The Ohio Experiment

Well, I think I’m still in the Heartland. Though I’m not really sure what Ohio is considered: Heartland, Midwest, Mideast? All of the above?

Anyway, we’re here now.

We keep moving further east. But I do believe eventually we will do a 180 and move in the other direction.

The reason for this move is my husband’s residency in emergency medicine at a Toledo hospital. It’s a three-year stint, and so we are making the most of it.

So far, my observations of Ohio as compared to Iowa as compared to California are few (I don’t get out much):

  • Same general summer weather pattern–hot and humid. Ohio is a little more tolerable, though, and the same mode for cooling off is the local swimming pool. Northwest Ohio, however, has more natural waterways in proximity that we intend to explore.
  • Same propensity toward neat, trim lawns. Our new neighborhood, though more affluent and newer than our old one in Des Moines, does have a number of houses who do not care if there are more weeds than grass. But, these lawns also have sprinkler systems, perhaps a reflection of the less total inches of rain that falls here in the summer.
  • The suburbs are more sprawling, older and have less character. This is not to say that West Des Moines has much character, but they are neater and not as laden with blight. Toledo metro is very spread out, littered with strip malls lining wide avenues and covered in concrete and asphalt. The age and faltering economy of the outlying areas has caused much blight to occur. There are a lot of vacant buildings and overgrown lots, and there’s little new construction.
  • More shopping options, but fewer Starbucks. Toledo has a Macy’s, an H&M and a natural foods co-op: three stores I appreciate having around that were nowhere near driving distance in Des Moines. But Des Moines had a Trader Joe’s. The nearest TJ’s around here is in Ann Arbor, 45 minutes north, where there is also a Cost Plus/World Market and a Whole Foods. There is an IKEA about an hour away, and a major metropolitan airport–Detroit–less than an hour away.
  • The people seem a little less overtly friendly than in Iowa, and there is a stronger accent here, which was a surprising find. It sounds like a mix of Chicago, East Coast and Wisconsin.
  • There are a lot of Semites here–Jews and Arabs, which is a welcome demographic for me, being a mixture of those two people. There’s a Muslim family across the street who live next to Jews and we live next door to another Jewish family. I’m interested to see what the winter holidays look like.
  • Downtown Toledo is not a place where you want to be. It is vacant. It even feels vacant during work hours on a weekday. There are a few tall buildings, but not a lot of revitalization or interesting things to see or do. Des Moines has been slowly attracting more restaurants, bars, stores and residents to its downtown, and while it’s by no means as bustling as San Francisco or San Diego, it is getting better.
  • Fewer outlets for yoga here. But there are a lot of Pilates studios, and it seems like people are really into triathlons.
  • It is very flat. Pancake flat. In the sense that you would just be able to go on forever in a straight line.

More observations to come as life here goes on…

Leave a comment


  1. Sounds like the 1990s!

  2. Kathryn

     /  September 12, 2011

    Welcome to Northwest Ohio! :> I noticed in an earlier post that you have twins? There’s a group in Toledo called “The Toledo Mother of Twins Club” (TMOTC for short). The ladies in it are wonderful, and maybe that is something you’d be interested in. My mother is in it (even though we live in the suburbs), as she has twins, of which I am one-half of the pair.

  3. Consider the Berkshires in Western MA. Diverse, liberal, kind people. Lots of writers and artists. My husband is in a medical practice here and the practice is growing. A great place to raise kids. Not flat at all!
    I was horrified and touched by your Shock and Awe piece, by the way. What a horrible way to treat anyone. I’m so sorry you went through that.

  4. Shamsi M.

     /  September 13, 2011

    Ohio is definitely still considered the Heartland….in fact that I think that is one of its mottos, or at least I’ve seen it on a license plate at some point. :

    So…welcome to Northwest Ohio! I am a half-Persian woman who grew up in the Toledo area, although I am now living overseas. You are absolutely right that there is a large Arab (Lebanese) and a substantial Jewish population. I wish you and your family the best, and I pray that you don’t have any more harrowing experiences like you did recently.

