Day 1: August 21, 2004
66 End to End



In downtown Piqua, OH-66 starts off with little fanfare. No "begin" or "end" markers. Just an arrow pointing the way. It jogs around a bit but soon heads north west separated from the Great Miami River by an earthen flood wall. Piqua used to have an annual "Underwear Festival" but no more. The site of the original Allen-A factory, near where 66 heads out of town, now holds Heritage Green park.

I reached the John Johnston farm, at the Piqua Historical Area, a few minutes after the scheduled starting time for the first tour so had about half an hour until the next one. In the outdoor kitchen area, I chatted for a bit with Marla & Sherry before heading off to explore the barn area. That's Sherry carding wool for the spinning wheel at her side. The house and barn are original early 1800's structures. So is the spring house which holds this 18th century loom on its second floor. The loom is still used occasionally for demonstrations and training. I had actually thought I might check out the barn and springhouse plus the museum at the far end of the parking lot before tour time then quickly jump back on the road as the tour ended. But the barn, an Adena mound behind it, and the springhouse were just too interesting and the museum too far. I listened to Marla's excellent descriptions and stories with the museum visit still ahead of me.

The museum contains some good displays of local history and pre-history. Something that you won't find just anywhere are artifacts from Fort Pickawillany. This was the first English settlement in the area. It is believed to have reached a population of nearly 400 before being attacked and destroyed by French and Indian forces in 1752.

The museum sits on a section of the Miami-Erie canal where visitors can ride an authentic canal boat. The first trip of the day is at 12:30 and I knew when I arrived that I wouldn't be there that long. But a few minutes here and a few minutes there and I found myself in the museum with cruise time less than half an hour away. A ride on the canal won out over a few miles on the road and I was on the overlook when Jack & Jim brought the boat up the canal. That's Joe leading the pair of mules. It's not long before we are gliding quietly over the smooth water. The turnaround, at Lock #8, is just as smooth. Fort Pickawillany was somewhere up the banks to the left of the lock. During the ride, Jim filed us in on the building and use of the canal and answered any questions. If you look hard, you can see the boats power plant, Joe, Jack, & Jim, through the window. The last picture shows Josh (What's with all the Js?), who steered the boat from on top, along with Jim.

Possibly the most interesting series of locks on the canal is the set at Lockington. During the canal's heyday, Lockington was home to 30 bars and 5 brothels. Both are greatly reduced in number today. I did not walk all the way along the locks today but do have some pictures from a previous visit that I'll try to get up later.

ADDENDUM: Some pictures of the locks, taken in September of 2002, can be seen here.

I finally got back on OH-66 but was detoured at Ft Loramie. After being routed around the town, I did get to the lake for a couple of pictures. Lake Loramie is one of three reservoirs built to power the canal.

The town of New Bremen has the remains of a canal lock in the middle of town but the area was a bit more crowded today than normal. This is the weekend of the Bremenfest and the canal was right in the middle of the fun. I was told that Sunday is the big day with a parade in the afternoon and a concert (Danger Brothers - from Columbus) in the evening. Route 66 is shut down for the concert. Even so, it's going to be tough to top a mud-volleyball tournament. Those Danger guys better be good. The lemonade was.

In the town of St Marys, a boat sits on a bit of canal in the park. There was a gangplank that could be dropped but the boat did not seem likely to head off down the waterway. There was no one around to ask whether this was a museum, a static display, or something else. The covered bridge is of fairly recent construction but the twisted tree looked like it had been around for awhile.

I again ventured a bit off of OH-66 to photograph another canal reservoir, Grand Lake St Marys. It is no longer needed to feed the canal but it's a great place for jet skis.

These two canal landmarks are not far apart. "Bloody Bridge" gets its name from an 1854 axe murder. Accounts of the story always report that Minnie fell from the bridge after seeing her husband beheaded. I've always wondered, with hubby headless and the axe-man found only after he was reduced to a skeleton, just how do they know?

For 30 cents a day, and a jigger of whiskey, men with picks and shovels made a 6600 foot long cut through up to 52 feet of tough clay. Not very photogenic but the canal water is quite a ways down from the overlook.

Delphos has some nice 19th century store fronts and a museum devoted to the canal. The museum is open four days a month: 1st & 3rd Sunday; 2nd & 4th Monday. Today was none of those. The Delphos Herald building has a nice mural of the Delphos Herald building.

Here's proof that there is space between towns on OH-66. There's actually quite a lot of it. This is the Defiance County court house in Defiance. The bell, sitting beside the courthouse, was made in Cincinnati from a German cannon dated 1502.

OH-66 ends just as unceremoniously as it began. Harry's Tavern is about a half-block beyond and I celebrated with a long-neck Bud in "the tavern at the end of the road".

I turned back southward since the next byway starts in Defiance and that looked like the most promising place for lodging. I could, of course, have stopped at the inn at Sauder Village near Archbold but I'll save that for another day. But I couldn't pass up Mom's Diner in the same town. Lots of signs and other goodies plus table-side consoles that played genuine vinyl 45s in the Wurlitzer with bubbles on the front. I played "That'll Be The Day" for a quarter.

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