The long way

Yesterday should not have been such a splendid day. November has advanced too far to be wearing such bright foliage. I executed the drive from Columbus to Gambier in right angles instead of the more direct diagonal, so it took a long time. Traveling back through history requires patience.

Reassuringly, street signs began to tell me I was on Mt. Vernon Road. Usability suffered a severe detriment when old naming conventions gave way to numbers. If Route 161 were still commonly referred to as Dublin-Granville Road, I might not reach as often for a map.

G.M. Fields sign

  Photo: “St. Paris sign” by Cindy Funk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It has become unfashionable to design a corporate logo using an image as a stand-in for the name of a business. Signs marking The Golden Lamb and any of the variety of enterprises known as the Cardinal Company seem quaint. Yet driving through Jacksontown, Newark, and Utica, past businesses that had preserved their old pictorial trademarks, I found visual clues distinctly memorable. Literacy hasn’t improved the speed with which we recognize when to turn off the road into the parking lot.

A row of enormous plywood ice cream cones painted in unnatural colors relaxed me. Quirky placards caught my imagination. A bakery offered pumpkin pies for $3. How was that possible? My mind flew back to the city, computing the cost of a can of purée.

I passed houses decorated with gingerbread that looked as though it belonged on a Chinese dragon, and I wondered what the builders had found pleasantly familiar back in 1887.

When at last I reached Kenyon College, there were no arrows signaling its new literary festival. In the manner of students and Internet technology and everything young, it seemed to say, We know we’re here.

4 thoughts on “The long way

  1. Michele Mizell

    At first I was jealous as I mentally drove along the road on the way to Kenyon College with you. I wasn’t as disappointed, though, when you failed to get your bicycle off the back of your VW and pedal along the Kokosing Gap Trail without me. Hope the literary festival was as satisfying as the drive there.

  2. Robin Mizell Post author

    Hey, sis-in-law:

    I assumed you’d had your fill of college visits. (smiling) Dan’s blog provides me with a cozy substitute for the trek to the Upper Peninsula.

    Speaking of quirky signs, did you stop to dine at Grandma’s Pasties en route to Houghton? And did you know the owner is a Michigan Tech alumnus?

  3. davidbcoe

    What a beautiful piece, Robin. I just finished a road trip myself, and was both charmed and disturbed by the foliage I saw. Maples in upstate New York should be bare by November 1, and though I reveled in the color — what a treat that I got to see it! — I fear what it means for our planet and the future of our children.

    With your help I figured out blog surfer. Thanks. I look forward to keeping up with your blog.

  4. Robin Mizell Post author

    Coming from you, that’s an especially wonderful compliment, David. I’m continually surprised to see which posts inspire comments.

    People everywhere are murmuring about the unusual weather. Instinctively, we’re tense about it. If this were a movie, the score—beautiful and terrifying—would be written by Philip Glass.

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