There's no vast lobby here; just a
friendly staff and a comfortable room large enough to easily put a bike in
(but be very careful not to scratch the nice wooden doors as you walk
it in and out of the entrance).
Thanks to a couple of Google searches
and a map I found from Positively Cleveland
, it didn't take me long
to get a lay of the land. The map showed a large number of
attractions, entertainment options, sports venues and shopping areas
– but there was only one attraction on that map I was interested in
finding before the end of my trip. I circled 'The Attraction' with a
A slight complication was that due to a
few Grown Up Things that had somehow infected my schedule, I wouldn't
have the biggest blocks of time during each day to explore. But I
still made the most of it, and found that it isn't difficult to find
places to ride in Cleveland when the people are so nice. For
instance, on day one I had lunch at The Greenhouse Tavern on Fourth Street
, which is full of places to eat with outdoor dining.
What made this place special – other
than the good food and the attractive servers - is they had recently
partnered with a local bike shop, Blazing Saddle Cycle
, for an
exhibit, Respect the Bike
. Though the event was over, the decorations
When I told my server why I was in
town, I quickly learned she was helpful in addition to being pretty
as she brought me a map to Blazing Saddle Cycle and a few other
things to help me learn about the cycling scene in Cleveland. I kept
everything she gave me, but I knew that the only way to learn about
the bike scene in Cleveland was to actually ride in Cleveland, so
soon after I paid the bill I set off through town.
Now if you're from the East Coast: one
thing about riding in Cleveland is unsettling: No matter where I
went, how fast I'd ride, where I'd lock my bike or what I wore...I
was treated politely by motorists. I never heard a car horn, never
saw a scowl and never smelled any anger. Nobody blasted by me in the
car and everyone gave me space when overtaking the Bike Friday. Some
motorists even smiled at me.
It was eerie. But it was also telling:
I think Tom Vanderbilt's book Traffic
spells this out more
thoroughly, but the more people who ride bikes in a city, the more
motorists will be aware of them, and the safer (and happier) everyone
is. Are you reading this,
Stamford-guy-with-the-Ford-Explorer-who-shouted-'Use the sidewalk!'
Also, unlike other cities that have a
river or two cutting through them (cough, New York, cough) I found it easy
to find passage across. My first trip after the visit to The
Greenhouse Tavern (to find The Attraction I wanted to find on the
Positively Cleveland map) took me on Carnegie Avenue and the bridge
that crossed the Cuyahoga River.
This brought me back to the West Side
Market, but it also brought me to my first bike shop, Joy Machines
As the name implies, I did see a number
of bikes that looked as though they would provide joy. They also had
several commuter-friendly items I wasn't used to seeing and a few
homemade items I liked immediately. Needless to say, I spent a lot of
time in the shop.
After leaving Joy Machines and searching
for The Attraction, I realized I wouldn't get there and back in time
for a Grown Up Thing I needed to do back at the hotel, so I recrossed
the river and easily made it back to the Residence Inn.
The next day, I tried again, only this
time I warmed up riding in the downtown area. Looping by Progressive
Field (home of the Cleveland Indians) I came face to face with the
city-block sized mural that was once reserved for the Lebron James
'Witnesses' one. It looked as though the city had put this guy behind
them and were ready to look forward.
As it just so happened, I was staying
in Cleveland the very week the Horseshoe Casino
was having its grand
opening. I've always had mixed feelings about casinos and constantly
wonder what kind of effect-both good and bad-they have in certain
areas. As I rode by the Horseshoe, located in the legendary Higbee's
department store building, all I could do was hope it would become what the planners were imagining and not like Biff Tannen's Pleasure Paradise
Evaluating the socioeconomic impact of
legalized gambling could wait for another time; I still needed to
find The Attraction, but first I wanted to see if I could find
Blazing Saddle Cycle. With the map I got from The Greenhouse Tavern, I
determined I needed to cross the river again; this time on the
Veterans Memorial Bridge. Which has bike...wait for it...lanes.
