Oh Ohio.

Apparently I have decided that the best way to break in a new car is back-to-back road trips. This time was to Michigan. I’ve been in Connecticut for quite some time but Michigan is my home state, I still have family there as well as a lot of family in the Chicago area, and for six (un-fun) years, my parents lived outside Indianapolis. All of this means that I’ve done the traverse between Connecticut and the midwest countless times. But never driving solo. And I’m just going to say it: it. was. great. I didn’t have to compromise on what music to listen to or at what volume, I could sing along if I wanted to, I could stop whenever I felt like it, and if I was really craving the conversation with another human, well, I’ve got bluetooth for that.

North Coast Harbor

It’s roughly 725 miles from my place to my grandparents. The drive is usually anywhere between 11 and 12 hours. The best route (get ready to have your minds’ blown New Englanders) is through Canada and entering Michigan through the thumb. But, with the Covid rules and what not, I drove through Pennsylvania and Ohio instead. And my little traveler brain, of course, instantly jumped to the fact that I have never been to the Cleveland area of Ohio. Some exploring was clearly in order.

Cleveland Fun Facts

Population: a little over 376,000 people (roughly 10,000 less than New Orleans). This makes it the second largest city in Ohio.

Cleveland was founded by a Connecticut man! A surveyor named Moses Cleaveland. Cleaveland (with the ‘a’) was the original name of the city. The spelling was first changed to Cleveland by a newspaper in 1831 and the spelling, evidently, stuck (ah, the power of media…). The story goes that the newspaper, The Cleveland Advertiser, couldn’t fit their name on their masthead, thus dropping the extra letter.

North Coast Harbor

It’s the birthplace of Superman (not the real one, he’s from Krypton, duh). Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman in the 1930’s as high schoolers in Cleveland.

Cleveland is home of the first indoor mall. It’s called The Arcade and certainly doesn’t look like any mall I’m used to.

Inside The Arcade

The Sights

I cut my drive into two days for the trip out there to give myself the opportunity to check out Cleveland. I left super early in the morning. And I mean, really really early. Early enough where I caught the sunrise somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania.

Random gas stop off highway 80 in PA

About 30 minutes outside Cleveland, while on a bluetooth phone call with my Dad, he all of a sudden asked, “are the Browns at home today?” That’s right. I was driving in on a Sunday and completely forgot about football. The Browns were, in fact, playing at home. Whoops. Or at least I thought it was a whoops. The traffic was a little heavier and the parking fees were terrible, but otherwise it ended up being a happy surprise. Connecticut loves football as much as any other state, but Connecticut doesn’t technically have its own team. There are more Patriots and Giants fans around, sure, but also a heck of a lot of fans from other NFL teams. Going out and watching football at a sports bar, while the Patriots will get the biggest TV, every other TV will have a different game on. Actually, you’re more likely to find fans of other teams out at a bar because the Patriots and/or Giants games will always get the local station. Which makes it a whole hodge-podge of fans that are happy or angry at different times and the energy in those places reflect that. But Cleveland on game day? Whoa. This was a-whole-nother type of energy. The stadium is right downtown so there were hoards of people everywhere, dozens of people at a time chanting together following along with whatever stranger started that round, live music in the street, and everyone with a universal mind-set: go Browns. It was awesome energy, cool to see, and I hope I can experience it one day with my team, The Bears, in Chicago.

Right outside the Browns stadium

The number one thing on my to-see list was The Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. I knew it was there but, I have to admit, I originally thought that strange. The Country Music Hall of Fame being in Nashville, well, that just makes sense. But Cleveland and Rock and Roll? That one didn’t initially click for me. While it’s true that Cleveland is not the birthplace of Rock and Roll, the city has had a major influence on the music genre. What’s widely accepted at the first major Rock and Roll concert was held in Cleveland and the term ‘rock and roll’ itself was coined by a Cleveland DJ. Thus, when the time came to pick a home for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland earned the honor.

Thank you stranger for the pic!

Overall, I found the Hall of Fame pretty underwhelming. There was some neat stuff, but some parts were a little tacky and I found it less impressive in comparison to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Still, I found it enjoyable and I’m glad I went. My favorite part was the room dedicated to Super Bowl performances.

Superbowl section

After that, I spent a couple of hours walking around exploring different areas:

Had to check out a local brewery, of course. I chose Bookhouse Brewing because I’m a book nerd!
Heinen’s Grocery. An old but fancy Ohio bred grocery store.
Playhouse Square

On my way out of the city I caught the sunset at Edgewater Pier. It was an exceptional view (photo evidence below). It was also exceptionally windy. People unfamiliar with The Great Lakes are often surprised at how un-lake like they are. Due to their shear size they feel more like an ocean than a lake. This includes waves. And the enhancement of waves when it is windy. All this to say: I was thoroughly soaked by a Lake Erie wave while walking the pathway.

Edgewater Pier
Angry Lake Erie

Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive

I found Clevelanders to be aggressive. Both in negative remarks and in giving “compliments.” The obvious example were Browns fans that were unnecessarily aggressive towards the few that were there for the Cardinals. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon; far too frequently sports fandom crosses the line. However, I have been to major sporting events and, while fans of the non-home team always have to withstand some smack talk, I have never seen it to the level of aggression that I saw in Cleveland. Not only are the Cardinals not in the Browns’ division, but they’re not even in the same CONFERENCE. I just don’t think it’s necessary to threaten to “beat the shit” out of someone who has done absolutely nothing to instigate you at all and whose only “offense” is wearing a Cardinals jersey. (soapbox rant over).

This aggressive attitude carried over in other aspects as well. The salespeople were more aggressive, some having a hard time accepting ‘no.’ And men on the street were more aggressive in making remarks to me (hello, new found reason to love NYC where everyone largely ignores you). My favorite was a guy in a MAGA hat that yelled out his car window to me, “YOU make America great, honey.” While this is absolutely hilarious, it’s also disgusting.

Fast Take

Overall Cleveland was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was a more interesting city than I anticipated. Not a “I have to go back” kind of interesting but I enjoyed my time there. The downtown area was clean with very little graffiti and almost no litter which, given the NFL game and tailgating going on, is actually pretty impressive.

Walking around downtown

I stayed the night at a cheap hotel and hit Cuyahoga Valley National Park the next morning before driving the final leg to Michigan. But, National Parks are my favorite, so Cuyahoga will get it’s own spotlight!

P.S. The Browns lost to the Cardinals (I know you were all dying to know).

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