We are often put in a situation of what to do for a 2-day weekend. You have enough hotel points that the room will be free, you just have to find someone to come walk the dog, and an interesting place that’s not too far away. The beach is too far, but Niagara Falls comes to mind, or maybe some of the state parks in West Virginia. Or maybe……..Cleveland?
Growing up a Pittsburgher, I have always treated Cleveland with disdain. It is the nearest “big league” city to the Burgh, and is very similar socio-economically. We, of course, live in the City of Champions (and the Pirates), while Cleveland has been on hard times sports-wise until the Cavs won the NBA championship last year. As Pittsburgh does not have an NBA team, we really don’t count this as a real sport. The Indians aren’t too bad, but they play in a different league and we don’t see them enough to hate them. They don’t have a hockey team, so we can’t rub their noses in our five Stanley Cup championships, but they do have the Browns.
My wife, Denise, of My Life Cookbook fame, told me at this point to put in a disclaimer to allow any non-sports fan to skip ahead a bit.
The Browns play in the National Football League’s AFC North division along with Baltimore, Cincinnati, and our beloved Steelers. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls, and the Ravens have won a couple when nobody was looking. The Ohio teams just pretty much suck, which leads to a great joke I heard one time:
Q: Why can’t Columbus, OH have an NFL franchise?
A: Because then Cleveland and Cincinnati would want one, too
Always nice when you can insult an entire state.
In 2004, the Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger with the eleventh pick in the NFL draft. Cleveland passed on him. Never mind that he was the OHIO player of the year at Findlay HS, or that he holds all the passing records at Miami University of OHIO. And, it’s not like they had a great QB to begin with 34 year old Jeff Garcia. Big Ben has been the Steeler starter for the past 13 seasons, and is a sure-fire Hall of Fame-er with two Super Bowl rings. It is fun to look at the list of starters for the Browns over this time.
Ok, so enough beating up on the Browns. Cleveland is known for more than just lousy football.
Their River Caught on Fire
The Cuyahoga River goes right through downtown Cleveland on its way to Lake Erie. In 1969, the river, which was heavily polluted, caught fire which made national news. The incident helped to spawn the Environmental Protection Act which has done a lot to clean up US waterways. Incidentally, our tour guide told us that “the fire in 1969 wasn’t that impressive, so national news agencies used photos of the 1953 river fire which were much more impressive”.
And their weather isn’t too great. Being in the lee of the lake, they get pretty much blasted with snow.
So enough beating up on the city. Like Pittsburgh, Cleveland has achieved a remarkable renaissance in the past 50 years. Gone are the run-down industrial slums to be replaced by new skyscrapers, a thriving theater district, wonderful lakefront recreation, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We stayed in a nice hotel (free with points) on the Lakefront, about two blocks from the R&R HOF. We walked there and spent almost 4 hours going through the museum. It was magnificent. It was designed by I.M. Pei and reminds you of the Louvre. Huge colored banks of speakers are located throughout the city and rock play music each hour. The hall itself is five stories high. There are plenty of themed exhibits on the early days of rock and roll, the pioneers, and the super groups of the 60s and 70s. Being old myself, this is a key feature of the hall. One of my personal favorites, the Moody Blues, were inducted in this year’s class.
After about 4 hours at the HOF, we made our way down to the end of the pier to take The Cleveland Bike Tour. As temperatures aren’t normally in the mid-90s, this tour would consist of just the three of us, and our wonderful tour guide, Joe. I have found that a bike tour is a great way to see a city, and our guide was informative and fun. Joe gave us ice cold water bottles and very nice 21-speed bikes and away we went. Joe was full of useful information about the town, and the streets were very quiet on a Saturday.
From the pier, we rode to the Browns stadium which is called First Energy Field on the maps, but House of Tears by the fans in Cleveland.
From here we pedaled along the lake shore to The Flats. where the Cuyahoga was NOT in flames. We had a nice meal at Coastal Taco right on the river bank.
Then it was up into town to Public Square where they have a really nice central park and several cool statues. There was an anti-something rally going on, but our tour guide Joe was discretely anti-political.
They also have a really top-notch theater district, second only to Broadway in NYC. We got to see Jacob’s Field which has been economically renamed as Progressive Field, but a nice mid-town baseball park none-the-less.
The Indians are getting grief from the PC-types about the Cleveland Indian mascot (probably for just cause). I’m guessing that the International Brotherhood of Pirates just doesn’t have the same clout.
Just one more thing. Cleveland has this big lake. Some might even call it “great”, although Joe the tour guide said it averages only 65 ft deep. So instead of coal barges on the Mon, you get something like this:
So finally, it was back to the pier to turn in our bikes and prepare to take the 2.5 hour trip home. It was an excellent get away. Takes me back to the Drew Carey Show theme song when they used to yell “Cleveland Rocks!”, we of course would yell, “Cleveland Sucks!”. Not the case my friends. Cleveland does indeed Rock.
Day Tripping with Rick