Jeepers Creepers

 

The weekend weather made it quite clear that it’s almost time to place the bike back on the rack. Although, I was able to squeeze in a few casual rides down to Oak Ridge Prairie and the Calumet River, even these routine rides were becoming a chore with the high winds and cold air creeping in.

Needless to say, I think these next few days, hopefully weeks, will be marking the end of my bicycling adventures. While I’ll still be able to post about local sights to see and eateries to try, I will most likely be documenting them from the safe heated cockpit of my car rather than the cold leather seat of my bike.

So, what’s next on the agenda? Not wanting to let my favorite season get by without a second glance, I’m planning on doing a little holiday ride around The Region. As the residents dress their lawns with tombstones, drape their walls with ghosts and stock their homes with candy, I will set out into the night to explore some of the creepiest and cutest Halloween decor this side of Northwest Indiana has to offer!

Autumn has Fallen

With Mother Nature fighting me at every turn, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that biking season is coming to a close. Barely able to get out and enjoy the outdoors without dawning a suit of fleece armor, the chill of late fall is all too real.

If you’re able to get out during one of the nicer days over the weekend, I highly recommend paying Oak Ridge Prairie a visit. With autumn officially settling in, the trees are just beginning to transform into gorgeous, organic jewels of orange, yellow and red. There’s a nice playground set-up if you’re planning on bringing the family and plenty of nature trails if you’re merely looking for an escape. While I’m not exactly the hiking expert, one of my fellow bloggers, Earth Traveler, stopped by the park recently for a little expedition. You can check out his misadventures at, Earth Traveler’s Guide to Environmental Entertainment.

Hopefully over the weekend I’ll be able to soak in the last of the waning sunshine and make it out to a few more eateries around Northwest Indiana. I’m thinking in this weather I better start shooting for a place that serves hot chocolate.

Any suggestions…?

Cafe 339 – Hobart, Indiana: Wraps, Paninis and People

It’s the weekend! You know what that means? Yes, the weekly father and son bike trip!

Meeting up with my father for our traditional ride, the two of us decided to go a little out of the box today and endeavor to make it all the way to Hobart. A realistic plan to be sure, but a half-baked one nonetheless.

Taking the Oak Savannah Trail starting in Oak Ridge Prairie, we made our way through the shady, wooded path straight into Hobart.

At Main Street we took a left and headed into the center of downtown Hobart where we found a thriving, new restaurant, Cafe 339.

Entering the cafe, we were instantly surprised to see how packed it was. I always take this as a good sign whenever trying out a new place. Everyone was chatting and smiling, the owner seemed to know every patron’s name, and the waitress struck up conversations with old friends and new faces alike.

The owner, Dimitri, met us at the door and offered seating either inside or at one of the three small outdoor tables. Although we wanted to keep an eye on our bikes, with the sun high in the sky and our pale Irish skin swiftly turning tomato red, we felt it was in our best interest to eat inside.

 

Once safe in the air-conditioning, we took a gander at the menus and bravely advanced into the unknown. My father ordered the special of the day, the Southwest Wrap, and I took the Cuban Panini, per our waitress’ suggestion.

Each dish came with a bowl of Mediterranean Chicken Soup, which is a blend of delicious vegetables and broth-moistened chicken. The Cuban Panini was loaded with pork, red peppers, onions and melted cheese crunched between two crispy slices of toast. The Southwest Wrap was no slouch either with chicken, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onions and black beans rolled up into a grilled tortilla.

Both dishes were absolutely delectable. The Cuban Panini was warm and crunchy, almost comparable to the feeling of biting into a Philly Cheese Steak, except with pork. The Southwest Wrap was a tad bit softer and perfect for dipping into a bowl of creamy, spicy ranch dressing.

 

 

After sufficiently stuffing our faces, I asked to talk to the man…well, family behind Cafe 339. Steve, the son of the owner, told me that this cafe was indeed a family-operated establishment. Open for only about two years, their business has been widely renowned amongst the locals and have recently been awarded the Hobart Chamber of Commerce’s “Outstanding Business of the Year” in 2011.

Asking him what inspired this business venture, he instantly pointed me to his father, Dimitri, who said there were only two reasons he wanted to start a restaurant: cooking and the people. Never growing tired of meeting new faces or slaving over the hot stove, Dimitri is a man who appreciates the power the table has to bring people together. All about the community, the soul of the city can literally be seen in every corner and on every wall within the cafe. The entire establishment is covered in purchasable artwork painted by local artist, Peggy Davis, proving that even the drywall feeds the community.

Oak Ridge Prairie – Griffith, Indiana: Wet Dog

Rain drops tapped on my door, mockingly inviting me to come out and play. Peering outside the window, I watched helplessly as my Labor Day weekend was washed away by the remnants of Hurricane Isaac.

Angry that I was probably not going to be able to do anything outside this holiday, I accidentally let a four-letter word slip within the earshot of my border collie…“walk”.

Her ears instantly perked up and eyes bulged with enthusiasm. Not letting me get away with breaking my unintentional verbal contract, she whimpered and spun around, demanding I honor the agreement.

Convinced that she would change her mind after one minute in the soaking rain, I threw on my coat and consented to her impulsive request.

After walking… uh, make that swimming, three blocks in the downpour, I wondered if my border collie was really this desperate to escape the house or deliberately sticking it to me.

When we arrived back at home and dried off, I couldn’t help but feel a little tickled by our odd and wet expedition. Inspired by my border collie’s fearless and adventurous spirit, I decided that if she wasn’t going to let the rain ruin her day, neither was I!

Biking out into the puddle-ridden streets, I pedaled over to Colfax Street and down to one of Griffith’s most precious gems, Oak Ridge Prairie.

Entering the park (free of charge on bike), I sailed through the meadows of goldenrod and leafy, green grass glistening like royal jewels as they were anointed by the soft touch of the rain. The wildlife remained concealed in the protective shelter of the woods, although their voices could still be heard resonating through the fields.

At the end of the road leading to the park’s main area, I was faced with an old childhood friend, the Oak Ridge Prairie sledding hill. Though not christened with its majestic coat of white, this magnificent monument still stood proudly even as it sweat pools of muddy globs.

Temporarily reflecting on fond memories of sliding down the slopes and idiotic attempts of “snowboarding” with my sled, I shook my head and continued forward on the slippery path, still that eight year old boy who never learns.

Following the trail under the natural umbrella of the forest preserve, I carefully navigated my way down the trail smeared with dead leaves, cracked acorns and hazardously placed moss. Needless to say, I do not recommend advancing through this portion of the trail in the middle of a downpour unless you feel confident in both your balance and the strength of your helmet.

The water, still relentlessly seeking me out, streamed down the spouts of the trees’ leaves, drenching me twofold compared to riding out in the open.

Upon reaching the end of the wooded path, I smiled, relieved, as the last of the rain clouds dispersed. Walking my bike into a U-turn on the slick surface of the trail, I took a deep breath of the moist air and prepared myself for a cautious journey back through the park.

I don’t know what my border collie was thinking…