Ohio Continuation – Canton to Columbus

It’s been a busy past two days with meetings outside of Cleveland and Columbus, and regardless of having to work a lot, there are few highlights I want to share. Ohio is rich with natural spaces and historical sites. Two of those historical sites are James A Garfield National Historic Site (Mentor, Ohio) and First Ladies National Historic Site (Canton, OH). There are plenty of others all over the state, and you can find the list and map of all of them here: http://www.nps.gov/state/oh/index.htm?program=parks. History isn’t my thing, but I had a meeting at First Ladies and enjoyed viewing a different perspective of American History that we don’t normally see or think about. The main building has a rotating exhibit displaying a specific First Lady or topic involving the Ladies – art work, written documents, clothing, etc., that show us a part of their lives and contributions to our country. Down the street is the Saxton-McKinley house, which is a charming, well-preserved historical building that greatly contrasts with the concrete new construction of the city. For lunch, I walked down the street in search of something local and unique, and landed at Arcadia Grill. It looks like a typical not-so-special bar on the outside; but inside, you enter into a local down-home Midwestern gathering place with staff that calls you “honey,” plastic table covers, and locals that hang out to chat and enjoy the homemade Italian and American food at outstanding prices. I got the portabella mushroom ravioli which was on special, and it came just as I would expect in a Midwestern family Italian joint – smothered in red sauce with a side salad of iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato with homemade Italian dressing. I felt satisfied for finding a local hang-out and barely making a dent in my travel budget.

Also in the area that I want to note is Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I was not able to stop by, but the pictures are incredible. Check it out – there aren’t too many National Parks in the Midwest.

Upon arriving in Columbus, it was already dinner time, and luckily, I already had dinner decided for me – my boss’ sister’s restaurants. It meant more Italian food, but it’s hard to have too much Italian, and this place was well worth the Italian meal repeat. There are two restaurants to choose from – Figlio and Vino Vino. Figlio has been open longer, and it has a more laid-back atmosphere and a menu filled that focuses on wood-fired pizza, pasta, and salads. Vino Vino, which is connected to Figlio, is a wine bar with a more sophisticated menu. If you sit in Vino Vino, you can order from both menus. Not the case if you sit in Figlio (the kitchen for Vino Vino is much smaller). The staff is so friendly and knowledgeable, and the menu makes it hard to choose. I highly recommend the goat cheese appetizer at Vino Vino and trying one of their three (or maybe all three!) wine flights.

This morning was dedicated to working in the hotel room, but on suggestion from my boss’ restaurateur sister, we had lunch at the Northstar Cafe. Healthy, fresh, sustainable, satisfying…I wish this small chain (3 locations in Columbus) was in Chicago. And since they knew it was our first time there, they comped our meal! I find that a lot of sustainable, farm-to-table restaurants are vegan, or too “granola.” Not this place. There are plenty of vegan/veggie options and the menu is far from meat heavy, but the meat they do offer comes from local farmers and is anti-biotic/hormone free. And coming from a former 10-year vegetarian (myself), the chicken is delicious. I highly recommend the Korma Bowl with Chicken and their Shooting Star juice. My only complaint – which is more of a preference – is that the only option for coffee is coffee – no espresso machine. Other than that, there’re plenty of loose leaf teas, a few beers and wines, and fresh squeezed juices to choose from. My meal was so big and filling that I took a to-go box and had the leftovers for dinner.

Although Columbus seems to have a great food scene, I have to admit that I will not be trying any other places tomorrow, which is my last day. Back to Northstar for lunch and Vino Vino for dinner.

Often when I travel, it’s really hard to stick with a work-out and yoga routine. I try as best as I can to do workouts and yoga self-practice in my hotel room or the tiny hotel gym if one is available. Luckily, my boss’ niece, whom I met at dinner the previous night, is a wonderful yoga teacher and happened to be teaching tonight. I ventured out to Replenish, a spa that just started a donation-base yoga program this week, focusing on yoga for everyday life. In a refurbished garage, the yoga space is wonderful, calming, and inviting. If you happen to live in Columbus or find yourself there for business or pleasure, do yourself a favor and take Kevlin’s class. This isn’t your gym-rat, do chaturanga after chaturanga yoga. Very calming, Kevlin guides a practice that is appropriate for everyone, and especially if you have never done yoga before. The only thing you have to “worry” about is your breath. I am writing this very zen-like right now and my breath is slow and steady, quite the opposite than when I walked into class. Thanks Kevlin!


