From the dive bars in downtown Kelleys Island to the ferry dock in the marina is a brisk eight-minute walk.

From the dive bars in downtown Kelleys Island to the ferry dock in the marina is a brisk eight-minute walk.

Leave any later than 12:22 a.m. on weekend nights in summer, and you might be stuck tired, tipsy and marooned about three nautical miles from your car.

A waitress mentioned this during the morning rush at Avery's Cafe, a small roadside restaurant between Marblehead's storied lighthouse and its ferry launch to the islands.

Sometimes the bathrooms on the boat are closed for cleaning, she said, so don't count on them.

This is the expert advice I heard while preparing Alive's annual Ohio Travel Guide. This is the expert advice I needed.

For the two stories in this week's cover section, I drove roughly 800 miles through fields and forests, cities and farmland to access the river and lake that bookend the Buckeye State. Up north, I hit two of the most intriguing Lake Erie islands. Down south, I drove along a remote section of the Ohio River.

My focus was on two major natural resources that Columbus residents know little about. Destinations were delightfully unfamiliar, and the main story was the getting there.

Beyond the tip about ferry timing, I learned that you should always carry cash for the random produce stands that dot the country roads in the state's northern and southern corners. I found out (nearly the hard way) that you should never get below a half-tank of gas while driving State Route 7.

Most importantly, I found that, no matter where you're going, you should always bring a map. Just don't be afraid to get a bit lost.