Takes a little longer for the change (which comes from East to West) to get to Ohio. our best leaf-peeping times are mid to late October. To remember mom, I go on a fall color ride in October at peak color and take a few pictures. She loved for me to take her after she could no longer drive. We made a day of it. I’d pick her up early then meander our way to the Hocking Hills area. We’d go usually on a Saturday to avoid rush hour traffic. We’d eat breakfast at McDonald’s (she loved the McGriddle sandwiches) and I made sure to brew two big thermos bottles full of black coffee for us on the road to refill our insulated travel cups.
We’d drive and look and comment. She’d remind me of stories from my youth and told me stories of her youth. I told her stories of the far-off lands I’d seen in my military career. How Bavaria in Germany looked a lot like Ohio during the fall colors. We’d eat lunch in a sit-down diner, then hit the road again, stopping as necessary as dictated by mom’s water pills. See the colors, stop at roadside rests and breather the crisp air. Refill the travel mugs and go on. We’d stop at an Amish restaurant for supper that had superb baked steak in gravy with home fried potatoes and German chocolate cake for dessert. Mom always got another baked steak diner to go and I put it in a warming chest that plugged into my rear electric outlet. More driving, more leaves, more color, seeing the buck deer with full crowns, seeing the geese and ducks fly south for the winter in squadron formations. I’d get her home after dark (later, it was to the nursing home). She’d then eat the second baked steak dinner as I had more coffee. I’d leave her and she’d go on to bed.
Autumn for me has always been the color of the trees. That’s what I hated about Vietnam and the Middle East. No bold change of the seasons, wet or dry, hot or very hot. No crisp days when apples still on the tree were as sweet as nectar. No gathering of hickory nuts or black walnuts or butternuts. No toasting of pumpkin seeds for snacks. No fresh apple or pear cider. The Amish restaurant is still in business and I still stop for a baked steak dinner in mom’s memory. I talk to her as I drive even though she’s not there. Been gone 14 years now. The Amish store bowed to using electric cash registers as the state got pissy over sales tax receipts. I miss the ring and cha-ching of the old mechanical registers.
One day it will be my last ride. Being over 70 that day is closing in on me but I’ll hang on as long as I can. I’m like Slade in Ghost Rider. One day I’ll have one last ride in me. I hope to make it a good one.