Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Explore Geneva-On-The-Lake

Photos by OHventures (unless otherwise noted)

A tourist attraction for decades, the village of Geneva-On-The-Lake in Ashtabula County has long been known for its 1950s style "Strip" of arcade games and carnival foods along the coastline, and its impressive collection of more than 20 wineries spanning the countryside. I am a HUGE fan of heading up to Geneva-On-The-Lake to take a trip in what feels like a far-off land. The Lake Erie shores add a perfect backdrop of seemingly endless blue waters, and you can find an array of things to do on a weekend or week-long visit. 

There's enough to please any type of adventurer: the wino, the active outdoorsman, the historian, and even the laid-back relaxer in your group! Here's a collection of some of the best things to do when you explore Geneva-On-The-Lake.

1. The Lodge at Geneva-On-The-Lake (4888 N Broadway, Geneva): The romanticism of Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline is encapsulated to perfection at the upscale yet affordable Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Immaculate views of the state's northernmost shore and an array of activities and attractions for folks of any age are at your fingertips when staying at the Lodge. Dine at the Horizons

2. Lakehouse Inn & Winery (5653 Lake Road East, Geneva-On-The-Lake): While there are many wineries along the coast, I am rather fond of the Lakehouse Inn & Winery mainly due to the picturesque and breathtaking view! The wine was of course very good as well and a very affordable wine-tasting sampler is available. Sitting on the patio on a beautiful sunny day overlooking the lake makes you feel like you are in wine country in Italy or France. Truly one of the most relaxing experiences you can take!

3. Wine Shuttle Tour (board at 4888 N Broadway, Geneva): The wine shuttle pulls right up to the front entrance of The Lodge at Geneva-On-The-Lake and takes thirsty tourists to 4-5 wineries in the area, and returns to the Lodge approximately 5 hours later. Anyone is welcome on the shuttle (even those who are not staying at the Lodge), but reservations are required at $20 a person. You can request to visit certain wineries, and we suggest: Kosicek Vineyards; one of the most widely known wineries in the area, Ferrante Winery; an old church which was converted into a winery, South River Vineyards; Old Mill Winery, Grand River Cellars, and the aforementioned Lakehouse Inn.

4. The Ferris Wheel at Old Firehouse Winery (5499 Lake Rd. E. Geneva-on-the-Lake): Nothing brings back memories of childhood like a ride on an old-fashioned Ferris wheel! The Ferris wheel in Geneva-On-The-Lake can be found next to the Old Firehouse Winery (which, as the name suggests, is a winery built in an old firehouse) with rides costing just $2.75! It's a classic throwback to festivals and amusement parks of yesteryear, and the last standing relic of the now defunct Erieview Park. 

5. Geneva State Park (4499 Padanarum Rd, Geneva): This 698-acre state-run park is situated along the Lake Erie coastline, and has thick forestry and marshy inlands. You're sure to find a number of enticing activities at Geneva State Park,: hiking six-miles of multi-use trails, biking (see below), fishing, hunting, boating, archery, swimming, picnicking at the Crabapple Picnic Area, staying in one of the deluxe cedar cabins, or camping on one of the many campsites.

6. Lake Erie Shoreline (multiple addresses): The "On-The-Lake" portion of the city's name of course refers to the fact that it is located directly on the shoreline of Lake Erie - and it would be a sin to not spend at least some of your time in Geneva-On-The-Lake actually ON the lake. You could visit the shoreline in the aforementioned Geneva State Park, or find another public portion of the beach to visit. Use this time to swim, fish, suntan, picnic, skimboard, or just soak in the sights!

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

7. The Pickled Pepper (4949 Golf Ave., Geneva): There's a slew of great spots to grab food while at Geneva-On-The-Lake, but the Pickled Pepper stood out to me on a recent visit! Located on "The Strip," this neon green and yellow restaurant looks straight out of a Jimmy Buffet song, as if it belongs in a beach town like Key West. It has amazing bar food like wings, coconut battered shrimp, burgers, and jalapeno poppers, all paired nicely with a cold (non wine) alcoholic beverage and some live music!

8. Covered Bridge Tour (various locations, self-guided): Ashtabula County 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! 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.

