U.S. 41 took us south to beaches, and Ga. Highway 5 took us to Blue Ridge where we followed a steady stream of cars to Newfound Gap and Cherokee Indian country.
We finally branched out to reach other destinations and road maps became necessary.
Seems we’ve come full circle. Road maps have been replaced by a voice from the heavens. We call ours “Agnes.” She is patient to a fault.
We just type in our desired destination and she turns on her charm and expertise in a language and dialect we understand, with an amazing aptitude for knowing in a split second when we have made a wrong turn. A recent family tree pilgrimage took me and daughter Sarah to Akron and Barberton, Ohio, and the first 24 hours proved to be a comedy of errors.
We flew up, picked up our rental car, and were off and running. The car was new, had lots of extras, really nice. We drove around a bit, checked into our motel for a three-night stay, had dinner, and awoke the next morning ready to tackle some research.
As I settled into the passenger seat while Sarah loaded cameras and assorted work items into the trunk, I noticed for the first time a small crack in the windshield. It had not been there the night before.
We put off for a few hours making a decision about what to do, and spent most of the day in Barberton at the public library and St. Augustine Catholic Church, plus a fun visit to the offices of the Barberton Herald.
But crunch time came, and after a call to the car rental folks, we began to make our way back to the airport to turn in the car and get a different one.
Agnes was told that we were headed to Akron Airport. We took every turn as directed, but a couple of times Sarah remarked that there were no “Airport” signs. The GPS was showing that we were nearing our destination, and even gave instructions about preparing to walk.
While Sarah was concerned, I was taking in the scenery, and had just spotted a strange sight. At first I thought it was a mountain, perhaps a coal mountain, it was so black. It rose out of the ground like a huge igloo, though not circular.
It was long and smoothly curved, somewhat like an Indian longhouse, but much, much bigger. About the time Agnes instructed us to turn left, and we had just passed the “mound,” I noticed a sign that read “Lockheed Martin.”
We made our turn left, and a small country road led us nearer so that it became obvious that there was no mountain. Instead it was a building of some sort.
We could see a runway and finally figured out that it was an air strip used by Lockheed. It was nearing sundown and we were facing west, so a good photograph was not possible. Besides, we needed to get to the real airport.
This time our pilot and navigator were of one accord, and we ended the day with a different car and a clear path to our motel.
There we spent a few minutes with a search engine that led us to the truth of the matter. The “mountain” was the signature building of the complex where the Goodyear Blimp (and other blimps) is produced and stored.
We just had to go back for some photos and quality time ... which led to yet another adventure.
The next day, we took the driveway directly into the visitors parking lot. Up close, the hangar was too big for a photo, the size of eight football fields side-by-side.
Driving to different spots for better angles, we ended up on the little country road from the previous day escapade and discovered another surprise. Out in the middle of nowhere was the National Soap Box Derby Racetrack, a sight all too fresh in my memory.
In my father’s scrapbook are ticket stubs from Soap Box races there in the late 1930s and through the 1940s. Apparently he was a devoted fan. He also kept newspaper clippings of races in progress and photos and interviews of winners.
It was quite an experience to be there, knowing that this was a pastime for him during those years when he was not a part of my life.
And all because we didn’t have a road map … and Agnes took us to the Akron Airdock instead.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.