Good morning! Sunrise 92 was one of the darkest sunrises that I’ve seen so far. The atmosphere is thick with clouds that are left over from the East Coast hurricane Irene. I haven’t posted a sunrise for several days, but to be honest we didn’t miss much. The wife unit was out of the state visiting family over the long weekend and she borrowed the camera to take some pictures. At any rate, I am not sure that I’ve seen the sun in these parts for at least a week. I don’t have an excuse for yesterday, other than the fact that it was rainy and cloudy and my bed was dry and warm. Although it is interesting to note, quickly, just how easy it is to get out of an established routine. I helped out some family by dog-sitting over the weekend which gave me a perfect isolated weekend to work on my master’s thesis (still not done, but converging quickly). This morning’s ride was more difficult than usual, probably due to a combination of 4 days of not riding regularly and the pains of starting back into the early weekly routine.
So back to the sunrise. This morning’s sunrise was non existent, just like the other sunrises over the past week. But this morning was also really, really dark. If sunrise 80, with its clear skies and colorful dawn, was a 10/10 for atmospheric brightness, today was definitely a 1 or 2. By the time I got home at 7:40am, a half hour after the “sunrise” of 7:11am, the morning commuters still had their car lights on as if it were night time. Oh, and the temperature was cold! It was probably about 53-55F, a full 35F degrees cooler than some of the sunrises from just a few weeks ago. I really should have worn a sweatshirt. I stayed warm by not hopping off my bike for more than a few minutes at a time. I ended up riding through the arboretum in Ault Park, then down through Mt. Lookout past the Observatory, all the while making sure to pay much attention to the morning commuters.
That’s one side effect of these late sunrises that I forgot would show up. Biking at 7:30am is much different than biking at 7:30am! The banks of the streets fill up with more traffic and the overall feeling that I get while biking around feels more aggressive, even if it is unintentional. The later in the morning, the worse it gets, because you can tell that some of the later cars are starting to run late. I try to be as respectful as possible while biking, by taking routes mostly through old residential areas and always sticking to the outside lane. But nothing is more scary than an obviously impatient driver that may or may not be paying attention.
Due to the dark light, cold temperature, and wet air, the park was empty with the exception of a single park crew truck. The street lamps were still on, and the canopy of the tall oak trees provided a surreal darkness against the bright gray overcast sky. The crickets and cicadas were still swelling with their summer buzz which provided a great stereo effect as I biked through the heavier forested areas of the park.
One interesting thing about this dark overcast sky is that I can take a picture that includes both the foreground and the sky without one of them being incorrectly exposed. Normally I have to choose one of the other – either the sky (making the foreground dark) or the foreground (making the sky bleached out white).
Heading out of the park down Observatory Ave. The street lamps are still on and the air is a bit misty. This part of the park is always fun to bike through because it is downhill, wide, and you can smell the moisture coming out of the forest at the base of the hill.
Continuing down Observatory Ave, we pass Observatory Ct where the Cincinnati Observatory is located. There is a utility truck at the end of the street flashing his hazard lights at me. I like how dark these pictures are, and at the same time the reflections off of the pavement add some contrast.
A shot of a typical Mt. Lookout neighborhood lane. These neighborhoods mostly date back to the early 1920s so the trees, if they’re not from the original forest which a lot of them are, have had many decades to grow up around the deign of the urban residential neighborhood. You can see on the house to the left that there is a “triangular” shape to it. I’ve found that there is a specific architectural design pattern that exists in many of the homes that were built probably around the same time period by the same developers. They have huge triangles throughout the frame of the home that start at the ground and reach all the way up to the point of the roof, with the largest triangle usually containing the front door. Some of the homes’ triangles more pronounced than others. This is probably just one of the many urban trends that live just under the layer of consciousness. Or maybe it’s just like any of the other historical trends that I’ve found in Cincinnati: they’re mostly unknown except by a handful of people who know them very well and love to talk about them :).
