Category: Travel


2021 Week 38/39 – San Diego Visit

I went on a Cross Country trip for work last week, so I missed my regular Sunday posting deadline. So this will be a post with 2-weeks’ worth of updates (and probably pretty long, too), but I have lots of pictures to share!

I left on Saturday to head out to San Diego, a place I’ve never visited. Indianapolis International Airport was pretty busy, being a weekend, but as usual, once you checked your bag, security was a breeze. Correct mask usage was close to 100%, but you always have a few defiant people trying to be difficult.

Airline employees are NOT messing around, and the trouble makers were given a choice; wear your mask or leave. It’s also funny how people are so anxious to get on the plane and just sit there. I’m quite fine waiting at the gate until it’s closer to time to depart. I like to minimize my time crammed into a tiny space.

We had an uneventful trip to Dallas, and it was the first time flying into DFW, where it didn’t take 30 min to taxi up to our gate. I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat before we loaded up and started our second leg of the trip. For some reason, we left 20-minutes early, and there were plenty of open seats on the flight. This is the first time flying since COVID, but it was nice to let someone else do the driving and visit a place not easily accessible by car.

On this trip, I stayed in the Gas Lamp District of San Diego. It’s a lovely area of the city that’s like a mix of Broad Ripple and Mass Ave in Indianapolis (with a baseball stadium only blocks away). Just about every restaurant had outdoor seating in what were once street parking spaces, and the later it got, the busier the streets became. I got there a little earlier than others in my group and hit a local seafood spot called Water Grill for some oysters. They came with some delicious bread and salted butter.

I stayed in the Pendry Hotel this trip. It’s a great little boutique hotel with a price tag to match. One of the interesting features of the rooms here is the showers. It’s right there, in the middle of the room, with glass on 3 of the 4 sides. The attached pub was a favorite hang out for those of us on the trip, and I made several great business connections making the trip well worth the time and expense.

After a couple of days at the conference and seeing some great places around town, it was time for the discussions to end. I opted to stay in town an extra day to do some exploring. One thing that caught my eye was the maritime museum along the harbor. I had passed it several times in our travels, so I decided to visit on my last full day in town. It was a remarkable history display and had more model ships onboard real ships than I have ever seen in one place.

After the museum, I took the train up to Encinitas for lunch. The “Coaster” runs north and south from San Diego to Oceanside and is very scenic. It’s a good way to check out the scenery outside the city for just a few dollars. My round trip to Encinitas was under $10.

Time to head back to Indy! So far, the travel part of this journey had been great, but…. You knew there was going to be a but…. I got stuck in DFW on the way back. All that rain in Indy while I was gone made its way out east and delayed my flight from New York to Dallas to come pick me up for the last leg of the trip. I ended up getting back 3-hours later than expected, but we made it back safe.

Although I was a little apprehensive about traveling across the country with the current status of the Pandemic, it was a great trip with enough activities to keep me busy the entire time. The weather was perfect, and I can see why people love it out there as much as they do. It’s always nice to get home, though. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of the San Diego area, I’d like to visit again and see some of the things I missed on this last trip.

Here are some bonus photos taken during the conference and some of the excursions we went on.

2021 Week 30 – First Summer Road Trip (Part 4 – Final)!

In the post last week we were camping in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) and dealing with daily rain. By this point I was used to getting wet and was concentrating on keeping my sleeping gear dry.

My first stop of the day was the Kinzua Bridge State Park in Kane, PA. At one point this massive railroad bridge spanned a big valley and was used quite extensively. In 2003 a tornado came through and brought down half the structure. It was determined it was not worth replacing so they turned it in to an overlook and viewing platform. The visitor center and gift shop are very nice and the bridge itself was a lot of fun to walk out on. It even has a “glass floor” you can stand on and see the valley floor below.

As it was nearing lunch time and I hadn’t eaten anything yet so I drove into Kane, PA and checked out Texas Hot Lunch 4-Sons, a local diner that specializes in “Texas Hot” chili served on burgers and hot dogs. I ordered a chili dog and a hot ham and cheese. They were both very tasty, and if I wasn’t going to be in the car all day, I could have gone for another chili dog (or two).

