Category Archives: Doug & Polly Smith’s Route 62: Tales from the Other Road

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Day Off: Lexington, KY

We have a cousin in Lexington and another in Cincinnati, sisters. It had been 10 years since we saw Cincinnati Lynn and at least 25 since we’d laid eyes on Lexington Kathy. Lynn drove down to join us; Kathy couldn’t decide which Lexington restaurant was best for dinner.

Tentatively, as the supposed uninformed visitors, we asked “Would you mind driving the eight miles out to Versailles and we’ll eat at Kessler’s?” We had the same waitress as the night before; dinner delighted everyone.

Then Doug suggested: “How about we take our desserts and go finish this off on the porch at Rose Hill?” It was an October twilight, temperature about 70. Traffic trickled by on Route 62 and the breeze tickled leaves from their Trees. The porch was decorated for Halloween. Ghosts of holidays past were evoked as wicker chairs crackled and the swing sighed. One guy, three gals, four desserts, a pitcher of lemon ice water and an evaporating bottle of Maker’s Mark. Twenty-five years passed by in two hours, and two hours passed by in a wink.

A stranger stepped onto the porch and this is what he said: “You folks look like you’re having a real good time.”

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Day Four: Washington Court House, Ohio to Versailles, Kentucky

Ohio once had three communities called Washington; this county seat had added “Court House” to distinguish itself from the rest.

It is now distinguished by several murals by an artist named Harry Ayshen. Two downtown illustrated a fire hall and a railroad station. Another to the south, billboard-sized, had a countryside scene so detailed and authentic that it seemed almost like a mirror or window, only its golden hues setting it apart from the land it depicted on this gray day.

Route 62 southward presents a smooth, broad two-lane. At New Market, a roadside house appeared to have been abandoned in good condition and then overgrown with vines. At Macon, we spotted an immaculate tobacco barn; thereafter, it seemed increasingly difficult to find no-smoking sections in restaurants.

We reached Ripley a bit before Sunday noon. A riverside saloon, three yellow stories with stained-glass windows, overlooked two barge lash-ups sliding down the Ohio. The door was open; a flier heralded a “lingerie show” at another saloon, two nights earlier.

“C’mon in,” bid a fellow holding court at a round oaken table.

“We were just looking for maybe a coffee until the antique barns opened,” we said.

“Got some instant,” he said. “No charge. We’re not open yet.

Can’t open ’til noon.” A few people sipping eye-openers around the bar seemed to contradict That prohibition.

“You’re not with the liquor board, are you?” he asked.

We ordered a bourbon, tipping the waitress its estimated price.

He brought a three-pound photo album documenting how he’d retrieved This place from ruin. It was called Snapper’s now.

“I’ve got another place a ways out of town,” he said. Doug recognized the name from the flier. “How’d the lingerie show go?” he asked.

For one moment, Mr. Jerry Jones, Host of Ripley, lost his composure. “How’d you hear about that?” he said quickly.

Doug pointed toward the sign.

“You’re very observant,” he said. “You sure you’re not with the liquor board?”

“I promise,” said Doug. “Anyway, it’s past noon.”

“Call again,” said the Host of Ripley. “Can’t figure out why you want to go to El Paso, though. I been there.”

Crossing the Ohio on a shaky two-lane bridge from Aberdeen, Ohio, we beheld the new paddlewheeler Mississippi Queen, tied up in downtown Maysville, KY, passengers debarking for a tour.

Maysville and Rosemary Clooney hold each other in equal esteem. She was born here and many of her family still live along the river. A showpiace carries her name, suitably ornate in the style of 1930s movie palaces, across the street from a fully restored Victorian three-story.

We pressed into Kentucky on the narrow roadways where Route 62 was born, a mere pencil line on the map, often with the speed limit 45. We wove around tobacco barns and Mail Pouch ads through the hamlet of Oddville (no post office) and on to Cynthiana, where a manufacturing plant startled us with first with its size and then with its product: Toyotas.

From here, Route 62 tracks due southwest, as if at odd with Lexington. Canopies of trees and guardrails of horse fences convey it along “Horse Alley” into the photogenic Midway, where a rail line splits the center of town, rows of shops on either side.

We paused at a restaurant recommended by AAA. It had nothing to our taste. Blindly, we turned to a little Versailles storefront, Kessler’s 1891.

