Northern Ohio: Rockin’ and Rollin’ Around Cuyahoga Valley

Cuyahoga Valley, Cleveland, and Canton kept us rockin’ and rollin’ through the Labor Day weekend with beloved visitors, daughter Sarah and son-in-law Sean.  Rockin’ on a train and at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, and rollin’ on a bike ride through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, to be specific!

Cuyahoga Valley is a strange little National Park, owing to being interspersed with residences, private land, towns, businesses and stores in an urban area.  It doesn’t feel like a National Park at all, frankly. 

What it lacks in rustic NP charm, it makes up for in fun things to do.  Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway has a number of scenic and themed train rides of varying length and originality.


Most of the trains are from the 50’s, but beautifully restored and maintained.

Our schedule necessitated the Breakfast Train Ride choice, though we would have preferred the Bingo Train Ride or the Drink-Wine-and-Paint Train Ride.  The jostling of the train led us to believe that the paintings would have to be of the “modern art” variety, splotches and smears.

The three-course breakfast of raspberry smoothie, peaches and cream stuffed french toast, sausage, potatoes and vanilla bean tart frequently distracted our attention away from gazing at the scenery.

For train-starved Arizonans, this was a fun and unusual way to spend a morning, and the ride is sure to be spectacular later this month when the autumn leaves have fully changed colors.

The train can also be enjoyed during a one-way journey, with the “Bike Aboard” program.

In Cuyahoga Valley, 19.5 miles of the 100+ mile Towpath Trail are within the National Park.

Though not yet fully turned, fall colors are starting to creep in to the periphery, and cranes along the canal keep a watchful eye on passersby.

The Towpath Trail takes you alongside many abandoned locks along the old Ohio and Erie Canal, where mules used to walk this path while towing boats along.

4,000 miles of canals were built by 1860, fueling expansion and the dreams of young entrepreneurial families who wanted to ship their agricultural products to eastern markets via these very canals.

In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Canal Exploration Center has a small but excellent museum devoted to the canals and locks, and how they helped the young state (and nation!) to grow.

After a long (or short) day of riding the trails, then it’s time to ride the rails!  The very-popular Bike Aboard program lets you jump aboard for $5 cash at one of multiple stations.

Your bike will be loaded into a boxcar, and humans go in a regular car for the slow ride back.  So slow, you could honestly pedal back more quickly, but the relaxation, air conditioning, and concession stand make it all the more enjoyable on the train!

Cuyahoga Valley NP has 125 miles of hiking trails, with the most scenic being The Ritchie Ledges.

This 2.2 mile loop is studded with moss-covered boulders, layers of sedimentary bedrocks, and soaring hemlock forests.

A well-marked path includes series of boardwalks over the riverbeds, while hardy explorers can go off-trail and scramble through the ledges.

Thirty miles north of Cuyahoga Valley in the bustling city of Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame pays tribute to the history of rock music and those people who have rocked all our worlds!

The 150,000-sq.ft. double-domed, glass-enclosed building is impressive in itself, with multiple floors of displays, exhibits and interactive activities. 


Of course, there are thousands upon thousands of amazing mementos and memorabilia, more than you could even wrap your mind around. 

A variety of exhibits included Legends of Rock and Roll, Woodstock at 50, Backstage Stories, Power of Rock Experience, and Stay Tuned: Rock on TV, plus many more.

In “The Garage,” visitors can pick up an instrument, bring their band out of retirement, and play to all the other visitors walking by.  Some were great, some were not-so-great, and some were going to be remembered mostly for their emo album covers.

Not everyone can play an instrument, but anyone can play pinball!  Head to the “Part of the Machine: Rock and Pinball” exhibit with rock-themed pinball machines, all “open play” … no quarters required!

Of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exists primarily to recognize individuals and groups for their contributions to musical excellence.

There are listening stations and headphones throughout the museum to keep the cacophony of competing sounds from multiple sources from ricocheting around inside the pyramid.

Here are the 2019 inductees.  They are chosen for three factors:  Impact, Influence and Awesomeness.  Yes, really!  Awesomeness is an official factor!

Back at the ole KOA homestead every evening, Sarah and Sean engaged in time-honored campground traditions, like spending time with family ….

making tie-dye shirts under the watchful eye of KOA Management …..

and of course s’mores, which we learned by trial and error are the absolute best when you substitute Biscoff cookies for the graham crackers.  Try it!

Lastly, don’t forget the BEST campground activity!  “NOTHING”

Adding Ohio to the Lucky Charm map!

Sarah and Sean headed back to Phoenix, and we headed 40 miles south to Canton.  The McKinley Presidential Museum includes a truly impressive monument in which McKinley, his wife, and their two young daughters are interred. 

McKinley, possessing a huge interest in science, was shot during his Presidency while attending a science fair in Buffalo, and died days later.  His wife, always sickly and a huge hypochondriac, followed him within years.    

Inside the attached McKinley Presidential Library and Museum (which inexplicably includes the “agricultural history of the county” a dinosaur display, AND a planetarium, but still manages to be tiny), you find the largest collection of McKinley- related artifacts in the world.  This was our 5th Presidential Museum; someday, we’d like to visit them all!

 Be sure not to miss a fairly creepy talking wax sculpture of the McKinleys, who began their married life here in Canton.

Visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was cool and all, but a certain somebody had his sights set on an even more important Hall of Fame, also in Canton!

Like the R’n’R Hall of Fame, this program honors those who have added excellence to the sport of football, which was “born” in Canton almost 100 years ago in 1920.

A sculptor named Buswell is responsible for creation of all of busts displayed here, which are all hollow, except for one which collapsed inward while cooling and is therefore much heavier.

The class of 2019 includes Kevin Mawae, who is currently a member of the hometown Arizona State University football program staff.

Also included in the Hall, hometown hero Kurt Warner.  Larry Fitzgerald will of course also be inducted the moment he becomes eligible, which is five years after one retires from football.

The 120,000 sq. ft. facility includes a number of excellent displays and exhibits, including an amazing display of rare football trading cards worth many millions of dollars.

Most fascinating is the ultimate “smash and grab” opportunity, an unguarded glass box display of every Super Bowl ring for each year.  Each year they have become bigger and gaudier, and last year’s Patriots ring included 422 diamonds to the tune of 9.85 carats! 

AND, the Holy Grail of football, the real Lombardi Trophy.  Made by Tiffany and Company, this is the very one which will be awarded to the Super Bowl winner in January 2020.

We’ve been rockin’ and rollin’, but now we’ll just be JUST rolling, on to southern Ohio and Hocking Hills State Park. On the way: a stop at the prison where one of our all-time favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, was filmed!  Hopefully Andy, Red and Brooks are waiting there for us!

Bye for now!

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