I was born in Cleveland, a few blocks from U.S. 42. I was also born to wander, and I’ve done a lot of that on U.S. 42. Which is what I did Sunday morning on my way home from a family reunion in Medina County. I followed it into Ashland County in lieu of taking Interstate 71.
U.S. 42 starts – or ends, depending on your point of view – in downtown Cleveland. It follows West 25th Street, part of my early stomping grounds. That’s another story for another time.
It’s a rural two-lane for the most part, passing through Medina and West Salem in Medina and Wayne counties respectively.
Medina was once a sleepy rural crossroads. It’s now a bedroom community. In the latter half of the 20th century, it was “resettled” by white-flighters, Caucasians from Cleveland looking to escape encroaching racial integration.
I continued south into Ashland County. As I recall, U.S. 42 originally followed Cleveland and Claremont avenues through town. The U.S. 42 signs are no longer there. Apparently the U.S. 42 bypass, built to keep truck traffic out of town, now serves as the officially designated route.
Building the bypass also kept other traffic out of town, contributing to city’s sense of being suspended in another time. That, too, is another story for another time.
When traveling between Cleveland and Columbus — I often took state routes so I could stop along the way and get lost in Mohican Memorial State Forest. The road going through the forest, Ohio Department of Natural Resources 51, offered plenty of diversions. Sometimes I’d stop at a pull-off, grab my sleeping bag and head out into the woods to nap. But mostly I’d spend the day exploring.
It’s a constant battle to keep the state from catering to commercial interests bent on turning this wonderful old forest into a tree farm or worse. My friend, Annette McCormick, has led the charge to defend the forest from excessive commercial logging. I salute her and others who have fought the good fight to keep Mohican from becoming the fragmented wasteland that some of Ohio’s other public forests have become. Enjoy it while you can.
The first time I crossed this bridge was in 1980. It was on a canoe trip shuttle. The bus driver stopped just shy of the bridge and announced that it was deemed unsafe and anyone who didn’t want to risk life and limb riding on the bus could walk across. We were all satiated from a delightful three-day canoe trip and probably would have been content to die then and there. No one got off the bus.
Thankfully, this bridge on SR 715 between Nellie and Walhonding, was spared when a new one was built. It’s a popular road with motorcyclists and other spurnpikers, who often stop and walk across the bridge to get a scenic view of the Walhonding River.
My Buddhist friends speak of walking meditaion. Wally Road is driving meditation.
The Ohio Department of Transportation once proposed making Wally Road a link between Interstate 77 and Interstate 71, promising to bring progress and prosperity to this scenic corridor along the Mohican River. Part of that proposal would have involved paving it.
Speaking at a public hearing on the proposal, a state official said, “Have you driven on that road? Why, it’s a dirt road!”
To which the mayor of Brinkhaven responded, “It’s that way for a reason.”
Postscript: Wally Road was later designated one of Ohio’s Scenic Byways. It holds the distinction of being the only State Scenic Byway that is not entirely paved.
Post-postscript: I’ve learned that Wally Road is to be paved next year. As my Buddhist friends would say, the only thing that’s permanent is impermanence.”