Being a frequent distant driver, both for labor and leisure, I’ve seen a lot beyond my roads’ edge lines and those reminder grooves that surely can come in handy. As far as what I’ve seen over time, there’ve been plenty of deer sightings, both the live versions in fields off my highways and also the deceased versions just off the roads.
As for the other sights, there are those times when I can be fooled. During my monthly business trips into the late basketball scoring machine Bevo Francis’ neck of the woods, past Chillicothe on state Route 35 heading to Gallipolis, I noticed a road sign off the highway that I thought read, “Lloyd Bridges Road.”
Immediately my mind went to the actor I first saw when I was a boy watching the old black-and-white dramatic series Sea Hunt, which ran from 1958 to 1961 and starred Bridges as Mike Nelson, a Coast Guard Auxiliary scuba diver solving all sorts of somewhat waterlogged crimes. As the miles rolled by, I also thought of later Bridges’ roles, especially the comedic ones that the one-time dramatic actor played in the movie Airplane and in some episodes of my favorite sit-com of all time, Seinfeld.
As more miles rolled by, I mentally bounced to that second generation of Bridges actors, Beau and Jeff, and their work in movies.
I made a mental note to check the Internet later to find out just where in South Central Ohio Bridges hailed. How did I not know that, I wondered. Later, after Googling Lloyd Bridges, was I ever perplexed when I saw Bridges grew up in California.
So upon my return through the area, I took a longer look at the sign and realized that it actually said, “Lloyds Bridge Road,” thus proving that not everything you think you see off the road is what it once appeared to be.
I remember as a child on one of our annual summer sojourns back to my father’s Bostonian homelands, while on the Mass Turnpike, my mother insisted that off in the distance there was a drawbridge. My father, a native son and true Bay Stater, was incredulous; my sister Joanie was skeptical; and I was hopeful, since I really liked castles and moats.
As the miles unspooled and the road bent favorably in the direction of my mother’s drawbridge, the image sharpened to all of us as my mom dropped her head a bit… as soon as she realized what once appeared to be a drawbridge was actually a billboard.
In similar fashion, during the inaugural drive in 1958 to Lima from my birth city of Chicago after my dad was promoted to the Ohio-Indiana territory to sell his steel and copper wire, my 6-year-old eyes convinced me that the yellow I saw off the road once we got into Indiana and Ohio farm country in those wire containers were bananas, not shucked corn.
The one sight from off my roads that appears to be something other than what it is can be seen just off I-70 while going past the east side of Newark. That’s where, while traveling for work once a month, I see what appears to be a massive basket complete with handles.
In actuality, it’s the old Longaberger corporate headquarters building, the brainchild of the late Dave Longaberger, who had the seven-story building that once was the workplace of 500 employees constructed in far better times when the company was booming.
The 180,000-square foot building, surely one of the most unique in the world, was completed in 1997 at a cost of more than $30 million. Once upon a time, the company could boast of its $1 billion in sales. However, tougher economic times followed, and the 45-year-old company ceased operations and vacated the building in 2018.
Currently, the building and its 21-acre surrounding campus, recently appraised at $28 million, is on the market for a whole lot less — according to the Newark Advocate, for $6.5 million.
The first time I saw the building, for several miles beyond, my mind rolled back the pages of time. You see, once upon a married time, the woman of my house was addicted to Longaberger baskets, and they were displayed in multiple rooms. For those of you who had a similar fascination with those baskets once upon a time, you’ll recall they were pricey.
With each mile past that building, irritations surfaced from years ago over what I always saw as frivolous purchases. After all, I often thought, how many expensive baskets with nothing in them does one house really need? However, those irritations, I decided, were over 25 years old and way past their expiration dates, so I took them off my mental shelf.
So it goes when driving distances. What is seen sometimes is misunderstood and sometimes so very unique. While no one will dispute the importance of keeping your eyes on the road, don’t neglect those sights off the road. After all, you never know when you might see a drawbridge.
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.