Friday, September 30, 2011

Michigan vs. Ohio State

While traveling back down to visit my cousin in Cincinnati, I came across the perfect timing of a post gameday Saturday in the town of Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan. It did not disappoint. All about students were walking to and fro, some drunk, some about to be, and some busy with schoolwork for some odd reason. One thing was immediately clear, this was not a dry campus. As seen below where enthusiastic and very stereotypical frat boys play an interesting twist on a beer pong game where the object is to throw the ping pong ball at the other team's beer and if it hits, you can drink your beer until the other team places the ping pong ball back on the table. First team to finish their beer wins.

Not only was Ann Arbor a great place for drinking, it was also a great place for exercising. Out of all the places I have been so far, I have yet to see so many people out running! Now this could have simply been because the semester was still young, the weather was good, and all the freshman were still trying desperately not to gain that "15" that undoubtedly happens for some as soon as the warm weather disappears and their self control and motivation along with it. However as beautiful a place as the campus was for running, I found the hidden gem for outdoors exercise to be the Nichols Arboretum, an incredible system of trails, park, nature and wildlife, right within jogging distance. And with scarcely anyone using it! Combine that with a bustling downtown nightlife with a good mix of young professionals and graduate students and this town was not just a great college party town but one that was also easy to escape the immaturity of the college scene. Best of all, traffic and parking did not seem to be a problem around anywhere I went.

After really enjoying the University of Michigan, I was now expecting great things from Ohio State University as well, seeing as they are such a huge rivalry. And upon arriving in Columbus and running on their excellent trail system downtown by the river I was liking the possibilities. However, besides this running and biking trail, which did go through the University and stretched for a very long way, there was nothing about the University itself that I could find to be either picturesque, captivating, or inspiring. Though it was so big I'm not certain there wasn't something I missed as I ran around as much of it as I could stand in the cold weather and the impossibly far away parking spot that I had found after a lifetime of searching. The city of Columbus, itself, though, was quite the city. It had a very nice downtown with not too much traffic, though free parking was certainly not easy to find anywhere even remotely close to it. This was not a problem for me though, as the Scioto Audubon Metro Park was quite close and connected directly to the river trail system that runs right by downtown. This metro park was noticeably lacking in off-road trails, but it made up for it in containing the (according to the locals I climbed with) world's biggest free climbing rock wall, among being a veritable mecca for birdwatching (according to the signs that were posted).

The view of Columbus from the Scioto River Trail. Beautiful place to run.

These wires were not visible from far away and quickly ended my off-roading cyclocross adventure for the day. I was very fortunate to get my bike slowed enough (and skidding sideways...) to come away from this collision so relatively unscathed, despite ending up on the other side of the fence...

The amazingly excellent free climbing wall, seen here as a downpour has just started. Big thanks to the two Ohio State students that lent their gear and expertise so that I could go up it!

So all in all, which one wins? Well in my very brief time spent in each city, my preference was most certainly Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. Though Columbus itself was a very cool city for it's size, the ease of accessibility in the smaller town of Ann Arbor and the proximity of excellent trails in the arboretum made it much more visitor and outdoor lover friendly while still containing all the elements of college town and bustling nightlife. The people in both cities were of course fantastic, save for a couple drunken, rowdy frat boys in Michigan. However for the person who prefers to be lost in the bustle of the big city and to disappear into the crowd, they might very well prefer the ginormous campus that is Ohio State.

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