From Zoar to Xenia

The Zoar Hotel. Maybe there is a piano in there somewhere.

August 11, 2021

This morning, I am sitting in a public park near Centerville, OH with nobody around, basking in quiet reflection. It is great places to socially distance and catch up with you on yesterday’s travels and adventures and last night’s show at the Elks Stadium in Centerville. It was another perfect evening for outdoor drum corps. Deciding at the last minute to attend, I purchased a ticket on-line just hours before and found a lone seat up high and in the middle of the stands. I was once again perched at the 45-yard line amid the adoring drum corps fans, my peeps. Jenifer to my left was there with six other family members. In front of me was octogenarian Sharon, the matriarch of the family and a founding member of the group that brought drum corps to town back in the mid-1980’s. I was privileged the become part of the family for the night since the lone seat was available because one of their Clan could not make it. I not only had a great seat, but I was surrounded by love and family. To my right was a young student with his father. He started air-playing some of the snare parts, so I struck up a conversation with him. At 14, his plan is to join a winter drum line. I had guessed that he was at least 16 based-upon his maturity and height, and his comprehension of the programs and the activity. We agreed that all the drum lines were on fire last night. It was great to catch an acknowledgement with a wink and nod together as the kids on the field nailed their parts. He is focused and determined and has learned the rudiments. I hope to see him in his favorite DCI corps soon. I looked over at dad and nodded a proud acknowledgement for both. Behind every great kid there are great parents. 

The Cavaliers join the caravansaries.
BAC’s biggest fan!

The lineup included six corps again with no intermission. Cincinnati Tradition started us off with a colorful and musical presentation. The bright orange, red and black contrasted with the green field and the darkening blue sky. Each successive presentation was a notch above the previous. Having had the privilege of seeing and hearing Music City’s show five times now, I continued to enjoy the moody musical arrangement and visual presentation. The determinedly confident salute from the Spirit of Atlanta drum major foretold what was to come from the rest of the corps as they set the scene for what it is like with a complete horn line and ensemble. All heck broke loose in the stands by the wanting fans with the last three performances. The Cadets really nailed their show and the people in the stands let them know it. The energy and spirit of The Cadets’ drum major has such a profound impact on both the corps on the field, and the people in the stands. Next, Calvin took the driver’s seat and hit the gas pedal, leading the Boston Crusaders as they Zoomed across the field. This high energy show is complimented by an enlarged color guard of over 40 members. I believe if I am not mistaken that Zoom has the most rifle and sabre tosses in the history of DCI. I would like to know that number. Though they were not flawless, BAC’s guard most certainly is the best. It was now time for me to witness another fine corps for the first time this year ­– The Cavaliers. The two pervious corps were hard acts to follow but the Cavies, the only all male corps, stepped up to the plate and dished out their tradition of precision. This was another great example of the corps intro-retrospective as they were in their traditional black and green, complete with the Aussie hat and plumage. They performed their 20th Century classics with 21st Century mashing and arranging. The boys really put on a great show and stayed to regale us with an extended encore performance. I have enjoyed the many encore performances this year as each corps has had a chance to do a standstill following their performances, playing their corps songs that identify and enhance their brand and esprit de corps. Let’s have this covid-year tradition continue. 

BAC performs a stand still encore..
The Corps with the best traditional look. Sharp!

Upon leaving Akron for Centerville yesterday morning for this final outdoor DCI show of music-in-motion for my wanting eyes and ears, I chose to head across the Buckeye State from east to west in search of the North Country Trail for my legs and heart. Both are good for my soul. Siri has been very good to me this season, guiding me along my wandering way. She does tend to put me where the most trucks are, so sometimes we have an argument when I deviate from her plan until she grudgingly recalibrates to go my way. However, she has saved my bacon more than once, keeping me from making an errant turn, or from missing an important one. The road trip to Centerville, arriving just in time for the show, was interesting and included a route less traveled. My first stop was Zoar, Ohio 25 minutes south of Akron, to scout out the North Country Trail (NCT), the nation’s longest National Scenic Trail. This is the location in eastern Ohio where the NCT joins the Buckeye Trail. The two trail systems co-join for hundreds of miles before the NCT breaks north toward Michigan on its way to North Dakota through Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Buckeye Trail Association (BTA) is an important affiliate partner of the North Country Trail Association. From the BTA website: “For nearly 1444 miles, the Buckeye Trail winds around Ohio, reaching into every corner of the state. From a beachhead on Lake Erie near Cleveland, to a hilltop overlooking the Ohio River in Cincinnati, a hiker can experience a little of all that Ohio has to offer.” In Ohio, much of the NCT/Buckeye Trail is on a former railroad or canal, perfect for cruising on the most efficient human-powered devise invented for traveling, so far – the bicycle. Mine is in the back of the Volvo, waiting to spin.

