Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tourist In My Own Home

My last full day in West Liberty was to spent as a tourist. If I have to wait six months for some vacation time, I figured that I should do the tourist thing on my last day in town.
I drove through town on my way to Bellefontaine, my birthplace and Ohio's highest point. the secret to driving through West Liberty is to drive about 12 miles per hour in order to time it so that you don't have to stop at any of the three "traffic" lights.

As I head north, I passed the Shell station, home to late night coffee drinkers who ask each other, "Work hard or hardly workin'?" Right across the street from this popu
lar hangout is the Ice Cream Parlor, once known as King's Kone Korner. Yes, the initials were KKK. Of course, that wasn't the only West Liberty establishment with those initials. There was also Keith's Kuts and Kurls (barber shop) and Kathy's Kountry Krafts and the Kountry Korner Kafe. (To be honest, those last two were made up, and Keith advertised "black cuts" as one of his specialties.)

My next stop was Bellefontaine. Besides the highest point in Ohio, I decided to visit the town's other two attractions, both streets.

A statue of George Bartholomew commemorates the building of North America's first concrete street. Court Avenue used to be closed off to traffic, but has since been re-opened. However, despite this must-see attraction, Bellefontaine's downtown is pretty quiet thanks to the Super Walmart south of town. (Coincidentally, the SWM is built on former wetlands just behind the old Walmart. Textbook Walmart.)Loosely translated, Bellefontaine means "beautiful fountain" in French. Here's a photo of said fountain. It's not quite the Magic Fountain of Montjuic in Barcelona, but it's nice. My dad once told me that the Siemens factory where he has worked for over 35 years donated the pineapple at the top of fountain, but I'm not sure why a pineapple. Dad also told me that when the factory was being taken over by Siemens, it was called Bulldog. Everyone wanted to call the new factory Bulldog Siemens.

The other street that Bellefontaine is known for is McKinley. It was once crowned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "world's shortest street" but has since been replaced by Elgin Street in Bacup, Lanks, UK and Store Headinge, Denmark. However, it should be noted that of the three shortest streets, McKinley is the only drivable one of the bunch. Notice that the hardware store on McKinley is shut down. Thanks again Walmart.

Before heading back to West Liberty (yes there is a East Liberty), I decided to visit the old camp I worked for like six summers and various weekends throughout my college years, Camp Willson. The place has expanded and improved without losing its charm. It still felt very much like it did ten years ago when I did every thing from day camp to waterfront staff to assistant program director.

Even Elaine, the camp office manager was still there. She must have threatened to quit every day that I worked there, but she's still h
andling the phones and enrollment.

Anne, the camp director was still around. She didn't recognize me at first but did remember me wearing the most bizarre thrift store t-shirts I could find. Ann
e invited me to walk around. I did so with the visitor's tag in my pocket just to see if anyone would ask who I was. Ann used to always send people through camp just to see if anyone would stop us. No one ever did.

I continued back down 68 to West Liberty where I grabbed some lunch. I sat sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze...actually, it's now called Good Eats 'n' Treats, and I had a burger. Also, I sat in the enclosed porch, but it still took me way back.

Before fifth grade, my family lived two houses down from the then-Tastee Freeze. Every time I saved up thre
e quarters, I cooled myself off with a chocolate shake. Of course, that later changed to a root beer float, then a vanilla shake, before my longtime favorite: the chocolate/marshmallow shake with chocolate ice cream, not chocolate sauce.

While in the TF, I noticed brochures for the Ohio Caverns. I then knew where my next path would lead...

The Ohio Caverns may not be the largest caverns in the world, but they are colorful and boast some the of the largest "perfect" formations in the US. I hadn't been there since I was a kid. Like most things, it's not nearly as magnificent as when you were twenty or so years younger, but it was a nice tour nonetheless.

My day of tourism inspired me to do some of the same the following day, my last in Columbus for a while.

To be continued (again)...


Ashley said...

ah, i should've read this one before asking where you were born.

comoprozac said...

Do you know how to pronounce Bellefontaine?