My, did I ever get myself in a proper holiday frame of mind on the first weekend in December, thanks to a great weekend getaway.
Actually much of the weekend was my Christmas present from Lady Jane, which, of course, for me made the experience more special. When it comes to presents at Christmas, the older I get, the less I really need more material possessions. As many of you, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to afford what I feel I need when it comes to those. So, an event experience for a gift is perfect.
The trip didn’t take long, just a quick skip down I-75 to Dayton, where Jane would first treat me to a fancy lunch at Red Lobster, which shares the same parking lot as the Drury Inn and Suites, where, using my rewards points for a chain I use a lot for business in Columbus, I took care of the lodging. Following lunch, we attended a terrific Christmas show, compliments of that gal I sometimes call LJ, who purchased tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Nutter Center off of I-675.
Now, I will tell you I knew almost nothing about the group known to their legions of devoted fans as TSO. All I knew was the group’s music was used years ago in an ad for Miller Lite entitled “Enjoy the Lites,” one still viewable on that great preserver of pop culture history, YouTube.
If you remember the story behind the commercial, it actually has Buckeye roots. In Mason, just outside of Cincinnati, back in 2004, an electrical engineer by the name of Carson Williams used software to create a pulsating outdoor Christmas lights display with 25,000 bulbs synchronized to TSO’s song “Wizards in Winter” from the album The Lost Christmas Eve. The soundtrack ran on a 12-minute cycle with lights flashing on and off when the music crescendoed.
The flashing lights synchronized to the high-energy symphonic-rock song attracted so many motorists that local traffic conditions deteriorated to the point where Mason law enforcement had to ask Williams to turn off the display to solve the problem of several fender benders amidst congestion. After the video went viral, Miller Lite came up with its commercial idea.
Following our early check-in at the Drury, always as all travelers know, so very appreciated, we headed off for the short drive to make the 3 pm matinee.
As we stood in line waiting for entry, there was a general feeling of excitement about the upcoming performance. The lady in line in front of us had her teen-aged son with her and said they’d attended the previous year’s performance at Nutter and guaranteed the show would be a high-energy spectacle, well worth, she said, the 75-dollar per ticket prices for an over-two-hour show with no intermission.
That’s when I saw the Lady Jane grin, one that always comes when she knows she’s secured a bargain. You see, using a Groupon, LJ purchased both of our tickets for five dollars less than the cost of just one ticket purchased by our chatty line companion. Of course, as anyone knows, those who enjoy an event the most are those that get the best deals for tickets. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been gifted the ultimate bargain, baseball will-call tickets, on several occasions, and, boy, were those ever fun games!
The show was entitled “Ghost of Christmas Eve,” and the performance was a terrific blend of progressive rock, great vocals, symphonic accompaniment and visual effects with synchronized laser lights and fog machines and fire in a high-energy rock-opera format. Of course, my favorite number, one I videoed on my phone, was “Wizards in Winter.”
The next day, following breakfast and checkout and mass, Jane and I headed to John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge, which surrounds Bryan Park in the Yellow Springs-Clifton area for some winter hiking.
My, did we ever feel as if we received a meteorological gift. That first Sunday in December was a stolen day from early fall with blue skies, bright sun and temperatures in the mid-60s. While the trails were a bit wet from Saturday’s rains, we were dressed for it and had a great time, especially admiring from well-spaced overlooks the turbulent waters of the Little Miami River that rushed through the gorge below us.
Before departing home, we had a nice walk-around in Yellow Springs and a great lunch at the atmospheric and antiquitous Ye Olde Trail Tavern, built in 1827, once upon a 19th-century time, a stage coach stopover between Columbus and Cincinnati. Both the village and especially the tavern are well worth your time, especially the tavern’s sweet potato craft beer from nearby Yellow Springs Brewery.
So in case you’d like to keep this late fall-early winter combo weekender in mind for next year when, I’m guessing TSO will again return to the Nutter Center, please clip this column. Although longer trips can be enriching, sometimes the longest memories can come from the shortest trips.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.