Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cleveland Rocks!

This past April Cindy and I flew up to DC to visit her sister Connie her husband, Jeff. We've made this trek a few times now, and I even wrote about some of the sights and good eats in a blog that you can find here. Go ahead and click on the link. I'll wait.  What did you think? 

As usual, we had a good time and learned that they would be relocating to Cleveland (Ohio, not Texas) within a couple of weeks of our visit. Once Connie and Jeff got settled up there, the two sisters started talking about us heading up to visit them. Neither of us had been there before, so we thought it would be interesting to explore a new locale. Naturally, we started looking for things to do and being the Food Network fans that we are I know Chef Michael Symon has a couple of restaurants in the area. After many Google searches, we found plenty to do and started making firm plans.

Admittedly, I didn't know that much about Cleveland, other than their NFL team has been struggling for the past several years. Sorry, Browns fans, but facts are facts. Their baseball and basketball teams, however, seem to have fared much better of late. Prior to this trip, I typically associated Cleveland with The Drew Carey Show. Yeah, I know, kinda scary when you really think about it. Then again, without some form of vested interest, why would I have any other image?

Cleveland, OH
image from Google search

Connie and Jeff own and operate Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast. We stayed with them in the residence portion of the house while we were there. It's a beautiful place, and should you find yourself needing lodging in Cleveland just click on the link above and get in touch with them. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

I received several good comments about that blog I mentioned earlier, so I thought I'd write one about this most recent trip. Instead of writing it in chronological order like I did last time, I'm going to present this as several categories. I'll break this up into a travel section (The Flights), for those aviation enthusiasts like me, a food and drink section (The Food), and an entertainment section (The Fun). I want to see if my faithful readers like this format better than just a chronological account of our trip. Not interested in the technical aspects of which runway we used when leaving Houston? No problem, just skip that section. Can't wait to find out about the food and drinks we enjoyed? I have you covered. Just head right over to that section and jump right in.

The Flights:

I've been an aviation nerd my whole life. Even in high school, my friends would debate the relative merits of a '65 versus '67 Mustang. I'd roll my eyes and say something like "Psh! Neither of those has anything on a P-51D Mustang!" Usually, I'd just get a blank stare in reply. 

<cue crickets sound effect here> 

That's OK, though, I still managed to keep my friends. I wasn't quite at the "Sheldon Cooper" stage, so they cut me lots of slack. (And I was right, of course.....Bazinga!™)

Unless you really enjoy all of the ins and outs of flying, you might get bored with this part of my blog. Be ready for some seriously geeky aviation stuff here. 

We wanted to maximize our time in Cleveland, so we booked an early flight out, and later flight returning to Houston on Southwest Airlines. When I mention "early," I mean "oh-dark-thirty" early. We had to get up at 3 a.m. to get to Houston Hobby by 4 a.m. to check one bag. Now before you start admonishing me about just using a carry on bag, we were going to a colder area, meaning we needed to take extra clothes for extra layers. Not to mention we'd be there five days. There's no way we could get by with the paltry amounts of fluids allowed in carry on luggage. I'm not gonna buy soap, shampoo, shaving cream, aftershave, etc. just to throw it away when we come back. That had to go in checked luggage, so that's what we did.

We made it in plenty of time, with minimal traffic (gee, imagine that), and caught a shuttle from the parking lot as soon as we got there. The x-ray screening tech must've been a rookie because her line was sloooow! She also pulled every third or fourth bag for additional screening. Wow.

So, here we go, folks. Sit down, fasten seat belts and make sure your seats and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions. We've been cleared for immediate departure.

HOU - STL (WN 978):
As I like to do with every flight I take, I had my trusty Garmin Vista HCx GPS with me to capture our flight's track. We had a relatively decent boarding position for each leg, but being still half-asleep I picked a window seat on the left side of the aircraft....without a window. The closest window was the next seat up, so I was able to see out of it a little. Had I been more awake, I would've chosen a window seat on the right side of the aircraft so I could watch the sunrise. Nope, not this time! I didn't even have my first cup of coffee for the day until after we were airborne. I know, crazy, right?

It was wayyyy too dark to take any photos of our ride so I would have to wait until we got to St. Louis before it would be light enough for outside pictures. For this segment, we would be on N8324A, a 737-8H2. This was my first experience in an 800 series aircraft, and I really liked the interior lighting. 

