Sunday, March 30, 2014

OHventures Shirts Photo Blog

A collage of our favorite readers donning the official OHventures shirt!

OHventures t-shirts debuted last fall, and they have been taking the state by storm! The shirts were created to help promote hiking, biking, running, jogging, walking, and exploring Ohio, and were worn by all of our favorite readers and supporters over the past few months! 

Below, you can see some of the fun places the shirts have been popping up, and a collection of selfies and "thumbs ups" that were inspired by those who wore them! 

Consider joining the trend and getting your very own shirt! Male and female shirts are available with the above design for a cost of just $15 (plus shipping if applicable). You can order your shirt directly by emailing along with your size, gender, and address!

Creator Mike Evans wearing the OHventures shirt!

A photo of the shirts when they first arrived - right out of the box!

Mike Evans modeling the shirt

An animation created for the OHventures homepage.

OHventures friend Mathew wearing his shirt at the Arnold Pump & Run

Fellow blogger Diane of Just Humor Me bringing OHventures to the West Coast, pictured at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco!

OHventures contributor for all things Toledo, Steve giving us a thumbs up with his shirt!

Our good friend Emily wearing the OHventures shirt at the Christmas Story 5K in Cleveland

Former OHventurer Of The Week Ryan taking a quick OHventures selfie!

My family (and Slider) supporting OHventures!!

Fellow blogger and runner, Katie, of Life Is Katetastic, smiling pretty for OHventures!

OHventures contributor (Mud Ninja) Corey giving TWO thumbs up for the shirt!

Our friend and Team OHventures Member Rachel showing off her OHventures pride!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

West Branch State Park

Photos by OHventures

West Branch State Park
5708 Esworthy Road
Ravenna, Ohio 44266
(330) 654-4989

"The contented person enjoys the scenery of a detour."
I had a nice "detour" of sorts this past weekend when I took a random trip to West Branch State Park, located in Portage County, approximately 45 minutes from my home. In what seems like the winter that will NEVER end (even when it is not even winter anymore...come on, Spring, step it up!), I made it a point to get outside for a mini hike the moment the weather broke! Cloudy and overcast was far better than rainy or snowy in my book, so I trekked to West Branch State Park with my pup in tow (it is a dog friendly establishment - in fact, I saw a number of other hikers with dogs here today)!

Slider says "bring your pets!"

This park appealed to me because of its impressive 2,650-acre lake with its many forks, making it a popular spot for fishermen, boaters, and swimmers. Just looking at the layout of West Branch on the official park map (below) told me that! Since the lake would clearly be frozen over still (it's not THAT warm yet), I would certainly not be able to partake in any of these fine events, but I used this as an opportunity to scout out the place for a summertime visit!

I parked at the trailhead for the "Deer Run Trail," which was to be just a short 1-mile hike! I found out that the trail is appropriately named, because right when I got out of my car, I spotted a large white-tailed deer grazing in the field! I was luckily able to get rather close to take a picture before she sprinted off, but she wasn't the only deer I would see in my short visit! The trail itself was rather muddy due to the recent weather. And while I was not afraid to get a little dirty, it still was not the most ideal of conditions.

Despite the mud, there were still a lot of great things to see while at West Branch State Park. For instance, there are a large number of camping sites sprinkled along the lake, only a few of which were occupied at the time I visited. Most of the sites seemed to overlook the lake, and were situated by a cliff/hill that led down to a rocky shore. I managed to find a couple of steep paths down to the rocky beach to gaze out at the frozen & massive body of water, and for a quick photo op. I was able to see some of the 6 launching ramps for boating, and some of the docks that were available for rent. I could also see some of the gravel launch ramps available for fishing boats. as well as a 700-foot sand beach that is available for swimming (when the ice melts, of course).

My 1-mile hike was just a fraction of what is offered at West Branch State Park. There are 14 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of mountain bike trails, and 20 miles of bridle trails. If this year pans out, I will be tackling some of those trails soon enough, and I hope that you can join me!

