Our voyage to our former home state last week was epic in terms of its scope and the sheer number of people we met up with. It was so exhausting, that I'm not sure I can even recount it for the quasi-historical record that is my blog. But I'll try.
The general purpose of the trip was twofold: To introduce Simon to friends and family, and to attend BooBuzz, the CoasterBuzz event we've been doing at Cedar Point now for five years. Since some of the family was based in Toledo, and there are no direct flights between SEA and CLE, it actually made more sense (in terms of time and economics) to fly to Detroit instead. Aside from having to drive through the filth of "The D," it worked out really well.
Wednesday we got up at 3-something to catch a 6 a.m. flight. Traveling with Seattle as your origin to virtually anywhere east is an enormous pain in the ass, I'm finding. Sure, I expect to lose the three hours, but with three pre-move visits here and four other trips east in the last year, you can't ever leave at a decent time. This did fortunately put us at DTW in the early afternoon, so at least the drive to Cleveland was relatively easy from there.
One of our secondary goals of the trip was to eat at all of our favorite places that don't exist in Seattle, so we snuck in a lunch at Famous Dave's in Toledo on the way to Cleveland. Technically, there are several locations south of Seattle, but none of them are convenient. This was a fave for us because of the Cedar Point location, and also a fond stop on our cross-country drive, I think in Billings, Montana. I love the "Devil's Spit" sauce. Delicious.
The drive to Cleveland reminded me of something I had not fully appreciated. The roads are generally plentiful with the number of lanes, and you can drive so many places. In Seattle, the freeways are cramped, and there just aren't many places you can easily drive. Beyond Vancouver and Portland, there isn't much else to see within driving distance. From Cleveland, I logged miles to Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincy, Southern Indiana, Buffalo, Mackinac Island... there are a whole lot of destinations. I kind of miss that freedom.
And what a joy it was to drive around aggressive drivers. Sure, that sounds counterintuitive, but what some may call aggressive I call predictable. The four-way stop near my house had people rolling up, and the first in was the first out, just like it should be. No sooner did we land in Seattle that the first four-way we went through, everyone stopped and stared at each other. It's annoying. Similarly, people merge on freeways as soon as they get beyond the barrier, solid lines be damned. It's predictable, and traffic keeps flowing.
Simon was so good on the plane, and he did OK in that long drive. Diana did have to sit with him a few times throughout the week, mostly so he could eat. His sleeping and eating routine was trashed, so it's no surprise that he got cranky at times, especially given his teething. Poor kid had some screaming bouts now and then, intermixed with smiles depending on how distracted he was from his mouth pain.
On Thursday, we covered a ton of ground, hitting I-71, 77, 480, 90 and 490. We started by visiting the Key campus where Diana worked. Her former fellow trainers loved to see her and the lad, as did many of the call center folk she trained. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had ever been in the building. I never went in when she was actually employed there.
From there, we headed to the Winking Lizard in Brunswick. Of all the food places I miss, this is at the top of the list. It's not that the food is the most awesome stuff ever created, it's just that it's so comfortable, tastes good and isn't expensive. The atmosphere of every location has a great vibe to it, from downtown, to Peninsula, to Macedonia, to Brunswick. I went once a week to locations near my job or home. There is no equivalent in Seattle, which tends to lean toward stuff that's more expensive, and often pretentious. I really miss it.
After lunch, we stopped by my house. I won't lie... I reacted very emotionally to being there. I was angry to still own it, and at the same time, happy about all of the memories I created in that place. It was my first house, I fell in love while living there several times, I felt the joy of many parties, and the isolation of divorce. So many experiences, good and bad, were packed into the eight and a half years I lived there.
The intensity of that reaction was short-lived though, because Simon was in no mood for hearing that he was conceived in that house. I did a quick walk-through to find that the toilets were growing science projects, and read the water meter to see that the City of Cleveland water department should indeed go fuck themselves if they can't be bothered to send someone out for a meter read. (They owe me money, not the other way around. In a related note, they keep fucking with Diana over the house she doesn't even own anymore.) The landscaping is a mess, and the house desperately needs some paint in some rooms, but it's still a great house. I miss living there.
The clock really started ticking, so we made a swing by the new (well, new as we were moving) Jared location to get Diana's ring inspected and cleaned, since the location in Seattle is not convenient. From there we headed to my dad's house in North Ridgeville.
Simon got a short nap in the car, so he was fairly alert for his grandfather. He really loved Leo's cat, Pete, and in a moment I wish I could've captured with video, Simon grabbed his tail, gave out a shriek, and sent Pete off protesting (minus a lump of fur in Simon's hand). Good times. He also had a head bump that scared the shit out of me, when he fell back into the handle on the recliner.
After a couple of hours there, and I can't believe how well Simon did, we were going to head back to Brecksville when we made an unscheduled detour. We diverted to Melt, on the premise that if there was no wait, we'd stop. It was the closest we'd get to Lakewood, so we gave it a shot, and scored. I don't think we were actually there more than 40 minutes, but we got that delicious gourmet grilled cheese, and it was awesome. Simon spent much of the time protesting.