After lunch it was time to track down a waterfall I found on the map and spend some time driving on muddy forest service roads. The All-Wheel Drive and new WildPeak tires on the Subaru came in handy. Although the roads were in fair shape the rain had made things slippery, especially the hills. With little to no cell service it was not advisable to end up in a ditch.

Once parked at the trailhead I walked down an unused forest road to Hector Falls. It was a nice little 2-mile hike with no one around. Considering the amount of rain we had I was honestly expecting more water, but it was a beautiful hike with a lot of scenic views along the way.

After the hike back I spent more time driving deeper and deeper in the forest using a Gaia GPS map in Offline mode to guide me along. Gaia is a great resource with a TON of map overlays you can use for just about every outdoor activity. I ran into a few “road closed” gates and managed to work my way back to civilization and the Kinzua Dam.

The Kinzua Dam area was very well kept with plenty of places to picnic and fish. There was even a fishery on the other side of the river, and it had a lot of activity going on from what I could see. As you can see in the picture below there were some HUGE fish swimming around the top side of the dam. These were easily 3-foot in length and would probably put up a hell of a fight if you hooked them.

That evening, after setting up camp (and attempting to dry some things out), I built a nice fire, listened to a ball game, and enjoyed a few cold beers before turning in for the night. Of course, it rained overnight…

Day 5 had arrived, and I woke up to a campsite with a lot of standing water. With another band of rain on the way I packed things up quickly headed west to my first stop of the day. As I approached the I-90 toll booth the gate was up, and I totally missed the sign that said “pull a ticket”. I was thinking this toll booth was one of the ones that reads your plates & sends you a bill (I’ve long since lost my EZ-Pass) like the Louisville Bridge or I-90 in PA. Without a ticket I proceeded to my exit where a super friendly toll booth attendant helped me out and rang it up as a damaged ticket and charged me the standard toll for my trip.

The Vermilion Farm Market was a destination I’ve had on my list ever since we stopped by there on a whim several years ago. They have an amazing bakery and one of the BEST cookies I have ever had. The Coconut Pecan cookies are so good I bought all 5 boxes they had in the case. I also picked up a few other snacks before heading to Port Clinton for another must have when in the area…

The Jolly Roger Seafood House is famous in this part of the country and they have moved into a MUCH larger building since I was there last. The old place was small and had its own charm but the new location is a huge improvement. I’m happy to report the food is just as good. I opted for the Fried Clams and Chips (onion rings in my case) and a 1/2 pound of peel and eat shrimp. After savoring every last bite, I took a walk along the Lake Erie shoreline to work off some of that food.

Wrapping this adventure up I called an audible and decided to head home a day early when I saw the campsite in the East Harbor State Park. It was tiny, wet and had no less than 4 tents right up against where I would be sleeping. After being alone all week, I wasn’t in the mood to be surrounded by a bunch of people partying into the night (which is typical when you have that many people camping together). National Forrest sites are SO MUCH better than state parks and will be my preference going forward.

After 1466 miles my week-long adventure had come to a close and, even though the weather didn’t cooperate, I’m glad I did it. I’m already planning on a return to the ANF to check out the south end this fall.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back next week with a wrap up of Week 31, 2021.

2021 Week 29 – First Summer Road Trip (Part 3)!

photo of lightning

Last week we ended up in Buffalo, NY after visiting Cleveland and Niagara Falls. This time around we’re going to dip into the Allegheny National Forest and get away from the city. We left Buffalo around 9am and started our journey south.

Ever since I was a kid I remember seeing barns and billboards along the highway with “See Rock City” on them.

When I happened to find a “Rock City Park” in Olean, NY I was excited to check it out. After doing a little research on my return I realized the “real” Rock City is actually on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee but the one in Olean was impressive nonetheless!

