For those of us travel lovers who still punch our time clocks pretty much full time, not every trip can be those seven-to-ten day versions that allow us extended looks at our new worlds. Fortunately, the Buckeye State offers enough variety that, if we sneak away and use Friday as a travel day, we can still have some pretty special times.
A few weeks ago, realizing the distant winds were already in their organizational meetings to plan that frigid winter mayhem, I grabbed Lady Jane and pointed my Malibu towards Cleveland for a weekend jaunt that turned out to be a real history lesson.
First of all, as one of the most vocal advocates for the Drury Inn and Suites and someone who stays at Drury Inns for business regularly, I wanted to check out the chain’s most historical installation.
The Cleveland downtown hotel, formerly the building that housed the Cleveland Board of Education that was completed in 1931, is located on East Sixth Street pretty much within walking distance of the sites that most people think of when Cleveland is mentioned. It was a 20-minute walk to the shores of Lake Erie, First Energy Stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other attractive tourist sites are even closer.
The front of the sandstone six-story building certainly smacks of antiquity, noticed as we drove up the U-shaped drive to the valet stand, what with the original light fixtures on each side of the entry doors. During our check-in in the main lobby, our eyes were drawn to the murals on the wall, ones named for Cleveland artist Cora Holden. The 12x16-feet panels are called Progress of Education and Branches of Education.
Looking out the back doors of the lobby, which, we would discover once was the front of the building when occupied by the Board of Education, we saw the back of a large statue that faced the Cleveland Mall, a long public park now called the Memorial Plaza. Later after walking out those doors, we would discover the statue was that of Abe Lincoln with the text of the “Gettysburg Address” below. The statue was financed by parents of Cleveland school children in the building’s infancy.
The hallways as well as half of the walls throughout the building were white marble below the high arched ceilings, and original light fixtures refurbished during Drury’s $52 million renovation after the national chain purchased the building in 2013 aligned the hallways on each floor.
Our Saturday history lesson was almost all devoted to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which received that designation in 2000 after being a National Recreation Area since 1974. Jane and I traveled to the village of Peninsula to enter and enjoy the park that preserves 33,000 acres along 22 miles of the river the American Indians called “Ka-ih-ogh-ha,” which translates to “crooked.” We saw many of those twists and turns of that body of water from right off our bike trail after securing our rentals at Century Cycle.
The 18 miles we rode were on what was once a canal tow path for the Ohio and Erie Canal. It was a trail where trees on both sides of the path often canopied above with their intertwining branches. The real history lessons for us came from reading the signage where several of the 146 locks once were for the canal constructed in the 1820s. The text of the signs provided such great insight into the hard life along the canal nearly 200 years ago.
A final history lesson came on Sunday when Jane and I went through the USS Cod in the North Coast Harbor. The cost to board and go through an amazing part of World War II history was just ten dollars. The submarine, along with her sister subs, sank a total of 5.3 million tons of Japanese shipping, a number that included 1,178 merchant ships and 214 war ships.
Once descending ladder through the small entry hole in the sub’s stern, we went from section to section to appreciate the components of the vessel. Each section had a red audio button that we pushed for our history lesson as to what life was like for the one hundred volunteers who often stayed below the ocean’s surface for 75 days at a time, service they were willing to do in exchange for higher pay, better food and more shore leave than their Navy counterparts who served on the ocean’s surface.
Certainly for travel lovers, there is much that can be gained by sojourning, and Jane and I discovered, one of those acquisitions is a deeper historical appreciation.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.