In August of 1976, my life was in shambles, living on my own in a studio apartment in my small hometown of Bucyrus, Ohio. Not counting a couple days that I did a quick visit in August, 2007, I had never returned until this September. Why now? It was to be my “reunion tour”. My graduating class of about 98 was having its 45th class reunion and I had made up my mind last fall that I was going to go and bring Carolyn so she could see the area that shaped my life. With my father passing in August, my journey back was part of my healing process since I have many mixed (both good and bad) memories of my years spent in Bucyrus, Ohio.
Carolyn and I flew into Columbus utilizing our standby status with American Airlines and we made our flight with out a hitch. Upon arrival, we picked up our rental and headed towards Cleveland where the plan was to visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park a park that I did not know existed. It had become a park in 1974 but as a teenager, I was unaware. Most trips for us include brewery stops. It has become part our our total experience when traveling.
I had booked a stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, a short distance from the park entrance. Since we arrived early, we drove to Cleveland to visit a couple of breweries that I was familiar with. The first stop was the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Their September special release was the 73 Kolsch brewed in collaboration with the great Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas #73.
We ate a nice dinner outside on a patio (socially distanced) with a 73 Kolsch and enjoyed the atmosphere on a nice cool Wednesday evening. After dinner, we walked over to the Market Garden Brewery, another very cool place with a great atmosphere in repurposed buildings. Cleveland is getting it done with these type of businesses.
We returned to our hotel for a night of rest before venturing into Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Our morning starts off with a light rain and we had decided on several waterfall related hikes on streams that run into the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga gained some unwanted notoriety for catching on fire several times in the 1960’s due to its polluted condition. The river was home to many industries and polluting the river was just a normal activity. Nobody would dare go into the river due to the excessive pollution. The 1969 river fire became a symbol for an environmental movement and awareness of how America was destroying its waterways. The transformation is amazing. The National Park really is something special as it interacts with urban areas, rivers, hills, woods, farms, lakes, and animals.
Our first hike is the Brandywine Falls Loop with some added on distances. The falls were not running very hard but it was a nice hike through completely wooded areas that contain trees you don’t see out west. Very few people on the trails and the solitude was enjoyable. Running water is not an every day occurrence with such frequency in Arizona so seeing all the water, streams, rivers is very special.
Next stop is Boston Mill Visitor Center. The area is located along a railroad that had a train that before Covid, would transport visitors from one end to the other end of the park traveling along the Cuyahoga River. Our second hike is the Blue Hen Falls Trail that includes some elevation climbs. Once again, very few on the trail and it was nice to take a trip through the woods down to a small waterfall.
On this trip, we cover about 3 miles and upon return we decide to hike some of the 19 mile Towpath Trail that is very popular with cyclists. The towpath was part of the Erie Canal and hauling boats up and down the river from the Akron to Cleveland area. The manufacturing history in the area is very interesting. After a few miles, we return and head off to meet up with a former student of mine, Jason Nichols, for lunch.
We meet Jason and his daughter at the On Tap Grille & Bar in Medina and order fish and chips since it the fish is Lake Erie perch and it is fabulous. I don’t think I have had perch since I left Ohio in 1976. We had a great time and visit with Jason. Jason had moved from Ohio to Pine, AZ as a freshman and graduated from Payson High School and returned to Ohio after graduation.
It is time to head to Bucyrus and get around to meet up with classmates that I haven’t seen for over four decades. We make a quick drive through Bucyrus, check in at the Holiday Inn, get changed, and off to Galion to the 1803 Brewery & Taproom. Not many there but those that were, well we had fun. Carolyn fit right in and thank goodness nobody told any old embarrassing stories about me. Galion is a short distance from Bucyrus and on our way there, I took Carolyn by Colonel Crawford High School which in someways hadn’t changed that much since I graduated in 1975. We hung out with Reed and Susanne Hiltner, Jim and Jeanne (Gerhart) Thompson, Bob and Karen (Markley) Schmidt, and the President himself Dave and Cheryle Lauthers. What a great way to end our day with some lively conversation and good beer. Forty five years seems like a very long time but we picked up like it had only been yesterday.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by Baker’s Pizza Sports Shack but due to the Ohio Covid restrictions we could only get a pizza and wings to go. Still good though. Day One and Day Two of my “reunion tour” are in the books. Lots accomplished but Carolyn and I would love to return to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and do some more exploring. That will have to wait for another trip.
On Friday, we were to attend a Colonel Crawford football game tailgate event but that’s a no go due to restrictions on who can attend the football games. So off to Findlay, Ohio to chase down some old memories of where I lived for several years including kindergarten and first grade.
It’s been a while since I’ve left home
But I’m coming on back today
Kinda funny but I picture it only
Exactly as it was back in the day
Songwriters: Anna Wilson / Scarlet V. Keys