9. Eddie's Grill (5377 Lake Rd., Geneva): Another worthwhile dining locale on The Strip of Geneva-On-The-Lake is Eddie's Grill! This iconic restaurant is straight from the 1950s era, complete with a working jukebox, a walk-up outdoor ice cream counter, a next door video game arcade, and all of the famous classics unchanged since its inception in 1950. Get the footlong chili dog with fries and a root beer float, and you won't be disappointed!

10. Water Works Water Slides (5485 Lake Rd., Geneva): This is the only item on the list I haven't experienced firsthand, but it's something on the bucket list (although I am still trying to figure out if there is an age limit...). These are 2 giant twisty-turny waterslides right on the shore, next to the Old Firehouse Winery on The Strip. A great way to cool off (again, if they allow adults, that is...).

11. GOTL Bike Trail: You can bring your own bike or even rent bikes from the front desk of the Lodge at Geneva-On-The-Lake so you can take a cycling adventure on a tame lakeside trail. The trail can be seen on the map above (outlined in blue), but you can also take the bike on the streets of GOTL, to the arcade or "The Strip." Just don't wine & bike! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

VeloSano Photo Blog

Who: Thousands of cyclists and cancer survivors (known as "Living Proof")
What: VeloSano Bike To Cure - bike rides varying in distance (12, 25, 50, 100, 179, & 207 miles)
When: July 17-19, 2015 (next year's ride is July 29-31)
Where: Starting/ending in downtown Cleveland, and weaving through Geauga, Portage, and Stark Counties.
Why: To raise money to fund cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic.
How: Sign up at Velosano.org and commit to raising a minimum amount of money!

Photos by OHventures, VeloSano, and others as noted
For more photos, visit the VeloSano Recap post!

Giant "#ThisIsCLE" sculpture at the VeloSano Kickoff Party

"WHY I RIDE" wall honoring cancer victims and survivors

Finish line food by Zach Bruell Events

Exactly how I felt after riding 100 miles - summed up in one photo!

A rider painting abstract art in honor of cancer survivors and victims

One of the GIANT hills (around mile 88) of the 100 mile course

A spread of food at Rest Stop #2 of the 100-mile course!

VeloSano finish line (photo by cbslocal.com)

Zumi The Pig! A virtual VeloSano bike rider & fundraiser!

Me painting at Rest Stop #6!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

VeloSano Recap

Photos by OHventures

The old phrase "it's like riding a bike" probably wasn't referring to riding a 100-mile bike ride across Northeast Ohio. Unlike that phrase suggests, riding 100 miles is no easy feat - something I learned firsthand while participating on July 18, 2015 in the second annual VeloSano Bike to Cure

This epic fundraising event was held in Cleveland, with over 2,000 cyclists signed up to raise money in the months leading up to their bike rides. Each cyclist was required to gather a certain amount of donations according to whichever distance they committed to pedal (12, 25, 50, 100, 179, or 207) - all of which would go towards funding cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic.

The health system where I am employed started its own team to rally for the cause. Our team consisted of 27 caregivers, all of whom opted for varying distances. Being the daredevil I am, with my ever-growing bucket list on hand, I signed up to ride 100 miles (joining just 1 other individual on my team who was going this distance). We all had matching jerseys which I thought made us look like superheroes!

Do I look like the green Power Ranger with my bike jersey?

However, no matter what distance anyone rode, we were all there to push ourselves to the limit and put ourselves under physical pressure - a small feat compared to what anyone who has ever lived with cancer has had to go through during treatment, chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Knowing individuals in my life who have personally suffered from various forms of cancer - and working at a hospital system - has given me a glimpse of the struggles cancer patients endure. They are incredibly brave and strong to go through what they do, so I was more than happy to tackle the 100 mile course.

This required me to raise $1,500. Thanks to the many others who also have experienced the pains of cancer in their own lives, I was able to reach my goal (and then some). I asked each person who donated to give me a name of an individual they knew who is a survivor or victim of cancer, and I would place their name on my jersey as a reminder as to why I ride.

At the kickoff party on Friday, June 17 (ocated at Mall B in downtown Cleveland), there was a "WHY I RIDE" wall in which I also wrote each person's name. It was powerful to see that wall fill up with names and reasons that people have chosen to be there. It was clear that this was not just any ordinary bike ride.

