2020 Blog sosAssociates


Stuart & Julie kayaking on the Rocky River on August 18, 2020. Photo by Josh “Gadget” Scott.

When we wrote about completing the first level of the Cleveland Metroparks 2020 Trail Challenge presented by Cigna to earn our 2020 Trail Challenge stickers, we were already working on the next ten trails for the final challenge. We are creating our Trail Challenge blog posts for these three reasons:

With COVID-19 closing venues we normally frequent, and having to cancel the backpacking trips that Stuart had planned on the Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail, we have been exploring many parks in Northeast Ohio and along the route of the Buckeye Trail. We are happy to share with you our experiences on the second level of the trail challenge to earn our 2020 Trail Challenge mug.

2020 Trail Challenge Prizes - Sticker for 10 trails and mug for 20 trails, plus Cigna swag packet.

Migrating sosAssociates.com From Drupal Seven to Drupal Nine

The year is 2020. All my normal activities in Cleveland and my backpacking adventures on the Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail have been canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. My wife and co-blogger, Julie, and I have been writing a series of 2020 Social Distancing Blog Posts about the COVID-19-safe activities in which we are able to partake. These blog posts were added to our sosAssociates.com website, which I built on the Drupal 7 content management system over eight years ago:

At the same time we have been writing blog posts this summer, I have been working behind the scenes on a new sosAssociates.com website. The new website is built on the new Drupal 9, which launched on June 3, 2020.

My goal was to create the new website with the new Drupal 9 version of the content management system, but with basically the same theme and content I had on my current Drupal 7 website.

I am launching my new Drupal 9 website on October 1, 2020, since this is a special date: my eleventh Twitter anniversary.


Mike, Julie, and Stuart at the 2020 Lake Metroparks Farmpark Corn Maze

We had been seeing tweets by @LakeMetroparks mentioning how they had made a special corn maze for 2020. "Double-wide paths" for their "three-acre corn maze at Lake Metroparks Farmpark" would allow for social distancing while in the maze. In 2020, we have limited the events we have been attending due to the coronavirus crisis. With the Lake Metroparks Farmpark making physical safety adjustments for COVID-19, requiring masks when indoors, and moving all activities outdoors, we decided to visit on Sunday, September 20, 2020, with our son, Mike.

Cleveland Museum of Art's Virtual Chalk Festival 2020 #CMAChalkFestival

In 2019, I wrote that it was a special year, since it was the 30th year of the Cleveland Museum of Art's Chalk Festival. As the coronavirus crisis raged on over the summer of 2020, I wondered if the 31st anniversary of this wonderful event would need to be canceled as we entered September.

On September 1, 2020, I saw the Twitter announcement "Cleveland Museum of Art’s Chalk Festival goes virtual," stating that the event would take place with people sharing their art only on social media on Saturday, September 12, 2020, and Sunday, September 13, 2020.

It is now with mixed feelings that I gather the #CMAChalkFestival drawings for this blog post about the Cleveland Museum of Art's 2020 Virtual Chalk Festival: Love Your Community with All Your Art. While it is very sad that everyone could not get together this year, I am very pleased that the museum encouraged people to share their chalk drawings on social media.

I am glad to continue my annual tradition of creating a blog post with photos from the Cleveland Museum of Art's Chalk Festival.


 Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge presented by Cigna

Take the challenge!

In 2017, we wrote our blog post: Cleveland Metroparks Inaugural Trail Challenge!

. . . so when we saw the Cleveland Metroparks tweet to "Take the challenge!" in 2020, with 25 trails to choose from, we decided to accept.

With COVID-19 closing venues we normally frequent, and having to cancel the backpacking trips that Stuart had planned on the Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail, we have been exploring many parks in Northeast Ohio and along the route of the Buckeye Trail. We have written about many of our park visits in the Social Distancing Blog Posts that we have been writing during the pandemic.

There were originally 25 trails to choose from for the challenge. During the time we were writing this blog post, we learned that the park updated the list to now include 35 trails!

What follows is information about the first ten challenge trails we have completed.

The Little Loop Challenge - Together We Hiked It All!

On Saturday, July 18, 2020, I rode my bike on 6.1 miles of Ohio's Buckeye Trail in Lake County, which is part of Buckeye Trail's "Little Loop." The "Little Loop" is the over-250-mile part of the Buckeye Trail in Northeast Ohio that goes through the following counties: Lake, Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Portage, and Geauga.

