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Hocking Hills Revisited (or How I Learned to Love Wally World)
by Larry Palguta

The Michiana Brits completed another four day Fall Tour in successful fashion (we all made it without a major breakdown!) for the five cars that traveled to southeastern Ohio. The club had visited Hocking Hills four and five years ago, and enjoyed the scenic beauty, huge rock formations, and fabulous driving for little British cars. The lure of the challenging driving, staying in cabins with good amenities and hot tubs, and the many sights and activities brought us back for another visit.

Thursday morning, September 20th , under overcast skies and cool temperatures, the travelers met for breakfast at the White Dove Restaurant on the east side of Nappanee, IN. Tom & Debbie Shumaker in a 1980 TR7, Randy & Bev Glanders in a 1974 Triumph Spitfire, Larry & Deb Palguta in a 1972 MGB, and Roger & Ruth Deacon in a 2006 Mini Cooper, had an enjoyable breakfast while waiting for Jim & Kim Betz in their 1960 MGA to join the group. The Betzs showed up and the group was off, out the parking lot and down the road a few hundred yards when the CB crackled that we needed to pull over, the Betz’s MGA was puffing smoke. A quick check under the hood revealed a radiator coolant hose blown off a metal sleeve and the loss of some coolant. Larry had a clamp and screwdriver, Tom had coolant and duct tape, and Jim had a funnel for refilling coolant. After about 20 minutes, we were all up and running again. Jim later admitted it was ironic that a hose connection he had made would fail on his car.

The group traveled Route 5 which went west around Ft. Wayne and connected with Route 224 at Huntington, IN, and stopped at Decatur to gas up before heading into Ohio. The weather was a bit overcast but no rain, so it was easy driving in cool weather. On the south side of Decatur, we took US 33 all the way to St. Mary’s, OH (just missing Bobo, IN) where we picked up Route 29, to head diagonally southeast across Ohio.

Around 1:30 PM we arrived in Sidney, OH where Tom had identified The Spot Restaurant (located at the southwest corner of the stately court house) for our lunch stop. We parked near The Spot, which is known for its pies. A bunch of tables pushed together seated all ten of us, and orders were placed at the walkup counter. Milk shakes, pies, sandwiches and Kim’s tenderloin sandwich that hid all of the plate underneath, were big hits with the Brits. The shakes were so thick that Randy held his cup upside down, with a spoon in the shake, and nothing fell out! And the pies were great.

The Brits drove on through Urbana to Route 56 at Mutual, then to London, Circleville, and finally Laurelville at the Hocking County line. From there it was a short drive up Route 180 to Route 374 and the Nestled In cabins. The ten of us occupied 3 cabins and our host Cris Paxton marked on the Hocking Hills magazine all of the good places to eat. The first local place for dinner was the Home Tavern in Logan, the nearest actual town about 10-15 miles away. The Home Tavern is a large bar restaurant – beer drinking, TVs, card game competition and dining all at the same time. Although dinner was a slow affair, we all relaxed and enjoyed great burgers, drinks and fried pickles. Plus the major of Logan chatted with us; his children being grads of Purdue and Notre Dame, he had been in South Bend for the game on the 8th. After dinner, we all went over to Walmart just off US 33, where some of us hung out in the parking lot with local teenage boys, while those who went shopping decided to buy food for breakfast. Each cabin has a kitchen, but the main cabin has a full size kitchen (dishwasher!!!). Making our own breakfasts saved us lots of commuting time in the mornings in addition to a few dollars. Friday the 21st started with Jim Betz (talented amateur cook!) making scrambled eggs, sausage and toast for the group. Everyone pitched in and helped with food prep, serving, or clean up. Then we were off for a quick walk through Rock House (located about 100 yards up the road) and a scheduled tour of the Columbus Washboard Co. on the south side of Logan (actually down the street from the Home Tavern). Rock House is a cave with a grand tunnel-like corridor midway up a 150 foot cliff. It is a gentle climb and walk; a short adventure to start the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Columbus Washboard Co. is the last manufacturer of washboards in the US. The business boasts four employees and the thorough tour of their small manufacturing facility was very interesting. Thousands of washboards are sold each year, some to major US retail chains, and many go overseas for actual use in washing clothes by locals. The manager is a British expat who has a taste for American muscle cars, but he was excited to look over each of the five LBCs in our group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the tour of the washboard company and photos in front of their 35-foot tall washboard, it was back to Wally World for gas and a new CB for Tom to replace a failed unit. While there, Jim’s MGA started producing a lot of hot electrical smell. After crawling and poking around under the dash board on the passenger side, Randy found wires too hot to handle. The problem turned out to be a shorting out fan motor for an A/C unit that has not been used. The rogue fan was turning on and off randomly; Kim wondered at times if she was having hot flashes! The fan was disconnected and we headed out to lunch on the southeast side of Logan.

