I don’t know what sparked the idea, but a few months back myself and my good friend had a spark of inspiration that it may be fun to spend the day taking in the sites of Cleveland by way of our Public Transportation System, the RTA. A whole day with no car, a day to see the city out the windows of the bus, a day to stand and wait for our turn to hop aboard the wheels that keep the Greater Cleveland public moving along.
A few days in advance, our plans were made, our PDF maps printed, our canvas tote bags, umbrellas, sunglasses and rolls of quarters all laid out and ready for the adventure that lie ahead. We were like little kids the night before Christmas, giddy with excitement.
At 10:05 sharp we left our cars in an empty Rapid parking lot. As we rode the escalator up to the train we could hear the brakes of an oncoming train, and noticing fellow riders running to meet the arrival, we followed suit and booked down the stairs to the platform below. (note* even comfy wedge heels don’t make for good running shoes!) As we slipped into the seats of the red line heading east, the fellow passengers were a mix of young and old, people were sleeping, jamming to their headphones and catching up on the morning paper. Looking at the city from the windows of the train you see the Cleveland in ways you may never have in your own car. The colorful graffiti that lines the concrete walls, the crumbling vintage advertising painted on the side of an old building, the neighborhoods that back up to the tracks…it’s all a visual delight.
As our first stop, W 25th/Ohio City approached our stomachs were growling for food. So off to the Westside Market Café we went. (upcoming post) After an amazing breakfast we decided to hang out and explore the area on foot. After a thorough visit to the market (upcoming post), a walk through St Ignatius Campus, A trip to Unique Thrift, the German grocery Store-Hansa Import Store (upcoming post) and the West 25th Bookstore we decided to grab a bus to our second destination…downtown.
Bus 22 took us to the center of our fair city, Public Square. We did run into a few “characters” on this ride, giving us unsolicited advice about “two girls riding the bus,” yadda yadda, you can only imagine…needless to say we arrived safely. Downtown was quiet, the sun was out and it seemed you could hear a pin drop. As we climbed the stairs of the Sailors and Soldiers Monument (upcoming post) we were curious to see what was actually inside this amazing architectural structure. Once through the monument we decided to walk over the the Public Library Reading Garden (upcoming post) relax for a bit, and have a snack that we bought earlier at the Market. After resting our feet we continued to walk over to Mall B and take in the latest public art installation (upcoming post) then made our way over to the infamous FREE Stamp (upcoming post). After a moment for some funny photos, we proceeded to walk over to the waterfront for a visit to the USS COD (upcoming post). I can honestly say that besides taking the trains and buses around the city this submarine had to be the most fascinating part of my day.
It was now around 3:30 and time to head east, so we made our way back up East 9th and looked for the closest bus stop to grab our next ride, Bus 6. After waiting just a few minutes, time enough to look around, take in the construction site and historical architecture lining Euclid Avenue, our bus had arrived. Did you know it only costs $4 for an all day pass? What a bargain! We slowly made our way up Euclid, enjoying the new bus-only lane. The crowd was a bit more “alive” than previous rides. The older women with stories to share, the children giggling as they approached their stops, the teens ready to hit the town running…it was a colorful crowd.
Our stop at Euclid & East 79th had arrived and it was time for an early dinner at that pink building on Carnegie…the Hot Sauce King, Hot Sauce Williams. You’ve never eaten better friend okra and wings that those of Williams, the wet hand wipes we purchased earlier in the day sure did come in handy. After dinner we continued the trip East heading over to University Circle.
As we were on the bus we noticed the sky becoming dark and the winds picking up. Were we going to be caught with NO CAR in this thunderstorm? YES. As we stood like wet cats in the rain, our clothes soaked (the umbrellas we packed gave little protection to the afternoon downpour), we stood huddled in the alcoves of Severance Hall waiting for the next bus. As much as we had intended to make it to Shaker Square for an evening of live music on the Square, we hopped aboard and headed back west to Public Square for the Rapid back home. The damp bus ride was so quiet, everyone wet from the afternoon storm. Sticky umbrellas. Chilly from the air conditioning that was meant to keep passengers content. As we ran from the drop off at Public Square to the entrance at Terminal Tower we were hit with monsoon number two. At this point we couldn’t help but to laugh, although we were literally soaked, our spirits were so high from a day of complete fascination and public transportation. I seriously have NEVER in the ten years I have know my friend ever heard her laugh so loud. It was great.
As we made our way down to the RTA epicenter in Tower City we noticed we weren’t the only rained on passengers, everyone was soaked. It stirred comradery amongst us and everyone smiled and shook their heads. Already reliving the stories from the day it was time to get home…by way of our cars. Time to change out of our soaked clothes, put away our finds from the day and file the memories of our day with the RTA.
We strongly recommend taking a day this summer to explore Cleveland by way of RTA, North America’s BEST Public Transportation System; 2007.
For maps and schedules visit www.riderta.com