Cleveland Rocked the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite 8

Despite the cell phone drama, my recent trip home to Cleveland was actually a great time. It’s always exciting to share the city with people who haven’t been before. Despite all the jokes, Cleveland is a phenomenal town. Here’s just some of the proof:

We arrived to a chilly, cloudy day, but it did nothing to dampen my spirits. We (me, Tall Guy, my parents and Tall Guy’s parents) had a lengthy lunch in my childhood home, then the out-of-towners headed to the hotel. After a brief rest and refresh we nabbed my parents and headed to Great Lakes Brewing Company for dinner.

Great Lakes Menu

Great Lakes (as the brewing company is called by those in the know) was founded in 1988, the first craft brewery in Ohio. They now produce over 150,000 barrels annually and serve 13 states, as well as Washington D.C. Their restaurant menu is short but sweet, and many of the items incorporate Great Lakes beers. I chowed down on the Old World Burger, with smoked cheddar, housemade Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Barbecue sauce, bacon and fried onion straws served on a pretzel roll (along with a side of beer battered pub fries). We ended the evening with Porter Chocolate Chunk ice cream – also using the Edmund Fitzgerald. To die for.

Great Lakes Old World Burger

 

Thursday was the first day of NCAA Men’s Basketball Sweet Sixteen games, but they weren’t starting until after 7pm. We opted to spend the day at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which sits right on Lake Erie (still partially frozen). Big, fat, lazy snowflakes were falling, but barely clinging to the ground. While I don’t want to live in snow, I do miss the beauty of it sometimes, so I was secretly pleased. We drove downtown through Rockefeller Park, which includes the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. It’s much better (absolutely beautiful) in the summertime, and definitely worthy of a visitor’s time. But back to the Rock Hall…

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum

Current exhibits included Paul Simon: Words & Music, which had my mother completely absorbed, and Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits, which knocked all of our socks off. Herb Ritts was a portrait photographer. The majority of his pieces exhibited were black and whites, and they were stunning. Just absolutely amazing. Images like Ritts’ are the reason I had wanted to be a photographer (one of those things I started, but quit). The museum is extensive – give yourself ample time to wander through. And by ample time, I mean hours. I’d been before, but you just can’t take everything in, so even if the exhibits don’t change, you’re guaranteed to see/learn something new every time you go. One of my favorite pieces, which is permanent, is Pink Floyd’s Wall. Love the album, love the movie, love the Rock Hall vision of it.

Rock Hall Pink Floyd Wall from escalator

 Rock Hall Pink Floyd Wall from balcony

Thursday evening’s NCAA games were Notre Dame vs. Wichita State and Kentucky vs. West Virginia. The former game was a fair showing, the latter game was a blowout. It was actually painful watching West Virginia, and wondering if they’d even get to 20 points (they did not make 20 in the first half). Also, despite the excitement of the Sweet Sixteen, I promise you that more people got their panties in a bunch trying to spot Ashley Judd. An enthusiastic Kentucky supporter, everyone knew she’d be there, and the crowd-scanning was comical.

NCAA Sweet Sixteen Cleveland 2015

 Notre Dame Wichita State March 26 2015

 Kentucky West Virginia Sweet Sixteen 2015Friday afternoon we lunched at Tommy’s  Restaurant. I’ve written about Tommy’s before, and there just isn’t anyplace like it. Despite the snow, I made sure to save room after my Uncle Russ (felafel, cheddar cheese, onion and mayo on a pita) for one of their famous milkshakes – Cookies ‘n’ Cream.

Tommy's Coventry Milkshake

We spent the rest of Friday watching the remaining Sweet Sixteen games on television and sharing laughs over mom’s Italian beef sandwiches. Saturday everyone else visited the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Crawford Auto Aviation Collection. I took a big fat nap. The photo below is courtesy of Tall Guy.

Crawford Auto Aviation motorcycle

We headed downtown again and stopped into Gateway Bar & Grill to watch the Elite Eight Wisconsin vs. Arizona game on TV. That was rough. Arizona was completely in the game and then, at the end, it was like we gave up. The last three minutes were brutal. Walked over to the Q for Kentucky vs. Notre Dame. THAT was a game. The crowd was Kentucky heavy, but the Notre Dame fans were pumped, and as the game went on, the volume of the ND fans rivaled that of Kentucky. I chose to root on Notre Dame and was disappointed that Kentucky ended up edging them out, winning by only two points.

Kentucky Notre Dame Elite Eight 2015

A few more Great Lakes beers were had at my parents house and the vacation came to a close. Tall Guy and I headed out Sunday afternoon, back to warm weather and our own home.

It was an amazing trip. Cleveland always is, but add in the NCAA tournament? Epic.

Still not willing to root for Kentucky and not going to root for Wisconsin, either (blame Frank the Tank). But looking forward to watching the games… from Mexico.

Whaaaaaat???? (stay tuned!)

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