James A Garfield National Historic Site
8095 Mentor Avenue
Mentor, Ohio 44060
(440) 255-8722

May 1- Oct 31: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm
Nov 1-April 20: Fri and Sat 10am-5pm
Closed on major national holidays

First Ladies National Historic Site
205 Market Avenue South
Canton, OH 44702-2107
(330) 452-0876

Visits to the Saxton House and the Education and Research Center are by paid guided tour only.
Adults: $7.00
Seniors: $6.00
Children under age 18: $5.00
Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m., plus Sundays in June, July & August at 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m.  Reservations required for groups of 6 or more only, recommended for all others.
Closed on major national holidays

Arcadia Grill
321 Court Ave NW
Canton, OH 44702
(330) 454-6055
Mon-Tues: 11am-7:30pm
Wed-Fri: 9am-2:30am
Sat: 7am-2:30am
Sun: 8am-9pm

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Main Visitor Center: Boston Store Visitor Center
1550 Boston Mills Road
(330) 657-2752
Open every day, some areas close at dusk, otherwise, open 24 hours.
Visitor centers closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day

Figlio and Vino Vino
(http://www.figliopizza.com/ and http://www.vinovinocolumbus.com/vindex.html)
1369/1371 Grandview Ave
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 481-8850/(641) 481-8200
Open Mon – Sat at 5:00pm

The Northstar Café
3 locations in Columbus
Open daily 9am-10pm
(I’ve been told their breakfast is fantastic! Breakfast stops being served at 11am)

Replenish Spa Co-op
124 S Washington Ave
Columbus, OH 43215

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Back at it in 2014…and Cleveland!

Ahhh the blog…I somehow failed to write anything for the months of October-December. I can list a bunch of excuses, but they don’t matter – back at it in 2014. In October-December I went back to Nebraska, back to the Madison, WI area, and traveled to Iowa City, Iowa. There are a few gems from each of the trips that I should write about, so maybe I will circle back to them at some point. Especially since I honestly thought I wouldn’t ever make it back to Nebraska, but I’m glad I did. I re-visited some of my favorites and discovered some new ones. Although I would never move to Nebraska, I have grown to really like the state.

Today, I write from Cleveland, Ohio – first business trip of 2014!

I’ve been looking forward to Cleveland for one reason: Great Lakes Brewing Company – I have to keep up with my tradition of visiting a local brewpub and adding a pint glass to my collection! This is my second time in Cleveland (first time I was 11, so it doesn’t’ really count) and I’ve driven through northern Ohio countless times. I’ve been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – although since I was young, I didn’t really appreciate what I viewing – and I’ve seen Lake Erie. Since I’m here on business this time around, I didn’t have time to re-visit the museum or the lake, but I was able to enjoy the good beer and food at Great Lakes. Great Lakes is located in the Market District of Cleveland. Typical of Midwest cities – Chicago and Omaha are two examples – these old, industrial warehouse districts have turned into “hip” foodie areas of each city (Fulton Market in Chicago, Old Market in Omaha). Although in Fulton Market in Chicago a handful of the food distributors and butchers remain, most of the buildings in each city have been transformed into restaurants, lounges, breweries, and coffee shops. It was raining and I wasn’t prepared, so I was not able to explore the Market in Cleveland like I wanted to, but seeing some of the storefronts to the new bars and restaurants from the car made me wish I was staying another night. There is even another brewery across from Great Lakes!

Cleveland does not have best reputation of American cities, and my 24hours here won’t shine much light on the city, but one thing that sets it apart from the rest is the chain of natural areas that surround the city. Cleveland Metroparks maintains 23,000 acres in 18 reservations. Also known at the “Emerald Necklace,” these green spaces provide a very lengthy list of activities that you can do around the city any time of year. Fancy archery, biking, or golf?  How about cross-country skiing, fish, and horseback riding? Or the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo? Just to name a few. I was told by a New Jersey transplant who works at Cleveland Metroparks that he is afraid to tell people about the park system because he doesn’t want everyone to show up and ruin it! Visit the website (http://www.clevelandmetroparks.com) and explore away…   (Chicagoans, Cleveland is a quick 45min flight away! Or a 5hr drive)

So, don’t completely turn your head to Cleveland. Definitely worth the stop if you’re passing through, or a quick weekend get-away for fellow Midwesterners.

