15 Minutes Early

Lately my standard commute to work has been torturous.  Whether it is random accidents, or increased congestion due to the new homes and apartments being built in New Albany and points east, I am consistently enduring traffic jams on my way to the office.

I’m not a happy camper about it.  There are few things more irritating than crawling along in stop-and-go traffic, trying to figure out which lane might have the accident or be most likely to start moving.  It’s intolerable, and I inevitably reach the office in a foul mood as a result.  It’s not good for my car, either.  The interior has been severely scorched and some of the plastic fixtures partially melted by my more heated traffic jam epithets.

So, it’s time for a change.  Living in the ‘burbs, that means I have two options:  take the other route (because there really are only two options) or leave early.  There are a bunch of homes being built on the other route, so I’m going to shoot for leaving 15 minutes early.

This is not as easy as it sounds, and there are risks.  As Kish would tell you, I’m a creature of habit, and I like to follow my morning routine of walk, coffee, blog posting, get dressed, drive.  I’m going to have to speed up the schedule.  And all those accidents I’m encountering obviously have to happen before I leave at my standard time.  Who knows?  Perhaps the early departure time will put me squarely into the bad driver/accident zone.

It’s a risk I’m willing to take, because the traffic jams just suck.

The Barn

IMG_3309Last night, the Carroll County Cousin, Kish, and I went to the newest restaurant in our neighborhood — The Barn at Rocky Fork Creek.  You’ll find it at the intersection of Route 62 and Morse Road, on the border between New Albany and Gahanna.

The Barn is located in a huge, barn-like structure that formerly was a Hoggy’s restaurant.  Hoggy’s, a barbecue joint, featured a large antique tractor hanging from the ceiling that I always assumed was designed to encourage table turnover by incentivizing diners to wolf down their food and get away from the presumed kill zone if the tractor ever were to fall.

IMG_3314Thankfully, The Barn has removed the Tractor of Damocles from the ceiling.  However, The Barn fortunately has kept the meatcentric orientation of the old Hoggy’s, with a few steps in the upscale direction.  It bills itself as a destination steakhouse, but it’s not the kind where the waiters wear black jackets.  Instead, it has a kind of rustic flair, with the servers sporting gingham shirts and the menu featuring some smokehouse and barbecue options as well as a fully array of steaks, seafood, salads, and sides.

I had a shrimp cocktail and the “king’s cut” of prime rib — a full 16 ounces — because sometimes only a red slab of beef with flavorful fat around the edges will do.  The shrimp cocktail was packed with shrimp and a sinus-clearing, horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce that let you know this restaurant isn’t afraid to offer bold flavors. The prime rib was great — a large, juicy, perfectly cooked cut that I savored bite by bite.  The prime rib is served with a large baked onion, and we got some very tasty creamed spinach for the table to complete a classic, old-line steakhouse meal.

The Barn just opened last weekend, and it’s still got some kinks to work out.  The place was packed when we were there, and it took too long for our food to arrive — which was a source of some concern because Kish and the Cousin were on their way to a show.  I’m hoping they iron out the kinks, because the food was quite good and we really need more restaurants — especially hearty, beef-oriented ones — in this neck of the woods.

The New Columbus Bus Line

The Bus Riding Conservative never misses a chance to lecture the rest of us, often in mind-numbing detail, about the joys of using the Central Ohio Transit Authority.  So I wasn’t surprised when the BRC sent me a clipping of a story about COTA establishing an express bus link between Columbus and New Albany.

IMG_3045When I read the article, I happily realized that it wasn’t the normal boring BRC fodder about the thrill of bus riding.  There actually was an interesting aspect to the story, namely this:  the newly established express bus route is for people who are commuting from downtown Columbus to New Albany, and not the other way around.  The express bus will leave downtown at five scheduled times between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., make a stop at Easton Town Center, the colossal shopping megaplex on the I-270 rim, and then will rumble on to the New Albany Business Park.  New Albany then will pay for a shuttle service to take people from the COTA stop to other locations within the business park.

That’s interesting for two reasons.  First, it shows that the efforts to bring businesses out to the suburbs are bearing fruit — so much so that COTA sees a market for an express bus that helps the workers at those business get out to their jobs.  It makes me wonder how much contracommuting is going on in the Columbus area.  Second, the fact that people are living downtown and needing a ride out to the ‘burbs to work suggests that we might be able to avoid the prospect of runaway suburban sprawl that was forecast by a recent study by a city planning firm.

The area around Columbus is mostly flat farmland, so it’s not exactly full of scenic wonders.  Still, I’d rather keep the fields of amber waves of grain (or, more accurately, corn and soybeans) than see more concrete, Home Depots, and Kohl’s outlets.  The city’s footprint doesn’t need to grow any larger.  Encouraging people to live downtown, and helping them get to jobs out in the suburbs, is one way of keeping that from happening.

The New Albany Walking Classic, 2014

IMG_3008In a few minutes, the New Albany Walking Classic will begin.  It’s a beautiful day for the walk — crisp and clear, with blue sky and a nice chill in the air.  The finish line is ready, a band is already playing, and the contestants are getting primed.

As usual, this latest New Albany event goes right through my North of Woods neighborhood.  This year, though, I’m talking a different tactic.  Rather than trying to go about my business and try to navigate the event, I’ll be staying home and enjoying a nice cup of coffee and conversation with my lovely wife.

It’s not quite if you can’t beat them, join them, though.  I’ve already taken my pleasant, solitary morning walk, and I won’t be joining the contestants.