Roadside America: Marietta, Ohio

Marietta, Ohio, is your quintessential small town. With a population that wavers around 15,000 and a little liberal arts college, Marietta College, nested within the downtown perimeters, Marietta is a quiet escape, especially for those spending time in the relatively larger nearby cities of Columbus, Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

As the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory, history often guides the sightseeing in Marietta. Established in 1788, reflections on Marietta made by famous historical figures are readily recited by schoolteachers. President George Washington remarked on the beauty he had seen in this area in 1788 when he said, “No colony in America was ever settled under such favorable auspices as that which has just commenced at the Muskingum … If I was a young man, just preparing to begin the world, or if advanced in life and had a family to make provision for, I know of no country where I should rather fix my habitation …” Benjamin Franklin acknowledged Marietta’s beauty a year earlier though and said, “I have never seen a grander river in all my life.” But Marietta’s historical intrigues extend beyond the settling of the area for the Northwest Territory.The Native Americans, primarily Shawnee, were settled in the region of Marietta prior to 1788. The large, still-standing burial mound, which is the oldest west of the Appalachians, is erected in the middle of Mound Cemetery. Many Revolutionary Soldiers, including Rufus Putnam, are buried within the cemetery. Mound Cemetery is now a must-see attraction when visiting Marietta, but the town’s attractions aren’t limited to the history books.

Marietta was built at the confluence of two rivers, the Ohio and the Muskingum. The town is nestled into the Appalachians and so if Ohio makes you think of flat cornfields as far as the eye can see, you’re not thinking of Marietta. Just across the river is West Virginia and like West Virginia, Marietta is marked by the dramatic slopes of the hills. Because of the rivers and the low mountains, Marietta is a great destination for outdoors enthusiasts. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or water-skiing, it’s nice to be outside in Marietta. But the town is also recommended for those who are drawn to antiques and haunted tours. There are a few good restaurants and bars in town and a strong arts community that keeps the town interesting with concerts and art walks, among other activities.

If you manage to make it to Marietta, here are some recommendations from a person who grew up there (me).

The Lafayette Hotel
The Brewery
The Adelphia Music Hall
Rinks Flea Market
Downtown Shopping
Sternwheel Festival

[flickr image via gb_packards]

Tasty trail food and thoughts on trail food

Enertia Trail Foods
isn’t like most things that come out of my hometown. Not a lot of things come from where I come from. Marietta, Ohio is a town tucked away alongside the border of West Virginia. Downtown is centered around a convergence of the Ohio River and Muskingum River. Because of this, Marietta is a bona fide river town. Boats meander casually up and down the waters on weekends and the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival draws in thousands of visitors each year. And that makes a big economical and cultural impact on a small town like Marietta. According to the 2010 census, 14,085 people call Marietta home. I still do. But for all of the reasons I look fondly upon my hometown, booming, promising business isn’t usually at the top of the list. There are businesses in Marietta–there are some great ones. But not many. So when an old high school friend and fellow vagrant let me know that he is now working for a trail foods company based out of Marietta, he immediately had me interested.Familiar with my roughing-it-much-of-the-time travel style, he asked if I wanted to try the stuff. And of course I did want to try it. But I was, admittedly, half expecting plastic baggies filled with nuts and dried fruit, sealed shut with a bread tie. I would have loved that too, but what showed up at my front door was definitely trail food; not trail mix.

He sent me:

  • New River Granola with Milk
  • Veggie Pizza Pasta
  • Pinnacle Pasta
  • El Captain 3 Bean Chili
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding
  • Grand Canyon Cheesecake

“… and I was all like, whaaaaaa? I can take this kind of stuff into the woods with me? On the road with me? How come I didn’t know about this stuff back when I was spending the night in Wal-Mart parking lots and graciously accepting free hot water from gas stations for my OATMEAL PACKETS???…”

The answer is, it doesn’t matter. I couldn’t have afforded it back then anyway. Not that it is exorbitantly expensive (most of them cost $4-$5), but I couldn’t have afforded it back then. But these days? I’d be hard-pressed to not splurge for the sake of having something other than peanut butter and bread while out in the wilderness. And by splurge, I mean, at least have some of this stuff packed away for the extra tough days. I’ve done just fine on peanut butter for a few days at a time, mind you, but after a few days, I find that I lose focus and start dreaming about things like… macaroni and cheese.

As it turns out, Enertia Trail Foods has now teamed up with Coleman and their packets of food are becoming increasingly popular and therefore available. And I know why: they’re actually really good. I’m not just getting behind them because they’re based in my hometown. I know about them because they’re based in my hometown. But, with that said, if you visited my hometown, you’d be impressed that a company with products this tasty is coming out of a town so small. It just doesn’t usually work that way. But it’s so very nice when it does.

In addition to Enertia’s curious home base, Enertia has a another attention-grabbing quality: ingredients. Whole wheat couscous, whole wheat bulgur, organic maple granules, sunflower seeds, organic rolled oats, organic pumpkin seeds, West Virginia honey, toasted almonds, organic peanut butter, ginger, fresh ground basil leaves… there’s some good stuff in these packets.

But here are some questions I leave you with:

How much does trail food like this actually enhance the overall experience? Do you find that varying your food like this provides more mental clarity, better morale, stronger determination, or an increase in satisfaction throughout and after the trip regarding the adventure? Since trail food isn’t usually cheap, at least not compared to it’s trail-friendly competitors (peanut butter, bread, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, etc.), how worth it is trail food like this for you? Are you getting more bang for your buck? Alternatively, do you find that you focus and perform better without the distraction of varying food options?

Blogger Elizabeth Seward

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Elizabeth Seward.

