Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Run 52: Paddock Hills

Recently, we’ve decided that we’ll be staying in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future. I’ve mandated that wherever live in town it has to be north of Madison Road.  I’m not sure exactly why I’ve set this mandate, as it cuts off some of our favorite neighborhoods, but I suspect it is my subliminal plan to creep northward to Michigan over a series of years.

Kayla's edit: Nice try, buddy.
With my scheme in mind, our run revealed that Paddock Hills is certainly a great candidate for a place to live, as it is, most importantly, a great neighborhood for running, and north of Madison Road.

Paddock Hills is also home of Sugar N’ Spice, a Cincinnati breakfast institution that we had never visited until the weekend of our run. SNS is on Reading Road in a bright pink building surrounded by kitcshy figuirines (see pig balancing pancakes on his snout).
A little ways down Reading we came across this sign:

I know Oscar Armstrong as the namesake of the “Oscar Armstrong award” that Public Allies Cincinnati presents to a local emerging leader each year. Oscar was a member of the first class of Public Allies Cincinnati in 1998. Tragically, he lost his life in the line of duty working as a Cincinnati firefighter.
Not far from the Oscar Armstrong Square there was a park which we quickly checked out before continuing along Reading.


There are two main residential areas in Paddock Hills. One of the areas is spread out over several cul-de-sacs that intersect Paddock Road. We explored each of these streets, discovering varied housing stock and some great wooded lots at the end of the blocks.

We crossed Paddock and headed down Avon to explore the second residential area. Avon along with the other streets surrounding it brought to mind portions of East Hyde Park as we wound around checking out the homes.

On the Avon side of Paddock Hills we were particularly interested in the plethora of mid-century modern homes which were present throughout the neighborhood. This one was a bit hidden but still a great find:

This one was probably my favorite as the slanted roof added some character:

The residents were home in this one, so I tried to have Kayla pose inconspicuously as I captured the house. I'll let you decide whether she pulled it off.

Eventually, we made our way back onto Reading back to the Gold Star where we had parked, but something just didn't seem right. Sure, we had seen the houses, the park, and the restaurants, but we still hadn't experienced the famous Sugar N' Spice.

After a chorizo omelette (Donnie) and a garden omelette (Kayla) along with some cheesy grits, we could say that we had the full Paddock Hills experience.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Run 52: Over-the-Rhine

Like Downtown, Over-the-Rhine is the kind of neighborhood that makes me stop and remember that this is a running blog.  If I tried to cover more than the run in this recap, I would only do it injustice. 
Quickly, though, for our out-of-town friends: in the mid-19th century Over-the-Rhine was built by industrious German immigrants with an eye for style.  Today it is the United States’ largest intact historic district.  The neighborhood’s architectural significance is indisputable.  The restored Italianate buildings—and those awaiting restoration—are attracting international attention.  And they are textbook examples, for sure, but what is even more remarkable than the neighborhood’s architectural beauty and scale is the ongoing story of its renaissance.  I was a high school senior when the Cincinnati riots made front page headlines.  And Over-the-Rhine was at the center.  This was 2001, but the neighborhood had been in decline for decades.  In 2006, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Over-the-Rhine one of its Most Endangered Historic Places. 
But less than a decade, later “OTR” has achieved—is still achieving—the kind of turnaround that once seemed impossible.  The buildings are being preserved and the neighborhood has become a culinary, retail, artistic, and entertainment mecca.  Through developments that include a mixed-income/affordable housing component, the neighborhood’s socioeconomic diversity is also being preserved.  Planners, developers, preservationists, and elected officials come from near and far to see the neighborhood for themselves and learn how its transformation is being accomplished.   
Now on to the run!
On the morning of our run, the newly-renovated Washington Park was packed with runners.  One of the Running Spot groups must be meeting there now.  There is also yoga on the lawn on Tuesday nights, and Zumba on Saturday mornings.  A few weeks ago, thousands of people, including us, crowded into the park for Lumenosity—a laser light show against the Venetian Gothic fa├žade of Music Hall, set to a live symphony concert. 

