The Big Trip

Day 9 - Columbus to Cambridge, Ohio


Columbus, Indiana - 8:30 a.m. Finish writing, then lounge for a bit. Turn on television for first time on trip. Cycle thrice through channels and settle on a pa-reach-er. Learn that this particular ministry conducts "evangelical Caribbean cruises." Also learn that "now is the time." I didn't know that. Switch to Maury Povitch, but he's not as good as Jerry. Turn television off. Haven't done much of anything at night, I must confess. Except write. Or stay up late talking to lesbian desk clerks. And then the hay is hit, me sleeping on one side, my luggage on the other. (Done laundry twice, too. Washed tank-tops and short-shorts with hand soap. Hung to dry. Or, to speed process, used hotel hairdryer.) 11:00 a.m. Pay bill; buy breakfast; inhale miniature cinnamon rolls at Burger King. Plus Diet Coke. Then spend a splendid 90 minutes finding (and photographing) the city's fire stations. All six of 'em, though regrettably without Kelly's company. (Had I arrived earlier yesterday-- and during daylight hours-- we were going to play the Tour Guide and the Visitor.)
 
History Lesson - Columbus is an architectural wonderland, due to some philanthropic nonsense started in the Fifties and that resulted in both public and private designs from the likes of Alexander Girard, Robert Trent Jones, I.M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen and Harry Weese. (Names courtesy of AAA tour book, thank you very much.)

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This also affected the firehouses, which, I've heard, are extra cool. Start at "Five," the station right around the corner from both Kelly's and the hotel. Traditional tall, three-door apparatus bay. What's different are the living quarters, two wings, two-stories each, horizontally perpendicular to the apparatus area. With a wee, open courtyard between them. Neat. The station houses two pumpers, one an older Maxim currently for sale. (I decline a suggestion to purchase same.) A friendly, self-proclaimed "short-timer" walks me through (via wall map) the best route to see the others. I take his directions, but go in reverse, because I'm going downtown first, to the local AAA office. Also known as the Hoosier Motor Club.

Route Change - As I'm rapidly running out of allotted miles, I've decided to saw off the Louisville/Lexington/Charleston leg. Instead, I'll shoot straight east on I-70, through Ohio and near the bottom of Pennsylvania. Thus the Triple A visit, for yet another TripTik. Handed a generic one, pre-made for here to D.C. Also learn that TripTiks-- or at least those requested in Indiana-- are now computer-created! New features: auto-highlighted routes, arrows indicating direction of travel, and cumulating mileage counts. Best of all, the 'Tiks are now spiral-bound on the side! No more easily-ripped pages! Wohoo! While still at the AAA, I swipe a street map and use a pink highlighter to create my own Columbus FireTik. (Washington Street to 25th Street to Central Avenue back to 25th Street to Flintwood Dr. back to 25th Street to 10th Street to Gladstone to somewhere out in the country, if you must know.)
 
First Stop - "One," just around the corner, has the administrative offices as well as five, count 'em five apparatus bays. (Two pumpers, I think, one aerial, one ambulance, one rescue, and one antique.) The building sprawls an entire block, has an arty horizontal "ripple" in the middle, and is well-hidden behind a bushel of bushy trees. (Thanks for making picture-taking hard.) Station #1 is also joined to old Station #1, whose bays, numbering two, face Washington Street. (The station has five bays total, three on one side, two on the other.) Over these older doors are shiny, silver, art deco-style letters reading "Central Fire Station." Cool. Station #2, a couple miles away, is older-looking-- a more-squat, four-bay building boasting two active and two reserve units. (Pumper and service truck for the former; old pumper/tanker and American LaFrance 900-series ladder for the latter.) Plus, by the sidewalk, a monument to... a firedog. (He must've been well liked.) And a fire bell. And a flag pole with flags currently at half-mast, in honor of the Indiana firefighter killed a couple of days ago during a diving exercise.

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More Fire Stations - Station #4, down the road from "Two," is an ugly, square, bleached-white building with one measly bay (if I recall correctly) and a thin hose-tower obscenely jutting up from the middle of the roof. Ugh. Inside is a pretty truck, though, a new-looking "quint." (Again, meaning a pumping engine also equipped with an aerial device.) Take a couple turns, go a couple miles, and "Three" appears. Spectacular. Work of art. Bright red tiles against gray-beige concrete, highlighting doorways and arched curves. A two-story, windowed "cylinder" extends horizontally, a few feet from the front. Inside is the fire pole for everyone to see. Next to the pool, two stories-high, is a giant "3" in black tile on red tile. Fabulous. Too bad the trucks are so ugly. Inside the double bays are an older E-One pumper (reserve?) and an even-older Maxim pumper, listing to the side. (Flat tire, perhaps?)
 

