Jun 26, 2016

Random observations from three months in Greater Cleveland

Imagine my surprise when I recently checked my blog statistics (yes, I actually do that … it’s amazing to learn how many countries I get “hits” from) and discovered it’s been about two months since my last post.

I offer no excuses for my recent blogging blight, but I do have reasons, with working out of state being the prominent one. Fortunately, extended time at any work site gives me the opportunity to learn more in depth about the area I’m temporarily living in every Monday through Friday. Every place has its gems … and its duds.  Here are just a few of my takeaways from approximately three months immersed in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio:

  • The Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is simply not an enjoyable commute.  The actual facilities at the airport are very nice, but it just sucks getting in and out of there.  It seems to be at least 30 minutes away from anything, unless you plan on visiting a factory or seedy strip joint.  The rental car facilities are offsite, which adds at least 15 minutes to a 30-minute commute.  I found it much easier, more pleasant, and frankly cheaper to fly into the Akron-Canton Airport at roughly the same time expense.
  • Cleveland doesn’t have a spring.  Expect snow into May.  I blame Lake Erie.
  • Don’t plan to get from Point A to Point B very quickly.  Even during non-peak driving times, the traffic lights are exceedingly long (I timed one at four minutes), which only increases the traffic congestion at every major intersection.  I’m talking traffic backed up onto the interstate at every off-ramp bad. Whoever was put in charge of traffic flow in this area must have been a sadist. 
  • Since Cleveland doesn’t have a spring, I think they replaced it with construction season. It makes sense, considering the size of some of the potholes winter creates.  And it certainly doesn’t help the traffic congestion wherever you go. You hear a lot of rusted mufflers and tailpipes when you’re in traffic, too. This city must go through an enormous amount of rock salt.   
  • One last note about getting around in the suburbs … they seem to love their roundabouts here, and many of them are supersized.  Their boulevards are extra wide, too, and many of them run though some of the more beautiful neighborhoods in the eastern suburbs.    
  • The eastern suburbs of Cleveland also seem devoted to maintaining an abundance of park space.  The area certainly has plenty of hills and ravines to pull it off.  My favorite finds were the lengthy Shaker Lakes Park in the Shaker Heights area (perfect for a long, slow meandering drive), Beachwood City Park and the Acacia Reservation. 
  • The abundance of park space and trees in the area means a good chance to see some wildlife mingling with the masses.  I once saw a deer in broad daylight munching flowers off of a bush in someone’s front yard.  I also saw a rather large groundhog chugging across a boulevard heading toward a baseball field.  The animals here are hardly timid.
  • My home base for almost three months was usually a hotel in Beachwood,Ohio, which has a very large Jewish community.  The influences can be seen throughout the area, from the schools to the shops (including some fantastic delicatessens … one in particular will be the subject of a future blog post) to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.  One of my disappointments was not making time to tour the museum.
  • The one attraction you really must see in the Cleveland area is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (another future blog post).  Yes, it’s more commercial and cheesy than I had hoped it would be, but everyone should get something out of it, and it’s worth what I consider a very reasonable admission price.  
  • Although I didn’t visit downtown Cleveland often, I was surprised by how clean and navigable the area was.  For a city that was once so polluted that the Cuyahoga River caught on fire, the “Mistake By The Lake” has made a lot of progress.
  • The cuisine in Cleveland appears to be heavily influenced by Eastern European immigrants from past generations.  It’s hard to not find pierogies, Polish sausages and perch on a restaurant menu.  Of course, I had no problem with this whatsoever.
  • The one trendy Cleveland neighborhood every visitor should check out – the Flats.  You’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat, drink and be merry.  Start at the historic West Side Market (I found similarities to the Soulard Market in Saint Louis) and work your way outward from there. 
  • Finally, I’m glad to see the Cleveland Cavaliers finally bring a long-overdue sports title back to Cleveland.  I have a pretty good idea how ecstatic the fan base is.  On game day during the NBA season, you couldn’t walk ten feet in a bar without seeing someone wearing a LeBron James jersey. 

Hopefully, the blog posts will come with a lot more regularity from this point forward.  I owe that much to my few faithful followers out there.  And there have been plenty of inspirations for blog posts piling up over the past several months.  So, please stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

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