Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Idle gas pumps form a curious backdrop as assorted vehicles zip past in this night exposure at the intersection of I-71 and SR 13 south of Mansfield—while, at the same time, long lines at the pumps and gasoline rationing are occurring in some mid-southeastern states.


Certainly, it is beyond the scope of this blog to try to make sense of these almost daily shifts—usually upward—in gasoline prices.

And, I understand this Earth of ours is a finite reservoir of crude oil. Like a milkshake, adding more straws does not increase the supply.

But, it rankles me to constantly read of enormous profits being harvested by the oil companies while inflation is thrashing our economy.

It rankles me to be held hostage to market forces also driven by short-term profit speculators.

It rankles me to see the retailer boost his pump prices without the arrival of a tank truck delivering a new and higher priced load of fuel.

Yet, while I do not like these increasing prices at the pump, that pain might be just the jolt we, as a free-enterprise society, need to develop and provide affordable, sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, here are two informative sites on gasoline pump prices. The first contains both a US map and an OH map with average costs per gallon—updated daily, by county. The second is the AAA synopsis of costs and trends:

http://www.ohiogasprices.com/price_by_county.aspx and, http://www.fuelgaugereport.com/OHavg.asp

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cousin Bob Wolf (right) and guide Brian (next from the right) plus other tour guests enjoy the geologic formations visible throughout the Lincoln Caverns. In the two photos below right, visitors are left to ponder the near magic of water’s ability to form such massive, subterranean beauty.


It is a peculiar sensation to be enjoying some speleology (cave exploration) in the dark and damp silence far below the Earth’s surface—and hear the nearby sounds of highway traffic.

We were on a guided tour of the Lincoln Caverns located between Altoona and Huntington, PA when we encountered the original entrance to the cave which was discovered during the construction of US Highway 22 in 1930.

While crews were then blasting their way through bedrock, one massive explosion revealed the cave to a very surprised construction crew. That became the original, commercial entrance to the cave but is now sealed behind a concrete block—but not soundproof—wall.

This cave, a meandering tunnel between randomly shaped and sized “rooms”, takes about an hour to tour leisurely; a very enjoyable experience when you have the pleasure of an informed and enthusiastic guide as we did.

Like most caves of this sort the tunnels and rooms are the result of flowing water dissolving the sub-surface rock over periods of geologic time. That process also leaves caves such as this with abundant formations of stalactites, stalagmites and columns; also the result of the process of minerals being dissolved by water then re-solidifying over those countless centuries.

Think of a stalactite being much like an icicle. With each drip of water and icicle grows longer almost imperceptibly, but it will form in a matter of days while a stalactite will often take thousands of years.

The stalactite grows from the ceiling down while its companion stalagmite will be growing from the ground up. When they finally join they form a column. The process is also different from an icicle’s which requires freezing temperatures while their underground counterparts grow happily in a constant temperature of 52 degrees F.

Other mineral formations found in caves such as this are pure white (popcorn) calcite and crystals. The caves are also rich in flowstones (think of theater drapery) and bacon; a thin, wavy deposit of minerals that looks surprisingly like bacon when back lit.

And, the entire cave formation is nicely lit by rich back lighting that accentuates the formations and allows safe passage in the subdued lighting.

This attraction is located 3 miles west of Huntington, PA on US 22.

For you GPS technocrats the coordinates are: N 40.30.441 by W 78.04.279.

If you prefer to take a peek from your armchair, click here: http://www.lincolncaverns.com/index.html

Thursday, September 25, 2008


While poking around my hometown of Altoona, PA with my cousin Bob Wolf recently we did a bit of speleology.

Near his home we chugged up through a massive notch in Brush Mountain called the “Kettle” and headed out Sinking Valley Rd., about 6 or 7 miles to the Tytoona Cave Nature Preserve; one of only 13 such preserves in the US owned by the National Speleological Society. Click here.

In the above photo that’s Cousin Bob dwarfed by the gaping opening to what is described as one of the most significant caves in the state which traces its history to accounts published in 1788.

This cave is not open commercially and contains a trunk passage of about one mile divided by water sumps. These are sections that are completely under water and require highly trained and certified divers before exploration will be allowed.

I am shooting this picture while standing just 100 feet or so inside the cave mouth which extends nearly 1,000 feet under the rocky surface until the first sump is encountered. The roar of an underground stream was clearly audible at the cave entrance.