We departed on runway 13R, lifting off around 156 mph. A climbing left turn right after takeoff took us just east of IAH and soon thereafter we overflew Cleveland (Texas, not Ohio). The photo below is from the website that I used to capture our track in addition to my GPS. The green line is our actual track, while the blue dashed line was the planned track. By the way, for those not familiar with you should check it out. Having a friend or loved one flying in? Go to that website and plug in the flight info. You can track the flight in real time. 

Hey, there's Cleveland!
Image from website

Caution: Here comes the hard-core geekiness. Also from the flightaware website is the actual flight route we used. For my readers who are in the industry, I hope you'll appreciate my passion for all aspects of my flight, not just the peanuts and soft drinks.

HOU-STL route data:

We arrived in STL on time, landing on 12L. Our connecting flight was just over an hour away, so we didn't have much time to wait. In fact, once we found our gate, just a few down from our arrival gate, we had about 15 minutes before we started boarding. Just enough time to see what was happening on Facebook. Not much, though, as it was still early in Texas.

Arrival into STL

See what I mean about the FlightAware site? You can do some really cool stuff with the tools they give you. You can change the different background maps from a basic map view to a satellite view, to an aviation sectional map, seen above, to the higher altitude "route" maps. Ever wonder why the plane will make a turn to the left or right for no apparent reason? Well, there actually is a reason for it. They follow "roads" in the sky like we do down here in our cars. 

STL-CLE (WN 1188):
Now that the sun was up, and I was more awake, I was ready to find a "good" window seat on the way to CLE and hopefully get some good photos out the window. Once we boarded, I found a great window seat and got ready for the next segment. We were on N924WN, a 737-7H4, or simply, a "700-series" airplane.

Getting settled

We pushed back on time and soon were holding for our turn to go. We departed on 12R this time, rotating around 155 mph. Climbout was smooth and at least initially we had blue skies until we got closer to CLE.

On our way!

Did I mention earlier that it was still early in Texas? And that I had only one cup of coffee so far? I'm sure you can guess what my beverage of choice was once we were airborne. Yep, more coffee! Caffeine was my friend that morning, lemme tell ya. 

As usual when flying during good visibility, I alternated my view from out the window to my GPS, keeping track of where we were. Cindy, of course, was reading from her Kindle if she wasn't sleeping. Ultimately, her decision to take a nap was probably the best, as we ended having a lonnnnnng day by the time we went to bed that night.

There's the airport (CLE)

I was watching the GPS and based on our altitude I figured we would be overflying the airport and coming back in an extended pattern. I pointed this out to Cindy and at first, she seemed surprised until I explained it was most likely to line up on the best runway given the current winds. Sure enough, we flew past the airport, made a few left turns and approached from the NE, landing on 24R. Another silky smooth landing and a short taxi later we were at the terminal.

CLE arrival

Our one checked bag arrived fairly quickly and we were out the door, waiting for Cindy's sister to pick us up.

CLE - ATL (WN 4785):
After several days of fun, it was time to head back. Monday the 30th was cold and rainy, so once we said our goodbyes Cindy and I hustled into the terminal. I'm glad TSA was efficient so we could put our shoes back on in a timely manner without having to stand on a cold floor in just our socks. We boarded N8519R, a 737-800 that was almost brand new, having been manufactured at the beginning of 2017. 

How do I know this? You can go to the FAA website and do a query by the "N-number." That's why I always try to get that when I fly. It's fun to find out what specific model I'm flying on. Go ahead and try it out. Take any of these N-numbers on my blog, or any N-number from any US-registered airplane (even private aircraft) and you can find out basic info on it. By the way, you can also find out the specific series of the aircraft by looking at this little brass plate at the top of the door frame on the main entry door (L1).

Rainy departure

I wondered how bumpy our climbout was going to be, but it was remarkably smooth. The captain kept the "fasten seat belts" sign illuminated for about the first half-hour of our flight, though, until we reached better weather. Part of our route would take us near Charleston, WV, close to where my friend and author Eric Douglas lives. He's the guy who hosts the annual Halloween flash fiction event I take part in, as well as other selected flash fiction/short story events. You can find those here. He also writes many scuba related books. Check out his Mike Scott series if you like a good adventure. 