Washington Park was originally a cemetery serving several small churches.  Today the park includes historic features, a bandstand, a spray park, a performance stage, a dog park, and a playground.  It is bound on its south side by the modern School for Creative and Performing Arts and on all other sides by historic Over-the-Rhine buildings, including Music Hall.  I walk here sometimes during my lunch break. 
At Washington Park, we met up with Billy who knows as much about the neighborhood as anyone our age and agreed to play tour guide for our run. 

Okay. Now if I had any shame at all I wouldn’t show this picture, but here is a shot of me after I thought I saw Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix in the park:
Can you tell I was excited?  However, Donnie quickly crushed my enthusiasm by listing all of the logical reasons why the lookalike was not the real Allyson Felix.  Although I did go home and try to Google her whereabouts, just in case it really was her. 

(It was not)
We scrapped the original route that Donnie had drawn up and let Billy lead the way.  Billy started us out by heading northwest and showing us some of the industrial areas of the neighborhood.  The narrow, winding streets remind me of Greenwich Village in New York City:

This part of OTR is also known as the “BreweryDistrict”.  There are many historic Romanesque brewery buildings remaining, several of which have been renovated into modern beerhalls, craft breweries, and entertainment venues.  This is also where I suffered through the Bockfest 5k earlier this year and ended up with a stress fracture a few weeks later.  

After exploring some of the less-traveled streets, we headed back to the Gateway Quarter and looped up and down Elm, Race, Vine, and Main.  Along the way we saw the the remnants of a sand volleyball tournament, and so many charming homes. 

Vine Street is the heart of the neighborhood’s redevelopment efforts and has seen some impressive culinary additions over the past few years, including Senate, A Tavola, Bakersfield, and Kaze.  It was quiet on this Saturday morning, but by 7:00 pm the wait for a table at any of these places will be at least ninety minutes.  Some of our personal favorites include Taste of Belgium, which has sidewalk tables and a great Bistro red wine, and Venice on Vine, which is a non-profit on-the-job training program inside a pizza shop. 

Further east is our beloved Nicola’s.  We only come here once a year on our anniversary and the bill is usually higher than a week’s worth of groceries, but it’s so worth it.  This place always makes me think of one of Donnie’s most successful puns of our six-year marriage.  This was the morning after our anniversary when I woke up at the crack of dawn to eat my Nicola’s leftovers before he could get up and ask to share. When he finally rolled out of bed he proclaimed, “You’ve left me at the door of hunger with gnocchi.” 

On Central Parkway, Billy posed for a shot he dubbed “On the Rhine” to demonstrate how the neighborhood got its name.  As the story goes, the original neighborhood was separated from downtown Cincinnati by a canal nicknamed “the Rhine” by the German immigrants who lived there.  To cross the canal and head north of downtown was to go “Over the Rhine”.  Of course, the canal has been replaced by Central Parkway, which is a much more convenient way to travel.

Next, I challenged Billy to a race down Pleasant Street, which runs between Washington Park and Findlay Market and is one of the prettiest streets in the neighborhood.  Frankly, our race wasn’t much of a race—Billy beat me by more yards than I’m willing to admit.  However, in this picture I’m smiling like a mad woman because Pleasant Street is so pretty and I was so happy to be sprinting for the first time since my stress fracture.
As Billy pointed out, if you stand on the performance stage at Washington Park and look north up Pleasant Street, you can see Findlay Market framed perfectly where Pleasant dead-ends.  We capped off our OTR run with a shake-out jog up to Findlay Market, which is Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market.  
This place is always packed on the weekends with shoppers choosing cheese, wine, and produce.  There is a biergarten, indoor and outdoor vendors, and a summer farmers’ market.  Billy bought us post-run coffees at S&J while I checked out the displays. 
We sipped our coffees outside while enjoying a history lesson on “Anti-German Hysteria”—a fun way to end the most historical of all our Run 52’s.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Run 52: Oakley

Before I go on to say how much I enjoy Oakley, let’s get this out of the way. This intersection serves as the western border of Oakley and hell for local runners.

