My attempt to document 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Spring 2011.

Sunrise 40: Ault Park (Achievement Unlocked! and Alms Park Sunset #3 with Mountainous Cumulus Clouds)

The sunset from last night; a fitting picture for the 40th sunrise write-up considering today’s overcast stormy conditions provided a non-existent morning sun

I made it! This morning was officially the 40th sunrise that I documented in Eastern Cincinnati. I’ve been thinking about this morning for the past few days, wondering what if anything I could do as a special tribute to the milestone. At first I started big. I considered waking up an hour early and driving over to Devou Park in Cincinnati to take a nice “capstone” sunrise picture of the Cincinnati Skyline and sunrise over the Ohio River. But I realized that heading up to Devou Park, while a powerful sentiment indeed, was too far outside the context of normalcy for this project. All 40 sunrises, except for the flying pig marathon day, had two things in common: Eastern Cincinnati and my bike. I decided that the most appropriate sunrise this morning would be one where I went back to the roots of the project and reflected on the past 40 days. The morning ended up being overcast and gray anyway. I grabbed my coffee and a notebook and rode up to the park. Oh yeah, I also made a facebook page. “Like” it if you want to, I’m not exactly sure what to use it for yet.

Oh, one more thing. The last half of this post has pictures from Alms Park sunset last night. The sky was busy all day yesterday (as I learned from the sunrise fronts). Last night was no different, but as the sun set and the air-cooled, the towering cumulus clouds looked like mountains on the distant horizon.

This morning was gray and overcast. A fitting environment for writing and looking back on the last 40 sunrises.

I’ll be down there this weekend for the Memorial Day Race 5K. Amanda designs the shirts 🙂 Put on by the Cincinnati Running Club. Amanda is running, I’m volunteering. We’ve got some friends coming into town who are probably going to run it too!

The sunrise this morning was gray and non-existent. I chose to focus most of my time on writing some of my thoughts that have been bouncing around throughout the extent of this project. I’d like to go back and look at various statistics relating to the project, but for now I don’t have time before heading in to work. Number of pictures, bike shots, words, words / day (I seem to have got more chatty as the project went along), traffic statistics, grouping pictures together by color, looking at the overlook picture time-lapse, etc. The sky stayed the same color, a muted gray, throughout the entire morning. The ambient light drifted about until it was darker when I left the park than when I got there, or so it seemed.

Good old Lunken Airport in the distance, looking south/west

Classic time-lapse shot.

Zoom of Lunken Airfield. See the green break in the forest at the end of the runway, in the middle of the picture? Where the green grass looks like it jumps up into the trees? That’s where I saw the sunrise yesterday morning on the bike trail. I didn’t realize you could see it from here.

The first thing I did was look at some of the original goals of the project to see where they stand now. Looking back on the project it is interesting to see various themes slowly start to gain momentum. At the beginning of the project, I took fewer pictures with fewer words. I focused a lot more on my immediate surroundings in the park. The flowers, mushrooms, views, bike, bench, trees, sky, rain, birds. As the sunrises continued, and I became familiar with the Heekin Overlook, I started to venture out a bit more. I explored the arboretum, the pavilion, the trails, and the blossoming cherry trees. Eventually I broke out of the boundary of the park and started exploring more of the neighborhoods. The first taste of inquiry looks to be the morning I looked at the old Bell Systems building on Delta Venue. That fateful day that I found the Crusade Castle can be viewed as the day when a shift was made into exploring not just “look what is around” but “look what is left over from another era”. This active history theme led to several “Saturday Explorations”, including the trip to Armleder Park through East End, and R.K. LeBlond Estate & Norwood Industry Hunt. I also used this theme to turn historic inquiry back at the familiar things in Ault Park, including the search for Murdock Fountains (ongoing…) and the World War I memorial bench.

So back to some of the original goals of the project. How did I do?

  • 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Check! This is the most basic and important goal – and it feels absolutely incredible to know that I did it without compromise. I missed only two weekly sunrises – one due to a viewing and one due to an active electrical storm. On both days I was able to still write a post up using other material.
  • Explore the parks and the city. Check! This is evident throughout the entire project. Both of these goals are far from complete, but I have made significant progress both in the appreciation of the Queen City’s Emeralds and the city herself.
  • Create a new routine, new habits. Check! Looking back, the first half of this project was much harder than the second half even though I put more effort into the second half with all of the research and extra miles put on the bike. I’m also waking up early on my days off – something that I didn’t think was possible until this project started.
  • Appreciate more detail in every day. Check! Carpe Diem personified. I hope I’ve started something that will continue throughout the rest of my life.
  • Become more comfortable on my bike. Check! By my guess I’ve put close to 200 miles on the bike just accounting for the daily ride, and another 300 miles with the extra exploration. I’ve also gone through a new tire, new crank, and new pedals.
  • Kill Over-sleeping. While I am still susceptible to over-sleeping I have a new control system imposed on it that is working as long as I have accountability for the sunrises. This is the entire reason the project website exists. Mostly Check!

It is worth noting that this is the first time in my entire life that I have consistently waken up before 6:30am with only a single exception that I can remember. When I was in seventh grade (fifteen years ago) I would routinely wake up at 5:30am to watch The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. Strangely, there must have been a kind of personality shift that happened during the summer between seventh and eighth grade because I never did continue this “morning person” routine. For me, it is of great personal accomplishment that I was able to complete these 40 days of morning wake ups. It proves (to me) that I can accomplish something drastic and life changing. Any time I come up against such a challenge in the future, I can think back to project Ault Park Sunrise and remember the feeling of balance and satisfaction that this project has given me.

There are several things that have changed in my daily routine that I can directly attribute to this project.

  • Mornings are now much easier than before
  • I now go to bed at a reasonable (and consistent) time
  • — which enables me to get excellent sleep most of the time
  • I’ve started reading before bed more consistently. Although I don’t typically get very far, I fall asleep without issue
  • My legs are much stronger. I feel like a mountain climbing machine.
  • I have a much higher cardio capacity. I imagine I could run 10 miles with my feet pain being the only constraint.
  • I’ve consumed less beer overall, and more craft beer. This is important to me. I rarely have more than two beers at a time during the week, and I enjoy them thoroughly because I’m able to focus on quality over quantity. This reminds me of Ben Franklin’s thirteen virtues that I often find myself thinking about.
  • I notice with a much higher sensitivity when my diet gets messed up. Bloating and fatigue from eating fried food or too much food is immediately apparent the next day. I don’t mean to be snobbish, because my diet is far from perfect, but I am happy to know that I am becoming more in tune with my body’s natural cycles and energy.
  • I have more energy overall – I am no longer fatigued after a 20 miles bike ride. In fact I have more energy it feels like.
  • I’ve played way less PlayStation 3. I attribute this more to good allocation of free time, and less to a dwindling desire for playing video games.
  • Purpose-driven creativity. This project has provided an outlet for daily creativity in writing, research, photography, and/or human interactions.
  • I’ve met many local neighborhood citizens and learned about several new perspectives on life. I’ve always been comfortable talking to strangers (a natural gift I imagine) and making them feel comfortable – this project has allowed me to improve on this skill
  • A  higher threshold of overall creativity. This project, from the beginning, has grown into several new directions while still maintaining much of the original framework laid out by the constraints (sunrise, Ault Park, bike, convenient and quick).
  • I am more comfortable with my writing and understand a bit more about my strengths and weaknesses.
  • I’ve learned a lot about flower and tree identification thanks to the feedback I’ve received on this blog from several friends. Thanks guys 🙂

One thing that stands out to me is just how quickly these 40 mornings have gone by. 40 is a big number. I remember thinking, at the beginning of the project, that perhaps it was too big of a number. Could I even do it? I can’t do 3 sunrise mornings, how can I do 40? By having the days numbered and also having this journal to look back at my daily logs is a new thing for me. I can remember each sunrise going by and recall each individual memory. And yet here we are, 40 days later, on the other side of the project. The sun has shifted far to the left from where it started, it rises 65 minutes earlier, and the trees that started the project naked are now flush with their summer green. The quickness in which the time seemed to have passed during the life of this project has better prepared me to take advantage of as much as I can of the finite days I have left in the future. I’ve always known that there was peace in the mornings but I couldn’t figure out how to make it real. Sure, it is annoying to get up early. I have to go to bed at an “unreasonable” time (although at this point I’m completely exhausted so it is no longer unreasonable). I can’t drink a beer after 10pm. This commitment requires planning and foresight and a real effort to put the pictures online and write up an entry. But in the end, the payoff is several multiples more than any discomfort. Hell, I could do this all day!

A final thing I want to add is that exploring an area on a bike is a modern experience that everyone should at least try once. There is nothing else like it. By exploring in my local vicinity, I am able to piece together local history and cause-and-effect theories that are familiar enough to store in my head easily. In any human inhabitance, there are remnants of days-gone-by. From the buildings to the artifacts, memorials to the water fountains, churches to the headstones. The higher the human density of an area, the deeper the web of interconnectedness. It makes me wonder how fulfilling it would be to do a “sunrise project” in an old, small, midwestern farm town with a deep history but a limited space to explore it. A complete picture (or at least a well-rounded one) of the history of the town may be more attainable because there would be fewer human sub-cultures, systems, booms, and industries.

So what’s next? Hard to say at this point. I’ve had a blast with this project so far so at this point at a minimum I’m going to keep up the morning ritual and write-ups. Perhaps I’ll start to become a bit more socially-oriented and try to recruit more people to meet me up at the park, although that might be a stretch. Now that the 40 sunrises are up, I am also free to explore different sets of constraints. I gave some thought to doing a Lunken Airfield sunrise week after the beautiful atmospheric conditions down on the bike trail, but that might be asking a lot considering how grueling it is getting back up the hill. I’ve also thought about picking different places around the city and traveling there to do the sunrise, as opposed to what I do now – start at Ault Park and then venture out into the city if I have the time.

I’ve also got a host of interesting places to check out on the East Side. I’d be lying if I haven’t kicked around the idea of doing a kind of city bike tour (thanks for the idea, Tara!). To really make it work it would be nice to have a set of wireless radios that clip to your helmet. It’d also be a kid of bring your own bike situation so I’m not sure if there would be any interest in it.

When I get the time I’m also going to post up detailed explanation of my workflow in case anyone else would be interested in doing a project like this on their own. You need nothing other than a camera and a computer. The script that I’ve written to process and name the pictures takes most of the busywork out of the ordeal. I now spend 85% of my time at the computer writing these posts rather than messing with naming, resizing, and re-orienting the pictures. It also puts a copyright notice on each image.

Thank you to everyone who has followed this project, no matter how big or small. This project is largely a personal feat, but I’d be lying to say that it doesn’t help immensely with the motivational drive knowing that there are other people out there that check in every once in awhile to see the pictures and read my crazy rambles.

Here’s to 40 more 🙂


Some pictures from last night’s Alms Park Sunset. I felt it was fitting to have the 40th sunrise post also include beautiful pictures of the setting sun.

Two days ago I mentioned how it would be nice to get the Columbia Tusculum homes in the setting sun light. I find myself in this exact situation just two days later. For the rest of the sunset pictures – and if you’re on the front page – click to continue –>

In the foreground we can see the Ohio River and a small boat coming up river. In the background we see the tip of Mt. Adams and these towering cumulus clouds that look like we’re looking at tall mountains. I like this picture because of the shadow effect on the left side of the clouds.

Another shot of the shadows, this time with a bit of a different exposure.

I started to pretend this was actually a sunrise, not a sunset, and took pictures accordingly. Notice the dark orange spots under the clouds where the sunlight is punching through.

The clouds… they seemed so close. For a second I wondered if western Cincinnati could see my view or if they were directly under it. I still don’t know the answer to that question.

The sun is starting to finally set, casting the cumulii into dark shadows.

These clouds up above Lunken Airfield are still catching part of the setting sun’s light. They glowed a soft pink  and white that sat in high contrast to the dark grassy airport.

A bit of a closer shot. I think I prefer this one over the zoomed out version. Click on either one to see a better view of the planes down below.

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5 responses

  1. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!
    It is a most worthy achievement and one you can be justly proud of! Well done!

    May 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm

  2. Shelly

    What an awesome project, Blaine. An old friend of Kim and I’s (and a Miami alum) linked to your site via facebook recently. Small world, of course.

    May 30, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    • Thanks Shelly! What a small world indeed. Kim mentioned that to me the other day, too. It is nice knowing that other people are following along 🙂

      June 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

  3. Pingback: Sunrise 120(!!): Ault Park (Clear & Frosty Cold Morning) « Ault Park Sunrise

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