BootsnAll Travel Network

Road Trip Day 6: Rockford, IL to Cleveland, OH

Distance driven:427 mi
Time including all stops:12 hours 5 minutes (includes one hour lost for
change from Central to Eastern Time)

I got up early and used the exercise equipment. We had breakfast and hit the road at about 8:30. It took us 1 hour 49 minutes to go the 85 miles into downtown Chicago, which is about what one expects when one drives in a big city. We drove past Mannheim Road (a delight since Peter is from Mannheim, Germany) and we got a glimpse of the water coming out of the Buckingham Fountain. If you have ever seen the opening of the TV show “Married with Children”, you have seen this fountain.

We pulled into a garage recommended by the Art Institute of Chicago Web site ( Then we walked to the front entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago, a sandstone building from 1892 with names of famous artists carved into it and two copper lions outside.

We went in, paid, and went straight upstairs to the Impressionists. I had seen the Monets, Renoirs, and Manets in my mother’s calendars over the years, but up close it’s easier to appreciate the texture of the paint, the vividness of the color, and details that are easy to overlook. For example, Seurat’s famous painting “La Grande Jatte” has a red-blue border around it and a dog and monkey in the lower right corner.

We went downstairs to see the decorative arts (furniture) and the American art (including Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”). It was soon time for lunch. The Garden Restaurant had a long wait inside and out even though many tables were empty, so we ate in the café which was less expensive and still had a view of the garden through the window.

We left at around 2:00 pm, and managed to get a view of the entire Buckingham fountain as we were making our right turn onto Congress Street. We hit a little traffic again, but were fine once we got past the 90/94 split. Nothing like the horrific journey through the area when I went with my friend Christie three years ago. (See and scroll down to Day 9 to see what I mean.)

We arrived in downtown Cleveland at about 8:30 p.m. Jacobs Field, home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, was lit up and filled to capacity with fans watching a game. We found the hotel and my mom went inside to check in and ask about parking. We were told that the only reasonably priced parking option was valet parking, which meant giving a hotel employee the keys to my car filled with my worldly possessions. I felt a little paranoid about that, and took a few extra bags out as a precaution.

Since we had had a light lunch, we were hungry for dinner. Mom wanted seafood. She asked the clerk to recommend a place, and she suggested Fat Fish Blue, a Cajun (New Orleans culture) restaurant and blues bar. She even gave us a map and directions. We took the short walk, and entered the restaurant to hear a blues band playing. These guys looked like they had been playing the blues their whole life. I wondered if they had become transplants to Cleveland after Hurricane Katrina.

Since we were in a New Orleans-style restaurant and catfish is the specialty down there, that’s what my mother and I ordered. She had it beer-battered (a kind of frying) and I had it blackened (covered in spices that burn while the fish is on the grill). I also had a Hurricane, a popular cocktail. By the time I got to the bottom of it, I understood how it got its name. Well, I didn’t have to do any more driving that night so it was okay. For dessert we had peach cobbler a la mode. There was more oatmeal topping than peach, but it was still good.

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