Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Weekend Adventure in Cleveland - Part 3


Weekend Adventure in Cleveland - Part 3

After the first game and a 5-4 victory against the Cleveland Heights Ice Hawks, I rode back to the hotel in 34 degree weather (it was actually a nice, clear night). The rink allowed us to leave our equipment overnight in the locker room so for the first time on an away game trip, I didn't have to pack everything up and drag it to my hotel room to dry. That was a nice treat.

The next morning, I went downstairs for the free breakfast, watched some TV, and made my way to a Play It Again Sports down the street in Mayfield Heights en route to the rink. When I got there, it was still closed (they don't open until noon on Sunday), so I decided to take a chance and call up my first cousin that lived one city over in South Euclid to see if she and the family were home. It turns out that she and the rest of the family were home and making lunch, so I rode an extra ten minutes to stop on by before heading back to the rink for the second game. It had been about 15 years since I had seen her and her husband; in fact, this would be the first time I would be meeting my second cousin, their son. I rolled up on the motorcycle and they were quite surprised. I definitely wasn't the little girl they remember from 1994. I hung around for an hour, took a couple pictures with them, and went to the rink. I'll be returning up there eventually for other events in Cleveland so it'll be nice to visit them again.

The game was pretty uneventful; it was an exhibition game against a newly formed team with a few good people but very little experience playing together. We won 8-0 (it was 5-0 by the end of the first period) and I posted my second shutout all-time for the Dayton Fangs. By the third period I was making snow cubes with the ice shavings I collected with my goal stick and the ref kept kicking them whenever face-offs made their way back to my side of the rink (total drag). After saying goodbye to my teammates I was off to my final treat, a dinner at the only Wing Stop in Ohio, located in Mentor-on-the-Lake, about 25 miles from Cleveland Heights.

So, what's the deal with Wing Stop? It's a nationwide chain based out of Texas that specializes in, you guessed it, wings. It's a very prolific chain out in CA, but for some strange reason, Columbus (or the rest of Ohio for that matter) doesn't find it marketable to have this store all over this state either. This will probably warrant its own blog post, but there is a distinct flavor and quality with Wing Stop that hasn't been matched by any other wing shop that I've tried in Columbus. It was well worth the trip, and I was very lucky to end up in one of the most awarded branches of this awesome franchise.

I was served by the owner, Sam, and we entered a very fun conversation about his store being the only Wing Stop in the state of Ohio. I told him my story about moving cross-country and missing a good meal from this place. While I was waiting for the wings to cook, I perused the store and amidst the standard Wing Stop-style decorations of early-20th century aviation nostalgia, there were plaques and photos of the many awards that Sam and his store have won over the years, including one photo with him and the company's spokesman, former NFL player Troy Aikman. It brought back nice memories to sit down with a basket of my garlic parmesan wings (bone-in, of course), a side of their unique tasting fries, and an Arnold Palmer while watching the Bengals outscoring the Raiders on a giant HDTV (I hate the Raiders, but that's a long story too). It was obvious why this Wing Stop was so heralded; customer service and wing quality was at its finest. When a handful of people come in on a Sunday evening to pick up their orders of 50+ wings for family get-togethers and parties, know Sam on a first-name basis, and get into conversations about their personal lives, you know there's a loyalty to the restaurant. Before I left, I filled up an Arnold Palmer for the road and ordered a to-go box of seven boneless wings for Matt in two of his favorite flavors: original hot and hickory smoked BBQ. Those were, by far, the best souvenir I brought back from North Ohio. I'm looking forward to returning there for wings when I come back to Cleveland.

It was a quick top off of the fuel and a 160-mile non-stop ride home. I made it to Columbus about a quarter to 9PM, unpacked the gear, and headed off to bed for another day of retail bliss. I was grateful for the vacation, though; I think the bike was happy for the exercise too.