When I was a congressman representing a district in southwest Ohio, my family and I continued to live in the Cincinnati area. I commuted to Washington every week so we could raise our three kids in Ohio and so I could stay in better touch with a district that went from downtown Cincinnati to beyond Portsmouth, Ohio over 80 miles away.
Jane and I have chosen to do the same now as a United States Senator representing the entire State of Ohio. On weekends and during breaks from the Senate, I am usually home in Ohio, somewhere in the state, meeting with constituents and getting input.
In fact, in the last few years, I have been to every one of Ohio’s 88 counties and visited over 100 Ohio factories, as well as many other businesses, farms, schools, hospitals, nonprofits and military installations.
There’s nothing better than meeting with workers, farmers, small business owners and other constituents to get a sense of how Ohioans are doing and what I can do to help during a tough time for many Ohioans in this economy. This is where I got the ideas behind my energy efficiency bill as well as my regulatory relief bill and other elements of the jobs plan I authored. It is also where I get good ideas like the interstate prescription drug monitoring program that I expect to be enacted into law in the next week or so. That idea came out of a town hall meeting on prescription drug abuse in Scioto County.
While I’m on the road in Ohio, crisscrossing our state, I also try to visit some Ohio landmarks. I’d like to share a number of my favorite spots in case you have time to visit some during your summer travels.
The first is Lake Erie. In the Senate, I’ve worked closely on all sorts of issues affecting the health of Lake Erie, our number one destination in Ohio for fishing, boating and other recreation. As a fisherman, I’ve enjoyed the Lake.
Here’s one idea: With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 upon us, this summer will be an excellent time to visit Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, in north central Ohio amid the Lake Erie Islands. It’s the site of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, run by the National Park Service. Commodore Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 is one of the highlights of Ohio history, and the memorial is a fitting tribute to that great American.
On the other side of the state, the Ohio River is also a great recreation destination, with lots of marinas and party boats to board, some of which are replicas of the paddle boats that made Cincinnati an early inland port city. I like canoeing or kayaking on the Ohio and its tributaries like the Little Miami River. In fact, today I took part in the 11th Annual Ohio River Way Paddlefest, which is the largest paddling event in the United States with over 2,000 boaters in canoes and kayaks.
In northeast Ohio there is another popular destination related to a waterway. In the 19th century, the Ohio and Erie Canal connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River, from Cleveland to Portsmouth. In northeast Ohio you can travel on foot and on (bicycle) wheels along the canal’s historic towpath. Biking the trail is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. Along the way are many reminders of the canal’s history, including old canal locks.
The section in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the only national park in Ohio, is particularly scenic. The park is home to a wide array of wildlife, including bald eagles at times. Peninsula, a small town along the trail, is an excellent spot to grab a bite to eat.
Farther to the south in Akron, you can travel through downtown and catch a ballgame or visit the Akron Art Museum. If you’re feeling tired after a long day on the trail, you can put your bikes on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and ride home on one of the oldest scenic railways in the country.
You also might enjoy visiting Wayne National Forest, the only national forest in our state. It’s near Hocking Hills State Park, another favorite of mine, known far and wide for its gorge called Old Man’s Cave.
Beside nature’s frontiers, there’s also a lot to do during an Ohio summer at the frontiers of technology. History buffs and technology enthusiasts alike will find something to enjoy at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. The interactive exhibits there tell the story of military aviation, displaying a unique collection of historical items, including planes, engines and missiles.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I see firsthand the role the Air Force and Wright-Patt play in maintaining a technological edge against our adversaries. The museum demonstrates Ohio’s capacity and talent for innovation, which has helped secure and maintain our nation’s freedom, while pushing mankind to new heights.
Of course, Ohio is also home to some of the best county fairs in the country and, in my opinion, the best state fair. Don’t miss the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, from July 25 to Aug. 5. I will hope to see you there.
These are just a few of the many great spots to visit this summer in the Buckeye State. People say no state embodies the nation more than Ohio. I think that’s true. The nation’s past and future – natural and technological – come together in the present of our great state. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it this summer.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.