After climbing around the rocks for about an hour it was time to move on and check out the town of Bradford, PA. Bradford is the home of the Zippo lighter and Case knife factory (and museum). It’s a busy little town with a lot of little shops in it’s downtown. Unfortunately the Visitors Bureau was not open when I arrived, I think they were at lunch. They DID have a nice setup outside with maps and visitor information, which is what I was stopping by for anyway.

Before lunch I decided to checkout the Zippo/Case museum and see what it was all about.

The Zippo/Case museum was quite impressive, if you’re into these products it’s worth your while to stop by if you’re in the area. The inside lighting made it difficult to get any good photographs without a lot of glare so I concentrated on other items outside.

Lunch was at Togi’s Family Restaurant where the “special” was their version of a Big Mac. It was quite tasty & a LOT bigger than I ws expecting. The hand cut fries were cooked perfectly too.

After the big lunch, and fighting off the feeling to take a big nap, I continued on my way to the next stop, the WWII Museum in Eldred, PA.

What a great museum housed in a very small town in rural PA. This place was HUGE and had more items than a lot of other similarly sized museums I’ve visited over the years. Evidently a lot of the items had been donated by area families over the years and a local hero named Mitchell Paige had a lot to do with its success. He had an entire section of the museum dedicated to him.

After a successful day of traveling it was time to head up to Tracy Ridge and setup camp for the night. Tracy Ridge is a primitive campsite at the top of a bluff. The sites are spaced far apart and this evening there were only 3-4 of us in the entire area. This is my ideal situation for car camping, Plenty of room and lots of piece and quiet. Unfortunately this is hard to find these days with so may people out doing the same thins I’m doing. Traveling and camping during the week is the trick to get access to some great spots.

There were some storms off in the distance that I would need to keep an eye on as it had rained every day of the trip this far, so I expected today to be no different.

Mother nature pulled no punches and let me have it after dark. the lightning got pretty severe at one point but it blew through quickly and I was able to get a decent nights sleep. She came back in the morning just to say good morning with a nice little downpour as I was breaking camp down. At this point once you’re wet you just deal with it and make the best of it. I had another big day ahead of me and it was time to head out!

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of the Allegheny National Forest road trip next week. Thanks for reading!

2021 Week 28 – First Summer Road Trip (Part 2)!

niagara falls

So… Last week we started discussing my first big road trip of 2021 to the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). We got as far as Cleveland and this time we set off to visit Niagara Falls and Buffalo before heading south into the Forest.

On my way to Buffalo I wanted to swing through Erie, PA to check out the Disc Golf Course (DCG) at Penn State University. While not the fanciest DCG it was well thought out and worked its way through the north end of the campus.

After my round it was getting time for some lunch. I had heard good things about the Beef on Weck at the Bar-Bill Tavern in East Aurora, NY so I loaded up and continued my drive to the East.

East Aurora is a neat little town that was very busy for a Monday afternoon. The Bar-Bill Tavern was packed at 1:30 pm but I was able to find a seat at the bar between a couple of older local guys who were super friendly. We had a great conversation while we watched the cook behind the bar crank out one sandwich after another. He was like a machine and only broke his stride to help the servers with the occasional table-side delivery.

With a full belly it was time to finish out the day by visiting Niagara Falls and settling down in Downtown Buffalo. I visited Niagara Falls when I was a kid and I don’t remember much more than the falls. The surrounding seems to have built up and has become very commercial with a casino, a lot of restaurants, and hotels. Monday was a great time to visit as the crowds were light and it was a really pleasant experience waking around and seeing the sights.

Having eaten a bunch and walked it all off I was ready to get settled in my hotel in Buffalo and start winding down. It was a nice, and uneventful, drive to downtown Buffalo where I was surprised to see how empty the town was. The hotel I stayed at had very limited on-site parking and with the amount of gear I had in my car I wanted to keep things close and not take a chance on a public, or on street, parking lot. I was able to snag a spot right next to the front so I felt better about leaving my car there overnight, but, this kind of changed my plans about visiting the Anchor Bar to get some original Buffalo Wings, witch was several miles up the road. I settled for a Brew-Pub a few blocks away.