On deck for tomorrow:  heading south to Columbus, Ohio, stopping for a meeting at the First Ladies National Historic Site. Don’t know if I’ll have time for Cuyahoga National Park, but maybe…

Great Lakes Brewing Company (www.greatlakesbrewing.com)
2516 Market Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Phone: (216) 771-4404

Cleveland MetroParks (http://www.clevelandmetroparks.com)
Admin office:
4101 Fulton Parkway Cleveland, OH 44144
Phone: (216) 635-3200 (General Cleveland Metroparks information – 24-hours a day)

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & The RainForest
3900 Wildlife Way Cleveland, OH 44109
Phone: (216) 661-6500/24-hour information

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Pictures – Mount Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest, & Custer State Park

Happily back in Chicago but still can’t believe that I saw Mount Rushmore and bison in Custer State Park! Here’s a selection of my pics – it’s amazing how many pictures one can take of bison and some faces in a rock.

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Pictures – Wall, Badlands National Park, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

No big explorations today, so I figured this would be a good time to post some pictures – Wall, Badlands, and Buffalo Gap. I had a few hundred pics to choose from, so this is just a handful of them. I head back to Chicago tomorrow after a morning meeting in Spearfish. I have had a wonderful time in western South Dakota, but I am excited to get back to my big city. I love nature and the environment – it’s my career one of my passions – but i will always be a big city girl!

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Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forest

Another beautiful day in South Dakota. The sun was shining and the weather was in the upper 70s. Fall is definitely the perfect time to visit, as I can only imagine how hot it gets in the summer. I have always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, and today I was finally able to check that off my list! It’s amazing how many pictures you can take of four former presidents’ heads carved into a rock. Mount Rushmore gets a couple million visitors a year. I was there in the morning and it was already teeming with tourists. On summer evenings, there is a light show, which is the largest attended of its kind in the National Park system – the amphitheater sits 3,000. There is a nice boardwalk to walk around and get different perspectives of the presidents. It does cost to park your car, so if you want to do things cheaply, it is visible on the road as you drive by and you can just pull off the road in the designated area. If you are headed to Custer State Park afterward and take HWY 16, you can also see it from a few of the scenic viewpoints.

I have had so many friends tell me about Custer State Park and it fully delivered the amazing landscape and wildlife that they promised. AND I SAW BISON!!! They are such amazing creatures, and just like Mount Rushmore, I have been wanting to see bison (commonly known as American buffalo) in the wild for years. I took HWY 16 from Rushmore – it’s a tight, windy road that takes you through the Black Hills National Forest. If you aren’t comfortable with driving, this isn’t the road for you. Tight turns, single-lane tunnels, and steep drop-offs characterize this road that enters into Custer State Park. But, it’s totally worth it if you don’t mind that sort of thing. This road is closed in the winter, so get out here now! Custer State Park is similar to the Badlands in that there is one main road – the Wildlife Loop – that you can drive around to see the bison and other critters that make the park home. There are some trails and other small roads to take, but with a pounding headache, I just needed to see the bison, grab some lunch, and get out. I stopped at the visitor center to ask about the best place to see the bison. Because they are rounding them up on Friday (they do this once a year for the health and stability of the population), they were mostly all located in one section. At the first place I saw them, I got out of the car since they were just off of the road behind a fence. I could have spent a few hours just looking and taking pictures…but I eventually got back in the car, thinking that I wouldn’t see any more. Boy was I wrong. Just a bit further, there were hundreds of them on both side of the road, and they decided that they would cross the road whenever they damn well pleased – you can do this when you weigh 300-500lbs! They really didn’t seem to mind at all that there were cars and people everywhere. A word of warning, bison aren’t necessarily mean, but they aren’t friendly either. So keep your distance if you are out of your car, and don’t try to pet (or feed them) when they pass right by your window. I ended up being stuck on the road for a bit with some other cars since the bison weren’t in a hurry to cross to the other side! But, with all of the calves around, it was incredible to just sit there and look at the little ones, and then awe at the size of the big males. After finally getting passed the bison, I stopped for lunch at the Blue Belle lodge, as recommended by the friendly staff at the visitor center. They have THE best corn bread. What I didn’t eat at the table, I took with me for later but ended up eating it almost right away. In an effort to not make this post too long, I will stop here. But, I should mention that this park has it all – camping, horseback riding, lodges, hiking, biking, wildlife…you could be there for days and not get bored. It does cost to get in, but totally worth it!

