Summer is really a fun time. Kids are enjoying the long summer break. Parents are taking the vacations with families somewhere.
As an early retiree, I don’t want to be left behind. As a result, I did something I had dreamed about for years: went back to Ashland, Ohio to see the hot air balloons.
Ashland is my hometown. Every year around the 4th of July, there is a 3-day hot balloon festival. It is a big event. In my friend’s words: “The festival is like the Niagara Falls in Ashland”.
But, it’s weather permitting. If it’s raining or too windy, the event has to be cancelled. One year, I went back. The rain didn’t stop, though I prayed so hard. And the balloons didn’t show up.
This year, about two weeks ahead, I kept checking the weather forecast daily. One day left, it looked it’s a go. I got fired up.
In the past 15 years, I went there once a while, but it was always a one-day trip. From central Ohio to Ashland is about 80 miles, driving doesn’t take too long.
This time, I decided to stay there overnight. In this way, I would have enough time to see friends, revisit the familiar streets, walk over the lovely college campus, and feel about the town. Plus I got more time to see the balloons.
How do you feel when driving or flying back home? I felt so excited. Just packed my stuff quickly, and loaded the lawn chair to the trunk of my car. Let’s go.
The two sides of the freeway 71 looked gorgeous. Trees, endless corn field dotted with the beautiful houses. Some cows were roaming around. Getting out of the city once a while is great.
The green plains in the mid west may seem too plain to some folks. But, they are very pretty in my eyes. I may be biased, as Ohio is my home. Who doesn’t like their home?
Taking the exit from the freeway, the familiar signature sign of Ashland popped up: “Ashland, world headquarters of nice people”. I grinned proudly, and said: “Hello Ashland, I’m back.”
For any place, it’s not about the place itself. I feel it’s about the deep connections, experience, and emotions people had with that place. That’s the case for me with Ashland. I’m attached to it emotionally.
I stopped at the McDonald for lunch, the place I used to walk over for ice cream sometimes.
Columbus (the place I live now) has a lot of McDonalds, for sure. But none of them is connected to me that deeply as the one in Ashland. It may sound absurd to you. It just feels good to sit there, and go back to the memory lane.
Sitting in the college library, I grabbed a book, and read some pages. It’s a good book, “The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search” by Sharon Leder.
The desks and chairs looked so familiar. If I had time, I would love to stay there for a whole afternoon. Even taking a nap there would be great.
As a graduate student 20+ years ago, I used to spend a lot of time in that library. Sometimes I was studying there. Sometimes I was working as an IT tech fixing the library computers.
Before leaving the library, I stopped at the front desk, and chatted a little bit with the girl who was working there.
Then I visited two friends. We were so happy to see each other, did a lot of catch up, and shared our stories and laughter. It was a wonderful time. Thank you, my friends.
Now it’s the balloon time! I went to the Freer Field. By the way, what a lovely name for that huge, open and green field. I was sitting in the lawn chair, enjoying the balloons, and the live music. To me, balloons mean freedom, youth, and beauty.
Many people (except me) knew the songs the band presented. At least I knew the last song of the show: John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. I joined the crowd and band to sing, and have fun.
Quite a lot of food vendors were there. The barbecue smell was in the air. Kids were running around smiling, holding the small balloons in their hands. The small balloons were released to the air competing with the big ones.
Overall, it has been a very relaxing and fun trip. Sometimes it doesn’t have to break the bank to have fun.
One day, if you visit Ohio, don’t hesitate to stop at Ashland to experience the local people’s hospitality, and help stimulate the local economy. Thank you.
What’s your plan for this summer? Barbecue, fireworks, the 4th of July parade? Or hiking, biking? Air show? I hope everyone has a lot of fun this summer.