    As for things to do in Toledo, I highly recommend visiting the Toledo Museum of Art, if you haven’t already. It is probably the best thing this area has to offer, in my humble opinion. 🙂

  5. Still the heartland – in fact, at one time I am pretty sure the state motto was, “Ohio – The Heart of it All”.

    Downtown Toledo has the Huntington Center, where any major musical acts coming to the area will be, as well as the minor league hockey games. The Mud Hens stadium gets busy, and I can attest, as someone who works downtown, that downtown gets busy when the Hens or the Walleye are having a home game.

    I also recommend the Art Museum, which is beautiful and has an impressive collection for a town as small as Toledo.

    And we do have a lack of Starbucks, but try Biggby’s. The coffee is better. (I am not a fan of Starbucks, actually, I think the coffee is too bitter, so I might not be the best judge.)

    I am incredibly horrified about what happened to you on Sunday (that was the post that brought me here.) I feel like the whole world has gone mad.

  6. Hey, I am just across the border in Michigan. In case you get board leaving in Toledo, you can always come check out what is going on here, we have major concerts, art expositions and have big Jewish and Arabic communities here too.
    I hope your terrifying experience at DTW will not stop you from coming here and check out your neighbors!

  7. Elise

     /  September 13, 2011

    I am a Toledo native – I prefer to think of Ohio as part of the Great Lakes region. They have agriculture like the rest of the Midwest, but higher population (7th in the nation), auto industry (ruins thereof, in some areas) and a little more diversity separates the Plains states from the Great Lakes ones.

    I second and third the suggestions above! Biggby’s is great coffee. The Toledo Art Museum is impressive. If you have kids, or just appreciate well-maintained and innovative zoos, the Toledo Zoo is excellent. Toledo Metroparks are really great – lots of trails and playgrounds. The Erie Street Market is a cool farmers market that is open year round. If you go down to the Docks, there are tons of neat restaurants right on the river.

    Also, now that it’s fall, you should check out MacQueen’s apple orchard! They have an apple festival in early October that is splendid and delightful.

    I hope you grow to love it there – I’m surprised at how much I miss it now!

  8. There’s also Cedar Point, not far away in Sandusky. It’s actually a lot of fun as is the Halloween events there.

    When you have time, you might look to Ashtabula for Columbus Day weekend and the Covered Bridge Festival. Probably sounds boring, but it really is pretty. Afterward, you can eat at Covered Bridge Pizza in Kingsville or have apples and yummy apple cider donuts at Brants Orchard (between Benetka Road and Olins Covered Bridges).

    The other thing that I like about Ohio, the Presidential mansions. Garfield’s and Hayes’ .

    And in the South, there are fabulous caves and Indian burial sites. Don’t forget to go Ice Fishing during the winter. Seems terrible, but really, it’s a great bonding experience.

  9. I found your blog through the story on MSN about your terrifying experience on 9.11; only to find out that we have something in common. I’m a transplant of Iowa to Ohio as well. I grew up in Southern Iowa and moved to North Central Ohio for college in 2002. There are a lot of similarities between to the two states. I used to frequent DSM a lot, as there was never anything to do or places to shop in Southern Iowa. Although many things are the same here in Ohio, I have came to love the Buckeye State, but my heart will always be in Iowa.

  10. I’m in Sylvania, Ohio. If you need anything drop me an email and I’ll do whatever I can to help you out.

  11. You observe well.

  12. Welcome to Ohio! I’m a couple hours east of you in Lorain. There are plenty of hilly areas to explore in Ohio as you travel south and east. Make sure to take a ride along the North Coast to enjoy all the sights Lake Erie has to offer 🙂

  13. Heartland in general just simply means central United States… though today it seems to some to mean “Bible Belt” states, and to others the Midwest. Your welcome to the Midwest was a friendly greeting over at Metro airport. Evidently you look very scary. (Of course it was the newsstories that lead me to your blog).

  14. Jan

     /  September 14, 2011

    Welcome to Ohio, Roshanna. I am from Cincinnati, the conservative Republican bastion of the state. I feel compelled to comment on your treatment at the Detroit Airport. I am so sorry you were so badly treated, Roshana. I am ultra-proud of being an American, perhaps because we lived overseas in my youth. We lived in northern Italy in the mid-fifties. Quite an experience. Even as a kid, I knew who the Carabinieri were (police with extra-military power and always easily identifiable), just as I knew never to insult a Sicilian to his face. Kids pick these things up. I never thought I would see the USA descend to such contempt for its citizens as is being shown by Homeland Security. This is a fascist response to an imaginary fear. We have become a nation of cowards.

