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Updated March 11: Cincinnati Observations: Two Tales of a City

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Who knew that two years ago as I was prepared to share with you my observations as someone who moved to Cincinnati from Seattle that it would be two years more before I would actually have time to do so? Two years? Hard to believe. As I intimated in the post just before this one, two major factors have kept me from writing: Raising a new puppy, and losing a lot of photos. Rest assured, my PedalPinting has continued all along. I have expanded my prowess in navigating this city, and new breweries have opened up. I am eager to share with you this new knowledge, and all the fun!

As for sharing my observations of Cincinnati as an outsider? Now I think I have time and am ready. As I told you in the past, I have been paying attention.

MetalSidewalkHoleWGrassSprout

Those of you who have followed me, be you PedalPinters or not, and those who have simply read the subtitle of this blog know that we moved to Cincy from Seattle. What you may not know is I have moved around this country quite a bit. I wouldn’t change that. It’s been an experience-rich life so far.

I find myself holding two views of Cincinnati:

1. Things suck here, and that’s just the way it is.

2. It’s not that bad.

Following is a writeup of the culture around the city, after which will appear a simple list of points – observations and their implications. These points will, as much as possible, include a photo I have taken serving as an example. I will begin this study of Cincinnati tonight, laying out my view, and I will add entries to the list of examples/points and photos in the coming days. Check back often for updates.

Here is a feel for why Cincinnati sucks and that’s just the way it is:

An old-fashioned city.

It has become clear to me that this is an old-fashioned city. I am not saying old-fashioned is always bad. I have many old-fashioned views and qualities, and I am certainly not someone who is quick to jump to accepting all things new and popular. What I see though is that people here seem behind the times in some ways, and I suspect they like it that way.

The most glaring example for me, and the one that most relates to what we do here at Twopedalsacouplepints is the prevailing attitude toward cycling on the roadways. Never before, anywhere I have lived, have I had it shouted at me: “Get on the sidewalk!!” – not “get off the road.” It is clear that a great number of people here believe that people riding bicycles should only do so on the sidewalk! I am reminded of the infamous picture of Mayor Cranley sporting a bike from the newly-rolled out Red Bike program by riding it. Where? On the sidewalk!!

Further examples can be found in the population’s participation rate in recycling, and the attitude toward the concept of recycling. It’s a glaring difference from what you see in Seattle. To start, you see written on the recycling bins and/or trucks the slogan “Cincinnati Recycles.” Okay. Whoop dee doo! Don’t make like it’s some extraordinary thing to recycle. Recycling in Seattle is much more an integrated foregone conclusion about which the City does not attempt to brag. What I see as I walk and run my athletic dog, and as I bicycle around Cincinnati is that trash cans are amazingly heavy (I know this because I very often have to move them out of the way as they are placed blocking the sidewalk) and the recycling bins are light. Some of the big, nice houses around Hyde Park have two or three trash bins, and just one recycling bin. Our household produces probably at least three times as much recycling as landfill waste. We traded in our full-sized trash bin for the small size and we rarely fill it up halfway. I also see a ton of recyclable material in landfill-bound trash bins, and I see recyclables like big cardboard boxes set out on non-recycling days.

Now, look at diet and eating habits and customs in Cincinnati. Obviously you have the whole chili thing. You also have it just assumed (and this is certainly not unique to Cincy) that everyone eats meat. Barbeque this, hamburger and hot dog that. Trying to raise a child who does not eat meat and does not consume a bunch of junk is a challenge here. Heck, the public school hands out candy for good behavior! Pathetic.

Consider also just how car-centric Cincinnati is. It may sound dramatic, but I really feel quite alone when I bicycle anywhere in this town. I am an alien in a hostile land. I very much long for the feeling, not just of collegiality, but of relative safety that I got cycling in some parts of Seattle. There were a lot of other cyclists on the streets with me, which leads to them being expected and accepted. Cycling in Cincy, you just feel that you are going out there and running against the grain – angering people and taking such a risk.  Cincinnati is most certainly not alone in this, but it is just automatic in people’s minds that if you need to leave your house you get in the car or truck.

A surprisingly segregated city, both in terms of income/social standing and of race.

I also find Cincinnati to be very much a place of the haves and the have-nots. Wealth and status are worn on the sleeve. The kind of car you drive appears to be very crucial (and predictable). Let’s just say the Kias and the Hyundais are reserved for the young, the (non-wealthy) college students and those who don’t earn much money. If you have a respectable career or social standing you are not seen in one of these vehicles.

This, I believe, is tied into the very evident attitude toward pedestrians. If you attempt to get around without the aid of a motor vehicle, you are disregarded, disrespected and endangered. You are seen as a second-class citizen at best. It is clear – and I certainly noticed this when I lived across the river in Northern KY as well –that people on foot had just better stay the heck out of the way of drivers or pay the price. Drivers will turn in front of you, cutting you off almost without fail – this whether or not you are in a crosswalk. Shocking and disturbing is the frequency of reports of pedestrians killed or injured by drivers in Cincinnati.

So, if you try to get somewhere without firing up a motor vehicle, you are in a sense viewed as a have-not – a loser or someone who must be down on their luck. After all, why doesn’t that loser walking along the street have a car? I submit to you that there is a racist component tied into this. I observe that a lot of the people walking places are black. Do I think that they are walking for exercise, or because they chose to leave the car at home? No, I suspect many of them cannot afford to drive. There you have the tie-in to the haves and the have nots. It does seem to me that to a large degree the black population of Cincinnati is struggling financially. So, as a white man, I am grouped by drivers into that same perceived class of people (not that most drivers do much actual thinking behind the wheel). I am walking or running to the grocery store so I am a loser who wishes he had a car. Now, consider the ridership of the “Metro” buses around town. Look at the race of the riders. I’ve observed that it is overwhelmingly black. Mass-transit options should be embraced by all, and used widely, not just those who aren’t able to afford to drive a personal car.

Some of you will misconstrue my words. To you, I say: Be honest – with yourself, then with others.

Here’s why Cincinnati is not that bad:

A city of “firsts,” “only-s” and “biggests.”

I often learn of facts regarding Cincinnati that reveal that this or that was the first of its kind in the nation. I learn of places, establishments, or things that are the biggest, or the only, in the country.

The Reds were the first professional baseball team (right? I don’t know for sure).

The Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the country.

I learned from the owner of a local brewery that Cincinnati’s water treatment plant is something like the most respected in the nation. That really surprised me. I guess if you’re pulling drinking water from the Ohio River you had better be very good at cleaning it. Of course, the quality of the water that you have at your house depends heavily on the condition, and length, of the pipes between the plant and your house. So here we have a “best.”