That evening, we had some visitors, including Cousin Dave, Niki and Jake, the latter of which is huge! I can't believe how much he has grown. Something we have to look forward to. We also had a visit from my friend Randi from the ICOM days. She's had all kinds of life changes too lately, with ICOM getting bought and her moving to a new house. It was great to see them all, and really strange to go so long without seeing them.
Friday started with breakfast at Jennie's to see Simon's cousins, as well as our friend Shannon. Once again, he did a great job staying up and being super interactive with everyone. He seems to really hit it off with older kids, and watched every little thing that Gabe and Ann did. This was also the location for the great poop incident of 2010, where he decided to go while in diaper transition, only to do some peeing, causing more spreading of poo, and topped off with the depletion of diaper wipes. There was poo everywhere on the poor kid! Fortunately, the team effort got him into the bathtub and cleaned up, and he took it all in stride, even if we didn't.
Our hope for the afternoon was to stop at Chet & Matt's in Sandusky for the pizza we love, but time got the best of us after the poo incident, which required a Target run for diaper wipes. By that time, we had to meet up with the Walsh's to go to Cedar Point for BooBuzz.
We arrived a little late, not getting to the Millennium Force platform until about 4:30, but I didn't care. I can't fully describe how awesome it was to be rolling Simon down the midway, before the park was open, on a beautiful and sunny day. Being there with him required some kind of reconciliation of change that I had never fully considered before. CP has been a huge part of my life for a very long time, where I've forged some incredible friendships and created many, many memories. Without having access to it this year, I've learned a lot about the role it played in my "old life," and Simon is most certainly a part of my "new life" that I've been building the last eleven months. I guess there's a bigger story about how great my life has been, and perhaps how I've taken it for granted to some extent. It's really hard to verbalize it all. A lot of it is just the joy of being able to share something so part of me with my little guy, even if he can't understand the importance of it yet.
We didn't end up riding very much, but it really didn't matter. Seeing Simon watch Raptor and Wicked Twister, and jump when he saw Dragster go by, was neat. I do regret not doing a few more rides, but wouldn't you know it, they appeared to be having record attendance again, so the lines were a little longer than I would've liked. It was still a vast improvement over last year, when the Saturday event saw ridiculous crowds.
Even though we didn't get to hang out a ton, it was a rare moment where me, Gonch and Carrie all occupied the same general space, something we don't get to do very often. If Mike could have been there, it'd be a full podcast gathering! I don't get to see them very often, but even if they're largely virtual friendships, I'm glad to have them.
We finally bailed around 10, after Carrie got off of Maverick. The park was just beautiful in a way that only an amusement park can be. We didn't get down by Red Garter and the treats there, unfortunately, and we obviously didn't want to take Simon through the Fright Zone, but otherwise we did get a good bit of roaming. And I had the fries, which was super important.
Saturday, we had our lunch at Chet & Matt's, and Carrie joined us. Simon really seems to like her, and really, who doesn't? The pizza was delicious. Only one more food tour stop to hit.
About an hour and a half later, we were in Maumee, outside of Toledo, and stayed in a "Studio Plus" or something like that. At first it just seemed kinda outdated, but it was otherwise adequate, and I thought clean. Later I noticed the yack/blood stains on the mattress, and that totally disgusted me. Meh, you never know. The online reviews indicated the place was fine.
In any case, again the plan was to stay in one place and have people come to us. We were a little disappointed that only Diana's two aunts and cousin came out to see us, but it was still good for Simon to get some lovin' from his family. He was particularly cranky, as we think his mouth was bothering him again. We made our final food tour score, with a ton of Buffalo Wild Wings goodies. I busted out the Mango Habanero, and it was awesome. I bought 12 boneless, but only got 10 down before my body said stop. It wasn't the heat, just the fact that I had put a ton of not-good-for-me food in my body the previous few days. (Oddly enough, I lost a pound for the week.)
Getting Simon resting was a challenge that night, and we tried to get to bed early in anticipation of a 4 a.m. wake-up for us. We realized in the middle of the night that we might run out of formula on the plane, and that would be a disaster. Fortunately, a 24-hour Meijer was near by, and we stopped there before heading to Detroit for our return flight at 8:30. We managed to arrive at our gate after dropping off the car and what not with about 40 minutes to spare before boarding.
The flight home wasn't bad, though Simon was very whiney. I'm still going to give him a "W," for a record of 7-1, because he did have two half-hour naps on my lap, and some giggles. We really pushed him hard all week, and he deserves a ton of credit, especially with his sore mouth.
This was not really a vacation, and we're all a bit exhausted. I'm left with a lot of realizations about the place that I'll always call home. When we moved, I was prepared to say that Seattle us just a better place, but I'm no longer convinced of that. There are a great many trade-offs you make to live here, and the only thing that makes it "better" is the economy. Seattle will never have thunderstorms and cheap housing (or Cedar Point). Cleveland will never have mountain views. I'm really not sure that I'd ever want to live there again (hey, at least I'd have a house!), but I also can't dismiss it.
Overall, it was a great trip. I wonder when I'll visit again.