Pearl’s is a neat-as-a-pin small diner on east Front Street. The owner/waitress Pearl is quite a character who serves lots of great home-made dishes. Tom asked “what is the spaghetti salad like?” and Pearl, after a large sigh, said “It’s got spaghetti in it!”. Anyway, lunch was really good and we’d gladly dine there again and enjoy Pearl’s hospitality. After lunch, we headed to Old Man’s Cave off of Route 374, located well south of our cabins. Randy led the way and we had good driving on Route 664 and great driving on twisty up-and-down Route 374.

 

Old Man’s Cave is a natural over-hanging rock formation in a small rock canyon. In the late 1800’s, an “old man” lived for a time in the cave. Now it is a major tourist attraction, undergoing upgrade work in the parking lot. We had to walk from the three tier parking area to the visitor’s center to access the paths to the Cave. Guys in hard hats with shovels, a large tank tread scoop shovel moving about, and pickup truck didn’t seem to care that all of the visitors had to walk to and from the visitors’ center via the middle of the work site. Seemed strange to us; we wondered if any visitors had been flattened under the huge treads of the scoop shovel. The Brits walked down into and through the Old Man’s Cave, the gorge and walkways that eventually led us back to the visitors’ center. It seems that each time we visit is a dry time of the year; thus, waterfalls are not cascading over the upper rim of the gorge. Some of the walkways have been cut out of solid rock and small bridges have been constructed along the pathways. It’s a great local sight to visit in a short amount of time.

After leaving the Old Man’s Cave with our cars dusted by construction dirt, we drove back to our cabins at the Nestled In to relax for awhile before heading out for the evening dinner. This time we were going to the Brass Rail Restaurant (a restaurant/dining room located at a golf course) next to the intersection of SR328 and US 33.

We drove up to Logan and The Brass Rail, only to find out the football field across the road was the site of the evening’s huge local game between Logan and Nelsonville. After waiting an hour for the locals to leave the restaurant and football buffet, we finally got seated and enjoyed our dinners. After one member vocally got the waitress’ attention, he was warned by our group about another possible meaning of Hocking Hills. Then back once again to Wally World for more breakfast supplies.

Saturday 22nd started with Jim again cooking a fine breakfast of sausage and French toast. The group then headed off to west of Logan for the large flea market next to US 33. This is a large flea market spread throughout a number of buildings and also vendors setting up outside tables and tents. A few items were purchased by the Brits and stowed in the LBCs are we drove off in search of a lunch location prior to driving south east to Nelsonville. Unfortunately downtown Logan is pretty much closed up at mid-day Saturday, a result of the sluggish economy. But we found the M&M Family Diner in the center of town and managed to get in and get a long table before they locked the front door. Again, good home cooking and prompt service since we advised we had to be at Nelsonville in time to catch the 2:30 PM train ride.

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is a non-profit, volunteer run railway operating along part of the rail line still existing from west at Logan to Robbins Crossing just east of Nelsonville. Nelsonville used to be a major manufacturing center of bricks and large blocks for constructing homes and buildings, to the extent it was a true company town. The train announcer pointed out a large brick oven, workmen’s homes, and other structures remaining from the beginning of Nelsonville as a canal boat stop to its slow demise as the economy changed. Some Brits watched intently while some took the opportunity to sleep off their lunch.

Robbins Crossing is a group of log cabins save from rot by moving them to a location across the tracks from Hocking College. The stop at the village gave everyone time to wake up, stretch their legs and look around. College students are supposed to be in costume and manning the various cabins (blacksmiths, general store, etc.) and while some were on site, it seemed that activity had seen better days. Present were several people exhibiting their large pythons and a corn snake. You could handle them and get your picture taken with them etc. for a donation (apparently for the care of the snakes).

It was time to eat, again, and a good drive up US 33 took the Brits to the Millstone BBQ next to US 33 at Logan. When we arrived, tops down, it was a nice slightly breezy day. The Millstone was quite busy so we accepted seating at tables outside on the patio. The wind kept picking up, jackets went on, and we made our first move to a series of pushed together tables next to the building, under the awning. The wind blew even harder, and Bev Glanders at the head of the table next to the corner of the building, was getting most of the gale force wind roaring down along the tables. So our second move was to shove the tables about 2-3 feet along the building and way from the corner. But more people scurried inside, so our third move was to put together tables further down the side of the building and far from the corner. We all hunkered down with our jackets wrapped around us, napkins and utensils weighed down on the tables, as other napkins, plastic chairs and decorative items blew across the patio. But our waitress stuck with us, and though a plate of ribs got blown/dropped when served, we had a good dinner, great service and a hilarious time riding out the wind storm. After returning to our cabins via one last stop at Wally World for supplies and gas, some rested while a group of eight spent the evening playing a new card game – Farkle. We Farkled away the evening.

The next morning Tom cooked his special breakfast dish, and we headed back home. The last Hocking Hills drive was on Thompson Road, a ridge top scenic route that twisted and turned past nice homes and a group of spooked deer to Laurelville where we connected with the same route that brought us to Hocking Hills. The Fall Tour covered about 750 miles in four days, and once again provided a fun “mini” vacation for the traveling Brits.

 

 

 

 
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