV – you’re always at home, wherever you are!
It was a good long weekend filled with family, fun, and other swell diversions.
A nice start to the Spring!
Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Every September a couple of thousand blacksmiths convene in tiny Troy, Ohio. The annual convention is sponsored by SOFA (Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil), and is the signature event for those who like to beat upon hot iron.
We’ve attended for several years, camping at the fairgrounds where the Meet is held. It’s a great event – smoking forges, hammers ringing, rusty implements for sale. If you’re interested in the hobby, this is the place to buy and sell all the tools of the trade.
|My Tatted Medallion|