Robert Burns, an eighteenth century Scottish poet and lyricist, once famously said “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.
Eleven JAGM members met for breakfast on Friday, July 25th at the IHOP Restaurant in Monroe, MI at 8:30 AM. A few minutes after we stepped inside the restaurant, a women approached us and said, “just so you know, I am the assistant manager and the only one here today, so I am the cook, the waiter, and also working the carryout counter - so it may take me longer than normal to get you served”. My heart sank. What a way to start our drive. But within a few minutes our lead scouts had crossed through the parking lot to the adjacent Cracker Barrel and had arranged a table for us. Ah, nearly back on track.
As we left Cracker Barrel the rain started and would be with us about half the day and it was very heavy at times. As we worked our way around Toledo, we encountered a railroad crossing blocked by a train. It was only a short time before the train cleared the crossing and we were off again. Within a few miles we encountered another railroad crossing, this time with three converging tracks and two trains blocking our route. After a wasted hour waiting and hoping to stay on our route, we took an alternate route and got back on track deeper into Ohio. Construction, a route change to put us back on schedule and navigation snafu's challenged us - but eventually we made our way to Logan in time for our dinner reservations at the Old Dutch Restaurant. With the cloudy night skies in Logan, our visit to the John Glenn Astronomy Park was canceled.
Saturday morning was perfect - sunny and warm. And the convertible tops came down. Our spirits were lifted, and we headed out on our drive around Hocking Hills State Park. This diamond-shaped route is Car and Drivers “go to” automobile fitness center. They claim that it exercises a car the way a racetrack does, but run-off room is scant - which we can attest too. According to Car and Driver, this route is maybe the best in the world this side of Nürburging - a race track located in Nürburg, Germany. It did not disappoint us.
Next we drove a couple of hours east-north-east to Cumberland, where “The Wilds” is located. The roads were equally enjoyable with smooth twisty-turns everywhere and elevation changes that sometimes felt like being on a roller-coaster. Very nice motoring.
At The Wilds we had a few cold drinks and a snack before we boarded the open-air bus for our Safari tour. The Wilds is the largest wildlife conservation center in North American. It contains about 10,000 acres of land and about ten miles of very bumpy roads. While there we missed an Ostrich laying an egg by minutes (it was still wet), but we did witness the recovery of the egg by Animal Management (to keep her from peeking and cracking it). An interesting fact: the most dangerous animal at the Wilds is not the Cheetah, which can accelerate to 70 mph for short bursts. The most dangerous animal is the Painted Dog. They hunt in packs of eight or so, and use a tag-team method. Two dogs will aggressively chase the target, leaving the others to follow at a slower pace - conserving their energy. Then the lead dogs change out and the hunt continues. Their success rate is about eighty percent. Cheetahs, and most other predators, average around a fifty percent success rate.
On Sunday, we drove from Cambridge northwest to Mansfield. The roads were still very nice, but were becoming less elevated and twisty. We arrived a little after mid-day at The Ohio State Reformatory. There we took the Hollywood meets History tour. It was a large group and everyone was issued a one-way radio and disposable ear buds so all could hear the tour guide. That seemed to work well. The prison had been closed since 1990. It was purchased from the state by the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (MRPS) at auction for a bid of $1, which they gave back to MRPS as their first donation. The condition of the facility is poor with peeling paint everywhere. The MRPS’s current plans are to restore the administrative and living areas only. The very large Romanesque style building would have been torn down in the mid-1990’s except for the movie industry’s interest in using it for films. The Shawshank Redemption, Air Force One (Russian prison scenes) and a few lesser known movies were filmed there. We saw a number of the movie sets that were used in the two most prominent movies.
On Monday, we drove from Mansfield northwest to Toledo. In Toledo we stopped for lunch at Tony Packo’s original restaurant. Tony Packo’s journey to fame started in 1972 when Burt Reynolds stopped by for lunch and signed a “hot dog bun” when asked for his autograph. The restaurant was “put on the map” in 1976 when mentioned in six “MASH” TV episodes.
On balance, we had a great time despite Friday’s rain, trains and other strange things.