Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

As Mike and Rosie got ready for their annual “daddy-daughter dance,” Max and I bundled up in our winter coats and boots. It was time for our first “mommy-son fitness challenge.” Sure, it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easy as a daddy-daughter dance, but it was my excuse to get us outdoors to spend some quality time together.

Our destination was the Rotary Obstacle Course at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, a 120-acre urban playground along the banks of the Scioto River that offers a panoramic view of the nearby Columbus skyline.

The obstacle course, which opened in 2013, is free to the public and features a quarter-mile running track and nine challenges including a tire run, tunnel crawl, cargo climb, balance beams, belly crawl, monkey bars, over-and-under log obstacle, 8-foot wall and log run.

Ready. Set. Go!

1. Tire Run & Flip

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Max and I raced through the first challenge, a tire run and flip. We skipped the flip part, which involved lifting and flipping an oversized tire end over end, and went straight for the flip, high-stepping it through rows of car tires laid out in pairs. I gleefully bested Max in this fun, but tiring, test. Wendy: 1; Max: 0

2. Tunnel Crawl

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Next came a tunnel crawl, which reminded me of exploring water pipes as a kid. A layer of ice inside the tunnels made this challenge extra demanding. Max’s small frame and agility gave him an edge, allowing him to snake to the finish with ease. Wendy: 1; Max: 1

3. Cargo Climb

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Channeling his inner Spiderman, Max zipped to the top of the cargo climb challenge. But maneuvering over the top proved difficult, as a fear of heights and an uncertainty to go feet first down the backside overcame him. I gave up the fight momentarily as Max mustered through his apprehensions, making him the real winner on the ropes. Wendy: 1; Max: 2

4. Balance Beam

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

The balance beam proved harder than it looked. Max and I encouraged each other to stay the course. We learned that if we briskly walked across the beam and kept our eyes focused on the end of the log, versus staring at our feet, we’d succeed with ease. Tie! Wendy: 2; Max: 3

5. Belly Crawl

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Max effortlessly crawled on his elbows and knees under a web of connected ropes. I dug my hands into the sand and tried to pull my body through the challenge but didn’t budge. Pulling my own body weight from such a position wasn’t happening. Max won this one, belly down. Wendy: 2; Max: 4

6. Monkey Bars

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Neither one of us was ever particularly good at swinging arm by arm across a series of bars, especially when the bars are ice-cold. We gave this challenge an honest effort, but finally decided it drove us bananas and gave up. No winner!

7. Over/Under

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

This challenge involved maneuvering under and over a series of elevated logs. Easy enough. But Max’s dexterity got him through in no time, leaving me gasping in the wood chips. Wendy: 2; Max: 5

8. Wall Climb

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

The wall climb didn’t make sense at first glance. There are two options to scale – a high wall and a low wall. We both went for the low option, pulling our bodies over the side, as if pulling our bodies out of a pool. This seemed easy, but I’ll give Max the edge on this one, since the small wall probably still seemed tall to him. Wendy: 2; Max: 5

9. Log Run

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

This challenge involves simply running over a pile of logs. I suppose the skill is besting your opponent with choosing a better route. Of all the challenges, this one had me worried about slipping and breaking my leg the most. Both Max and I equally completed this one without breaking a bone. Tie!

Final score: Wendy: 3; Max: 6

Challenge yourself at the Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course, and for extra fun, be sure to visit the 18,000 square-foot Grange Insurance Audubon Center, and check out the onsite 35-foot-high fiberglass climbing wall, playground, and bocce and volleyball courts.

Learn more about the Scioto Audubon Metro Park.


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Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

If we’ve learned anything during a decade of travel writing, it’s that nothing sells like a trail.

We’ve covered coffee trails, doughnut trails, bourbon trails, beer trails, bicycle-and-beer trails, you name it. One that we’ve recently experienced and can really sink our teeth into is the Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail.

Sponsored primarily by the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, this sacchariferous safari includes 31 stops in Ohio where the tempting combination of peanut butter and chocolate is concocted.

Check out the trail map at the Miami County VCB. Meanwhile, here are four stops along the route that we recently experienced in central Ohio:

Original Goodie Shop
2116 Tremont Center
Upper Arlington
Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Debbie Smith rolls peanut butter batter into logs while making handmade Buckeye candies at the Original Goodie Shop in Upper Arlington. She then cuts out 3-ounce pieces with a dough scraper, the same one her father, James Krenek, used when he opened the bakery in 1967. Debbie now owns the shop with her daughters, Emilie and Miranda, and sells cookies, cakes, breads, potpies and Buckeyes.

Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Debbie shapes the batter into balls and then comes the magic. If you’ve ever made Buckeyes, you might have pierced them with toothpicks to dunk them into melted chocolate. That’s how we did it at home, and they always came out with a visible hole where the toothpick entered the nutty ball of goop.

Not Debbie. She lifts each one with what looks like a bent fork with two prongs and dips each into melted chocolate that’s not spoilt with paraffin wax.

“This is my special tool that doesn’t leave toothpick mark,” she says. We can attest that her candies, dunked in high-quality dark chocolate, are delicious – and lovely to gaze upon. Seasonal designs include Santas and bucked-tooth Easter bunnies.

