Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I feel like one of those wet, skinny runners who comes tumbling over the finish line at the Boston Marathon and is then whisked away on a stretcher.  Granted, this camp didn't make me thinner, but I feel about as worn out.  The last day of camp, I'll admit, was inspired by the ultra-cool patch that I couldn't resist.  With my love of Scooby Doo, his Mystery Machine, and those flowers, how could I not pick up the Groovy Days patch, even if I didn't know what the hell to do with it?  I gave it a little thought and decided ROAD TRIP!

For some reason the Grateful Dead song "Truckin'" kept going through my mind, particularly the line "what a long, strange trip it's been."  So...that was the theme of the road trip.  I armed myself with the books Weird Ohio and Weird Kentucky, as well as the Internet, to compile a list of unique spots The Inmates had never seen.  I slapped on some extra magnetic flowers (there are always a few on my van), threw tie-dye on the kids, and headed off to Ihop to fuel up before we hit the road.  Foghorn was in a foul mood, screaming and yelling and insisting she wasn't going.  After numerous threats we got her to the van, but in posing for the picture she decided to whirl Oinkers around and hit her brother with him (while sucking her thumb, a bad sign).  At Ihop she was a snarly mess until she had eight pieces of bacon and that seemed to steady her mood.

First stop was the "mushroom house" on Erie Avenue in Hyde Park.  I don't know much about the place except it's a private residence and super funky and cool.  It was designed by Terry Brown, a former professor at the University of Cincinnati's School of Architecture and Interior Design.

Our second stop took us to a not-so-nice part of Walnut Hills where I was searching for James Batchelor's Odd Garden.  At the time of the account I read of him, he was 97 years old and had a backyard described as "yard-art mosaic that's a little bit Mardi Gras, a little bit Looney Toons, a little bit roadside Americana."  Unfortunately it appears the garden is no longer there.  We missed the house on our first trip down the road, but after circling around we found the house number and its ordinary back yard.  Luckily I had a couple photos from the Weird Ohio site to show them. I hope Mr. Batchelor is alive and well.

From there we headed for Pete Rose Way and Sawyer Point, where I wanted the kids to see the flying pig statues up close.  As we approached we saw three motorcycle cops in the grass on the side and then realized they were in the process of cuffing a guy on the ground.  Foghorn missed seeing it and was insistent that I turn around and go back.  I declined.

Chester with fish friend.
I have a particular fondness for the flying pig statues.  They were designed by Andrew Leicester for the 1988 city bicentennial.  While the pigs are the most famous part of the display, they sit atop smoke stacks, with a model of the Ohio River flowing beneath.  We also like the fish heads.

A chilly 98 degrees in the sun today.
We then traveled across the Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky and St. Mary's Basilica Cathedral of the Assumption.     It is a one third scale replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.  It was begun in 1894 and work stopped in 1915.  According to one account it is unfinished, which you can tell from the empty alcoves on the outside, which should have statues in them.  Whether true or not, the church is beautiful and ornate and would have been even better to see if they had not closed the road in front of it to repave, making it difficult to maneuver around the area.

Statue-less perch?

Our other stop in Covington was on Wright Street where I had heard of a flying saucer house.  Sure enough, there it was on a hill, with a beautiful view of Cincinnati in the distance.  It's a very small building, about the size of a garage, and right after I snapped my photos the owners showed up.

The Welcome Wagon.
We hopped on the expressway and headed for Crestview Hills, Kentucky, home of Thomas More College.  On the campus, next to a lovely little pond, is the Monte Cassino Chapel, billed in 1922 by Ripley's Believe It or Not as the "Smallest Church in the World."  It was actually built in 1878 by some Benedictine monks from a nearby monastery.  When the monks left the area, it fell into disrepair and was the target of vandalism until it was rescued and moved in 1965 to the college.  It was officially dedicated in September of 1971.

We had to park in a U.S. Bank parking lot and as we were descending the hill to the chapel, we were welcomed by ducks.  Lots of ducks.  And geese.  And then more flew in.  Apparently, despite a sign warning against it, people feed them frequently.  Unfortunately we had nothing on us and I was a little afraid of a mob attack.  They behaved, though, and merely followed us down to the chapel.  My understanding is that it measures six feet by nine feet, with a ceiling eight feet high inside.  Unfortunately we couldn't access the inside.

Anybody know what the hell kind of bird this is?

Our last stop was Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, and its 180 year old general store.  Rabbit Hash is a small town just across the river from Rising Sun, Indiana and on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is a nearly 200 year old river town and by looking at the "downtown" section, you wouldn't think much had changed.

Rabbit Hash is perhaps most notable for its mayors.  The current one is Lucy Lou, having been elected in 2008, and beating out one cat, one possum, one jackass, one human being, and ten dogs.  Unfortunately, Lucy Lou was not in town today (Chester asked at the General Store) and Foghorn was crushed.  Outside we did meet the dog pictured below and he took us on a little tour of a couple buildings along the river.  He then started to go into the river and looked back at us as if waiting to be followed.  We said no thank you to a dip in the murky water.  We told Foghorn we suspect he was the vice-mayor.

The Vice-Mayor?

Who wouldn't want to swim in the river?

