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What makes Ohio different from other places we’ve visited? There are a few things that have impressed and surprised us. One is grass–there are huge lawns around many houses, and tracts of open land covered by grass without a house nearby. These are often lovely, but who mows all that acreage? True, there are lots of gray-haired guys on riding mowers–is it really that much fun?

We were impressed by another natural feature, rhododendrons! Huge, enormous rhododendrons, as big as, no, bigger, than the side of a house.

Quirky places are everywhere, including here. We liked the roof without a house:

Our current home is just a couple of miles from the Pennsylvania border. In the town of Meadville is the amazing PennDOT Crawford County office. There’s a garden of oversized Seussian flowers and plants on the corner by the stoplight. Along the side of the depot is a remarkable mural panorama of Pennsylvania icons. The mural is bolted to chain-link fencing extending down the road for hundreds of yards. A steady trickle of people visit. No one was there when we arrived, then a couple stopped, took a photo and left. We walked down the edge of the highway looking at the mural, and when we returned to the parking lot, a family was exploring the sculptures.

Knock-your-socks-off effort went into making the mural, yet there is no onsite information about this extensive installation. Fortunately, the Uncovering PA website tells the story. Led by a professor from Allegheny College, the sculptures and mural were designed in 2000 and built over ten years, with lots of inspiration and suggestions from students and local residents. So many signs, so many bolts! The material, old road signs, means this is a heck of a durable piece.

The sections show local landmarks, the changing weather, trucks on the highway, and even Lake Erie.

The ferris wheel was missing a few of its seats from wear and tear, but the hot air balloons still looked pretty sturdy. I wanted to go for a ride but I didn’t quite fit into the basket.

Meanwhile, Jonathan hid behind a turkey so that he didn’t have to help with the raking.

This was one of our favorite field trips so far. We even saw some of the animals from the mural. On our route going to Meadville, a fox crossed the road in front of us, while a fawn leaped into the road in front of us on the way home. It was never in danger from the car, and it’s always fun to see the resident wildlife.

We’re looking for more distinguishing characteristics–they don’t seem hard to find.