Dinner done, it was time to retire to my room for the night. I was upgraded to a 2-room suite on the top floor so I had no complaints about the accommodations as I prepped for the next day where I would be heading south to the Allegheny National Forest for a couple day of camping and exploring.

Stay tuned for more pictures and tales from the Forest in my next post. Thanks for reading!

2021 Week 27 – First Summer Road Trip (Part 1)!

person pointing at black and gray film camera near macbook pro

My first summer road trip is FINALLY here. I had this trip planned last fall but COVID-19 had so many closed I decided to wait until 2021 to make the journey to Cleveland, Buffalo, and the Allegheny National Forest (ANF).

Timing is everything when it comes to the a road trip. You have to know what’s open and what activities are available, especially during the pandemic where things are temporarily (or sometimes permanently) closed. The goal was to hit the ANF mid-week to avoid the crowds and have more time to explore.

Since my first night of camping was almost 8-hours from the house I decided to split the trip up and check out some places along the way. My planned itinerary for this trip was:

  • Sunday – Cleveland, OH
  • Monday – Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls
  • Tuesday – Tracy Ridge Campground – Bradford, PA
  • Wednesday – Buckaloons Recreation Area – Irvine, PA
  • Thursday – East Harbor State Park – Lakeside Marblehead, OH
  • Friday – Return to Indianapolis

I’m glad I left on a Sunday because I-70 was smooth sailing to Columbus. There has been construction (as usual) on the route and several major fatal accidents over the past few weeks that have shut the Interstate down for HOURS. In one case The Indiana State Police reportedly had to wake drivers up once the accident was cleared.

Sunday, Day 1 – I’ve driven to Cleveland before but usually take I-69 to Ft. Wayne and east on I-90. This time I had a few places I wanted to check out in Central Ohio so I decided to take I-70 to Columbus before heading Northeast on I-71 to Cleveland.

My first stop was at Swenson’s Drive-in on the north side of Columbus. They have an interesting burger called the “Galley Boy” which is a double cheeseburger with 2 sauces, one of which is BBQ. I wasn’t quite sure what the other one was but I suspect it was Tatar sauce. Paired with onion rings and a diet soda the combo made a great lunch. Interesting thing about this location. It’s right next to an IKEA and a Top Golf. The IKEA/Top Golf match up occurs in Cincinnati as well. It’s actually a great idea where half the family can shop and the other half can hit the driving range (and BOTH can EAT!).

Swenson’s Drive-In on the north side of Columbus, OH
Galley Boy with Onion Rings and a side of Ranch on my steering wheel desk

Next stop was the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. This place was the setting for The Shawshank Redemption. Unfortunately when I arrived the tours were all booked, except for the 4-hour one, so I “toured” the outside & went about my day.

Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH

Since I was going to be in the Cleveland area I thought I should make a return visit to the Szalay’s Farm & Market that’s located right next to the rail trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I accidently left my phone in the car and failed to get any pictures. This place was PACKED with people stocking up on farmers market supplies. There were doing a really great food business with pop up shops spread around outside.

Finally it was off to check out Cleveland and find some dinner. Unfortunately it rained every day on this trip and by the time I got to downtown Cleveland it was pouring so I abandoned my sight seeing plans. Once I checked into the hotel & set out to check out a local Mexican place I had heard good things about.

Cozumel Mexican Restaurant is a local chain that has some great reviews online. When I arrived it was pretty busy but I managed to grab a seat at the bar. They had a bunch of containers on the back shelf of the bar where they were infusing all minds of fruit in Tequila and Vodka. My drink of choice this evening was a Paloma and this one did not disappoint. They even rimmed the glass with Tajín for a salty & spicy kick. For dinner I ordered a Chicken and Chorizo burrito called the Burrito A La Diabla and it was delicious, as were the rice and beans server along the side.

Paloma Cocktail at Cozumel Mexican in Cleveland, OH

After dinner it was time to retire to the hotel room and get ready for another day of driving and sight seeing on my way to Buffalo and Niagra Falls.

Next week we’ll discuss the Buffalo area and continue the trip to the ANF.

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