America is a beautiful country.
I had the luxury of contemplating these words a couple of years ago as my husband and I drove from Florida to Ohio. We were on our way to a football game, Rutgers versus Ohio State. We love college football, and on our bucket list is to attend a Rutgers football game in the iconic college football stadiums in the U.S.
The first night we stayed over in Dobson, North Carolina. Did you know there is a lovely winery in Dobson? After a long day on the road, we had a scrumptious dinner at the Harvest Grill, the on site restaurant at the Shelton Winery, and enjoyed their award-winning wine. The Hampton Inn on the property was pristine. The next morning we decided to eat at the Dobson diner across the street. I had the breakfast special — cured local ham, two eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy. A man at the next table laughed as it was placed in front of me. “You gonna eat all that?” he teased. I struck up a conversation with a local angler, and we were invited to dinner later on that day to enjoy the fish he had caught early that morning. Dobson certainly shows old-fashioned small town hospitality to tourists.
We continued north, and crossed over to Virginia. Virginia is a gorgeous state. The topography began to change as 77 cut through farmland and small towns. Orange dots began to appear in the groomed fields that rolled away from the fast moving traffic. Could it be — a pumpkin patch? Yes, as far as the eye could see tiny orange dots clustered here and there. The highway was treacherous, and unfortunately I was unable to convince my husband to pull over so I could get a photo.
Through the East River Mountain Tunnel we went and found ourselves surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were lucky to catch the end of the change of seasons. The colors of fall are something I miss. West Virginia is another beautiful state, and for the first time I saw huge piles of black coal freshly unearthed from the mines.
We entered Ohio, and began to get excited about the impending football game. We knew it would be a tough one, but we love college towns and Columbus did not disappoint. Our friends gave us the complete tour — we ate in a famous college pub, and danced to the music at an outside party. Luckily, Rutgers and Ohio State share red as a school color, so we were somewhat incognito. We embraced tradition and waited outside the stadium for the band to enter. The Ohio State Band is a big deal, as well it should be. I have never witnessed a better halftime show. Wow. They marched in and out of complicated formations, at one point creating a rock musician who moved his lead guitar up and down to the music of the Who.
The football game itself was… sad. For Rutgers fans, that is. Ohio State was bigger, faster, stronger, better. As they ran the score up I began to get angry. One of our friends tried to explain why Urban Myer did this, while the other slid tiny gloating remarks in whenever he could. I draped my plastic poncho over my body, willingly immobile in my own biosphere, and allowed the freezing cold drizzle to run down my sheathed body. I said to my husband, “I have never seen such a great college football team in person.” (They did go on to win the national championship) Finally I’d had enough, and we walked, shivering, to the car to head off to a famous German restaurant, Schmidt’s, in the German village.
It was Octoberfest! Everyone had bad hair and the wait for dinner was almost two hours, but we somehow secured a spot at the bar. I decided to have a little fun and tease the friend who had enjoyed our football misery at the hands of the Buckeyes. I began to introduce him to everyone at the bar as an eminent proctologist from Tampa. I remember more of the beer than the food, but I would highly recommend both.
Our trip home was less eventful, and we listened to a book on tape. The Horseshoe is now checked off the bucket list. Maybe the Big House is next.
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