A couple of years ago, Serial did a most excellent podcast on the Cuyahoga County justice system. Lots of terrible people were featured, including cops and judges. Which makes Cleveland—known to the rest of the country as “The Mistake on the Lake”—look really bad.
The Cuyahoga River runs through the city. Historically the river was so polluted with chemicals that it caught fire more than a dozen times, burning buildings and boats along the way.
Health officials still discourage swimming in the river because of raw sewage. Which makes Cleveland look really bad.
TripAdvisor says one of the “top attractions” is a chain supermarket. Which makes Cleveland look really bad.
The Browns once drafted University of Kentucky halfwit Tim Couch with the first overall pick. Which makes Cleveland look really, really bad. The point is, our expectations were low. As low as Vanderbilt finishes in the SEC East standings every football season. As low as the self-esteem of any adult who yells “Roll Tide” or “Gig ‘em.”
Perhaps we’ve been fooled like the blind men touching an elephant in the old Buddhist fable, but the parts of Cleveland we spent five days exploring in fact were pretty awesome. What wasn’t awesome was the trip in from Geneva.
The issue wasn’t the Perry Nuclear Power Plant cooling towers. Those actually were sort of interesting.
The issue wasn’t even Tuesday’s unexpectedly-miserable beam waves, although they probably played some part in snapping off one of the bolts that clamped the rudder arm to the rudder post. Meaning that fifteen miles from Cleveland we suddenly had no steering and it wasn’t because of weeds this time. Fortunately Rick had the great foresight to leave a spare bolt on the boat for just this purpose, and fortunately Dana persevered in searching for said spare bolt after Doug had given up. That allowed a repair that at least got us to safety.
Now back to stuff about Cleveland. Starting with the marina, nicely protected by a pedestrian bridge so new that it appears on exactly none of our charts or on any map app.
Cleveland installed the $6 million bridge so that people who want to go from the Science Center to the park can avoid a grueling eight-minute walk past the Oasis marina. Now the city pays bridgetenders around the clock to let boats in and out. It all seems unnecessary to us, but we don’t live in Cleveland so it’s not our money. The marina, however, is awesome.
That building on the left, steps from where we docked for a few days, is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Being tourists and all, we popped over. This place is top notch.
We do have one critical observation, though. Placing the “Story of Hip-Hop” immediately next to an incredible Beatles exhibit is damn embarrassing. In fact, the mere suggestion that rap is “music” at all is damn embarrassing. At least they jammed it in a dark dead-end. Apart from the hip-hop thing, it’s a fabulous museum.
FirstEnergy Stadium—home of the tragically inept Browns—also is right on the water.
Out front there’s a statue of Otto Graham, who was the Brown’s last competent quarterback despite the fact that he retired in 1955.
Jim Brown—an All-American fullback and lacrosse player out of Syracuse, and perennial Pro-Bowler—is on any short list of greatest NFL players in history. Although he starred in such Hollywood classics as Mars Attacks and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Brown is not on the short list of greatest American actors. However, he also got a statue.
Turns out statues are a pretty big deal around here. The great Jesse Owens is honored with one, in part for figuratively shoving his spikes up Adolf Hitler’s behind in 1936 and in part for being the only compelling thing Ohio State ever produced.
And it’s not just statues of famous people. Cleveland sports some cool public art as well.
The entire waterfront is guarded by a five-mile long breakwater, which appears to be constructed out of concrete Czech hedgehogs and serves to protect Cleveland from invading tanks as well as the raging waters of Lake Erie.
And on Thursday and Friday, the Lake Erie waters were raging. Maybe not enough to deter boaters of more hardy stock, but we’re unapologetic weenies so we waited until Saturday to leave. Which gave us time for a few more noteworthy things. Like epic sunsets on the lake.
Dana even went birding, although this dude was six feet from the boat and she saw him from the pilothouse so she didn’t go far.
Here’s Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. We knew it was the home of the Indians because there’s a statue of famous fireballer Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller out front.*
What’s that you say? They’re not the Indians any more? No matter how one feels about the appropriation of Native American images and culture, “Cleveland Guardians” is a dumb name. But now at least we know how they came up with it. Because right outside the stadium—on both sides of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge—the “Guardians of Traffic” have loomed over the city since 1932.**
Supposedly Bob Hope’s father participated in carving the eight forty-something-feet tall Art Deco figures that supposedly “typify the spirit of progress in transportation.” All we know is that on our list of the greatest comedians in history, Bob Hope is pretty far down. Well below Midge Maisel.
Wait! How’s this for awesome? Here’s the old man’s major award, right there in the front-room window of the house where Ralphie ate Ovaltine and almost shot his eye out with an official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.***
One last thing about Cleveland. Turns out that downtown supermarket isn’t on TripAdvisor’s list of attractions because Cleveland lacks anything better; it’s there because it’s amazing. Local chain Heinen’s opened it in a century-old former bank headquarters, replete with colorful murals and a huge stained-glass rotunda dome. Dana says it’s the coolest grocery store she’s ever seen.
Anyway, although we thoroughly enjoyed Cleveland and admit to inaccurate prejudging, we ain’t moving to Cleveland. So after one more night and a crisp scooter ride to get morning bagels, we left.
With three shiny new bolts clamping the hydraulic arm to the rudder shaft, we headed off today. As a general rule, we prefer days where the water and sky aren’t the same color. We mostly got fifty shades of gray.
Even more, however, we prefer the smooth water we enjoyed all the way to Lorain.
Originally we planned to have a guy look at a little electrical issue, which is the reason we paid in advance for a reservation in Lorain. After we stayed an extra two days in Cleveland, however, we decided to live with the electrical issue. But we couldn’t get our money back so came to Lorain anyway. Then, and only then, did we read that Lorain has one of the highest crime rates in Ohio. Well crap.
So it’s a crappy, cloudy, dangerous day, but at least the marina is solid.
After tying up and vacuuming the bugs off the cockpit, we sucked up our courage for a walk through town to Lakeview Park, home of Lorain’s pride and joy: the Rose Garden.
A bit of Lorain history. In 1924, the Lorain-Sandusky Tornado touched down in Lakeview Park. Heck, we didn’t know they even named tornados. This one killed 72 town-folks, including a bunch right about where the roses are.
Also right near the roses is a semi-derelict Easter basket, only instead of eggs this one has a mix of flowers and weeds.
The basket brings back nostalgic memories of long-ago Easters, when our baby girls gleefully searched for plastic eggs we’d filled and hidden—Dana’s loaded with candy and Doug’s with lifelike rubber cockroaches—until one of them had the annual meltdown for one reason or another and the entire thing fizzled. Good times.
We’d just about forgotten the whole “high crime rate” thing until we personally witnessed a felonious assault on good taste and common decency. Does Ohio still have the death penalty?
Lorain’s number one attraction, of course, is the decommissioned lighthouse at the Black River entrance.
We have to admit, it’s pretty cool when they put the floodlights on it at night.
Tomorrow we start island hopping.
*Despite his miraculous season as the Indians closer, famous fireballer Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn does not have a statue outside of Progressive Field.
**Seriously. They’re called the “Guardians of Traffic.”
***“Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian.” They were selling leg lamps at the gift shop across the street, but Dana ironically put her foot down.