Start: Markland, IN
Finish: Loveland, OH
Weather: 90 degrees, sunny
Distance to date: 1929
I always knew that one day my refusal to make reservations for motels in advance
would catch up with me – and today was the day. Fortunately I could not have better conditions for sleeping under the
stars. The sky is clear, it is about 75
degrees, there is a light breeze off the Little Miami River running along my side, I am safe off any roads on the Little Miami Bike Trail, have a charming gazebo to sleep under, and water and bathroom facilities at the nearby Loveland
Today was chore day. I had to get to Cincinnati, get Ohio travel information, get my bike tire situation fixed, plan my Ohio stops, and prepare to go on the Little Miami Bike Trail. Like chore days at home, the day felt scheduled, but aside from not finding a room at an inn, I got everything done.
Morning brought a blanket of fog over the Ohio, so figuring I had at most 50 miles today (NOT!), I lolled around and left after 9 am, took the bridge from Indiana over to Kentucky, and headed up US 42. The ride along the river was gorgeous. Even though they are separated by only a strip of water, Kentucky is different from Indiana, more Southern, more spacious. The corn is superseded by tobacco, the houses along the river are manorly, the town squares genteel clapboard or painted brick instead of rusticated stone.
When the road headed inland I hit serious hills. After the cushy terrain of Illinois and Indiana, going two miles up and up and up winded me, but felt good on the legs. I didn’t have a Kentucky map, but had carefully written MapQuest directions. Still, I took a right turn too early and wound up adding six miles to my trip.
Eventually I got back on track and descended into Covington.
Approaching Covington, KY from a distance and absorbing it slowly is a textbook example of how American cities evolve. Far out there are huge acreages with looming houses. Then I hit the towns without centers, the places defined by their highway intersections and collections of big box stores. These give way to lower middle class development, rows of identical starter homes. Outside of Covington, $120,000 is the starting price for a two story square house with a two car garage, probably 2,000 sf total. Moving towards the center I came upon the older suburbs, leafy green, larger houses, better proportions, with quaint shopping areas, established churches, immense schools. Then I came down a sharp hill into Covington proper and the scale changed again. Two and three story brick buildings sit tight to the street, built from the early 1800’s right into the 1930’s, many still boasting articulated cornices and other fine details but now all in disrepair, if occupied at all. Block after block of potential abandoned. Finally, I came to the river where urban renewal paid a call. The narrow streets open into wide expanses of concrete with unrelated buildings plopped along the river. Marriott’s and office towers and a fascinating sail shaped condo building all of which turn their back on Covington to address the view of Cincinnati. It is a jarring progression, yet similar to that repeated in city after city.
In one of those ugly office towers facing the river I got Kentucky and Ohio travel information. Those states should learn a thing or two from Oklahoma and Colorado – states that are terrific with their information. With a middling map of Cincinnati and a torn out centerfold of the state of Ohio I crossed the incredible Roebling Bridge (predecessor of the more famous Brooklyn Bridge) and
crossed into Cincinnati.
Ohio gets high marks for Historical Markers, and I learned quite a bit about Cincinnati. I had no idea the city had such a strong German heritage. Catholics were not even allowed within the city
limits for many years. During the anti-German fervor of World War I the city changed hundreds of street names to remove the German references.
Cincinnati feels big. It has muscular square blocks of stone buildings, a pair of gigantic stadiums flanking the skyline, followed by blocks upon blocks of flats, some of which are being spruced up, many of which are not. I found my way to Campus Cycles
adjacent to the University of Cincinnati campus, and the guys there did a terrific job tending to my bike, repairing the tire problem and changing out my chain. I left happy and headed towards
the bike trail with great hopes of finding a hotel along the way, but no luck. My maps led astray more than helped, so I gave up relying on them and enjoyed rolling through a new city on a fine day. I
wheeled in a south and east sort of direction and eventually came to the start of the bike trail.
The Little Miami Bike Trail is one of the oldest and one of the longest paved trails in the country. It is in terrific condition with well-tended trailheads and mowed side strips. I did about fifteen miles before stopping; though it is so easy to ride on I could have pedaled longer. In the evening there are a good number of cyclists, runners and walkers along the trail. The trailhead at Loveland is a perfect place to camp, and I will be right on my route in the morning!
PS – Yes, there was an amazing buffet at the BelTerra casino in Markland, IN last night. All told, I took six plates of food. I could tell you that each plate was modest, but it still added up to quite a lot. My dessert plate was particularly colorful!
Dusk on the Little Miami BIke Trail