Where was your photo taken: Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I was lounging at the Los Suenos Resort there (on the Pacific side of the country) for a few days. This photo captured me mid-thought, writing alongside the ocean. It should be noted, however, that I might have just been gazing off at a Scarlet Macaw.

Where do you live now: I’m a newbie to Austin, TX. I recently relocated from New York City. Fed up with the things in NYC that one easily becomes fed up with after nearly a decade of residence, I decided to learn a thing or two firsthand about this much lauded southern city. People told me Austin was great for music, the outdoors, nightlife, food, and weather, and those people were right. While I’m still navigating my way around, say, having a house and a yard (with a pecan tree out back), the transition into Austin has been smooth… and warm.

Scariest airline flown: I don’t routinely get jittery on planes. I prefer to anxiously deprive myself of sleep the night before, powerlessly succumb to deep sleep mid-air, and let the landing jar me awake. But a recent viewing of a “World’s Most Extreme Airports (!!!)” kind of show clued me in on the fact that I’d flown into, apparently, two of the most EXTREME airports out there: Saint Martin/Sint Maarten and Vail, Colorado. And yeah, when I think back to those flights, I’m pretty sure I was wide awake well before landing.

Favorite city/country/place: Anything not overrun by kitschy tourist attractions probably appeals to me. I don’t have any sort of rain forest vs. mountains vs. desert vs. city preference, but I did go somewhere this past summer that was remote and took my breath away: The Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. This sliver of land farther north than the city of Quebec juts deep into Lake Superior. In the summertime, daylight sticks around until 10pm (or after), the weather is warm but not too hot, and the lake is, I kid you not, glistening.Most remote corner of the globe visited: I once took a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica and from there I caught another little plane (only 6 of us, including the pilot, fit on board) to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica (about 4-5 hours by car south of San Jose). I then took a boat across Golfo Dulce, a body of water teeming with dolphins and brightly-colored wildlife, to an eco-resort called Playa Nicuesa. Playa Nicuesa can’t be reached by car because it’s in the middle of a more or less untouched and protected rain forest–no roads even go there. The open-aired resort serves delicious local and seasonal food. And the best part? There’s no TV, Internet, or cell phone use this deep into the rain forest, so you’re alone with nature, whether you like it or not.

Favorite guidebook series: The only travel guidebooks I own are the ones I find in thrift stores (or the ones my mother finds for me in thrift stores) and among those, it’s not easy to pick a favorite. The photos are usually as inspiring as the information is outdated. I enjoy meandering through places using my own kind of guide: some combination of tips gathered from cutting edge travel sites, friends’ Facebook feeds, and recommendations made by locals.

How did you get started in travel writing: I got into travel writing by way of an industry that encourages travel: music. While on tour, I found myself with a lot of free time between arriving at a city and performing in the evening. Reflexively, I began documenting my travels (venues, restaurants, vintage stores, good trails, off-the-beaten-path stuff, etc.)in my journal. My fascination with exploring became more public when I started a website,, to help me keep an organized database of my favorite places (and eventually the favorite places of other writers, many of them also touring). The launch of the website simultaneously acted as the launch of my travel writing career and now I often find myself in a reversed situation from where I started–trying to squeeze shows into my free time when I’m traveling.

The ideal vacation is: A vacation that gives me freedom from the stresses back home. I travel all of the time for work, be it writing or music, and people will get mushy about my travels (“Oh my gosh! I wish I could just take off work and travel all of the time!”) without considering the fact that I’m actually still working when I’m traveling. I’m almost always still plugged in, still dealing with email, and still seeing news headlines in my peripheral vision. My ideal vacation is one that allows me to actually check out, detach, and detox while my inbox overflows.

Type of traveler–vagabond, luxury, camper, package, adventurer, etc.: I’ve had my favorite travel experiences while living in a van and driving across the USA on tour, washing my hair in McDonald’s bathrooms no less. Inevitably, vagabond and adventurer has to be my reply… but I openly embrace what every style of travel has to offer. READ: You won’t find me snubbing my nose at a pampering massage treatment, freshly caught lobster, or plush hotel beds.

On your next trip, you are forced to schedule a 24-hour layover. You have $200 to spend. Where do you spend the layover and why:

Less than 24 hours to have some fun? Bring it.

$20 cab into town from airport, it’s evening.
$30 bed reserved at likely awesome spot with probably good people, courtesy of Air B&B.
$19 round of drinks for me and my hosts at their favorite dive bar in town.
$1 two songs on the juke box.
$20 admission into the circusy loft party the guy at the dive bar tells me about, the one where people are fire dancing and hula-hooping and the live band is inviting me, and everyone else, to come on stage figure out a way to be percussive.
$15 late night/early morning breakfast at the best 24-hour diner in town with new friends from the loft party. Maybe my Air B&B hosts are with me, too.
$3 coffee I grab at the first coffee shop I see that looks good, and by good, I mean a coffee shop that looks like it’s been around the block a few times.
$7 earrings I talk myself into buying from the nice girl outside of the coffee shop.
$2 tip for the talented musicians playing on the sidewalk.
$3 local newspaper to read while basking in the park’s sunshine.
$15 ticket to borderline-pretentious-but-maybe-still-cool early afternoon cultural event.
$5 post-event obligatory purchase (roasted peanuts? bookmark drawn by a child in need?).
$20 lunch at some tasty spot, a place with a low tourists-locals ratio.
$20 thrift store purchases.
$20 cab back to airport.

Done. Why? Because 24-hour layovers suck. Getting an authentic feel for a town is way better than getting an authentic feel for an airport.

Photo Credit: Ben Britz