On a Quest for Carbs: The Butler County Donut Trail Delivers

I’m not normally a person who would suggest setting an alarm on vacation. After all, isn’t the whole point of having down time to relax? So why would anyone in their right mind get up early?

One word:  Donuts.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
You’re salivating right now, aren’t you?

As soon as I said it, you could smell them, couldn’t you? Right out of the fryer—sugary, creamy, heavenly scented, icing-decorated orbs of awesomeness that are packaged by the dozen because no one should have just one.

But you know what’s better than starting your day with a donut? Following a WHOLE TRAIL dedicated to this breakfast delight. In fact, in Butler County, OH, you can even earn a t-shirt for filling out a donut passport that features 11 savory donut stops throughout southwestern Ohio.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
At Jupiter Coffee & Donuts, you can get both–as well as fun conversation.

The Early Bird Gets the…Donuts

I started out at 8 a.m., having been warned by those in the know that you have to get your donuts early because once they’re gone, they’re gone. And it would have been a horrible shame to miss the delicacies that I got at Kelly’s Bakery, The Donut Spot, and Jupiter Coffee & Donuts, as well as to forego the morning conversation with others on this jelly-filled journey.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
There weren’t a dozen in this box when I started. But there were none when I was done.

People come from all over to enjoy strawberry yeast sprinkles, buckeyes, old-fashioneds, fried croissants, and the stunning Red Storm Roll—a masterpiece of cream cheese and raspberry filling—and they bring their friends with them. One couple I spoke to were with a motorcycle group who decided to turn the trail into a poker-run type event, hitting every spot on the same day. An older man probably summed it up best when I asked him if he thought the Donut Trail was a good idea.

“How could it not be?†he answered, looking at me as if I’d gone mental.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
There’s a reason you might need to go hiking after a morning on the trail…

The stops are marked with fun signs telling you that you’re on the trail and the addresses are on your passport, so places are easy to find even in a sugar coma. And while you can do it in a day, you aren’t required to do so, which is good if you’re planning to fit in the same pair of pants while driving between stops.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Alexander Hamilton stopping traffic. And he wasn’t even singing.

Yes, I’m Fit. Fittin’ this Whole Donut in My Mouth

Speaking of, if you feel the need to walk around town to work off some of these hard-earned calories, the county seat of Hamilton, OH, is a fine place to do it. The city is filled with murals and street sculptures—earning it the title The City of Sculpture—not to mention tributes to namesake Alexander Hamilton (the man, not the musical). The Street Spark program, founded through a partnership between the city and the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, has so far funded the creation of eight large murals, including my favorite, Taking Flight, a design symbolizing a city reaching new heights.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Taking Flight. Mural designer Taylor Welch. Lead artist Nicole Trimble. Second and High St. at Rotary Park

Located on 300 acres, Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, just a short drive from downtown, features a stunning array of work surrounded by nature’s beauty. And while you can wander along its well-kept trails, if you’re simply too stuffed you can rent a golf cart—cleverly known as Art Carts—and tool around while listening to an app that tells you all about the artists and their work. Make sure to stop in at the 10,000 sq. ft. Ancient Sculpture Museum in the park as well; located in a model of an ancient Roman home, the collection, with sculptures dating to 1550 B.C., is absolutely fascinating.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
There are so many impressive sculptures to see at Pyramid Park that you may need a golf cart just to get back to your car.

A Bagel for the Road?

Before you leave the area, I’d suggest hitting up Bagel & Deli in Oxford, OH, which is also home to the University of Miami (named by Forbes as one of the Top College Towns) for a little food for the road. It’s one of the city’s favorite attractions, with more than 90 different cleverly named delicacies on the menu that covers every inch of the walls within the funky space. It’s hard to choose between the All-American, Earth Day, MILF, Big Gay Bagel and even a sandwich named for Burt Reynolds, and some people don’t. A photo wall immortalizes those who have eaten all of the bagels on the menu, earning them the coveted I Ate Them All t-shirt.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Donuts or bagels? The choice is yours. I chose both.

