Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Midwest Road Fest, Days 4 & 5 (The Conclusion)

Day 4:
Despite the house being a non-air-conditioned structure, we all slept pretty soundly at the home of Ed’s friends due to a perfect drop in temperature overnight and lots and lots of fans. Actually, this drop in temperature set us up for the most beautiful day of the entire trip. It ended up being around 82 degrees with none of the disgusting humidity that had been haunting the Midwest for the previous two weeks. We were fixed some eggs and waffles, which we ate happily, and got the car loaded up to head for Mansfield, Ohio, home of our next two attractions. Mansfield was a little bit of a back-track for us (especially since we were so close to Cleveland already), but the extra driving was cheaper than getting a hotel in Cleveland. Besides, an extra 3 hours in the car was nothing in the whole scheme of things. So we didn’t complain too much. On with Day 4!

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio

Our first destination for the day was going to be the Ohio State Reformatory, which is the humungous prison where The Shawshank Redemption and parts of Air Force One were filmed. The building usually offers tours, but they’re at the most random times, and they aren’t offered on Saturdays. So, we thought were going to be out of luck in regards to actually seeing the inside of the place, but as it turns out, we got very, very lucky…

There was a Volkswagen and Porsche car show being held out on the front lawn of the Reformatory, and because of the event, the building was open for tours! We had some time to burn until the next one though, and there was another attraction in Mansfield that we wanted to catch, so we hustled over to the next thing so we could fully experience it before our tour of the prison, which was so unbelievably, extremely cool-looking from the outside.

The Living Bible Museum, Mansfield, Ohio

I think I can safely say that this was the most unentertaining, lackluster stop on our entire trip. We walked into what seemed like a modern-style church and were helped by a woman who was old enough to be in Jesus’s yearbook. She put us into the room that offered the self-guided tour, “The Reformation of Christianity.” Already this sounds lame. See, the Living Bible Museum offers a variety of tours that employs life-sized wax sculptures to tell the stories of the Bible. Since we were in a hurry, we took the first available one, which just so happened to be the most tedious, and the antics that ensued were enough to drive a senior citizen comatose.

The highlights of this attraction were the pimping out of John Wesley (founder of the Wesleyan church, something of mild significance to us as Illinois Wesleyan students and alumni), and scaring the urine out of Ed in the darkened tour room. They only highlighted one scene at a time, and at one point, Ed was growing bored with the currently lightened scene, so he looked ahead to a rather frightening was sculpture that awaited in the shadows. Ed said, “Man, this one looks creepy,” and feigned a startled expression, at which point I grabbed his sides and growled heavily. Ed went in to panicky convulsions and probably peed a little. We all had a good laugh, agreed that this was the dumbest thing ever, and went to use the bathroom before heading back to the Reformatory, only to be greeted by a younger, male worker of the facility, who seemed to be occupying the bathroom permanently, even if only to tend to the psychological needs of the customers. We had a rousing chat with the fellow, but were still in a hurry, so we charged back to the prison for our tour, which MORE than made up for the crappy nature of The Living Bible Museum.

The Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio (again)

Walking into this building was one of the creepiest experiences of my life. I’m not sure I can even describe the ambience of the place, but it was definitely eerie. Old paint was flaking off of every inch of the entire building, including doors, ceilings, cell bars… EVERYTHING! It was one of the most massively huge structures I’ve ever been, and everything is just so open. We spent a short while in the front part of the prison and the opening foyer that led into the east and west cell blocks. Our tour guide was awesome, as he had not only information about the building, but also prisoner stories and tales about deaths and murders that happened right where we had been standing.

Obviously, the building isn’t in use anymore, but you could only imagine what things would’ve been like if you’d have served time there. We got glimpses into the cells, solitary confinement, and the warden’s quarters, part of which was used in The Shawshank Redemption (I had to get a little piece of this cinematic action). It would take me an hour to say everything I wanted to about this place, so I won’t go into too much detail. However, I will say this: seeing that place close up makes you REALLY not want to do anything that cause you to spend even a single day in prison. Screw that. This place was probably my favorite stop on the entire five-day trip. It was cool, had novelty value as a filming location, and it was scary and historic as well. There’s so much to factor in to this place’s extremity, for it truly was So Extreme.

Jacob’s Field, Cleveland, Ohio

We drove back to Cleveland for an afternoon Indian’s game versus the Seattle Mariners. Parking for the game cost us three dollars. THREE DOLLARS!!! What Chicago sporting event has EVER allowed you to park your mode of transit for less than two months’ rent? I was amazed by that (however, this particular house of automobiles would cause us some trouble later on… more on this to come). We walked about two blocks to Jacob’s Field, which took about 5 minutes, then once inside we headed for our seats, which took about a month of Sundays. Our seats were six dollars, so you get what you pay for I guess, but damn that was a journey!

Jacob’s Field has absolutely zero personality. You can see Gund Arena (where the Cavs play) right across the street, and the scoreboard was pretty high tech, but there are no other defining characteristics in the whole place. I’d say the stadium was about 2/3 full, and the fans who were actually there definitely showed enthusiasm (even I went bedecked in a Cleveland jersey), but we just couldn’t really get into the game too much, despite the fact that it was probably the most beautiful day of the summer. The eateries were alright, but I think the food service provider there mass hires troubled teens from local Section 8 housing projects. I felt like I had walked into a bad episode of Cita’s World, where the already racist BET character got even MORE ignorant just in time to serve my food. I was embarrassed FOR those people. We left in the 7th inning. At least I can mark that particular park off of my checklist, right? I think I’ll just stay a White Sox fan.