I learned on one of the OTR guided tours (which we finally took when out-of-town guests came to visit) that much of – most of? – the iron work like balcony railings and the like in New Orleans was made in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati was one of the largest brewing cities in the nation before prohibition.

You get the idea. Some examples are slipping my mind at the moment. Feel free to share more examples in the comment section!

Good Parks

We do seem to have a good amount of parks, and they are pretty nice. I will mention the cool water fountains below in my list of observations. Even the ones that are in not-so-nice neighborhoods seem nice. This is, at least, my observation. I certainly have not been to all that many of our parks, nor have I visited the majority of the city’s neighborhoods, but it’s held true for me so far.

Surprising number of companies and businesses

You’ve got Kroger, P&G, Gorilla Glue and more very well-known companies here. We have the very respected Cincinnati Children’s. Beyond that, there seem to be a lot of businesses in Cincinnati. Seems a good thing in terms of jobs, though I haven’t really explored what it’s like to job-search here.

Pro football and pro baseball. Two nationally-known colleges

I am decidedly not a sports fan. I watch MMA as often as I can, as I have trained in it and I study self defense; but sports fan – yeah no. Still, it is pretty significant to me that we have the Bengals and the Reds – not just in our state, but right here in our very city. We also have Xavier and UC. That’s two (it seems to me) pretty major colleges right here. Now, it sucks, and baffles me, that both of them are surrounded by pretty sketchy areas of town; but at least they are here.

“The Banks”

I’m not up on the politics surrounding The Banks development in Downtown near the riverfront. I am quite sure there are many who are anti-The Banks and are resentful about it – just as you can easily find folks who are anti and resentful about every single issue and thing. All I know is that what I have seen and experienced of Downtown Cincinnati is cleaner and nicer than Downtown Seattle. There also (at least used to be) far, far fewer panhandlers here than Seattle. I have surmised that enforcement must be responsible for this. The situation has been changing, though, in recent times for some reason.

Hello! Brewery taprooms being legalized, and the appreciable springing up of new breweries.

This one pretty much speaks for itself. We moved to Cincinnati – about three years ago – at just the right time! I’m not saying we have an awesome number of breweries here, but it is reaching a level where I am starting to respect it.

Fairly consistent positive developments in the area of Multi-Use Trails and bicycle facilities.

Here again, I am not saying things are great, or even good; but it really has (I reluctantly admit) been surprising how consistently I hear of positive things happening in this regard. Let’s see: Off the top of my head: Delta Ave bike lanes which I use often. Madison Ave bike lanes which see me often. A connector trail between Lunken and Armleder. The new trail from Newtown to *almost* Lunken. (who knows when that bridge will get built) The very recent definitive good news regarding The Wasson Way trail! It is still a long way off from being all that useful but I relish the idea of rolling on the new pavement over in Evendale or wherever the first section will be constructed. The multi-use trail along Wilmer was recently redone – in concrete no less. It used to be a bicycle wheel-bender at each driveway you cross. Now it is nice, to my knowledge. There just seems to be a consistent, albeit low-power, move in the right direction in terms of livability for not just cyclists but for all.

The Little Miami River, and the three squares

I feel fortunate, and appreciate the area of town in which I live. We are sort of in the SE section of Hyde Park. It is easy to get on Linwood Ave. and get down to access to the River, where I know of two separate kayak (or canoe) put-ins. You can also have your dog swim there, and maybe go swimming yourself. It’s very cool to have a river so close!

Where I live, we can walk/run to all three squares: Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, and Oakley. Some are farther than others, as you might imagine. The point is that it is nice to have, in a city where there are plenty of areas that are run down and not safe, these viable decent areas with community spaces – even small green spaces – and a few shops and restaurants that are useful to me/my family.

I am certainly forgetting some things, but I have laid out my two tales of this city. Now, on to the poignant, funny and/or frustrating observations! More soon! Check back, PedalPinters!

March 2nd update follows:

Oh, Cincinnati, why can’t we have nice things?

fecesonbreweryextwall

This pic was taken last Sunday outside the entrance/exit of a local brewery. I won’t name the place because it’s not their fault. I first thought this might be chewing tobacco, but it’s clear that it is not. As I left, I noticed another instance of this where someone apparently backed up to the wall and blew out a crap. I was all loaded up, including two full growlers, and rolling on the bike to my next stop so I did not take a pic of the second one. This is seriously messed up, people.

This was not on my list but does represent starkly and disgustingly one of my points regarding this city. Now, I am not simply taking a shot at the homeless (or necessarily blaming this on them) or suggesting that other cities don’t have public nuisance problems. This one by the way is not just a nuisance, it’s a disgusting health risk. This points, though, to what I’ve experienced in Cincinnati: You might try to enjoy something nice this place has to offer, but you will almost always have your experience affected by that base element of our local society that is ubiquitous.

Example: My family and I, for the first time, paid a visit  to the very nice area of the park at Eden Park that has the pond, and city overlook, play set, etc. We had been to the grassy area across the street, but not yet this place. We were initially trying to visit the Khron Conservatory for their annual holiday display, but there was a long line so we visited the park while we formulated an alternate plan.

We get into the park and just after I realize how nice it is, it becomes apparent that it is largely occupied by people just hanging around. “Hanging around? How dare they!?” you say. I know, I know how I sound; but I am talking about people for whom this beautiful park is just their hangout. You’ve got cars just pulling through slowly – not looking for parking. Perhaps most illuminating were the multiple signs in the parking lot, along the overlook end, that admonished people that it is not allowed to wash cars there. To reiterate: Signs prohibiting the washing of cars in the park parking lot. This is a big enough problem, apparently, at this park.

This reminds me of another example: Hyde Park Plaza. You know, the shopping center that uses the name “Hyde Park” to add class to itself, yet it’s located in Oakley. Granted, the place is essentially the closest, general-purpose shopping center to Hyde Park so I cut them a bit of slack on the name hijack.

Here’s the thing: We can’t have anything freaking nice! This shopping center is overall pretty nasty. You’ve got what the management company describes, laughably, as the “Commons.” This is simply the sidewalk leading from Kroger on through and around the place. Too bad the “Commons” is littered with trash, cigarette butts (and smokers), discarded alcohol containers and even urine. Hyde Park Plaza is also home to Michael’s (you know, that big store that sells art supplies, crafts and crafty stuff kids like). Thing is, this is the only Michael’s I’ve seen that greets customers with big signs that warn you that you are on camera.

I often run into the problem where I need/would love to be able to run my dog to this shopping center and briefly tie him out as I pop into, say, Ace Hardware, Bruegger’s Bagels (a sad example of Bruegger’s), or the like and pick up a quick item or two that we need. I know, however, that I can’t. Why? Well, it’s hard to describe, but it’s just obvious that some of the frequenters of this center would make trouble for us instead of minding their own business. It’s these people for whom the public spaces are their business and their space. It’s like the shopping center is in a bad neighborhood, yet it is not. By contrast, I do sometimes tie out my dog and pop into REI in the Rookwood shopping center quickly. I know there will not likely be a problem caused by people who have nothing better to do.

I’m certainly not trying to be elitist, and I am far, far from wealthy; but I live and let live instead of being a public nuisance and menace. Shouldn’t everybody? Cincinnati, why can’t we have nice things?

March 11 Update Follows:

Lizards! Who knew? Imported sometime in the ’50s from Italy? Anyone?

LizardOnStone2 copy

See the little scaly friend there sunbathing?

March 12 Update Follows:

Ugly, jagged wires hanging off of power poles. It really is beyond me how the City, or the utility companies do not get sued for injuries resulting from this! I have had to physically protect my child and my dog from injury on this stuff. Seems kind of like just the way it is here, doesn’t it? People put up with this crap. I’ve seen this sort of stuff all over town.

 

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Updated July 14: An Adventure To Cappy’s Craft Wine And Spirits

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Join me as I play recreational Cincinnati cyclist and finally try out the Loveland Bike Trail. There’s one major difference however: I didn’t drive a car, park it, then start my ride. I rode from my house. Yes, take that. I believe most of the time a bike ride should not involve gasoline and an internal combustion engine.

Cappy’s Craft Wine And Spirits is a place I’ve heard of a few times and finally had brought into the forefront of my consciousness by the web presence known as Hoperatives here in the Cincinnati area. It clicked that this was a place not far at all off the Loveland Trail that fills growlers and carried a lot of craft beer. Sounds like an adventure to me.

Allow me to take a moment to address something: One day as I was at Rivertown Brewing recently, there was a guy I’d just met talking about cycling with me and the Loveland Bike Trail came up. Suddenly from my other side came a loud, adamant, somewhat obnoxious voice proclaiming that it’s not the Loveland Bike Trail. It’s the Loveland Multi-Use Trail! The man, a cyclist, insisted that walkers did not want him blazing along the trail at 30 miles per hour or something like that. You know what? He has a point, albeit a point I already understood. It is indeed a multi-use trail and cyclists should yield and give as wide a berth as possible to those on foot. His point I do think bears repeating here, as I believe most folks call it the Loveland Bike Trail. Many cyclists – almost exclusively those clad in bright Lycra and atop expensive road bikes – ride fast, disrespectfully and unsafely to others on trails such as this.

I feel bad leveling a dig at serious and somewhat serious roadies, or even wannabe lookalikes. I love and promote all forms of cycling. The more people in bikes the better! People, though, need to be respectful and considerate of others. I love to ride fast, and would like to think I’m pretty good at it. I, however, almost always slow down, and put as much space as is reasonable between me and slower riders, and those on foot.

Something else very much needs addressing here: Pedestrians have their own serious burden of responsibility in sharing paths and other ways of travel. So many people traveling on foot (cyclists too) are oblivious to the world around them, but particularly anything and anyone behind them. Walkers, please, if you’re going to spread out and take up most or all of the way of passage (as is apparently human nature) please put in some effort toward periodically checking behind you or at least listening!! Almost every time I come up behind people walking, whether I am running or whether I am cycling, my attempts to get their attention with anything less than a loud, rude holler, fail. Pay attention, or don’t spread out and block the way, people! This should be basic.

Now, back to beer adventuring.

Pretty nice selection for what feels and looks like a traditional small town.

Pretty nice selection for what feels and looks like a traditional small town.

Cappy’s is located in Loveland, in case I haven’t mentioned it. The ride from my house, I think, was about 25 miles one way. This place is part of the trend – one that amazes me – of offering beer on tap at stores. There is a grocery store in Cincinnati that fills growlers, and this is one of two convenience stores that I know of in the area that also do. Cappy’s has a very nice selection of bottled beers as well of course. It’s a place to find nice wine too, though I didn’t take the time to check that out on this maiden voyage. I refer you to my post on Chuck’s on 85th, known now as Chuck’s Hop Shop for a writeup of a place that is doing the same thing in Seattle. The main difference, aside from the fact that Chuck’s has a lot more on tap, and more in bottles, is that Chuck’s is allowed to serve glasses of beer to be consumed onsite. Cappy’s currently is limited to offering four tiny samples for $1. The guy who helped me this day at Cappy’s, though, told me that this coming fall they would become allowed to pour beer for consumption on premise. Two pints he thought would be the limit. Neat! Guess it must be up to Loveland lawmakers, as the Whole Foods in Cincinnati makes no mention of a pint limit.

Nice stuff.

Nice stuff.

Getting to Cappy’s from my location in Hyde Park was not bad. Basically you ride the same route you use to get to Fifty West Brewing, but you proceed a fairly short distance past it, crossing the intersection at Newtown Rd. and then find the beginning of the trail on your right.

I will provide a map next, and further describe the ride and the growler filling experience at Cappy’s.

July 12 update follows:

Here’s the map:

http://goo.gl/maps/IkeRN

The ride from Hyde Park to Cappy’s brought back memories of Seattle. How? Think Burke Gilman Trail. From my home on Bainbridge Island, WA I’d ride to the ferry, take the boat, then sometimes ride a handful of miles to where I could pick up the Burke Gilman then head off to my destination. Here, I rode a handful of miles where I could pick up the Loveland Trail and head to my destination. Of course a major difference is that there are far fewer useful places the Loveland Trail can take you compared to its Seattle counterpart.

I took Erie to the east, followed it and enjoyed the bike lanes that are present on parts of it, and at Murray Rd., turned right. See, there is another short separated multi-use path to enjoy here that takes you into Mariemont. On this trip I had a nice experience talking to a fellow cyclist on the Murray Trail. An older gentleman in riding gear pulled up alongside me and asked where I was headed. Informed that we had moved here last fall from Seattle, he shared some information about the Loveland Trail with me that I already knew. A nice experience that you just cannot get driving a car. Human connection.

The Murray Trail ends and leaves you to ride on a residential street with, oddly, another residential street running parallel to it. Take this to the intersection with Plainville Rd., a stop sign intersection where you cut diagonally across and proceed on Madisonville Rd. which curves right and takes you down to the heart of Mariemont’s business/entertainment district. Cross the stop light intersection, turning left onto Wooster Pike/50.

From there you ride on the roadway with no bike lane or appreciable shoulder through the eastern part of Mariemont. There is a great downhill stretch before you pass the big grocery store. Not too long after that you pass Fifty West Brewing which is on the left. Proceed past the intersection with Newtown Rd. and shortly after that find the entrance to the Loveland Trail on your right.

Before long you pass a park. This is always great, as you can possibly fill a water bottle and use the restroom unless these facilities are closed for the winter (hate that!).

The rest of the ride is pretty self-explanatory. There are some places where you deal with intersections with roads. At least a couple of them are pretty treacherous.

When you get into Loveland, get off the trail and go left on Loveland Ave. (I recommend staying on the near side of the road, dismounting and walking/running on the sidewalk) It’s not far to where you cross an intersection then see Cappy’s on the left.

Cappy’s, frankly, doesn’t look very nice on the outside. Well, neither does it on the inside. This is pretty much on par with Seattle’s Super Deli Mart and Chuck’s Hop Shop however. It’s a quickie mart that has beer on tap.

Notice I didn’t say it pours beer. Not until this fall according to the guy who helped me.

On this visit to Cappy’s I filled two growlers – one with the local Mt. Carmel Snapshot Series Imperial IPA (very good) and the other with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. I’ll quickly mention Mt. Carmel Brewing since I probably won’t document an adventure to that brewery. See, it’s not possible as far as I can tell to ride a bike there. One day I had to drive to Eastgate Mall and I made the trip more worthwhile by finally visiting Mt. Carmel. I was quite impressed. The tasting room space is very nice, the service is friendly and the beer is good. You’re inside an old house and can proceed back into other areas of the house that are very tastefully appointed. Outside there is a sitting area and a pond complete with two fake ducks and sometimes two real ones. Any time I have to drive out that way I’ll be stopping in (if they’re open).

Back to Cappy’s. Well, more on Cappy’s next!

July 14 update follows:

Pull your bike up to Cappy’s and, of course, find no bike parking. I locked up to something out front and hoped no locals would complain. Yes I was struck by how, oh how to I phrase it, towny this place appears. I had heard good things about it online and was impressed that Cappy’s is smart enough to maintain an active web presence, providing Twitter updates showing their current tap lineup. What do I expect, I guess. It’s a convenience store in a relatively small town in the Midwest. Even the two quickie marts in Seattle that pour beer are frankly pretty crummy in appearance, and only one of them has a bike rack out front. The standard macro beers occupy a surprising share of Cappy’s coolers and floor space.

On to the good: Cappy’s does have a nice selection of both bottles and draft beer. If I recall, they have as a standard offering Bell’s Two Hearted Ale for a decent price per growler fill. The prices on the rest of their fills are typical – mostly somewhat overpriced for this bargain hunter.

On this visit there was a mixup. The cordial, genuine young man helping me filled one of my growlers with the wrong beer. This wound up being a slightly bigger issue than I would expect. He couldn’t see his way to pouring the beer into another vessel where it could serve another purpose. Instead he offered, to my dismay, to swap out my growler for a new one. I got the feeling he didn’t fully understand the basic tenet of growlership that states that the growler is the property of the customer. This was my growler from Seattle’s Peddler Brewing Company – a bicycle-themed brewery that I’ve written about. There was no way I was letting him keep it, and I was offended that he seemed to think he had the right to take it. I don’t want to be hard on the guy. He was nice and in the end came up with a solution that was agreeable.

An interesting thing about Cappy’s: They offer 1/2 size growlers pre-filled with beer that comes out of their lines just prior to their cleaning the lines. I really appreciate their finding a use for this beer that otherwise would go wasted. It’s sold at a decent discount, however, this discount is wiped out by the fact that you must purchase the new 1/2 size growler glassware at the same time. I wish they would provide this offer while allowing you to exchange a 1/2 size growler of your own, thus relieving you of purchasing the new glassware each time.

The selection of bottled beer at Cappy’s is fairly impressive. I have some pics of the bottled beers that I may share at a future date, but my wife and I have switched phones temporarily. You get the idea regarding Cappys though. It’s a solid place that I’m glad to have available. I look forward to their beginning to offer beer for consumption on premise. I wonder if they will install a seating area, and how far this will be taken. I don’t personally need seating, as wandering around a bottle shop while sipping a beer is a favorite activity.

Well that’s Cappy’s, folks – at least from my unique perspective. The ride home is just a reversal of the outgoing trip and of course can feel sort of long. I stopped in Fifty West on the way back and found it overrun with what I found out to be a load of tour bus revelers. Don’t get me started on the whole craft beer tour van/bus thing taking root in Cincinnati.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Look for an adventure that may take place in the immediate future that will see me on the Loveland Trail again and blazing all the way to Morrow, OH for a visit to Cellar Dweller Brewing!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Updated Aug 16 With Shortcut: A Jaunty Jaunt to the Whole Foods Beer Station

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Pedalpinters, please note the bold heading near the end of this post that reads: August 14 update: And please take a look at the updated map, as I have discovered a better way that takes you right to Whole Foods from Hyde Park.

Have I lost it?

Meaning 1: Am I crazy for seeking out a beer drinking experience at Whole Foods? Meaning 2: Have I lost my drive for adventure?

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries.

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries. Oh, and the type of beer.

I’ll let you decide.

Sure, I was the only one sitting there in Whole Foods drinking a beer. Sure, the trip to Whole Foods was a mile long.

The essential elements.

The essential elements.

This experience has something in common with my experiences at Chuck’s on 85th in that I’m in the middle of a store enjoying a beer. Its weirdness adds to the enjoyability.

No doubt my blissful little roll on over to Whole Foods bears almost no similarity to many of the epic adventures I’ve had such as those to Trade Route Brewing, or Snoqualmie Falls Brewing (both chronicled here at twopedalsacouplepints).

It was, however, a highly enjoyable craft beer by bike experience, and one I plan to repeat. Lest you doubt me, I proceeded from Whole Foods on to Bad Tom Brewing (formerly Double Barrel Brewing), then into the OTR neighborhood for Moerlein Brewing Taproom, then to the brand new HalfCut beer place, also in OTR.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries. Love it.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries.

Let me provide you with my route to Whole Foods for what it’s worth. I’m sitting pretty in my location in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. I cut through the back of the Rookwood Commons shopping center to where Whole Foods is found. This lets me avoid a bunch of busy parking lot navigation and delay. It is also pretty awesome that the beer station (nestled into the coffee bar) is located at that end of the building at which I arrive first, coming this way.

http://goo.gl/maps/JPTcL

They had some very good beers on that day, making this an even more essential experience.

May 20 Update follows:

You can see by looking at the chalkboard that Whole Foods’ prices on draft beer vary pretty widely. They want $4/pint and $3/pint for some, which is almost unheard of these days. Some others are $7 and up. Consider also their growler pricing which is wonky. For instance the Battle Axe is the same price per ounce in a pint as it is in half gallon growler. Finally, it’s important to know what I was told by the “beerista” (my term, what with this being a tiny beer bar inside a coffee bar): They plan to soon start serving beers in their “proper glassware.” What this means mostly is that a lot of their offerings are going to served in smaller sizes for the same price they currently charge. Yes, I understand proper glassware and serving higher alcohol beers in smaller pours. The point is that Whole Foods is currently offering beers in a full pint (and not a false pint glass – those thick-bottomed glasses which look just like a pint glass but only hold about 13 oz. – watch for them!) that are not available in that size just about anywhere else. Forgive me, the value hound in me takes note of this.

