I learned a lot riding from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. First and foremost, it was important to feel safe. I felt terribly unsafe riding on SR51 and SR19. When I felt unsafe it brought everything into question. Luckily, there were things I could do to feel safer. In the latter case I was able to buy a rear view mirror. In the former case I was able to get the hell off of that damned road. In either situation, I had to be flexible and creative to figure out how to retake control of the situation.
Second, I shouldn't have underestimated Pennsylvania's hills. Riding a bike up those hills loaded with 40 pounds of stuff took a toll on me, not just physical but mental. Peddling up a hill as the sun set after already riding 60 miles was very, very frustrating. The hills from Pittsburgh to Erie drained me...but I persevered.
Both of these lessons confirm something that Big Ron told me the day I departed: the biggest challenges I would face would be mental.
Finally, the last lesson learned was that people are awesome. Rick, Uncle Leo, Richard, Mark from the sandwich shop, Alexis from Chick-Fil-A, Peter from the bike shop; already so many people have brightened my days in ways both big and small. I wouldn't be as content with my journey were it not for their support. It reminds me of Chuck Brown's song, "People make the world go round."
Oh. Wait. There's one more lesson I learned. I learned that April is still winter in Pennsylvania and Northern Ohio. I learned that the hard way. Now I understand why everyone in the region is waiting for some Punxsutawney Phil beaver/possum/groundhog to tell them when winter will end. It's because no one has a frickin clue.
So, what can I say about Cleveland? It's ummmm, alright. It's not like a bad place. But it's also not the kind of place that really called me. You know how sometimes you go to a place and feel like you belong there? Yeah, that didn't happen to me in Cleveland. Nonetheless, it's a major American city that I am happy to have visited and do believe that it deserves a visit.
My first stop on my day off in Cleveland was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The building was not at all what I expected. It was a Louvre-esque pyramid located right on the Erie shoreline in downtown. The glass windows enclosing the structure had all been colored purple in honor of Prince who passed away just a few days prior. To the East was an air force memorial and on the West was the Cleveland Browns stadium. This area was clearly one of the city's main tourism districts.
I couldn't help but to be enthralled by the museum. I mean, it's all about Rock and Roll, how could I not be? I felt like a kid as I wandered about. There was Michael Jackson's glove! And Slick Rick's eye patch! And Leadbelly's guitar! This place was full of rock and roll artifacts.
The museum did a good job of telling the story of Rock and Roll. I never realized that the term "Rock and Roll" was a double entendre referring to love-making (e.g. "we rocked and rolled all night"). It made its way from the melting pot of New Orleans to the radio stations of Memphis and the dance halls of Detroit, evolving at every pass. It accompanied the punks of New York, the hippies of San Francisco and the rappers of Los Angeles. The museum did a great job of chronicling the expanse and impact of this world-changing form of expression.
I got lost in this place. I got so lost in it that one of the ushers had to kick me out when it closed at 5:30. I could write an entire blog post about all of the interesting tidbits I learned from the museum. Instead of doing that I'll just tell you it's solid and urge you to check it out yourself.
After the Hall of Fame I headed to University Heights. Shmulie, the brother of a dear Rabbi-friend of mine, Levi, invited me to his home for Passover. I was a bit apprehensive about coming over. I was unsure if it was actually cool for me to join or not. I felt like I invited myself over. Shmulie reassured me. He texted that one of the first Seder verses was, "All that are hungry come and eat." Well that was perfect. I seemed to fit the key criterion of being hungry
I grabbed a bottle of my beloved Manischewitz and made my way. Shmulie and his wife were very welcoming. They prepared for the Seder in the kitchen as their cheerful son strolled around their home. We were joined by a couple and a colleague of Shmulie's, bringing the Seder total up to seven.
For those who have never celebrated Passover before, it is a retelling of the Exodus from Egypt. Each piece of the story is accompanied by prayers, symbolic foods and, most importantly, Manischewitz. There are four glasses of wine that each participant must drink. Each glass that you pour is supposed to spill over, representing abundance of blessings. Then, after letting your cup runneth over, you drink the whole thing down. Over the course of the seder I ate three enormous matzas, four glasses of Manischewitz, probably a pound and a half of corned beef and an assortment of other traditional foods. By the end of the meal I was stuffed. It was the first time I had been stuffed in two weeks. The seder was great!
Before I left, Shmulie wanted to give me a parting gift. "Is there anything I can give you for your ride? Oh, wait! I've got something perfect!" He went to the kitchen and returned with an enormous bag of matza. "Matza is the food of faith and healing. If you're going to cross the country on your bike then your going to need both of those things." Man was he right.
At the end of the night I headed back to my hostel via Uber. I got into a pretty deep conversation with my chauffeur. In addition to driving for Uber he was a part-time truck driver. I was a bit surprised by how much he opened up to me. He confessed that he'd been depressed for quite some time. Some of his ill feelings he attributed to his life on the road. I commented, "Geez. I just don't even know what it's like to live on the road like that."
He retorted, "What are you talkin' about? You doin' it right now!"
Wow. I guess he was right. This was life on the road, and tomorrow I would return to that life on the road.