What a nice place to walk through along the North Country Trail.

The thunderstorms passed through Zoar earlier leaving the ground in puddles, so I decided to walk a loop of the village and trails instead of riding my bike. I would try and get a ride in later in the afternoon on the western leg of my journey in Xenia. My walk was well-chosen as the NCT follows Main Street through the national historic village of Zoar before connecting to the BTA. This is a walk back in time in a uniquely historic and well-preserved community. It is a living museum of early-American communal life of a German immigrant community who did not believe in war. A visit to Zoar Gardens, a beautifully, well-groomed floral garden in the middle of the village is recommended. From the village I walked to the Old County Road 82 Bridge, a restored historic through-truss bridge that crosses the Tuscawaras River and the adjacent old Ohio and Erie Canal. The former towpath of the canal is now a multi-use trail. I walked for about 30 minutes one way and returned to the old bridge and back to the village by way of the Zoar Wetlands Trail. The mosquitos were prevalent in swarms due to the recent rain and the prime habitat along the canal and wetlands. The rumbling but distant thunder added to a moody reflection of the recent days including thoughts of the hard-working kids in the band, the music, meeting old friends, making new ones, hiking with Denali, the trails, and the roads less traveled. Mostly how lucky I am, and what a privilege it is to be free to lark about in my semi-retirement. This peaceful walk was a fine respite from the concrete jungle and fast lanes of the days before.

The Old Zoar Route 82 Bridge.

Upon leaving Zoar on Siri’s directions, I quickly decided to avoid the interstates as much as possible. Much to her consternation, Siri finally relented with my choice for Route 36 West, leaving the rat race behind and cruising along the idyllic countryside of Central Ohio, for a while. However, it was not long before she directed me back onto the interstate system to take me around, thru, over, and under Columbus, finally spitting me out onto I71 South toward Cincinnati. Hold your lane, dude! Once again, the human navigator intervened. Leaving the interstate again, I took us all on a zig-zagging course across the flat roads lined with square-mile sized corn and soybean fields to Xenia, OH. Xenia was a major railroad junction in the 20th Century. Now the town sports several rail trails that converge including the BTA and the NCT. Famished and thirsty, I called on Siri to direct me to a brew pub nearby. Bingo – The Devil Wind Brewery was right on the trail of my destination. Thank you, Siri. The brewery got its name from the category 5 tornado that pummeled the area on April 3, 1974. As one thing led to another while enjoying the company of the patrons, learning such facts, and sampling a couple of pints, I decided to leave the bike in the car and return to Xenia another day for that ride and headed to Centerville for the DCI show nearby. I had no idea where I was going to stay last night. My itinerary was to camp out again somewhere, perhaps roll out the air mattress in the car. So, lo and behold, I found a nice, secluded spot near the stadium where I stealthily slumbered in the auto-casa following some great drum corps. This morning the trails are dry, and there is no show to attend, so now it is time for a nice long bike ride. 

Vestige of the NCT in Zoar, OH.

I know it is hard to tell whether this is a blog about trails or drum corps. Trails connect me with nature. Drum corps connects me with humanity. May we all exist in harmony. Our National Trails are for everyone, to love, enjoy and respect. The theme of my DCI tour blog series this year is continuing to be DCI = love and family. It is also about hope for the future, seeing the young performers again demonstrate the incredible results of their working together. How blessed am I to have had the opportunity to be at five outstanding outdoor shows and to have met so many great folks that exemplify love, family, and unity. Music teachers, parents, aspiring kids, and matriarchs of the activity, all have connected the DCI dots for me on my quest. Music is enduring, unifying, and inspiring. It takes all of us to be sure that no kid goes without the chance to experience music, dance, and other performing and visual arts. There should be no barriers. Thank you, DCI family for doing your part. As fans, we need to be sure that our community and schools are providing these important opportunities. If you have an old horn laying around not being used, donate it. Better yet, become a financial contributor to one or more of the many fine non-profit organizations that sponsor a drum corps. Time for that ride and then on to Indy. I’ll keep you posted. 

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