  15. Hi! I followed your TSA story to your blog. I am also a Toledoian, so wanted to extend a welcome and offer of help, support, comraderie, information, or whatever else you need. Toledo can seem kind of cold at first, but I’ve lived here for about 10 years now, and it grows on you. There are quite a few things to do, but you have to do a little work to find them. Seriously, if there is anything I can do to help you get acclimated, don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail.

  16. Joe

     /  September 14, 2011

    1. You were stripped of your freedom and liberty that so many of your fellow Americans!
    2. FYI, Now you have a criminal record for doing nothing.
    3. Thank you “NEW WORLD ORDER”!

  17. Linda

     /  September 14, 2011

    Hey – best news of all is you are only ONE HOUR away from Cedar Point, the greatest amusement park in America (not my words, but actually won this title in a voting contest for the best park).

  18. Bart

     /  September 14, 2011

    Toledo, yuck! Poor you. It was a great place to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s. Once a proud blue collar town full of middle class families, it is now an ugly step sister of Detroit complete with the crime and rundown hoods. Good luck, there are still a few bright spots in the area to enjoy.

    Very sorry about your recent treatment. Your civil rights were violated and you should seek out a good law firm willing to stand up for your rights. Unless the abused fight back, we will ALL eventually face the new found tyrants that were once our public servants. We are all Indians now, welcome to the reservation.

  19. Another Ohioan weighing in 😉

    I don’t want to say bad things about Toledo, but, Toledo is definitely not representative of all of Ohio! 🙂 I wasn’t a fan of the city when I visited, but I have lived in Columbus for a grand total of . . . (squint) six years now (three years, followed by two years in California, followed by three more years here). I love Columbus dearly–it reminds me of California in some ways, actually, minus the culture that goes with having a gigantic ocean next to you. 😉

    I guess you could sum up this comment as, “If you get bored in Toledo, try visiting Columbus!” And also, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” 🙂

  20. Tim

     /  September 14, 2011

    Welcome to Ohio. I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life … and never could get much clarity on the whole “Midwest”, “Heartland”, “Mideast” naming convention. Ohio’s position in the nation always seemed to change depending on the person I was speaking to.

    I am truly sorry to hear of your experience in Detroit. Horrifying.

  21. Angela V

     /  September 14, 2011

    I found your blog due to your airport incident. You handled yourself very well. I would have been hysterical. I appreciate your honest blog post. I noticed this post, too and feel like we have something in common. My husband just finished a 2 year fellowship at Toledo Hospital. We were originally living in Omaha. I also have a couple of friends who graduated this spring in Des Moines as DOs. Perhaps they know your husband. If you are interested in a list of some of the fun things we found to do in the Toledo area, just email me angburt at hotmail dot com, once all the media craziness is over and you have time to do stuff, of course!! (We have 2 boys ages 4 & 2 yrs, not sure how old your kids are.)

  22. DavyTim

     /  September 15, 2011

    I grew up in southern Ohio, specifically in Circleville (some folks there call it “central Ohio,” but it definitely has a different feel than “central,” being wedged between Kentucky and West Virginia, and plenty of influence from the southern part of the state where people have strong accents. Haven’t lived there for nearly 45 years, but everywhere else I’ve gone I’ve found confusion about whether Ohio is an eastern or midwestern state. My wife grew up in Minnesota, and for her, Ohio was definitely an eastern state. If you ask Ohioans themselves, I’m sure that 99% of them will say it’s “midwestern.” For a break from the flat land, go southeast to the Hocking Hills and the part of the state that is officially considered part of Appalachia.

  23. I grew up in Toledo…. It is considered “midwest” but it is neither mid, nor west….. I laughed about you hearing an accent – since I cannot (But I grew up there so I wouldnt be the best judge.)

    There are many “ethnic festivals” in the many neighborhoods – I hope you find some you might like.

    Best of luck there – I just read your post about 9/11 and I ache that such things occur here in our country. My heart is with you – Shalom.


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