Thursday, July 31, 2014

To-Do In Toledo

Photos by OHventures

It's not often that I make it to the Northwest portion of our great state of Ohio. This is due to the fact that I have a fulltime job that divides my time between Northeast and Central Ohio. But, any true OHventurer will find time out of his or her busy work schedule to take road trips from time to time! This past weekend, I was invited to attend the wedding of my dear friends Richard and Christina, whom I met while living in Columbus. Christina is from Northwest Ohio, so that ended up being the setting for their beautiful nuptials. 

In perfect OHventures fashion, I took full advantage of the time I spent during my rare visit to the area. 

The ceremony itself took place at the Historic Church of Saint Patrick in Toledo, which was absolutely stunning! I am not Catholic, but I can appreciate a good Catholic church! This one has been around since the city's beginnings, the first version of the church having been built in 1862! The second (and current) version of the church was completed in 1901. The Gothic architechture is romantic and beautiful - ideal for my pals to tie the knot!

From there, we traveled to Perrysburg where the ceremony was to take place. What was nice was that this part of the festivities was taking place at our hotel's ballroom, which was the Hilton Garden Inn. The Hilton was part of the Town Center at Levis Commons, a collection of shops and restaurants that is a must-see if you are ever in the area! 

What made my plan to have an adventurous weekend that much easier was that my friends had specially-made sugar cookies as party favors (pictured above) that were decorated to look like a piece of looseleaf paper with "Toledo To Do List" written on it!

The cookie's "To-Do" List consisted of 5 items:
  1. Toledo Zoo: Ohio is rich with zoos, and a great one can be found in Toledo! The address of the zoo - 2 Hippo Way - is already an indication of it being a cool place to go. If you can't make it to the zoo itself, you are in luck, because they offer live web cams for their hippos, seals, polar bears, and elephants (my favorite)!
  2. Mud Hens GameDuring the baseball season, a great way to spend time in Toledo is to attend a Mud Hens baseball game. The Mud Hens are a minor league triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. They are a beloved Toledo team, and people of lal ages can enjoy spending an evening at a game. The stadium has become a part of the downtown scene since being built in 2002.
  3. Toledo Art MuseumConsidered one of the best art museums in the nation, the Toledo Museum of Art is where to go if you want to know the history of how "The Glass City" moniker came to be. The Glass Pavilion at the museum is breathtaking, as is the rest of the museum. 
  4. Marco's Pizza: While there are hundreds of Marco's Pizza locations across the country, the family of the bride has a special connection to the company, which is headquartered in Toledo. It is only fitting that they served delicious Marco's Pizza to the wedding guests at the end of the night (pictured below).
  5. The Wedding: This goes without saying! My friends' special day was one of the best things I've ever done in Toledo, hands down! It's just too bad not everyone can experience the magic of all of us friends dancing and celebrating!

The day after the wedding, I met up with an old friend at Blue Pacific Grill, a really unique stir fry restaurant located at the Levis Commons. I would highly suggest this place for anyone looking for a cool place to eat in Perrysburg. You should also check out Fort Meigs, a battlefield fortification along the Maunee River during the war of 1812.

With the groom, my longtime friend!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kayak The Bay at PIB

Photos by OHventures

Kayak The Bay Ltd.
760 Bayview Avenue
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
(419) 967-0796

Put-In-Bay Jet Ski & Boat Rental
South Bass Island State Park
1523 Catawba Road
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
(419) 285-BOAT

While prevelant in the lively town of Put-In-Bay, wineries and bars are not the only atractions when visiting the island. In fact, there are many options for those seeking extreme thrills or an active lifestyle. Being that you are surrounded by miles and miles of seemingly endless waves while on South Bass Island, water activities are common! More specifically, kayaking the bay of PIB is one of the most fun things you can do on your visit, and there are a few options at your fingertips.

The bay at South Bass Island State Park

If you are not lucky enough to own your own kayak, you can rent one of these colorful vessels on either end of the island: Kayak The Bay Ltd. (by Oak Point State Park west of the Boardwalk), or Put-In-Bay Jet Ski & Boat Rental (found within South Bass Island State Park on the western portion of the island). Both are fantastic options, although the Put-In-Bay Jet Ski & Boat Rental is the cheaper option ($19/hour for single kayak, $30/hour for double kayak) compared to Kayak The Bay  ($20 for single kayak, $40 for double kayak, with $2 off coupon HERE).

