Fitness Friday: Like Riding a Bike…

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July 2014. New bike helmet!

Here I am last summer, proudly sporting my brand new bike helmet. Notice the sign behind me? Proceed Without Caution–the Dirty Girl Mud Run slogan. In this particular case, I really should have used more caution, as this bike helmet was the result of a bad spill I took which scared both me and the husband enough that we decided it was time to be grown-ups and wear helmets. Besides, they make us look sportier, like serious cyclers.

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7/25/2014. Wild Ride at the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo

We had purchased new bicycles together as a 25th anniversary gift to each other at the end of the summer in 2013. We had taken the trip of a lifetime to Oregon (watch Travel Tuesday in the future for details) but wanted to buy ourselves a gift that was a commitment to be more active together. Because our anniversary is at the end of August, and the husband coaches football, this didn’t leave a lot of bicycling time before the weather turned. It was a great time to buy the bikes, though, as they mark them down at the end of the summer, so we got great prices.

Here is a photo from the only organized bicycling event we have attended so far. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me as there was a giant hill that I was worried about conquering after my mishap on a similarly steep hill a month earlier, which resulted in a bone bruise that still bothers me a year later. It was a great time, though, because I was able to reconnect with a dear friend (who would kill me if I put her photo in here) that I hadn’t seen in years.

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Labor Day weekend 2014. Allegheny National Forest Anniversary Trip.

We took our bikes for their first road trip on the Jeep to the Allegheny National Forest last summer because we had heard and read so many places that it was such a wonderful bicycling area. As novice bikers, what we failed to realize was that it is great for cycling on the road. But we are not experienced at riding on the road, and we stick to paved trails here at home; the trail shown above was really too rough for the tires we had on our bikes, so we didn’t make it very far that day. Our favorite paved trails in our area are: the North Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland MetroParks; the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga National Park; the Maple Highlands Trail in the Geauga County Park District; and the Summit Metro Parks Bike & Hike Trail, one of the first “rail to trail” conversions in the country. The Maple Highlands Trail is also a rail to trail path.Thanks to our good friends (and world-traveling bicyclers) Pam and Jim for all of the great trail advice!

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Labor Day Weekend 2014. Allegheny National Forest anniversary trip.

We were able to find just one “paved” trail in the area of the Allegheny National Forest where we stayed, and it was actually packed limestone, like the Canal Towpath Trail we use in Peninsula, Ohio. It wasn’t very long but it was pretty and mostly flat, winding around a little river. It was very difficult to find the trail head and we encountered some very shady characters along the way which will likely find a place in a short story series I have in mind. Watch out for the “Cult of the Primitive Star” stories in the future…we had great fun inventing back stories for the characters we met that weekend on our little adventure.

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Labor Day weekend 2014.

Although this path was too rough and it was raining most of the weekend, we had a great first adventure with the Jeep and bikes. I am perfectly happy being a paved trail bicycler, and I may never ride on the open road. For me, bicycling is a return to childhood freedom and the pure, unadulterated joy of flying down the hills at top speed, wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth. What more could a girl need?

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Travel Tuesday: Put-in-Bay, Ohio

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Last summer (2014) my husband and I and our two adult children, ages 21 and 25, suddenly realized we all had a few days off at the same time. We wanted to take a little trip but we would have to plan it fast. We hadn’t been up to the Lake Erie islands since the kids were small, and were able to find a cute little B & B called Ashley’s Island House in Put-in-Bay (http://www.ashleysislandhouse.com/) with three reasonably priced rooms together and available, so we took it!  Above is the shoreline of South Bass Island at East Point. I loved the EVOLVE message there, which resonated so much with me at a time when I was making big changes in my life.

While we went to Put-in-Bay for a family trip, the popular destination has become known as the “Key West of the North” or the “Key West of the Great Lakes” in recent years. The weekends are very crowded, but as we went during the week we missed the worst of the crowds. In addition to the many restaurants and bars, the island hosts two wineries, including Heineman’s Winery, which is also the location of the largest geode in the world. See below some photos from our winery and geode tour, where you can see that the geode is large enough for multiple people to stand in it together!

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We didn’t particularly enjoy the wines at Heineman’s (or the kitschy atmosphere), but they were quite inexpensive–many under $10 a bottle. We much preferred the Put-in-Bay Winery which had a more reserved, traditional winery feel about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos from that tour, but it is definitely worth the minimal cost. The history of the property’s house and winery are very interesting, plus they are very generous with their tasting samples on the tour; I believe you get eight, and not in those tiny plastic cups–in a wine glass–and my personal favorite was their “Celebration” sparkling Moscato. At $22.95 a bottle, it would make a great gift or special event wine for those who don’t enjoy champagne.