For those of you looking for a different type of food trail, Butler County, OH does not disappoint. For a brief, shining moment of sugar-laden bliss, I actually considered becoming a morning person.

But then I met their breweries.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Did I mention that they’ve got really good beer in Butler County? But that’s a whole other story…

If You Go:

There is a lot to do (and eat!) in Butler County, so the best place to help you make your plans is the Butler County Visitors Bureau. www.GetToTheBc.com.

If you’re in the mood for a nosh:

Bagel & Deli: 119 E. High Street, Oxford, OH 45056, www.bagelanddeli.com

Kelly’s Bakery:  1335 Main St., Hamilton, OH 45013

The Donut Spot:  5148 Pleasant Ave., Fairfield, OH 45014

Jupiter Coffee & Donuts, 5353 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, OH 45014

Feeling Artsy?

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts:  101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton, OH 45011, www.fittoncenter.org

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum: 1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd., Hamilton, OH 45013, www.pyramidhill.org




Driving in Europe: What You Need to Know (or basically, everything we didn’t)

Obviously, Vanessa and I are road trip fans—hence the name of our website. When we say every road is a story, we really mean it—especially when that road is Germany’s autobahn.

Before our trip, we both assumed that the autobahn was a single highway in Germany. Turns out, the autobahn is the entire highway system throughout the country. (Maybe we should have done some research?) Chances are, if you’re road-tripping through the country, you’ll get a chance to try out your super speedy driving skills. If your co-pilot lets you.

Terri: The autobahn! This is going to be fun!

Vanessa: No talking, no shouting, no making any noise whatsoever. I have to pay attention.

Terri: You might need my help.

Vanessa: To go up in flames?

I managed to stay quiet for the first five minutes but then had to share the advice I’d heard from a German driver who probably figured that it was the last time he’d see us. Until the funeral.

Terri: Stay in the right lane if you’re going to drive like an old person. Get in the middle lane if you’re going to drive like you normally do.  And then scoot on over to the fast lane as least once. Otherwise, you don’t get bragging rights.

I know Vanessa would have rolled her eyes at me, but she was intent on keeping them on the road. She handled the autobahn like a boss, including the fast lane. Which it turns out, is really, really fast. Like light-speed fast.

Vanessa: Dear god. That little dot of a car miles behind us got here in seconds!

Terri: I’ll remember that when it’s my turn to drive.

Vanessa: Not happening.

Terri: I don’t get to drive?

Vanessa: Not in this lifetime. Which would be considerably shortened when you started chatting and forgot you were in the fast lane. Like you do.

Terri:  That’s not fair.

Vanessa:  Fine. We’ll pull off the road and I’ll get out. Then you can drive. I’ll wait.

Needless to say, I did not get to drive the autobahn that day. It took a return trip to Germany without Vanessa for me to get my chance, and obviously I lived to talk about it. Not sure about the other drivers, but at least I’ve got bragging rights!

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
What? You don’t run across Cinderella’s slipper on your road trips?

Beyond the Autobahn

The autobahn isn’t hard to navigate, you just have to remember which lane you belong in. The rest of the roads in Germany, however, were a bit more challenging. We figured this out while driving the Fairytale Route through the Black Forest, where the deep, dark forests and abundance of castles served as an inspiration for many of the beloved fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. Along the way, we visited the house of the Seven Dwarfs, slept in Sleeping Beauty’s castle and even kissed a prince. What we should have probably done was walk through the woods instead of drive—but we all know how that worked out for Hansel and Gretel.

Our first difficulty was the language barrier. Neither of us speaks a word of German—except “prost†because it’s absolutely necessary to know how to say cheers in every language. Considering most road signs were devoid of words, this wasn’t an issue; you just have to interpret the symbols, right?

We picked up the speed limit signs right away—it’s a number (duh). If you can’t figure that out, you should never leave the country…or the house. When a speed zone ended, a sign appeared with a slash through the number—sort of like a no smoking sign for drivers. The only problem was that the speed limit signs only appeared occasionally; turns out you’re expected to know the standard speed limits for country and city roads. We had no idea. Still don’t.

Managing to avoid tickets by keeping pace with other drivers worked fairly well for us, though we did get a ticket emailed to us—it was in German, so we’re still not sure of the offense. All was going well until we entered Heidelberg. I was chatting as usual when this appeared…

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Any idea what this means? Yea, neither do we.

Vanessa: What fresh hell is this?

Terri:  I think it means that there’s a circle somewhere, and lanes around it.

Vanessa: Great. So there’s a massive carousel in the middle of the road? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

Terri: Close your eyes and pick a lane.

I’m not sure if she actually closed her eyes, but she picked a lane with no oncoming traffic and somehow, we survived. While I realize that Germans are very good at math and science, is it really necessary to use geometric symbols on road signs? Why not use words?

Oh, that’s right. Some people don’t speak German.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
According to this sign, things are canceled. We just don’t know which things.

Following Bertha Benz

Because we’d so obviously mastered driving in the country, we decided that one of our road trip goals was to follow the Bertha Benz Memorial Route, which was the world’s first long-distance road trip. Married to the legendary Karl Benz, the automotive brain behind the world’s first patented automobile, Bertha was equally pioneering. Without informing her husband, in August 1888 she took her sons Richard, 14, and Eugen, 15, to drive the Patent Motorwagen No. 3 from Mannheim to visit her mother in Pforzheim—a distance of about 65 miles. Her goal was to show her brilliant husband the way to properly market his invention to the public.

Along the way, the intrepid Bertha solved a myriad of problems. When a fuel pipe became clogged, she remedied the problem with a hatpin. And when she needed to insulate a wire, her garter served as the tool of choice.

Inspired by this innovative woman, Vanessa and I set out to follow her journey. We failed. Not because we had no hatpins or garters on hand for car repairs, but because, once again, we were at a loss when it came to signage. We lost the route within minutes of sighting the first memorial marker, only to spot it randomly as we wound our way through the countryside; it was like a huge game of German Where’s Waldo?

When we tried to stop for photos, we couldn’t find legal parking—though we did find a number of what turned out to be one-way roads. While we were going the wrong way. Clearly, we were not in the same league as Bertha when it came to pioneering road trippers…which is pretty pathetic considering we actually had GPS, real fuel and smartphones. Maybe next time, we should take some brains.

A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Bertha Benz & Sons (Recreated photo: we didn’t actually meet her…in case you were wondering.)

If You Go:

I’m not sure we should advise anyone to drive in a foreign country, but we do it, so in good conscious, we have to give you a few tips before you follow in our wayward footsteps.

  1. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO! Look up the standard rules like speed limits and what the road signs actually mean before you leave home. The Internet is your friend.
  2. GPS is also your friend—but only if it speaks to you in English. Make sure you have it set to a language you can actually understand. Also be prepared to exit on a dime; our GPS marked distance by saying “Stay on this road a long time…†only to suddenly tell us to exit without any warning. Not easy to do when you’re flying on the autobahn, missy.
  3. Rental car companies may offer you a free upgrade to an SUV. Think twice, because there are some pretty tiny parking spots in parking garages throughout Europe. And gas is fairly expensive. There’s a reason everyone drives compact cars. Also make sure to specify if you need an automatic; a lot of cars are still standards.
  4. Don’t believe the time Google Maps says it will take you to get to a destination in Germany. Germans are much more comfortable driving at the speed of light on the autobahn than the inexperienced (aka us). We were late to every single place we went, and that was even driving at 120 mph. Seriously.
  5. Don’t be cheap. If a country offers a paid pass to drive on the interstate, suck it up and pay the fee. This from the woman who didn’t pay the fee in Switzerland and ended up lost in the dark alone for hours because my GPS didn’t understand why I couldn’t just get on the highway!
A chicken sandwich and fries are on the table.
Couldn’t help but giggle at this exit sign.