Cleveland or bust

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
Trip End Oct 07, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Ohio
Thursday, October 4, 2012

As usual, it has been a busy few days for us on our trip. I think the journey is beginning to wear on us. Plus, the rain has returned although it is not as intense as it was in Mississippi and Tennessee.  

We squeezed President Taft's birthplace into our tour of Cincinnati and that turned out to be pretty informative. We learned all about how different the political spectrum was when Taft was president. Even though he was a Republican and his father was actually the founder of the Republican Party in Cincinnati, they had some distinctly 'liberal' ideas. The elder Taft was staunchly anti-slavery and, in fact, refused to vote for Lincoln because he was not enough of an abolitionist. Furthermore, President Taft was fairly pro-labor and made a number of pro-worker decisions as Supreme Court judge in Ohio (before being elected president). However, he also became governor of the Philippines because he believed in spreading 'freedom' (sound familiar?!). The Tafts were and are a very political family as well. President Taft's son was really important politically in Cincinnati where he served something like nineteen terms on the city council and was elected mayor of Cincinnati more than one (as a Democrat too). So, all of this was intriguing and a good cap to our time in Cincinnati. 

Drawn by the promise of some more random roadside attractions, we stopped in Columbus, OH briefly. In the glimpse we had of it, it was much more impressive than we thought. It has a pretty waterfront area and many lovely old buildings. The court house I took way too many pictures of, but it was so pretty because they had just restored it. It was clearly built in the 30s because it's like workers' rights and workers' this that and the other everywhere. Columbus' Court House also includes a gigantic gavel which was one of our photo opportunities. The other was less impressive which was a recreation of the Santa Maria. It seemed really random until we remembered that the city was named after Christopher Columbus so the city built it for the 500th anniversary of his landing (the neighborhood would never be the same!). It is supposedly the most authentic recreation anywhere. Meh. Didn't do it for us. Mike was also fascinated by their large statue of Columbus himself which stands outside the City Hall. Our last target, a giant grad cap, went missing! We looked and looked and couldn't find it so we gave up. Still, Columbus, I guess because it is the capitol of Ohio, was fairly bustling. 

We also had a random guy tell us to "have a good visit from Cali" when he saw our license plate. It's like we're celebrities, I swear. We get many looks (not all pleasant). I think more people look at our roof rack than at our plate, but it could be a combination. I am convinced that the tailgaters target me. As our family can attest, I am not known for my slowness or lack of aggression as a driver and people are just pulling up on me like I'm somebody's grandma (no offense, Grandma Betty). It's really starting to get on my last nerve. Today, a guy in the Cleveland parking garage started chatting with us about how he used to live in and around Oakland in the eighties. He was like "what are you doing here in Cleveland?" like Cleveland was Mars or something. I commented to Mike that people should be more proud of their homelands. There is more to a city than the weather! (His major reason given for missing it.)

Before I get to Cleveland, however, I can't skip our side trip to Ohio's Amish Country in Holmes County. Mom, I know you're sad you weren't with us. You'll be even more sad when you learn, like we did, that Amish country here is actually bigger than in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (although there are several Amish communities outside of Lancaster in Pennsylvania which total to greater than Ohio's total population) . We didn't know that until afterwards. Mike was really funny in Amish Country because, I guess being a West Coaster, the whole concept of the Amish is pretty foreign to him. It's not like in our house which was populated by Shaker and otherwise country furnishings for as long as I can remember. So, we planned to drive to Millersburg and Berlin to seek out the Amish folk. Initially, when we arrived in Millersburg it seemed cute and old-timey but not Amish. As we were driving, I noticed some Amish at a pumpkin patch and pointed them out to Mike who really didn't notice or get it and said, "I just thought they were dressed weird." Hilarious. Anyway, we did get more into "Amish territory" where we stopped at a farm. It was really fun. They had a number of homemade foods from pies to jams to snacks and everything pickled you could ever want. They had flowers and pumpkins. In a different building, they had livestock and were also selling puppies plus homemade goods like small furniture, baskets, etc. I felt like such a city person because I am sure, if you're Amish, you think it's strange how us "English" (as they call us) are oohing and aahing over a bunch of farm animals. I couldn't help it though so Mike and I took a million pictures of cute little animals. 

After eating at a touristy supposedly Amish restaurant (it's a chain and the majority of people there were not Amish), we headed through the absolutely gorgeous Ohio countryside into Cleveland. Today, we barely made it out of hotel before it started raining. We spent most of our day at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which was a little lame. I was looking forward to it too. I don't want to be all critical about it, but most of the things I had heard about it were true: there is a lot of focus on some things, like the Beatles, and other groups who are just entirely lacking or skimmed over (like The Doors, U2, Led Zepplin, and so on). I didn't mind that it was inclusive in terms of acknowledging how important soul, gospel, country and the like were indispensable to rock. I think I once heard someone say that the Hall of Fame manages to make rock boring and I have to say that I agree. I knew I wasn't going to be thrilled when the touch screens at the first exhibit were broken. It was a list of the pre-cursors and you were supposed to be able to listen to some of their music, but the screens weren't working or would freeze. I guess it's hard to make a museum to music, but it was monotonous to see an endless array of artifacts listing the artist who owned them. Of course, one occasionally gets excited about a certain artist's guitar or jacket, but it's just sort of overwhelming. It bothered Mike that it wasn't linear time-wise, but for me, it was just the lack of interaction. At the end, we took in a very long movie about the various inductees into the Hall of Fame. We didn't meant to stay for long, but it was infectious watching the clips of all the artists. However, I don't meant to be ageist, but there were people at the Hall of Fame who didn't seem like the type who would ever be caught listening to rock and roll. I'm not sure why you would come if you don't like rock music. The movie of the inductees honestly made me want to dance or headbang or some combination and the audience's lack of enthusiasm made me feel even more contrarian. I understand that older people don't like newer music, but it seems like one should have a general appreciation for music before coming here. So, anyway, I left feeling like I wanted to "rock out" and that the Hall of Fame didn't really succeed in rocking out. As Chuck Berry says, 

Just let me hear some of that 
Rock And Roll Music, 
Any old way you choose it; 
It's got a back beat, you can't lose it, 
Any old time you use it
It's gotta be Rock And Roll Music, 
If you want to dance with me, 
If you want to dance with me

Actually, this isn't true because I love R&B too, but you get the idea.

We wrapped up Cleveland by a quick visit to the Shaker Museum which was here because they used to have a community nearby, but that sort of died out and their land was bought and developed into this neighborhood called Shaker Heights. That made Mike and I want to go to other Shaker communities because the museum was small and light on information. Apparently, the only surviving Shaker community (I didn't know there were any) is in Maine, of all places. So, maybe when we're in Boston, we can head up there and check it out. Mike just looked and I guess Sabbathday Lake in Maine only have FIVE members. I guess it's barely hanging in there

We've been a little disappointed in the food here in Cleveland. It's not like I was expecting anything gourmet, but it was hard to find anywhere that was very appealing. We settled on a small family Italian place. It was okay, but honestly I've had better in my hometown outside of Boston (not even going to bother comparing it to the North End itself). 

So, I guess it's farewell to Ohio tomorrow. We have a long drive to Cooperstown tomorrow, about 7 hours. I might not bother blogging tomorrow night because I would just be describing an uneventful drive. That means that our final entry might have to be from Weymouth, MA because we're going to the Baseball Hall of Fame and then driving to Boston that night. Crazy. I can't believe we're so close.  


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