Hiya, Eric!

My GPS indicated we were close to Charleston when I took the above photo. I waved out the window, but I doubt Eric saw me. Who am I kidding? He was probably diving somewhere anyway, or hopefully writing his next book. Our approach into ATL was uneventful, and we landed on 27L.

ATL - HOU (WN 633):
We had enough time in ATL to grab a bite of dinner before our final leg home. I was pleasantly surprised at the reasonable prices and good quality food we had. After dinner, we made our way to the gate and found our departure would be delayed about 20 minutes to allow a connecting flight to arrive. Since we were the last flight to HOU that day, Southwest wanted to ensure that arriving flight's passengers would make their connection. Good for you, Southwest!

Those extra minutes passed quickly, and we boarded N8678A, a 737-8H4. I really like those 800 series airplanes! They do have a little extra leg room compared to the 700 series planes. We pushed back and had a long taxi to the other side of the airport. Once we made our way to the north side of ATL, we departed on 26L. It seemed like the takeoff run was a bit longer than the previous ones, and we took off around 166 mph. By the time we left, it was already full dark, so I knew I wouldn't have much of a view. No worries, I could always match the GPS display to what I saw looking outside. 

It was a clear night all the way back, though, so I still alternated my view out the window with looking at my GPS and actually reading my Kindle. The guy sitting in the aisle seat next to Cindy was watching the Chiefs and the Broncos play on MNF. I was able to glance over at his tablet from time to time and keep track of the game as well. Between all of that, time passed quickly and we were making our approach into HOU.


We made the typical looping approach around the airport that I've experienced most of the time we fly into Hobby, landing on 13R. The winds must've been calm, as our approach speed seemed a little higher than usual and the flight crew had to apply "maximum deceleration" (their term) when landing.

Arrival into HOU

We began our trip in the dark and ended our trip in the dark. Traffic home was light and we made good time back to the house. If you are one of the non-aviation enthusiasts still reading at this point, THANK YOU for indulging me in my passion for aviation. The next two sections will definitely appeal to a wider audience. And you won't have to take your shoes off, either, unless you want to.

The Food:

I really had no idea what to expect, food and drink wise, when we got to Cleveland. I did have a little heads up from a member of a foodie group I belong to on Facebook. He's originally from Cleveland and gave us a few ideas on places to try. We had already decided to try the less expensive Michael Symon restaurant Mabel's BBQ prior to leaving, so that was on the schedule as well as some recommendations from Cindy's sister. I knew we wouldn't go hungry, nor would we have to worry about finding a good adult beverage to enjoy. 

While in general chronological order, this section will be a summary of the best food and drink we had in Cleveland. Some of these places we visited multiple times, so I'll include only the best examples, at least to me, of what we had.

Saucy Brew Works:
Our flight into CLE was early enough that we got there just before lunch. Since we really didn't have any breakfast to speak of, other than coffee and peanuts, both of us were ready for some real food. We walked over to Saucy Brew Works for a late lunch and a beer. I don't know why I'm always so surprised to find as many microbreweries in a given town as I am. I'm glad to see this, and I hope the trend continues. Life is too short to drink cheap, mass-produced beer. Live a little, and give your local micro-brewery a chance. We sure do.

Saucy Brew Works

Did you notice the "SBW" subtly reproduced in the piping to the left of the beer selection? Take a closer look and you'll see it. While that is a cool design, I was more interested in the selections to the right. My eye was immediately drawn to the Dead Nuts Pecan Porter (top right), and I'm glad I chose it. Think about sipping a rich, buttered pecan ice cream that happens to be beer and you'll have a good idea of what this wonderful elixir tastes like. In fact, I'll have another...

Dead Nuts Pecan Porter

We split a pizza among the four of us, as we wanted to save room for a good dinner later in the evening. Even though we were hungry, between the beer and the pizza we had just enough to keep us satisfied until dinner. Wanna know what all they serve? Take a look at their menu here.  

Yes, it was as good as it looks

It had already been a long day since we got up at 3. After hitting Saucy Brew Works, we went back to Stone Gables so Cindy and I could take a short nap. We still had dinner and a haunted attraction to do that evening and we needed a little downtime. 

