Rock n Roller 16: Family and Carter Caves

We woke up early and headed back to Huntington to meet with my cousin Susan at a Starbucks before we would drive across town to the nursing home to see my grandma and grandpa Scott. The first thing I remarked to Michele was that this part of Huntington sure has changed since I was here last. This section of town was full of trendy cafe’s and shops like you would find in the big city. It looks like the uber-hip Colfax section of Denver or maybe even Portland. Lots of people were out and about sipping lattes and window shopping.

Like I said in the post before, I haven’t seen my cousin Susan since she was a toddler. She has a son now and is married. Time flies by way too fast. We are Facebook friends and share and comment a lot back and forth. From that, at least I knew who I was looking for. We drank coffee outside and we were introduced to her son Logan. We talked about old times, my aunt Diana, my dad and her dad/my uncle Jim. We talked about my grandparents and she told me what it will be like when we get there.

We arrived at the nursing home and checked in. These types of places really freak me out. I think it is more of me coming to terms of my own mortality more than anything. We took the elevator upstairs and entered their room. Logan was very comfortable here and went right over for a hug. They visit pretty often.

I hugged my grandmother. Remember I haven’t seen her since the summer of 1989. No reason why really other than we had a bit of a falling out. It’s not an excuse and I know I should have never waited this long but for some reason, one year leads to the next and before you know it decades pass by. Susan said to my grandmother, ‘This is Robby, do you remember him? He is Nick’s son.”

“Yes, I remember Robbie,” my grandmother says gesturing towards Michele, “who’s this?”

“This is Michele, grandma, my wife. We live in Alaska now.” My grandmother has been in ill health the last few years and has suffered a couple of small strokes.

My grandpa, John was sitting next to my grandmother, Erma Lee. He was wearing a flannel shirt and had a huge smile on his face. Just days before he turned 90 years old. He is suffering from dementia and I was told he may not remember me but we sat and talked for a while. I told him about how I used to remember watching the Cincinnati Red’s games with him on TV and how he used to love Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. His smile got bigger as we talked and said, “yes, I remember!” I sat holding his hand for a long while. This was very hard for me.

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A flood of memories came back. I remember the Italian dinners my grandmother used to make every time we came over. She used to make a huge pot of rigatoni’s for us kids. I remember staying with them every Saturday night while my mom would go out with friends. Every Saturday was the same; dinner then watching the Lawrence Welk Show, Hee Haw, the Love Boat and Fantasy Island. I loved watching those shows with my grandparents. It was a special time. If we came over early, that was when I would sit and watch the Red’s games with grandpa John.

I remember going to their house on the Fourth of July for a picnic and almost every year it would rain. I remember hanging out in their huge backyard and crossing the alley to visit my aunt Diana and through the yard to see my great grandfather, whom we called Paw Eaton. Just across the street was our little house on Collis Avenue. Here was four generations of our family that lived within a block of each other. All of us are gone now. Time has a way of doing that. We go our separate ways but our memories hold us together.

I remember driving in their old Dodge Dart that could be a muscle car today. I remember my grandpa John cutting off the tip of his finger with a circular saw and me thinking about that moment every time when I build dog houses for our sled dogs today. I remember my grandma taking us to Sears to visit her sister who worked there. We would load up on Toughskins and saddle oxford shoes for school and get cheesy posed photos at Olan Mills.

Here we were, how would I know this would be the last time I would ever see them. In fact just a couple months after our trip, my grandpa John passed away. I am writing this post in December. Our visit was in July…

We stayed about an hour and afterwards we talked with Susan before we parted ways.

Our next mission was lunch at a place I used to eat at as a kid, it was a little Drive-in called Frost Top. They still serve you in the car using those trays on your car window. I ordered what I did when I was seven years old, a hamburger with lettuce and mayo, fries and a frosty mug of root beer. I love it that way!

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We headed back across the river and back into Kentucky on our way to go to Carter Caves. This state park is about an hour east of Ashland and we visited many times when I was a kid. We would always come for picnics and a quick tour of the caves. It is amazing how things were so much simpler then. Vacations weren’t thousands of dollars and required months of planning like this one. They were just a quick Sunday drive to the local state park with a picnic basket. I remember one trip with my grandparents as we drove along I-64 in their Olds. I was sitting in the front seat next to grandpa and was listening to his stories as the miles passed by with classical music playing in the background on the radio. My grandmother and brother, Ryan were sitting in the back seat. He had forgotten is cookie tin of crayons, all 64 colors of them, on the back deck behind the seat, by the time he found them, late in the day, they all had melted producing the coolest tye dye pattern I have ever seen.

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Michele and I visited the caves and took the tour. It was a lot of fun to relive this part of my childhood with Michele. It was so hot that day that the coolness of the caves made it feel like you were in an icebox.

We set out toward our next destination in Ohio but getting there would take us on a couple hundred mile trip through rural Kentucky. The rolling hills of Kentucky blue grass, horse farms and I’m sure a well guarded moonshine still or two in these woods, would dot the landscape. We almost ran out of gas in the big truck and found an oasis in the middle of nowhere, a gas station megaplex with a restaurants, a rest area and truck stop, miles from anywhere.

As we passed through Cincy we told stories of watching WKRP on TV and Doctor Johnny Fever just as it started to pour down rain. We made it to the hotel, a very clean and comfortable Red Roof Inn and had dinner at a cool sports bar. Tomorrow we will visit Kings Island, the first really big theme park I would visit as a kid, probably way back in 1979. We would ride one of my favorite coasters of all time, The Beast and some new ones; Banshee, Diamondback and The Bat.

Tomorrow: Kings Island

Coasters to date on the tour: 50

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