Fun time

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.

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12 Responses

  1. Hi Helen, For most of my adult life, I have lived about an hour and half drive from my home town. My Dad still lives in the house I grew up in. It’s a small town so their isn’t much to do. A visit always brings back so many memories. The lawns I mowed, the houses to where I delivered newspapers, the restaurant I worked at, the location of my Dad’s former business and where my friends lived. So my feelings are of memories. Mostly good ones. Although I couldn’t wait to leave town and go to college. The town remains a big and positive part of me. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, that’s cool you are living not that far from your home town. And your dad is still living in that house full of memories. I’m sure, lots of things in that town look special to you.

      The day I arrived at Ashland, I felt it’s cool the traffic was slow. The life there was more relaxing. On the other hand, if I keep living there for a while, my driving skills may get bad, as I get much less challenges.

  2. Joe says:

    Ashland sounds like a neat little town. So Americana. 🙂
    I’m making BBQ ribs for Independence day and Mrs. RB40 will make the side dishes. Then next week, we’re going on a road trip to CA to visit friends and family. We’ll take it a bit slower this time and stop at some roadside attractions. It should be fun. Summer is great so far.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, yeah, Ashland is cool. Your BBQ ribs always look so good, so are the dishes made by Mrs. RB40. You folks probably can see the fireworks in the downtown Portland on the 4th of July. Have a great time for the CA trip. Slow travel is nice, and more relaxing.

  3. Steve says:

    Hi Helen
    Ashland sounds like a fun town. The hot balloon festival looks amazing!
    Thanks for sharing

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Steve, thanks. Luckily the weather during the three days this year was great, and people were able to enjoy the balloons.

  4. GYM says:

    Lovely hot air balloon pictures. Sounds like you are traveling lots- to Taiwan and to Ashland! How wonderful!

    We are going camping this summer for two nights (baby’s first camping trip) and went crabbing today (though no crabs unfortunately) in a nice little town outside of Vancouver.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, yeah, I have been trying to get out for more fun lately. There are quite a lot to see even in Ohio. Summer is a great time.

      Cool, you did the crabbing again. Camping must be new experience for your baby. Happy camping!

  5. Caroline says:

    Sounds like you had a great time!
    Last week-end I went to a farmer’s market about half hour away and I had a great time, ate good food, met lots of people. It wasn’t expensive, it was close by and it was nice.
    Next week I am off to Playa Del Carmen with the kids:)

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, yeah, it was a good time in Ashland. Farmer’s Market sounds cool. Probably a lot of fresh produce. I used to visit a big farmer’s market in Cleveland. Every time I got lots of fruits and veggies. It was like a harvest time.

      Have a wonderful vacation in Mexico!

  6. Helen,

    I’ve passed that Ashland sign many times in my life. I live in Cleveland and went to Ohio State for undergrad 🙂 I’ve heard a lot of people from the area talk about how amazing the balloon festival is and one of these years I will have to attend and see for myself. Like you, I always get excited when I am driving back to the suburb of Cleveland I grew up in. Just today, we went to my mom’s house for dinner and I was pointing out to her where all my friends grew up and the places I used to always wanted to live when I was a child. It is always great going home! Thanks for the great article.

    Bert

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Bert, yeah, Ashland just sits in the middle between Cleveland and Columbus. I’m glad to hear, you know this tiny college town. I only lived in Ashland for one year, but feel it’s my hometown. In mid 1990s, when I was applying for the visa in the US embassy in Beijing, the staff was asking me: “Where is Ashland Ohio?” At that time, there was no Google map yet.

      It’s cool you just went back home, Cleveland. It must have a lot of memories, stories, dreams, and laughter. Only the people close to you know what you are talking about or referring to. Home, sweet home.

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