With all the places to choose from, I was curious how the Mexican food in Cleveland compared to what we normally get here in Texas. I knew we wouldn't be getting the Tex-Mex we are accustomed to, but I wanted to experience another take on this fine cuisine. Connie mentioned one of their favorite places called Momocho. They describe their food as "Modern Mex," as well as "innovative and hip." As long as it tastes good, they can call it what they want. This restaurant was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show as well. 

The biggest difference between here (Texas) and there (Ohio) was the chips and salsa situation. Here in Texas, chips and salsa are complimentary. That's a given, and any restaurant that charges for chips and salsa probably won't be in business long. Up there, though, you'll get complimentary chips, but you have to pay for the salsa! Wait, whaaat? Yes, you read that correctly! OK, I get it, different region, different way of doing things. I guess. I didn't even attempt to ask for a bowl of queso on the side. We ordered two salsas and a guacamole and crab "flight" of three to go with our chips.

Salsa & guacamole

Both the red and green salsas were tasty and complimented each other. Cindy enjoyed the guacamole with the crab, and I'll take her word for it that it was "quite yummy." My entree was the carnita taquitos, served with more salsa verde and corn tortillas. It was tasty and the flavors were bold enough that I didn't feel the need to add any hot sauce to enhance it. I added a side of esquite, which was achiote creamed corn (the bowl on the right). That was some good eats! I definitely want to try recreating that at home. 

Carnita taquito dish

Stuffed with chips, salsa, and our entrees, we all opted out of any form of dessert. Thankfully we walked to the restaurant, so the postprandial stroll back allowed our dinner to settle before our next activity.

Barrio Tacos:
Keeping with the Mexican theme, we enjoyed lunch at Barrio Tacos. This place is definitely more my style of Mexican food. I absolutely want to go back again the next time we are in CLE. This will be my go-to place whenever we are there like El Pato's is when we go to the Valley. That link, by the way, will take to you a blog I wrote about a trip to visit my sister in Weslaco. You'll see why I can compare El Pato's to Barrio after reading it. So there we were, enjoying lunch on a cool day outside with blue skies and a mild breeze. I chose the "build your own taco" menu instead of the standard menu so I could get a taco exactly like I wanted.

Build your own taco

And what, exactly, did I build? I chose the "Stoner" tortilla, which was a hard corn shell inside a soft flour tortilla with queso and chorizo. I complimented the chorizo with thick cut bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, and sauteed onions and peppers with a chipotle honey sauce.

This is gonna be good!

Yep, totally good!

With so many options, I can't see why anyone would want to order from the fixed menu. I get that some people probably don't know what would go with what, so a fixed menu makes the choices easier for them. And totally cool with me. Let's not overthink's just tacos.

Collision Bend Brewing Company:
You'll notice most of the places featured on my blog are breweries. That's exactly why I mentioned it earlier. I'm glad to see more microbreweries like this pop up, especially when they offer a full lunch and dinner menu. We had dinner at Collision Bend Brewing one night and I found a familiar appetizer. This is one app I wish would become more widespread, as I really enjoy it. I mean like, really, really enjoy it!

Asian Style Arancini Siciliana

This is, of course, a fried risotto ball with pickled ginger and "Asian aromatics" and served with a wasabi mayo. Divine! Sound familiar? Probably because I raved about Carnival's version of arancini in this blog. And like Carnival's version, I could make a meal just from these delicious golden orbs of flavor. 

Their beer is quite tasty, too. I enjoyed a Lake Erie Sunset, an American wheat with blood orange with dinner and found it crisp with just a hint of orange.

Lake Erie Sunset

Tremont Taphouse:
We stopped by the Tremont Taphouse for a light lunch between activities. By far the best item here was the fried smoked gouda with wildberry chutney. Between the four of us, it didn't last long on the plate as you can imagine. 

More, please

Happy Dog:
How cool is this? Right or wrong, I love a good hot dog, especially a chili dog. We stopped by here for dinner one night, and I discovered that the guy who owns Momocho is also associated with Happy Dog. What's even cooler? This place was featured on Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" show. Incidentally, the host who did that segment? Michael Symon! You'll hear more about him shortly. I'm not sure that I'd order a dog the way he did in that video link. No, scratch that, I'm totally sure I wouldn't order that particular combination. 