The General Store has been in operation since 1831.  It carries a variety of candy, soaps, snacks, and antiques.  It also has a porch swing in the center.  Unfortunately it had no air conditioning.  The Inmates got some candy and a postcard of Lucy Lou, the mayor, and a couple of those fortune telling fish I haven't seen in 30 years.

We piled back in the van, all of us looking a little worse for wear including the van herself.  (She lost some of her magnetic flowers along the way and I'll have to order a new pack.)  To keep the children happy and amused on the way home, Chester and the Inmates got into this discussion about what would happen if there were candy bars with weird names and someone went into a store to buy one.  It went something like this:

THE PROFESSOR:  What if there was one called "fat loser"?

CHESTER:  Yeah, a guy would walk in and say, "I'm looking for a 'fat loser'."  And the clerk would say, "What a minute.  My son's in the back.  I'll get him."

You get the idea.  This went on and on...and on.  It started off goofy, then turned crude, and by the time we reached home Foghorn was saying things that are unprintable.  She was saying them loudly and insistently and right in Chester's ear, which led Chester to shout, "I'm gonna create a candy bar called 'kick the crap out of you!'"  And on that note, camp ends.

NOTE:  If you'd like to see additional photos of today's locations, please check out my blog post here and my Flickr account.

For more ideas for things to do in Cincinnati (and things to do with kids in Cincinnati), please check out the post below.

** Things to Do in Cincinnati

You might also be interested in:

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 4

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 5

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 6

Camp Gonnawanna Day 7 Photos

Additional photos can be found in the Camp Gonnawanna Patch 2011 photo set on Flickr.

You might also be interested in:

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 7

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 5

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 6

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Camp is quickly coming to end, fizzling out like a fire that's been peed on.  After having my meltdown last night, I told everybody today that all activities were optional.  I was going to participate in everything planned because I want my damn vest patches, but they could do as they pleased.  I didn't even bother reading the write-ups for today's activities and merely told them what was on the agenda.

First up was earning the Fun With Nature patch.  Originally I had wanted to take them to Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky, but the temperature was still 90 degrees today, even with significantly less humidity, and I decided not to risk a long drive for nothing.  I went with Plan B, the Trammel Fossil Park in Sharonville.  Foghorn opted to stay behind, declaring, "I have a life to live, you know."  She didn't even want to go to Applebee's for lunch with us, so I left her at home watching Mermaid Melody videos on YouTube.  Thankfully her father works from home, although he wasn't too thrilled to hear she was staying behind.

The Professor and I had a nice, peaceful lunch together.  Chicken fingers with barbecue sauce is a sure way to the boy's heart and he seemed to have been fighting a case of the guilts over yesterday's meltdown.  He was unusually cooperative and positive about my plans for the day, cheerily saying, "Sounds great," to every suggestion.  I had taken the Healing Crystals book with us to Applebee's and suggested after the fossil park we go Amethyst Book Store and pick out stones for his medicine bag.  He decided to make getting a good night's sleep the focus for his bag, since he's a terrible insomniac and is perpetually sleep deprived.

Trammel Fossil Park would be a great place for a kid who's really into natural history and, well, fossils.  Unfortunately, The Professor isn't one of those kids.  (And The Warden isn't one of those adults.)  There is informational signage around the park and a large hillside for exploration.  It might have at least been pleasant to stroll around there on a nice autumn day.  On a 90 degree day, with the early afternoon sun blasting us, it was not so fun.  We wandered for about 15 minutes and then headed out for the air conditioned Amethyst Book Store, where The Professor got the stones for his medicine bag -- citrine, malachite, rose quartz, amethyst, and hematite. 

He declared himself "exhausted" after that and promptly retired to the family room for an afternoon of Pokemon watching.  Foghorn spent a chunk of the afternoon booby-trapping the house by running yarn around the furniture, up the stairs, and over picture frames, ensuring I'd break my leg if I had to run out of the place in an emergency.

Uncle Chester arrived in the evening to help with part three of the arts and crafts patch:  making stepping stones.  Both Inmates declined the invitation to participate, so Chester and I set up the supplies in my enclosed porch and made them ourselves under the breeze of the ceiling fan.  I'm in a hippie mood in preparation for tomorrow (and from watching Taking Woodstock last night and making tie-dye shirts), so I did my stone with the flower shaped mold, using pieces of broken dishes for mosaic petals, and carving "peace, man" in the center.  (I wanted it to say "we must be in heaven, man", but there wasn't enough room.)  To please Foghorn, Chester attempted a sea scene, complete with mermaid on the right.  (No, really, that's supposed to be a mermaid.)  When The Professor was asked what he thought the scene was he said, "Museum Center?"

Last on the list was playing an assortment of card games for our Game Day patch.  The Professor politely said he'd rather not, if it was all the same to me, thank you very much.  Foghorn initially said she wanted to play, but then decided to set up a library in my living room instead, harassing people to take out a book (and then trying to charge them $2 when they returned the book the mandatory 10 minutes later).  They weren't going to cheat me out of my patch, so I got my laptop and shoved in my Hoyle Card Games disc.  I played black Jack and poker and solitaire and bridge against computerized players.  You haven't lived until you've had an alien as your bridge partner...especially if his name is Roswell.

For more ideas for things to do in Cincinnati (and things to do with kids in Cincinnati), please check out:

** Things to Do in Cincinnati

You might also be interested in:

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 3
Camp Gonnawanna - Day 4

Camp Gonnawanna - Day 5