My longtime friend Elna and I try to meet up every year for a few days of fun. She’s in Austin, I’m in Portland. Last fall we rolled the dice, tossed a coin and wound up in Cleveland. Neither of us had been there. The rationale? A brief internet search unveiled enough attractions and rated restaurants to keep us occupied for a few days. And the price was certainly right. The truth be told, I had to consult a map to learn Cleveland is located on Ohio’s northern border overlooking Lake Erie. It was founded in 1796 and has an interesting history. By the early 20th Century Cleveland was a thriving American manufacturing city. Things changed dramatically in the mid-sixties. The city experienced violent racial conflicts and massive white flight ensured. By 1969 the city’s environmental pollution was so bad, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. In the late 1970s the city was in severe financial trouble and defaulted on its loans.
Cleveland’s dingy reputation still clings in spite of the city’s hard work to renovate and innovate. We were asked time and again, even by locals, “why vacation in Cleveland?” My response now includes, “the locals.” A friendly bunch, for sure. Not jaded by hordes of tourists, people went out of their way to be helpful. Ask a question about the city or seek directions, you’ll find a new best friend.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
A major attraction, the museum is housed in a multistory modern glass structure chock full of displays from every genre of music that even remotely resembles rock. The place was crawling with white geezers … fellow travelers down memory lane. Definitely not a poster child for diversity, in spite of Cleveland’s very diverse population.
International Women’s Air & Space Museum
In juxtaposition to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this gem is tucked away in the Burke Lakefront Airport terminal. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Hall of Fame, yet during the 1½ hours we perused the exhibits, there was nary another visitor to be found. The exhibits include endless interesting stories about very determined and talented women and their contributions to aeronautics.
Named after it’s 99 charter members, Ninety-Nines is an international organization of female pilots formed in 1929. Amelia Earhart was the organization’s first elected president. The International Women’s Air & Space Museum was created by a committee of Ninety-Nines committed to saving the memorabilia and history of female pilots. First opened in 1986 in Centerville, Ohio, the museum moved to Cleveland in 1998.
Tracy Pilurs was an airplane builder, mechanic, flight instructor and aerobatics champion. She built this plane in her garage and flew it during a 1965 aerobatics competition.
The Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art has a delightful permanent collection. It is curated with care. Quality rather than quantity governs. In 1916 the current museum was opened. Designed by architects Benjamin Hubbell and W. Dominick Benes the Beaux Arts style building had two wings flanking a central rotunda. In 1958 an addition was designed by a local architecture firm, Hayes & Ruth. Yet another addition, designed by Marcel Breuer, was added in 1971. A west side addition was added to the complex in 1983, designed by a local architecture firm, Dalton, van Dijk, & Johnson. During the years, public areas have been upgraded and galleries redefined. The entrance to the museum in the picture above is now locked and considered the rear of the building.
The Fine Arts Garden behind the museum was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. and dedicated in 1928. Like the rest of the museum, the garden has been modified over the years. Sculptures spanning the years are artfully placed. The lagoon is surrounded by weeping Japanese Cherry trees. I really liked the detail of the great blue heron drinking fountain on the east side of the lagoon.
Around the City
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the “Playhouse Square” District of Cleveland. It’s a very good location and along the main bus line and within walking distance of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hotel staff were great. The hotel offers a guest shuttle, which was needed. Cleveland is a driving city. Typically I can walk in big cities for hours. Not in Cleveland. We set off on foot toward the museum district from our hotel (my idea). After about 30 minutes we encountered block after block of fenced and deserted properties. It turned into a hot slug along deserted city blocks. Not good. I cajoled Elna onto a city bus to the museum. A double Xanax adventure for sure. The bus driver was great and we made it to our destination. I doubled down on a bus ride back to the hotel. After that, it was cabs or hotel shuttle.The cabbies added to the friendly vibes of the city.
When Elna & I travel, “we eat good.” Breakfast is a “do you own thing” event. Lunch, we grab on the run popping into local restaurants. Dinners are special. Elna researches and make reservations. I totally trust her taste. Here are a couple of places that lived up to their reputations.
For all you Geezers On The Go – Keep on Keeping On!
Looking forward to returning to the road. In the meantime, remember your mask!