Sweet Tooth Cottage
10221 Sawmill Pkwy.
Powell
Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

The sweet truth about Sweet Tooth Cottage in Powell is that it’s owned by Sue Bissonnette, a dental hygienist who’s passionate about homemade baked goods that make you smile.

Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Sue ran her shop out of her home in Powell before moving into a retail shop on Sawmill Parkway six years ago. Inside you’ll find all sorts of neatly decorated butter cookie cutouts, her signature item. She also sells cakes, cupcakes, brownies and Buckeyes, made with melted semi-sweet chocolate and no wax.

“It’s the best chocolate I’ve ever had,” says Nicole Forsythe, manager at Sweet Tooth.

They make the Buckeyes in small batches with fresh ingredients, hand rolling and hand dipping. “We take pride in making them look nice,” Nicole says.

We liked that the chocolate shell had a nice crunch when you bit into the candy, making it extra scrumptious.

Anthony-Thomas Candy Co.
1777 Arlingate Lane
Columbus
Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Bang. Hiss. Bang. Hiss.

Noisemaking doesn’t conjure images of creamy peanut butter-and-chocolate Buckeye candies. But those sounds resonate at the Anthony-Thomas Candy Co. factory on the west side of Columbus, where the 67-year-old company makes batches of 160,000 of the delectable treats at a time.

Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Gloved workers at the end of an assembly line release the shiny, chocolate gems from plastic molds with a bang on the countertop, creating a beat that interplays with a hiss of air from a compressor amid the machinery. The smell of warm chocolate wafts through the building.

Smell for yourself at an Anthony-Thomas factory tour, held every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Wednesday tours also are available from June through August.) Admission, which can be used toward a candy purchase, is $2 for adults, and $1 for children.

Chocolate Cafe
1855 Northwest Blvd.
Columbus
Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

Confession: We visited the Chocolate Cafe before the existence of the Buckeye Candy Trail, which was created in 2018. We now know that the Grandview eatery offers Buckeye candies, but at the time of our visit, were swooned by the chocolate fondue.

Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops

We skewered strawberries, marshmallows, graham crackers, pound cake and Rice Krispies treats before drowning them in warm, fudgy chocolate. Playing with food never felt so fun or tasted so good.

What’s crazy is that you can eat all the fondue you want for $8.99 on Fridays, beginning at 5 p.m., until nothing is left. The cafe also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and do-it-yourself S’mores. Kids eat for $1.99 on Monday.

Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail: Indulge in peanut butter and chocolate at central Ohio stops
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Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern: Mike continues quest for tasty pork tenderloins in Midwest

Mike continues quest for tasty pork tenderloins in Midwest

Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern: Mike continues quest for tasty pork tenderloins in Midwest
Rusty Bucket has nine central Ohio locations, including our favorite in Clintonville.

Having spent significant time in Indiana last year researching a story on the Tenderloin Lovers Trail for USA Today, I was encouraged to see a well-known restaurant in Columbus offering a similar sandwich.

So our family paid a visit last week to the Rusty Bucket in Clintonville to see how the tenderloin stacked up. Rusty Bucket’s nine central Ohio locations feature the tenderloin sandwich as the blue plate special on Tuesdays, and we were delighted to see a lot of other specials on the menu.

If you’re not familiar with the pork tenderloin sandwich, it’s a well-bred institution in Midwestern states such as Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, where pork production is high. It seems that every restaurant and bar in the Hoosier State offers some sort of tenderloin sandwich. They say it began at Nick’s near Fort Wayne, but now they’re seemingly everywhere.

But in Columbus? Not so much.

Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern: Mike continues quest for tasty pork tenderloins in Midwest
Yellow mustard is a must condiment on a pork tenderloin sandwich.

It sounds obvious, but a proper pork tenderloin sandwich should be from the tenderloin, not the pork loin. It should have a crisp bite and be seasoned, but still retain the full pork flavor. It’s typically served with lettuce tomato, pickles and mayo. For some reason people in Indiana also like to plaster them with yellow mustard. So that’s the way I topped mine.

The Rusty Bucket special includes a 5-ounce tenderloin, which is tenderized and pounded flat, breaded and fried, served with fries. It was moist and tasty, and I would say stacks up well flavor-wise to what I experienced in Indiana. It wasn’t nearly as large as some of the sandwiches I found there, however, which sometimes expand beyond the dinner platter only to be barely covered by a ridiculously small bun.

Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern: Mike continues quest for tasty pork tenderloins in Midwest
The pork tenderloin sandwich is Rusty Bucket’s Tuesday’s “Blue Plate Special.”

We found good deals all over the menu. Rusty Bucket sells appetizers and pizzas at half price from 3-6 p.m. on weekdays, when the “Juicy Lucy” burger is offered at $5. There’s a drink special every day, including half-priced bottles of wine on Tuesdays.

The variety is good, since Wendy is a vegetarian. She tore into a harvest salad, while Rosie munched on half-priced potstickers and Max went with tried-and-true chicken fingers. But anytime I want to pretend I’m a Hoosier, I know where to go for the breaded pork sandwich experience.

Learn more about Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern.


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