For me, the standout beers on the chalkboard were Fat Heads Battle Axe, a baltic porter, and Jackie O’s Matriarch, a big IPA. The beer list was almost unchanged on my subsequent visit which took place last Friday. This makes me wonder about how long it takes Whole Foods to go through a keg of beer.

I first got a pint of MadTree Brewing’s Galaxy High, an imperial IPA which weighs in at about 11.2%, and is delicious. I’ve enjoyed Galaxy High at the brewery taproom here in Cincinnati, but it’s $7/10 oz. pour. This is not the first time I’ve gotten a brewery’s beer offsite cheaper than at the brewery, which defies what at least used to be the logic that states that beer obtained directly from the source is cheaper. I consider it sweet revenge to avoid the overcharging that some brewery taprooms do these days. I love MadTree. It was my sort of home-base brewery when I lived in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. Their pricing is a beef I have with them, and they’re certainly not the only brewery doing it these days – I presume taking advantage of the growing popularity of consuming beer at a brewery taproom.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch. You see my bike parking spot on the right.

Next, having asked the very helpful and courteous beerista what type of beers were the Matriarch and the Battle Axe, (and having gotten tastes) I decided I would like to have both. Not wishing to consume too much alcohol, and not having that much more time, I asked if they had a smaller pour size. The answer was no. This woman, however, was so willing to help and make things nice for the customer that she offered to go ask the manager what they could do. Upon returning, she offered to pour about 1/2 pint of each into smaller glasses and charge the price between the two beers. One beer was $7 and one was $5 so I was charged $6.

A lot of talk of price here, I know. What I wish to convey is that I have been quite pleasantly surprised by the good customer service I have been having at this Cincinnati Whole Foods location. I hadn’t paid Whole Foods much attention in the past, believing them to be overpriced and probably pretentious. They are in fact overpriced on some items, but reasonably priced on a lot of others. More importantly, it seems that Whole Foods management dictates that their employees measure up to a certain standard of customer care. I have seen it at the checkout counter, and when I ask questions. I also see it written on the wall as part of a huge display detailing their company mission. It says something like delight every customer. A pleasant surprise, and something that will keep me coming back with my dollars.

Back to beer: The Fat Head’s Battle Axe was a nice example of the baltic porter style – deep, rich and having a particular flavor I find hard to describe but yummy. Its ABV is up there around 10%. The Jackie O’s Matriarch is amazing. Rarely have I been wowed by a beer. This one is powerful good. Strong fruity-hoppiness and a backbone to support it. It, too, is quite strong – above 10%, I believe.

A couple notes on the experience of getting to Whole Foods via my route: If you choose to walk instead of ride a bike, know that there are not sidewalks taking you through the parking lot. Once you enter the shopping center from Madison, you are on a sidewalk that seems to belong to the Valvoline oil change center. After you leave that, you are on the ground sharing a fairly narrow area with parking lot drivers making time cutting through the back of a very busy lot. If you arrive by bicycle, a bike rack awaits you on the side of the building. It’s a shame they relegated bike parking to this obscure, out-of-sight location. I have always locked up to a light post right in front of the coffee bar. Another practical note: On my most recent visit, I found the convenient entrance I mentioned earlier to be closed, and a sign telling you to use the main entrance. Much less convenient. By the time I left, however, the sign was gone and the door usable. Not sure why.

Whole Foods offers self-serve water, which is always a big plus!

Nice going!

Self-serve water. Nice going!

Last time I was there, I noticed, on the other end of the counter, to my left, someone getting water from a bottled water cooler. It appeared to be self-serve for the customer as well. Weird. I’ll have to check out that option.

I will note it’s surprising that the counter here is kind of less than clean looking. I see newspapers have left remnants, and I’m not sure what else is going on. Plenty of plug-ins for your electronics though (haven’t confirmed that they are live).

III

IIIXXX

A couple of interesting things were observed as I Wholly enjoyed my beer. The first was perplexing, the second pretty cool. 1.) I observed three middle-aged/old men gather at the front of the parking lot and light up various smoking articles. Right there they stood, smoked and seemed to have planned to meet for an organized old-guy parking lot smoke. A Meetup Group?

Perhaps: "

2.) I saw a couple of guys in the store sporting UFC shirts and clothing. They were obviously into MMA fighting, but I assumed they were just fans that worked out and possibly trained. A bit later I saw a white Ford van in the parking lot. My first thought was this looks like the sort of van you see on TV that transports UFC fighters on the show “The Ultimate Fighter.” I then saw a few of these UFC decked-out guys go out and get into the van. Turns out, later that week I just happened to find a UFC event on TV – on the lowly cable package we have. Watching it, I saw them show a Cincinnati Bengals player in the audience. It clicked. The guys and the van I saw at Whole Foods were with the UFC and some of them were probably fighters participating in the event that I found out was taking place at US Bank Arena. As a fan of, and student of MMA, I find this pretty neat!

xxxxxx

Don’t confront.

Ending on a couple of random notes, I’ll sign off this account of an odd, awesome beer enjoying opportunity. I hope you experience it sometime.

August 16 update follows:

Neat! I’ve discovered a better route from Hyde Park to Whole Foods. Even if you’re not coming from Hyde Park – for instance If you’re coming in on Madison from either direction – it’s your ticket to avoiding the parking lot blues. Yes, this route features one of my very favorite things: A pedestrian/non-motorized cut-through!

Right this way.

Right this way.

Now, this route is useful whether on foot or on bike. If on foot, follow the route on the (updated!) map and you’ll have stop light intersections to get you across roads. The new route avoids that major flaw in the original route if you’re on foot: your having to navigate the parking lot without the benefit of sidewalks (seems the Rookwood Commons shopping center was not designed with pedestrians in mind – at least not those who would be stupid enough to try to arrive in a manner other than by motor vehicle).

This new route puts you right at the back of Whole Foods! See, at the end of Burch Ave (a dead-end street) there is a chain link fence with a gate that is open. You can see that people use this route, as there are crude stepping stones in place and steps dug into the hill to help you down and up the dirt/grass hill! Neat!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear "earthy" they should advertise this path.

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear “earthy” they should advertise this path.

