2014: The Year in Travel, Instagram Style.

It’s hard to believe the end of 2014 is already upon us. A great year it has been with lots of time out on the open road. I’m going to highlight the year in travel by picking my favorite Instagram photo from each month.

Winter in Michigan brings snow, cold temperatures and way to early in the day sunsets. Those sunsets though with snow and ice in the foreground never seem to disappoint as on this January evening roaming around Kensington Park in Milford.

Kensington Park, Michigan, sunset

There are many places I try to get to once a season to capture photographs. Edgewater Park just west of Downtown Cleveland is one of those spots. The camera is always directed back to the east and the Cleveland skyline, with February usually bringing piles upon piles of lake effect snow.

Edgewater Park, Cleveland, Ohio skyline

College town Ann Arbor offers many architectural marvels on-and-off the University of Michigan campus. One such place, a favorite of mine to walk through, is Nickels Arcade. On this March day, I hung out on the ground to get a different feel of this gem.

Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The end of April brought lots of time out on the Michigan open road along Lake Michigan. Hoffmaster State Park near Muskegon brought picturesque views, a remote beach and made me feel like I was hanging out along the Pacific. My hand in the photo was showing off that I was indeed in The Mitten (Michigan’s Lower Peninsula). I was also up to something else in that photo. :) :) :) :)

Hoffmaster State Park, Muskegon, Michigan

May brought lots of time in Niagara Falls and not just a trip or a vacation, but also my honeymoon. The Ontario, Canada tourist town served as the first place I got to experience with my wife. While there we passed by scores of flowers, including these yellow daffodils which were guarding the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

The beginning of summer and June brought me to the Windy City. One of my favorite spots to walk when in Chicago is Grant Park because of the greenery and skyline views.

Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois skyline

Another month, another honeymoon. Niagara Falls wasn’t enough, so my wife and I decided to take another trip, this time to St. Pete Beach, Florida. Every evening it didn’t matter what we were doing, as long as it involved being on or along the beach at sunset. Watching the sun go down into the Gulf of Mexico night after night was one of the more beautiful scenes I have seen.

St. Pete Beach, Florida sunset

August brought me back to roaming Michigan, this time the Lake Huron coastline. It’s not just sunsets with me. Getting up and on the road super early leads to scenes like down below. The beautiful sunrise near Tawas City opened a new day of travel possibilities!

Lake Huron sunrise, Michigan

I have spent a lot of time in small-town Findlay, Ohio over the years, but it took until this September to visit the Findlay Reservoir just outside of town. So close to civilization, yet this gem gives off the feel of being far away from everything. I climbed the stairs to reach its vast body of water. It was a relaxing morning with just me and reservoir hanging out.

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio

It being October in Michigan and the Midwest meant I was out roaming and capturing as much Autumn color as possible. The most memorable spot I found was Parker Mill County Park in Ann Arbor. The variety of colors, along with the piles of leaves decorating the ground made for a great place to relax and enjoy the season.

Parker Mill County Park, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I gravitated to Atlanta, Georgia in November, where the Autumn color was still in full swing. That meant going to my favorite place in the city to walk around, Piedmont Park. Right in the heart of Midtown beautiful color and ATL skyline views awaited me at every turn.

Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, Autumn skyline

In December I figured to finish the year out right by visiting arguably my favorite spot in Michigan. I climbed up the sand dunes at Grand Haven State Park along Lake Michigan to checkout the lighthouses, catwalk, pier and vast body of water. A romantic spot and view if there was one. :)

Grand Haven State Park, Michigan, Lake Michigan

2014 brought lots of roadtripping and being out on the open road but ultimately when I think back on the year travel won’t be the first thing that comes to mind. That special day in the Spring when I married the love of my life, Erin, will always be front-and-center! :) My favorite Instagram shot of the year, look The Mitten now has a ring. The picture earlier was taken a week before, my last trip as a single guy.

elATLboy Wedding, Wedding Day

The elATLboy is wishing everyone a safe and happy start to the holiday season. Almost time to get Instagram and my camera ready for some 2015 travel adventures. :)

Cheers!
Aaron

What Made Me Choose That Coffee Shop?

Looking back to the Fall of 2010, when I wrote the post It’s a coffeehouse bonanza. How do I choose?, electrical outlets, Wi-Fi and beverage selection tastes all had their place. As with anything, over time, tastes change.

The coffee shop is still a second home for me when on the road and at home and over these last few years I’ve gotten a lot more particular about what kind of shops I visit and spend time in. It really got me thinking while at Star Provisions and at other coffee hot spots in the heart of Atlanta.

Star Provisions, Atlanta, Georgia

When on a road trip the number of electrical outlets a coffee shop has is important if I need to get work done. If I am just looking to charge my gadgets, now that I have a USB port in my car, a working cigarette lighter, and a portable pocket USB charger, a coffee shop could have them or not and it won’t alter my feelings on the place.

Wi-Fi in coffee shops seems to be a touchy subject these days. I could go either way on the matter. Sure there are times when I want to research upcoming destinations, checkout my social networks and surf the web on my laptop and doing so to some java is perfect. At the same time though you want to take the time to enjoy the coffee, the atmosphere, the conversation, the town or city you are in and having no Wi-Fi enables you to do just that.

