My favourite road trip of 2018 included two things things I love but are increasingly hard to find, a car with a manual transmission and a circus.
In May we headed to Ohio to see the Zoppé Family Circus. Our drive was the Hyundai Elantra Sport, a little dream of a car with an easy shifting 6-speed manual transmission. Starting at about $25,000 the Elantra Sport has the right specs, it’s a small, sporty uncomplicated car for the driving enthusiast.
The Zoppé Circus has intrigued me since I saw a New York Times article about them in 2005. It’s a proper circus with a big top, animals, and a scary clown.
The Zoppé family got into the circus business in 1842 in Italy, but moved their act to the US in 1948.
Lo and behold, I discovered they were performing at the Canfield Ohio fairgrounds last May. After buying two tickets online for the grand sum of $20, we headed out for the Midwest in the little green-as-an- inch-worm Elantra.
Though the Elantra Sport has all the modern fixings, there is a light heartedness about it that reminds me of cars from the past that were unpretentious.
The manual is easy to shift, the clutch is light, steering is sharp, and the 1.6 litre turbocharged engine produces 201 horsepower. It’s fast enough for most sensible people. All the modern things like navigation and the entertainment system work seamlessly, a quality that is a Hyundai trademark. The seats are supportive, visibility good, and the centre console still has physical buttons for common controls. The clear-headed design means you can drive with fewer distractions.
Once we crossed into the US, we breezed along the shore of Lake Erie, admiring vineyards in Pennsylvania before heading south toward Canfield Ohio.
A must see in the Canfield area is Lanterman’s Mill. Built in 1845 and restored in 1982, it’s a gorgeous building clinging to the edge of a waterfall. The restored machinery still grinds corn and wheat. Tour guides give a detailed history of the mill, and on the way out you can buy stone ground flour that is preservative free. I bought a bag and found it excellent for bread making.
We checked into a brand new Courtyard Marriott, booked a room overlooking a golf course for $115 and enjoyed watching the duffers on the first tee.
Next day we followed a long line of school busses into the fairgrounds and found the Zoppé Circus waiting for the school kids to arrive.
Papino the white faced clown played the accordion, while acrobats and trapeze artists gave a preview of what was to happen inside the one-ring circus. I introduced myself to the boss, Giovanni Zoppé aka Nino the clown.
“You’re from Hamilton? Say hi to Gabe Macaluso,” Zoppé said.
Seems a long time ago, Macaluso booked the circus for Hamilton Place. “We’d like to come back,” Zoppé said.
We took our seats at the back of the tent, behind hundreds of school kids. The white horses came out, the bareback riders, jugglers, acrobats, dogs and trapeze performers-so close you could feel the breeze from the horses as they pranced around the ring.
It was splendid-not a cell phone in sight and the kids jumping out of their chairs in wonderment.
After the circus we headed home and discovered a beautiful drive through the Allegheny State Forest in Pennsylvania. Just smooth roads, and the smell of pine trees and no traffic. We had a bite at Hunter’s Station Golf Club, another gem in Tionesta PA, then motored on home to Hamilton.
So it’s thumbs up for the Hyundai Elantra Sport and the Zoppé Circus. They have an act that would be perfect for Supercrawl. Let’s hope we see Nino the Clown and the gang set up the big tent on James Street North.