We made three trips to Erie County, Ohio and back between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seemed to me that as we went further north, we saw more billboards that had fallen into neglect. Layers of advertisements were peeling away revealing portions of older advertisements and graffiti beneath them. A striking one I remember was on I-75 somewhere near Cygnet, if I recall correctly. It was a mostly white billboard with different layers of old advertisements torn away leaving the bold, black proclamation "NiXiT."

Along Route 6 in Erie County, near my parents' home, peeking out through an advertisement for some sort of health care concern was the phrase "My sweatshop," which I think was part of a pro-Union/anti-Wal Mart billboard from a few years ago.

I wish I had had a camera to capture some of these odd, neglected billboards, but our workhorse pocket camera perished in a Caribbean snorkeling accident in November, and we've yet to replace it. The above is a sketch from memory of a few billboards we drove past again and again over the past month.

I wonder if there's a correlation between neglected billboards and the economy? Ohio's worst unemployment rates are in the southeastern counties (the northwestern counties of Ottawa and Williams are also in poor shape), but Huron County, the county immediately south of Erie, at 13.7 percent for November 2009, isn't far behind the pack. (Erie County's unemployment rate was 11 percent, a little above the state average of 10.2, according to the source linked to, above). There certainly are large bubbles of unhappiness and hardship throughout Ohio. It seems to show even in the billboards.