Dancing Goats Coffee, Ponce City Market, Atlanta, Georgia, pour over, coffee

Inside the shop, the layout and type of seating has taken a backseat (no pun intended) to the general décor of the shop. High ceilings, artwork and the type of coffee equipment being used, all catches the eye more now. Sitting in front of the coffee machine at Café Intermezzo in Atlanta airport did the trick, not to mention all the conversation between strangers and fellow travelers at the bar.

Cafe Intermezzo, Atlanta, Georgia

As far as seating goes, I’m sure window seating will still catch the eye as well as outside seating opportunities and being able to take in the fresh air.

The front entrance of a coffee shop and the roaming opportunities that surround it are as important as ever to me. The entrance to a shop tells you something right away, whether it’s popular, kept up, unique, etc. When the shop is in a neighborhood, city or part of town that I have not been in the traveler in me wants to see exploration options. A walk with some of the shops brew to beautiful scenery will likely lead me to come back over-and-over again.

As soon as I saw the outside to Condesa Coffee in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood I was hooked. The Midtown skyline views that sat right outside the doors drew me in even more combined with their outstanding coffee.

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia, skyline

When going to a coffee shop, I will always give their signature drink a look even if it’s a specialty drink or latte. These days though I am more inclined to experience the coffee itself. Sugar, milk, creamer, chocolate syrup, etc. all have their place, but watching a pour over being made right in front of you and smelling the beans and coffee in its natural state gives me goose bumps. Watching a Kenyan pour over being made at Dancing Goats Coffee Bar within Ponce City Market gave me such a feeling.

Dancing Goats, Ponce City Market, Atlanta, Georgia, pour over, coffee

I did go the signature drink route when at Octane Coffee in Grant Park. Their Ameri-cola, Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola combined with espresso shots, definitely did the trick on that morning.

Octane Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia, Ameri-cola

Doing a basic Google search always helps when looking for independent coffee shops to explore. I’ve found that Swarm (Foursquare), Yelp and asking the Twitter-verse are just as effective. In the states, the blue signs along the interstate in regards to coffee usually will highlight Starbucks, Tim Horton’s and the other big chains. They don’t catch the eye as much now-a-days.

If I do stop for a Waffle House coffee, there should at least be some loaded hash browns alongside. As far as Starbucks goes, I’m not going to lie, the Egg Nog and Pumpkin Spiced Lattes do draw me in from time-to-time, just not nearly as much as before. Tis the season. :)

No Google, no maps, no problem. The unplanned, random spot sometimes turns out to be the best. Drip Coffee in the small downtown of Hapeville was such a place. The off the beaten path coffee shop nestled between the downtown ATL and the airport had the eyes wide open as I hung out inside and captured the outside scene.

Drip Coffee, Hapeville, Georgia

Drip Coffee, Hapeville, Georgia

I’m sure a couple of years from now when I revisit this post my tastes in regards to coffee shops will have changed some. By continuing to check out the coffee scene in Atlanta and elsewhere I look forward to discovering the next thing that will give me goose bumps.

What do you look for when exploring coffee shops around home and in your travels?

An Atlanta Coffee, Skyline View and More at Condesa.

On an Autumn day in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta it was time to hit up the local coffee shop with my dad. As I was capturing the outside look of Condesa Coffee, he was capturing something himself. More on that in a minute. You can see where I get my love of photography from. :)

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia

Condesa Coffee has an industrial look, with open ceilings inside. Upon entering the goosebumps came because I was crossing off one of the top places on my Atlanta coffee bucket list. It was the heart of the day so there were lots of laptops open and lots of conversation taking place. The baristas were extremely knowledgeable and helpful throughout the ordering process.

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia

After we sat down I got a little Instagram photo happy haha, taking pictures some of which would make my feed. At the time I hoped we weren’t eighth in line to get our caffeine.

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia

condesa-coffee-atlanta-005

Condesa offers tea, wine, cocktails and craft beer, but coffee was the choice, as it usually is with me. Two basic lattes were ordered and consumed, made with their roaster of choice, Counter Culture Coffee.

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia

Upon exiting the coffee shop, the Midtown skyline is right there for the taking. That’s what my dad was capturing and what I soon would be!

Condesa Coffee, Atlanta, Georgia, skyline

Looking straight ahead, you also got a taste of Autumn and some history with the Martin Luther King Jr. bronze sculpture. King was born, lived and is buried in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of the ATL. If you like going for a stroll the Freedom Parkway Bike Trail is alongside as well.

Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta, Georgia, Autumn, MLK

We had a great time at Condesa Coffee, enjoying some Atlanta coffee, seeing beautiful skyline views and a whole lot more!

Are there any coffee shops that you have come across, where you found yourself capturing the scene both inside and out?

An Atlanta Autumn Stroll Through Piedmont Park.

The time to see the colors of Fall usually stretches well into November in the Deep South. Piedmont Park in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, Georgia was no exception.

