The sides of barns from Oklahoma to Illinois demand you visit her. Billboards beckon you for miles at a time along Route 66 and Interstates 55, 44 and 70 to explore her insides. She’s one of the first landmarks in the world to advertise her name on the backs of cars courtesy of the bumper sticker. Mermec Caverns is no mere cave—it’s origins as a shelter harken back to the Osage tribes who used her to stay warm during harsh winters or keep dry during severe storms well before Europeans came to steal, rape and rob the lands.
The ballroom of Meramec Caverns. Don’t let the neon and the tiled floor fool you—the tour is an impressive spectacle of the power of nature.
When French explorer Philipp Renault came to the New World, the Osage told him about a cave whose walls were lined with veins of gold. in typical colonial fashion, Renault when to the cave to claim his riches, only to find the gold veins were really saltpeter. So, O.K., it wasn’t gold, but saltpeter could just as easily be mined for it’s high demand in the use of creating gunpowder. In 1720 Renault named the place Saltpeter Cave and for over a century Saltpeter Cave was used to produce gunpowder.
Whenever I tell people from my home state of Connecticut, or my adopted state of Pennsylvania, that I love Ohio, I get the same response: “WHY?” The “whys” either come from some preconceived notions about Ohio that I can not connect to, or they are the blanket smart-alek response you get out of someone who thinks New York City, L.A. or San Fran are The Metropolises of the U.S., and therefore are the only places worthy of inspection when traveling in the U.S. Almost every city in America, in some way, strives to be their state’s defining -opolis of culture or society, but the truth is, with so many conglomo corporations trodding over the mom-and-pop places, Times Square, Chicago’s Michigan Ave., San Fran’s Market Street and L.A.’s Rodeo Drive are pretty interchangeable with any upscale mall.
The Tippy Top of Terminal Tower
Enter Cleveland, yet another notch on the walls of “Gateways to the West!” I entered Cleveland at night, 9:15 to be exact, and checked in to the Doubletree Suites downtown. The reception area is full of lesbian and gay softball players visiting the city for some sort of conference or event. Outside, on the streets of Cleveland, there is the sound police sirens bouncing off of buildings and a light breeze coming off the shore of Lake Erie. I drop my bags off in my room and venture towards what I think is the heart of downtown—an area just east of the Terminal Tower.