Despite the higher prices, Kayak The Bay Ltd. offers guided tours (as long as you call in advance), and gives you a choice of :"sit inside" and "sit on top of"" kayak styles (while the other location offers the sit inside kayak style only). The location of Kayak The Bay - IN the harbor - also makes for a nice perk, as you can paddle by places like Gibraltor Island and Rattlesnake Island.

Our group in our life jackets ready to kayak the bay!

While visiting Put-In-Bay with my 7 college friends, we decided to go with the cheaper fare and rent from Put-In-Bay Jet Ski & Rental. Two people in my party took single kayaks while the remaining 6 of us paired up for double kayaks. My partner in crime for the day was my good pal Anna (who came all the way from Colorado for some OHventures). We all decided to only take the kayaks for one hour, so that our prices were not too high (we are all young professionals with limited incomes). Also, we were advised that we had to stay within sight of the launching docks, so we couldn't go too far.

One hour was long enough, because kayaking the bay was QUITE a workout! It required immense upper body strength, but also required a lot of communication with my boat-mate so that we paddled in sync and thus moved swiftly. A huge mistake we made was forgetting water to keep us hydrated. It was a hot, sunny day in Ohio, and we were expending a great deal of energy. This oversight hindered our ability to paddle too much. So, take it from us, and do NOT forget water!

With friend and fellow kayaker Joe!

Despite this mistake, we still enjoyed our kayak trip quite a bit. It was a great bonding experience and proved to be fantastic exercise. The view from the middle of the bay was also fantastic. Rowing approximately 20 minutes east (around gorgeous rock formations) allowed us to see the famous Benson Ford Shiphouse (as seen on HGTV's Most Unusual Homes). The only downfall of our kayaking excursion was seeing dead fish floating by, and a water snake swim by! Other than that, we loved our trip!

Be sure to take some time out of your busy wine and beer schedule and kayak while at Put-In-Bay. It's a MUST DO item on your Buckeye Bucket List.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dragon Boat Festival at Portage Lakes

Photos by OHventures

When I was asked to compete in the annual Dragon Boat Festival at Portage Lakes on July 12 in Summit County, I blindly and excitedly agreed. I had no clue as to what I was getting myself into, but I knew that it would be a challenge I couldn't turn down! My good friend Chelsie was recruiting friends and family to join her corporate team, Morgan Stanley, in the competition. My fellow coworker Craig happens to be Chelsie's husband, and the two of us proudly joined Team Morgan Stanley.

What I soon learned was that the Dragon Boat Festival consisted of teams of twenty individuals (including at least 8 females in this particular event) who all sit facing forward in pairs within a single dragon boat, which is a long, sleek lightweight watercraft decorated with a dragon head and dragon tail. Team members each use a single oar on the side of the boat in which they are seated and paddle in unison in order to power the boat. 

One additional teammate sits at the head of the boat on a small chair and serves as the drummer, who keeps rowers in pace with one another by beating on it in a rhythmic fashion. There is a non-team member who stands at the back of the boat and steers the vessel when needed (for instance, when the team needs to make their way to the starting line).

A circle of breast cancer survivors gathering on Turkeyfoot Beach

This particular dragon boat race - officially dubbed the Dragons On The Lake Dragon Boat Festival - was for an amazing cause. The event is hosted by the Dragon Dream Team, Ohio's first all breast cancer survivor dragon boat team. Through paddling and other activities, the members embrace the motto of celebrating life after breast cancer. Through the Boatloads of Hope Community Outreach Program, the Dragon Dream Team delivers a silk pashmina, along with a powerful message of hope to other breast cancer survivors. This program currently exists in 7 area hospitals. 

There were 3 classifications of teams at the Dragon Boat Festival: survivor teams (made up completely of breast cancer survivors), community teams, and corporate teams.

With our Morgan Stanley Team Captain Chelsie

As a corporate team, we would be going up against 12 other corporate teams. Since not all of us actually work at Morgan Stanley, we had our first opportunity to meet our fellow rowers at our very first practice, which took place a couple of weeks before the actual event.

At practice (and the day of the race), we found that this was a rather technical and high-skill water sport that relies heavily on teamwork and synchronicity. Some tips we discovered were:
  1. Keep your hips as close to the gully as possible. Do NOT lean out of the boat.
  2. Keep your oar straight up and down, and close to the side of the boat when paddling.
  3. Paddle in sync with the rest of your team. Do so by putting the oar in the water each time the drum strikes. Keep your eyes on the person up 2 and to the left.
  4. Lean your body forward and dig your oar deep into the water.
  5. Count out loud along with the rest of the team to keep together.
It is a lot easier than it looks or sounds! On race day, our team met for the very first time as a whole unit, which was a major disadvantage. But the team captain, Chelsie, was full of encouragement and enthusiasm that helped our morale. When we found our spot on Turkeyfoot Beach, we practiced counting and moving in sync while on land. 

