With the ominous thought of being trapped in a car with a ten-hour drive ahead of me, I prepped for the road like any good kid from the 80’s would…I packed my Game Boy and a plethora of nostalgia inducing games.
We traveled out of Green Bay, Wisconsin and made it about two hours before we had to make our first visit to a rest stop. The gas station did not disappoint as the bathroom had stale urine on the floor, as one would expect from such a location. We passed the time listening to good music and sharing old memories among the three of us who were making the trek. The only notable happening over the next 8 hours of road construction and detours was a funny moment at a different gas station. I was pleased to find yet another restroom where the male prior to me managed to miss his mark… well by the looks of this bathroom, it was several men. Anyway, as I left the bathroom a woman went in after me and loudly shouted, “OH HELL NO!” and ran out of the place.
We arrived in Cleveland a bit weary and ready to unwind, thus we immediately headed to one of our top destinations, the 16-Bit Retro Bar . This bar’s claim to fame is having 40-plus retro video game arcade cabinets. They are set to “free play”, as long as you are drinking. In order to fit the bar’s motif, they also feature a large selection of drinks stylized after icons of the 80’s including: Burt Reynolds, Hulk Hogan, David Hasselhoff, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage (complete with Slim Jim!)
We had a great time playing some of our old favorites like “Burger Time”, “The Simpsons”, “Donkey Kong” and many others. We next headed a ways down the road to the Happy Dog bar. It’s an old time dive bar, which has remained largely unchanged since it was started in the 40’s. The current owners have frequent music acts perform at the venue, and the menu consists of hamburgers and hot dogs offered with a plethora of oddball toppings such as Fruit Loops, peanut butter and a number of other wacky items. Of course, you can also get “normal” toppings as well. Our food was served with a healthy dose of fries to pad out the meal.
Our triad of travelers felt exhausted from the long day we put behind us, (perhaps aided a bit by the booze that was now swirling in our bellies) and decided it was time to head to the hotel. I was in charge of the hotel reservations and had successfully found us a dirt cheap place eight months earlier. This also meant we were not exactly living it up in the nicest of locations. The first thing I found when we arrived was a surprise in our dresser:
The next morning we discovered the pool was out of order because the EconoLodge in Akron never bothered to have it fixed for summer. This didn’t exactly earn them 5-star reviews from me. After putting that past us, we ventured to the Lake View Cemetery, which proved to be absolutely amazing. It boasts over 100,000 graves dating back to the mid-1800’s, including Elliot Ness and a huge memorial for President James Garfield. The ornate stonework on many of the graves pushed them past mere markers and into the realm of artwork.
Mabel’s BBQ came next, based off of a tip from a local we met at the cemetery. The restaurant is fresh to the area and it has already garnered a fantastic reputation for it’s smoked BBQ and delicious sides. Keeping in mind my desire to find unique things to eat, coupled with my scientifically supported belief that calories don’t count on vacation, I chose the fried pig ears and spaetzle (German dumplings). The food proved to live up to expectations. My comrades were more than satisfied with their large portions of melt in your mouth brisket as well.
With our bellies full of fuel, it was now time to visit the hub of rock music history, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With five or six stories of melodic memories, it is a must-see venue for anyone who has fond memories of their 45s, vinyls, CDs or however one chose to listen to the soundtrack of their life.
A trip to the Churned ice cream shop provided us with a chance to sample a variety of homemade treats made in a small, off the main drag building. They offer some yummy standards, but I had to focus on their more unique offerings. Churned offers up interesting combos such as chocolate ice cream mixed with french fries, and wasabi infused ice cream. I could not fathom passing up those kinds of options.
After a stop at the Hard Rock Casino (Let’s just say I didn’t win…) it was time to head back to the hotel room so I could practice making pyramids with beer cans as I emptied them.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame was the apex of our agenda. This trip was designed around experiencing the moment our childhood hero Brett Favre would be inducted into the mecca of football greats. The brick and mortar tower built to honor the god’s of sport remains a must-see locale for anyone who dedicates six months of their lives living and dying by each movement of the pigskin being tossed around.
With the Hall of Fame weekend in full swing, we were able to also soak in the sights of the NFL fan fest. This included thousands of people celebrating the love they have for their team, and the concept of fandom itself. Lots of music, beer, and revelry were soaked in by us, with NFL legends coming to and fro to elevate the party from a standard romp into something that felt truly special. Our VIP passes allowed us to enter a special tent party with a live DJ, a large buffet, free beer and a great deal of camaraderie, even if some people were wearing a jersey that may not have of “our” team.
The Packer fans were there in great abundance, and the chants of “GO PACK GO” were frequent. The DJ played a healthy dose of 80’s rock music and the sounds of Poison, Motley Crue, KISS and others brought the crowd to the dance floor. It was obvious this was a true Wisconsin crowd as the ladies who were busting a move showed obvious signs of their love of cheese, butter, and beer.
I tried to live in the moment and soak in the once in a lifetime atmosphere as we made our way to the stadium for the Hall of Fame inductions. The legends roll call that kicked off the event got the crowd buzzing as we welcomed the gridiron greats back to the place where they were awarded for feats beyond what most mortal men could accomplish. The Packer fans erupted each time one of our brethren was called out, easily overshadowing other ovations. Joe Namath, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino seemed to be universally beloved nonetheless. They ended that portion of the ceremony by listing the Hall of Famers who passed on in the past year, a solemn reminder to us to appreciate those heroes who still walk among us today.
Many of you watched the ceremony live on ESPN, so a recap is not really necessary. Kevin Greene’s speech gave me goosebumps as he spoke with great charisma and force about his love of the game and his family’s strong military ties. One unexpected high point for me came when the woman sitting behind me claimed that she lost her virginity to Jim Harbaugh. It was random and quite funny. To wrap this part up, I’ll just say I am extremely pleased to have been able to experience seeing Favre’s moment in person.
Our final day started at the Cleveland Aquarium, which is a really fun place to visit and very family friendly. The Sweet Moses ice cream parlor came next, and I must give them high marks for their homemade ice cream and fountain sodas. A rare and delicious treat to be sure. We tried the Escape in 60 challenge, where we were locked in a room and had to solve logic puzzles out in order to free ourselves. I found it underwhelming for the most part and expensive to boot. A few hours later we ended the day at Akron’s The Basement, which we stumbled upon almost by accident. We went in expecting bar food and not much else but we pleasantly surprised at the quality fare.
The limited hours in the day did not match up well with our ambitions, and we left many places on our itinerary unseen. With Aaron Rodgers still enjoying his prime, it may be a good 15 years before another Packer is revered by us enough to make the long journey back in order to complete this quest.
Thanks for indulging me by reading this travel blog!