Triple D Rock Hall Road Trip – the Museums

18 Apr

Well, it took me more than a week to get back to writing about the trip – sorry about that!  But, real life does intervene now and again.  So, let’s talk about the destinations on the journey:

My kids were laughing about how on this trip, it really was “let’s visit Stew’s favorite things” – and those favorite things would be great food, Rock-N-Roll, fast airplanes and fast cars.  On the trip, we visited the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, forever referred to going forward in this space as the Rock Hall – in Cleveland, then we visited the National Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, OH, and finally, made a pit stop (literally) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame/Museum in Indianapolis.  And of course, the great food was the Triple D restaurants we visited in between.

The original destination of the trip was the Rock Hall – in planning the trip, Robin and I were talking about what I’d like to do with Alex and Brian for spring break – something different than going to Iowa since there won’t be many more of these – and I thought of the Rock Hall in Cleveland.  So the original plan was to just drive there one afternoon, stay overnight, do museum and drive back.  Then, I did a bit of checking on my hotel points accounts and realized I have a ton more points than I thought, so we decided to add a night to the trip. That gave rise to thinking about an interesting dinner one night in Cleveland, which, in between viewings of “Triple D”, inspired the Triple D eat-a-thon.   Then I began thinking of where else we could go – Robin has an aunt and uncle in Dayton OH, and we’ve been to the USAF museum there before, so that got added, and finally the Indy museum literally was a snap decision made the day before we left, as we wanted to stop in Indianapolis and visit the kind elderly woman who owns the house where we park every year for the 500.  Got all that?  Yeah, I’m still figuring it out myself.

So, the Rock Hall – first of all it’s a positively stunning building – designed by architect I. M. Pei, on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland.  Interestingly, it’s not that big of a thing – a pyramid of glass that’s maybe 200 feet or so on a side – not the typical big and monolithic building one associates with museums.  We got to the Rock Hall right as it was opening, spent about 4 hours there, took a break at 2:00 PM and then came back for another hour and a half until it closed at 5:30 PM.

The things that struck me about the museum was the level of incredible detail – and the small little artifacts that illustrate Rock music.  This really is a museum about a cultural shift, as much as it is a hall of fame for the performers of Rock Music.  There’s an entire section devoted to various efforts to try to “put down” Rock music – much of which sounded like the same sort of “we have to stop this …(name your outrage here) before it ruins our country” that is being spewed by the Republican Party at all times.  There’s a wall devoted to rock radio, there’s a wall devoted to venues, to cities, to the midwest, etc. etc.  All really covering what Rock music has done to our culture as much as the music itself.  Positively fascinating.

The detail in all the displays is stunning.  The unexpected little details like a lyric idea written on a cocktail napkin, an entire gymbag full of hotel keys (remember those … versus today’s key cards?) collected by Joe Perry of Aerosmith during years of touring, hand-written lyrics from every artist imaginable.  Here’s a “huh, who knew??” for you:  Jimi Hendrix was a well-recognized youth artist in his teens and won all sorts of awards and contests.  There was a whole display case of his sketches and  drawings.  One of the things that really got me was reading the hand-written lyrics, by Joe Walsh, of one of my favorite songs – Life’s Been Good.  That song came out in 1977 and my pal Phil Hadley and I played the grooves off that record.  But it wasn’t seeing that – it was seeing Joe’s handwriting.  Now Joe, in my view, is sort of an outlier – a wacky guy, who is both humorous and an incredibly talented musician.  For some reason, my “mind’s eye view” of his handwriting would be that it would be messy.  Like mine.  Nope.  He had beautiful cursive script, with flourishes not seen anymore.  I pulled out my iPhone, cued up “Life’s Been Good” and played it – reading along with the lyrics in Joe’s own hand.  Pretty cool.  Also on the lyrics theme as well, there were numerous instances where the song was clearly a “work in progress” or the paper displayed was “working sheets” – with scratched out words and phrases.  There was one Beatle’s tune where a phrase that we all know and love had at least 6 different scratched out versions before the final.

