Road trip! Dive restaurants and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (BLOG)
Welcome to Spring Break week. With the schools shuttered until Monday, I gathered up the family for a road trip across the midwest.
The destination for Day One was Kalahari indoor water park in Sandusky, Ohio. Kalahari is an impressive, gigantic humid space with thousands of near-naked humans wandering barefoot in zig-zag paths. The grounds are so massive, the hotel room felt like it was miles away from the actual waterpark.
The plan for Day Two was to drive to Cleveland for the night, in order to spend the morning of Day Three at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Day Four’s plan was a trip to Detroit. Chicago crime has made us soft, so we wanted to see how it’s really done. Also, we made plans to visit the Motown museum.
Here’s how things unfolded, in pictures.
Restaurant options are slim in Sandusky, but we weren’t going to eat waterpark resort food (the prices are as ridiculous as you’d expect). My son made finding a good place for dinner his job, and that brought us to New Sandusky Fish Company, a fish shack right on Lake Erie. They catch fish and fry ’em to order. Once they fry through the day’s inventory, they’re closed for the night.
We went around 5:30. They closed 45 minutes later.
If you want to catch your own, they’ll clean them for you.
Here’s the menu. It’s a little blurry because I took the picture super-fast. I felt like a dork with my phone out.
I had the perch dinner, which was more food than I could reasonably consume. (And yet… )
Since there isn’t a “dine-in” option at New Sandusky, we took our food to go and ate in a lakefront parking lot with a lovely view of Cedar Point amusement park and a kindly local seagull.
Breakfast the next morning was a box of donuts from Jolly Donut ($6.75 for a dozen). Everything I’d read said to go early to get the donuts (credit again to my son for the research). Jolly doesn’t make a lot of donuts, and they go fast. Sure enough, I was out the door at Kalahari by 5:45 to be there when Jolly opened at 6.
Jolly is a total dive diner. I loved it.
Here’s where Kalahari gets you: The waterpark opens at 9, but check-out is 11. That meant we had one hour of lazy river/wave pool/hot tub time before having to race back to shower and call it a day.
From there, it was off to Cleveland. We got there around 1 p.m, just in time for lunch. My friend Tim Virgin recommended an old school deli called Slyman’s, which was exactly what I wanted.
This, my friend, is their Reuben. It’s also why I need to exercise more.
We drove around a lot, just sightseeing. Against my family’s wishes, I dragged them to a cemetery to see one of Cleveland’s lesser-known tourist sites: The Angel of Death. Yes, it’s an angel of death weeping black tears. HOW METAL IS THAT?
Yep. Making memories.
We also drove to Chagrin Falls, which is a quaint-ish smaller version of Lake Geneva’s main drag. The waterfall was neat.
That night, I got into the hotel hot tub. Shortly after I sat down, an older (60-65ish) couple got in, and they were determined to engage me in a conversation. They wanted to talk. I learned all about his multiple visits to the local VA hospital and the various surgeries he’s had. At one point, he stood up and asked me to look at his belly. “See that?” He said. “I’ve lost four inches since the last surgery.”
She jumped in, “Well, we’ve both lost a lot of weight recently. We just got over the stomach flu yesterday.” Seeing my jaw hit the water, she followed up, “With all the chemicals they put in here, you have nothing to worry about.”
Moving on to Wednesday, I couldn’t wait to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I love rock memorabilia, so this was a much-anticipated visit.
Among the first things seen: Four-wheel souvenirs from U2’s “Zoo Station” tour.
…and a giant hot dog prop from a Phish tour.
I really enjoyed my walkthrough of the Rock Hall of Fame, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it was an “inch deep and a mile wide.” I found myself wanting more of everything. Still, the stuff I saw was pretty amazing.
We started in the main multi-floor structure, and the first exhibit we saw was dedicated to Cleveland DJ Alan Freed whose proximity to the birth of rock and roll tends to get overshadowed by his pleading guilty to taking payola. Here’s the Grand Jury subpoena:
The 4th and 5th floors of the main building were closed off so the Hall of Fame could prepare for a new exhibit, which made that leg of the visit shorter than anticipated. That brought us to the main hall, where all the cool stuff is.
The Roots of Rock and Roll is the first exhibit past the entrance, and it’s loaded with American music history. I thought it was pretty cool to see Muddy Waters’ guitar from the late 70s:
A significant amount of real estate is given to rock outfits; stage wear from music legends. David Bowie’s apparel was well-represented:
As was Blondie’s. Debbie Harry wasn’t modest:
And from the Rolling Stones display, Mick Jagger’s Tattoo You-era wardrobe:
I really enjoyed seeing handwritten lyrics to legendary songs. The lyrics to “In My Life” by the Beatles were on display. Ditto “London Calling” by the Clash:
…and “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors.
The midwestern music display was relatively light on Chicago musicians, but I did see a demo tape from Smashing Pumpkins and a pair of boots from Liz Phair (and a setlist that has her encoring with “Flower”).
Speaking of Chicago, this was awesome to see:
Also in the midwestern display: Ohio’s favorite nerds, DEVO.
Hey, look, the Misfits have a presence at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
The entire RRHOF trip was two hours, which put us way ahead of schedule. That gave us time to see the world’s largest rubber stamp.
From visiting the stamp, we went to the West Side Market (another Tim Virgin recommendation). The West Side Market is a giant hall, untouched by time, filled with butchers, bakers and food purveyors. Think Chicago’s French Market, only with less restaurants and pretense. I loved it, and would go there every week if I lived in Cleveland.
Lunch was a $4 Italian Sausage and a vanilla bean lemonade from the West Side Market, possibly the best meal of the trip.
We hit the road for Detroit after lunch, a relatively painless 2 1/2 hour trip. The only plans we made for Detroit were a tour at the Motown museum at 11 a.m. the next day. That left us plenty of time to plan for the evening, and we gave it a good shot at the hotel. We Yelped. We Googled. We did lots of general research. The conclusion? We didn’t have the interest or tenacity to properly tour Detroit. And the Motown museum booking seemed very far away. We had a family meeting which went something like, “Should we just go home? Yes? Sure about that? Okay. Pack ’em up.” And we loaded up the car for Chicago.
We stopped for dinner in Ann Arbor at a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives favorite named “Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger.” I had the triple burger, but I swear the patties were tiny. The food at Blimpy is shockingly cheap and just as good.
And now I’m back home, planning for end-of-Spring Break activities like Baconfest and Wrestlemania. Maybe next time, Detroit…