Some of you have been to Toledo. Many of you have probably skirted Toledo, via the Ohio Turnpike (east-west I-80/I90). Many have been exposed to a quick view of Toledo from a very busy I-75 (north-south), cruising into Michigan toward Greater Detroit or "snowbirds" heading south.
A number of threads in Cyburbia have mentioned Toledo....some complimentary but most often included with ramblings and rants about "rust belt cities" and the general economic conditions of much of our USA "industrial heartland".
This thread is my attempt to "fill you in".....give you the scoop on Toledo and NW Ohio.....the good, the bad, the ugly. My guess is that some of you will throw in your own comments. Bring 'em on.....
Toledo is the fourth-largest city in Ohio. Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati....referred to by many in NW Ohio as the "3 C's".....seem to get all the attention, all the jobs, all the state buildings, all the "stuff" that seems to separate America's smaller metropolitan areas from the vibrant metros. Those three (3) cities are all with metros over 1,000,000. Even Dayton, smaller in population than Toledo (within the city limits) is head of a metro with just about 1,000,000.
Metro Toledo limps along with about 600,000.
But.....is "limping" so bad? The highways, although not well-designed for this century's traffic, are okay enough to usually allow you to get to any area of the metro in just a short time. Even after some really bad economic years, many Toledo area residents own their own homes. Per/capita income has certainly not kept pace with most of the American southwest or south.....but there are still many good jobs staying in this area.....paying well, helping to keep Americans in their cars and trucks (auto-parts capitol of the world).
Jeeps were born and raised in Toledo. Toledo still makes them, now in one (1) of the most efficient auto assembly plants in the world. Libbey Glass still manufactures much of the glass tableware that America wants.....when they aren't at Mickey-Macs drinking out of styrofoam cups. Toledo (and suburbs) has become an important distribution center.....location, location, location.
For years Toledo was the 3rd-largest railroad hub. Unit trains of coal, coming from southern Ohio (and West VA) coal mines, clogged the rails....all heading for what used to be the largest coal-shipping facility in the world.....located at the port of Toledo. Still busy, but not nearly as much.....a victim perhaps of stricter EPA rules that force the use of western (can you say "Wyoming"?) coal.....cleaner coal.
The main line coming out of central Toledo, heading west toward Chicago, remains one (1) of the busiest rail lines in the country. A train, on average, something like every nine (9) minutes. Some unit trains (coal) and many, many modal containers.
A western suburb, Swanton, is divided in two (2) by these busy tracks, so the State of Ohio has named building an overpass as "number 1 priority". Seems that rescue and fire runs always get stuck by trains.
In the summer, Toledo plays host to numerous festivals.....mainly ethnic excuses to dance in funny old costumes and drink a lot of beer. The Polish Festival celebrates Toledo's quite large Polish contingent. The German-American Festival is huge. A number of Hispanic festivals have sprouted. A huge Hungarian Festival takes place every August.
Toledo folks love the water. Every weekend the Maumee River (downtown Toledo is located on the banks.....the Maumee is the largest river feeding the great lakes) is packed with boats. Maumee Bay has islands with beaches and sandy bottoms. On any given summer Saturday or Sunday there will be hundreds of boats lined up at these islands, floating in water about three (3) feet deep, everybody holding a beer in their hand as they stand in the water. (Lake Erie is the warmest and the shallowest of the great lakes. It is much cleaner now than back in the early 1970's.)
More later, including WHO'S WHO FROM TOLEDO (can you say "Katie Holmes"?), BEST BARS IN GREATER TOLEDO, a snapshot of TOLEDO CULTURE, and perhaps even some mentions of Toledo's place in UNION HISTORY.
BEST BARS IN METRO TOLEDO
If you ever have to spend some time in the Toledo area, here's a few bars that I know about. There are many more, but this Bear is a creature of habit, so I keep returning to my favorite places.
A Mexican restaurant and bar. My wife swears by the margos. Great food. I always see people I know. Near the airport, near western suburb Swanton, on Airport Highway.
Great sports bar in Maumee.....a southern suburb (15,000). I have been going to Dale's for nearly thirty-two (32) years. Check out the "mug club" mugs hanging on the hooks above the bar. Look at mug # 11....."Bear". (Me.) This bar is owned by an Anderson.....the Anderson's is headquartered in Maumee and is one (1) of the nation's largest grain elevator, retail store, fertilizer manufacturer conglomorates. Bill Anderson ("Grax") is a graduate of Ohio State University. This is where I go for every OSU-University of Michigan football game. I'm usually one (1) of about six (6) people in the place rooting for the Wolverines (a vicious marsupial who eats buckeye tree nuts). The other fifty (50) root for that "other" team. Fun.
Located along one (1) of the only Toledo sprawl roads, Central Avenue, west of the I-475/US 23 bypass. Dirty, loud.....and eighty (80) million televisions, all tuned to sports. I'm there every football Sunday, cheering on my Pittsburgh Steelers. Good food. Dirty bathrooms. Fun.
This bar is included in this list only as a memory. It has been closed for about ten (10) years. It was on the Ottawa River, a small river feeding Maumee Bay. Numerous yacht and boat clubs line this river and "the Turtle" was where everybody on a boat went to. I met my wife, Katie, at "the Turtle". (Does anybody know the correct answer to this question: "Are you a turtle?") We miss this bar.
Located in beautiful downtown Swanton. This looks like and comes across as a "biker bar". It's not. Just working folks, some business types (never in a suit), loose women (heh heh heh), and an old Bear and his young wife, Katie, sitting at a table, drinking in the sights. Local yokels.
.....AND AT PUT-IN-BAY.....
A number of good bars on the Lake Erie island (South Bass) that is home to the small village of Put-In-Bay. Not really metro Toledo but only about forty (40) miles east. Fun at Frosty's, The Roundhouse, The Boathouse, Beer Barrel Saloon, others, etc.