I decided there was no way that I could even come close to seeing everything I wanted to in Chicago, and that I just need to come back. So we headed towards Indiana to stay at another Walmart.
When I was in high school, I went to a summer engineering program at University of Notre Dame, so I had already been to Indiana. I really had no desire to go back, so we decided to just to cross Indiana into Ohio. Also, I wanted to get to the fall colors in Maine before they were gone, so I picked one city in Ohio to stop and visit. Cleveland was the choice, and that was a great decision.
As we were driving across Indiana, we get a call from Mom saying that Dad’s brother Greg has passed out and is on the way to hospital. I start sending my phone number to my cousins so they can call and update my dad as we travel. Finally, we get a call from my Aunt Michelle, but we needed to get off the freeway so if my dad got upset he wouldn’t do it driving. So we pulled off the freeway on the east side of South Bend, Indiana and went to a gas station so my dad could take the call. The update was that they were still doing tests to figure out what was wrong without much detail. (Later, we would get updated that they couldn’t find anything wrong with my Uncle’s heart, and they sent him home. Good news).
We spent 5 minutes at the gas station with the car turned off, and when get back in to go the car does not start. I tried the key fab to see if we had triggered the alarm somehow and it wasn’t letting us start the car, but that didn’t work. In fact, the fab didn’t work at all to lock/unlock the door. Plus, the lights were dim. We’d just been driving for over an hour, so how in the hell could the battery die.
Dad got someone to come over and jump the car. It took letting the jumpers sit for five minutes before the car started again, but thankfully we did. I found the closest NAPA Auto Parts so we could head over and get a new battery for the car. As we were driving, the car kept trying to die again but we made it. Both Dad and I were hoping the alternator was still good, even though the battery was no longer holding a charge. At NAPA, they tested and confirmed the battery was bad. My mechanic dad took just a few minutes to change the battery and get us back on the road. Hopefully, this is the last breakdown of the trip, but it does bring peace or mind with Dad being a mechanic.
Finally, we continue on across Indiana and then into Ohio. The route is still rows and rows of corn. As dusk is setting in, we pull into Cleveland. The first place we try to go for dinner is closed 😦 So we continue further into the city, which some neighborhoods are completely empty. We see one or two cars in several blocks and the buildings and in need of TLC. This is the first town we see that has been visually hit by the recession, but it has been in a recession since the 70s when the steal factories all closed up.
We drive into Ohio City, which is a neighborhood that has undergone gentrification. Dinner is at a fantastic gourmet Mexican restaurant – Momocho. The guacamole was made with sheep’s milk gouda, roasted garlic cloves, and honey. I didn’t know what that mixture of flavors would be like for guacamole, but it was incredible. The restaurant had a warm wood feeling with dark red lights providing the ambience.
The next day we head into Roots Cafe which was rated as the best cafe in Cleveland. My cappuccino was Italian style, and the flavor was great. The cafe was colorful and inviting. It was a great place for me to work on my blog a bit and relax. The baristas gave us some great tips on what to explore. We headed back into Ohio City neighborhood to visit the West Side Market. This was the first closed market in Ohio. The food stands with fish, beef, cheeses, and other goods just made my mouth water. But the architecture of the old building took my breath away. Dad did a better job of picking out snacks with tamales. I grabbed some bacon cheddar popcorn and crab salad. Unfortunately, the market was closing, so we headed into the square across the street to eat our snacks. Dad gave half the tamales away to the hungry people hanging out in the square and we ate the others. They were so tasty! My crab salad was way to creamy and I couldn’t eat it. The popcorn was so bad we left it on the table for the birds.
We wandered around the neighborhood since the buildings were old but well taken care of. Finally, we head over to Great Lakes Brewing Company to grab a beer. My old friend from Grad School, Keisha, who now lives in Cleveland, calls and says she can meet us for a beer. It turns into a wonderful night of good beer, so-so food, and fantastic conversation. There are so many blessings about this trip, but one of my favorite so far is catching up with friends.
We head out that night to camp in Erie, Pennsylvania as we continue eastward. We’re only planning on exploring the Eastern part of Pennsylvania, so this is our only stop on this part of the journey. There’s not much in Erie, so we head into New York to check out Buffalo.
It’s lunch time, so the required stop in Buffalo is for buffalo wings. Way back when I was a vegetarian for a couple years in college, it was a craving for buffalo wings that got me eating meat again. I had to try wings in the town they originated from. We went to Gabriel’s Gate, which was listed as the top wings restaurant on a city poll. The road in front of the restaurant was completely torn up, so the place was empty because of the construction. Yet, the service was fantastic, and the food divine. The wings were the best wings I’ve ever had. Tons of flavor with a bit of a bite and homemade ranch to dip them in. The French Onion soup we started with had an amazing broth and cheese galore!
After eating, we headed down to the harbor to see the western most point of the Erie canal. This area is now a Military memorial, and most of the canal is underground. We walked along the harbor to look at the ships and see a lighthouse.
From Buffalo, we continue north to almost the Canadian border. (Reminder: Dad did not get his passport! Grrrr). From the highway, we can already see the steam rising from the waterfalls in our future. We pull into the parking lot for Niagara Falls, and head to the visitor center. Other than seeing the waterfall, everything else requires a fee to see. So we walk over to American Falls, and there is a rainbow showing in the steam going from top to bottom. The sound of the waterfall is incredible. Then we head over to Horseshoe Falls, which is the largest flowing waterfall in North America. There was so much mist coming off the falls, that I was completely soaked trying to take a photo of the falls. But really, the mist blocked most of the view of the falls. The US side of the falls is from where Lake Erie flows into Lake Ontario, so the view is not looking at the falls. That view is on the Canadian side, which we couldn’t see 😦
Niagara Falls is still a tourist trap. To take a boat ride to see the falls or to hike behind the falls each cost money. It is a very different natural experience than any of the national parks. It is unfortunate that Niagara Falls is not a national park, but I’m still grateful. The tourism that destroyed the natural fell of Niagara is what made our nation/Teddy Roosevelt realize we need to preserve the amazing natural features of our country for every citizen to enjoy.
We left Niagara to head to the capital of New York, Albany. It was getting late, so we stopped a bit short in Schenectady, New York. A cute town with lovely old buildings. I had heard of this town before, but I never expected to stay in it :). We rolled into Albany in the morning and went straight to the Harbor River Coffee Company. This was a total college cafe, since it was only a block from the campus. Yet, the bagel was tasty and the coffee decent. Plus, I could get wifi again to work on my blog.
Since I was pushing to get to New England to see the autumn colors, we didn’t stay long in Albany. However, driving through the center of town, I could tell how adorable this place was. I can’t wait to come back and explore further. This is a town that needs time to walk along the streets and check out the old buildings. Until the next time!