It's been a poor year for autumn colours in our neck of the woods and my annual drive with sister-in-law through Pennsylvania and all points south was unusually muted. But never mind, there's always something interesting to see. Like a pen full of turkeys, waiting, no doubt, to Head Off for the Holidays, as the old cartoon goes. It's known I have a soft spot for turkeys but releasing them was above my pay grade. And then there was this fellow...
I'd looked at the map (yes, proper old-fashioned maps are still an essential on road trips, as I'm about to prove) and spotted a place in Ohio called New Rumley. It rang a bell. Helpfully, the map also stated "General Custer Memorial". Of course! The man who led the fabled Seventh Cavalry into one of the US Army's most notorious military disasters, the 1876 Last Stand at Little Big Horn, was born in New Rumley. Now the General and I go back a long way, ever since I fell in love with Errol Flynn going down gallantly in They Died With Their Boots On. There was a time when I read every book about Custer I could lay my hands on and realised that he is a far more complex character than modern politically correct history would have us believe. Not all good by any means but not all bad either and he was brilliant in the Civil War. A pity he messed things up so spectacularly at the end and would be forever remembered as a loser. I also read his wife's books..
...she was no mean observer and a very good writer. All those accounts of accompanying her bloke on military campaigns and camping in a crinoline are a fascinating insight into a time that seems so distant now.
It was a dignified memorial, as befits a local boy, with views over the gently rolling countryside. The little village of New Rumley can't have changed much over the years.
Then on to another place that had captured my imagination. I first heard of Marietta, Ohio in a children's book. It's an old town by American standards, built on the Ohio River. We found a quaint hotel called the Lafayette, built to resemble one of the old paddle steamers. It even had uneven floors that made you slightly seasick though I'm not sure that was deliberate. I hoped it wouldn't explode, as wooden paddle steamers with the two big funnels were wont to do.
The view from the window through the requisite mosquito netting shows that the Ohio river isn't just for pretty leisure pursuits.
Though again the view the other way can't have changed much over history either.
The grand old Lafayette Hotel had plenty of historical touches.
You could dial up and get a potted history. And the foyer had a massive ship's wheel light-fitting on the ceiling.
All great fun and a refreshing contrast to the samey chain hotels that we usually end up in.
To be continued.