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Home > Magazine > Adventure > Team OYB: Ohio Roadtrip Early Report

Team OYB: Ohio Roadtrip Early Report
April 10, 2012

Hey, we're back. We drove 1000 miles around Ohio for our Spring Break, tenting at barely-opened parks along the way.

I'll post a report soon. Right now I have to catch up on shipping and do our taxes. (Whew!)

But here's a brief comment: I have to say that the hinterlands of America are scary. They're basically like our rural ghettos. They've abandoned their old downtowns for long drives to freewayexitbigboxes. Even slightly larger rural towns tend to be food deserts now, with tanning salons, Dollar Generals, buy-your-golds and easy-loan offices but no groceries. Lots of farming but little food outside of a factory setting. (OK, I guess Dollar Generals might have some boxed heavily processed dry foods.)

And the people...

It seems like half (and I'm being generous) of the hundreds of rural people we saw were obese, sickly, covered in tattoos, wearing pro-sports rags, monosyllabic yet managing the f-bomb (male and female) every other grunt. It does not bode well for ye olde hinterlands. Heartier specimens appeared violent and frequently incarcerated. Now, in poverty settings a violent appearance is often adopted as a social armor, but this seemed sincere.

Folk traditions seemed nuked. Actually, hard work was occasionally obvious along with hook'n'bullet plus cheesy faux-Amish crafting, but even those were thin veneers. There was a Bluto uniformity.

Tidy farms were the rule -- there was that. And beautiful old farm houses, older than we have many of in Michigan. We drove through a couple tidy small towns, too. ...But they'd still be food and culture deserts.

I was struck by the idea that all those people we saw had been through high school, at least 8th grade, for sure. It was kinda like "Deliverance," I have to say, only in a modern setting -- with satellite dishes, tattoos, cellphones...and slack expressions, mouth-breathing...

We accidentally bumped into a college town. Yellow Springs. Crazily, it's NOT ON THE MAP -- not on the plastic Rand-McNally Ohio map, anyway. Home of Antioch College (and Dave Chappelle). Every building was being actively used and in repair. Lots of yeasty cultural foment, but with that "college life support" feel. All things that dreadlocked kids buy and a lot of it. But a totally vibrant little town with lots of people of all ages and colors out even though college/schools were on spring break. I read online that YS has a reputation for having an attitude but also that visitors from neighboring areas like to sight-see, gawk and take un-permissioned photos of the Cultural Creatives. It just seemed like a living town to us, but, in contrast to much of what we saw on our drive, it was like an outpost from another planet.

We tried to be hopeful, but to quite an extent -- more so than on our other big drives around the nation -- it started to make sense as to why civilized people call rural America the "flyover" region. And it seemed like the ghetto-ification of the rural region was more complete. It seemed like a "gettin' by" and "make do" reaction to lower expectations in terms of cashflow was just not happening. More of an implosion instead. Not that there was apparent hunger or material lack -- more like a cultural cliff that had been driven over.

But maybe I'm just reading it all wrong and just got spooked. Maybe it only relates to the high-saturated fats Rust Belt (and South) and elsewhere has been spared. Maybe there are more tiny points of light...

There have to be.

Sorry for the gloomy first response.

There were many amazing things, too. Heck, only HALF was scary. The other half was hale'n'hearty: feed hat, tshirt, jeans, jug-mug o' Dew, chew, loud cuntrypolitan, and a big truck. Now I'm scaring myself again. If you worked all hours in all weather with big machines, what would you do? I'm all in favor of hollerin' yeehaw and high-fivin' a good big job. I dunno, it seems like there should be more than overtime and trashiness -- less tie-in with bigboxes and megacorporations. But how? Oh, there's a way. We found some of that, too.

Maybe all the coarseness is just rankling my inner class-warrior.

Anyway, I'll post about some neat stuff shortly. And pics. Colorful. Not ugly.


Saw these guys plowing a field with 2 teams of horses. One guy rode his plow while another had a walk-behind. Dang, that's gettin' down to the roots. Not plowing much land, though. They did it for special fields and conditions -- tactical horsework. They said they knew one kid who did it for a living, an Amish guy who worked 8 horses at a time.

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