by Brandon James Anderson
The weekend before last, my girlfriend gave a keynote address at a residence life conference in Columbus, Ohio. Though we battled the consequences of an Alberta Clipper to make it there, I was more than happy to go along on the trip since it provided me the opportunity to see what else the “Land Down Under” has to offer.
My only previous trip to this city was over a decade ago en route to a Dave Matthews Band concert and merely consisted of a lunch stop. Thus, with a few free hours on my hands, I decided to navigate the snow-covered streets north of downtown Columbus and eventually found myself on the campus of Ohio State University. For many Michiganders, this is enemy territory, but for someone who graduated from Central Michigan University and cares more about professional sports than the collegiate variety, I simply wanted to get a sense of how the area surrounding OSU compares to Ann Arbor and East Lansing.
In a word, comparable. Plenty of vehicular and foot traffic (even in bad weather). Plenty of dive bars, bookstores, and typical college-town scenery.
I’ve been inside Michigan Stadium for a game only once, a thrilling August 2003 back and fourth showdown of juggernauts between the Wolverines and my Chippewas. Despite not being a fan of either team, I was again curious as to how Ohio Stadium, OSU’s counterpart, stacked up to “The Big House.”
In a word, underwhelming. Perhaps it was the weather and lack of activity outside the arena. Perhaps it was the lack of any color in the sky that served as a backdrop. Whatever the reason, “The ‘Shoe” simply looked like a nice, but not overly large, stadium. I don’t know why I was expecting more, but it just didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
What ended up being a much more significant and profound discovery, however, was my unearthing of the TurkeyHill gas station chain. In Michigan, from all I’ve ever known, the gas stations housed in the parking lots of Kroger stores merely consist of gas pumps and a small enclosure for one employee to take payment and sell convenience store items through a pane of thick glass.
The Kroger brand extends across the country under a variety of names (look at the back of your Kroger Plus card to see what I’m talking about). Yet, in Pennsylvania, metropolitan Columbus, and Indiana, Kroger’s gas stations operate under the TurkeyHill moniker. And, as was the case down the road from the OSU campus, some TurkeyHill gas stations exist completely on their own.
After filling up my tank and kicking snow out of my car’s wheel wells for what seemed like the thirty-seventh time that day, I went inside to discover a convenience store that featured organic produce and a fast-causal restaurant. It was like stepping into the “Fresh” side of a new Meijer store.
And, as if that didn’t say it already, as I took a sip of the $1.29 fountain Diet Pepsi I purchased, the word “Soda,” in a childish cursive font told me, loud and clear, that I was not in Michigan anymore.