It was entertaining an art exhibit this evening, but gladly satisfied our modest needs at dinner time. Our puny tab could not have made it worth their while- As we settled into slumber in the luxury of Julie’s Room at the 1823 Rose Hill Inn, we felt considerably in Kessler’s debt.

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Day Three: Canton to Washington Court House, Ohio

Overnight rain had diminished to drizzle and fog seeped up from the ground. We detoured through the haunting village of Canal Fulton, then zeroed in on Mrs. Voder’s Kitchen in Mount Hope. The inclement weather enhanced the atmosphere, the farms gleaming whitely against the leaden sky as the Amish gathered for the weekly horse auction.

Mrs. Voder’s rack was brim-full of Amish straw hats. Doug added his Buffalo Bisons baseball cap, which stood out like a yarmulke in Vatican City.

Mrs. Voder’s staff struggled mightily to replenish the buffet against the horde of hungry horse traders. There was bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs, muffins and the peculiar dish called scrapple (contents unknown, probably just as well). We ate our fill and then some, still a paltry portion compared to the consumption of our fellow diners in dungarees.

Then we left Mount Hope to convene with the Amish of Wilmot and Berlin. Within minutes, we realized our folly. Continue reading Day Three: Canton to Washington Court House, Ohio

Doug & Polly Smith, Photographed in Grand Island, NY, 2000.

Route 62: Tales from the Other Road

It only took us 17 years, but here’s Doug & Polly Smith’s epic road-trip account of their travels down Route 62. This is the unedited version, as it is the only version we seem to have on hand in digital format. Some of the text may still contain typos left over from the OCR software we used at the time. Doug was only just beginning to enter the digital age in 1999. 

By Doug and Polly Smith


If the setting sun shone across Route 66, its shadow would he Route 62. A mystery even to those who live at its curb. Route 62 emerges from the mists of Niagara Falls to meander 2,315 miles (more or less) through 11 states to the Rio Grande at F-l Paso.

It has Northeast smokestacks, Amish farms, tobacco barns, race horses, rugged crosses, cotton fields, oil rigs, cattle drives, mountain passes and the Border Patrol. It takes two bridges to throw it across the Mississippi River.

A thoroughfare for underdogs, it has lured us all our lives.

Polly Smith, conscience of this account, has given it a name: “The Other Road-” With all deference to “The Mother Road,” anything Route 66 can do. The Other Road can do better. This is its story, and ours ..

We aimed to drive it when we were 62 but as time passed, we were paving The Other Road only with good intentions. Spurred to action by a minor health matter, we planned to transit 62 in the fall of ’99.

We checked football schedules, so as to avoid traffic at Ohio State, Kentucky and Arkansas Universities along the route. We asked a cloister of nuns (we are not Catholic) to pray that those we would meet would be glad we had come. Then, on a wet October morn, packed with clothes for three seasons, a carton of tour-guides and a medicinal bottle of Marker’s Mark bourbon, we were off. We had made just one reservation, at the Rose Hill Inn in Versailles, KY. Coming back would have to take care of itself.

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Day Two: Hubbard to Canton, Ohio

When Doug lived in Youngstown, Ohio, its steel mills glared the smoky red of eternal sunset. World War II troop trains rushed through and Dad had charge of the tracks they trod. To eight-year-old eyes, it seemed like the center of the world.

Now, Youngstown’s twilight was economic. Nonetheless, it would be fun to find the old homestead, 440 Fairgreen. We drive out Belmont Avenue, looking for Fairgreen; after 10 minutes we pass beyond the city limits.

An amused tire clerk with a big, detailed map says that in ‘ Youngstown, street signs vanish, never to be replaced. Continue reading Day Two: Hubbard to Canton, Ohio

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Day One: Niagara Falls to Hubbard, Ohio

A postal clerk named Luis sounded our first “Godspeed,” within sight of the sign that says “Route 62 North Ends.” He stamped the local postmark on “We’re off!” cards to our family and we pledged him a line from El Paso. He was glad we had come.

Route 62 South, begins unannounced, an omen. We started from beneath a 20-foot plastic swirly cone called “Twist of the The MIST” frozen custard stand. For the first 150 miles, we will try to see familiar territory through unfamiliar eyes.

Historic icons abut Route 62 South — the former Bell Aircraft plant, blueprint of victory in World War II, and the organists’ origin, the Wurlitzer plant, now an architecture of lost chords. Continue reading Day One: Niagara Falls to Hubbard, Ohio