Like Barrio Tacos, you get to build your own hot dog. Just take a look at the menu, and I'm sure you'll agree this is pretty much the hot dog Nirvana of the planet. 

Happy Dog menu, front

While the front of the menu covers the hot dogs and burgers, the back of the menu is for the only logical side worthy of pairing with your creation: the tater tot (or fries if you want to stay traditional). Do you want one or two dipping sauces with your tots? Three? No problem. You can have even more if you want, and it's still the same price. 

Happy Dog menu, back

With all of these choices, how crazy do you think I got? Yeah, I know, not very. I made the classic chili dog with chili, onions, mustard, and cheese. Gotta stay with what's known to be good. And it was good!

My classic chili dog

A side of tater tots

Dipping sauces

Not the healthiest of dinners, true, but it was one of the tastiest dinners I had on this trip. No dessert here, as Connie and Jeff had something specific in mind for that after we left Happy Dog. 

As if a chili dog and tater tots weren't already a satisfying dinner, we visited Brewnuts after leaving Happy Dog. Brewnuts? Yes, I can describe it in three words: Donuts and Beer. Homer Simpson, eat your heart out!

Having just had a good dinner, Cindy and I opted for a donut each but were too full to have an accompanying beer. In honor of Homer Simpson, I chose a strawberry glazed donut while Cindy opted for a s'mores donut. Perfect ending!

 Mmmmmmm, donuts!

Cool artwork

Mabel's BBQ:
Being a native south Texan, I was raised on good barbecue. Everyone has their own idea of what "good" barbecue is or isn't. While one person may enjoy a slice of brisket, another person may have a slice from the same brisket and think it was the worst he or she ever had. Such is the way with food. I do try to keep an open mind, though and was anxious to try barbecue from another region. Mabel's BBQ would do just fine for my purpose. 

Much like a favored barbecue restaurant of my youth, the recommended way to order food at Mabel's is family style. That's what we did, and it worked out quite well. We ordered a pound of brisket and a half-pound of pork belly with four sides. We had plenty for all four of us, and I was impressed at how tender and juicy the brisket was. And the pork belly? Oh, myyyy! I totally want more of that!

Yes, it was quite good.

The only thing I can think of that would've made this perfect, at least for this Texan, would've been flour tortillas in lieu of the rye bread. Now don't get me wrong, I was happy with the rye bread. I'm just a tortilla person, that's all.

We had some really good eats while in Cleveland, and I'm looking forward to visiting most of these places again the next time we are up there. I wonder if Mabel's BBQ would get offended if I brought in my own tortillas.

The Fun:

OK, let's address this right off the bat. Since I'm now going to feature some of the fun places we went, the one place we didn't make it to was the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I know, I know. We fly alllll the way up to Cleveland and don't visit one of the biggest attractions in the state? Believe it or not, we just flat ran out of time on this trip. That'll give us something to do the next time we head up there, so no worries.

7 Floors of Hell:
Timing for this trip was perfect! We got there a few days before Halloween and the first night we were in Cleveland Connie, Cindy and I visited 7 Floors of Hell. Just the week before our trip, our dive club went to Fearshire Farms in Angleton for a night of spooky fun. I bought tickets online before we left to avoid any crowds. This place has SEVEN differently themed haunted attractions. 

Wow, this group knows how to stage a haunt! All seven haunts were expertly done, and I'd be hard-pressed to pick an overall favorite. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be the "Shadows" haunt. Connie had never been in anything this professionally done, and judging from her screams and body language, I'd guess she got her money's worth. I think I still have bruises on my upper arms where she grabbed on to me. 

Roving ghouls
image from 7Floorsofhell website

Pennywise's brother?
image from 7Floorsofhell website

One particular attraction, Slaughter House, featured an ummmm, interesting, menu. If you weren't paying attention as you went through this haunt, you'd miss it.

What's on special today?
image from 7Floorsofhell website

We finished with all seven attractions just after 10 p.m. and were ready to call it a day....a twenty hour day by the time Cindy and I got to bed.