Viking Vineyards & Winery

Photos by OHventures

268 Old Forge Road
Kent, OH, 44240
(330) 678-2080

A nice afternoon road trip led me to the cozy and relaxing Viking Vineyards & Winery, a winery located in the rolling hills of Portage County, in Brimfield Township (Kent area). If only it had been a nicer day, or else I might have found myself sitting by the nearby pond at a picnic table or in the gazebo with a glass of the red stuff. Unfortunately, I could only imagine what that would be like, as the gray skies forced me to bypass the charming waterside set-up and head indoors.
Inside was an ample sized tasting room, which would do just fine in lieu of the lakeside seating. There was a small fireplace and a door that led to the large party room, known as the Lake View Hospitality Room, which can be rented for private functions.

I was greeted by one of the owners, Jeff, who happily poured me a series of 1-ounce samples (priced at 50 cents each) of some of the winery's top sellers. Picking which ones I would taste was a challenge, since ALL of the wines made at Viking Vineyards are award winners. But Jeff advised that I taste in the following order: dry whites, sweet wines, dry reds, and sweet reds - a tip I had heard of before, but will certainly use going forward!
I first tasted the Chardonnay, a dry white wine that was fermented in stainless steel, and therefore had no oak flavor. I actually prefer the oak flavoring, but it was a refreshing and crisp change from what I am used to. From there, I tried the "Party!" wine, because any wine that has an exclamation point in its name deserves some attention (I am known to use exclamation points far too often on OHventures)! This wine was definitely a party, and was one of my favorites. Sweet (but not TOO sweet), really smooth, and a nice touch of citrus.

Moving on to the red wines, I first tried the Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the driest of the bunch (and would end up being my personal favorite). I also tried the Viking Red, which was a middle-of-the-road wine, as far as sweetness was concerned. This one blended concord, merlot, and leon millot grapes to create an interesting flavor! Lastly, I tasted the "Red Kiss," which was billed as one of the sweetest wines available. I initially thought I would not like it because of that description, but ended up buying a whole bottle to take home with me! It is a dessert wine that is a mix of grape and chocolate. It reminds me of a Tootsie Roll, and of a similar wine that I had at Myrddin Winery in Mahoning County.
After the tasting session, I had a glass of the Cab Sav and enjoyed spinach artichoke dip and a turkey panini. It was a delightful afternoon at Viking Vineyards, and I can only hope to return to sit outside by the lake! Until then, I will enjoy my bottle of Red Kiss and encourage you all to stop out soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

North High Brewing

Photos by OHventures

1288 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43201
Homemade beer is becoming more and more popular these days, with a growing number of people setting up at-home basement kitchens and makeshift microbreweries  to concoct their very own sudsy beer. But, to do it right, that requires a great deal of expensive equipment that some people might not be comfortable purchasing. Thankfully, if you want to become a brewmaster for a day, your wish can come true at North High Brewing, a brand spanking new brewery located smack dab in the middle of the bustling Short North neighborhood of Columbus!

We are living in a day of age where the "me" mentality reigns supreme - everyone wants everything personalized and hands on. Creativity and customization are sought after in every aspect of life. And we at OHventures are no strangers to this. We love giving things our own signature stamp of approval! So why shouldn't that apply to our favorite things - like BEER? At North High Brewing, this is all possible!

With North High Brewing's Owner, Gavin Meyers

OHventures had its first encounter with North High Brewing as part of the Columbus Brew Adventures Downtown Brewery Tour last fall. Here, we met owner Gavin Meyers, whose personality is larger than life and his passion for what he does certainly shines whenever he talks. Gavin told us over a large crowd gathered in the bar (a regular sight at North High Brewing) about the recent renovations that went into creating the brewery. He explained every intricacy found within the bar - from the stools, to the window sills, to the table tops. All of the parts and pieces of the bar have a cool background story that is half the fun of visiting. 