The kickoff party also gave me the opportunity to hear from US Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, who was there to share his family's story of cancer, and also to drive a pace car the next morning. To top things off, he even decided to ride 50 miles himself! It was an honor to see him there. It was also very tear-jerking to watch a very compelling movie on the big screen where survivors of cancer (referred to as LIVING PROOF) spoke about why they were choosing to ride and why VeloSano was such an important event.

Things were also more lighthearted at the kickoff party. I got the chance to meet the Cleveland Indians mascot, Slider (who would have to be my second favorite Slider after my dog), take a team photo, eat some grub catered by Zach Bruell Events, listen to tons of live music, pet a potbelly pig named Zumi who was a virtual rider, and even appear on the evening news (WKYC) as I was checking my bike in (I didn't know I was being filmed, but many people told me they saw me on air!).

At the start line at 7:30 AM with my fellow Century Riders!

After staying overnight at my friend's house in Willoughby Hills, it was time to start our bike ride nice and early at 7:30 AM. The 100-milers were pedaling the farthest distance you could for the 1-Day routes. They needed to start us early so we wouldn't be riding when the sun went down. I estimated I would finish the ride in about 8 hours, but you'll soon see how wrong I was!

Despite recent rainy weather, it was a beautiful sunny day all day for our ride - perhaps a little TOO sunny. When the horn blew and our race began, the sun was just rising and there was a pleasant breeze from the Lake Erie air. We weaved through downtown Cleveland with police located at each intersection for the first few miles of our ride. This allowed us to surpass any red lights or stop signs so we could make a swift exit from the busy city roadways. 

Our route was taking us east near Cleveland Heights and Beachwood, then eastward in a giant circle through or near Orange, Chagrin Falls, Solon, Aurora, back north to Burton and Chardon, then back west through Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties until we reached Shaker Heights and came back to downtown Cleveland.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

VeloSano Thank Yous

Thanking ALL who gave to my 100-mile VeloSano bike ride! $1,575 raised (105% of my goal!).

I pedaled and sweat and powered through to make it to the finish line in just about 10 hours (including all of the stops!) Miraculously I am not sore days later (although I do have a heat rash - yuck). 

It was incredibly challenging and so inspiring to ride through the countryside of Northeast Ohio for such a great cause. 

Knowing that 4,500 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every DAY is reason alone to take on this task. To all that gave money and cheered me on, YOU the true champs! 


My Family: Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Patty, Curt, Regina, Cousin Linda, Aunt Phyllis

My Co-Workers: Sue, Robert, Debbie, Rose, Ryan C., Carol & Bruce, Sara

My Hometown Friends: Marti & Butch, Darla, Matt & Carrie, Marcy, Marisa, Mike V., Clara, Chuck

My Fellow Torchbearers: Erica, Paul, Amanda, Danielle, Michael

The RHB Crew: Ryan, Judy, Norma & Ron, Ali & Derek, Suzanne, Pattie & Dan, Nadine, Mary, Fran, Stacey & Marc, 

The OSU Bunch: Steve, Caitlyn, Jared G., Matt C., Alyce, Andrea, Jared B.

More Thanks: Gary, David & Deborah, Jason F., Sherri', Lisa

Special Thanks: 
To Emily, for letting me crash at your place in Willoughby Hills!
To Bruce, a volunteer on race day who helped me at the finish line!
To Erin, our fearless Team Captain!
To God, for getting me through and keeping me safe!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thirsty Dog 8K Recap

Photos by OHventures

It has officially been the wettest summer on record so far for Ohio. This factoid does not bode well if you are one who enjoys running, biking, swimming, hiking, or doing basically anything outdoors. But when you've paid top dollar to run in one of the most anticipated events in Akron, you show up no matter what the conditions!

A weather advisory was issued for the day of the Thirsty Dog 8K & 1 Mile (Saturday, June 27) calling for severe thunderstorms. My drive up to InfoCision Stadium on the campus of the University of Akron was slow & cautious, with legitimate fear that the roads would flood. But at this point, I was committed!