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While on Put-in-Bay, definitely rent the cruiser bicycles. That was one of the favorite parts of the trip for our entire family–riding good, old-fashioned cruiser bikes around the island. Our B & B included the use of their bikes free with our stay, but there are many other rental facilities. We rented a golf cart for one day, but found we really didn’t need it, as we could easily have biked to all the places we drove the cart. (It was fun to ride in the golf card, though!) Above are photos from Perry’s Monument. History buffs will be thrilled with the Battle-of-Lake-Erie displays and other Great Lakes history on the island.

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The island is also a unique ecosystem with important species native to the Great Lakes. Above is a beautiful vineyard adjacent to a protected wildlife area. There is an area nearby where you can hike down to the shore and enjoy the wildlife of South Bass Island. It is very quiet out near East Point where these photos were taken. My husband and I went out running early in the mornings and enjoyed the serenity of the quiet island in the residential areas.

Below is just one of the many signs you will see about the Lake Erie Water Snake. While we were kayaking, we got to see one of them up close and personal. We had two kayaks–a mother-son team and a father-daughter team. As I was part of the winning–that is, the mother-son–team, we were out far ahead of my husband and daughter when we heard a scream. A huge, black water snake had lifted its head about a foot out of the water just yards from my husband and daughter’s kayak. They started rowing a much faster after that!

On our last day on the island, my 25-year-old son paddled his kayak all the way out to Middle Bass Island (alone) in what he fancied as his Young Man and the Sea Hemingway-esqe experience. I guess that’s appropriate in the Key West of the Great Lakes.

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Although Put-in-Bay is a popular party destination, rest assured that families, nature lovers, history buffs, wine tasters, and active vacationers can enjoy this Lake Erie gem as well. Oh, and while you are there, make sure you stop by the Old Forge Cafe and Creperie. We could have eaten every meal there–crepes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. They also serve a grapefruit shandy beer that is the one and only beer this non-beer-drinking girl has ever enjoyed.

Saturday in the Suburbs: Shaker Heights, Chagrin Falls, and more

Here’s what’s going on in our little corner of Cleveland’s Eastern Suburbs this weekend:

We’ve been spending a lot of time in Shaker Heights on Saturdays lately, as their Farmers Market opens earlier in the season than anyone else near us. The 2015 season began April 4 and runs through December 19 this season. The North Union Farmers Market (www.northunionfarmersmarket.org) takes over Shaker Square every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon.

The first weekend in June is an especially fun time to visit Shaker Heights, as the Sussex area (near the school at 19824 Sussex Road, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 44122) holds its annual neighborhood sale on Saturday, June 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even if you are not an avid garage saler, the neighborhood is so beautiful and the people there so friendly that it is worth a visit. Last year I found antique Ball canning jars for $1.00 each, a well-tended thyme plant for $2.00, and a brand-new-with-tags Old Navy pea coat in my favorite shade of teal blue for $4.00.

Before we head over to the Sussex neighborhood for the sale, though, we will be stopping in scenic Chagrin Falls’ Riverside Park for Art by the Falls (http://www.valleyartcenter.org/art-by-the-falls-june-6-and-7-2015.html). I have ordered some custom garden markers from jewelry and metal artist Kimberly Monaco from the West Side (I will overlook that) so I am picking them up tomorrow while she is over here on the Right Side, I mean East Side, of town. View her beautiful work here on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/people/monaco.

Also Saturday in Chagrin Falls is the first Yoga by the Falls of the season. I found out about this cool way to take a free yoga class last summer, but never got over there to participate. I am going to make it happen this summer…just not tomorrow! Classes are held outside (moved inside for rain) at Triangle Park on the first and third Saturday mornings from 9-10 a.m. during June, July, and August. Check out the town’s website for more complete information and details (http://yourhometownchagrinfalls.com/our-events/yoga-by-the-falls/).

Come back to Chagrin Falls on Sunday for their first Farmers Market of the season. Held in Triangle Park, the market runs from June 7 to October 25 on Sunday mornings form 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Once again, visit the North Union Farmers Market website (listed above) for more information. The Gray House Pies guys from Westlake come over to the East Side every Sunday morning just for this event. Not familiar with their pies yet? Visit them at grayhousepies.com, then visit them Sunday morning at the North Union Chagrin Falls Farmers Market. Your first taste of their pie promises to be akin to a religious experience!

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Even more art events on the East Side this weekend:

  • Little Italy’s Summer Arts Festival is June 5-7. Check out their website for hours and details: http://clevelandlittleitaly.com/.
  • Legacy Village will once again host Art in the Village, a juried art show, June 6-7. Details can be found on their website here: http://www.legacy-village.com/venue/legacy-village/.
  • Downtown Painesville will host their Art & Jazz First Fridays throughout the summer, and you can check out my friend Stephanie Pratt’s awesome artwork while you are there!

As usual, there is so much to do in Cleveland this weekend that I couldn’t begin to list it all here. If you aren’t having fun in Cleveland this weekend, you aren’t trying!