Amazing Year Day 125: Grand Bike Ride

11 Jul

Another day, another bike ride. This time, I set my eyes on riding over the Grand Island Bridge, and finished the ride off with a writing session and a hot dog at Old Man River.





Amazing Year Day 124: Geek on Wheels

10 Jul

Having spent five days on the road, it was time to spend a few hours on the path. Lord knows I love me some bicycle riding!


On the way home, I made an important stop at the cemetery to pay my respects.

The final stop was for one of my all-time favorite treats: a DIPPED CONE, BABY!!!


Amazing Year Day 123: Books on Wheels

9 Jul

Finishing the road trip meant a drive home from Sandusky, Ohio. While riding shotgun I was able to catch up on the scores of picture books I borrowed from the local library. Research on wheels. IMG_3210.jpg

Back in Buffalo, it was time to yet again visit Anderson’s a local favorite for ice cream and roast beef.


Amazing Year Day 122: Homecoming

8 Jul

Road Trip Day 5: Toledo Zoo

Ohio is arguably the state richest in world-class zoos, so naturally Toledo in the north west corner may not be on the top of your list with Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati all boasting beautiful zoos. However, the Toledo Zoo has been on my bucket list for many a year for two cool reasons: 1.) they built the first hippo exhibit with underwater viewing, and 2.) it’s where my friend Hannah lived, so I wanted to visit her city’s “pride and joy.” Today, was the day I finally got to see this place with my own eyes. It’s not the biggest zoo, or even close to being the best, but you can tell with every exhibit that they are doing everything they can to get the most out of it, therefore making it a worthwhile experience. While some zoos tear down their archaic menageries, Toledo recycles them. It was amazing to see a big cat house converted into a trendy restaurant. Good on ya Toledo. Nice zoo!


Road Trip Day 5: Cedar Point

When meeting new people and my coasterly obsession surfaces, people often ask, “Have you been to Cedar Point?” These days I just smile, pause, and say “Where do I begin?” Sandusky’s coaster-filled gem is more than an amusement park to me, and tonight I realized that it truly is “home.” Despite boasting my favorite coaster (Magnum XL-200), I chose to further adopt my rebellious persona and often insisted that King’s Island, or Six Flags Magic Mountain were superior amusement parks. This is even after multiple visits and having worked there for an entire summer lifting lazy kids out of cars in Kiddy Kingdom. But tonight, my solo visit through the gate, midway, and queues, confirmed that Cedar Point truly is the world’s greatest amusement park. I moved through the descending darkness on this fine Sunday night not worrying about how many rides I would get in, but rather breathing it all in. I was home, and I can’t wait until I can visit again.

And that brings the road trip to its dramatic end. Overall, it wasn’t the solo-trip I had designed, but it turned out to be a fantastic time! Thanks, Mom!

Amazing Year Day 121: Indiana Crave

7 Jul

Road Trip Day 4: Indianapolis Zoo

Hailing from Buffalo, one of America’s great so-called pit stains. I felt sorry for Indianapolis, a city with a similar condemnation for being the city of boredom. My sympathy evaporated after being disappointed with the Indianapolis Zoo. Props for boasting a roller coaster, and being one of the few places in North America to house walruses, but other than that why on earth are you charging so much when neighboring St. Louis is showing off the good stuff for free. I guess it was a hard act to follow. I’m sure Indianapolis had more to offer, but sadly we had to drive north to a little known boardwalk amusement park.


Road Trip Day 4: Indiana Beach

Indiana Beach amusement park has been on my must visit list for many years, and I was thrilled to finally have the chance to ride all of their six roller coasters. They certainly make Six Flags look like angels in terms of ride wait times, but nonetheless this place had a certain nostalgic spark to it. Its Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain, with its elevator lift and fully enclosed cars is one of the oddest yet fun coasters on the planet.

BONUS PIC: One redeeming quality of Indianapolis was the fact that they have Fazolis, my favorite fast food Italian restaurant (albeit the only one I know of). Sure it’s cheap and ehhhhh quality food, but Momma Cravakatino and I love this place, especially the breadsticks!

Amazing Year Day 120: A Spirited Day Away in St. Louis

6 Jul

Road Trip Day 3: St. Louis Zoo

A free zoo? Who do you think you are, the smithsonian? They say, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is. Nope. The St. Louis Zoo is the real deal. A classy joint among the nation’s finest zoological establishments and one of the coolest (pun somewhat intended) penguin exhibits these eyes have ever spied.

Road Trip Day 3: Pappy’s Smokehouse

Everyone has their favorite places to eat, and I’m certainly no St. Louis expert, but the momma bear and I have 100% confidence in choosing Pappy’s to chow down for some IN-YOUR-FACE-PARTY-IN-YOUR-MOUTH deliciousness. Mmmmm mmmm. Yummy in our tummies!

Road Trip Day 3: City Museum

Reality usually makes sense, that’s why I dream of places that don’t. Today, reality did the dreaming for me. Don’t be mislead by its lame name, the City Museum is THE AWESOME! A combination of art, engineering, exploration, and just flat odd randomness. This place and the fact that so many flock to it has surged my faith in humanity. If you’re ever in St. Louis you need to come to an old abandoned shoe factory turned into a wonderland for all ages!

Road Trip Day 3: Six Flags St. Louis

Just because I have a deep-rooted passion for amusement parks, doesn’t mean I love each one blindly. Six Flags for example, is a park chain that I openly loathe. Sure, their parks boast a wondrous assortment of roller coasters, but they barely run enough trains to speed up lines; don’t motivate their staff to care, let alone put on a smile; and they make it painfully obvious that they only want money with paid advertisements throughout the park and greedy tactics to get more from your wallet. So I walked into Six Flags St. Louis with low expectations, and nine coaster credits to score. Overall, there were some ups and downs (besides the coasters), but I had myself a pretty decent time and was able to collect all nine in just a few short hours. The park also has a stunning view with it being at the foothills of a gorgeous mountain.

BONUS PIC: Say hello Spirit, the newest member of the Cravak hippo clan today. Thank you Mom!


Amazing Year Day 119: Now That’s a Grocery Store… on Steroids and Acid

5 Jul

Road Trip Day 2: Jungle Jim’s International Market

We were lucky enough to hear Phlash Phelps on Sirious XM urge a caller to visit Jungle Jim’s when they were traveling through Cincinnati. It just so happened that we were on our way to Cincinnati! Destiny had given us a clue, and boy did we use it. Now all things considered, it is just a grocery store. But boy does it surpass anything the imagination can dream up.

Road Trip Day 2: Mushroom House

It’s worth to the stop to see how some people can truly make a splash! Hooray for creativity and expression!

Road Trip Day 2: Kentucky Kingdom

This park has gone through several transformations. While perhaps it once had a more stellar coaster collection, it was a quick but enjoyable visit and the park looks to be moving in the right direction. Free sunscreen and beverages certainly made traversing through this scorching hot day more bearable!

Road Trip Day 2: Holiday World

Holiday World is a testament that tender, love, and care will grow something beautiful. It’s a family-friendly park with an incredible collection of roller coasters. With a few hours left in the day while on our way to St. Louis, we just had to stop here!

Amazing Year Day 118: One Man Road Trip Begins

4 Jul

Disclaimer: This roller coaster riding trek through central and midwestern states was intended to be truly a one-man adventure. A chance for a 37-year old husband, published writer, and principal of an international school to get behind the wheel, , ride scores of never before ridden coasters, taste some iconic American fare, thus connect ing with life and allowing the creative juices to flow, which is nearly impossible when in the company of others, especially loved ones. This “man” was looking forward to the trip and had the full support of his wife. However, this “man” just didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to say no to his momma when she practically invited herself on the adventure and didn’t even allow the said “man” to drive. All things considered, we did have a pretty swell time, and there were some nights when I was able to do some soul searching alone while careering across a mile of raised steel. I never thought of myself as a momma’s boy… but I suppose I couldn’t object to being called a momma’s man. Without further ado… let’s get to the One Man Road Trip featuring a senior citizen.

Road Trip Day 1: Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo has been all over social media for better (Fiona, the adorable baby hippo), and worse (the tragic murder of Harambe). But it’s longed stayed in my heart as a cherished zoo, having visited twice during my youth, once with my parents and sister, and once with my adventurous grandma.

Road Trip Day 1: Coney Island

Coney Island, a classic piece of Americana, had seen better days before neighboring King’s Island’s parent company basically stripped the park bare. Thankfully it’s comfortably a “boutique” park. It’s a confusing drive there as you have to enter and then exit the state of Kentucky to reach a park that is otherwise still in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Road Trip Day 1: Stricker’s Grove

In terms of amusement parks in the Cincinnati area, most people only think of King’s Island. But there is a rare gem hidden to the west in otherwise quaint farmland. Stricker’s Grove is an amusement park featuring two small but highly respected wooden coasters. And there’s the special park with a business plan catering to banquets, company parties and weddings. Consequently it’s only open to the public for a few days each year, making their two coasters much sought after credits. Needless to say, it felt good to not be the only grown-man-dork-supreme riding the coasters. My first run-in with a fellow coasterer followed the typical chit-chat. “So how many coaster credits do you have?” “70, oh that’s great. I have over 500.” But today, my arrogance was humbled by the politest of Germans. “Over 1,800.” Suddenly my quest for 600 didn’t seem so awesome. Well, Crave, you’ve got hopefully many years left on this planet, keep riding!

Road Trip Day 1: King’s Island

Much like the Cincinnati Zoo, King’s Island has a fond place in my heart and has secretly always been my favorite park on the planet (Sorry, Cedar Point). They have one of the best kiddie ride sections, my favorite mine train coaster (Adventure Express), and arguably the world’s best collection of wooden coasters (only Holiday World can compete). It’s been over a decade since I’ve been through its gates, and I was pumped to score many a credit while also reliving relics of my past. The 4th of the July was a great day to start the road trip, and ending with an incredible fireworks display amidst towering coasters was a fitting nightcap.

Amazing Year Day 117: Quesadilla Tuesday

3 Jul

After terminating Tacos as the official mascot for Tuesday last week in favor of food trucks, I decided it was time to show remorse and pay it forward with at least a compromise: Quesadilla Tuesday!

I’m not much of a cook. Though, it is how I (somehow) made my living through college. One dish that has stayed with me was the quesadilla from the salad station at the now defunct Marche market restaurant in Boston.

It’s fun to cook and to see family members actually enjoy.

Important Notice: Food actually tastes better than appears. It’s like the opposite of Subway and McDonalds.


Amazing Year Day 116: A Slice of Life

2 Jul

This Monday felt like I was living in Buffalo, as I comfortably made my way through my routine of enjoying a family breakfast while my niece proceeded her campaign trail and met all of the other customers, then I made my way to Barnes & Noble scouring through the latest picture books and editing my stories, while later consuming local edibles (Mighty Taco) for lunch.

In the evening, family reunited for supper, this time a unique dining experience. Grand Island boasts a pizza restaurant with a comic book shop in the middle. So cool!