Who in North Carolina goes on vacation to bicycle around Cincinnati OH? During a pandemic? Tootie and I wanted to get away to somewhere cooler while still staying safe and socially distant. I had never been on the seemingly nice bike trail that connects downtown Cincinnati with much of Ohio; I only had been to Cincinnati for essentially the first time less than a year ago. By car Cincinnati would be an eight hour drive: from Chapel Hill NC I-40 to Winston-Salem then I-77 through Charleston WV, then I-64 West, then Kentucky route 9.
We threw two bicycles in the back of the Prius and left home about 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning. I took the Surly Long Haul Trucker, Tootie has a Cannondale. We stopped for coffee at the Starbucks at the Elon College exit on I-85 and the drive was quite painless. Newport KY is directly across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati. Reser Bicycle Outfitters in downtown Newport had helpfully advised me by email that parking downtown was free, even for several days. They advised we were taking our chances parking in this somewhat poor neighborhood. Whatever. Our 2005 Prius is not worth much. We pulled in about 4:00 PM.
We had bags on the back of the bicycles with our changes of clothes. For the first night we left the car in Newport KY and set out to bicycle the short distance across the river to Cincinnati, then through downtown to an Airbnb.
This is essentially the bike ride we did in one full day and two part days.
Newport KY is almost as old a town as Cincinnati.
We bicycled across the Ohio River on this former rail bridge, originally built in 1872. It was redone several times before being converted to pedestrian only use in 2001.
Over The Rhine neighborhood is just north of downtown Cincinnati. Poor and decrepit until relatively recently it has lovely nineteenth century buildings.
We pulled the bicycles up to the address of our Airbnb on a delightfully urban block. Tootie watched the bicycles while I used the key code we had been given to go inside and check it out.
Once inside the Airbnb one bedroom apartment was quite nice but first we had to carry the bicycles up a steep set of stairs. It felt very nineteenth century.
A little later was strolled around the neighborhood, looking for a safe space to order a drink. We found a bar/restaurant that was selling drinks out of the window and where we could sit, spaced out, on the sidewalk. It was fun to watch the world go by.
On the way back to the Airbnb a mini-mart was closed to normal sales but was selling tacos outside on the street. We thought about getting some but passed.
There were a few restaurants that had some kind of outdoor seating but we felt safer, and thus more comfortable, watching TV in our Airbnb eating Middle Eastern takeout from the Ohio chain Alladin.
Thankfully our bedroom was in the back and away from the street. Until the early morning hours there was always something noisily going on across the street at a mini-mart.
The next morning I walked five blocks to Coffee Emporium on Central Parkway and got a cafe au lait, an almond milk latte, and a blueberry muffin and walked them back to the apartment. Somewhat later we carried the bicycles downstairs and loaded up to head out.
Our destination for the day would be the small riverside town of Milford OH, maybe twenty miles away. We wanted to get there by threading through the often hilly city streets.
Downtown Cincinnati and the Over The Rhine neighborhood are on a flat area near the Ohio River. The rest of Cincinnati, even many older neighborhoods, are in the steep hills north of Downtown.
This area is called East Walnut Hills, a streetcar suburb from the late nineteenth century.
We stumbled onto a delightful east-west rail-trail several miles long, the Wasson Way.
We passed through several more neighborhoods and towns like Evanston, Oakley, and Madisonville, with startlingly different economic situations in each; some rich, some poor.
The hills were becoming unpredictable and oppressive so we turned south to finish our ride to Milford along the Little Miami River and its attendant bike path. We stopped for lunch at the Fifty West Brewery and Burger Bar. It is interesting to see some restaurants actually doing well during this pandemic. Fifty West has a huge lawn including multiple beach volleyball courts that have been converted to socially distanced seating. There were hundreds of people here but it seemed reasonably safe because it was so spread out, and everything was outdoors. We split an Ohio Burger; cheeseburger with Cincinnati chili, plus an order of fries. I got an IPA, she got root beer.
The Little Miami Scenic Trail comes right up to Fifty West and we bicycled the four miles further upstream to Milford OH, population 2,000 and likely to remain that, because the town in wedged in between the river and steep hills. It seems to function as a touristy getaway.
It had several antique gun stores.
There was a store selling lawn ornaments.
Our Airbnb was quite nice, an inexpensive clean and modern two room apartment above a downtown store called Harvest Market. Later on we walked down the street to Little Miami Brewing Company, another establishment that has enough outdoor space to accommodate a large crowd that can stay socially distant. We watched overweight people on kayaks on the river below.
We enjoyed our beer but had had enough of even the idea of crowds. We walked back to the apartment and ordered takeout pizza from a place called Padrino; we set up a nice dinner in the apartment which had a table and real plates and silverware.
The next morning we headed back towards our car in Newport KY. First we biked south on the Little Miami Scenic Trail, part of the statewide Ohio to Erie Trail system.
Google Maps shows a continuous trail to Downtown Cincinnati along the river. On the ground it is more complicated, the trail stops and starts. We bicycled by Cincinnati’s general aviation Lunken Airport.
Much of the way into Downtown Cincinnati was along Highway 52 along the Ohio River, passing through industrial areas.
Interesting new public school, specially designed for the Ohio River floodplain.
There is a park on the riverfront in Downtown Cincinnati, people were playing pickleball.
The pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River to Kentucky was once again a delight.
Our car was still there in Newport KY! We left about 11:00 AM and got home to Chapel Hill NC in time to make a late dinner.