In the photo below Cousin Bob has discovered the Indian Caverns, our second stop of the day, was only open weekends after Labor Day, so, we moved on to a very interesting visit to the Lincoln Caverns which is featured Saturday.

Please stop by!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Sunday the 14th I left for an annual visit to my hometown of Altoona, PA--just hours, it turns out, before the remnants of Hurricane Ike delivered high velocity winds and lots of damage to much of Ohio.

In fact, my power was out from Sunday to Saturday the 20th. Consequently, my blog publishing schedule this week is, well, fluid. I do expect to produce a piece on cave visits, a story about a visit to an historic inn that traces its origin to 1762 and some general interest stuff from around Altoona.

When I got home from PA in mid-week I discovered I had, indeed, dodged a bullet as far as potential damage was concerned. Five trees around the house had fallen and managed to avoid doing any harm to the house, two small barns and two decks. Mercy! Thanks God, and kudos to AEP for the yeoman effort on power restoration around Ohio.

Please stay tuned.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My cycling companions Lynn Rush, Gary Courtright and Ted Kmet enjoy the smooth, crushed limestone Towpath Trail as it parallels the Ohio & Erie Canal visible to the right near Canal Fulton. The hand operated Lock #4 near there is pictured lower right.

By Bicycle

My regular cycling companions and I recently rode our second segment of the Ohio Towpath Trail, this one from Massillon north to Clinton, OH (Near Akron) and return; a nicely shaded ride of about 24 miles.

For you cycling enthusiasts it is a crushed limestone surface fairly well maintained but with some challenging sections of loose gravel. Our group included one mountain bike, my hybrid touring bike and two of the skinny tire variety. A mountain bike would be the most comfortable choice, particularly with less experienced folks in the saddle.

We turned around at Clinton because just a bit north of there, through greater Akron, are many segments either under construction or just in the planning stages.

Our ride covered a tiny part of the Ohio and Erie Canal which was 308 miles in length and connected Lake Erie at Cleveland to the Ohio River at Portsmouth. It was constructed between 1825 and 1847 and included 42 locks between Cleveland and Akron alone.

Akron is at the highest point on the entire canal; hence the surrounding county being named Summit. The canal accomplished a total lift of 1,206 feet by using locks and the canal boats were propelled by horses or mules towing from the adjacent bank—the location of today’s bicycle trail.
Early canal construction workers were paid 30 cents per day plus a “jigger” of whiskey.

Freight traffic dominated the canal from 1827 to 1861 when it began to diminish due to the growth of railroads. By 1840 Ohio was the 3rd most prosperous state in the existing union; owing its growth to the canal.

In its later years the canal struggled to stay profitable until a huge state-wide flood in 1913 destroyed critical sections of the canal and it was abandoned.

Today, Ohio’s bikeways are growing to cross the state from Cleveland to Cincinnati. The Towpath Trail will drop south from the Lake Erie shore where it will one day connect through Wayne County to the mostly existing Holmes County Trail.

When that trail is completed through Glenmont it will connect with the Kokosing Gap Trail to Mt. Vernon. There is a large gap in the planning stages between there and the Columbus area and another gap from Columbus to London.

From there you can now bicycle to the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati.

I hope I get to ride those approximately 335 miles—without having to wait for another 67 years.

This portion of the Ohio & Erie Canal at Canal Fulton was part of Ohio’s 1,000 mile network of canals built in the early 1800s, transforming the then very young state’s economy almost overnight.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


My three local bicycling companions and I pause in this small canal town for a chat with local enthusiasts of the Towpath Trail near Akron. We had ridden here from Massillon and confirmed much of the trail through Akron remains uncompleted. Please stop by Saturday for another peek at this very historical cycling venue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


All the Clean Ones are Married by Lori Cidylo

A young reporter for an upstate NY newspaper heads for a new life’s experience in Moscow; the Russian one. Armed only with some skill in their language she immerses herself in their very foreign culture and tells the story with humor and compassion. It’s a very penetrating peek at their “bipolar” world; a Publishers Weekly term. Her description of the Boris Yeltsin-era coup was particularly illuminating.

The Moonpool by P. T. Deutermann

Some wily ex-cops tangle with some terrorists in a South Carolina nuclear plant setting. Lots of action in this yarn with a great ending. It joins a growing list by Deutermann of detective novels, thrillers and a few centered on naval adventure. I’ve read and enjoyed all of them.

