Tag Archives: OneTankTrips

Seeing Stars In Geauga County


I have always told people that I have the best job in the world.  But that was before I met Chris Mentrek, Observatory Park Naturalist at the brand new Geauga Park District’s Observatory Park in Montville Township. Chris is a naturalist on steroids.

Chris is so excited about what he does that the words fairly tumble out of his mouth as he describes the wonders of the night-time sky and how they relate to this eleven-hundred acre park tucked away in one of the darkest areas of northeast Ohio.

“The International Dark Sky Association, a group of scientists who seek out the darkest skies on earth have given us a Silver rating.  There are no gold rating east of the Mississippi River.  We are the only Observatory Park in Ohio.”

Mentrek, who proudly claims to be a “space nerd, born and bred”, says to make it simple, on a clear night you can see the majesty and width of the Milky Way out here at night, something you cannot see near downtown Cleveland or in most people’s backyard.”

The new park boasts both an observatory with a 25 inch telescope and a planetarium for those nights when clouds obscure the telescopes vision.

“Eventually, within a couple of years, we will have two telescopes.  The old Case-Western Reserve Observatory is on our grounds and it is being rebuilt.  When complete it will have a telescope with three-times more power than our present telescope.

The park offers some other unusual ways to explore the solar system on foot.

The first thing you see as you leave the parking lot is a twelve foot high sundial that, on sunny days, will allow you to see the time.;  There is a sculpture of  moon phases as well as photos of the moon in its various stages.

….you can read the rest of this story in the Saturday, November 24th editon of the Plain Dealer or on their web site at www.cleveland.com


The Running Of The Pigs

It’s autumn and roadside farm markets around the state are
bulging with fresh produce. Farmers are using some new ways to entice customers
to their road-side stands.

It’s called “Agra-tourism” and for the past several years farmers
have found that providing entertainment for tourists and charging for it is
just another way to make money off their land.
It started many years ago with hay-rides, then came corn mazes and now  pig races are the latest idea of a Trumbull
County farm couple to attract customers to their farm market to buy the
products they raise and sell.

Sharon Grover and her husband, Steve, are the fourth
generation of their family to operate Ridgeview Farm in Mesopotamia Township on
state route 87 in rural Trumbull County.
They came up with the idea last year and it proved so successful they
decided to do it again this year.

Starting September 24th through October 30th,
the running of the pigs will occur each weekend during their “Fall Fun

How do you teach pigs
to race?

“It’s not easy,” laughs Sharon Grover, “The secret is
cookies.  Pigs love cookies.”  She went on to explain that when they first
get the young pigs they just don’t get the concept of running in one direction
in a race and some of her five children have to literally chase the squealing
piglets around the small race track to the finish line the first time. There
one cookie is waiting for the winning pig.
“Pigs are smart.”, Says Sharon,  “
It doesn’t take long for them to realize that the fastest pig to the finish
line gets the cookie and the pigs soon can’t wait for the sound of the horn that
starts the race.”.  By the way there is
no charge to watch the pig races.

……You can read the rest of this story in the Saturday,
September 24th edition of the Plain Dealer or go to their website at


Don’t forget that you can now follow One Tank Trips daily on Facebook.  Just go to Facebook and type, :”Neil Zurcher One Tank Trips” in the search bar.

You can find updates on places and things that I am doing and where I am headed this week in search of new travels.

Gateway To Amish Country Has Other Attractions

The Dover-New Philadelphia area is often considered “The gateway to Ohio’s Amish
Country”.  But there is more to see than just the horse and buggy culture of the Amish.

While this area is noted for places like the Warther Carving Museum, this is home to many
other attractions, like the historic Lynn Drive-In Movie Theater.  The Lynn is not only the oldest,
still-operating, drive-in movie in Ohio, it is also the second oldest such theater in the entire United States.

2011 marks the 75th season for this venerable outdoor movie theater.  Started
in 1935, owner Rich Reding is the fourth generation of his family to operate
the theater.  The Lynn is located at 9735 State Route 250 in Strasburg.  You can
call for information at 330-878-5797 or visit their website at: www.lynndrivein.com

Early morning visitors to Dover follow the aroma of freshly-made bread to Bread Head
Bakery on north Wooster Avenue.
Self-proclaimed “hippie”, Jason Cannon, presides over the ovens and
turns out mouth-watering, made-from-scratch creations with interesting names
like, “Bad Breath Bread” (made with lots of fresh garlic), “Hippie Bread,”   and “
Far-out Focaccia”, among others.  The Bakery/café is located at 320 North Wooster Ave., Dover, or you can call 330-602-2434 or visit them on their website at: www.breadheadbakery.com

A really unusual museum is housed in a Dover funeral home.  John Herzig of the Toland-Herzig Funeral Home long ago started collecting programs and other memorabilia from the funerals of
famous people.  It now fills several rooms at the North Wooster Ave. location.
Herzig calls his mini-museum “Famous Endings”.  Here you will find the funeral arrangements
and program for Elvis Presley’s services; there are the mourning vests worn at
the funeral of President James A. Garfield; memorabilia from the funerals of
comedians Lucille Ball and Bob Hope.  You can see the accordion played at the funeral of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Display cases are filled with thousands of the famous endings of celebrities, politicians and entertainers.  Admission is free but call for an appointment to view the exhibits.
Toland-Herzig Funeral Home, 803 N. Wooster Avenue,  330-343-6132 or visit their website at www.tolandherzig.com

