In Ohio's Sticks with Steinbeck

Friday, 08 October 2010 12:23 AM Written by 

SOUTH BEND, IND. -- 90 miles from Chicago

 All is quiet now.

But Notre Dame is playing Pitt here on Saturday, so this town will be jumping by tomorrow afternoon. Haven't met any Pittsburghers yet, but it's only a matter of time.

The Jameson Inn, where Hotwire.com got me a room for about $62 instead of the usual $90-plus, is a mile from ND's campus.  On Friday and Saturday night, because of the football weekend, this room will go for $299.

Getting here was a breeze. Traffic was light to nonexistent on I-90 after I escaped Cleveland.

When I dropped down to US 20, the route Steinbeck followed across the top of Ohio, I found a rural road that has not changed much in 50 years. US 20 runs through Indiana-flat farmland past stout old farmhouses, picturesque barns and little else until it cuts through towns like Bellevue, Clyde, Fremont and Perrysburg.

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US 20 is their main street. Smaller towns have a water tower, a statue of a Union soldier in the town cemetery and maybe a Subway or a Dollar Store. 

Clyde has a Whirlpool plant. Bellevue has a newspaper.

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In Maumee, a suburb of Toledo, I had my car's oil changed at a place on US 20 that we can be certain was not there when Steinbeck drove by -- the Rouen Toyota dealership. 

Once you are beyond Toledo, northwestern Ohio continues its perfect impression of rural Indiana. On US 20 there are no motels. No stores. Just farms and a few houses.

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The only sign that humans lived on US 20 were the dust clouds farmers made as they shaved the dry yellow corn stalks down to the dirt.

 

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