Havana Nocturne by T. J. English

This is an interesting peek at Cuba in the 1950s; a true tale of organized crime, political corruption, roaring nightlife, and a revolution among other things. Fulgencio Batista was a corrupt dictator/president who coddled US mobsters in development of Havana’s gambling mecca of the Caribbean. Of course, Fidel Castro trumped the gangsters and the dictator with his 26th of July Revolution.

Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille

516 sizzling pages of cop story set mostly in upstate NY involving a plot to eradicate Islamic terrorism with nukes. An off the wall, often whimsical NYPD veteran and his FBI agent wife buzz through this believable tale with page turning speed. I can always count on DeMille to spin a great yarn.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


These past months Fogeyisms has taken a few close-up looks at the intriguing world of some spiders we have observed in our fields and woods. Here’s another peek at one of these critters—this variety one you need to be very careful to avoid in real life.

It is a Brown Recluse, deceased in the photo below, and being preserved in a jar of rubbing alcohol by Jan Ferrell a naturalist on the staff of the Gorman Nature Center.

This specimen was found in its current condition in an apartment in Centerburg, OH by a relative of Jan’s. The discovery itself is a chilling thought for Ohioans because that town is far north of this creature’s normal range.

Jan is not sure how the spider arrived in Centerburg but has suggested to local health officials if it has migrated naturally that far north, it is not impossible they could be found in Richland County.

Memorize what you are seeing here for your own safety. This little critter is usually light brown in natural color. It’s most diagnostic feature is the violin shaped mark on its back.

Adult brown recluse spiders have a leg span about the size of a quarter. Their body is about 3/8 inches long and about 3/16 inches wide. Males are slightly smaller in body length than females, but males have proportionally longer legs.

Both sexes are venomous.

These spiders are also commonly referred to as "fiddleback" spiders or "violin" spiders because of that marking on the top surface of the cephalothorax (fused head and thorax).

“However, this feature can be very faint depending on the species of recluse spider...or how recently the spider has molted,” explains Dr. Susan C. Jones, an assistant professor of Entomology at the Ohio State University.

The critter’s name refers to its color and habits. It is a reclusive creature that seeks and prefers seclusion.

The bite of the brown recluse spider can result in a painful, deep wound that takes a long time to heal. Fatalities are extremely rare, but bites are most dangerous to young children, the elderly, and those in poor physical condition according to an OSU web site which you can view by clicking here!

Friday, September 12, 2008


As hurricane Ike lumbers toward the Texas coast I shudder to think how devastating the result of its arrival likely will be. With experts predicting a storm surge of water levels exceeding 20 to 25 feet along that shoreline I took a close-up peek at Google Earth and noted the land elevations around Galveston and Houston as I rolled my mouse over the area geography.

I hope those folks are paying very close attention to evacuation orders.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


That is a deceased Brown Recluse spider pictured in a jar of alcohol; a specimen recently collected in central Ohio, far north of its normal range. It is unknown if it arrived here by natural expansion of its range or if it piggybacked on some commodity delivery. Regardless, being able to recognize this dangerous critter could prove helpful. Saturday, Fogeyisms will tell you why.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Bellville’s South Main St. (above) is awash in the blue of the merchant’s tent Monday as a Toledo crew prepares to raise it for the opening of this year’s 158th celebration of the street fair. That would be consecutive years, but, the fair was cancelled one year during World War II.

The event which opens its four day run today is commonly known locally as the Bellville World’s Fair. It remains only one of two bona fide, agriculturally oriented street fairs remaining in Ohio. The other is in Loudonville.

In the small photo to the right an amusement company worker busies himself with ride construction under a sky as blue as the merchant tent.

Longtime fair board member Bob McConkie and this year’s president along with wife Barb estimated from 300 to 500 local folks likely are required to arrange, manage and clean-up from this four-day, annual social event of the valley.

They quipped, “The 16 fair board members usually recruit family and friends to pitch in and at a half-dozen or more “volunteers” of that sort each, there are more than 100 folks alone.”

Add the village and township staffs, the volunteer firemen, the FFA students from the high school and all those family volunteers, and, their estimate began to sound quite realistic.

They were busy Monday preparing to receive entries in the old fire station on Main St.