If you are afan of old gasoline pumps, auto memorabilia and cars from the 1950s and 60s, New
Philadelphia offers a unique restaurant called “Hot-Rod City…

You can read the rest of this story in the Plain Dealer, Saturday, August 27th
edition.  Or you can find it on their website: www.cleveland.com




Is it just me or have prices in restaurants seemed to jump?  Bonnie and I were in a “Amish-themed” restaurant in Geauga County this past week and found that prices were nearly a dollar higher on many of their offerings as compared with similar items in restaurants in the Berlin-Sugarcreek area.

It’s County Fair time in Ohio.  The Lorain County Fair in Wellington is wrapping up this weekend and

next week, one of my favorites, The Great Geauga County Fair in Burton, Ohio gets underway.

Don’t forget the biggest one-day festival in Ohio is coming up on Sunday, October 9th.  The 2011 version of Dick Goddard’s Woollybear Festival in Vermilion, Ohio.

What are you and your family planning to do over the Labor Day weekend?  let me hear from you.


Using a Historic Boat To See The Lake Erie Islands

A historic old tugboat, converted into a luxurious cruise
boat is the latest addition to the attractions of South Bass Island in Lake

Scott and Susan Market, part of the Miller Ferry Boat  family, that provide Transportation from the
mainland to the islands, have purchased the 73-year old Tugboat that was
originally designed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since the Markets
have bought the 38-foot boat, they have added some modern amenities, but also
have taken the external look of the craft back to its appearance nearly 75
years ago.

The Markets say that there was a need for a more private,
smaller, upscale cruise boat that would let visitors enjoy a less-crowded way
to see the Islands. Both afternoon cruises of the Bay and a popular sunset
cruise where you can see a world-famous Lake Erie sunset are available for 65
dollars per person.  Snacks, soft drinks,
water and ice are included in the price of the cruise.  “It’s a romantic way to celebrate an anniversary
or it’s a really unique place to hold a small wedding.” Says Susan Market, who
doubles as the one-person crew on the “Restless.”  “If you don’t own a boat, this is an
inexpensive way to have the privacy of your own boat and crew for an afternoon
or evening.”

The Markets named the tugboat “Restless”.  The tug was originally ordered, prior to
World War II , by the Corps of Engineers as a prototype tug to be used for
moving barges and carrying crews to other boats.  However the Corps decided not to go with the
prototype and so it was put up for sale.
A man in Milwaukee purchased the boat and added a main salon, bathrooms
and sleeping quarters.  The craft
eventually ended up in Traverse City, Michigan where further restoration was
done to the boat. This year the Markets heard that the tug was again for sale
and so it found a new home at Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie.

The Markets who just a few weeks ago started offering public
cruises on the boat, says the converted tug can carry up to six passengers.  It is a beautiful way to see the islands
surrounding South Bass Harbor and Captain Scott Market, a fifth-generation
islander, offers commentary about each of the passing islands as well as an
insider view of living on Lake Erie.

The rides on the “Restless” are by reservation only.  You can contact them at the Miller Marina on
Put-in-Bay.  Phone 419-285-5902 or visit
their website at www.putinbaycruises.com

…You can read the rest of this story in the Saturday, July
23rd edition of the Plain Dealer or on their website, www.cleveland.com


My thanks this week to the good folks at the Willard, Ohio Public Library who came out to hear me speak on the hottest night of the year.  Perhaps it was the air-conditioning that brought out the capacity crowd.  In any event, it was great meeting so many folks from Huron County and trading stories about our travels around Ohio.

On Wednesday, July 27th, I will be speaking at the Ashland, Ohio, Public Library at 224 Claremont Avenue in Ashland.  The event starts at 7PM.  It is open to the public.  I hope to see you there.




I’m Back…And On The Road Again

TrueNorth Symphony and Chorale in concert at French Creek Reservation

A lookout on the Steelyard Trail overlooking confluence of French Creek and Black River
piles of gravel give one side of he trail the look of the Moon
Free tram ride for disabled on weekends at Steelyard Trail in Lorain

I’m back.  I have had
to take a “time-out” from this blog since February when I underwent open-heart
surgery.  It went well and I am now
feeling much better and am back on the road exploring Ohio looking for exciting
places to visit with the family.  For the
time-being we will be updating this blog on a monthly basis, but hope to get
back to the weekly posting as soon as possible.
For those who sent cards, flowers and letters during my hospital stay
and recovery.  Thank you very much.

Now, let us hit the road.

The twenty-two parks scattered across two counties that make
up the Lorain County Metro parks could be described as the best little- known jewel
in the Buckeye State.

