Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cleveland, Part II (Austintown)

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! Eventual answer: a noisy but mild blowout on I-80 near Austintown, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown.

Stay calm, it's still early on a Saturday, we're safe, the car isn't damaged and AAA is on the way. Tire stores close at 2:00 on Saturdays? And they don't have size 195-55-16 anyway? Well then what do we do now?
Yeah. Due to a massive soccer tournament in Austintown, all of the hotels were booked except for this one. After many phonecalls, I found two rooms at the Econo Lodge, just a stones' throw from where the blowout happened. (#19 orange on map) At first glance, the motel seemed about on par with my inexpensive Cleveland hotel, but way beneath the quality of the conference Marriott where Bill stayed. It was part of a truck stop megalopolis, so at least there were restaurants, drug stores and a liquor store. We passed on the adult entertainment options, and hiked up to a Ruby Tuesday's (#51 green on map) for hamburgers through knee-high grass and dandelions with unbelievably thick, mutant stems. Ruby Tuesday's looked a lot closer on the map, but it turned out to be a three-mile walk, round-trip. Afterwards, we made do with the crappy TV reception and Bill left to crash in his own luxurious room. I decided to wash out some clothes in the sink because I would run out of stuff if we had to stay past Monday when Flynn's Tire and Service would probably have my 195-55-16s in their delivery truck. Almost done, I decided I had enough packets of Tide to wash out my jeans as well, and that is when the sink fell through. Into the homemade "vanity." There was no way I could fix this even temporarily, and got a new room on the flip side of our strip of rooms. Bill graciously helped me move. (It was more than a little spooky there at night, especially after I noticed the guy standing on the footbridge in the woods just across from Bill's room.)

I settled in my new room, exhausted, and realized that my deadbolt wouldn't latch into the door. Okay, but the special hotel-style lock worked, and the handle locked securely. I'd be okay. I didn't notice until the last day that the hotel-style lock had mismatched bolts and looked as if it had been detached with force, perhaps by Austintown SVU. Whatever. Don't fuss and make Bill more miserable.

Next day, Sunday, we walked over to Cracker Barrel (#44 green on map) for brunch and checked out this gem of a highway eatery:

Yup, that really does say Quaker Steak and Lube (#49 green on map). We were tempted, but a steak and lube from Quaker were not in the cards for us. We expected thundershowers Sunday night and ordered Chinese delivery, and ended up at Cracker Barrel again Monday morning where we were greeted like old friends.

By the way, the numbers and the map are almost meaningless because, as we discovered, the map is not drawn to scale. But that gives you an idea of this part of the adventure.

Things moved quickly after this. Flynn's Tire and Service sent out a truck for us and our luggage, and we waited in the shop until the car was finished. About eight hours later (including more hamburgers, this time at Applebees) we were in New Jersey where I'm pretty sure Bill kissed the ground when he thought I wasn't looking. This girl went bonkers when I walked in the door like I have never seen her go bonkers before:

It was quite an adventure. I wasn't murdered in my sleep, I wasn't murdered by Bill, the Mini is fine, he graded papers, I read a book I'm using in my sabbatical project, and we listened to lots of good music in the car. I managed to match-up outfits each day from my meager supply of clean casual clothes, and Bill looked like a GQ model each day. Glad to be home now, and glad I risked taking lots of silly pictures for the blog.

Cleveland, Part I

How many New Jersey librarians does it take to pump gas? Two: one to hold the nozzle and one to take the photograph. (It is illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey, so we don't do it often.)
We thought it might be fun (and more economical) to drive to Cleveland from New Jersey for a conference where we would be sharing our work providing information literacy instruction to online learners. My colleague, Bill, and I loaded up the Mini Cooper with luggage and carefully-selected CDs, hit the highway, and arrived in Cleveland about eight hours later. The conference was worth the trip and we met some new librarians who do almost the same kinds of things we do at different colleges and universities across the country and beyond. We even caught up with some people we knew in our previous professional lives at Rutgers University, where we both took our Masters in Library Science degrees and worked in the library system there.

We did have time for some sightseeing and dinners out. Cleveland seems to be having renaissances: small parts of the city, especially near their sports venues, are revitalized. These oases of culture or cuisine are separated by depressed areas with empty storefronts. We enjoyed choosing restaurants on 4th Street, a pedestrian mall of restaurants, for our two dinners outside the conference. We chose La Strada for the first (a mixture of Mediterranean styles of food and decorations including Italian, Greek and Spanish),and Flannery's Irish pub where we were served delicious onion rings the size of donuts. We learned a new word: colcannon, which means mashed potatoes with cabbage and other stuff mixed in. (It was something like this:

On the way to the restaurants, we stopped by the Cleveland Public Library and posed with their cute little sculpture people.The library, enlarged by a recent new structure,features a tranquil reading garden where more of these sculptures frolic, but that was still closed for the season.

The sightseeing highlight was the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I could have camped out there all weekend just to read and look at stuff. The display cases were jammed full of rock & roll artifacts as iconic garments, report cards, hotel key collections and guitars. We were surprised at how small many of the garments are, especially Mick Jagger's costumes! The highlight of the museum for me was the special Bruce Springsteen exhibit on the top two floors. The Boss's clothing, including the famous worn jeans from the "Born in the USA" album, his notebooks of lyrics, posters from when he played at Rutgers, his scrapbooks made for the earlier albums, his guitars, Danny Federici's accordion, Clarence Clemmons's tenor saxophone, Bruce's key to the city of Freehold were all displayed behind glass because they knew I was coming. There was an awards section as well where his Oscar, Grammys, Golden Globe, Kennedy Center Honor ribbon (seen here:, AND a certificate from Blistex proclaiming his lips luscious. Ooh, ooh, Bruce, I've got a crush on you (and so do millions of others, apparently)! No photos were allowed inside the museum, but Bill and I posed for this gem: