Monday, August 27, 2012

RiverScape MetroPark

Photos by OHventures
RiverScape MetroPark
111 East Monument Avenue
Dayton, OH 45402
(937) 274-0126
On a recent Daytrip to Dayton, my friends and I overindulged in a hefty brunch at Olive: An Urban Dive, mid-afternoon ice cream bars and samples at the PNC 2nd Street Market, and platefuls of fried foods at Blind Bob's in the Oregon District. In other words, we felt like major fatties and decided that we (along with our food babies) needed to get some fresh air and incorporate some physical activities into our agenda!
Thankfully, in the hub of downtown Dayton along the beautiful Miami River was the convenient and peaceful RiverScape MetroPark. Here, we took advantage of the scenic walkway along the river (hence the name RiverScape) amongst the landscape gardens, flowering pots, hanging baskets and reflecting pools. There were also large swinging benches perfect for people watching and winding down from our long day of eating! Nearby was also a large sound stage, which we found out has many free concerts and events throughout the summer. The night we were there featured a festive salsa band!
On Saturdays in the summer (which is when we were there), RiverScape MetroParks offers kayak rentals for as low as $12. Additionally (and more up our alley since we did not have a change of clothes on hand to kayak in) the park allows you to rent bicycles until 4 PM. Rentals are available until 4PM. In the winter, there is an area for ice skating. And, if we didn't already eat a truck load of food that day, there is also a concession stand that sells shaved ice.
RiverScape MetroPark, with its beautiful interactive fountains and wonderful amenities, is a spot I would most certainly recommend to anyone taking a Dayton daytrip!


5 Doggy OHventures

Photos by OHventures
As a new dog owner, I am constantly seeking out new adventures that me and my pup can enjoy together. Believe it or not, there are a great deal of fun furry-friend establishments and activities for your pet across Ohio! Here is a short list of 5 OHventures you can emBARK on with your dog!
1. Eat Some Graeter's Ice Creams: Graeter's Ice Cream was established in the suburbs of Cincinnati in the late 1800s and has been an Ohio staple ever since. Graeter's continually is awarded as having some of the best ice cream in the state, having prominence in Columbus, Dayton, and even in some surrounding states such as Kentucky. Graeter's is a dog friendly establishment, allowing pups on the outdoor patios and providing you with FREE "Purina Frosty Paws" and small cup of water upon request (see photo above). Some stores even are known to hold an event known as "Graeter's Dog Night Out" (in places such as Centerville) where local vets and pet stores show up to hand out goodies and you get to be social with your dogs!  You can find one of dozens of locations near you from Athens to Zanesville by checking on the Graeters Store Locator Website.
2. Run A Doggy 5K: Since having my dog (for the past three months), I have participated in two "doggy 5K races" in which hundreds of dog owners gather together with their canine companions to participate in a 5K race or a one mile fun walk. The events typically are charity races that raise funds for local animal shelters or organizations, such as the Humane Society. I ran in the "Run With The Pack 5K" in June and the "Defend Your Friend 5K" in July. There are also events I have caught wind of such as the Mutt Strut in Plain Township, the Dog Jog in Columbus and the Dirty Dog Run in Cleveland.  I have to say that these are some of the most fun things I have done in a long, long time! If you have a dog, and/or if you simply care about dogs, I highly encourage you to participate in a doggy 5K! This race brings a smile to my face seeing all of the happy-go-lucky dogs running about, and knowing that it goes to such a good cause.
3. Drink Wine With The Pups: Believe it or not, some wine establishments in Ohio are open to dogs as well! While of course the dogs would not be sipping on the bubbly with you, they can join you at the winery. Since most wineries have outdoor seating in warmer months, and many do not have full kitchens, health codes allow for the dogs to intermingle on the patio. Perennial Vineyards in Navarre is an example of such a winery. They are so dog friendly at Perennial Vineyards that they even have a wine whose proceeds go to local animal shelters. Camelot Cellars in Columbus is an example of an indoor winery that holds special events for dogs. The first Friday of every month, Camelot Cellars teams up with Three Dog Bakery to host Freaky Fur-Day Whine Tasting, where they have treats for your little ones! Be sure to call ahead to your winery to check their policy on dogs.
4. Take a Hike With You Dog!: Most state and metro parks in Ohio have a special pet policy that allows for dogs to come along on a hike with you. Some have special paths that are designated for dogs while other portions of the park are off limits. For instance, the gardens at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville prohibit dogs, but there are paths in which dogs are permitted. Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio encourages pets to join you on your hike, but advises you to be on the look out for wild animals such as black bears or even raccoons that could potentiall harm your dog. They also ask you to use discretion when sharing the hiking trail with other dogs, runners, bicyclists, cross country skiiers, etc. The bottom line: every park is different, but most hiking trails are an open door policy!
5. Visit a Dog Park: While it seems obvious, some folks don't realize that there are dozens and dozens of fantastic dog parks in Ohio. Each park is a little different, so it is up to you to do some research to see what is best for your dog! Finding a park that offers one area for small dogs and one area for larger dogs is a "plus" in my book, as I have a 9-pound pup that shouldn't intermingle with humungous St. Bernards. Scioto Audubon Metro Park in Columbus is one such park, and it also has obstacle courses for the dogs! Some dog parks are as simple as an open area with a fence, such as Wheeler Park, also in Columbus. Some parks require you to be a paid member, such as the Wood County Dog Park in Bowling Green. This ensures that all dogs at the park are vaccinated, de-flead, and non-aggressive. Checking your city's local Yelp listings is a good way to find the perfect dog park in your area. Using a smart phone app or website, such as Doggoes is also helpful!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Photos by OHventures

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Park Headquarters
15610 Vaughn Rd
Breskville, OH 44141

Since Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the ONLY national park in the state of Ohio (and one of very few in the Midwest), one could argue that this park is the holy grail of all parks, topping the the Buckeye Bucket List of must-see locations! The park is so gigantic that you may have actually driven through without even knowing (if you have ever been to Blossom Music Center or Boston Mills & Brandywine Ski Resort, you've technically been within the park boundaries)! It is located not far from the tri-metro area of Cleveland, Akron and Canton, following the twisting, turning Cuyahoga River (yes, THAT river).

The word "Cuyahoga" actually translates to mean "crooked," which is only fitting, as the 22 miles of water slithers its way like a snake through Northeast Ohio. The 20,339 acres of land envelopes many well-known Ohio towns, such as Peninsula, Valley View, and Independence. It almost goes without being said that you will most certainly need a map to study up on the park and its many trailheads and entrances before planning your trip! A map can be found here: MAP 

Radiant with plants and other wildlife, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is ideal for hiking, biking, cross country skiing, picnicking, fishing, horseback riding, sled riding, and even golfing! Marshes, lakes, meadows, hills, and creeks are right at your fingertips, as well as berry, sheep and tree farms. Education centers, shelter houses, nature centers, and reservations add to the lineup of what the colossal park has to offer. The famed Towpath Trail runs through a portion of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, with miles and miles of paved state-of-the-art paths running north-to-south.

Because of the sheer enormity of the park, there was no way that I'd be able to cover it in its entirety. So, I decided to start with just a couple of the popular spots: Kendall Lake at Virginia Kendall Park (298 Vaughn Rd, Akron, OH 44319-1151) and Lock 29 Trailhead in Peninsula.

Trails at Virginia Kendall Park circle the incredible Kendall Lake for approximately two miles. There are two main trails: one for hiking and one for cross country skiing (there is also a winter sports lodge headquartered at the entrance). We obviously opted for a nice summer hike along the lake, which offered fantastic views around the pristine lake, a unique cement tunnel (pictured above), and hilly terrain with meadows and forest (pictured below).

Driving a short way north to the town of Peninsula, we were able to hop on the Lock 29 Trailhead, which is signified by an iconic Indian red bridge and a sandstone aqueduct (pictured below). On the bridge alone, we spotted children, bicyclists, and even a recently married couple taking professional photographs following their nuptials. The area was bustling with swimmers, hikers, and other park-goers. The quaint town nearby was a comforting backdrop with old fashioned storefronts and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which offers special event railroad tours. A short jaunt on this trail offered a perfectly scenic excursion and a perfect example of the greatness that lies within the National Park.

I look forward to re-visiting the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the near future to explore, explore, explore! I doubt I will ever truly be done discovering all that lies within Ohio's one and only National Park.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Columbus Food Adventures Taco Truck Tour

Photos by OHventures

When I received a message from renowned food blogger and ultra foodie, Bethia Woolf, inviting me and a friend to join her on a complimentary tour through her business, Columbus Food Adventures, my mouth immediately started watering. Everything that I knew about Columbus Food Adventures had piqued my interest, and I had been itching to sign up. The concept is simple yet brilliant: Food lovers hungry for adventure are taken on an exclusive tour, either on foot or aboard a conversion van, to various parts of the city to discover the most exquisite, unique and authentic cuisines Columbus has to offer.

The tours are approximately $60 a person and last about 3 hours, visiting around 6 different restaurants, food trucks, or food providers along the way. There are various tours that are categorized either by region or by cuisine: Short North Tour, German Village Tour, Alt Eats Tour, Meat Lovers Tour, All Dessert Tour, Coffee Tour, and the tour I had the chance to be a part of, the Taco Trucks Tour.

The price tag for a food tour totally fits and is certainly worth it, for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that you are being exposed to a myriad of culinary hotspots that you might have trouble finding on your own. Combine that with the expertisse that Bethia and her business partner Andy bring to the table when giving presentations at each location, and you have yourself a one-of-a-kind lesson in all things yummy in the capital!

Another reason this is a great bang for your buck is that you are receiving samples of various foods from a number of places that might not provide you with that exact portion on a regular visit. Also, the convenience factor of having someone drive you around, order for you, and plan everything for you is almost priceless!
Aside from that, the pure fun factor that comes with a Columbus Food Adventure is off the charts. You can meet new people (those on the tour with you and those at the restaurants), share lots of laughs, and learn a ton all while stuffing your face!

For my Taco Truck Tour, which took place on a Sunday afternoon at 4 PM, a full group of 15 hungry adventurers hopped in the van and started our tasty trip. We learned that there are over 40 taco trucks in the Columbus metro area (ay carumba!), with a nice concentration on the West side, which is where the tour would take place. We were told that researchers in New York determined that Columbus is the best place East of the Mississippi for tacos, a fact that astounded the entire group! This remarkable fact is apparently due to the large Hispanic population in the area, and perhaps due to the rules in the area that allow for food trucks to exist. While taco trucks are obviously mobile, they primarily stay in one location, as they typically rent space within a parking lot of a local business. To keep track of all of the trucks, however, Bethia and Andy also started a website dedicated to mapping out where they are at all times:!

Our first stop was a tiny taco truck on West Broad Street called "La Popular," where we had our only legitimate taco on the tour (we would have other Mexican dishes at the rest of the trucks). Here, we had an authentic chorizo taco with a side of radishes and cucumbers (pictured above). I came to find that these refreshing vegetables on the side were at each of the taco trucks, and that is because that is what truly traditional Mexican eateries will serve on the side (rather than the typical tomatoes and bell peppers one would expect at an American Mexican restaurant).

After the tease we had at the first taco truck, it was off to the second stop, Taqueria Little Mexico, which is the oldest taco truck in the city (established in 2001). We had a gordita that we washed down with horchata (pictured above), a rice-based milk-like cinnamon drink that is extremely popular in Mexico. As Bethia said, it reminds you a bit of the milk in your cereal bowl after eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch! Fantastic.

My personal favorite stop was Los Guachos Taqueria, where we got to enjoy pork gringas (flour tortillas, pinapple, smoked mozzarella, pork el pastor). The pork for the gringas was shaved right off of a vertical spit right before our eyes (pictured above), and we found out that this place was named one of the top four in the United States! Tasting these delicious morsels, I could see why! I love this place so much that I am planning to return with coworkers in the near future!

The second half of the Taco Truck Tour wrapped up with a tasty Mexican pizza-like treat called a tlyuda(pictured above) at Tres Reyes (where we also enjoyed guava agua fresca), a sorbet dessert at Las Delicias, and a final stop where we were able to shop and peruse the aisles of a Mexican grocery store where most of the taco trucks get their food (I purchased some Mexican beer, prickly pears, and jicama).

As the event wrapped up, my stomach was satisfied with loads of taco truck treats. Pacing ourselves throughout the tour made it so I was not grossly full of food. It was a perfect eating experience I would recommend to any food lover (and who isn't?). Taking a food tour with Columbus Food Adventures is so good, it's getting added to the Buckeye Bucket List, and I definitely intend to try another tour, using my "Passport" punch card!

Many thanks to Bethia and Andy for revealing what the truly great food is in Columbus!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Defend Your Friend 5K Recap

Photos by OHventures

If you have been following OHventures lately at all (or my personal Twitter feed), you will know that I have recently rescued a Chihuahua named Slider. It seems like much longer than the 2 months that it has been since I adopted him, as we have participated in a number of fun activities, including a couple of 5K races in which both dogs and their owners participate. The most recent of these 5K races was the Defend Your Friend 5K on Thursday, August 2 at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park in South Columbus.

The Defend Your Friend 5K was our second “doggy 5K” (the first being the Run With The Pack 5K in June) and it proved to be more difficult than the first. It was certainly a hot day, which did not help the situation. However, the main issue, I believe, is that the race began in the evening rather than in the morning. By the time 7PM rolled around and Slider and I were to start our race, he was already pretty pooped. Being a dog of his size (a whopping 9-ish pounds), Slider can run out of energy rather quickly!

The event was put on by the Capital Area Humane Society and was to benefit the organization’s cruelty investigation unit. I can not stomach the simple thought of someone intentionally harming an animal in any way, and having heard some of the stories from the investigators themselves, I certainly was happy to contribute in any way possible to help save animals and prevent them from being mistreated. Any race that has a noble cause such as this gets bonus points in my book!

Apparently this is the first year that the race took place at this location, which led to some confusion it seems, I learned from talking to some runners who have participated for multiple years. I will admit that I was rather disappointed in the number of booths and athletes that this race had in comparison to the Run With The Pack, but I believe there were a number of contributing factors involved and that didn’t make it any less fun.

After arriving with my friend Caitlyn (who became official bag carrier and photographer), we gathered some free goodies (dog treats, a t-shirt, a portable water bowl, and a doggy bandana to name a few) and I stretched out for the run! When the horn sounded, I came to find that my stretching was not as needed as I thought, since Slider was not performing as well as he did in his first 5K (which was 33 minutes). We had to take a number of breaks, and I even carried him and ran/walked a number of times. It is important when running a race with your dog to put your dog's needs and interests first, and to ensure that the dog is not being pushed too far.

The course for the Defend Your Friend 5K was the same exact course we had for the Run With The Pack 5K, which looped around the park and took place mainly on the Olentangy Greenway Trail.

Perusing the interwebs, I stumbled across a fellow blogger’s recap of the event, who coincidentally described her encounter with me and Slider on her post (Gym Class Dropout). It is hilarious that this stranger decided to include me in her blog, and I am still smiling about it! An excerpt from her post is below:

“The other best part was playing leap frog with a chihuahua.  I'm not kidding.  This dog must have been practicing the Galloway run/walk method.  His owner was smart enough to realize it was hot and that the little dog wasn't going to be running the entire 3.1 miles.  I mean his legs were 3 inches long!  So he'd run a little, pass me and then walk a little and I'd pass them.  Then then passed me again....except this time the owner was running but carrying the little dog.  It was pretty cute. I realize that a 41:42 5K isn't earth shattering.  It's still slow but it's still a PR for me.  I also realize that when you are a back of the packer, you have to have a sense of humor.  Getting passed by a chihuahua with 3 inch legs is one of those times when you have to have a sense of humor.”

It is evident by this blogger’s post that Slider and I drew a great deal of attention with our race! He is definitely a “sprinter” as he would walk for a while then speed up for a while, only to slow right back down to a walk. I am proud of the little guy, as I know that for him, this must have been more like a marathon than a 5K. I was not the only one whose dog needed a break, however. Some owners of smaller dogs carried their pups while some others had to take short rests in the grassy areas off to the side of the trail. It was exceptionally hot out, so much so that even the water stations wouldn’t do the trick completely!

Slider and I ran along with another couple and their two dogs at the very end of the race, and trotted across the finish line in approximately 45 minutes or so (I do not know the official time, but it was longer than our first 5K). We were given homemade doggy ice cream and water and relaxed with Caitlyn before heading home.

If you have a dog, and/or if you simply care about dogs, I highly encourage you to participate in the Defend Your Friend 5K in years to come! It is quite an experience!