Fair Treasurer Ellen Walker grappled with a question from a visiting concessionaire and telephoned a disgruntled exhibitor who evidently failed to read the plainly displayed instructions for entries—all in the few minutes I stopped by her fair office.

In the lower image Clear Fork High School FFA students* busy themselves with the installation of pens in the animal tent—the white dome visible in the background of the upper photo—toward the far end of Main St.
*FFA stands for Future Farmers of America for the benefit of you city folks.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Guy and his Gal

A Bluegrass Festival was celebrated in Mansfield’s Central Park Saturday while the Doughboy Monument (below) maintained its silent, sentinel duties.

The monument was dedicated November 11, 1922 in honor of the veterans of World War I.

The day’s festivities included an animal show from the Columbus Zoo, games and vendors in the park. They continued into the evening with a variety of local Bluegrass bands performing in the park’s gazebo.

Just another small peek at the Americana we call home.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An opening scene of our Broadway musical is shown above while technicians in the production booth work far above the stage (right). The open interior of the theater is shown lower left while the cast enjoys its curtain calls below.


We watched a bright moon rise, stage right, and join Jupiter in its nightly trek across the southern sky while towers of colorful artificial light sprinkled their rainbow of illumination on the gaily decorated stage; this, at our outdoor amphitheater at Johnny Appleseed Center near Mifflin.

That night a large, talented and enthusiastic cast of the musical Into the Woods frolicked on the stage in a nearly 3 hour, two act production that weaved old fairy tales into modern morality—I think.

After I gave up trying to make sense of the story line, I sat back and enjoyed everything else about the production which had just completed a three night run on the stage of Mansfield’s Renaissance Theater before moving to this outside stage for three more productions.

Director Matthew Joslyn tells us it is one of his favorite Broadway musicals with a ‘spectacular’ script written by Mansfield’s own James Lapine.

He goes on to explain the stories of classic, storybook characters intertwine in this show where we begin to see ourselves in the simple lives of these characters; making mistakes and trying to overcome them.

He continues, “...while ‘happily ever after’ may only live in the fairy tales; somehow we’re always okay in the end.”

The cast had great depth in musical talent, the costumes were exquisite, the lines were delivered with enthusiasm and an occasional, very humorous ad lib; all on the stage of the now defunct Johnny Appleseed Outdoor Drama—which, itself, began life in this amphitheater; one of the finest theatrical and musical venues in this part of Ohio.

The Appleseed drama failed after less than two complete seasons but shows like Into the Woods are helping breathe new life into a first class facility that deserves, nay demands, to be our model, local, outdoor entertainment venue for current and many future generations.

I hope local patrons of the arts soon recognize this venue for the jewel in the woods it literally is.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Our very own Broadway musical

Walking into the Appleseed Outdoor Amphitheater’s architecturally marvelous portal (above) transforms visitors into the magic of the evening’s production set to begin on the gaily decorated stage far below. The amphitheater seats 1,700 guests with an earthen stage that can be modified to suit a variety of performance options.

A scene from the musical production is shown in the lower photo.

Saturday, Fogeyisms visits the entertaining production in this delightfully secluded outdoor venue perched on the summit of the 45 acre Heritage Center site near Mifflin. Please stop by and enjoy a peek at the show.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


About 95 classmates, relatives and friends started the recent two-day celebration of our 50th high school graduation with a pizza party—behind bars...

...at the undergoing-refurbishment and long abandoned Ohio State Reformatory just north of Mansfield.

A highlight of that frolic was a tour of the 1800s era castle-like dungeon, from the basement’s hideous solitary confinement cages to a then rifle-toting guard’s watchtower high on the roof.

Real inmates marching in the exercise yard of the replacement facility next door were quite visible as a chilling dose of reality.

The state’s newer maximum security prison—also housing death row—was visible in the near background.

In the top photo classmates are hearing stories about the ancient facility’s library; now a decrepit, empty mass, still confined by its paint-peeling walls. It was easy to imagine cunning miscreants whispering escape plans over there in a shadowy corner.

In the middle picture classmates are dwarfed by the western cellblock which itself was dwarfed by its companion cellblock on the other wing of the prison; that one a solid steel range of cells five stories high and reputed to be the largest in the world at its time.

Below, three pews cast only shadows now in the prison’s Catholic chapel.
I’m not sure how effective all those services were of time gone by.

The new prisons next door are even larger than this one.