The new Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course opened in 2014 in Austintown Township, Ohio, a couple of miles from our house. Neither of us is a big fan of gambling or horse racing, but every once in a while we'll stop at a casino in our travels just for fun (we've been to the Hollywood facility in Columbus, Ohio, which is owned by the same company as this one).
Not long after this one opened, we visited, staying long enough to look around, blow 10 bucks on the slots (there are 850 video lottery terminals here), grab a bite to eat and check out the Rodeo Drive gift shop. Having seen some of the uber-expensive shops at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jeersey, I was hesitant to go in this shop (everything glittered); but it turned out to be a treasure trove with fabulous fake bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings (and even tiaras, for those so inclined) selling for a flat $10 each. Since the next day was Sweetest Day, Jack bought me a ring.
Our next visit came a couple of days after Christmas, when the sun made an appearance after at least two weeks and the temperature hovered close to 60 degrees. Jack offered to buy me two more rings for Christmas, so of course I was chomping at the bit. We arrived about an hour before the start of a live thoroughbred race on the one-mile oval track, so we piddled around long enough to watch the first race of the day. Racing, for the record, begins in late November and runs through April each year - rain, shine or snow. There's a spacious indoor skybox for viewing (with dining available), but when the weather's nice, it's great to sit outside to see the ponies run.
Along the way, I've been honored to have some of my photos win various awards. This gallery includes a few favorites. Just because of sheer volume, though, I've created a separate gallery here for the awards at BetterPhoto.com. The rest are in here!
I've never been one to do much post-processing to photographs beyond the standard cropping, sharpening and such. But once in a while, I get the urge to play around, trying various filters just to see what happens. Sometimes, the results are pleasing; other times, not. Needless to say, I'll share only the ones I like here!
As always, flowers are the highlight of travel for me, photographically speaking. This gallery includes some of my favorites, most notably roses from the beautiful Lakeview Park in Lorain, Ohio. The garden, shaped like a spoked wheel in honor of the Rotary International emblem, contains some 2,500 roses of various colors.
It's my husband, Jack, who's the lighthouse photography "expert" -- in fact, his unending quest to find these historic structures piqued my interest in photography (if, at first, only as a way to pass the time while he did his thing). If you light lighthouses, be sure to check his gallery here as well (http://photosbyjryan.zenfolio.com).
But I, too, love lighthouses -- and of course I keep my finger on the shutter during all our travels. Here are a few of my favorites. Stop back often, because there's no doubt I'll be making more!
The Wilds, located in a scenic rural area of southeastern Ohio near Cumberland, includes nearly 10,000 acres of unclaimed mine land that today is a private, nonprofit conservation center. More than 2,000 acres have been developed into pastures and a Carnivore Conservation Center, medical and research facilities for the wild animals, and today it is the largest wildlife conservation center in North America. The center is a partnership with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and is open for wild animal tours, hiking and biking, horseback riding, ziplining and educational activities from May through October. A few yurts can be rented for overnight stays, and the lodge is open year-round.
Our visit happened May 19, 2016, together with daughter-in-law Lilla Ryan and her brother, Iain Frerichs. It's about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Lilla's home, much of it on Interstate 77. We'd been waiting for a day before school is out to go, and when Lilla called to make a reservation for an open-bus tour, she was told there was no need this time of year; they guaranteed we'd get on a bus on a walk-in basis.
And we did. Arriving around 12:30 p.m., we didn't have much of a wait for pick-up at the visitor center; ultimately, our bus carried 19 passengers with plenty of room for more. The tour took about 2 1/2 hours up hills and down, with a couple of comfort stops along the way. How well the animals can be seen depends, we learned, on how close to the roads they happen to be. The property is quite expansive - protected with electrified fencing and remote-controlled gates to allow vehicles to pass through - so we were happy we'd toted along cameras with longer-distance zoom lenses.
We saw quite a few animals, even if most were from some distance, and the beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid- to high-60s made for a comfortable ride. The scenery, which includes several lakes, is spectacular, so we were happy with our landscape shots as well. At the end of the tour, we had a late lunch/early dinner in one of the cafeterias, where the food was quite tasty and not overpriced (a very large burger and fries goes for something like $6.99).