The drive into Cleveland was a quick one. It was only about 3 hours from the truck stop we had slept at the night before.
We happened to drive in right next to their famous West Side Market, the oldest running public market in Cleveland.
The surrounding area was slightly active, but still pretty quiet.
It seemed like such a warm, little town: sun shining, birds singing, and not crowded at all.
There was an enormous mural of sunflowers that also helped set the tone for the day.
Embracing the Unexpected
Cleveland was one of the cities where we had no idea what to expect. Well, that’s most of the places we go to, but it definitely wasn’t something we researched ahead of time.
Our method of madness when it comes to choosing a location is simple:
It’s either something we’ve heard of or seen somewhere, we like the sound of the name, it’s en route to another location, or just by pure, last minute, turn-of-the-wheel method. Where you say: “oh look, let’s pull over there!”, and go.
Usually, it’s me doing the strong suggesting and Boris doing the turning.
Cleveland was a mixture of two of those.
We’ve obviously heard of it and are both fans of The Cavs and Lebron. Especially during our late-night competitions of NBA 2k where we would take turns between them and Golden State.
Which, by the way, we played with them far before the Championship.
So, not saying that we had anything to do with it, but… not saying we didn’t either.
That was one part, and secondly, it was on the way towards Wisconsin, which was our next official stop.
So, Cleveland it was.
But, like I said, we had no idea what to expect.
The first impression we got was just that of a cute, small town. That was before we went further, but we’ll get to that part later.
Change of Perspectives
I’m not sure if the “small town” impression is what other people get or it’s just because of our year prior, that left us feeling that way.
Aside from a brief, 5-week road trip to the Utah National Parks, we had spent 11 months or so living in a small coastal town near Savannah, Georgia. Then, spent the next month after that back in the Tri-State.
The drastic and sudden change was so strong, that we couldn’t help but notice. And, we sure noticed.
It wasn’t as difficult adjusting in Jersey, but driving in Brooklyn, mainly Coney Island, was an experience like no other.
That short time away really made the difference.
Georgia drivers aren’t the best, believe that. But, they’re polite, respectful, and, usually, their greatest offense is driving too slow. If someone there cuts you off, they’ll wave, apologize, and maybe invite you over for dinner.
Brooklyn on the other hand… the drivers there are simply annoyed at your existence.
How dare you drive… in a car… on the road!
It felt like we were extras in an action flick who didn’t know they were being extras.
Needless to say, coming to Cleveland, felt “small-town-ish”.
Step One: Eat
Our first order of business was food. We were starving and needed breakfast asap.
Luckily, we found parking right next to the market.
We stepped out of the car, and suddenly felt a gust of hot air hit our faces. Within minutes, the sweat droplets multiplied and we were covered in sweat.
“Hopefully, there’s some AC.”
As we were walking in, we saw this chalkboard wall.
Ah. Another omen.
I love seeing the signs all around us and taking them in. I know the universe is always guiding our paths and placing people, things, or events in our way to let us know if we’re heading in the right direction. Some are subtle and others are far more obvious like this one.
The lists of what we all want to do before we depart this lifetime are long, and the time to complete them is now.
After a quick and typical Instagram snapshot, we headed inside.
Dragon fruit, zucchinis, kiwis, oh my!
Fruits and veggies, EVERYWHERE!
There was every kind, color, size, and quality of produce there. We were blown away. And hungry.
As we were getting ready to do some browsing, we hear: “Strawberries, strawberries, 5 dolla, get your strawberries”.
Then: “try my strawberries, 3 for 5, best strawberries in the land, try one for free, no problem”.
What was going on? Had we just been transported to an Arabian souk? I’ve been to Dubai and boy, are they pushy there, but, Cleveland? And for fruit?
It was something we’d never experienced. And, we’re from Brooklyn: land of the fruit stands and hustlers. Although, never in the same sentence.
We thought it was hilarious, but were taken aback by the berry pushers and continued on our way.
“Maybe, no fruit today”, we thought. “Let’s see what else they have.”
Continuing the Search
We made our way further to the other side of the market where the cooked food was. As we strolled though the aisles, we got distracted by some bright colors and stopped.
We placed an order, and before we could take a few steps, it was gone.
“Mmm… what else do they have?”
We entered a store which had everything under the sun. As we browsed the aisles for things we might need for the road, we came across an aisle of chocolate.
Boris, being the recovering Chocoholic that he is, was too excited for words.
They had every assortment, type, and country of origin you could imagine.
We window shopped for awhile longer and then finally decided on a tiny, Thai stand on the corner.
We ordered a few veggie dishes and found a table outside.
A mouthful of food, the sun warming our cheeks, sweat burning our eyes and we finally were able to take it all in.
It was so exhilarating to reach our first destination that I don’t think it even mattered where we were, it just felt amazing.
A few more bites of food and off we went to explore the city.
As we made our way further into downtown, the scenery started changing.
Crowds forming, musicians on the street, some people muttering to themselves, and others screaming, singing, or dancing in costume. Just a regular, Wednesday afternoon in August.
Ah. Now this is more like it. This is the type of city that we’re used to.
We decided to explore a different side of Cleveland, so we made our way outside of the city. We drove up to a Marina right on Lake Erie.
The day was a little gloomy, but it felt peaceful. To the left of us, some fathers were fishing with their sons. And, to the right of us, some guy was sharing Mickey D’s fries with some birds.
As we were walking by the water, we began feeling some light drizzle tap us on the forehead.
We took a few deep breaths of the fresh, misty air, and then decided to get in the car and keep going.
One of the best parts about the car camping adventure is that we had no plans, no guidelines, and no time limits.
“If we vibe with a place, we stay as long as we want, and if we don’t, we keep it moving.” Those were our only rules to the locations. And, they were great rules.
They allowed us the chance to completely relax and truly be free on the road.
Cleveland was cool, and we were happy to see a small piece of Ohio, but we were ready for more.
We wanted to get further from the East Coast and discover places that made us feel different. Places that were unlike anything else that we could relate to. And, Cleveland just wasn’t it.
Off to the next unknown territory!
Stay tuned for more…