Off to the Midwest

[Northfield, OH, Apr 12, 2019]

I’ve been going to the Higher Education Data Warehousing conference since 2011. It’s an annual conference that typically takes place in April and different universities take turns hosting it. Other than my very first trip, I have always added a few days on the front and/or backend of this conference to sight-see. Thanks to this, I’ve seen Chicago, Niagara Falls, Toronto and Saguaro National Park in Tucson, AZ.

This year’s conference is hosted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Michigan has its own national park, Isle Royale, but it’s quite far from Ann Arbor and usually not even open this time of year. I expanded my search and discovered that Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio is only 3 hours away from Ann Arbor, and I could actually fly into Cleveland and only be 30 minutes away. I took the Friday before the conference off from work and here I am, on my way to visit national park #21.

My flight was at 10:15 am, so I just got ready like I would for work. I got to the airport with about an hour to spare before boarding, and I decided to use one of the two free United Club passes I get every year thanks to my United Mileage Plus Explorer credit card. I usually use the lounges I can access with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, so I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how much nicer the United Club lounge is. It was much bigger and more modern that the KAL lounge I typically go to in the international terminal. There was a full breakfast buffet with many options, a fancy Coke soda machine and a great view of the air traffic control tower. It was nice to be able to spend an hour here rather then jostle for space at the gate.

My flight to Cleveland went by fast, and I was delighted that we got in 30 minutes early. I was staying at a the Inn at Brandywine Falls, a historic bed & breakfast within the park boundary. It was operated by a couple, George and Katie, and they closed down shop from 6:45 pm till 8:45 pm to have their own dinner. Based on my original flight schedule, I was not going to make it there before 6:45 pm, so I had planned on grabbing dinner to pass the time till 8:45 pm. We landed shortly after 5:15 pm, and after shuttling it to the rental car desk and driving for 30 minutes, I made it there at 6:40 pm, just in time for check-in! Katie showed me to my room, which is super cute!

I also took some pictures downstairs in the common areas. The kitchen is huge, and the dining room and sitting area all seemed furnished with antiques. There was even a small library past the dining room.

Katie had sent me restaurant recommendations ahead of time, but when I asked for the healthiest place on the list, she pointed me to Aladdin’s in the small town of Hudson, OH. Just to orient you, Cuyahoga Valley sits half-way between Cleveland to the north and Akron to the south. There are many small towns sprinkled in-between, and Hudson was one of them. I googled it and found out its population is about 22,000 and it’s one of the more wealthy suburbs in the metro area. Aladdins’ was located in a newer shopping area built in the style of a town square. Shops and restaurants lined all sides of the square.

I got princess parking right in front of the restaurant, and had a delicious meal there.

fried cauliflower with yogurt tahini sauce 

chicken mishi and kabob with humus, falafel and green salad

I left just in time to catch the awesome sunset. A storm had come through the area in the morning, and the left-over clouds provided for a fantastic festival of orange. I walked around a bit to take photos, then drove back to the inn. The innkeepers put out cookies, tea, coffee and hot chocolate after 8:45 pm, so I helped myself to a cup of tea and unwound in my room. I have a full day of fun planned in the park tomorrow – I can’t wait to explore this under-rated park!

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