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I-70 East
Columbus, Ohio to Wheeling, West Virginia

        This route begins in the eastern section of the Columbus metropolitan area and then enters the western edges of the Appalachian mountain range. It’s hard to notice at first because the change is gradual—the flat lands of the Midwestern plains slowly give way to a gentle hilly geography. But by the time we reach Zanesville, we’ll see that the land has become more rugged. In the first half of this route, we’ll spot corn, soybean and wheat fields. But as the land becomes more rugged, there will be more forested areas. The farms will be fewer and smaller and more likely to feature livestock grazing on the hills. As we enter the hillier regions past Zanesville, we’ll also be entering coal mining territory. Much of the coal mining in eastern Ohio is strip mining. You’ll spot hills that support only grass and brush, not forested land. These might be areas that have been strip mined and then reclaimed.

·        In the eastern suburbs of Columbus, we pass the town of Reynoldsburg. This community claims to be the birthplace of the tomato, which isn’t quite true because tomatoes have been eaten in the Americas since the time of the Aztecs. But in 1870, Reynoldsburg resident, Alexander W. Livingston, introduced something new in the tomato world: a variety that could be grown commercially with confidence about the results. This was the Paragon: the world’s first commercially viable tomato. 

·        When we approach Newark, we’ll cross an ancient road that has been called the “Great Hopewell Highway.” We won’t be able to see it, which is not surprising since that highway is estimated to have been built about 2,000 years ago. Some researchers dispute the existence of this highway at all—the Hopewell Indians don’t seem to have had the technical know-how to have constructed it. But others contend that this road ran about 60 miles, connecting two centers of prehistoric Native American culture which were located near today’s Newark and Chillicothe. Furthermore, they say, this road was 12 lanes wide. The unsolved question: why? Why would they build such a highway? And why did it need to be so wide? Around here, just four lanes seem quite enough for us.

·        As we travel through Licking County, we’ll be in the neighborhood where LaMarcus Adna Thompson grew up. What? You haven’t heard of LaMarcus Adna Thompson? Well, he was, among other things, a Sunday School teacher and a moralist. As such, he was appalled at the leisure activities that drew young people in his day: the late 1800s. So he resolved to do something about it: he created an amusement that, he believed, would help build character among youth. He called his invention the “switchback railway.” Still doesn’t ring any bells?  Maybe you know it by the term more commonly used: the roller coaster (which, we feel, has contributed to all kinds of character development).

·         Interstate 70 takes us right through Zanesville, a key city in the Midwest during the early 1800s. It was the third largest town in Ohio and even served a stint as state capital. As we drive through its downtown, we might catch a sense of what this community was like when it was a bustling frontier town. Zanesville’s most famous product is pottery. At one time the banks of the Muskingum River were lined with factories producing dishes, stoneware, ceramics, tiles, mixing bowls, garden ornaments, and "fancy-glazed" art pottery. Today, pottery is still produced in the region, and old Zanesville pottery is sought after by collectors.

·        You might not guess it, but east central Ohio is cowboy country. A Zanesville dentist, Zane Grey, wrote cowboy stories and virtually invented the American Western. (He was a descendent of Ebenezer Zane, founder of the city—hence, his name.) A little farther down the road, we encounter Cambridge, childhood home of William Boyd, who portrayed the cowboy, Hopalong Cassidy. “Hoppy” appeared in 66 movies, then 40 television episodes. He endorsed some 2,400 products and, at the peak of his popularity, received 2,000 fan letters a week. Maybe you thought that Westerns came out of the American West. Nope: try central Ohio.

·        Just past Cambridge, we’ll pass the little town of Old Washington. Old Washington’s niche in history was sealed during the Civil War: it was here that the northernmost exchange of fire took place between Union and Confederate troops. A Confederate general, John Hunt Morgan, undertook raids into Indiana and Ohio but then got trapped north of the Ohio River. He and his troops went on a rampage through southern and central Ohio. “Morgan’s Raiders,” they were called, and they created considerable panic among Ohio’s populace. These Raiders finally ran out of steam north of here, in Columbiana County, where they quietly surrendered.

·        As we approach West Virginia in the final segment of this route, we’ll find ourselves in coal mining country. We might see some evidence of mining along the road: maybe signs warning of blasting zones, maybe a freight train with cars filled with coal, maybe earth moving equipment and piles of dirt, maybe the tall cylindrical structures used for gravel operations. Ohio is 14th among the states in coal production, 3rd among the states in consumption. The primary use for coal in Ohio is to burn to provide electricity.  But there’s an array of other uses for Ohio coal, including insecticides, dandruff shampoo, dyes, perfumes, moth balls, explosives, paints, insulation, varnish, and roofing shingles

 This program is available for purchase on CD. The narration runs for about 80 minutes in 5 segments that take you from Columbus, Ohio to Wheeling, West Virginia on I-70. The CD sells for $9.95.

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