A final shot down one of the small auxiliary outlets from the residential neighborhood. This gives us an idea of the kind of hills that I’ve come to expect when I bike through the eastern residential neighborhoods.
This one’s just for fun. I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to certain things, and it is a behavior I’m trying to get better at! I’ve been collecting 6-packs over the past 8 months with the purpose of using them with some kind of art project. I was originally going to cut out just the front and frame them, but the wife had an idea of just framing the entire 6-pack. I really like the way these ones turned out, and I also like that the 6-pack is almost entirely intact, with the exception of the bottom panel that we had to cut out so the 6-pack would fit.
It’s amazing to look at all of the artwork and subtle design that goes into most of the modern American micro-brew packaging and labeling. I strongly feel that we’ll look back at the last 15 years of beer culture in the American micro-brew scene and not only talk about the quality and breadth of beer, but also the art, design, and culture that came along with it. By culture, I’m talking about the cases in which a brewery becomes a manifestation of some other local culture, one that they either emerge out of or help to create. That’s one of the most important distinguishing facets about the passionate commercial venture that is the modern brewery in America. Most of them are supported by a local culture, which is crucial to the success and evolution of the brewery.
In case you’re not familiar, the three 6-packs are (from left to right): Bell Brewery’s Oberon (Summer Wheat), Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch (Belgian India Pale Ale), and Lagunita’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (American Pale). The oberon’s packaging is simple and minimalist, chosen to help balance out the business of the other two 6-packs. The center frame features “Raging Bitch”, which is one of my favorite designs because of how intense the artwork is. Flying dog has an interesting theme to their packaging of the entire line of their beers, and they manage to include both Hunter S. Thompson and the artist Ralph Steadman. Steadman is probably most famous (at least to me) for the artwork he did for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which of course was a psuedo biographical story about Hunter S. Thompson, played by Johnny Depp. In fact, now that I read about it, Flying Dog’s page about their philosophy is a great read. They tie in Ralph Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson, and George Stranahan as the “Godfathers of Gonzo”. I’m going to dig more into this. The final beer on the right is by my favorite brewery, Lagunitas. I always enjoy their humor and care-free worldview. They make excellent beer and their beer always has a great story. In the case of the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, the bottom of the 6-pack notes that they find joy in watching the Internet Beer Rating Sites try to figure out how to classify it. They typically have some small typos on the personal under-side rant, which adds to the charm.
Sunrise 40: Ault Park (Achievement Unlocked! and Alms Park Sunset #3 with Mountainous Cumulus Clouds)
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.
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.
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 –> (more…)
After visiting Lunken Airfield yesterday morning, I thought that it would be nice to mix it up and try to catch the sunrise on the bike path that circles the airport. I set my alarm for 5:50am, giving myself about 25 minutes with a snooze to get down to Lunken. The sky had a shine of light orange and a mix of clouds so I wasn’t sure if it would be a worthwhile endeavor or not. There was the chance that there would be thick fog and I wouldn’t even be able to see the sky from down in the river basin at the airport. I decided the risk was worth it and headed down the mountain to the pre-glacial Ohio River valley where Lunken Airport snuggly sits underneath the Alms Park lookout.
On the right of the Lunken Terminal there is a levee that runs south along the western side of the air field. On top of the levee is the first leg of the 5 mile bike trail. There is a thick line of trees on either side of the trail. To the inside of the trail, the airfield side, there are several generous cutouts in the forest that allow you to look head on into the three main runways. There are also several groups of benches, both at the beginning of the trail and at the back corner of the trail, that provide a great resting place to watch planes come in and take off.
As I approached t the airfield I decided to pass the first set of benches that I sat at yesterday morning to continue about a mile down the trail to the benches that sit snugly at the south west corner of the field. The runway that intersects those benches is known as the “jet runway” so I was hoping to see some commuter jets come in or take off over me. I didn’t realize at the time that the sun would no longer be head on.