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Even More Fire Stations - The last one, "Six," takes the longest to find, as it's both the newest and presumably in the most newly incorporated section of town. Which is farther out. Skirt corn fields to find it; arrive a block from I-65. The firehouse is gorgeous. Three enormous apparatus bays, with a "wavy" roof that, at its highest point, appears the height of an airplane hanger!
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(And with no filling of the interior space, either! The ceiling is that high!) For those keeping track, Station #6 also houses a new-looking "quint," a brush truck, and the fire-safety house. 12:15 p.m. Return to Interstate. Return to area around hotel. Eat lunch at Bob Evans. (Think a slimier Perkins.) Chicken fingers and a Diet Coke. Eh, what else is new? Watch people. Revise notes. Watch people watching me revising notes. (Columbus appears a strong-chinned, buttoned-down community, where the hotel lobby lists both area attractions and area churches.)

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Radio Ga-Ga - 1:05 p.m. Take wrong exit onto Interstate. Egad. The guy can't even tell north from south. What an idiot. Local radio show broadcasting from State Fair. Lots of "ag" talk, expectedly. 1:12 p.m. Now traveling in correct direction. Radio says today is first day of school. Does that mean kids are now worth double points? Other talk hosts are busy dissecting Bill Clinton's speech from last night. Sigh. I miss my morning, on-the-way-to-work dose of Don Imus. (For political analysis and shock humor.) 1:20 p.m. Have traveled 3054 miles. My allotment is 3500. Simple subtraction yields 446. Revised remaining mileage is 586. Guess I'll be payin' for some extra miles. (At 25 cents a pop.) 1:30 p.m. Brain feverishly working on tomorrow's schedule, the last day of driving. (Final day. Oy. Wonder if I'll start suffering from postpartum "travel depression." Probably.) By tomorrow morning, hafta finish any writing, drive the final X hundred miles, find the designated meeting point that I'll arrange tonight, have rental reserved by that time, and hopefully have contacted my friend in Maryland, for a ride between points B and C. 

Better That Wal-Mart - 2:35 p.m. Just spent forty glorious minutes in Meijer, the mega-store of mega-stores. Bigger than a Big K! More super than a Super Wal-Mart! We're talkin' huge, folks. Purchase final supplies: one last (yeah, right) four-pack of film (100 ASA Fuji), "Frank Yankovic's Greatest Hits" on compact disc (22 polka tunes, baby!), this week's issue of "Entertainment Weekly" (yeah, I have a subscription, but a fat lot of good that does me here), and one garish orange tank-top, to wear while celebrating my final day of driving. So why Meijer? Same was recommended as a source for clearance-priced Code 3 Collectibles. (Die-cast fire trucks, 1:64 scale.) Find several current releases, but nothing on sale. And successfully resist urge to purchase Pierce New Orleans "Flying Squad" heavy rescue replica for sentimental reasons. (Went there last summer. Saw that very truck at a construction site accident.) Also buy replacement stick of deodorant after discovering mine missing yesterday. [ Go ahead; take your best "you stink" shot ] 

And Now, A Word About Men's Antiperspirants - Used to be, men's deodorant was available in two, maybe three choices: "regular," "unscented," and, sometimes, "musk." Seemingly overnight, these traditional choices have been supplemented by a dozen (or more) "hipper" flavors. Er, scents. They have trendy names like "Cool Breeze," "Desert Dry," "Glacier Ice," and so on. (I know, corny.) My question is this: why can't the names more accurately reflect what the smell is really like? Such as "Sweaty Pits," "Used Gym Shorts," "Dirty Socks and Underwear," etc. Heck, I'd even settle for pun-based names. Like "Eau No!," "Whiff Beater," "Common Scents," etc. [ Slight pause for collective groan among readers ] 2:05 p.m. Spot hand-painted sign on dump-truck: "Be a Flirt, Lift Your Top." Well, whatever works. 2:15 p.m. More road construction, though this time traffic's stopped in the opposite direction! So long, suckers! Exit 131. Wilbur Wright Road. That's right, they were from around here, weren't they? 

