Many memories to be made in Ohio

I took a trip across a long stretch of Ohio on Thursday, and it reminded me what an interesting state we live in.

I made the drive with my brother, Larry Compston, to attend the funeral of our uncle, Jerry Compston. Jerry lived and worked most of his adult life in the community of Upper Sandusky, located about three hours northwest of the local region, and that’s where the funeral was held. Jerry had always been an active, healthy man, but in late March at age 81 he had a stroke from which he never recovered.

It had been many years since I had been to “Upper,” as folks there seemed to refer to the city when I visited. It is the seat of Wyandot County and has a population roughly the size of Martins Ferry’s at about 6,500. Although it is not a big city in terms of population, it always felt like a big town to me, and that did not change last week.

Much like our area, Upper Sandusky is located near many transportation routes, including state and federal highways, as well as the CSX railroad, for which my uncle worked. And, the community is located on the upper portion of the Sandusky River, yet another way to move people and products through the region north to Lake Erie.

To reach the city, we took the familiar route of Interstate 70 west to Columbus. We then turned north on I-270 and continued in that direction on U.S. 23. Along the way we passed through other communities such as Westerville and Delaware. Since Larry did the driving, I had the rare opportunity to look around rather than watching the road.

Between Belmont and Cambridge, I noticed at least one new drilling rig that hadn’t been there the last time I went that way. Plenty of well-established gas well pads were scattered along both sides f the interstate in that area as well, along with occasional Amish farms with horses and clotheslines outside. Signs directing travelers to state parks such as Seneca and Salt Fork reminded me how many large and entertaining attractions we have quite close to home.

Heading west from Cambridge, the land began to flatten out. I noticed long stretches of fields that probably will soon be planted with corn or soybeans. Sometimes, big old brick farmhouses stand at the far ends of those fields, giving some idea of how long that land has been cultivated.

I noted that the pottery shops are still attracting customers to the Zanesville area, and I also saw massive warehouses that must employ thousands of people. The traffic in Columbus was as frustrating as ever, with lanes jammed full of vehicles and impatient drivers darting in and out of them.

North of Columbus, I was reminded of some attractions I visited many years ago. We passed signs pointing to Olentangy Caverns and the home of former President Rutherford B. Hays. I recalled that the Columbus Zoo and Wyandot Lake park were nearby. We traveled past several state parks and saw Mama Wilson’s Country Sausage store, a large, farm-based operation that beckons passersby with multiple signs posted along the roadways advertising its various products.

The further north we went, the flatter the land became. That’s due to the presence of an ice sheet thousands of years ago. The glacier slid across northern Ohio, pushing soil and stone ahead of its leading edge and forming the rolling hills that are more familiar in our region.

Upper Sandusky itself has a long history as a population center. Before European settlers arrived there in the 1780s, Native Americans known as Wyandotte lived there. Many of the historic attractions in the region have connections to those native people, including a preserved mission church and a water-powered mill built for the Wyandotte people by the federal government. Those people left the region for a reservation in Kansas in 1842, and the plotting of the current community began the following year.

Thinking back about my visits to Upper got me to thinking about other things I had done with my Uncle Jerry. I sometimes spent several days at his home during the summer, since his daughter, Heidi, was just nine months younger than me. But those visits were not the only times I spent with Jerry and his family.

My dad, Jim, was Jerry’s oldest brother, and we often found ourselves visiting their hometown of Wellston at the same time that Jerry and family made the trip. Wellston is in Jackson County in southeast Ohio, and it is very different from Upper Sandusky. In fact, it has more Appalachian characteristics that our local area does.

Sometimes in Wellston, I would walk with Heidi and Jerry to a nearby ice cream shop to get a chili dog or a “Jackson County veal” – a deep fried pork cutlet on a bun.

Other times, we would meet Jerry and family at an amusement park. We visited Cincinnati and King’s Island on a few occasions, and we went to Sandusky and Cedar Point a bit more often because it was so near to Jerry’s home. I always had a great time on those trips and got to experience destinations that many of my friends here at home had never visited.

So, as the weather warms and you begin looking for fun ways to pass the time, remember that there are plenty of recreational opportunities right here in the Buckeye State. Decide what types of attractions appeal to you, then enjoy the drive en route to check them out.

And, if you can, make some of those trips with family members. Time passes quickly, and before you know it memories may be all you have left of a particular individual. Set time aside from work and day-to-day responsibilities so you have the chance to make those memories while you can.