This race was the first event in the first year of the Akron Marathon's Rubber City Race Series leading up to the main event in the fall. It was presented by the popular local craft brewery, Thirsty Dog Brewing Company, which is one of my favorite places to go in the A-K-Rowdy. Because of their sponsorship, a miniature beer festival was taking place at the finish line. Definitely motivation to make it through the rainy run! 

(SIDE NOTE: I am sensing a theme to my recent races: Ultimate Beer Run, AkRun & Crawl, and now this...is it time for an intervention?).

All of the precipitation ended up adding to the fun of the 8K race! I had a poncho on to avoid getting totally soaked. It was pretty effective, actually. But there was no avoiding the rain. Hands down, this was the wettest run I have done. And, I have to say: I highly recommend it! With all of the themed runs out there where you get slathered in something (like mud, paint, or foam), a "rain run" should be the next big thing! After all, when we were kids, what was more fun than playing in the rain?!

The route started on Union Street at InfoCision Stadium, going straight onto Brown Street, turning left onto Thornton, and a quick left onto Spicer. Then, a left onto Buchtel, right onto College, left onto Mill, left onto Main, left onto Bartges, and left onto Broadway. Then, you turn right onto Arc, wrapping around onto Wolf Ledges and Carroll. It ends with a final wraparound of the InfoCision Stadium, running onto Summa Field!

Now for the fun part. 25 varieties of Thirsty Dog beer were awaiting! We received finisher medals shaped like the puppy on the Thirsty Dog logo - which doubled as a bottle opener! We also received small beer sampler cups to fill up using our drink tickets. Of course, many people did not want to wait around in the rain for the beer, so me and my pal Karlo ended up with way more tickets than we started out with (people just started handing them out before leaving). This helped us get a nice variety of beers in our bellies!

Karlo, Me, and my Poncho

Thirsty Dog actually created TWO brand new beers specifically for the race. The beers were aptly called Blue Line Ale and Blue Line Lager (named after the iconic blue line of the Akron Marathon). Both beers were light with a great malt balance, perfect for after a race (no one wants a heavy brew after hitting the pavement for 5 miles). They also were serving their own homemade root beer for those 21 & under. Since I had so many tickets, I took a taste!

Other beers offered for tasting included Labrador Lager, Whippet Wheat, Raspberry Ale, and Irish Setter Red. Karlo and I sampled a fair portion of the beers offered on site before we called it quits. The best part is, we got to keep the mini tasting glass as well as a full-sized commemorative beer stein so we can continue on with the festivities at home! 

Black Diamond Bicycles

11325 Jackson Dr,
The Plains, OH 45780
(740) 797-0880

Established just last year in 2014, Black Diamond Bicycles is a family-friendly one-stop-shop for cyclists of all abilities. Located in The Plains (near the city of Athens) in the Eclipse Company Town (a historic coal heritage site) and less than 5 miles from Ohio University, it is perfect for those who are riding through on the nearby Hockhocking Adena Bikeway in need of a bike tune-up, or for anyone who is looking to for bike repairs or purchases.

Riding  the fat bike!

The shop offers new and used mountain, road, and cruiser bikes for children and adults alike. You can get snacks (such as ice cream or energy bars), or any bike parts or accessories (helmets, seat covers, water bottles, cases, gloves, etc.). Best yet - Black Diamond Bicycles also has an array of bikes for rent, in case you do not feel like hauling your bike to the path, or if you don't own your own bike. It's also great to give new bikes a spin.

They have some cool and unique offerings that I had the opportunity to personally try out on a recent visit! One of the owners, Vince, let me take a ride on a "fat bike" (also known as a wide tire bike) which is basically a bicycle with over-sized tires designed as such so that you can ride in unstable and rough terrain. Notably, the fat bikes are used in snowy conditions, on winter trails and tundras. They are extremely versatile and have been becoming increasingly popular in recent years. Riding the fat bike proved to be rather easy - the wide tires made for a smooth ride!

Next, Vince let me take a ride with him on a re-purposed tandem (meaning two seats) recumbent (meaning you are in a laid back reclining position) bike that he custom-built! Riding this contraption required you to be in sync with your cycling partner. It also required a bit of concentration, because the steering was done by a crank-handle on the left side of the bike. Unlike some tandem bikes, this one is a "social tandem" because our seats were side-by-side (as shown in the photos above). It was a really fun and different experience riding on the tandem recumbent, but I was ready to hit the trail on a regular bike!

