“Hunger is the best pickle.” Benjamin Franklin
State 8: Ohio - July 23, 2017
We woke up at a Sandusky, OH Walmart ready to start a new day. On the agenda today, was a visit to the national park depicted on reverse of the Ohio state quarter: Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. Visiting this park proved to be a bit of a logistical challenge. The park was located on an island called Put-In-Bay, OH approximately 10 miles off the Ohio coast on Lake Erie. Since we have not outfitted Rosie to be an amphibious vehicle yet, we would have to take a ferry across Lake Erie to the park. Round trip ferry tickets we reasonable priced at $9 each. The ferry trip provided us with the first opportunity on our trip to really see Lake Erie up close and personal, and she was magnificent! We took tons of great pictures of the lake, and you can even see the national park’s monument on our approach to the island.
When the ferry docked at the tiny island of Put-In-Bay, we learned the park was 2.5 miles away. Since it was 97 degrees outside, we did not feel like taking a 5 mile round trip hike. We then learned people get around on the island primarily by gas powered golf cart. There are actually more registered golf carts than there are cars on the island of Put-in-Bay. Lori and I have never golfed before, so we never had a reason to ride in a golf cart. Oh well, I guess there is no time better than the present to learn. We found a nearby shop that rents golf carts for $10 per hour. We put down our deposit, were given a very brief tutorial on how it works, and 5 minutes later we were putting down the road in Put-In-Bay at 15 mph. After a 10-minute drive, we safely arrived at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial.
The memorial commemorates US Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's decisive naval victory of over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie during the war of 1812. The monument also commemorates the subsequent 205 years of peace between Canada, the US and England that followed the battle, and continues to this very day. As a result, the US Canadian border is currently the longest undefended border in the entire world! Constructed in 1915, the monument is the world's most massive Doric column, and at 352 feet, it is 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Beneath its cement base is the final resting place for the 3 US and 3 British naval officers who died in the battle. There is even an elevator that takes people to the top of the monument! However, we were seriously bummed to learn that the monuments interior is closed until 2018 for restoration.
We saw an historical re-enactment at the park depicting a US soldier from 1812, which was very informative and interesting. He also demonstrated firing a black powder rifle, which is pictured below.
After leaving the monument, we sputtered around for an hour in our golf cart exploring the island. We visited the shoreline, the islands village, town square, and picked up a small soft serve cone before returning our golf cart to catch the return ferry back. With our feet firmly planted back on mainland Ohio, we headed for Toledo, Ohio for an appointment with a pickle. Yes, you read that right!
Back in the 1970's there was a hit show on TV called MASH, which many of you may remember. The show depicted a US field hospital during the Vietnam War. Those who remember the show, will also recall the character of Klinger who was cross-dresser who attempted to get a psychiatric discharge from the military. He was native to Toledo, Ohio in character, and in real life. Six times throughout the shows run, he made reference to a café in Toledo, OH called Tony Packo’s. He proclaimed the café has the best pickles in the entire world, and if you happened to find yourself in Toledo one day, you should check them out! Tony Packo’s already had a successful business since 1932 with a strong local following. However, Klinger's TV proclamation elevated the café to the national spotlight, and even celebrities began showing up to the Tony Packo’s Café.
A tradition began in 1972 when Burt Reynolds stopped by Tony Packo’s Café for lunch. The owner of the café approached Burt Reynold’s, and asked for his autograph. Burt pulled out his marker, and for reasons still not fully understood, grabbed a hot dog bun and gave it his John Hancock. The owner was so impressed, he framed the autographed hot dog bun, and hung it on the wall of the café. Ever since that fateful day, it has become a tradition for every celebrity that visits Tony Packo’s to sign a hot dog bun. Today, the café walls are now covered from floor to ceiling in 1000's of signed hot dog buns pictured below, which include celebrities, astronauts and every sitting US president and First Lady since Jimmy Carter including Donald and Melania Trump. In another noteworthy moment, in 1997 Astronaut Donald Thomas brought a can of Tony Packo’s hot dog sauce into outer space with him aboard the US space shuttle Columbia!
As soon as we saw our map had us exiting Ohio via its border city of Toledo, we knew we had to stop at Tony Packo’s Cafe. During our visit, we ordered a batch of their legendary and world famous fried pickle chips. Since we rarely eat fried food, neither one of us had ever had fried pickles before. While we are not opposed to pickles, we don’t jump for joy over them either.
Now I have this distinct privilege and honor to provide you with an
in-depth analysis of their world famous pickles!
The breading on the fried pickles were superb. It appeared to have corn meal in the batter which is very unusual for mid-western cuisine, but not necessarily unheard of. The corn meal in the batter gave the external breaded coating of the pickle chip a pleasant texture on the palate, and it finished with an enjoyable added crunch. It was expertly fried to perfection, and was not saturated with oil and grease plaguing most fried food. Carefully nestled within the external crusty membrane was the pride and joy, and the heart and soul of Tony Packo’s Cafe, the one and only pickle chip! The pickle chip within the breaded coating was still plump, juicy, crisp and very generous at ½ inch thick. The flavor of the pickle is what sets a Tony Packo’s pickle apart from all others. The first experience you get when biting into a Tony Packo’s pickle is a sensation of sweetness. The sweetness is achieved by using sugar in the brine, verse the pickle industry's standard of high fructose corn syrup. After a few moments the taste of sweetness dissipates, and just when you least expect it the pickle releases its spicy heat. I am not talking esophagus searing, pull the fire alarm, and call 911 because my mouth is burning kind of heat. It is a very subtle yet surprising heat achieved by using a secret blend of peppers and spices, which left a lingering, refreshing and memorable sensation even after being swallowed. These were the best pickles we had ever had, and we bought a jar of them to take on the road with us pictured below. When we find our new home state, we will be ordering an entire case. After tasting a Tony Packo’s Pickle, you will never want to have different pickle ever again!
After Leaving Tony Packo’s Café we exited Toledo, OH north, and entered the 9th State on our cross country trip to discover America, and find a new state to call home; Michigan. The state motto is simply: Pure Michigan. This motto not only says nothing about the state, but says absolutely nothing at all. What the heck is “Pure Michigan”? Is it a thing? A place? An idea? To me it sounds like a grade of gas you put in your car. I hope the state of Michigan has more to offer than the most obscure state motto we come across thus far.