The star of the show is of course the beer itself, so we took the opportunity to taste-test about 4 different beers on this trip. My favorite was the  was the rich, dark chocolate milk stout that reminded me a lot of coffee. It was mighty tasty, and left quite an impression (in more ways than one - it is 6% alcohol after all).

Recently, OHventures made a special return visit to North High Brewing to have a more intimate and one-on-one experience with Gavin, and so we could taste test TEN of the beers that are brewed special at NHB! Some of the highlights from our tasting experience were as follows (descriptions taken from the official site):

  • Filthy McNasty - Russian Imperial Stout - ABV 8.1% :: IBUs 50: A beer of pure decadence and excess. While this style was originally brewed by a London brewer for export to the queen of Russia, this beer isn't going anywhere. Sit down and let it warm up. Enjoy notes of coffee, chocolate, sweet malt and boozy warmth. A nice hop balance and presence makes this a beer to savor.
  • Brown Ale - ABV 4.8% :: IBUs 24: This Northern English Ale is sweet, biscuity and full bodied. The color is a direct reflection of the style and the low ABV makes this a great game day beer.
  • Wee Heavy Ale - ABV 8.0% :: IBUs 25: Sing it with me now: I love scotch! Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down. Down into my belly.. With a prominent amount of honey, this beer is boozy, smokey, caramelly and delicious.
  • Double IPA - ABV 7.3% :: IBUs 115: A bit sweeter than your average double. This has a bit of residual sugars from the malt. Generous hop additions clear your palate and leave you with a citrus hop bitterness. A double IPA that can be enjoyed by all. 
  • Oldford - Porter - ABV 6.8% :: IBUs 37: Deep and roasty, silky and smooth. This porter brewed with molasses will leave dark beer drinkers wanting nothing more.
  • Pale Ale - ABV 5.5% :: IBUs 46: Light in color but not in hop presence. The citrusy sweet hop presence makes this beer a gateway to the world of hops.
Drinking a slew of beers from North High Brewing

For those wondering, I did not finish all of these samples alone - I had help from my trusty sidekicks Matt and Jess (the same folks who went paddleboarding with me last summer). We were all rather satisfied by pretty much all of the beers here at North High Brewing and couldn't wait to learn more about how we could make our very own!

Making our own beer on site is high on our Buckeye Bucket List - and it seems like a ton of people had the same idea. In the back room, behind the bar, dozens of brewmasters in training were circled around copper vats, creating their beer by hand, with what looked like pretty in-depth step-by-step instructions. Because of how popular the brewing opportunity is here at North High Brewing, Matt, Jess, and I were not able to get our hands dirty that evening. Like all people interested in brewing beer, we had to schedule in advance so that we could reserve one of the kettles! That said, we will be reporting step-by-step later on this Spring when we have our turn!

If you are also interested in scheduling a brewing experience, visit the North High Brewing Calendar to find an open slot. 

To address some of the basics on the process: your brewing experience will yield around 15 gallons of beer (nearly a keg), which equates to approximately 140 12-oz. bottles or 80 22-oz. bottles. It takes about 2-3 hours for the initial brewing, which will then take 2 weeks to ferment (this "wait" time.until it is ready will vary depending on the type of beer you make). You then return and bottle the beer and label it! 

Stay tuned to learn more, and in the meantime, stop by North High Brewing to taste one of the 30 beers on tap, or to schedule your appointment! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arnold Pump & Run 2014 Recap

Photos by OHventures

March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.

