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Get out of town

August 20, 2012

View of the Mount Adams Incline in Cincinnati

Cincinnati’s surrounding hills are picturesque, but in the late 19th century they trapped the coal smoke spewing out from both commercial and residential chimneys. The rewards for escaping this environment led to the development of the surrounding hillsides with parks and weekend retreats. Cyclists enjoyed the freedom of being able to rapidly flee the bad air into Kentucky and the Ohio countryside. In the warmer months calendars were carefully watched to take advantage of the full moon so that after-work excursions could be made (one wonders how many sleepy-eyed wheelmen had to get through the following work day). On weekends, in order to make the most of their free time, captains of the local clubs called for rides to begin at the crack of dawn.

In a horse and train era the freedom of the wheel is easy to appreciate. One could leave behind the dense, smelly city and escape to the picturesque countryside.

View of Belleview, Kentucky

Wagon Bridge on the Little Miami River

Kempton’s “Vest Pocket Guide to Cincinnati and Vicinity” published in 1892 offers this route out of Cincinnati from the Garfield monument that today’s wheelmen will recognize:

Head down Freeman avenue and head to Ludlow Kentucky (in the day one took a ferry). Landing in Kentucky under the railroad bridge one would take Ash Street to Elm Street and on to Bromley. In Bromley there was a spring on the left side of the road to refresh the rider. The traveller would pass a church on the right (which is still there) and then on to Anderson Ferry. Beyond the ferry landing the wheelman in 1892 would  come to the Constance Post Office at the foot of a steep hill (Petersburg Road, or Route 20 today). Midway up the guide points out a ravine that offers a “magnificent view of the river.” On up to Hebron and a schoolhouse landmark along with a toll gate. Continuing on the road to Bullitsville and on to several hills that eventually descend to Petersburg on the Ohio River. From there the wheelman would travel to Burlington and on to Lawrenceburg Ferry.  Every weekend men and women pedal this route to Rabbit Hash and enjoy virtually the same experience the cyclists more than a hundred years ago enjoyed.

In 1891 John Kempton of the Porkopolis Wheelmen (Nicknamed “Star” in the League of American Wheelmen’s weekly paper Bicycling World for which he reported on Cincinnati doings) attempted a run on this route:

“Crossing the Ohio  on the Ludlow Ferry and taking the lower River Road on the Kentucky side to Constance (opposite Anderson’s Ferry), I turned to the left on the road which led up the hill just beyond Constance Creek. The grade was something less than 45 degrees, and I walked. From a point near the top of the hill the Ohio side with its fields of different sizes and shapes resembles nothing so much as a crazy patchwork quilt. A short distance beyond the top of the hill the pike ends in a dirt road. The frozen mud had begun to thaw, and again walking was in order. After floundering along for several miles I inquired of an aged granddame as to where the road led.

‘Is it to Flawrence ye want to go?’

‘No, I want to go to Burlington.’

‘Don’t know anything about that place, but if ye’ll jist kape on til you come to th’ cabin and thin turn to the lift yer naden’t take yer fut off the road til you come to Flawrence.’

Following her advice I didn’t take my “fut” off the road til within a mile of Florence I struck some macadam. After a substantial and well cooked meal of “hog and hominy” at the hotel kept by W. H. Corbin I returned by way of the  Lexington Pike.’

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