Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll *
I do not get a good night’s sleep. I’ve always had problems adjusting on the East coast with it being just 5 hours behind the UK. California has always been a lot easier. However I don’t seem too tired as I go down for breakfast. It’s standard US hotel fare on offer and I partake of cereal plus eggs and sausage patties. The hotel is good despite the fact I wasn’t in it for long, given my late arrival. It was reasonable value for a central downtown hotel. I check out, dump my bags in the car, and then start walking down E 9th Street towards Lake Erie – and Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
So this is why I’m in Cleveland. But tomorrow’s visit is the primary reason for coming to Ohio. I’m first through the doors at the 10 am opening time. I spend the next 2½ hours or so walking around the various exhibits. This Hall of Fame is very good, although some parts are better than others. The main section is the lower level 0, with music history displays plus musician exhibits like clothes and instruments. There are even some aircraft skin panels from Otis Redding’s plane that crashed and killed him, which I thought was a bit ghoulish…
Level 1 is the entrance level with no exhibits, and Level 2 is about Musical Pioneers. It focuses on Les Paul, Alan Freed and Sam Philips, and this floor is also very good. Level 3 has the Power of Rock Experience, a video theatre as they call it. It shows a 20 minute film comprised of clips from past HoF Inductions, which is OK. I’m afraid the rest of the museum though is average.
I talk to a docent and she tells me that the top three floors change content annually. It is currently dedicated to ‘50 Years of Rolling Stone’, the magazine. I do partly understand the influence Rolling Stone has had on the US music scene but I think it’s impact outside the US is negligible. I’ve only read the magazine a few times and found it very underwhelming. It was also very US-centric.
And underwhelming is how I would describe the exhibits. There are some good photos of musicians plus some magazine covers shown on illuminated panels. There is also assorted correspondence between the editor Jan Webber and various rock stars. Overall impact is just meeeh…
A bigger issue to me though was that when talking to the docent she said that it takes 3 months to break down the current exhibit and install a new one. This means the top 3 floors are closed for 3 months every year! So check ahead if you’re planning a visit, as there might only be the lower exhibit levels open. I enjoyed the R & R HoF though and it’s worth a visit, although whether that involves making a special journey just for that is your call. For me, it just happened to be in the right place to start this trip on my way to everything else…
A Trolley Tour Around Cleveland
I walk back up to the car. It’s still a bit overcast with not much blue sky, but is quite warm at 70º F. I’m still acclimatising eating-wise to a different time zone and after a decent breakfast don’t feel the need for lunch. It’s a short drive across the city to take a trolley bus tour around Cleveland with Lolly The Trolley (now sadly closed). I’m doing the only option for me due to my timings and that’s a 2½ hour tour at 2.30 pm. The bus is nearly full, which is a bit of a surprise for a midweek tour in mid-October, but good for business!
Over the course of the tour, the bus driver/guide tells us all about Cleveland’s history and we visit all parts of the city. The bus doesn’t stop anywhere though, apart from a rest room break at the Museum of Art. This made taking decent photos of the city a little tricky. It’s a good tour, certainly recommended.
Slightly amusing to me was that for our guide, everything in the city is “beautiful”. She did not have another adjective in her vocabulary, bless her, to describe things as we drove around. From a church to a statue, from a bridge to a glass and steel medical centre the size of a shopping mall, they were all just “beautiful”.
I knew nothing of Cleveland before this visit, other than it’s gone through a bit of a rough time business-wise and it’s football team is useless. The tour however highlighted some impressive buildings and history. There’s also a lot of regeneration underway. If you’re tight for time and want to do a tour, Lolly The Trolley does offer a shorter 1 hour version.
Having mentioned potential car issues last night, earlier whilst waiting for the tour to start, I see if I can figure anything out that might be wrong. It doesn’t take me long via the in-car computer to discover that all 4 tyres are under-inflated by between 3-5 psi. The variations are on diagonal wheels as well, which obviously caused the instability I felt. Before leaving Cleveland, I need to find an air pump. So with the tour over, I drive off from the parking lot.
On exit, I ask the parking lot attendant and he tells me there’s a gas station just down the street. A few minutes later I pull in but can’t see an air pump. I get out and walk into a service repair garage attached. After explaining my problem, a very helpful mechanic points out the air pump , which was not very visible if you ask me. But he then offers to pump the tyres up for me! He does this and I can see he’s put some air in but the gauges on such pumps are not usually very unreliable. However the car computer is showing the required 35 psi all around, so I thank him for his time and hit the road. Destination: Canton, Ohio.
South To Canton, Ohio
It’s rush hour and traffic is heavy, slowing me down quite a lot. I arrive at the Quality Inn Hall of Fame around 6 pm. The hotel is OK. I knew from prior reviews it was not the most salubrious of places but it is clean, functional and fine for a one night stopover. I ask the receptionist if there’s anywhere nearby for dinner that I could maybe walk to and she mentions a couple of places.
Deciding to go and buy some beers, I will check out the eateries on the way back. Purchases completed later on, I use Google Maps to find one place and pull into the car park. This is Mulligan’s and it looks good. It also has the added benefit of only being a short 5 minutes walk from the hotel. In fact I can see the hotel sign when I’m outside the restaurant.
Back at the hotel I sort out my suitcase. After cramming everything in to travel and maximise storage, I re-arrange a few days worth of clothes at a time for easy access each night. Then it’s time to walk over to Mulligan’s.
I find a seat at the bar and the place all around me is busy. Richard the barman is chatty, but busy. I order some wings and beer. The bar and other tables start to clear slowly but Richard and I keep chatting every now and again. My wings arrive. They are HUGE. And very good. But I’ve never seen chicken wings as big as this. Some of them are nearly the size of a leg. So much so that I hardly eat any of the fries I ordered.
A waitress asks if everything is OK. I reply “Yes” but said the wings are big, and even she commented, “Yeah, they are rather larger than even we normally get.” During this time the owner, Ron, had appeared and was talking off-bar to Richard. They both then came over to where I was and Richard mentioned something I’d said earlier about differences between US and UK bars, which interested Ron.
So he sits down and we ended up talking for about 30 minutes, not only about bars, but all sorts of other stuff, with Richard chipping in as well. Ron then decides he’s hungry and goes into his kitchen to order liver & onions. He, and they, duly appear but he takes himself away from the prime bar positions to eat. He’s at the other end of the bar but as it’s quieter we still have a bit of a chat whilst he eats.
I’m tired now though so I wander over to Ron to say goodbye, just as he’s finishing up. We shake hands and wish each other well, as I do with Richard as well. Mulligan’s is an excellent bar & restaurant, with very good food & drink – they’ve got some nice craft ales – and a warm welcome. It’s well worth your custom if you’re ever in Canton. I walk home safely and crash quietly into bed hoping for a better night’s sleep.
* A line in School Days by Chuck Berry, one of the first batch of Inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame