Posted in day trip, memories, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: “bula land” bridges

Sometimes you just stumble onto a treasure by happenstance, and when you do, it develops into a memory – one from the past to remember and revisit in the future.

As often happened during this past year of the you know what, Papa and I were once again grateful for a blessing. What makes us feel so blessed? Living in a rural area.

Even though plenty of travel restrictions prevented us from taking more than one vacation or far-away excursions, living where we do enabled us to venture out on road trips by car, partially satisfying our desire for exploring new-to-us places.

We set out one late summer morning in 2020 for such a trip. We ventured to the state next door – Ohio – for a bit of exploring another rural area we hadn’t visited before and where we wouldn’t have to worry much about social distancing and the like.  

The focus of our destination was to locate covered bridges and on our way back home, catch some glimpses of a couple of lighthouses around Lake Erie. Happily, we accomplished both goals, but the covered bridge excursion truly revealed a treasure for us.

Little did we know that the county we chose to visit in the northeast corner of Ohio is considered the covered bridge capital of that state. Nineteen covered bridges, including the longest and shortest in the entire country (USA), are situated in Ashtabula County. The modern Smolen-Gulf Bridge holds the title of being the longest at 613 feet in length and the touted shortest is the 18-foot-long West Liberty Covered Bridge.

Seventeen of those covered spans are operational and open to vehicular traffic year-round. We managed to see a dozen of them in one trip and I decided to highlight those in three parts for my Tuesday Tour. Look for part 2 next week on May 4 with Part 3 posted on May 11.

The treasure we discovered is that visitors can travel on a 67-mile-long driving tour, called the Ashtabula Covered Bridges Trail or the “Covered Bridge Loop,” via country roads to view these unique bridges by using a self-guided driving map. Five types of construction are visible in the historic Ashtabula County covered bridges: Howe truss, Pratt truss, Town lattice truss, Burr arch, and Inverted Haupt truss.

Our first stop was Netcher Road Covered Bridge, which traverses Mill Creek in Jefferson Township. This bridge, at 110 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 14½ feet high, features a single span of timber arches with inverted Haupt walls and is classified as “Neo Victorian” design. However, it is not a relic from the past but instead is one of the newest covered bridges since it was constructed in 1998 and was funded by a state department of transportation grant. Netcher Road bridge is located about two miles east of Jefferson, Ohio.

Bridge #2 on our driving tour was South Denmark Road Covered Bridge, also crossing Mill Creek. At 81 feet in length, this Town lattice style span was built in 1890.  It’s only 2.7 miles away from Netcher Road Bridge, but because of construction/road closure occurring at the time of our visit, we could not view this bridge.

Another newer bridge, erected in 1986 to celebrate Ashtabula County’s 175th anniversary, is the Caine Road Covered Bridge.  With a single span Pratt truss design, this 124-foot-long structure crosses the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township and is 6.7 miles from the South Denmark Bridge.

The next stop on our driving tour enticed me even more than previous ones. Sitting in a small park along the south side of Graham Road is the aptly named Graham Road Covered Bridge. Interestingly, this 97-foot Town truss span was re-built from the remains of a damaged bridge that washed downstream during a flood back in 1913. It originally crossed the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township, but was relocated in 1972 near its original site. Not open to vehicle traffic, a distinguishable aspect of this renovated bridge is the quilt block design painted on its side.

The artwork on the side of a historic covered bridge will remain in my memory and I’ll smile each time I gaze at that photo (at the beginning of this post). Memories of a lovely summer day’s travels and sights are added to yet other special thoughts. That pretty quilt-block design reminds me of my mother, who loved to fashion and create beautiful hand-made quilts.

Memories that last become treasured keepsakes in our minds, don’t they?

“Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.” ~ Mattie Stepanek

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in day trip, Life, traveling

Best laid plans

blogIMG_8057There’s a saying that I’ve often heard, “The best laid plans of mice and men go astray.” 

The actual line came from a poem written by Robert Burns way back in 1786. Apparently, the line is actually, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” written in a poem Burns penned as an apology to a field mouse whose nest he destroyed while plowing up a field.

That line floated to the surface of the river of thoughts that meander through my mind just recently when Papa and I made what we thought would be a best-laid plan.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we must forego any kind of real vacation this year. So instead we’ve decided that we will take a day or two here and there as the schedule allows and journey on a day trip to some place we’ve not visited or seen or sounds interesting.

We set a date, checked the weather forecast which promised mild, summer temperatures and blue skies, decided upon a destination, and researched attractions there.  You know, made plans.

Papa plotted our trip, which would take a couple of hours one way, by checking both Google Maps and Mapquest.  We decided upon a more scenic route instead of the more direct one, which would take us through our nearby city at rush hour, something we’ve done way too many times. You know, been there, done that.

And so our journey began.  And with that, our best laid plans started going awry.

The scenic route proved to be the most convoluted, time-consuming, go 1.5 miles then turn, then drive 3 miles and turn, then go 1.5 miles and turn again kind of trip. The longest distance we covered on one road turned out to be 12 miles I believe.  Those blue highways were making us really blue as we started getting annoyed by the directions which seemed to meander all over the countryside instead of making real progress. Busted plan #1.

