Monday, June 17, 2013

Being Eastwardly Challenged

Your internal compass functions equally in all directions.  Mine?  Not so much.  Maybe you lived your whole life in Indianapolis, the Circle City.  Columbus and Cincinnati are like Indianapolis, you can travel in all directions for miles and miles.  Count your blessings native buckeyes.  Same goes for those growing up with a baby bottle of Bourbon in Louisville.  Others, like me, grew up in a world devoid of easterly travel by land.  

A Milwaukeean by birth, while I have a wine aficionado type appreciation for the variety of cheese curds, I am forever directionally disabled.  So is the guy from Miami I met via email this week.

Aside from the Browns, I can relate with people in Cleveland, northwardly challenged.  Being from Milwaukee, like those who grew up in Chicago, I have no concept of east.  I’d assume riders in LA have a hard time with west.  West is ocean.  I was born with east meaning Great Lakes.  Joe go no east.

East is brow furrowing confounding to me.  When I give directions to someplace east of Cincinnati, I lack the typically manly confidence.  I slur out the word east with a slow point to the right.  “It’s about 8 miles eeeeaaaast of here.  Yep.  East.  That way.  That’s east, right?” 

Being eastwardly challenged has its rewards.  Anytime I’m east of town, I feel like I’m only a few minutes away, even if it’s 20 miles.  Being east of home has always meant close to home.  I could never stray too far without getting my feet wet.  My brain is lopsided.  If I were to create a graph, it’s nearly a 2 to one ratio.  2 miles west = 1 mile east in terms of feeling far from home.  This can be dangerous.  What feels like 14 miles, can easily be 30 miles.  Due to my condition, I’m more likely to bonk on a ride east of home.

I got an email from a guy living in Miami last week who asked for advice on the best area to live in Cincinnati and be close to good riding and far away from busy roads.  It was obvious he suffered my disability as well.  Logically, appearing a short drive to the city and an easy escape into rural riding on a map, he was considering Mason.  Mason!  I had to save him from the six-lane freeway as a main street hell-hole.

Mason is a suburban heaven, surrounded by a purgatory moat of traffic jams.  The only saving grace is the right hooks and middle finger throwing come from pretty women driving Lexus SUV’s.  I had to open his eyes to the circle city concept, where living more central to the city affords more pleasant riding in all directions, and consequently, living on the fringes, limits your options.  I live 5 miles from downtown Cincinnati.  I do most of my riding out my front door in all directions, even east.  In 13 years, I’ve never ridden my bike through Mason.  In fact, it’s avoided.  Conversely, the amount of riders passing the end of my urban street on any given week is probably in the hundreds.

When a city offers travel by road in all directions, people and traffic are more spread out.  Imagine how the dynamic of understanding a city would change if you took all the people on the Eastside of Cincinnati or Indianapolis or Louisville, and moved them all west from a centerline through downtown.  Welcome to Chicago, Miami and Milwaukee.  The size of the suburbs is double.

You can’t blame Miami guy.  In Miami, there’s a whole lot of life crammed in that little corner of Florida, let alone King James’ and Pitbull’s entourages.  It was obvious he has no concept of east as well, and occasionally wrestles with south.  There is definitely no east and only a little fart of outlet store highway leading south of Miami to the keys.  Every day, he has to navigate a dense suburban choking hell to lay wheels to peaceful asphalt somewhere north and/or west of the city.  I must have blown his mind when I told him the best places to live and ride in Cincinnati are actually closer to the city. 

The beauty of the circle city is on any given day, I can ride south in to the hills of Northern Kentucky, past the riverboats west along the Ohio River, north on the bike path to Loveland, Xenia and Dayton and yes, east.  Glorious east past the riches of Indian Hill, I can pedal through a covered bridge, down miles of one lane farm roads which eventually turn into switchbacks up the Appalachian Mountains and back down for hundreds of miles before east ever comes to an end with soaking wet feet.

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