The first part of that statement was definitely true this year (the "lamb" part is yet to be seen), as we have been struggling through one of the most intense winters on record in Ohio (and the US). There have been snow days out the wazoo and too many winter storm warnings to count (thank goodness someone started naming those storms like they do hurricanes). And while it's been fitting for adventures that actually require snow, like sledding and skiing, it has certainly been a problem for all other outdoor activities, and especially difficult for traveling on the roadways!
On March 2, I was signed up to take part for the second year in a row in the Arnold Pump & Run 5K, an event that is part of the Arnold Classic Sports Festival. News stations were reporting a MASSIVE winter storm (I think this one was called Vulcan, but who even knows) was headed our way (and by "our" way, I don't mean just Ohio, I mean pretty much the entire country). With this impending doom approaching, I traveled down to Columbus (from Canton) with extreme concern that I somehow would get stuck down there and caught in some icy/wintry mess.
I arrived safely the night before with not a snowflake in sight. However, when I woke up the day of the race, I saw a curtain of the white stuff being poured onto the streets of C-Bus! Last year's Arnold Pump & Run 5K was pretty cold and miserable, and this year it looked like the tradition would continue.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Pump & Run combines brute strength with aerobic ability into one unique fitness event. One must bench press his or her own body weight as many times as possible (pump) and then hit the streets for a 5K race (run). Thirty seconds is taken off of their finishing time for every full rep they were able to bench press earlier that morning. These snowy conditions pretty much sucked the fun out of the event, and really took away my motivation and excitement. Thankfully, I had a lot of friends on board for the event, which was the only thing keeping my spirts up (you have to love a little friendly competition amongst frat bros).

I made my way through the snow-covered roads and met up with my friends/fraternity brothers/former roomates/fitness buds Matt, Richard, Steve, and Jim. These guys had an upper-hand, since they all workout together and actually train accordingly. I, on the other hand, use P90X for my workout regimen, which does not include bench pressing. Today's event would therefore be my yearly bench press!

We all weighed in and then hopped up to bench press. I managed to get 10 reps, which is the exact same as I did last year. Although, I weighed a bit less this year and my form was no good. Steve got 2 reps, Jim and Matt each had 7 reps, and Richard blew us all out of the park with 30 reps (the max they will allow). We then prepared ourselves mentally and physically for the frozen tundra of a race course that laid ahead.

Arnold about to give us the countdown to start the race!

Honestly, this was a moment in my running career that I hope to block out of my memory, as it was so cold and snowy and dreadful that I really don't want to give much of a recap. The ground was so slushy and slippery, it made it REALLY hard to run. Even the big man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, advised us to "be careful, we want you all to be able to say 'I'LL BE BACK'" right before he gave us the countdown. And while it was of course really cool to have the Terminator counting down for us, my excitement level just couldn't rise!!

I look like Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat here. Miserable.
At least this year I was decked out in so much winter gear - including my blue ski mask from my ski trip to Denver - that I didn't feel like I was going to lose any digits to frostbite! My time ended up being around 26:46, which, all things considered was not so bad (one of my friends - he who shall not be named -didn't even finish past the 2-mile mark because he was so miserable). With 5 minutes shaved off because of the "pump" portion of the event, this gave me a time of 21:46, placing me at 411/610 overall.
Running definitely tests your strength in a number of ways. And when the elements of Mother Nature are working against you, you might end up having a race that just isn't all that fun. Hey, at least I got a cool medal!

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day in Cleveland

Photo by OHventures

The luck of the Irish reigns supreme in the streets of Cleveland year 'round, and especially during the St. Patrick's Day holiday! There is no better place to be in Ohio than in the good ol' CLE during the shamrock shenanigans, and I had the chance the experience it for myself.

The 147th Annual Cleveland St. Patrick's Day Parade began at 1:04 at the intersection of Superior Avenue and East 18th Street and had approximately 13,000 marchers on the two-mile, two-hour route around town!

But the adult fun was more up my speed - loads of green beer, Irish car bombs and shots of Jameson paired with feet-stomping Celtic punk and folk jigs complete with bagpipes, fiddles and bodhrans! The strip of bars and pubs tucked away in the East 4th Street Neighborhood (pictured above) was definitely THE place to be for all the March madness. And the best place in the 4th Street Neighborhood on St. Patty's Day is the Cleveland House of Blues. I was bouncing around in a crowd full of gawdy green garb while bands like Boys From The County Hell and the Prodigals played.

Next year, take it upon yourself to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Cleveland. You won't be disappointed.