Ask just about
anybody who drives I-71 between Cleveland and Columbus, and they are likely to
tell you how boring this road is. Well, yes: it is boring. For the length
of this highway, everything looks pretty much the same. Yet, even along this
tedious road, there's more than meets the eye.
You'll pass the legendary community of
Hinckley where each March the buzzards (also known as turkey vultures) return.
There are at least two stories that purport to explain this inspiring
phenomenon, both of which take us back to the early 1800s. One involves
witchcraft and a curse put upon the community; the other is the theory of the "Great Hinckley
Hunt." If you look up, you might even see some of those vultures flying above–they
hold their wings in a V shape and sort of teeter when they fly.
At about the Wayne County border, you'll be entering Amish
country. About 50,000 Amish live in this region, making it the largest
concentration of Amish in the world. You might see a black horse-drawn Amish buggy
crossing a bridge over the interstate or bearded Amish men working alongside
of the highway in their characteristic black hats, blue shirts, and
broadcloths pants held up by suspenders.
As you drive further south, Interstate 71 takes you through Johnny Appleseed
territory. Over 150 years ago, John Chapman–a
rather odd member of an old Massachusetts family–appeared
in Ohio where he supported himself by selling apple seedlings. He was an
exceedingly private man, preferred sleeping under the stars or staying with a
pioneer family rather than maintaining a home, thought of himself mainly as a
missionary, and even then was considered eccentric. But he was one of
the few people trusted by both settlers and the Native American communities.
As you approach the exits for Mansfield, you might be
surprised to learn that this community is the center for the wooden carousel
industry in the country. (You might be surprised to learn that there even is a
wooden carousel industry in America.) The only two American companies that create and
renovate wooden carousel horses are located in Mansfield. How they got there
is an interesting story.
After you pass Mansfield, you'll see an
exit for Bellville. In 1853, Bellville was the site of a gold rush. Gold flakes were
discovered, and people descended on the community with hopes of getting
rich. But not much more gold turned up. The flakes that inspired the rush
probably had been pushed south from Canada by a glacier. The total value of
Bellville gold: about $30.
When you enter Morrow County, you'll see
signs for Mt. Gilead, the Morrow County seat. The population of Morrow County
is smaller than other adjoining counties and Mt. Gilead is a small town, with
just over 3,000 residents. But it is known throughout the world as the site of
the annual Ohio Gourd Show, where more uses for gourds are featured than you
would have thought possible.
By contrast, Delaware County–the
next county we pass through on I-71–is
Ohio's fastest growing, thanks to its proximity to the Columbus metropolitan
area. Columbus is the only major city in Ohio to show consistent population
increases over the past decades and so adjoining regions benefit from its
growth. As other Ohio cities struggle to replace the heavy manufacturing their
economies have been dependent upon, Columbus boasts a thoroughly modern
economic mix of state government, state university, financial services, high
tech, distribution, and retail headquarters.
Interstate 71 between Cleveland and Columbus
roughly follows a natural geographic boundary. To the east are the foothills of
the Appalachian Mountains, albeit shaved down by the glaciers that took up
residence in this area for about two million years. To the west is flat land:
the beginning of the plains that spread west to the Rocky Mountains. This
geographic boundary is also a cultural boundary: it's where the East ends and
the Midwest begins.
This program is available for purchase on CD.
The narration runs for about 75 minutes in 5 segments and takes you from Cleveland to
Columbus along I-71. This CD sells for $9.95.
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