We passed the time at home for the next few weeks engaging in our normal range of activities; seeing friends, long rides on the road bikes, hiking as we train for the Camino de Santiago (Spoiler Alert) this fall, and part time project work at UNC Charlotte (implementing a bike share program, Charlotte Wheels). You know, living life and having fun.
Our next adventure began on Wednesday June 7th when my sister Beverly (Bev), whom many of you now know from this blog, flew into town for a couple of days before the three of us took off for Ohio to join my cousin Debby, her husband Marshall, and our amazing 93 year old Uncle Dale to visit the towns he and my Mother were born and raised in.
We hit the Flying Saucer that first night, catching up with folks I still work with on campus, then the Whitewater Center Thursday night for their River Jam event.
Friday was a long day on the road, with about ten hours of drive time to Ohio, as we wanted to stop in Clarksburg, WV to visit the gravesite of my Grandpa Charlie.
We were on the road at 6:00 am arriving at the cemetery in Bridgeport around 11:00 am. Earlier in the week I’d realized that we didn’t know the location of the graves, but a quick search on the internet, which has many resources for finding this type of information, revealed that he and the woman we had embraced as Grandma Evelyn, whom he married when I was just a young boy were both buried in the Bridgeport Cemetery.
We stopped in at the cemetery office and were directed to the gravesite, up the hill with a nice view of the surrounding countryside. I last saw Grandpa Charlie in 1977 as I was working my way east on a Greyhound bus, heading for my first trip to Europe. He’d been slowed down by a debilitating stroke and couldn’t speak, a condition that frustrated him to no end. I’d took on the role of chauffeur while there, shuttling he and Evelyn around Clarksburg and making a run up to Belle Valley, my Mom’s birthplace, to visit with many of our still surviving relatives.
We spent a brief period of time at the gravesite and then drove back to Clarksburg to locate the house that Charlie and Evelyn lived in, one that brought back many fond memories for Beverly and I. When you combine multiple trips as kids, and for me two as an adult (the one in 1977 and in 1984 when Joanna and I stopped in on our way back from Europe, Charlie no longer with us but Evelyn still going strong) transported us to times past, a more innocent existence when life seemed simpler and its problems smaller and more easily solved.
We got back on the road again, stopping about 25 miles west as we searched for a place to eat in in mountainous rural surroundings. We got off the highway seeking a Subway called out for on a road sign, and ended up in the small town of West Union, parked on the main street and entered Porter’s Beehive for lunch. Confirming the adage that sometimes its better to be lucky than good, we had indeed stumbled upon a gem of a place, one where for a reasonable price we’d enjoy freshly made food that supports local farmers.
Joanna and I split a Chicken Bacon Ranch wrap (with provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato) while she graciously allowed Bev and I a sip apiece of her hand scooped milkshake. With the accompanying tortilla chips and pickle spear, it was just the right amount of food to tide us over until we got to our eventual destination, Urbana, Ohio and our lodging for the next couple of nights, the Urbana Inn and Suites.
As we would discover in the following five days, our visits to small town Ohio would have some drawbacks, in this case a decided lack of lodging choices. The Urbana Inn is rated at 2.5 stars in Trip Advisor and its only competition has 2 stars; I’ll let this review I wrote speak for itself:
Where Do I Begin? – Being just about the only game in town, we booked two nights here to join family who grew up in this area to visit some old haunts. The ratings and reviews for the place were pretty dismal, but my cousin did advise “at least its clean” so we went for broke and checked in. The owners appear to be trying to rehabilitate the place (new carpeting in the guest room we were in) but the rest of the establishment shows so many signs of lack of maintenance and just plain neglect that two starts seems generous.
My first complaint would be the smell in the room, unidentifiable but always there, hitting you as soon as you open the door. The room was clean except for some mold in the bathroom, the beds soft to the touch but provided an OK night’s sleep. Curtain was torn halfway off the rod, hole in the wall where a door handle hit it. How is this stuff not picked up by housekeeping or maintenance and not addressed?
That being said, given our limited options, it could have been worse. The continental breakfast was decent, coffee drinkable, the TV worked. Did I mention the ice machine looked like someone had thrown a bomb into it? So, in Urbana your choices are imperfect and in the end as bad as it seemed at times, it was still just barely OK.
The other drawback to small town travel is the dining choices, Urbana having better than most but in the end we’d take all of our meals at the Farmer’s Daughter, known for its scratch made family recipes but not serving any alcohol. We would eat two meals here, dinner the first night and lunch the next day and found the food to be nicely prepared and satisfying. Of the two meals my highlight was my dinner entrée, the Bourbon Grilled Pork Ribeye, resembling a nice piece of tenderloin cooked just right and accompanied by Mac and Cheese and Cole Slaw.
We finished up dinner and returned to the Inn, staying up late into the evening, the door to our adjoining rooms open as we recounted tall tales and distant memories. Uncle Dale is full of stories galore and relishes any opportunity to share them, with friends, family and strangers alike. Indeed, as we would joke, he’d never met a stranger and seems to have a girlfriend in every town. It was going to be a fun few days.
Camino de Santiago: http://santiago-compostela.net/
River Jam: http://usnwc.org/riverjam/
Bridgeport Cemetery: http://www.bridgeportwv.com/cemetery/history6.html
Porters Beehive: https://www.yelp.com/biz/porters-beehive-west-union
The Farmer’s Daughter: http://thefarmersdaughterllc.com/