American Culture

You've impressed me, Ohio

I have driven Interstate 90 between Rochester, New York and Chicago, Illinois more times than I can count. Before Tuesday, however, I had only been a tourist along this route once during a family road trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This week, my sister, Julie, and I decided to tour this land while kicking off our road trip South. What I learned? Ohio impressed me.

Our day included a 7:00am departure from North Chili, New York and a 10:00pm dinner at a local Notre Dame bar called “Brothers.” By the time Julie and I pulled into South Bend, Indiana, we ate what could have been the most delicious veggie burger and chips I have ever devoured.

Along our route, we made several stops – many guided by “1000 Places to See Before You Die in the U.S. and Canada” by Patricia Shultz. After plowing through heavy winds and little visibility in Erie, Pennsylvania, a notoriously bad area for lake effect snow, we reached Cleveland, Ohio where we began our day of tourism:

Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Though the 16-degree temperature kept us from exploring the outdoor gardens, Julie and I reasoned the $8 tickets were worth a trip to the Garden’s indoor Glasshouse. Here, we experienced the environments of Costa Rica and Madagascar. In the Madagascar exhibit, we watched a chameleon crawl along North America’s largest collection of baobab trees. We walked around a 25-foot canopy in Costa Rica while taking pictures of birds and more than 20 species of butterflies. Both Julie and I agreed the Botanical Gardens were more impressive than we expected.

Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Our family visited this attraction during my junior high school days when I exited the gift shop with a tie-died t-shirt plated “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” This trip, we didn’t spend much time with the exhibits, although I would recommend a visit to anyone passionate about music, rock or electric guitars. The unique building rests on Lake Erie’s waterfront and houses more than 100,000 artifacts along with thousands of instruments and stage costumes from famous artists Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.

Lake Erie Islands in Sandusky. While summer is undoubtedly a more ideal time to visit the Lake Erie Islands, Julie and I decided this archipelago would be worth a stop on our way West. We walked around the town of Port Clinton, which serves as a jumping off point for the islands, and toughed out the temperatures for a few pictures along the lake. Though the town was desolate this time of year, shops and restaurants lined the main streets to give Port Clinton a small beach town feel.

Ohio Service Areas. These thruway rest stops led to Ohio’s success in winning me over. Each service area we passed or stopped at along Ohio’s stretch of I-90 appeared clean, modern and well kept. The full sit-down Starbucks, “Trucker Lounges” and mostly glass walls left us awe-stricken. And any thruway rest stop that makes my jaw drop due to cleanliness deserves credit in my book.

Shipshewana, Indiana. We arrived in Amish Country after dark and too late to visit Yoder Popcorn Shoppe, an establishment that sells popcorn “the way you remember it.” At 7:00pm, everything we passed in town besides one hotel appeared closed for the night. Regardless, we enjoyed driving the quaint town of 500 alongside horse-drawn buggies and white painted houses. Those houses without curtains allowed us to glimpse a peek inside the living rooms to find families in conversation, men with chin-strap beards and women in long, simple dresses. Though we did not stay long, we left with countless questions about the Amish way of life and a desire to return in the future.

From South Bend, we head West to Chicago, Illinois before cutting South toward New Orleans. We experienced much this first day of traveling, and I give most of the credit to Ohio and its impressive service areas.

4 replies »

  1. Absolutely! We’re heading South to New Orleans and taking several side trips due to flexibility with time. I will be posting our progress along the route.

  2. I just spent a week in Ohio–good old post-industrial Ashtabula, in fact, with forays into Cleveland. Cleveland gets a bum rap. Ashtabula deserves all the scorn heaped upon it and more. At least the sunsets over the lake are gorgeous.

    Glad you had a nice time passing through, and good luck with the rest of the trip!

  3. Glad you were able to stop at Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands. Come again in the summer months – the islands will impress you as well! Safe travels!