Even if you get to the intersection with a walk sign, you're pretty much guaranteed to have to put your body on the line and cut through the line of cars whose driver insisted on rolling through a yellow light only to park in the middle of the crosswalk.

Hey, drivers, we can do better than this!  

Now that I’ve got this one blip out of the way, I have to say that other this one intersection, Oakley is a great neighborhood for running. In fact, it was the first neighborhood that I explored when we moved to Cincinnati. Just around the corner from Mt. Lookout, I came to enjoy my regular loop, which led me down Madison through Oakley Square and then along Ridge before climbing up Paxton for home.
On this run, we started from Oakley Square, which features a recently renovated traffic island that holds an expansive and functional green space right in the middle of Madison Road. This island is a real victory for pedestrians, as not only does it manage to slow down traffic in both directions, but once you’re inside the island you there is plenty of room to enjoy.

The 20th Century theater is  an Oakley landmark. On any given week the marquee will bear the names of some excellent bands along, or a creative wedding announcement such as: “Mike and Margie Star in The Rest of Our Lives.”

I have to confess I’ve never actually been inside the 20th Century theater, but Toad the Wet Sprocket is coming in November, so this might just be the year!

But seriously, The Wood Brothers are coming next Tuesday--will Kayla go out on a school night?

Oakley also features one place I am glad that we no longer have to frequent--the laundromat. We spent way too many weekend afternoons in this place before moving on up.

Our next stop was the Oakley Playground, which sits at the base of the hill just off of Paxton. On a beautiful evening like the one that we ran, you will find the basketball courts full along with a few tennis players as well.

Kayla and I have had some epic matches on those courts.

There is also a small paved trail that leads up the hill from the park to a few baseball fields before plummeting back down to Paxton Ave. below. Kayla enjoyed the topography.

Sitting at the corner of Madison and Ridge, Crossroads Church has certainly become a major institution over the years that we have lived in Cincinnati. While, I have only ever run or driven by, it seems that the events there engage tons of people every week, and their particular focus in the area of social services has resulted in the new City Link development in the West End, which we will likely see in a few weeks.

One of my favorite aspects of Oakley is that it has a little bit of everything from the specialized shops around the square to the nice parks to a few industrial touches here and there. This last feature brings to mind my Motor City roots.

Just down from Crossroads we came across a new apartment development, which has sprung up within the last couple of months as a part of the Oakley Station project. The plan calls for new shops, some restaurants, and a mammoth Cinemark movie theater. The development will be a nice alternative to Rookwood Square.

It wasn’t long before we started salivating as two of our favorite restaurants were soon in view. For Kalya that meant Baba Indian restaurant, where she loves to get her flame-throwing order of Mali Kofta (cheese balls). I use flame-throwing because this is the typical interaction when she places her order.

Waiter: Spicey level 1-6
Kayla: 6
Waiter: 6 is VERY HOT
Kayla: (unflinching) 6
Waiter: 6 is VERY SPICY
Kayla: Bring it! (slamming her 40oz Taj Mahal on the table)

My favorite Oakley restaurant is Skyline. And this particular Skyline is now the most convenient drive through location for me. While, I’ve cut back in the last year, my typical order goes like this:

Drive through clerk: May I take your order
Me: 8 Cheese Coneys with everything
Drive through clerk: That will be $12.50
Me: (pulling to the window)
Drive through clerk: You’re going to have one happy family when you get home.
Me: (awkward nod)

In addition to our favorite restaurants, the eastern edge of Oakely Square also has some unique shops, including, a retro furniture store that I hope someday to enter, King Arthur’s Toy Store, and the Spotted Goose children’s bookstore.

If you have a kid and we have to buy him or her a present, it’s going to come from this corner.

Once we arrived back to the square, we added a residential loop, which was a great way to finish the run. Passing by these great homes reminded me that Oakley would be a great place to live.

You can view our entire route here: