Since moving back to Cincinnati 12 years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time in my car exploring the city. I like driving around in neighborhoods I’m not familiar with, getting lost, and finding landmarks to guide me back to a street or a place I know. Usually there’s a goal in mind—Zip Dip, say, or the late lamented Fun Factory, or Shawnee Lookout, or Jungle Jim’s, or…you get the picture. Having a goal helps. It’s good to know where you’re supposed to be going even if you’re not sure how to get there; it increases the serendipity factor of vehicular wandering considerably. Kind of like life, I guess.
One of my favorite things to do is unfold that massive map put out by the Hamilton County Engineer’s Office and stare at it for God knows how long, mentally linking the streets, hills, parks, cemeteries, ball fields, and other arcane points of local interest I have actually laid eyes on with the surrounding areas I have not. It sets my imagination into high gear, wondering what some uncharted neighborhood or subdivision or tract of farmland looks like. I have killed a lot time staring at the map, but it’s been quality time for sure. (Thank you Theodore B. Hubbard, P.E., P.S., Hamilton County Engineer, wherever you are.)
As a result, I’ve grown pretty fond of some routes. Like: Rolling down Spring Grove from Winton to the main post office on Dalton. Or hanging a right onto the lowest level of the Western Hills Viaduct and heading up Harrison all the way to Bridgetown. (It may not be the quickest way from Camp Washington Chili to Zip Dip, but it’s much more interesting.) Or taking Colerain from Northside to Dry Ridge to pick up a cottage ham (and a few other things) at Stehlin’s. Or cruising out Kellogg Avenue, the Ohio River on my right, and not stopping until New Richmond. Then trying to navigate my way back to Beechmont via Five Mile or Ten Mile or another one of those “mile” roads. Even the names of far-flung parts of town sound exotic, if only because they rarely get namechecked: Sweetwine. Rossmoyne. Miamitown. Dent.
Whether you live on the east side or the west side, way up north or south across the river, eventually all these roads lead home, of course. And that’s the best part of all.