Twice we pulled over along the roadside because we were convinced we had missed one of those turns and finally, I dug in the glove compartment and felt like shouting ‘Eureka, I’ve found it!’ when I located a map of the state next door in which we were traveling.

With map spread out before us, we finally made our destination more than an hour later than we had hoped. When we arrived, we found construction through the little town we were attempting to visit and traffic back-ups.  Still we forged on and decided to stop at a flea market that promised a little something for everyone.

Um…not something for us. We stayed only an hour and found nothing worth spending time to investigate nor anything to purchase.  Instead disappointment loomed as I picked up several ‘craft’ items only to discover ‘made in China’ on the backs of them. Bust #2.

So those plans went awry too. We then visited some shops which we found expensive and full of items that this couple married for almost 40 years didn’t want and certainly didn’t need.  At this point in our lives, I want to get rid of clutter in my house, not bring in more. Yep, bust #3 in our best laid plans.

We had packed a picnic lunch and were certain we could find a park or some shady beckoning spot to stop, spread a blanket, and eat. We drove and we drove and we drove some more.  No parks to be found, only parking lots.

We ended up sitting in our vehicle in a parking lot spot in front of an empty store front in a small strip mall under the one shade tree there. Busted plan #4.

By this time, it was afternoon and these two disillusioned travelers felt like we should have either:  #1- stayed home or #2- made a last minute plan to visit elsewhere.  (We had considered driving to Lake Erie for the day and just sitting on the beach, taking some nature walks, checking out the lighthouse, and maybe searching for sea glass.)

Throughout the day as those best laid plans went awry, Papa and I kidded each other by saying, “We should have gone to Lake Erie.”  Finally we did find a large pavilion full of antiques that proved interesting and enjoyable to look over and directly behind it another crafts “mall” with real honest-to-goodness handmade crafts.  But after visiting them, we were tired, a tad cranky, and frankly, ready to pull out that map again and find a better path home.

But first, we decided to stop to eat our last meal of the day at a home-style cooking restaurant before we hit the highway home. It was a bit early for dinner (I was glad of that as there weren’t many people there yet and you will soon find out why), but we wanted to get on the road back home. 

After being seated in the large, airy, and nicely decorated country style place, we placed our drink orders and perused the menu.  The waitress came back to our table to serve Papa his raspberry iced tea and me my half sweet, half unsweetened tea.  We were looking forward to just sitting, relaxing, and sipping our iced teas while we decided whether we would have the chicken pot pie or the home style meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

And then it happened.  The waitress placed the raspberry tea in front of Papa and hurriedly began to place my sweet tea down when….surprise! She knocked it over and an entire glass of tea and ice cubes promptly got dumped into my lap! It happened so quickly that I couldn’t even jump back from the table in time to escape the waterfall of tea running down the checkered vinyl table cover. 

I was too shocked to even comprehend how it happened as I sat there with a lap full of tea all over my khaki capri pants. The waitress grabbed some napkins, mumbled an apology, and ran off to get more.

I stood up and tea ran down my legs onto my sandaled feet – sticky, cold, and what a mess. I was given a couple of wet cloths to mop up the tea from my pants, legs, and feet and of course, the table. The waitress said she felt bad, and I replied that accidents happen. But I tell you, it wasn’t very enjoyable trying to eat dinner with soaking wet pants. And it was a bit embarrassing as well. Bust #5.

We ate quickly, – we did have the meatloaf which was good – paid our bill, and couldn’t wait to leave. As we got in our car, we looked at one another and said, “We REALLY should have gone to Lake Erie!”

The trip home was shorter and happily uneventful.  We chalked those plans up to just not our thing and put the day into the memory banks or so we thought.

The next morning I awakened at 6 a.m. to find Papa searching throughout the bedroom with our landline phone held up to his ear.  Groggily I asked him what he was doing.  He was dialing his cell number because he couldn’t find his cell phone. He searched high and low all through the house and the car hoping to hear it vibrate.  It was nowhere to be found. He lost it on our trip! Bust #6.

Again, we should have gone to Lake Erie!

Finally, we thought through where we may have been when he last used it the day before.  He liked some leather handmade belts at the crafts mall, and he tried one on to make sure it fit before he purchased it. When he took his old belt off to do so, he laid his cell down on the display,  got distracted, and forgot to pick it back up. At least that’s what we thought had happened.

Neither one of us wanted to make the return trip to the place where our best laid plans went awry.  We waited until 9 a.m. when the shops opened and called to ask if anyone had turned in a cell phone. No, was the answer but Papa asked if they would check at the display.  Eureka! It was still there and the manager said they would ship it to us at no charge to us.  One bright spot from a day of one disappointment after another.

It’s just like life. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you hope they would. But there’s always something to be thankful for. At least, Papa got his cell phone back.

But…our next day trip probably is going to be to Lake Erie. And we’re not going to plan anything.

“Adventure is just bad planning.” ~ Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer

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