One thing I guess I did but did not expect was the theaters playing concerts and the amount of video content.  There was one theater, quite big, with the most amazing sound system and acoustics.  Outside of the theater you could hear music coming out of the doors, so it caught your interest but it wasn’t like it was disturbing anything else – but you walked in, and in the center of the room, it was big, loud and awesome – damn near concert-level loud, and most certainly “hey, turn that down!” loud.  That theater was playing the U2 induction concert from Madison Square Garden, and U2 played with Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Will I. Am and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, and many more.  Very, very cool.  Another neat “watch” was in the entrance to the inductee’s hall where they had a constant flow of inductee speeches – and what was funny here was the sign on the wall:  “Caution, these videos contain adult language. Enjoy, but viewer discretion and evaluation for age-appropriate content is recommended.”  I’d characterize these videos as “Drunk rock musicians demonstrating artful uses of the F-Bomb.”  Adult language indeed!   Finally, in the Beatles section, there was a video wall that represented all of their albums released over their career, and video/film of the recording sessions for all of them.  We literally spent more than an hour watching that content, divided in two stints.  Amazing.

And then it got personal. I was standing in front of U2’s display case, which was dense with 75 or so items of memorabilia, when a word jumped out at me:  Ames, IA.  This was on the explanatory cards at the bottom of the case.  I bent down to read it, and it talked about how the item displayed was a window promotion card that was displayed on campus at Iowa State University, promoting the gig that U2 played there in their early days in 1981.  I scan up and there’s the card:  “Columbia NEW WAVE recording artists U2 (picture), at the Fillmore, Friday, April 10, 1981.  Below the picture, in small type, it said “With Special Guests: Jonesen” (sic).  HOLY SHIT – I about jumped out of my skin.  Jonesin’ (as the correct spelling goes), was a band from my hometown, Newton, IA, consisting of guys about 5-6 years older than me and they played all around the Central IA area at the time.  I knew or knew of most of the guys in the band and had even taken a guitar lesson or two from their lead guitarist!  And it was right there at the Rock Hall.  Awesome.  Never expected that.

I could go on for hours about the Rock Hall – all I have to say is, you should go if you are at all a fan of Rock music.  It is a really cool walk through the culture.

The USAF museum is again something I could write for ages about – but won’t.   It is an incredible collection of aircraft from huge to small, and again, just dozens of little details, from all eras of the USAF’s journey – every war, every era.  My favorite thing to do in this museum, and it’s one of the few where you CAN do this, is just walk around underneath some of these monsters – the big ones, you can do that.  B1 bombers (Pictured is a B-1B), B-52s, C-147s, etc.  Amazing that these beasts fly, and fly they do or did.  One of the most stunning things there isn’t actually in the museum, but is outside – the memorial garden.  It is more or less a grave yard (although no one is buried there) with monuments to individuals, squadrons, battles, etc., all donated or erected by those involved. It is a very solemn thing to visit there.  The USAF museum should be a must visit for pretty much anyone.  It is a both a demonstration of the incredible sacrifices of our military, and a visual demonstration of the immense capabilities and power of our country, when we can put our collective minds to it.

Finally, our pitstop:  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame.  We didn’t actually pay the admission and tour the museum, we just stopped and hit the rest rooms.  We go every year to the Indy 500, and love every minute of it.  We’ve actually “not done” the IMS Hall of Fame yet, though have stopped by there (they have a big “fan fest” outside of it every year), and we’ve done the van ride around the speedway.  But, it’s pretty cool to go there when there isn’t a race going on.  It is a positively HUGE space and it seems even bigger when there’s no one in the stands, no cars parked everywhere, etc.  Folks who don’t go to the race don’t understand just what an event it is – 300,000+ attendees (which is down quite a bit from years past but still immense), and the speedway facility itself is positively huge – a 2 1/2 mile per-lap track.  The distance from the back of the North Vista stands (overlooking turns 3 and 4) to the South Vista stands is more than a mile.  Folks that have gone with me and haven’t been before are somewhat calibrated to sports venues on the scale of large football stadiums.  Something like 15 typical large football stadiums would fit in just the infield.  So anyway, we stopped, we gawked, we pee’d and we hit the road again.  I think this year, when I take my sons to the 500, we’ll go to the museum.  Should be pretty cool.

I would highly, HIGHLY recommend all of these stops to anyone looking for an easy weekender trip in the midwest.  Great stuff.

Next:  Awesome teenaged sons.

As you were,



4 Responses to “Triple D Rock Hall Road Trip – the Museums”

  1. Mars April 18, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    The photo with you and guitar…epic photo is epic!

  2. Mars April 18, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    By the way, I found your blog in my WordPress dashboard reader under the travel tag 🙂

  3. susan April 18, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    i think the guitar picture should be forwarded to some photo contests…. definitely wins a prize in my book!

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