Terrain Of Thought - Indy still looks the same as before. Slightly hilly, same variations in green, food 'n' gas every 10 miles, etc. So here I am, driving through middle Indiana, in the middle of August, and listening to polka music. Would not have imagined this a year ago... 3:45 p.m. Think I've passed the "seventy mark" for rolls of film. Guess I'll be categorizing these babies. Scenery, buildings, fire stations, fire trucks, people I know, people I don't know, wacky road signs, and Seattle. Just walk in the opposite direction if you see me approaching with a shoebox under my arm... 4:01 p.m. Leaving gas station in Centerville. Gas, fluids, tacky souvenir check (none), and a call to the car's owner. Friendly-sounding family. Hubby gives directions to house. Planned arrival is 7:00 p.m. tomorrow. I give car; he gives cash. Two-hundred clams. He sounds like a military type, too, using "roger" and "affirmative." Like I do. Guess I'll get either Sharon or a taxi to pick me up. 

He Can't Help Himself - 4:01 p.m. Ohio! And it looks the same as Indiana! 4:40 p.m. Another Meijer store! Can't resist. 5:00 p.m. Leave with keen, red, pocket-sized Huey helicopter found in gift-pack of otherwise lame emergency vehicles. 5:15 p.m. Heavy traffic through the Dayton area. And has been heavy, come to think of it, since Indianapolis. Of course, it's also rush hour. Did I mention Meijer stores have self check-out machines? Just scan and bag and pay right there! (I used a credit card and electronically drew a picture of a fire truck in addition to signing my name.) Mild construction, here and there. Exit 33 to I-75 north. Holy Toledo! Next big town is Columbus. Geez, how many cities named Columbus or Colombia have I traveled through? Flipping stations, hear "it's a four-step process that involves intestinal cleansing." Next! Another advertises a "better-sleep video." What, you're shown footage of someone sleeping soundly? 5:44 p.m. Cross Mad River. Roll window down and listen. Yup, sounds angry. Look up and see C-5A Galaxy on approach to nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Cool. The Air Force Museum is there, too.
 
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? - 5:50 p.m. Learn that I've been in Eastern Time since late yesterday. How 'bout that? Please subtract one hour from all times prior to this paragraph. Thank you. 6:55 p.m. (EST). Okay, I'm bored. Don't feel like listening to the new CDs. Punned and listed out, too. Guess I'll eat dinner soon. 423 miles to go. Total. 6:58 p.m. Columbus!  Impressive (if hazy) skyline. 7:00 p.m. National news. More reports from Russia, describing what's long, hard, and filled with seamen. 7:05 p.m. Exit, to snap skyline. Instead, drive downtown and go crazy, shooting three rolls of golden-lit skyscrapers and convention centers and police stations and other Cool Looking Things. (It's only film, right?)  Do have one adventure: tip-toeing barefoot through a goose-pooped park. Eek! 

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8:15 p.m. Back on freeway, past Columbus and again in the thick of construction. Geez, does our national Interstate system really require this much upkeep? If so, wow.  8:24 p.m. Entering Licking County. How can you top that? 8:40 p.m. Sign warning of rock slides. In Ohio? Then I look around. The terrain has gotten hillier. And West Virginnie ain't far off.

Say Good Night, Mike - Getting really hilly, now. Hungry as hell, too. Keep forgetting to eat when I first feel it. And a PayDay ain't gonna cut it now. Want to sit somewhere. Be waited on. Be called "Hon." Thus, choose Cracker Barrel in Zanesville. 9:15 p.m. Bring laptop. Watch clock, while writing and picking at food. (Ham, dumplings, corn muffin, Diet Coke.) Wow, I sure seem to write slowly. 10:15 p.m. Final stretch of the evening. Pass rest stop brimming with parked trucks. Never did sleep in the car. Guess a telephone line was too hard to pass up. 10:27 p.m. "Love Line" on radio. Raunchy, humorous sex-advice show. Used to be heard in Raleigh. 10:45 p.m. Cambridge. That's it for tonight. Haggle at the Day's Inn. Get $39 "Manager's Special." Also discuss the American culture of automobiles. Late phone call to Sharon, arranging arrangements for tomorrow. Here's the plan: we're meeting in Largo, Maryland at 5:00 p.m. She'll follow the Great Grape to Alexandria, Virginia, for the 7:00 p.m. exchange. I'll ride home with her, south of Annapolis I think, make some transportation arrangements (maybe car, maybe plane), and crash the night. The next day-- Day Eleven!-- we'll goof off and then I'll return to Raleigh, by hook or crook, car or plane. Stay tuned! 

Total mileage today: 346 

Total mileage total: 3366 

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros


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