Kelly Alley

Welcome back to yet another Wanderer tale of adventure and exploration … sort of.

Around the end of May, the Other Wanderer – senior, in this case – and I got bit pretty hard by the travel bug. A quick plan was soon formed: we would travel up to Indiana then swing over into Ohio.

Armed with several masks each and a few decently-sized bottles of hand sanitizer, we set out for our quick three-day trip on the open road. We reckoned it was fairly safe at that point to roam around in the car and drive through some sparsely populated Midwestern towns.

It wasn’t an elaborately planned trip, but it was one I’d been meaning to take for a few years now. In fact, under the circumstances, it worked perfectly for a self-proclaimed introvert like myself. Less people around to judge my odd scheme, after all.

Like many others I didn’t get to walk this past May, but I did graduate. This made the perfect excuse to finally head up to a college I didn’t graduate from to take a picture with the statue of a feller who’d died nearly 70 years before I was born.

Hold on – stay with me. That sentence with a preposition-filled nightmare will make sense in a minute.

See, in some strange way, for a few minutes I had the chance to sit down across from my journalistic hero, Ernie Pyle.

A bronze statue of the famed roving reporter and World War II correspondent was placed on Indiana University’s 

Bloomington campus back in 2015. I’d seen a handful of social media posts about it since then, always trying to find a way to get up there with my 1937 Underwood portable typewriter to take a few pictures. 

By some stroke of luck, everything worked out perfectly to travel there this year.

It went about the way you’d expect it to, with me standing there afraid to get near the statue, looking at it like it was some sort of discovered relic of an ancient deity – something that’d disintegrate if I so much as breathed within five feet from it.

Of course it didn’t, so I was standing there gawking at this life-sized bronze effigy of someone who’s work guided me through high school and four years of undergrad study. In typical Wanderer fashion, I had that twenty-pound typewriter in my hands ready so I could sit across from the statue for a few pictures once I’d worked up the courage. 

I know folks say you never meet your heroes and, in a way, I suppose that applies to statues of your heroes too. 

Six hours of traveling, just to receive a statue’s stone-cold glare staring at me the whole time.

Oh well.

IU’s Bloomington campus is gosh-darn beautiful in late May, with a canopy of established trees covering several miles of walking paths paved with red brick. Red and white flowers strategically planted in certain spots give an extra pop of color for an aesthetically pleasing stroll.

We didn’t stick around much longer, hightailing out to Indiana farmland and making a brief detour west to Dana, Indiana, Pyle’s hometown.

Unfortunately, the Ernie Pyle Museum was closed – thanks again, COVID – but we managed to find a quick to-go lunch from the small town’s restaurant and had a nice picnic at a rest area few miles from town.

After that we were “East Bound and Down,” as the country music artist Jerry Reed once sang, this time driving towards Ohio. The Other Wanderer was raised near Columbus, Ohio, so we occasionally make short trips back up to that area every once in a while, just to see what’s changed and to pick up some corn and things we don’t often see in East Tennessee.

Being late May, the corn crop hadn’t come in yet, so we had to settle for bringing home a few bags of Cincinnati-based Grippo’s potato chips and munching on some Skyline Chili.

Before we made it into Columbus, we stopped by what’s left of Hara Arena in Dayton. Once a mighty venue for everything from hockey to ballroom dancing, all that’s pretty much left now is one-sixth of what it was.

A tornado had ripped through that area last year, with the effects still freshly seen on nearby trees and apartments, despite the year that had passed.

It was a bit sad, in a nostalgic sort of way – this was where I had received my amateur radio license, at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention, now held in Xenia, Ohio.

There wasn’t much else left to that trip, besides a few horse tack store stops to lift our spirits and empty my wallet on the way back to Knoxville. Overall, it was a nice couple of long driving days, getting the quarantine cabin fever out of our systems.

We didn’t encounter too many folks on the way up or down, but we took the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others.

Stay safe out there, and see you next month for yet another adventure. 

Kelly Alley is a graduate student studying journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at kalley2@vols.utk.edu

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

UT Sponsored Content