Checkout the Autumn colors to expect when taking a stroll through one of the biggest city parks around. Walking alongside Lake Clara Meer and the Active Oval is highly recommended. Atlanta’s Midtown and Downtown skylines will be in view for a lot of the ride. Well without further ado.

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

Autumn, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, ATL

View my post Midtown Atlanta: Relaxing in Piedmont Park for more information on the park itself.

What big city parks would you recommend checking out in Autumn?

At Peace Along the Findlay Reservoir.

Just outside of Findlay, Ohio in the summertime you’re out on the deserted, country open road amongst the corn on one side and on the other…

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

you’ll see a big hill, with staircases leading up to the top from time-to-time.

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Heading up the stairs, with the corn behind you, upon reaching the top…

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

…you’ll be at peace immediately, with the vast Findlay Reservoir #2 right in front of you.

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

You’ll find five miles of shoreline walking opportunities along both of the reservoirs (the other being Findlay Reservoir #1) that supply water to the city of Findlay, Hancock County and the surrounding area.

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

The reason you climb up is because they are upground reservoirs with water coming in from the nearly wells and Blanchard River. The two reservoirs will built-in 1950 and 1968 respectively and range for the most part in-depth between 20 and 30 feet.

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Despite being manmade there are fishing and boating opportunities available for visitors, along with the lengthy walking trail option. :)

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

A couple of months later in late Fall I returned. The tall corn stalks were missing, the first signs of winter hung along the wooden posts and rails, the cold wind was howling off the water and there wasn’t a person to be found.

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Once at the top, the same beauty was in place though. I’ll let the rest of pictures tell the story. :)

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Back to the park bench I go and being at peace along the Findlay Reservoir.

Findlay Reservoir, Findlay, Ohio

Tip: While you’re visiting the Findlay Reservoir, visit the Riverbend Recreation Area right next door for walking trails and lots of greenery in the summer and majestic colors in Autumn.

Have you ever visited a vast reservoir in your travels or around home?

Overlooking Two Skylines, Cities and Countries in Autumn.

Back to Belle Isle Park in Detroit I go! I’ve posted photos and written about this spot before during the heart of the summer and in the dead of winter. It’s a place I get to once a season, so below is how it looked on a recent trip in Autumm. Beautiful every time.

The Detroit River is right in front of you with Detroit’s skyline, the state of Michigan and the United States on the right. Turn to the left side of the river and you have the city of Windsor and it’s skyline, the province of Ontario and Canada.

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Time to relax and enjoy the view amongst the fallen leaves.

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

It looks like I have lots of company. :)

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

Autumn, Belle Isle, state park, Detroit, Michigan

One spot, two skylines, two cities and two countries. See you again in winter my friend!

Have you visited a spot overlooking multiple skylines, cities, states/provinces and/or countries at the same time?

The Fallen Autumn Goodness of Findlay, Ohio.

Early November in Ohio and the Midwest means the temperatures are more winter than summer-like. The clouds seem to be taking over more than the sun. It’s getting dark way to early and lasting way to long. The peak Autumn color has passed, with more leaves having fallen to the ground then left on the trees.

Keeping that last point in mind my Findlay park exploration started out on the leafy open road along the Findlay Reservoir…

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

…and onto the leaf covered bike paths, bridges and horse trails of Riverbend Recreation Area. You’ll find floodplain, forest, corn stalks and farmland as you make your way through the park.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Surprise, surprise. If you roam around long enough, good things will happen. :) I found full color still up in the air of a few trees.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

It was windy that morning, so leaves were flying off, though still keeping their beauty as they sit on the ground.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

The red leafed tree with all its leaves quickly falling to the ground really caught the eye. What immediately came into to my head being a traveler was the red colors that make up the Office of TourismOhio logo.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

I put my thinking cap on, kneeled to the ground and became for moment in time an Autumn artist. Hi Ohio! Hi DiscoverOhio! :)

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors, Discover Ohio

The open road brought me next to Riverside Park, the oldest park in the area. It was time to hang out along the Blanchard River which flows through the heart of Findlay.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

A different park brought different colors on the ground, mainly bright yellow and orange.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

I felt like a kid working my way through huge pile after huge pile of leaves.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

The piles are going to get even bigger with these trees really fighting the temperatures and changing of the seasons.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

In general this time of year is a photographers dream even when there is just a speck of color left like here further along the Blanchard River.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Now roaming around the countryside of Hancock County just west of Findlay, I randomly came up to Litzenberg Memorial Woods and its 110 acres of wooded forest preserve and meadow. More bike paths, horse trails and bridges covered in fallen Autumn goodness…

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

…along with my favorite romantic park bench spot of the season.

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

Findlay, Ohio, Autumn Colors

The early darkness of the season ended my late Autumn day exploration. The leaves of the Midwest, Ohio and Findlay are holding onto the trees with everything they have. Even if they are not on the trees anymore there is always the fallen Autumn goodness you can still check out.

The parks in-and-around Findlay and Hancock County are definitely worth a walk in Autumn or any time of the year if your ever driving along I-75 in northern Ohio.

Are there any spots around home or in your travels that you would recommend checking out the late Autumn and leaf scene?