Me and my teammate Craig taking a break with a game of cornhole.

Then, at 8:00 AM, the festival began and the first heat (out of three heats total) took place. The heats were made up of three boats (not necessarily all of the same category). We paddle to the "starting line" where we all have to reach alignment. Once alignment is achieved, the horn blows, and you fly out of the gates as fast as possible! Our first heat was less than stellar, as the front of the boat was way out of sync with the back of the boat. However, we still managed to get 2nd place out of the 3 teams and cross the finish buoys with a respectable time.

In each heat, we took what went wrong and remedied it so that we could do better in the next heat. Our three times were approximately 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 13 seconds, and 1 minute 12 seconds. After much anticipation, it was revealed that these times were enough to take us to the FINALS!

Team Morgan Stanley ready to take on the competition!

The final round in the corporate division consisted of our team (Morgan Stanley) versus Vorys Legal Counsel and Merrill Lynch (who happened to be our friendly rivals the whole day!). The final round took place at 3:30 PM. We lined up and paddled our asses off! Unfortunately, Merrill Lynch smoked our boat. But we came neck and neck with Vorys. The final times were soon announced, and we sadly lost to Vorys by only 0.12 seconds! The good news is, we improved our time once again with a time of 1 minute 11 seconds. And, even though we took home the bronze, we were just happy to have made it as far as we did.

It was exhilerating to take part in such a different kind of race than I am used to, to meet lots of new people, and to help the fight against breast cancer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ride The Miller Boat Line Ferry

Photos by OHventures

5174 East Water Street
Port Clinton, OH 43452
(800) 500-2421

Anytime I head out to any of the Lake Erie Islands, be it South Bass Island (home to none other than Put-In-Bay), or Middle Bass Island, I always look forward to the ferry ride!! While you can take a private boat to the islands, riding the ferry is part of the entire experience. Your best bet is to hit up the Miller Boat Line, located on the mainland in Port Clinton, Ottawa County. 

Once you arrive in town, it is advised that you leave your car behind in one of the nearby parking lots (some are free, and some charge a small fee). While the option exists to take your car onboard, it is not advised unless absolutely necessary. There is a much larger fee to take your car on the ferry ($30 round trip), and there is limited space on the ferry for vehicles. This means you could be waiting to get your car on the Miller Ferry for up to 4 hours. 

My friend Anna and I on the upper deck of the Miller Ferry ready to go to South Bass Island!

If you are concerned about transportation once you make it to South Bass or Middle Bass, do not fret! These are small islands, and each have golf carts for rent (try Erie Island Carts on Put-In-Bay and Middle Bass Rentals on Middle Bass), which are the primary means of transportation (believe it or not, you are permitted to take golf carts on roadways!). Taxis and rented bicycles are also great ways to get around without a car. And, many places are also accessible by foot!

Whether or not you leave your car in Port Clinton, you can then make your way to the ticket booth located on the coastline. A one-way ticket for an adult is just $7! This is very affordable. It is recommended to purchase your ticket for the way back as well so that you can save a step later on when you decide to come back (just don't lose it!).

A view of an uninhabited Lake Erie island while riding the Miller Ferry

When you get on the vessel, take a pro tip from OHventures and head immediately to the upper deck!! This way, you get the best view possible and get the best seats! You will love your view from atop the Miller Ferry, with the Lake Erie winds blowing in your face, and awesome sights that look nothing like the rest of Ohio!

Recently, I took a trip to Put-In-Bay with tons of college friends. We all rode the Miller Boat Line's ferry both ways! The wait was not very long, and the ride was smooth and quick. This week, OHventures gave away a FREE ticket to ride the ferry in a sweepstakes on Twitter! We hope the winner enjoys their ride!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Covered Bridges of Ashtabula County

Harpersfield Bridge - Photos by OHventures

Ashtabula County, located in the northeastern-most corner of Ohio, is the epicenter of covered bridges in the state. With a total of 18 of these historic structures, Ashtabula has more than any other county in Ohio, helping it to fittingly earning the title of the Covered Bridge Capital of Ohio. Another claim to fame is that one can find both the longest and the shortest functioning covered bridges in the entire United States right here!

