Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Staycation 2009 Licking County

Summer of 2009 -- the season of Staycations, a family trip that
doesn't involve plane tickets, passports, or time changes.

May: You run the family budget numbers, and determine that the plans
for this summer will not involve major travel.

Memorial Day weekend: You check and find out
when the ceremony at the local cemetery is held on Monday; Sunday,
you watch the Indianapolis 500 on TV and then cook out, with the
family talking about where you went last year (they're still coming
to terms with it). Monday morning you get up and go down to where
the Legion fellows are lining up with the high school band and the
Scouts and all, and walk down to what turns out to be a very moving
ceremony, with stories about people from right down the block from
you that you'd never heard. You and the kids walk along the
tombstones and grave markers, and they ask about their great-

The next weekend is Strawberries on the Square, and the county
courthouse makes a solid centerpiece for this big event you've always
heard of but never been to. Everyone finds the evening fun, and the
strawberry shortcake is delicious; the Kiwanis server tells you the
shortcake is from Riley's and the ice cream is from Utica and Velvet
Ice Cream, which gives you an idea . . .

June: On a weeknight, you drive out to Utica to Ye Olde Mill, which
you'd been meaning to do for years. Spouse notes that neither of you
had tasted Moose Tracks for too long, and you should come back again
before the summer's over.

A later weekend takes you past Brownsville and up to Flint Ridge
State Memorial, which the Licking Valley Heritage Society is now
operating. You realize that this flint stuff is not only the "state
mineral," but it's beautiful, and you find out that people 2,000
years ago traded across thousands of miles to get it -- which makes
sense. A hike around the flint pits makes you feel like you earned
the ice cream from last week.

When you go on vacation, you like to stop sometimes at a completely
off-the-wall little hole-in-the-wall place; so you do that on the way
home through Newark (or were we still in Heath?), and get some
delicious fried chicken and roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

July: You hadn't been to Granville since the Candlelight Walking
Tour last December (or was it the December before that?); the Old
Fashioned Fourth of July is a ridiculously affordable trip into a
Rockwell painting of a carnival on Main Street in a New England
village -- both of you wonder if you've ever thought to drive through
the Welsh Hills in autumn instead of going to New England and being
disappointed by a badly run B&B, when you can underbake your own
muffins and not water down the OJ. As the sun sets, you pick up a
flyer about the free Sunday evening concerts on the College Green.

Someone mentions at work that Licking County has enough golf courses
that you could play a different one every week all summer; you and
some others decide it isn't too late in the summer to try to hit 'em
all. But that evening, while the light still lingers, you load the
kids' bikes into the back of the van and run down to Toboso -- think
of that, a Licking County town named after a place in "Don Quixote"
-- where you go for a ride along the Black Hand Gorge trail. Looking
up at Council Rock, it's like the Grand Canyon, on a slightly smaller
scale but without three dozen Germans all complaining about the food
right next to you.

August: The kids ask you to take their friends to the trip they'd
heard about to the "floating island," Cranberry Bog. Sure enough,
you call the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society and they have
regular boat trips and guided tours of one of the very few floating
islands in the world, left adrift in the 1830s by the rise of the
lake for the Ohio & Erie Canal, with plants dating back to the
glaciers 12,000 years ago. Mmmm, glaciers. You stop in Hebron at
Hayman's Dairy Bar for ice cream.

Then you finally make it to the new museum, just open a year, at the
Newark Earthworks State Memorial, air conditioned but so interesting
that you actually want to go back out in the heat, and walk around
this largest circular earthwork in the entire Western Hemisphere.
They give you a flyer that reminds you there's a huge event back at
Flint Ridge on Labor Day weekend, and you realize -- that's coming up
soon, and the summer's almost over. The 151st Hartford Fair up in
Croton, and when the week is over out there, school begins just a
week or so later.

And you haven't even made it out to Pataskala yet.

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