Last fall we planned to take a three-week trip to South America, visiting Santiago and Patagonia in Chile and then joining a guided tour with Intrepid Travel in Lima, Peru that would take us to the Amazon and Machu Pichu. But logistical complications arising from the Delta variant caused us to reconsider the trip and so we decided to postpone it until later this year.
Instead, we did some local travel and one cross country flight apiece, Joanna to North Carolina to see her mother and I to Ohio to visit Doug (aka the Griz), who after a split with his longtime partner Sharon, sold his house in Colorado and moved back to his hometown of Hillsboro to be closer to many of his family members. And so, thinking my good friend could use a little friendly company, the Monday after the weekend celebration we hosted for Gemma’s second birthday I found myself winging east to Cincinnati with Delta Airlines.
It would be my luck that I followed a ferocious winter storm that left the area with temperatures in the teens and lots of ice, black ice included, lurking here and there for the unwary sunny climes native. Doug picked me up at the Cincinnati airport and we drove the hour it takes to get to Hillsboro and the home he bought there. Not having eaten anything but a lousy grab and go sandwich during my short connection in Minneapolis, we headed over to The Porch Carryout and Grill for dinner.
With an extensive menu, I was tempted to get a pork tenderloin sandwich as it is a staple of these parts, but in the end went for the BLT (Corn cob smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, and garlic mayo on toasted sourdough bread). It was very good, as was the Cole slaw and indeed my only complaint would be that there was actually too much meat, causing the sandwich to disintegrate part way through the meal. Then again, one might ask here, what exactly is too much bacon?
With cold weather upon us and abundant icy conditions the norm, the next couple of days would follow a similar pattern, that is hang out in the morning at the house, then jump in Doug’s pickup and head out for breakfast, followed by a couple of hours of exploring the countryside before returning to the house. Our first breakfast stop would be at the 62 Classics’ Diner, where I had the 62 Classics Omelet (ham, cheese, onion, tomatoes, and green peppers) accompanied by potatoes and toast. It wasn’t fancy but then again it cost $7, a bargain we would continue to find as we ate our way through the county.
After breakfast, we made a stop at a Walmart to pick up some supplies for Doug’s brother Phil who doesn’t get out much and a charging cable for my new iPad. Then it was out to Phil’s place outside of town near Rocky Fork Lake, where Doug had initially hoped to buy a house, a deal that fell through when the inspection turned up numerous hurdles.
The rest of the day was spent lounging around the house in a hazy state until we headed out dinner at La Cascada, a local chain of Mexican restaurants that offered a decent representation of that type of fare. Having lived in Southern California most of my life, I think of Mexican food there as being the model for anywhere else, even though what we get there isn’t what you would normally find in Mexico but is unique to our region.
It took me a long time to get over the fact that the Mexican food I encounter will not be the same as what I like, but in its own way can be good. And thus, it was a La Cascada where I ordered a two-item combination with a beef taco and Chili Relleno. Portions were large and although the taco resembled something you would get from Taco Bell; the ingredients were fresh and the flavors pleasing. A decent margarita helped to wash it all down and I walked out full and happy.
The next day, after another breakfast out we stopped by Phil’s place again to drop off something he needed and then headed out to Amish country. This part of the state, about twenty miles due east of Hillsboro, is heavily populated with Amish farms and businesses. We would stop in at two of them, both near the town of Bainbridge. The first was the Country Crust Bakery, a large storefront full of delicious looking baked goods of all shapes and sizes. Doug picked up a couple of items to take to his one of his sisters to enjoy later.
The second, just up the road was JR’s General Store, a large one size fits all emporium of all things Amish including furniture, rocking chairs, canned goods, dry goods, bakery products and much, much more. We wandered around the store trying to decide if there was anything we needed to take with us and opting not to, climbed back into the truck to head to our next destination, the Serpent Mound Historical Site.
The Great Serpent Mound, as it is known, is a 1,348-foot-long three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound on a plateau of the Serpent Mound crater along Ohio Brush Creek. Maintained within a park by Ohio History Connection, it has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It was first reported from surveys by Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis in their volume Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, published in 1848 by the newly founded Smithsonian Museum. The Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy in the world.
Archaeologists are still debating the origin of Serpent Mound, as it contains no artifacts and no burials that would help establish its age. The two leading theories are that the mound was built by either the Adena Culture (800 BC to 100 AD) around 320 BC, or the Fort Ancient Culture (1000 to 1750 AD) around 1070 AD. There is some speculation that it has Astronomical significance; In 1987, Clark and Marjorie Hardman published their finding that the oval-to-head area of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice sunset.
If 1070 AD is accurate as the construction year, building the mound could theoretically have been influenced by two astronomical events: the light from the supernova that created the Crab Nebula in 1054, and the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1066. The supernova light would have been visible for two weeks after it first reached earth, even during the day.
We pulled up to the park entrance and paid the entry fee of $10 and drove to a parking lot outside of the closed visitors center. From there we walked over snow covered grass to the viewing tower to catch sight of the mound from above, only to find the tower closed due to the weather. Returning to the car and driving out of the park, we paused at the entrance so Doug could give the attendant an earful about charging us money to enter a park where we couldn’t see the only attraction it offered. And so, it goes.
We returned to the house and hung out until dinner, which tonight would be at Big Ernie’s Pizza, a sports bar kind of place with a modest draft beer selection and decent pizza. I enjoyed a house special with sausage, bell pepper, mushroom, and olives and a cold Stella Artois, my go to beer at times like these. And that would wrap up my days with Doug, with the exception of a memorable breakfast the next day at The Rustic Cabin, a slice of rural America that one has to see to believe.
It’s a small place in a beat-up building and when you walk in there’s just four tables to sit at and one employee, the owner chef. We perused the menu, printed up with some typos and pasted over changes that revealed the lowest prices I’ve ever witnessed in my life. We’re talking about harkening forty years ago, with a giant ham slice at $2.25, an egg at $.85, and home fries for $1.50, my entire breakfast of two eggs, potatoes, and that slice of ham plus coffee cost just south of $7, proving once again that one might not want to live in rural Ohio, but one can certainly afford to do so.
Later Doug took me to the airport and as I was checking in, I noticed a commotion going on around the check in counters and wondered what it was all about. As I made my way to the main concourse the answer revealed itself, it was a sendoff for the cheerleading squad for the Cincinnati Bengals, on their way to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl to be played in just a few days.
With some time to kill I had planned to having a beer or two at Hop & Cask, the airport’s craft beer bar, but it was packed and so instead I opted for a glass or two, OK, it was three, of wine at Vino Volo. Not a cheap outing, but worth it as those three, an Albarino from Bodegas Zarate, a Sauvignon Blanc from Miguel Torres, and a red blend from Lupo di Meraviglia provided me with a feeling of good will that lasted through my flight to Minneapolis and beyond. It was a great way to finish my time with Doug and start me to planning the next trip to Hillsboro.
The Porch: https://www.theporchhillsboro.com/
62 Classics’ Diner: http://62classics.com/
La Cascada: https://www.crazyburritolacascada.com/
Country Crust Bakery: https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=338939292843691&__tn__=C-R
JR’s General Store: https://m.facebook.com/JRs-General-Store-Farm-Market-200130306673785/reviews
Serpent Mound Historical Site: https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/browse-historical-sites/serpent-mound/
Big Ernie’s Pizza: https://www.facebook.com/Bigerniespizza/
Rustic Cabin: https://business.thehighlandchamber.com/list/member/the-rustic-cabin-3314
Vino Volo: https://www.cvgairport.com/detail/vino-volo/concourse-a—3-1