The "Christmas Story" House:
From one extreme to another....from hideous creatures in scary locations to a young kid at Christmas time. A Christmas Story was released in 1983 and tells the story of a young boy named Ralphie trying to convince his parents and Santa Claus that a Red Ryder BB gun would be a perfect Christmas gift. This is one of my sister Victoria's favorite movies, and every year she makes it a point to watch it....multiple times. Much of this movie was filmed in Cleveland, and Ralphie's house is now a tourist attraction. This house is the actual house the movie was filmed in, although it has been remodeled since the movie was shot. 

Of particular interest is that the house itself is set up much like the movie set and is meant to be an interactive experience. The tour guide encouraged people to act out their favorite scenes from the movie. Yes, there was even a Red Ryder BB gun by the tree!

Ralphie's house

Appropriately enough, the day we visited this house, it was sleeting. Almost perfect weather for getting in the Christmas spirit, right? 

Don't forget the Leg Lamp

The whole attraction consists of the house itself, a gift shop and museum. The gift shop offers a ton of movie-related souvenirs, from a replica leg lamp to a Red Ryder BB gun to t-shirts, socks, and DVDs of the movie. Do you want a pink bunny suit? It's there!

Gift shop

The museum has many items from the actual movie. There are many props, one of three known Red Ryder BB guns and several pieces of wardrobe from the various actors. Our tour guide explained that generally if something was behind glass, it was used in the movie.

I can't put my arms down!

I wasn't aware of this until we took the tour, but for the truly hard-core fans, the house is available for overnight stays. There is a private, third-floor loft available for lodging, even during Christmas. Our tour guide said that this room is booked through next year. Wow!

Forest City Shuffleboard:
Adding to the list of things I never thought I'd ever play, let's throw shuffleboard in there. I've seen the shuffleboard markings on mostly older places and even on some of the Carnival cruise ships. "Isn't that a game for, like, old people?" Maybe, maybe not. On the same cold, rainy day we visited the Christmas Story house, we also spent a few hours here at Forest City Shuffleboard. I'll admit I was skeptical at first, but once we started playing I actually enjoyed it. They have both the full-size and table-top versions of shuffleboard, but we stuck with the full-size version only.

The staff set the four of us up and explained the rules to us. While the game itself is simple to learn, like golf it definitely takes a lot of practice to master. We chose to play couple vs couple, with Connie and Jeff against Cindy and me. 

Not only can you play either version, but they have a wide selection of beverages and food. We had already eaten before coming in here, otherwise, I would've had something from their menu. I can see how this place would be very popular in the winter.

The rules of shuffleboard

The courts:
photo courtesy of Forest City Shuffleboard

The action:
photo courtesy of Forest City Shuffleboard

No points here

As the rules state, the first team to 75 wins. Before we even slid our first disc, or "biscuit," down the court I thought getting to 75 points would be quick and easy. Wrong! Notice that -10 at the end? Yeah, that has a way of killing your score. In fact, you can, and probably will at some point, go negative. Maybe I better rethink just how "easy" getting to 75 will be.

Our "Ka" score

Of course I'm gonna throw in a Sai King reference when I can. Some of y'all would be disappointed if I didn't. Between turns, Jeff and I were able to watch college football on the various TVs strategically positioned in the building. I was smart enough not to ask them to change from the Ohio State game to the UT game. 

We had so much fun that now I want to see if the Carnival Vista has a shuffleboard court when we sail on her in a few weeks. Be on the lookout in late December for a day-by-day blog of that cruise, much like I did for our cruise on the Carnival Breeze last year. I know that many of the Carnival ships still have a shuffleboard court, so maybe the newer ships will, too.

Tabletop Board Game Cafe:
My love of board games is well known if you've read any of my recent blogs. Wanna know about Flash Point, Pandemic or Dead of Winter? Click any of those links and you'll be whisked away to a blog I wrote on each. Imagine my surprise when we paid a visit to the Tabletop Board Game Cafe. I love the concept of a board game cafe! This place has a $5 cover charge that allows you access to all of their games for an unlimited time. Yes, unlimited. Feel free to park yourself at a table with your friends, grab a game and get going for as long as you want. I can't think of a better way to test drive a game than this. And they have a LOT of games! I totally wish there was something like this in my hometown.

