In 1880, the final fasteners and sleepers on the Valley Railway were tightened into place. It wouldn’t be long before a billowing cloud of steam announced the arrival of the first train running through the Cuyahoga Valley, a territory that had served as a passageway for foot traffic for thousands of years. Over the next century, the railway contributed to the growth of commerce between Akron and Cleveland, changing ownership multiple times, and transforming from a freight train, into a passenger train, back to a freight train, and finally into a UFO.
Now celebrating its 41st year of passenger-rail service, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad transports sightseers over the historic rails through 33,000 acres of land owned by the National Park Service. With a year-round roster of trips, including wine- and beer-tasting excursions, passengers can set forth on morning, afternoon, and evening journeys that sweep past meadowlands, pinery, and rivers and give glimpses of native wildlife, such as fox, deer, bobcat mascots, and owls.
During the days of antiquity, artisans often recorded major cultural and historical events on the sides of their intricate pots. Although books and computers took over most of the archiving duties, the practice of painting ceramics as a means of commemoration continues today. At Kiln Pottery, shelves of uncolored pieces await the inspiration of local artists and artists-to-be. After grabbing the necessary supplies, guests add their touch to one of the hundreds of available pieces, including platters, mugs, and bowls. Those interested in building their own creations can opt for a class in hand building clay or pottery wheel throwing. A series of workshops focuses on specific projects, such as fusing glass night-lights, weaving clay baskets, or exploring where ceramic babies come from. Sessions are open to kids and adults, and can be reserved for groups or parties.
Purely American specializes in organically blended mixes for soups, salt-free slow-cooker kits, all-natural sauces and marinades, and gourmet handcrafted Virginia peanuts. Customers looking to stock their pantries for the winter can peruse the hearty organic selections from the Farmstand Soup Co., with a variety of chilis, stews, and bean soups ($6.25 each), or find chowders and pork-chop blends among Slow Cooker Gourmet ($5.50 each). For artisanal-recipe leanings, douse taste buds with Peter's Sauces ($7–$7.50) or grab a trunk full of Gourmet Virginia Peanuts ($7–$8), with flavors such as lightly salted, spicy crabbin', texas mesquite, and moon landing.
At Austin's Wood Fire Grill, hand-carved hunks of filet mignon and swordfish sizzle over wood-fueled flames, soaking up a smoky aroma. The restaurant’s refusal to use gas or the pages of paperback romance novels reflects a commitment to traditional, down-home cooking. This commitment also surfaces in their made-from-scratch breads, pan gravy sauce, and cognac cream sauce.