Steubenville, Ohio – I can smell the east coast from here!


Steubenville, Ohio, population 19,000, is separated from Pennsylvania by a few miles and a sliver of the top of West Virginia. It has a distinctly more east-coast feel than all the other places I've visited.

The population has staggered a bit in recent years with the slowing of the steel industry. But the town has a pretty cool feel. It's hilly and green, with some 'birth-of-America' era history.

The fort you see below was originally built in 1776.


This bell replicates one from 1873.


A bridge in the distance is being retrofitted to allow cars again.


And despite whispers of past political corruption here, Justice hangs her scales above it all.


There are 25 murals painted on walls downtown, including this one in a courtyard park that once served as a cultural center for Steubenville's black community.


A quieter network of trails

There is a network of trails that Amish and others use to get between towns without having to hit the highway. Here is a paved trail that passes the Wal-Mart in Millersburg.


And this hand-built covered bridge spans the Mohican River near Killbuck.


It's called the Bridge of Dreams because it was built against odds by members of the community.


The Amish and the English – worlds apart, living side by side


Amish will not pose for photos (it's considered vanity), and though they frequent the same stores and parks and festivals as non-Amish do, they keep pretty much to themselves.

refer to non-Amish as "the English," actually.

Near the town of Killbuck, a furniture craftsman
named Arthur, who has four young children, came up to me and asked if I needed help with anything. Then he got a barrage of
questions! He was very matter-of-fact and open to talking with me, though.

Arthur says Amish are generally born into the lifestyle, and it is just
that — a chosen way of life. Their refusal to use electricity is a way
to prevent things from getting too hectic, he says.

Life is simpler, yes, but not easy. Arthur advertises his business in
print publications and makes all his contacts by land line. There is no
air conditioning in his work shop. He uses an air pump for plumbing.

His dad makes buggies, and he drives one like all the other Amish do.
But if he needs to go a long distance, he'll pay for a car and driver.

"I still have to make a living, so it is still the rat race," he says.
"But I know when I go home, there won't be any calls. No one would
expect to get a hold of me. I get to leave it behind."

I think I can relate a bit with my present life – no
electricity most of the time and there have been stretches of days with out
phone or Internet.

Life is tougher, but I value the clarity that comes from
simplicity. In fact, I associate the simplicity with freedom.

And I will say, the Amish are pretty non-judgmental toward a
blue-haired girl. In a store full of Ohioans casting suspicious glances, it was an Amish woman
in a plain blue smock and a bonnet who looked me directly in the eyes and smiled warmly. She's probably used to
being stared at, too.

The snapshots below are of an Amish boy herding his family's cows across a rural road near Holmesville, and, in town, two Amish girls watching some dunk tank action at a local festival, along with their "English" peers.


Dunk tank

What do you do when you see this sign?


Holmes County, Ohio and surrounds has more Amish residents than anywhere else. It's definitely one of the few places you'll see this sign, warning of horse-drawn carriages on a modern two-lane highway, speed limit 55.

And they do appear out of the blue – making me feel less guilty for holding up traffic on curves.
But those buggies can move! And they're pretty smart looking. Many have head lights for night.

Who needs Mr. Rogers? Now, I bring you an ice cream story :)


Lebanese immigrant Joseph Dager started Velvet Ice Creams in 1914, after immigrating to the United States and working for a short while in a steel mill in Cleveland. Four generations later, the Utica-based business is still in the family.

IMG_3477 Great granddaughter André Dager is co-vice president along with her two sisters. Her father runs things.

"Ice cream sales are good but they (consumers) are buying down a little bit because of the economy," she tells me. "But it is a comfort food and as a food it is recession proof."

André says the part of the business that is growing fastest is co-labeling, or producing ice cream for other companies, using requested ingredients and labeling.

Each year, 160,000 curious visitors make their way to the factory to visit the cafe and take a brief tour.

"In today's day and age that's very interesting to people. They like to know all the nitty gritty," says André. The family has been offering the tours for 15 years.

Inside the factory (top), 12 workers help produce an annual six million gallons of ice cream. Their daylong work environment is just above freezing. The freezer room, which workers go in and out of, also, is negative 110 degrees! The company claims its ability to freeze its product so quickly after mixing helps create its creamy formula.

There have been more than 500 different flavors since 1914, with 60 in circulation at any given time.
Buckeye Classic, a peanut butter and fudge flavor is the company's best seller.

My favorite part of the tour were the displays of ice cream containers from different years. Joseph Dager used to peddle ice cream on his bicycle in the tiny Chinese-takeout shaped container you see from 1920.