This segment starts at
Exit 121, Polaris Parkway, just north of Columbus and proceeds on I-71 for about
120 miles of what aficionados regard as among the most boring highways in Ohio.
We take that as a challenge to liven up your trip by telling stories of this
region--the people, the communities, the geography, and also some things that
are a little odd.
To our right as we proceed along I-71 is
the community of Westerville, named in 1940 by the Ohio Guide as, "the most
straight-laced town in the state." The community earned these accolades thanks
to its prominence in this nation's march toward Prohibition, the
constitutional amendment that
outlawed manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Westerville
was headquarters of the Anti-Saloon League that, at its peak, produced 40 tons
of printed material each month and mailed it all over the country to promote
We'll pass by the community of Delaware,
once home to the "Big Ear," and Sunbury, home of the "Sunbury Erratic." The
Big Ear was a radio telescope that for twelve years listened for radio signals
from outer space. Most of the 20,000 signals it logged were attributable to
natural causes, but at least a few were not. And the Sunbury Erratic? Sounds
like the name of a local newspaper, doesn't it? But in fact it's a big rock: a
huge granite boulder that the glaciers dislodged from its home in Canada and
pushed south to an Ohio field. That's what an erratic is: a stone moved by
glaciers to a location which is not its natural habitat.
In Morrow County, we'll pass through the
region that played host to the "Morrow County Oil Boom," back in the 1960s.
That boom has been described as "several years of frantic drilling" before
things settled down again. As we drive Ohio's roads, we sometimes come upon
active oil wells, pumping the black stuff up from underground. Maybe that's
surprising, but it shouldn't be. The oil refining industry started here
(remember John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil), and today there are still
some 63,000 Ohio oil wells in active production.
As we approach Mansfield, we'll pass by
signs for the Malabar Farm and Inn. The Malabar Farm was once home to Louis
Bromfield, a popular and successful writer. We might not remember him too well
today, but we do remember a couple that married and honeymooned at Malabar
Farm: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Cities, towns and counties throughout
Ohio are often named for famous people like politicians and war heroes.
Mansfield is one of the few cities in Ohio–maybe
in the country–named
for a civil engineer: Jared Mansfield, US Surveyor General under President
Thomas Jefferson. So engineers, civil and otherwise, stand up and be proud!
North of Mansfield we cross US 30, also
known as the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway takes us back to the early
days of automobile travel when the biggest challenge often wasn't finding a
viable automobile, but finding a viable road. During the first decade of the
1900s, American had 2 1/2 million miles of roads, but only 7% of them were in
any way improved. The rest were just plan dirt. The Lincoln Highway was an
outlandish dream: a coast-to-coast paved
highway. Planning started in 1912, but it wasn't until the mid-1930's that the
dream was realized: 3,398 miles of paved highway between San Francisco and
Times Square in New York City.
If you had been driving Ohio's roads
during the early part of the 20th century, there's a good chance that you
would have been driving an automobile made in Ohio by an Ohio company. In
Cleveland alone, someone once counted 32 automobile factories in operation.
The most successful of these early cars was the Winton: in 1899, there were
100 Wintons sold, making it America's best selling car. The Winton claims a
number of firsts in automotive history: the first regularly manufactured cars in the country, the
first truck, and the first car advertisement in the July, 1898 edition
of Scientific American.
As we continue north, we approach
Cleveland, perhaps America's quintessential rust belt city. During the years
of industrialization, Cleveland flew high and fortunes were made here. At one
time there were more millionaires in Cleveland than any other American city.
But as the nation shifted from its manufacturing base, Cleveland fell hard. We
enter a city that today struggles to redefine itself for a new era.
A benefit of the wealth generated in
Cleveland is that cultural institutions have been unusually well supported.
Cleveland hosts some of finest arts facilities in the nation, including
Severance Hall--home of the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Art,
the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Cleveland Botanical Garden,
all located in the city's University Circle area: the largest hub of arts
facilities anywhere in the nation. And downtown Cleveland's Playhouse Square
is second only to New York's Lincoln Center as a concentration of performing
Follow I-71 to its
conclusion in downtown Cleveland and you'll be within a few blocks of another
of Cleveland's arts facilities: the Rock and Roll Museum and Hall of Fame.
Yes, Cleveland claims to be the birthplace of Rock and Roll, not because the
music originated here but because it was here that a disk jockey named Alan
Freed first used the term, "Rock and Roll," to refer to this new music he was
playing. And it was here that a regional and then a national audience began to
This program is available for purchase on CD.
The narration runs for about 80 minutes in 4 segments and takes you from Columbus to Cleveland along I-71. This CD sells for $9.95.
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