Sat. July 21, 2012- Michigan to Ohio:
The breakfast room was surprisingly packed, given that we were in Detroit. The explanation turned out to be that there were quite a few family reunions and some gymnastics teams (which would explain the 8-year old at last night’s game wearing mascara). However there was more than that going on underfoot: a hobo had come in, made use of the bathrooms and then proceeded to get in line for hot free food. Looking back, it is surprising I have not seen this more often. It is not like they ensure that you are a hotel guest, there is usually no one there at all. The automatic pancake making machine was broken so I had to eat yogurt instead, yogurt that I then dropped all over myself, making a huge mess. We walked to an abandoned train station that TIME magazine said we should go look at. What the magazine failed to mention was that getting there is a less than stellar walk. At one point Brent got all on edge and told me not to look which set off my panic response, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I thought it was a dead body or someone being beaten. It was a dead cat; he thought it might upset me, which is sweet that he tried to protect me from such a horrid sight, but I was so on edge for the rest of the walk. Thankfully our walk was not in vain and the train station was still standing (it is supposed to get demolished). It was very pretty and I can see why it was something you should see. It was grand and had very nice architectural details, and all the windows were knocked out, so at the right time of day I can only imagine what it would have looked like with the sun streaming in.
The walk back was actually worse, this is because we were walking straight towards the sun, and it fried my eyes. But not so bad that I could not see the abandoned school bus and Slow’s BBQ’s other location (the original, and now I understand why they opened a second location). The line for the valet was long (everyone wants out of Detroit) and we were stuck having to license to some nincompoop incorrectly explain string theory (there are plenty easier things that can be discussed, why he chose this, we do not know). Then came an even worse case, a teenage girl, maybe thirteen years old, “mom, the caffeine is starting to kick in…” but thankfully we were spared from having to listen to any more nonsense, the valet pulled up with the car and we were out of there! No more Detroit! Or so we thought. The interstate was under construction. It was bad, four lanes were condensed into two which were all stuck having to take two exits that branched out from one spot, and it was the worst bottleneck ever. There was a woman reversing on the on-ramp when she saw the mess. Further along there were people taking the on-ramp to get off the highway (pretty much going the wrong way). Which all boils down to: WHAT KIND OF A MOTOR CITY SHUTS DOWN THE INTERSTATE, ITS MAJOR THROUGHWAY?!?! The interstate was closed from Detroit all the way to Toledo, Ohio, as in majority of it. We opted out of the congested detour and instead got the GPS to find us an alternate route. It worked out well, I got to see a peregrine falcon (he had a white belly and a yellow beak) soaring, as well as the giant Uniroyal Tire.
It was great to finally be moving again, I was getting really sick of seeing the same people and sights outside my window as we inched along. Except now going at a highway speed we ran over a blown out tire and it made a big scary noise, but there was no way to avoid it seeing as that would have resulted in a giant mess. We were still so close to Canada that we were picking up the CBC and I found a new show I liked (The Invisible Hand), one that we will probably be listening to on the next road trip. There was a sign welcoming us to Ohio, we were two for two so far! We lost CBC but started picking up NPR, except it was a show about Amish people. Then it turned to a show about opera and Shakespeare, it was awful, we were stuck cycling through stations yet again. When we stopped at a gas station I stocked up on snacks, including Cracker Jacks: I got a double surprise!! And we only had just less than 3 hours of driving left. Only. We passed through Findlay, Ohio which had a weird bridge with letter saying FLAG CITY USA, but we did not stop to verify if indeed they were a flag city. We drove over the dried up Ohio River as well. Ohio was not looking too good, but then we arrived in Cincinnati. We could also officially say that we survived Detroit, which seemed so long ago given we had been on the road for almost 5 hours at this point, only 30 minutes of which I was asleep.
We went to the American Sign Museum with only 40 minutes until closing, about enough time to go through the museum twice. We were in and out in less than half an hour. It was great. One sign had a bullet hole in it, all the signs were buzzing and everything was just so bright and colourful. I would hate to work there though. Getting into downtown Cincinnati proved to be a challenge. Apparently everyone and their grandmother were coming to town. As it turned out there was a giant boxing match that weekend, in addition to the baseball game, on a weekend. As usual, we left our stuff in the hotel and went off in search of food. Multiple times while leaving the hotel we saw many boxing-related people, including a coach and the main boxer himself too. The plan was to go to Izzy’s for Rueben sandwiches, Tom & Chee for grilled cheese and then Graeter’s for ice cream. The ice cream was last, but would be eaten as we walked back to the hotel with our delicious sandwiches for eating in front of the television. What we did not account for was how good these sandwiches would smell. Problem two came with Graeter’s not being where it was said to be. What was also not accounted for was the lousy soda selection at the crummy pharmacy. I did manage to find raspberry dark chocolate M&Ms, they were fantastic. The Reuben was up first, it was a lot tastier than I had expected, and having thought it was going to be topped with sauerkraut when in fact it was coleslaw. Up next was the grilled cheese with jalapeno chips and hot peppers. I had to flip the sandwich to avoid the weird slimy texture of the peppers; it was borderline too hot for me. The chips managed to retain some crunch despite the time lag between getting the sandwich and eating it. We headed back out for a second attempt at ice cream, having Googled a second location. En route we stopped to look at all the fancy artsy pig statues littered about town. As it turned out, we had walked right by Graeter’s, only it had been hidden from view by a stage and some scaffolding. The chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream had chocolate chips in it as well. And the regular cone was a sugar cone! It was worth going there, but the ice cream was not outstanding. It was no different than any other ice cream I had; the “French” method of making ice cream apparently has little difference.
Covered in ice cream, we headed down to the waterfront. Thankfully there was a fountain so we rinsed off our hands. We walked halfway out on the bridge over the Ohio River. We went halfway partly due to time constraints, partly because Brent was not quite ready for a new state, if we had crossed we would have been in Kentucky. We got to the game half an hour before it started, apparently too late to get a free soft-sided cooler as they were all gone. However in looking around the park, it looked like less than a quarter of the people got one. The place was packed; the game was nearly sold out. It was at this game that I had a brilliant idea: ask the concession stand for a cup of ice! Ingenious, we filled it with water from the water fountain and stayed hydrated the whole game. One woman even came up, asked me about it and called me smart and said it was the best thing she had heard all day. It was nice. The ice water also quashed my slushie cravings, I had wanted one because I saw people with these giant plastic ones, only they were $10! An outrage! Between innings there was a commercial for a new food item on offer at the park: a two-foot long hotdog. It looked disgusting and actually made me feel nauseous. It weighed one pound it took up the height of the grill. During the 7th inning we went to Skyline Chili so Brent could get a cheese Coney with Cincinnati chili (has cinnamon and chocolate in it) on it. It had a tonne of cheese on it, it was half cheese. I took one bite, and it was one bite too many. It was horrible, easily one of the worst things I have ever eaten. Whenever the Reds hit a home run there were fireworks. There was a family in front of us who kept ordering food and I tried to calculate their tab in my head, and I just got lost, it easily ran over $200 dollars, not counting the price of the tickets themselves. The kicker was that the kids were not even watching the game. Walking back we were in a huge crowd that kept bottlenecking at intersections. We started turning up other streets to try and head them off and get to the hotel before everyone else. We managed to and boxing was on, we got to see the fighter from the elevator box.