From there it was a straight shot to
Blazing Saddle Cycle
, a shop that hasn't even been open for a year
but I couldn't imagine Cleveland without it – ever.
This shop had more than its share of
interesting bikes, new, used or under construction. Later that day, I
would regret not spending the $350 asking price for the folding
tandem, which I'm sure I could have found a way to bring it and the
Bike Friday back to the hotel and stowing the tandem in the Element.
Even with mountain bike 2.0 taking up a lot of space, there would
have been room. Probably.
Upon leaving Blazing Saddle Cycle, I
once again had to return to the hotel as Grown Up Things were
beckoning with an incessant whine. As much as I would have liked
exploring Ohio City as long as the muscles in my legs and the
sunscreen on my skin would allow, I realized how easy it was to take
short and interesting rides in Cleveland.
That theme continued the following
morning, when, free from Grown Up Things, I was determined to finally
find The Attraction. First, though, I headed down to the shore of
Lake Erie to check out the 9th
Street Pier, and with it,
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a
great attraction in Cleveland (and a nice looking building) but it
wasn't The Attraction I had set out to find. Before I left though, I
did allow myself a brief ride along a nearby stretch of the Cleveland
Later I once again pedaled toward
Carnegie Avenue so I could cross the bridge into Ohio City. Once
again, I not only became lost, I found yet another memorable bike
shop: Fridrich Bicycle, Inc
. (the side of which contains the mural in
the first picture on this post). The business has a long history,
having started as a coal and feed store in the 1880s and about 10,000
square feet of retail goodness. I always adore the chance to see
things in bike shops I rarely get to see, like a Rhoades Car
I also saw a few recumbents, which, no
matter what anyone says, are cool. I even saw a three-wheel one that
made me think of the Budget Supertrike
I bought a couple of things at
Fridrich's and asked for help in finding The Attraction. They gave me
above-and-beyond assistance, and this time when I set off I was sure
I'd find what I was looking for. At times, I was able to ride through
areas in the neighborhood of Tremont that had clearly seen more
bustling times, but still had a certain indescribable something that
made me pull out the camera.
I pedaled on, following the directions
given to me by the mechanic at Fridrich's. The sun was bearing down
and my water was running low, but after after a few twists and turns
in Tremont, I finally found my way to The Attraction. And it was
everything I hoped it would be.
I know, I know: it's silly, especially
since there are so many things in Cleveland to do and museums to
visit, but I wanted to see the house that was used for the exteriors
of the cult film, A Christmas Story
. The Higbees building, now home
to the Horseshoe Casino, was where the Red Ryder BB gun was first
seen by Ralphie. And as I'm sure fans of the film will remember, the
street in the movie was called 'Cleveland Street.' And, at that
moment, it was. I could even see the famous leg lamp (sorry: 'Major
Award') in the window.
Unfortunately, I had visited the house
during a day when it wasn't open. The museum across the street and
the gift shop nearby was also closed (no Major Award was going to be
sticking out of my backpack on the ride back) but it was still worth
the ride into Tremont, which, if I had a finer sense of direction,
would have been a lot shorter than it had been.
With that admittedly demented bucket
list item checked off, I was now looking forward to a treat, so I
made my way back to downtown and stopped at Colossal Cupcakes
far from the hotel. I was surprised to learn that it had only been
open a short while, but it still felt like it had always been there.
And like so many businesses in Cleveland, has a bike rack just
Before long, my visit to Cleveland was
over. The city had completely defied my expectations and I couldn't
believe it was, on a bike culture and bike facilities basis, so far
ahead of so many others I had visited. I didn't even have a chance to
check out The Bike Rack
, which is a full service bike parking and
showers/changing facilities are put in recently to encourage bike
commuting. It enough to make person from Stamford weep.
I'll plot a return to Cleveland soon,
and I hope you plan your first trip. Thanks for reading.