Tabletop Board Game Cafe

We were warmly greeted by Brady and shown to a table as soon as we walked through the door. He asked us what types of games we liked and brought us three to start off with. I've never played any of these, so even though I was tempted to convince Connie and Jeff to fight a horde of zombies (or walkers if you prefer), I went along with Brady's recommendations. I'm glad I did.

Our first game was Glux. I'd like to think I could strategize better than I did, but kept getting too aggressive and ended up having many of my tokens covered. Next time I'm going to be a bit more subtle in my moves.

Ready to play Glux

I did figure out, eventually, how to mask some of my moves, and started thinking in terms of staging one of my tokens for later moves. By then it was too late for me to have a majority in a given room, so I started playing spoiler to others. Ha! Take that, Cindy!

I had the yellow tokens

I honestly don't remember who ultimately won that game, but it definitely wasn't me. Next time, though...

Remember the "unlimited" part of the cover charge? Yes, you are totally welcome to spend hour upon hour there. They'll even feed you and provide you with drinks.....for a fee of course. Prices for both food and drinks were quite reasonable, I think, and the ginger beer I had paired nicely with the hummus plate. We finished Glux and picked our next game.

Time for a quick restroom break, so I found the "little meeples" room at the back of the cafe. You can tell these people definitely cater to gamers.

Cute sign

Our next game was Tsuro. This game just screams for strategic thinking, but the fast pace allows for adjusting your strategy as you go. It's a tile-laying game with minimal setup. I really liked this game, and its follow on game Tsuro of the Seas went on my Amazon wishlist as soon as I got the chance to put it there.

Tsuro in progress

Did I mention how much I liked this game? As soon as the first game finished, we immediately set up for a second game. It was that much fun.

Starting game #2

With a little planning and a lot of luck, I won the second game. I happened to draw some good tiles and was able to keep myself isolated from the other players long enough to keep me out of trouble. 

Throughout our visit, the staff was attentive without being intrusive. Someone was frequently by to ensure we had our drinks, even if it was just water. Our food plates were removed as soon as we were done and all of the staff made us feel at home. 

While our last game was being set up, I took the time to look around the cafe and admire the decor. Obviously they had decorated for Halloween in addition to their normal adornments. Really cool!

It's getting cloudy in here.

Driven batty by Halloween?

Our last game of the day was For Sale. This is a card game centered on buying and selling real estate. You bid on different properties as represented by a set of cards. Once all the property cards are sold to the highest bidder, you then sell your properties for as much as you can get, based on their relative value. Of the three, this was my least favorite, only because I feel the luck of the draw had more influence on the game's outcome than actual strategy.

For Sale game box

Next property up for bid...

By the time we finished one game of For Sale we needed to start thinking about dinner. We were going to Mabel's BBQ after this and had to consider whether or not we'd have enough time to play one more game or risk getting to the restaurant after the dinner rush had started. We decided to call it a day and head out. Thank you, Tabletop, for a wonderful day of fun. We'll definitely be back!

And speaking of games:
After we left Mabel's BBQ, stuffed full of good food, we ended our last night in Cleveland at Nano Brew to watch the World Series and have a beer. I brought along one of my favorite card decks from the Lord of the Fries series. We had fun playing this game, watching the other game on TV, and enjoying a beer.....with some fried Oreos on the side. All we really wanted was some ice cream, but apparently, Connie and Jeff are regulars here, and the staff wanted to give us an extra treat. Thank you! 

Lord of the Fries

Final thoughts:
Overall, this trip exceeded my expectations. I really didn't know what to expect, but even so we had a lot of fun, ate some delicious food and drank some stunningly good beer. The two sisters got to hang out a little and visit and I even got to watch my Cowboys beat the Redskins while scarfing down some tasty barbecue. 

A hearty THANK YOU to Connie and Jeff for their hospitality and carting us around, showing us the sights.

As promised in my last blog, here's a special shout out to Krystle. She's the only one who got at least one of the movie references I threw in. You GO, girl!

Coming up, we'll go back in time to 16th century England as we explore the Texas Renaissance Festival. Huzzah!

Have you ever been to Cleveland (Ohio, not Texas)? I'd love to read your comments on my blog. Please comment below and I'll answer every comment I see. Good or bad, ALL comments are appreciated. 

Until next time....

carpe cerevisi