The Lockard Tour Van is back in town after a whirlwind three-night limited engagement to support Annie, who kind of got her diploma Saturday morning, and all I can say is that I’m still tired. Our first stop was Ashland, Ohio, to prepare for the graduation ceremony, and as we loaded up the van we were given our itinerary, typed neatly on a single sheet of paper. To the hour, our schedule was outlined in Times New Roman to keep the caravan on track, and even though it was handy to have, we used it to poke fun at Jen’s dad good-naturedly throughout the trip.
Despite some last-minute drama, the graduation went off without a hitch, and even though the threat of rain loomed, it turned out to be a beautiful day. We shared a late lunch with Jen’s aunt and then passed out back at the hotel to sleep off the carbohydrates. Before venturing out for a late dinner, we hijacked Jen’s father into a visit to the CHEESEBARN, an inexplicably-named highway attraction up the road from our hotel. Unfortunately, the CHEESEBARN was closed and we weren’t able to explore its wonders in detail.
However, we did stop for a picture out front.
Then we enjoyed a prolonged tour of the seedier side of Mansfield, OH, looking for somewhere other than a Perkins to eat dinner; the directions given were, shall we say, vague, and it took a while to get oriented until we found an Olive Garden to stop at.
Sunday morning we were under strict orders to be loaded and ready by 8:30, because the day was tightly planned: we were stopping in to visit with Jen’s great aunt, who is in a retirement home, and then on to visit her mother’s gravesite. Her great aunt is still sharp and funny, and we were presently joined by a group of cousins who helped us take over the entire front room of the facility.
Driving on to the gravesite, we passed fields that had been flooded in January of 2005 (we were some of the last cars allowed in before the state troopers shut the highway down that night), through the sleepy, worn-down town, and up the hill to where her marker sat in bright afternoon sunshine. The family had about ten minutes alone with her before a gaggle of extended family arrived, and then we stood around and caught up with folks we hadn’t seen in two years.
And then, it was time to load up the van and get on the road. The trip back was uneventful, apart from everyone in the van (including driver) dozing off after lunch at the Sonic, and we were treated to a tour of the rolling hills of West Virginia and miles of empty countryside until we made it back to town last night. And I’ll be damned if Jen’s Dad didn’t get us home a half-hour ahead of schedule.