World’s Largest Rubber Stamp, Cleveland, Ohio

Not much to say about this other than it’s the world’s largest rubber stamp. I remember seeing it when planning the trip, but we hadn’t made arrangements to stop by and see it. It was on the way to our next destination, so we thought, “what the hell?” and took a picture with it anyway. It is a big sucker though, ain’t it?

Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio

Kyle and I always wanted to come here and check the place out. It was designed by IM Pei (same guy who designed the pyramids for the Louvre. The guy likes his triangles, what can I say?), and with all those windows you’d think it’d be hot in there. But it wasn’t, really. They boast six levels of musicky goodness, but the majority of what’s there to see is on the first floor, which was absolutely spectacular.

We saw everything from Jimi Hendrix’s original lyric notebook to one of Robert Johnson’s guitars. There was a separate room for Ray Charles, full of tons of memorabilia, including a few pairs of his sunglasses. One of the coolest parts was the section with all the mannequins bearing famous musician’s most famous articles of clothing. There was so much to take in while we were there that it was almost a sensory overload, but it was definitely a little piece of music history, and anybody whose ever liked Elvis, the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones just definitely go and check it out.

Sadly, they didn’t allow cameras inside the exhibit areas, so there is a lack of photographs for this particular attraction. We did get a couple of snapshots in the entrance though. I wish we could’ve gotten more!

The Holiday Inn, Elyria, Ohio

We made the trek back to our parking garage, only to find that damn thing had CLOSED about fifteen minutes prior to our return. There were a few other Indians fans with the same problem who were trying to find a solution. We got into our cars and drove down to the entrance and pretty just pushed the stupid blocker bar thingies up to get out. What was humorous is that there were two strapping lads trying their damndest to get the bar to lift, when along comes Ed, who basically pushes the whole structure up with about two of the muscles in his smallest finger (and no, I’m not referring to his “area,” you sick bastards). He walked away feeling like the Incredible Hulk, and made fun of the two guys who couldn’t lift if. Kyle whooped his trademark jeer as we pulled away: “Don’t’ forget your purses!”…

Our $50 Priceline weekend Holiday Inn awaited us 30 minutes away, and we got there with no problems, happy to see the deal we earned by hours of online hotel searching the night previous. We grabbed some Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner (about our fifth consecutive bad idea in regards to cuisine), and hit the hay, hoping and praying to God that the 60% chance of thunderstorms being forecasted for the next day at Cedar Point were false. I’ll admit, there was a moment in which we weren’t sure if we’d get our opportunity to ride the world’s fastest and tallest roller coaster. We implored, and we slumbered, waiting…

Day 5:
We woke up to a sky full of clouds, and a sky full of even darker clouds in the direction of Sandusky, where the sacred Point of Cedar lie. We drove around to like three grocery stores in Elyria before heading up north to try and find the discounted Cedar Point tickets before finally finding the right one. We agreed that the seven dollar discount was probably worth the twenty minutes spent. Of course, it would be moot if the rain came crashing down (as it was still forecasted to do) in Sandusky. However, this was a risk we were willing to take.

Cedar Point Theme Park, Sandusky, Ohio

When we got to Sandusky, it was sprinkling a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad. It seemed like the potential for rain scared away a lot of likely roller coaster riders. So at least that was a good thing. We lulled into the park right as it opened (more or less), and headed straight for the coaster that Ed said was the best one he had ever ridden in his entire life: Millennium Force. It wasn’t the fastest and tallest; that one’s called the Top Thrill Dragster, but as this particular ride can not function if there is even a drop of precipitation, it was not in use at that particular time. Millennium Force, however, looked more than impending.

The wait wasn’t too bad (only 30 minutes), but by the time we got to the front of the line, the rain had picked up considerably. Now, Cedar Point isn’t like Six Flags, where the rides get shut down if there’s any kind of rain. No, they run ‘em until there’s lightening and/or high winds. THAT’S what I’m talking about! At least, that was my state of mind BEFORE riding the Force in downpour. The only way to put it is through my younger brother’s words: “The rain feels like… NAILS!” And my GOD did it ever. However, piercing precipitation aside, Ed was right in it’s being the coolest coaster of all time.

As we waited in wet lines for the other rides, I did notice that the general visitor of Cedar Point was approximately 75-85% less trashy than inhabitants of Great America in Gurnee. You know the type: morbidly obese women wearing tea cozies for shirts, men with mullets and hairy chests, slutty children wearing tattered second-hand name brand clothes suitable only for wiping ones mouth or nuclear warhead testing. Big thumbs up to the residents of Sandusky and those out-of-towners visiting the park that day. You all were high class in my book. My book, however, is not of a high standard, so take that for it’s worth.

As it turns out, there was a window of about an hour where there was no rain, so the Top Thrill Dragster opened up for the first time all day. We were in the right place at the right time, and hopped into line with virtually no wait once the ride officially opened. The ride itself is not long at all, as it lasts about 20 seconds at the most, but the feeling you get when you go from zero to 120mph in like a SECOND is incomparable. If it were longer, it would’ve beaten Force as the coolest coaster of all time, but as it stands it finished in a very close second. After that, there was little reason to stay, so we took ourselves and our damped Midwest Road Fest t-shirts back to our car and began our 8-hour drive back home.

To Ed and Kyle: Congratulations on a trip well-traveled. We shall have to conquer three new states next summer! I have no reservations in labeling the Midwest Road Fest an extremely successful Road Trip. And for the record, the whole five-day excursion cost about 300 bucks. Not bad, eh?

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