To get back to Rapid City, I drove through the town of Custer and then followed the signs to Rapid City. There are other scenic routes, but I had spent enough time in the car already today.

Tomorrow – heading back to the Black Hills National Forest, and then I don’t know…it depends on how much work I need to do in the hotel room. Possibly a scenic drive up to Spearfish??

Mount Rushmore National Monument (http://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm)
13000 Highway 244
Building 31, Suite 1
Keystone, SD 57751-0268
Visitor Information: 605-574-3171

The grounds are open the following hours:
March 20 – September 30: 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
October 1 – March 19: 5:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

See website for Visitor Center, Evening Lighting Ceremony, Sculptor’s Studio…

Custer State Park (http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/)
13329 US HWY 16A
CUSTER, SD 57730

Too much info to give in one spot – visit the website for camping, lodging, visitor center info, etc

Black Hills National Forest (http://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills)
Supervisor’s Office
1019 N. 5th Street
Custer, SD 57730
(605) 673-9200

See website for info on camping, recreation, etc

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Badlands National Park, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Wow…everyone, drop what you are doing and get over the Badlands National Park right now. It is an absolutely incredible place, unexpected, breathtaking. But before I talk about the Badlands…I started off the day at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Get ready, this place is the fastest growing unit in the National Park Service right now. They have a very small visitor center at the moment, which is in the parking lot of a gas station, but in November 2014 they will have a brand-spanking-new 7500 square feet visitor center. There are two historic structures that you can tour – Delta-01 Launch Control Facility and Delta-09 Launch Facility and Missile Silo – and learn about Cold War history. History buffs, you’ll love it. The great thing about Minuteman is its location – minutes from the Badlands and the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.

Driving east to these sites from Rapid City, you are bombarded by signs along the highway for Wall Drug, a South Dakota institution in Wall, SD. I HAD to stop and check out the famous Jackalope (see pic!). I didn’t have much time, but if you have some time to kill, stop in for some homemade donuts (they smelled delicious) and shop for knickknacks to your heart’s content. Super touristy and kitschy, but fun none-the-less. You can use Wall as your launch-point for the Badlands and Buffalo Gap.

The Buffalo Gap National Grasslands surround the Badlands. It’s an incredible contradiction – the flat, expansive, seemingly endless grasslands, and then all of a sudden, crazy rock formations appear and dominate the horizon. The rock formations are like nothing I have ever seen. Geology-lovers will not be able pull themselves away. The different strata in the rocks are strikingly visible – horizontal layers of reds, pinks, greys, and browns in some areas, and then vertical columns of rock in others. The minute I entered the park my jaw dropped and I couldn’t believe what I was actually seeing. The park is extremely easy to navigate – there is basically one main two-lane highway that you drive through with many scenic look-outs along the way. There are a few trails, but most are less than 1 mile (one is 4 miles, another is 10) and are easy to walk along since they are “paved” with a boardwalk. I was definitely the youngest in the park today (summer they get lots of families, fall is mostly seniors), and probably about half of the visitors were foreign – mostly German that I could gather from language/accents. Because of the ease of getting around, it’s a great park for families and any level of fitness. Word of advice – bring some snacks. I pretty much left because I was getting really hungry and didn’t have any food left. There is one hotel in the park with a restaurant, but I was already on the other end. Another fun surprise was the prairie dogs and big horned sheep. There’s an area along the road that has a pretty big conglomeration of the prairie dogs. They don’t like it when you get close and will squeak at you until you leave. It’s really the funniest thing listening to them squeak away – I couldn’t help but laugh. You can also find the sheep chilling on the side of the road, and they didn’t seem to mind when I drove right up, rolled down my window, and snapped some pics.

Heading back to Rapid City, I recommend taking highway 44 for a scenic drive through Buffalo Gap. You can see bison in the grasslands, but I unfortunately didn’t see any today. Cattle were pretty prevalent, however. The road was fairly empty and infrastructure is scarce, so I really felt like I was seeing the “real” South Dakota. Being super hungry, I didn’t want to decide where to eat, so I ended back at Firehouse Brewing. This time got the Firehouse Red beer and chicken sandwich, both which I recommend.

Tomorrow – Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park!

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (http://www.nps.gov/mimi/planyourvisit/index.htm)

“The Cold War – an event lasting almost 50 years in human history that caused fear, panic, and distrust during the time of nuclear weapons development in the United States and Soviet Union. Minuteman missiles held the power to destroy civilization, but this destructive force also acted as a nuclear deterrent which maintained peace and prevented war.”

The Visitor Center is located off I-90 Exit 131
Open 7 days a week 8:00am-4:30pm
Check online for tour schedule and availability

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands (http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nebraska/recarea/?recid=30329)

Visitor Center located at:
08 Main Street
Wall, SD 57790

Badlands National Park (http://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm)
“The rugged beauty of the Badlands draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.”

Park is open 24/7 with entrance fees collected year-round

Ben Reifel Visitor Center
25216 Ben Reifel Road
P.O. Box 6
Interior, SD 57750
(605) 433-5361
Hours of Operation – Mountain Time Zone
8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Winter Hours)
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (mid-April to mid-May)
8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Summer Hours)
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (early September to late October)

CLOSED on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

Note: pics are from my phone, much better pics coming later in the week


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Rapid City, South Dakota

It’s been a few weeks, but I had a three week gap in my travels. Back on the road this week around Rapid City, South Dakota! It’s my first time in South Dakota and I’ve been looking forward to visiting since I learned that it is part of my territory for work. Here’s the first post of the trip:

Good thing I am not scared of flying and have been in 5-seater planes in third-world countries…otherwise it would have not have been a fun plane ride from Chicago to Rapid City, South Dakota! Aboard a 50-seater regional aircraft that had a ceiling height just a couple inches above my head (I’m 5’ 6.5”), we descended into dreary, windy, rainy, Rapid City. The landscape had quickly changed from flatter-than-flat farmland to rolling hills and green pastures. Bales of hay dotted the landscape and small lakes filled craters among the hills. I looked down at a river and saw a single row-boat tied to the shore, wishing my camera wasn’t in my suitcase because it was such a serene scene that I wanted to capture. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t a nice welcome, but the rain has already cleared and the next few days are going to be absolutely gorgeous.

Immediately upon leaving the airport I saw cattle and horses, casinos and motorcycle shops, leather goods and big trucks, and everything labeled ‘Rushmore.’ I am definitely in the West.

Rapid City is much bigger than I thought it would be, and it has a downtown district along Main Street that is similar to Omaha’s Old Market area; however Rapid City’s Main Street is a bit larger, with more boutiques, art shops, and souvenir places. Since I had an afternoon meeting, I took wasn’t able to take a stroll around Main Street after dinner. Although most of the shops were closed and it was dark (I’ll try to get there another day when they are open!), I felt safe walking around checking out dinner options for other nights and peeking into the windows of the boutiques. Up and down Main and the surrounding streets, there are statues of former US Presidents (there is apparently a president’s tour you can take), so you can find your favorite and take a picture with him – I found James Madison and snapped a pic, since James Madison University is my grad school alma mater. Back at my car I texted my dad saying, “Rapid City ain’t half bad!” I think I’m going to enjoy my next 3.5 days.

For dinner, I honored my tradition of dining at a local brew pub and ended up at Firehouse Brewing Company on Main Street. I am a huge fan of this place and won’t be surprised if I end up back there. I asked the bartender what his favorite beer is and he suggested their Drunken Dunkle, which as described by Firehouse is a sweet, dark, unfiltered wheat beer. It was definitely my favorite beer on my Midwest road trips so far. For dinner I had the Asian Pan Seared Tuna Salad. I thought the last thing I would eat in SD was fish…but it was delicious. I figured I eat fish in Chicago, so it’s really no different – we’re just as far from the ocean! One of the best things about brew pubs while traveling is you generally meet some pretty cool people. I struck up a conversation with a sweet retired couple who had asked me to take their picture. They randomly decided to get in their car and drive across the country from Massachusetts, planning to be on the road for 5-6 weeks. I told them I was surprised that they were still talking – they laughed and said it’s because it’s only been one week!

Day one done. Tomorrow – Badlands National Park, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

Firehouse Brewing Company (http://www.firehousebrewing.com/)
610 Main Street
Rapid City, SD 57709
11-11 Mon-Thurs
11-12 Fri-Sat
11-10 Sun

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