Covered bridges seem to have an alluring element to them - they are built with exquisite architecture that is not often found in modern times. Driving through the "tunnels" spices up any road trip, and gawking at the rustic wooden masterpieces creates awe and excitement for you and your fellow travelers.

You can hop in the car and take along with you an official map of all of the covered bridges in Ashtabula County, planning your path through the countryside that will get you to see the most covered bridges possible. Or, if you happen to be partaking in the wine shuttle tour provided by the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, you can ask your driver to take you to a few of the bridges on your way to and from the local wineries. 

Another great way to see a large amount of covered bridges is to take a self-guided tour by following the special bridge tour signs that are posted throughout the county. Only one is a non-drivable bridge - The Graham Road bridge. This one sits on the side of the road and is able to be walked through

Two bridges we suggest you include on your trip are the Harpersfield Bridge and the West Liberty Street Bridge.

The Harpersfield Bridge was built in 1868 and, until 2008, was the longest covered bridge in Ohio at 228 feet long. The Howe Truss design bridge is still the second largest in Ohio, but takes a backseat to the Smolen-Gulf Bridge, which is the longest covered bridge in the nation and the fourth longest covered bridge in the world with an impressive 613 feet. Even through it is no longer the longest, the Harpersfield Bridge is still a great point of interest, and is an ideal spot for fishing or picnicking. 

The other bridge of note that we suggest to visit is the West Liberty Street Bridge, which is the shortest functioning covered bridge in the country! With just a span of 18 feet in length, it is honestly a bit comical when you see it! But it is also impressive to know that it was built by the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School carpentry and construction students, and to know that the timber was grown locally. Not only is it the shortest bridge, but also the newest in the county, having been built in 2011.

West Liberty Street Bridge

If you can't get enough covered bridges, try marking your calendar for the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival, which takes place every October!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ledges Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Photos by OHventures

The Ledges Area Trails
701 Truxell Road
Peninsula, OH 44264

Visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park can be overwhelming if you don’t head up with a game plan! As Ohio’s one and only National Park, CVNP is a behemoth with so much to uncover, and a diverse array of scenery and activities. It’s best to break up the park into “sections” and tackle each of these areas over a series of days, or over the course of several separate visits to the area.

Previously, we dished on the details of two popular portions of the park, Kendall Lake and the Lock 29 Trailhead. Recently, we visited another section of the park, the Ledges Area Trails, where we hiked the Ledges Trail, located just off of Truxell Road/Kendall Park Road on the south end, and just off of State Route 303 on the north end.

The Ledges Trail itself is a 1.8 mile loop that circles the Ritchie Ledges. The ledges are at some points as high as 100 feet, and so it is incredibly important to use caution when hiking or standing near the edge. The rocky terrain and slight change in elevation ranks this trail as moderate in difficulty.

The primary reason you should take a visit to The Ledges Trail is so that you can catch a gorgeous glimpse from what is known as The Overlook. As the most popular overlook in the park, this rock outcropping gives an unbeatable view of the Cuyahoga Valley (it kind of reminds me of Pride Rock in The Lion King). Since it faces west, it is the ideal spot for beautiful sunset views, and the perfect setting for a picnic. So, pack your food and be sure to plan your dinner around a visit to The Overlook!

The Ice Box Cave is also located along The Ledges Trail, but is currently closed for bat protection. In the center of the large Ledges Trail loop is the Ledges Shelter House, along with a large, open field – a popular spot for camping. Consider bringing along a tent and camping supplies for an overnight stay in the area. While we did not opt to camp on our most recent visit, there were plenty of tents pitched in the field, with a fire pit for roasting marshmallows, and a telescope for stargazing nearby.

Also in the Ledges Area are three smaller and easier trails to hike: Pine Grove Trail (1.5 miles), Forest Point Trail (0.5 miles), and Haskell Run Trail (0.5 miles). If you obtain a map on site, you can find trail connectors that can guide you to each of these small loops in the area. My suggestion is to definitely try the Haskell Run Trail, as it is connected to The Ledges Trail by a tall set of concrete steps that are a sight to see!

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, and you happen to have more time on hand, you should be sure to hike the Pine Grove Trail, and afterwards take the trail connector at the southern end of the loop to cross Truxell Road and head to the Lake Trail & Kendall Shelter. You can read all about the Lake Trail in our previous write-up.

Once you’ve conquered The Ledges Trail, you will be primed for even more exploring in the vast Cuyahoga Valley National Park!