An update on the Whole Foods beer station: They have started pouring some beers in smaller glasses for the same price – as I said they would.
Another discovery: I’d reported that there was a water cooler, that appears to have nice purified water, on one end of the long counter, and a different kind of cooler on the beer station side that I assumed contained tap water. I was told recently that both contain the same water: reverse osmosis good stuff from the filling station they have where it’s available for purchase. In fact, since both coolers were empty on a recent visit, an employee told me I could just take my bike bottle back and fill it at the station – like it was no big deal. That’s cool, and something I would have considered shoplifting before being given permission.

Enjoy the new route, my friends! It’s a sweet thing.

Join me on my next adventure. Cheers and keep spinning those spokes!

An Adventure to Mayday and Northside Tavern

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Join me as I roll over to the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati to visit Mayday Northside and Northside Tavern. Both these places feature local craft beer (as thankfully just about every drinking and eating establishment does these days!). They also feature craft beers from other regions. The point is: good beer available and thus worth visiting.

For me, the craft beer is just about the only reason to visit Northside Tavern. That and its decent prices, especially during happy hour.

I discovered Mayday Northside more recently and narrowly decided to give it a try. Turns out I like it better than Northside Tavern. This opinion may change with future visits however. It happens that on my maiden visit to Mayday, there was a good bartender there who was professional and nice. He and I, in fact, wound up talking a fair bit. It was an indicator that he’s a either a genuinely open, friendly guy or understands the true meaning of customer service. He made me feel welcome despite the fact I didn’t visually fit the place’s vibe (as I rarely do anywhere). As I’ve talked about before, I certainly don’t expect or want my beertender to make conversation with me. I simply expect prompt, courteous service.

On that topic, I will mention that there is a bartender at Northside Tavern that has done a good job as well. Her name I remember as Billy. She’s a nice lady and makes the difference between my wanting to return and not bothering. One night springs to mind. I had made the ride to Northside Tavern from Pleasant Ridge using the longest route shown on the map (10 miles). It was this past winter and the temperature was about 20 degrees, not counting the wind chill, when I embarked on the adventure. Temperatures dropped as I rode, I believe. Snow also began to fall. I was using my mountain bike and riding on sidewalks for part of the journey. The ride took about an hour. By the time I was a few miles away, I was not having any fun. My hands were numb and I felt frostbite setting in on parts of my legs (wearing shorts as always). Billy was so sweet as she offered a bunch of concern – concern  I didn’t need, but appreciated. She gave me a mug of hot water to sip. She also all but insisted that I call a cab for a ride home rather than attempting to ride home. See, the weather was expected to deteriorate soon. She wrote down the number of three cab companies for me. What a sweet lady.  Turns out the ride home (who am I kidding – to MadTree Brewing) was much more enjoyable than the ride there. I think the wind was at my back a lot more.

Check out my map from Pleasant Ridge to Northside. It includes three routes. My preferred route is the one that includes the information pins.

http://goo.gl/maps/fqIId

I don’t have any pics of my visits to these two spots, and I don’t know if I’ll invest time in any updates to this post. The story’s pretty much told. Northside Tavern and Mayday Northside fit that description of several of the taverns I’ve experienced in Cincinnati. Gritty. Dirty in some cases. Offering a bit of relief from the silly-high prices many places charge for beer around here.

Next time I roll over to Northside, I’ll likely try Mayday first. If it goes like last time, it’ll be my only stop in the neighborhood.

I look forward to our next adventure together.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

An Adventure to Habits Cafe. On Foot!

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Join me as I stroll – not roll – down to Habits Cafe in Oakley. As I pointed out in my previous post, I have an arm that I had to have operated on. It kept me off my bike for weeks, and kept me from typing with two hands for a while as well.

Interesting graffiti in the bathroom.

Interesting graffiti in Habit’s bathroom.

During that time, I wasn’t going to let it keep me down, or inside the house! Living in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Cincinnati, options are few in terms of decent places to get a pint. MadTree is the obvious exception.

I’ve run down to Keystone Hyde Park, and its neighbor, Dutch’s. That run is three miles straight down Ridge/Marburg. Nothing exciting to report about that journey, though it’s a perfectly viable one especially with two wheel capability. The run is a bit annoyingly long, especially given the largely inhospitable conditions for pedestrians much of the way. Yes there are sidewalks most of the way, but it’s not a nice route. It becomes nicer as you get toward Hyde Park. I’m not being a snob here. In the ridiculousness that is Ridge Rd., or Marburg through most of Oakley, sidewalks are, in places, often blocked with trash like discarded mattresses, weeds and you name it – or the sidewalks are non-existant. A person out walking or jogging for pleasure or exercise is a rarity. Man, I can’t wait to get out of Pleasant Ridge.

More interesting graffiti.

More interesting graffiti.

One of the things my disability to ride a bike brought me was a bit of creativity in plotting an active beer outing.

The two Pleasant Ridge options, Gaslight Cafe, Molly Malone’s suck quite frankly. The service I’ve received there on my few visits has been abysmal. I know many people like those places, but crappy service, or lack of service all together (being ignored) is not my thing.

My mind turned to the question of where can I get on foot from here that’s viable? I give you this adventure’s route:

http://goo.gl/maps/QqOGE

For detailed information on what it takes to traverse Ridge Rd., see my post on Moerlein Brewery Taproom. The map of today’s adventure shows the same route down through there, but without the detail pins found in the map to Moerlein.

They have craft beer! Cutting edge! I almost walked home and got my car!

I passed this on my way there. A common phenomenon in these parts: a drive thru liquor joint. They have craft beer! Cutting edge! I almost walked home and got my car!

You get to leave lovely Ridge Rd. on the street where Steak & Shake is found. Cross the often busy street, then cut through parking lots. Pass in front of Target, then in back of Meier. Proceed across the movie theater parking lot. See the grass/dirt field ahead. Enter it, heading toward the chain link fence.

On my first tryout of this adventure that I had planned using Google Maps, I came very close to giving up and using the roadway instead of cutting through across the railroad tracks. I saw the fence, and didn’t see any openings in it, though I felt there had to be at least one. I knew for sure I wasn’t the first person who wanted to cut through here. At the last second, I saw a grocery cart in the corner of the fence to the right. Clearly this was here to help someone climb over the fence. Was I going to climb the barbed wire-topped fence with my arm in a sling? Of course not. But I moved toward the fence corner where the cart was located. I saw nothing viable. Turning back in defeat, my eyes scanned the fence one more time. That’s when I saw it. Behind the giant mound of dirt I assume was piled there during the excavation process for the building of the movie theater, I saw an opening in the fence! Eureka!

The interesting thing about this opening in the fence is that it appears a boulder rolled down the back of the hill and busted through the fence. It’s laying there on top of the knocked-down portion of the fence. Could it be that this opening in the fence, an opening which provides a critical link for walkers between Pleasant Ridge and Oakley was brought about by mere chance? Thought-provoking.

I crossed through with jubilance, then I crossed the railroad tracks. Right in front of me awaited a nice street with sidewalks. I was as good as there. A stroll through a neighborhood brought me to a sidewalk running along side Habits Cafe!

Habits is located in the heart of Oakley Square. It seems to have a restaurant side and a bar side, though seating for diners is throughout. The place is surprisingly lowbrow at the bar for what seems to also be a nice restaurant. Macro piss beer flows along side a nice little selection of regional and American crafts.

Every time I’ve visited, I’ve gotten decent-to-good service. They have almost always plopped a beer menu down in front of me, which I appreciate obviously. Their pricing on beer is surprisingly reasonable.

That’s about all I have to say about Habits.

I was quite psyched to find success on my snowy pedestrian adventure out of Pleasant Ridge and right into the back door of Oakley. Thankfully, I didn’t slip and fall on my arm at any point, which would have been pretty terrible.

Thanks for joining me on this unique outing. It really was an adventure for me with its uncertainty, discovery and success. It’s just what I needed at the time, and will hopefully come in handy some day for at least one of you readers.

I look forward to your company on my next adventure which will be awesomely on bicycle!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Nice To Peck To You (Adventures Forthcoming!)

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Pedalpinters, I’m typing to you as a hunter-pecker tonight. See, I’ve got an arm in a splint. No, thankfully, I didn’t get hurt riding a bike.

As always, I’ve got numerous stories, routes and ideas to share with you. It’s going to have to wait until I can properly type, which should only be a few more days.

The next thing I will likely share with you is a little adventure on which I embarked just yesterday – on my thankfully very capable feet! Capable they need to be in order to ambulate on the sidewalks around here if snow has recently fallen. (The concept of clearing sidewalks here: not real popular among the city, the residents and businesses – just one of the ways non-motorized travelers in the Cincinnati region are underserved at best.)

This adventure, however, was a major victory for me in that I discovered a pretty direct connection between Pleasant Ridge and Oakley! This will resonate with Cincinnati dwellers. Pleasant Ridge offers me almost nothing of value besides lower housing cost, while Oakley offers much more – including the establishment which I visited for a couple pints.

Type to you soon!

Updated Jan 24: An Adventure to Fifty West Brewing

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Let’s cruise on down to Fifty West Brewing’s comfortable taproom. Actually it’s a restaurant and brewpub, but of course I treat it as a taproom. I’ve recently placed Fifty West near the top of my go-to beer joints. It’s pretty strange in a way that I, the fool who rides bicycles to breweries, would visit Fifty West whose theme is the automobile, or perhaps the American roadways.

Really though, I have some pretty epic memories of road trips that have spanned much of the country. I’ve moved around a lot and have taken some trips with nothing more than enough cash to cover gas. No roadside assistance. No credit card. No cell phone. Nothing but me, my earthly belongings, and my best friend (and enough kibble for him). Sadly, on one of my moves, under the stress of moving and all that comes with it, I left behind a bike that I sorely miss. I didn’t think I had room for it. If only I realized I could have strapped the thing down on the roof, on the grille, or somewhere. I had to leave a Hercules Centurion that I had bought at a thrift shop in Tempe, AZ. I left that trusty, interesting bike, into which I had invested some sweat, by the barn in the backyard of the house I was renting in a small town in Minnesota.

The great American road trip does hold a special place in my memory banks, though I realize I’m mostly remembering the good parts, not the bad.

Never mind all that, Fifty West is a local brewery. Nuff said!

A pleasing sight.

I must say that I have largely dismissed Fifty West until a couple weeks ago, despite the fact that we have precious few local breweries here in Cincinnati.

Pretty, eh?

Pretty, eh?

I developed the impression before I moved here that Fifty West was an overly expensive place that would almost always be too packed with people. I had not made it a priority, but did visit the place with my wife and child on one occasion – having a quick bite and a taster flight. On that visit I was able to check out the bar area and note that it was not as overrun with revelers as I expected. It seems pretty certain though that this place is going to be quite busy during peak hours.

Recently, I was running through my mental list of breweries and good beer joints and decided to give Fifty West a real try. I was excited to find that they are only about five miles from my current residence, which surprised me. I felt like Pleasant Ridge was somewhat far north, and they were south.

I found what is really one of the most enjoyable routes I have yet enjoyed in this town. Yes, as is my norm here in Cincinnati, I have traveled a good amount of the route on sidewalk for safety reasons. One of my two rides there was in the snow and that certainly dictates sidewalk riding around here. If I were to go with a group of fellow riders, however, the full on-street route would be pretty good.

Let me get you started with a map.

http://goo.gl/maps/nuXGR

December 27 update follows:

I recently returned to Fifty West, enjoying my nice route on a Sunday afternoon. This was the Sunday before Christmas which might help explain the odd, unpleasing experience I found myself having. When I arrived, I found a predictable amount of patrons inside for a Sunday late afternoon. A few tables of youngish folks, some of those tables quite loud. After-Bengal folks, I figured. There were a few people at the bar, but a handful of open seats. Great! I grabbed a seat and got settled, peeling off a couple layers.

After enjoying a pleasant little while of sipping some Mooving Violation Stout, things began to change. A couple groups of people came in. Then more. And more, and more – many of them of the same age range and volume range as that of those couple of loud tables. It occurred to me that Fifty West tonight was the Fifty West I had thought Fifty West was.

In the following pics, the place may not look that busy, but I think I snapped these shots before it reached its silly peak. Some of them were taken from my seat at the bar. Some were taken as I walked to and from the bathroom.

yyyy

How did I manage to get these pics? Over the shoulder shots, and under the arm pit shots – concepts and techniques with which I came up that very night. It’s not creepy.

FiftyWestCrowd2

This expression sums up how I was feeling.

This is how I was feeling.

I told these guys to quiet down. Just kidding. I did not.

I told these guys to quiet down. No, I did not.

I figure this was unusual for a Sunday evening, and this was pretty much confirmed by a guy named Wit that I spoke with outside as I was getting ready to saddle up and take off. Turns out, Wit is one of the owners and brewers – a very nice guy. He was cordial enough to speak to me, asking if I had a good time. I do try to be honest, so my response indicated a just okay experience. See, Wit seems to get it right. He wouldn’t let that go. I told him I didn’t want to call anyone out, but he pressed and I went ahead and explained to him the biggest problem with Fifty West (the same problem I had experienced on my prior visits): When it gets busy, the bartenders (yes, they serve liquor here too, so I don’t call them beertenders) do too much ignoring of the customers sitting at the bar, serving instead the folks who walk up to the bar. I did way too much sitting there with an empty glass or waiting to pay, getting ignored as the bartenders focused on moving the crowd of walk-ups.

I did, in fairness, tell Wit that I had found the staff to be professional and courteous for the most part. The problem remains however. He apologized and explained that they were not expecting the crowd that evening. That’s nice, but it doesn’t address the problem. Oh well. I appreciate the contact. I really do.

Now let’s look briefly at the route from Pleasant Ridge to Fifty West. Consult the map for additional details. Heading east on Woodford Rd. from the intersection with Ridge Rd., I ride the sidewalk. This stretch, despite its residences on both sides, sees fast-moving traffic driven by Cincinnati drivers that are not respectful of cyclists. It’s a “cars rule” area if I may coin a term. The road curves right and soon goes over a railroad track. The majority of traffic makes a left turn near here, but we’ll go straight, heading onto what is unquestionably a residential street. The street is now named Robison Rd. Though this is a residential street, it’s still in a bike unfriendly area of course. Further, this is a popular cut-through for drivers seeking to get to southbound Kennedy Ave.

This is what we are going to do. When the road curves right, make a left turn to stay on Robison Rd. Ahead you see the somewhat busy Kennedy Ave. Turn right onto Kennedy, and you may choose to go ahead and ride on the roadway. The first time I took this route it was dark outside, and I didn’t know how much of a descent it was going to be, or how bumpy the road was. With drivers behind me, I rode the brakes due to low visibility and a headlight that wasn’t of the caliber capable of actually lighting your way (just capable of notifying drivers of  your presence). My poor wheels took a beating that night. On subsequent daytime trips through here, I have done pretty well on the road, flying on down and making fast progress.

After your descent you reach a stop light intersection. Just after that is an overpass crossing I-71. Use caution, as soon you reach the onramp onto which drivers are wishing to zoom without having anything slow them down. Do what you must to get their attention and let them know you intend to go straight (duh).

A very significant landmark is now in view on your left: MadTree Brewing. Yes, you are correct in assuming that MadTree is one of my regular stops. I have yet to write anything about them. Heck, I may tack them onto this post at a future date.

This area has been under construction for some time now. The project aims to extend Kennedy Ave. down to Madison Rd., which seems like a great idea. What we do here is follow the curve to the left onto Duck Creek Rd. This curve is not a great place to be as a cyclist, but hopefully you’re decked out in visible gear. On the map, I indicate that you should soon seek to get onto the sidewalk on the north side of the road, but recently it occurs to me that your next turn is so close, you may want to just stay out on the road.

Your next turn is Oaklawn Dr. – a right turn. This stretch is debatable in terms of road ride vs. sidewalk. Depends on current conditions. It’s only about 1500 ft. until your left turn at the stop light intersection with Madison Rd. It’s about two miles on Madison through some not-so-nice areas, but nothing too bad. For some reason, I feel fairly okay with being on the road here, but if traffic was hectic, I’d use the sidewalk. I certainly did on a snowy trip.

You’re looking for your nice right-hand curve into Plainville Rd. You don’t have to stop, but as the sign indicates, use caution. It’s about a mile on Plainville Rd. until you turn left at a stop sign intersection at Murray Ave. which curves right and becomes Madisonville Rd. This stretch is brief and leads you to a stop light intersection which allows you to turn left onto Wooster Pike (U.S. 50).

Cruise largely downhill on Wooster Pike, passing some big shopping centers. I have found it feasible to road ride here, but have not yet been here during a particularly busy time. Of course should you choose to sidewalk ride along this stretch, you will find that it disappears after the big shopping center.

Fairly soon, you see a big green sign over the road ahead that indicates Newtown Rd. If (I said If!) you can find a break in traffic in order to safely cross over the road and onto the sidewalk on the north side of the road, do so. Otherwise, proceed to the stop light at Newtown Rd., use the crosswalk which is located on the far side of the intersection, then come back toward Fifty West which lives in the big white house which will now be on your right.

So far, I’ve always been the only person at the place who arrived by bike, so I lock up to the railing outside the front door – the best parking spot in the place!

I’ll talk a bit more about my experiences at Fifty West, and about some of their beers next.

January 24 update follows:

 

FiftyWestBarShotNice

Fifty West has some beers I’ve found tasty and have enjoyed in their cozy, attractive bar area. I think the environment would be improved a bit if the TV behind the bar in the corner were not present, especially given that the ambient lighting is fairly dim.

FiftyWestTV

On this most recent visit I was offered a snack by the bartender, which I appreciate. Have a look at this:

What are these? Thanks though.

What are these? Thanks though.

The beers that I have liked are the Mooving Violation chocolate milk stout, the Coast to Coast, their standard IPA, the Coffee Please stout (brewed with local coffee from nearby Madeira), and their two big IPAs, Spooner Summit, and the cleverly named Punch You In The Eye PA.

Makes me feel big.

The largest coasters around?

One very refreshing thing about Fifty West is the simplicity of their pricing. All their beers (almost all) are $5, tax included. If I recall, all their growler fills are $10, tax included. One surprise I received was delivered with my Coffee Please stout: It costs more, and comes in a snifter, despite tipping the scales at only 6% ABV. Produced in a pretty small batch at a high cost, I assume. Just wish this budget-conscious beer lover had warning.

I’ll go ahead and mention something that needs mentioning here while we’re talking beers and growlers: When I’ve gotten my own growlers filled here, they have gotten dunked in soapy water, then in the sanitizer sink. Yes, they then rinse the growlers with water on that device below the taps that sprays water upward. This isn’t cool with me though. I keep my growlers clean and do so without ever using soap or any other cleaner. It’s about water, agitation and exposure to air when stored. I asked about this, and the bartender (nicely) explained that there is a local law that states something like because they are a restaurant they must do this with outside vessels. The couple of growlers of Spooner Summit I’ve gotten on different occasions have both tasted bad at home. Could there be a link?

I understand the building that houses Fifty West has quite a rich history. I’m not going to take the time to look it up again tonight; I’ll let you.

On the way to the restroom.

The rich, historical trip to the restroom.

Also on the way there. I always like it when the brew equipment is on display.

Also on the way there. I always like it when the brew equipment is on display, and this is framed tastefully inside a window.

My beer and bathroom water.

My beer and bathroom water.

One potentially great feature of Fifty West Brewing is that they are located quite near one of the area’s only significant bike trails. This of course doesn’t help me in the area of town where I currently live, and doesn’t help a whole lot of the Cincinnati area residents, but it could come in very handy for those who live near any part of the Loveland Bike Trail, or the short, pretty much adjoining section in Newtown. Those folks, if they wished, and were able, could roll out of their garages, mount up and hit a local brewery/restaurant, enjoying the protected joy of a separated bike trail most of the way. I hope more people do! Right now I’m remembering longingly Seattle’s Burke Gilman.

I also hope you’ll join me on my next adventure!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

 

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