Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Long Trip - Day 1: DC to Cleveland

Cruising West on the Pennsylvania Turnpike after dinner.
At the time of writing (August) I'm sitting in my hotel room staring out at the rain.  It's presently raining sideways, meaning if we had run with our original to Toledo instead of Cleveland, we would have been in it.  There is little I like less than driving on strange highways, late at night in torrential rains.  

The leg itself isn't too terribly long, so it ended up being a nice gentile start to an otherwise grueling trip.  In just under six hours behind the wheel we crossed the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to land at the Aloft Beachwood hotel.  We made the call, though, to stop at the Station Square in Pittsburgh and have a quick run up the mountain on the Incline Railway.

After a short (3 mile round trip!) walk along the ridge, we were more than ready for dinner.

The tourist ticket we got gave us a strict three-hour limit at the top of the mountain, which meant that while we could have walked to one of the many restaurants at the top, it was safer to travel back down the mountain to find food, and avoid the chances of getting stranded at the top.  A small word of caution about Incline Railway tickets: Take exact change.  They do not give change, and will not let you go anywhere until you’ve paid for your ticket in cash. 

Incline Railway looking down at Station Square
We dined at one of the two "local" joints that were in Station Square after deciding against the first we stopped in due to the heavy presence of tobacco smoke.  While the first bite or two were incredible, by the time we were halfway through with our food, we were less than impressed.  The initial hunger and exhaustion turned quickly when we realized most of what we were eating was badly freezer burned.  The restaurant (and I use the term loosely) seems to only offer food in order to maintain their liquor license.

If you want something local, you're best served outside of Station Square.  If you want Station Square you will be better off dining at one of the myriad of large chains that are available.  Station Square is pretty, and provides great photos of passing trains, the Pittsburgh skyline, and one of the rivers, it’s just lacking when it comes to unique culinary experiences.

We had initially planned today to cross five states.  Unfortunately because of a miscalculation (and misread of Google Maps, we only hit four.   We had hoped to cover West Virginia in addition to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  We did make sure to map a route back, which would knock out West Virginia.

The biggest surprise of the day came right across the Ohio state line...we discovered that Orange Julius still exists. A stop in for the 1980's shopping mall classic was required.  I was thrilled to discover they taste exactly the same! 

Overall, this leg covered 391 miles.  Next Monday will cover the trip from Beachwood, OH to Chicago...and three more states!

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