The birthday may be over, but the party isn’t. We start this morning off with some leftover pizza from Sorrenti’s and a trespassing accusation at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff Estate in Derby, New York. We had plans to follow roads along Lake Erie to Chicago and see stuff along the way, such as Stevo’s Pizza in Erie, Pennsylvania. Our first site happened to be this giant home with shades of brown and tan amongst the trees with lots of windows on the lake. We could’ve pulled all the way up to the front door, but parked by the visitor center and walked back by the garage/guesthouse to the main abode.
As we were staring at stone and admiring the water a husky voice approached us from behind. A large gentleman let us know that what we were doing was considered trespassing. The place is impressive, but also empty. He escorted us back to the office to let us know that he was booked on tours, but he might be able to fit us in a few hours later – an amount of time we didn’t have. We left with a flyer and drove to the state line after stopping to get a view of the lake with industrial buildings and plants growing skinny red cones that looked fuzzy.
Once in the state’s fourth largest city, Erie, (it didn’t seem that large) it was time to eat. We had come to love a fast food burrito chain called Moe’s Southwest Grill that give their customers a “Welcome to Moe’s!” when they enter. So when we found out there was one here we couldn’t help but stop by for my usual Joey Jr. – a small wheat tortilla with black beans, tofu, peppers, salsa, etc. Even though we were headed to Stevo’s Pizza – a little place on State St. that offers pizza, subs, salads, and more – a restaurant that Caleb’s dad, Robert, had suggested we try while in the area.
We parked a block away, because the street was blocked off, put some coins in the meter, and made our way through a chollo parade – the worst representation of their home country of Mexico (traditional) we have ever seen – low riding cars, slutty dressed women, and loud music. Or perhaps we just got our first introduction to a new-age style that wasn’t expressed enough in old-age rap videos in the 90s. I may feel bad for the employees that have to listen to the air horns, but this event is good for business. Our broccoli and tomato pizza is hot, boxed, and ready to go.
We are back to the car before the meter expires and though we want to spend more time in this state the border to Ohio is less than an hour away and sixty minutes from there is the James Garfield National Historic Site. I have such an interest in our country’s earlier presidents and I’m sure when the ones of my childhood become history and less dramatic I will be curious about what gets erected in their memory. I will be able to look back, past the blowjob in the Oval Office, the extended war years, and the huge debate over our first black president and know that I lived through a modern version of the 19th century.
In the visitor center museum we get to learn about what made Garfield presidential. He would be the last president born in a log cabin and while in the White House too poor to afford his own horse and carriage for the stable, but he had been able to afford a nine bedroom house and 158 acres. We learned about his educational and religious history and the chain of political jobs leading up to the main office – the one that would get him shot just four months into his four-year term – ending his job and life three months later after doctors struggled to get the bullet out.
A poster tells us that Garfield was one of six Civil War veterans that fought for the Union Army and eventually became President. We arrived in time to see the museum and take the next guided tour. At least 80 percent of the items in the house are original and they don’t want them stolen. The last part of the tour that used to be a kitchen, and now a small museum, is video-monitored and self-guided. It would be nice if all parks could afford to protect their assets as safely.
It’s a large home that was enlarged, built up, and later added on to. There is a lot of history inside and out that explains the front porch campaigns; the designs behind the carpets, curtains, and wall paper; the fireplaces and portraits throughout the house; the friendships and the fine porcelain dishes; the details in the woodwork, chandeliers, and furniture; the large vault with a safe inside, the pianos, and the large book collection – that would set the precedent for presidential libraries. The house expresses a love for art, history, design, warmth, education, family, and lots of space.
We pass the campaign office and the beautiful windmill and agree on the excellent tour we just got, besides the crossing of tour paths where two voices competed for an audience, but that’s also luck in getting a good ranger. The guide was well-knowledgeable and there was plenty of time, two hours, for questions and picture taking. We return to the car with hot and hungry dogs. We treat them for not eating our pizza, and the box it came in, by sharing some with them before heading to Garfield’s burial site, 17 miles away, at the Lake View Cemetery.
It took Garfield a week to get buried here, and us just under an hour to drive here, but the glorious centerpiece of the cemetery that is his grave, that looks burnt, closes at 4:00 pm and there will be no going inside for us. We are somewhat bummed as other couples come out with smiles on their faces at the beauty inside. We will have to settle for the view from the steps, all the extravagant headstones, and the love felt inside the Garden Crypts. Caleb picks up a brochure that tells us that for $7,200 plus fees we could for “Everyday, Always & Forever” have a pond view near a chapel with a Brentwood lined burial vault.
We do but a drive-through of downtown Cleveland to drive out to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The parking lot is full of cars with bike racks because it’s a popular way to get around the park – even after 5:00 pm. We are too late for any indoor activities, but this valley is covered in trails and waterfalls. We trade natural beauty for a night in the car with Buzz Balls (200ml with 20% alcohol), sushi, and black raspberry custard. I tried a sip since I was driving, but I got to laugh until I cried watching Caleb drink a Stiff Lemonade and a Lotta Colada – tasty and stiff drinks.
From Perrysburg, we drive into the sunset watching the corn, clouds, and colors go by. We still have another 45 minutes before we reach Harrison Lake State Park. Nothing stands out about this place – just another spot to sleep for the night, but it will remain special to us. It’s another dot on the map, a place we have been, and another memory to add to our minds. We have been on the road for three weeks now averaging 363 miles a day so this park may not make it to our 80-year-old brain’s memories, but it took sleeping here to help the rest of the trip happen. I have to learn to appreciate the mundane more so that the fantastic will continue to stand out and be the stories I share with others.