Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge

Among other things, Cincinnati can boast of a very cool suspension bridge:  the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge that crosses the Ohio River between downtown Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky.

Roebling designed the bridge, which opened in 1867.  His name may be familiar, because he also designed the Brooklyn Bridge.  At the time Roebling finished his span across the Ohio River, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

The Roebling Suspension Bridge is a beautiful, elegant part of downtown Cincinnati, with its graceful lines and gold-topped stone arches that have been darkened by time.  Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get to the bridge.  You have to cross a highway, pass the Great American Ballpark and the Underground Railroad Museum, navigate some construction sites and vacant parking lots, and keep an eye out for sketchy-looking characters.  Although we made it to the bridge, we couldn’t figure out how to get down to the banks of the Ohio River itself.

For an historic river town, Cincinnati doesn’t really do much to make the Ohio River an accessible part of its downtown area.

Queen City Quaffing

Last night, after a fine reception to celebrate Will and Megan’s wedding, some of us decided to head out to sample Cincinnati night life on a sultry Saturday evening.

Boy, The Queen City was rocking! The Reds had just beaten the Giants, so the departing game crowd was mixed with the normal weekend partiers and people in town for some kind of musical festival on Fountain Square. The area around the Square was thick with revellers looking for some fun.

We ended up sitting outside at a place called the Cadillac Ranch, listening to electronic dance music pulse from the speakers and watching the crowds and roaring choppers cruise by outside and drunken thrill-seekers try to ride a mechanical bull inside. The place was jammed, the atmosphere was hopping, and the beer was cold and tasted good in the warm summer air. When we left sometime shortly after midnight, it looked like things were just getting started.

Living On The Air In Cincinnati

What’s a trip to Cincinnati without a visit to Fountain Square, and what’s a visit to Fountain Square without thinking of the theme song to the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, and Andy, Les Nessman, Herb, Jennifer, Dr. Johnny Fever, the hapless Mr. Carlson — and the timeless flying turkey promotion episode.

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

Cousins, Together Again

We’re in Cincinnati for our first family wedding in years.  Today our nephew Will Kishman is marrying his long-time sweetheart Megan.

The great thing about a family wedding, of course, is the chance to see people you haven’t seen in a very long time.  The Kishman clan is far-flung these days, with outposts stretching from Brooklyn, New York to Ohio to Louisville to Chicago to sunny California.

Last night was a night for reconnecting for the cousins, as we quaffed some adult beverages and visited a dueling piano bar. It was great to spend some time with Will, Matt, Andrew, Annie, Max, and Miles.

The 3 C Corridor, By Rail

Ohio recently was awarded $400 million in “stimulus” money to get “high-speed” trains running along the “3 C” corridor connecting Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland.  According to this article, the plan would be to run four trains a day with six stops — two in the Cincinnati area, Dayton, Columbus, and two in the Cleveland area — starting in 2012.  The trains would reach a top speed of 79 miles per hour and would average 40 miles per hour.  An Amtrak study has estimated that 500,000 riders a year — primarily sports fans, business travelers, and college students — would use the rail service if it were available.

I think the train connection is intriguing, but I am a bit skeptical.  It’s weird to think that train travel, which had pretty much died by the time I was a kid in the ’60s, is the future of travel in Ohio.  I think a lot of people have romantic views of train travel, primarily from watching Alfred Hitchcock movies starring Cary Grant, but I doubt that the connection between Cincinnati and Cleveland will have much in the way of glamour.  The real issue is whether people will structure their travel to take one of the four trains, or whether they will hop in their cars at a time of their choosing and simply drive to their destination.  Right now, you can drive from Columbus to Cleveland in a bit over two hours, your average speed is significantly higher than 40 mph, and your car takes you from your doorstep directly to your destination.  I’m particularly doubtful of people taking the train from Columbus to Cincinnati because the route veers through Dayton, which is not on the direct route, making the trip a lot longer than it would be by car.

I’m not sure precisely how the $400 million will be spent, but a lot of infrastructure work needs to be done.  Columbus does not have a train station, although the convention center supposedly was designed to include an area that could be easily modified to serve as a train hub.  Ohio also is going to have to come up with at least $17 million a year to subsidize the route, and this is a time of great budget pressure.  If the state is serious about it, legislators are going to have to make some tough budget choices, like taking money from ongoing highway construction and widening projects and allocating it to the rail program instead.

Still, getting a train route started probably is not a bad idea.  A rail connection would provide an alternative to driving on a much-traveled route that could come in handy the next time gas prices spike to more than $4 per gallon. It also would be a way to connect Columbus to the Amtrak system, and could encourage more train travel generally.  If the system gets up and running, I think a lot of people will try it at least once, perhaps on a one-day trip to a sporting event in one of the “3 C” cities.  If it turns out to be a pleasant way to travel, it could become part of the routine.

Tragedy On The Ohio River

Thirty years ago, 11 people were killed trying to watch The Who perform in concert in Cincinnati.  The 11 were among 18,000 people with tickets to the event, and they were crushed, trampled, or suffocated in the concertgoers’ mad rush to claim the best seats for a performance by one of the premier rock bands of all time.  Amazingly, the concert promoters did not sell tickets with assigned seat numbers.  It was first come, first served for seats, and the crush of people trying to sit up close led to one of the worst concert disasters in American music history.

The Who concert tragedy occurred when I was in college, in the prime of my rock concert attendance days.  It was one of those events that shook your world view and made you pause for a moment.  I’ve never had a problem being in a big crowd, and I’ve felt the awesomely powerful surge as a mass of people move forward in unison.  It’s a real adrenalin rush.  The Who concert deaths made me realize that if I fell or was pressed against the wall, the crowd would not stop or falter — and then, being young, I went ahead and attended the concert or sporting event anyway.

My guess is that most young people have never heard of the deaths at Riverfront Colisseum.  As I have aged, however, my perspective on the tragedy has changed.  I feel I know how the parents of the young people who died must have felt as they watched their teenager or college student leave that evening for a fun night at a music show — and then later found out that their sons and daughters had died senselessly and needlessly.  Those are the kinds of stories that make every parent feel sick, and sad, and hopeful that they never have to receive such horrific news.

The facility is no longer called Riverfront Colisseum.   There is nothing to commemorate the event at that location, and Cincinnati no doubt would prefer to forget a tragic event that is seen as a civic black eye.  As the linked article indicates, however, some of the survivors of the dead are trying to place a memorial at the location.  It seems appropriate.