Normally, I would not write a full blog post on one bike ride, but this ride was noteworthy for the following two reasons:

  • First, the Penitentiary Glen Reservation has some very unique resources that I want to share.

  • Most importantly, July 18th was a special day, and my 6.1-mile piece of the Buckeye Trail was part of a larger effort: The 4th Annual Little Loop Challenge!

A BIG thank-you and congratulations to Buckeye Trail Board Member Randall Roberts for successfully organizing over 50 hikers and bikers in collectively completing the "Little Loop" section of the Buckeye Trail in one day! I really like the event's tagline -- "Together We Hiked It All" --  since it conveys how people come together to reach a larger goal.

Ending my bike ride at Penitentiary Glen Reservation was an excellent decision!

Apollo the eagle was magnificent! Visit the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center.


Shanelle Smith Whigham's photo of Saturday, June 27, 2020, Volunteers

We were pleased when Fox 8 News Producer Rachel Inch approached us to use some of our Facebook photos for their 6:00 pm news story on #Masks4Community on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Her request made us think about sharing the story of the great work done by the #Masks4Community leaders, partners, donors, and volunteers in one of our "Social Distancing Series" blog posts.

We first learned about #Masks4Community's good work because our @sos_jr twitter account follows (and retweets) @ShanelleLSmith. In addition to #Masks4Community's website -- Masks4Community.com, we also learned more about the program from Steven Litt's article.

In addition to giving out FREE masks, #Masks4Community distributes information about voting and the census in the kits. We are BIG believers in the importance of voting, and know how the census directly impacts the way services are provided in our community. Therefore, we were excited to learn that the #Masks4Community program also supports our belief in the importance of people fulfilling their civic duty!

We signed up to volunteer once a week, starting with the morning shift on Saturday, June 27th. We were not only impressed by the mission of the organization, but also how clearly they spelled out that they followed safety measures for those volunteering (everyone wears masks, washes hands, practices social distancing, and the number of volunteers is limited). We only volunteered because these safety measures are in place.

Shanelle Smith Whigham's photo of Julie and Stuart at #Masks4Community July 11, 2020, Julie and Stuart at #Masks4Community

"Cleveland GiveCamp 2020 event scheduled for July is postponed"

This morning, Sunday, July 19, 2020, for some reason I woke at 5:00 am -- I now assume that it is because my body is trained to wake up early on the third weekend of July. This is because, for the last ten years, the third weekend of July has been Cleveland GiveCamp Weekend. Little sleep and a lot of work on behalf of local nonprofits is the norm for the over 200 volunteers that provide FREE tech solutions annually at Cleveland GiveCamp.

Since I was awake, I decided to put together this blog post to honor those that give their talent every year, and to acknowledge and mourn the loss of normality in 2020 during this coronavirus crisis. I thank many people in this blog post, but please remember that they represent a much larger number of people who work on behalf of Cleveland GiveCamp to make it possible to serve our community's nonprofits with FREE tech! I created the video at the top of this blog post on Saturday, July 18th, to share on social media -- it helped me remember ten years of success at: "Cleveland GiveCamp – geeks in the home of rock and roll coding for charity."


Cleveland Museum of Art Reopening - #WelcomeBackCMA

O - p - e - n - i - n - g - !

Yes, Ohio is slowly opening in the year of the coronavirus crisis, but can only do so with social distancing and other safety measures. As we approached the end of June, we heard that the Cleveland Museum of Art was reopening following "rigorous safety procedures that adhere to the guidance set forth by state and local officials, as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)."

We decided to make this our first adventure out to a public space by getting tickets, but the day before we were going to order our online tickets, we received an invitation from Communications and Media Relations Manager Kelley Notaro Schreiber to the Cleveland Museum of Art's Reopening Media and Influencer Welcome Back! We accepted her invitation and decided to be one of the first to go to the public reopening of the Cleveland Museum of Art on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

There is much happening both onsite in the museum galleries and online at the Cleveland Museum of Art. While the online resources are extensive, we do have to say that the absolute best way to truly enjoy the museum's art is in person, visiting its galleries! Thus, we were very excited to attend the Cleveland Museum of Art's #WelcomeBackCMA reopening!


Social Distancing Park Visits - June 2020

After writing three social distancing blog posts about visiting our local parks during the coronavirus crisis, we really did not plan to write anymore blog posts on this subject. However, we have been having such a great time exploring parks that we had not visited before, and revisiting old favorites, that we decided to gather tweets from park visits in June 2020, to create this blog post.

This blog post accomplishes two things that are important to us.

Please note that we have attended many more parks in June 2020 than those included in this blog post. Beyond what we include here, Stuart has been doing section hikes on the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" (the Buckeye Trail Little Loop is over 250 miles long in Northeast Ohio), and we have done eleven additional hikes as part of the Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge 2020. We plan to write blog posts about these trail activities when we complete them.

WordCamp Kent 2020

WordCamp Kent -- One of the Great NEO Tech Education Opportunities!

Over the years, I had heard great things about Kent.WordCamp.org, but I have never attended their weekend of WordPress training. This year, I was scheduled for a multi-month backpacking trip on the Continental Divide Trail, but due to the coronavirus crisis, I had to cancel my trip to New Mexico. Instead, I have been exploring local parks and attending online activities -- learn more by reading my sosAssociates.com Social Distancing blog posts.

When I learned on Twitter from @WordCampKent that this year their WordCamp was not canceled and would be online, I was excited to attend. I am so glad I registered for it. It was great! Not only did it provide great resources for WordPress development, but it also included some really excellent management workshops.


Social Distancing: Visiting More Parks

As we wrote in our other Social Distancing blog posts about exploring our local parks, we continue to be fortunate to have had no illness or death in our family.

We are writing this blog post to:

We are both sad about activities we love being canceled for 2020, but we want to acknowledge all that we have gained in terms of time together learning about local parks and about each other.

We start this blog post with information about how to be safe in the parks during this coronavirus crisis. We also want to note that we added at the end of the blog post information about camping opportunities in our local park systems.

Social Distancing with Virtual Trail Talks

I have now written several social distancing blog posts during this time of the coronavirus crisis, about how I spend my time -- with park walks and online activities. I have also been attending some Facebook Live events about hiking trails, which I am featuring in this blog post.

During these sad times, I want to first acknowledge how fortunate I am that everyone in my family is healthy, and that I have the luxury of being able to participate in, and write about, interesting social distancing activities.

Secondly, I want to thank the organizations that are investing their time and resources to create these live video events featuring hiking trails. It is helping take the sting out of the fact that I was scheduled to be on a long-distance backpacking adventure at this time. I appreciate being able to join others online to celebrate trail life. Thank you!

The sections of this blog consist of:

Opening Day for Trails with Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Celebrate Trails @ Home

Continental Divide Trail Coalition - Virtual Trail Days

The Continental Divide Trail is Our Classroom with Author and Backpacker Cindy RossConversations Across a Continent with Continental Divide Trail Coalition Members

Virtual Trail Days: Living Room Concert with 3000 Miles

Virtual Trail Days: Trailblazers featuring Will “Akuna” Robinson and Elsye “Chardonnay” WalkerVirtual Trail Days: CDT Between the Ears with Jodie "Green, Gold and Blues" Morton Virtual Trail Days: The First Women to Hike the Continental Divide with Jean Ella Smith

Julie demonstrates -- "Do your part! Stay 6 feet apart! Please help us to keep our parks open!"

Looking for humor and creativity on the Twitterverse, and visiting parks while social distancing is what my life mainly consists of currently. There is also a lot of sadness about plans being canceled, but my family has been fortunate to have had no illness or death. I try to support those that I see online that are making a difference in our community.

While no day of COVID-19 social distancing is the same, the typical day often contains the following elements: 

In this blog post, I share my experience visiting local parks, and my online life during these coronavirus crisis times.

Humor and Creativity on the Twitterverse While Social Distancing

On Monday, March 30, 2020, while Julie and I were finishing our blog post, Peaceful Parks While Social Distancing, we got to talking about how we appreciated all the humor and creativity we were seeing on social media while everyone was social distancing. We were impressed by some of the very gifted people sharing their talents, and we liked how some people were using humor to cope with the stress of the current coronavirus crisis.

I decided to grab my @sos_jr tweets and retweets from this stressful time period that I thought demonstrated positive humor or creativity on the Twitterverse, and some tweets that had some personal significance. Please share those that you enjoy by retweeting them, so that your Twitter followers can share in a laugh, or appreciate the talent.

Humor and Creativity on the Twitterverse While Social Distancing


 Canada Goose in Cleveland Metroparks on March 20, 2020

This blog post will share how we used our fantastic, local parks to deal with coronavirus-related stress starting, on Monday, March 16, 2020. An important part of health is mental health -- go for a walk for both physical and mental health!

We include information in this blog post about using the parks safely during this crisis, and resources to learn more about local parks. We have also included tweets about local restaurants from which we got food "to-go," on our way to or from the parks. It is important to support local business where possible at this time.

We want to thank our local park systems for their work to provide a safe place to explore.

Safe Practices When Visiting Cleveland Metroparks During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

sosAssociates.com Blogiversary: Eight!

 2012 to 2020!!! My Eighth Blogiversary of celebrating the fun of exploring our community!

Julie and I are looking forward to sharing our adventures with you through new blog posts in the year ahead. Each month in this coming year brings new possibilities!


Cleveland Brite Winter 2020! #Brite2020

Winter in Cleveland -- a great time for an outdoor party in The Flats!

For the eleventh consecutive year, thanks to the Brite Winter Leadership Team and Sponsors, on Saturday, February 22, 2020, we joined tens of thousands of people laughing at the Cleveland cold by attending this annual outdoor celebration!

Here are our @sos_jr tweets and retweets with photos/videos from Brite Winter, along with videos we found on YouTube. We share this to encourage you to attend future Brite Winter events, and to thank the people that make it possible. We are very lucky in Cleveland to have Brite Winter!

PechaKucha Night Cleveland - Volume 36

February 20th, 2020, marked PechaKucha 20x20's first annual International PechaKucha Day. I was VERY fortunate to celebrate by attending Cleveland's own PechaKucha Night Cleveland at the Music Box Supper Club!!

I always enjoy attending PechaKucha Night Cleveland and PechaKucha Night Akron events, but this night ended up being special. I arrived at Music Box Supper Club after a very busy afternoon that left my energy low on this Thursday night. I ended up leaving PechaKucha Night Cleveland with a natural high. The creativity of the presenters energized me and made my week!

You should plan on attending future events with friends with whom you want to share the experience that is PechaKucha Night Cleveland!

2020 International PechaKucha Day! #ipk2020


PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet

On February 7, 2020, we attended the PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet opening at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This opening coincided with the #MIXatCMA party that we enjoy attending the first Friday of most months. There was so much to see at the exhibition that we returned to see more the following weekend (Sunday, February 16, 2020).

We enjoyed the PROOF opening so much that we wanted to share it with our son, Michael Smith, on our return visit. We wanted to show him the items we enjoyed on our first visit, and to see the photographs that we did not have time to see. PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet is the type of exhibition that warrants more than one visit.

Julie and Stuart at the opening for "PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet"


Akron Art Museum "Last Look Tour: 'Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art'"

Stuart had attended the Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art exhibition with our son, Mike, on October 26, 2019. What made their visit to the exhibition extra special was was learning special insights about the artwork from Curator of Exhibitions Theresa Bembnister.

After the October 2019 tour, Stuart knew he needed to return to the Akron Art Museum to share his experience with his wife and co-blogger, Julie. As we entered 2020, we made plans to go in late January.

We were excited to learn via a Twitter direct message from @AkronArtMuseum that now not only would we be able to see the exhibition together, but we would also be able to go on a "final tour" with Theresa Bembnister, on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. The exhibition is great, but seeing it with the curator who developed the show is extra special.

We had a great day at the Akron Art Museum, and want to again thank Theresa Bembnister for the tour, and Jeneé Garlando for taking time to tell us more about the museum. We look forward to attending future exhibitions at the museum.

Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art


2020 Ice Festivals - North Coast Harbor and Lake Metroparks

We started 2020 by celebrating winter in Northeast Ohio by attending two ice festivals in January:

The following are our tweets from these fun events, which include our videos and photos. We share them here to say how we appreciate being able to attend these annual ice festivals.


#NewYearsEve and #NewYearsDay 2020 #ThankYou

As we have done the past five years, we have created this #NewYearsEve and #NewYearsDay 2020 #ThankYou blog post to thank the many people/organizations for all the great activities and events that we attended in 2019! We also enjoy reliving the year by reviewing our 31 blog posts from 2019.

What follows are our 2019 blog posts, and tweets from New Year's Eve and New Years Day. We also included some tweets from the first week of the new year, which show how we started the new year with fun activities.

We are excited to start another year! All the best to everyone in 2020!