From a beautiful lake front park with a historic beach and
rose garden, The metro parks also offer a golf course, a huge year-round
swimming center, an equestrian center with seven miles of trails to ride,  formal gardens as well as several parks that
preserve and reflect the pioneer history of Lorain County.

We recently visited a couple of the park systems unique
attractions and spent an afternoon on the Steelyard Trail, part of the Black
River Reservation that ties the cities of Elyria and Lorain together by an all
purpose pathway that allows you to walk, run, skate, bike or, if you have
difficulty walking, ride a free tram over several miles that includes a trail
through the little-seen back yard of the giant Lorain steel plant property
which is filled with slag heaps created by over a century of steel
production.   The acres of slag give one
side of the trail a moon-like appearance. On the other a scenic overlook of the
Black River and even a view of the confluence of the French Creek and the Black
River, the end of the navigable part of the waterway.  Brian Holmes, Park Manager of the Black River
Reservation and Grant Thompson, Chief Naturalist for the Metro parks joined us
for a Tram Ride from Colorado Avenue, through the steelyards, and the James Day
Dam area.  We were joined on the trail by
dozens of people bicycling, roller-skating, jogging and just walking, enjoying
a sunny day and the magnificent scenery as the trail followed the twisting path
of the Black River. Park manager Holmes said on weekends their parking lot is
often crammed to capacity.

The free tram ride, reservations requested, are available
every weekend from 2-3:30PM at the Day’s Dam Picnic Area on East 31st
Street in Lorain.  Call 440-324-5481 for
reservations or visit the park’s website at http://www.metroparks.cc/

Not far away is the French Creek Nature Center and
Reservation on Colorado Avenue in Sheffield Village.   For the past four years it has been home to
an unusual marriage of the park system and TrueNorth, a cultural arts group
that produces plays, concerts, art shows and holds classes for children who
wish to explore their artistic abilities. …..You can read the rest of this
story in the Saturday, June 25th edition of the Plain Dealer or on
their website: http://www.cleveland.com…..

Will The Groundhog See His Shadow?

Buckeye Chuck coming out of his den in 2010


It’s that time of year again when we turn to animals to predict our winter weather.  It started in September when my friend, Dick Goddard, held his annual Woollybear Festival in Vermilion and this week the attention swings to Central Ohio and the appearance of “Buckeye Chuck” Ohio’s official groundhog who will be rousted out of his warm den and winter’s sleep to see if his shadow frightens him back into his den for another six weeks of winter.

A good friend, Scott Spears, a personality on WMRN Radio in Marion, Ohio tells me that their radio station is the official home of “Buckeye Chuck” and is actually where the Ohio part of the woodchuck legend was born.

Scott says it was back in the 1970′s when WMRN morning DJ, Charlie Evers, got tired of hearing all about Puxatawny Phil, that groundhog over in Pennsylvania.  Charlie figured, rightly so, that the weather in Ohio is often far different that in Eastern Pennsylvania where Puxatawny Phil dug his burrow.  Evers started a campaign to recognize an Ohio groundhog as our official weather prognosticator.  Coincidentally Evers had noted that a groundhog made his home at the edge of the WMRN Parking lot.

Evers campaign resulted in action in 1979 when the Ohio legislature named “Buckeye Chuck” the state of Ohio’s official groundhog.  Buckeye Chuck was named in honor of Charlie Evers who worked so hard to create the title of “Official Ohio Groundhog” or OOG.  (I threw that last part in because I thought OOG was easier to write than Official Ohio Groundhog.

So this Wednesday, February 2nd crowds will gather in the WMRN Parking lot to wait as OOG officials haul the latest “Buckeye Chuck” from his den.  (Groundhogs only live about two years in the wild and so there have been several since Charlie Evers spotted the first one back in the 1970′s) and we will all finally discover if winter is just about over or will it last another six weeks….Stay tuned.

You can visit at daybreak to see what happens at the station at Clear Channel Headquarters at 1330 North Main Street, Marion or stop in at their website at http://www.wmrn.com

World’s Largest Model Train Display?

Thlis week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer my column dealt with one of the biggest model train displays I have ever seen. 

Here is part of the story………

The year 2011 may be remembered as the beginning of what could become a major tourist attraction for the city of Mentor in Lake County.

The Western Reserve Model Railroad Museum is up and running in its new home, the former Tow Motor Plant on Justin Way.

They claim to have the largest model train display in the entire world.  There are literally thousands of miniature train cars representing every size imaginable, from tiny “Z” gauge to the giant “G” gauge Garden Scale circling, starting and stopping on a layout that covers over nineteen thousand square feet. That compares to about the size of four basketball courts.  And listen to this.  The admission to this wonderful attraction is free.

According to the curator, Rick Montgomery, the toy trains are just the tip of the iceberg.  The museum also owns real, full-size railroad cars, including one that was once used by former U. S. President Dwight Eisenhower.  “We also have 80 acres available to us adjacent to the museum,” Montgomery said, “Plenty of room to grow even larger.”………

……..You can read the rest of the story in the Saturday, January 22nd edition of the Plain Dealer or on line at their website, www.cleveland.com