The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway is a 21-mile bike path that stretches between Nelsonville and Athens in Athens County. It is named after the first inhabitants of Southeast Ohio (the Adena Indians), and the Shawnee name for the Hocking River (Hockhocking, which means "bottleneck"). It is a "rails to trails" bikeway, because it is located on the site of the old Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad. It is a diverse trail, with both rural cornfields and urban campus streets along the way. You can see not only the aforementioned Eclipse Company Town, but other historical sites, such as the ruins of the Hocking Canal, and the burial mounds built by the Adena tribe.

We rented some hybrid road bikes and rode approximately 5 miles along the path near Black Diamond Bicycles. We were able to see some great scenery along the way, including lush forest and wide open fields. Signs were posted near on the trail leading bicyclists to Black Diamond in case they needed a tune-up or a quick repair (such as air in their tires, gear adjustments, or other fixes). Basic tune-up packages begin at $39. Rentals begin at just $12 an hour, which is quite a bargain! 

Stop in and find everything you need to hit the trails of Athens County (and all of Ohio)!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Devil's Kettle Brewing

Photos by OHventures

97 Columbus Road
Athens, OH 45701
(740) 589-7187

Having just opened its doors earlier this year, Devil's Kettle Brewing is the newest brewery in Athens, and also one of the newest in Ohio! Located in a modest setting right off of State Route 33, the craft beers found here and the high-tech machinery behind-thetscenes make this place anything but modest.

I was given a specialized private tour from the brewmaster and owner of Devil's Kettle, Cameron Fuller. First up was the tasting room, which is lined with ample high top seating alongside a sleek bar with a custom-made counter top built with old acoustic guitar pieces. Dozens of growlers line the wall beside the beer taps, all adorned with the flashy and stylish Devil's Kettle logo.

Sitting at the bar, it was time to taste the hellishly delicious booze that has been taking Southeast Ohio by storm. The 5 beers I sampled were all different in their own way, and all so good that it was tough to pick my favorite. Tastings are offered in small 4 oz. glasses, which are for sale to take home for just $4 a piece. Taste all 5 for just $8!

(Side Note: If you make a pit stop in the bathroom - which you should if you drink enough - you will find chalkboards lining the walls. If it's not erased by now, we were sure to leave a message saying "Ohio-fy Your Life With Devil's Kettle!")

The beers available on tap when I visited (in no particular order) were:

1. Eric The Red: If I was forced to pick my favorite, this would be it. This red ale has a funny back story for its name, so be sure to ask Cameron or your bartender to fill you in and fill you up!
2. Spider Silk Blonde: I was warned about this one. Some locals told me it was tasty, but had a very high alcohol volume. With 7% ABV, I have definitely had stronger, but this is the strongest of the bunch here, and has a great balance.
3. Justin IPA: Justin IPA is "just an IPA" but one taste of this will have you wanting more.
4. Freak The Mild: This low-alcohol (session beer) brown ale packs a heap of malt flavor into such a small beer, and an homage to one of England's pub classics.
5. Gallatea Dunkel: This dark lager has a coffee-like and chocolatey flavor to it that is smooth and sweet!

Beware the Spider!

Now that I had the chance to taste the goodness produced at Devil's Kettle, it was time to get an up close and personal look at how it is made! Cameron opened a small door next to the bar, which led me to an enormous space filled with stainless steel contraptions - where all the magic happens! It reminded me of something you'd see on Willy Wonka - only better, since beer is involved.

I'll be honest - even though Cameron told me how it is done, and even though I took what I thought were pretty thorough notes, I really can't explain it very well. All I know is that this is some technical business! Beer making is definitely an art form, and the set-up at Devil's Kettle is state-of-the-art and a cut above most others in the area. Since I really am not good at letting you know the science and the trade secrets that went into the making of this fine brew, make sure to ask Cameron for the inside scoop when you make a visit on your next road trip!

Devil's Kettle's taproom is open at various times on Thursday-Sunday, some days featuring food trucks in the parking lot! Stop in and let them know OHventures sent ya!