Ohio, Jan. 2015

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snowy roads, Truly selfie

Over the river and through the woods, and across the looooong state of Pennsylvania, we went for our usual post-holiday grandparent extravaganza.  The temp was a balmy 56°F at home when we left, so I didn’t pack the usual amount of snow gear, but that turned out to be a bit of a mistake.  As we got closer the Lake Erie and the snow belt, temperatures dropped and snow fell.  We soldiered on and ended up driving through the, well, driving snow in a typical Northeast Ohio blizzard for over an hour before reaching my parents’ door.  Their thermometer showed a chilly 7ºF and a windchill below 0.  Happy New Year indeed!


Aleksander Gamme and Really rejoicing in found cheese doodles

I won’t lie- I survive some of the gorier portions of car trips by listening to various songs and podcasts. On this particular road trip as the sisterly bickering got past my tolerance level, I plugged in to a Radiolab show on, of all things, Bliss. In the first few minutes, I was captivated by the story of a Finnish explorer who is giddily surprised as he opens a cache he had buried in the Antarctic drifts for himself to find towards the end of a 90-day trek there.  His expression of surprised elation- a joyous, very Northern European YAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! -seems so genuine yet so misplaced because he is rejoicing in the unlikely glory of… cheese doodles.

Seriously. You can listen here: https://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/257194.

So of course I had to play this for the unblissed sisters in the car and we all had a moment of entertainment during the long drive.  Later, of course, we reenacted the scene on a cold, snowy trail.


The temperatures were low, winds were high, snow flew, and I was readying us for another foray to Pine Lodge and cross-country skiing like we did last year.  I knew we wouldn’t be skiing outside for very long, but I thought it would be worth it since we so seldom get the opportunity.  I loaded into the beleaguered car some gear, snacks, four sisters in various levels of agreement with the plan, and turned on the reluctant heater.

We were parked partly on the grass since the driveway had been so full when we arrived, and the wheels began to spin without gaining traction.  Cleverly, accustomed to such minor car crises, got out and started pushing while I was at the steering wheel.  A kind neighbor joined in and soon we were backing out of the driveway.  I began driving up the mild incline out of the housing development when the wheels again slid.  The snow was heavy and the winds strong at this point and I began to picture the rural roads between us and Pine Lodge.  My parents were away on an errand all day so would not be available if we got stuck.  My chops for this type of driving, if I indeed ever had any, were seriously degraded from the 20+ years ago I had lived in the area.  I had just driven most of the previous day getting here, and my parents house was so warm and dry… I turned the car around.  Cable TV and hot chocolate beckoned, and we heeded the call.

Penitentary Glen

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We did venture out to go hiking one frigid day, back to this lovely park with the animal sanctuary and nature center. We took a short hike and a few takes on the cheese doodle scene, and also spent time inside the nature center. They had a recuperating possum and a kestral as well, and we enjoyed bird-watching at the glassed-in area near the bird feeders. There was even a microphone outside so you could hear the bird calls!

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Mentor, Ohio 

Armed with my mom’s library card, and my brother’s gift card to a candy store for the kids, we went into the wilds of Mentor for part of a day.  The library system in Ohio is enough to make this homeschool mama in an underfunded urban system weep.  IMG_3576In addition to a well-funded park system, the library systems all over the state are repeatedly nationally recognized for excellence.  They had a children’s section larger than our entire local library!  Of course, East Coast cities have other charms like diversity, progressive politics,  and historic architecture, but sometimes I wish I could trade a little of something for better libraries.  Anyway, this is the library that started it all for me back in the early 1980’s.  It has been enlarged quite a bit, and modernized over the years.

Next stop, Malley’s!  This is a Cleveland-based chocolate and ice cream company with a new (to me, anyway) store not too far from the library. No need for words here, we loved the place!

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I went to Chardon and Sage’s Apple Orchard again with my Dad, this time the cute streets were blanketed in snow.  We went sledding at the sled hill.  There was more snow and cold. We drove off back East on a cold sunny morning, back to the other side of Pennsylvania and home.

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Northeast Ohio July 2013, and several times a year going back to, oh, at least 2000

So, we Fantastics go to Ohio more than your typical East Coasters and the reason is this: grandparents.  Once in awhile the Fantastic grandchildren get to hang in the Cleveland suburbs- they experience houses built in the 20th century, sample the life of lawns, driveways, and strip malls, and witness the teenage stomping grounds of their vagabond mother.  We have found excellent things to do in the area that we will now share with our loyal readers.  A-hem, loyal readers, I give you… northeast Ohio.

Lake Erie.

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!  Its  GREAT lake, after all, right?  So, this lake is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and while it may be is famous for catching on fire due to pollution in 1969, it is much cleaner these days, it has sand and its own tide/surf report, and this guy walked across it to Canada one winter when it was frozen. 



Fairport Harbor’s historic lighthouse, the kids heading into the lake

This trip, we enjoyed swimming at Fairport Harbor.  We actually tried to go to an excellent YMCA outdoor pool nearby but balked at the entrance fee – close to $50 for me+offspring.  It’s worth mentioning here that if you are a Y member, as we used to be, you could go there for free, and you could enjoy the water slide, toddler pool, and climbing wall rather than leading your crying, disappointed children back to the parking lot, but alas we let our membership lapse so we headed to the beach.  They charge by the car at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park Beach and that charge, my friends, was $3.00.  It is only $2.00 if you are a resident!  What can you get for $2-$3 these days I ask!


Really and Truly by some dunes, Truly flying a kite

The park has lifeguards, playgrounds, a roped-off swimming area, and nice landscaping with sand dunes and small trees.  There’s even an institution that calls itself a Yacht Club nearby.  Its not the ocean, but it is surprisingly ocean-like in atmosphere in a small-town Ohio kind of way.

Lake Metroparks System

Lake County, and Ohio in general, has a park system that is truly splendiferous.  We went to Beaty Landing which had a nice path, many birds, and some riverfront land where there are nesting eagles at times!


looking out from the viewing platform at Beaty(L), Cleverly and Truly on the path

There is also a bike trail nearby called the Greenway Corridor.  It is no Greater Allegheny Passage like we enjoyed last year on a bike-camp trip, but it is nicely re-purposed from the old Baltimore-Ohio Railway line and it is a great start.

Penitentary Glen is another nice park in the area.  It has a great name, referencing the gorge terrain which they say, like jail, is easy to get into and hard to get out of! There is a wildlife rehab and education center here, along with beautiful grounds, paths, and the lovely gorge.


Cleverly on a butterfly bench, Really as an eagle egg, Fiercely in beekeeper garb, and a resident hawk

Random events

So we were just beginning our ill-fated trip to the YMCA pool when we went past the Concord Fire Dept and Historical Society, which also happens to be the site of my first-place performance at the frog jumping contest circa 1982 (feel free to name drop me to impress your friends).  We saw a few antique cars parked in a field and strangely, we heard pipe organ music, like what you would hear on an old-fashioned carousel.  What could it be?


Well, it was the Happiest Music on Earth, of which Dr. Ron Bop is happy to explain its pleasing effects on the human nervous system.  We had stumbled on to the Mid-America Band Organ Rally at the Lake County History Center.  What luck!  So we checked out what we could from the road because again with the budget and all, but I just love that this really happens.