The lights that I can see from Ault Park’s Heekin Overlook – up close. Check out the Madeira apartment building in the background. That sucker is far away but you can see it anywhere on the east side if you look for it.
If you’re on the front page, click to continue. Beautiful shots of the blue cumulus skies that showed up a bit later –> (more…)
When I first woke up this morning, all I could think of was how sore I was going to be. Last night I participated in my first ever “group ride” with the friendly people over at Element Cycles in Mt. Lookout / Hyde Park. I found out about the event only two hours before it started. Yesterday afternoon I was browsing through the Cincinnati bicycling blogosphere when I came across an announcement by Queen City Cycles (and Urban Cincy) about how May is “Bike Month”. There are going to be all kinds of awesome events, including Bike+Brew, an event that involves a bike pub crawl through the bars in over the rhine, down town, and newport / covington kentucky. It sounds like a blast. Along with the announcement about Bike+Brew there Queen City Cycles had a picture of the official Bike Month t-shirts. I saw that one of the locations to pick up a t-shirt was at Element Cycles, which just so happens to be in my neighborhood. I remembered passing the shop just last Sunday for the first time so I decided to check out their website / facebook page. As it turns out they do Thursday rides @ 6pm. Being familiar with the weather for this week and realizing that yesteday was probably the only beautiful day (and the only clear sunrise!) I sucked it up and decided to check out the event, for better or worse.
I was pretty nervous to say the least. Could I keep up with these “real” cyclists? Would I get left behind, struggling and over run by traffic, somewhere in the eastern hills, 20 miles from my house? I sucked it up and headed over to the bike shop on Observatory to see what it was all about. It ended up being an absolutely fantastic ride. I was probably the only person in the group who didn’t have clip-less pedals, a bike computer, or a sweet-ass aerodynamic bike outfit – but in the end it didn’t matter. We had a group of about 15 people, all of whom are what I would consider to be regular cyclists. A few of the riders were obviously serious about speed, quite intimidating at first, but they ended up breaking off and doing their own route which left us mortals to climb the grueling hills at our own pace. Everyone was friendly and didn’t seem to mind my nervous tick – talking and talking and talking (“Did you know this building was built in the early 1900s for downtown commuters? It doesn’t have a parking lot because there used to be a rail line that went through here. So have you heard of the Cincinnati Subway? hehe) The route ended up being about 21 miles, averaging about 14mph. We went up to Madeira, over through Indian Hill, and back up Wooster to Madisonville. There are some beautiful hidden (and steep) roads out through Indian Hill. Fortunately for my legs (and sanity) we took a break every 5 miles or so to recuperate. It was a great experience overall. After the trip Brett, the owner, hooked me up with a craft beer from Utah, Four+Brewing’s Wyld Organic Pale Ale. I knew right then that I was coming back :). I’ve never had a craft beer from Utah, and even now it appears that it was a rare occasion – I don’t think the brewery even has a web site. I look forward to many more Thursday rides.
This morning started out with so much promise. The color of the twilight sky was the gray that I’ve become so familiar with this week. It was not, however, quite as dark as Monday or Tuesday. There were streaks of a hazy bright gray, almost blue, through the atmosphere, giving me some hope that there may be a sunrise after all. I’ve found that you can tell a lot about the sun rise by how much light is in the atmosphere about a half hour before the sun rise. If the atmosphere is bright you’ll obviously have a great sun rise. And if it is still as dark as you’d expect to be in the middle of the night, you’ve got a completely overcast situation. But there are levels in between. From a 0 (stormy / midnight) to a 10 (clear with no clouds) today was probably a 4. I made my coffee (oops I forgot all about it last night), hopped on the bike, and rode up to the park. I arrived just in time for the official sunrise. The air was surprisingly warm, and while it was a bit wet out, I wouldn’t say that it was unpleasant. The air smelled sweet and there was a surprisingly high volume of bird chatter. It must be mating season for one of the local species because it sounded like a constant overlapping between one specific kind of bird call. I’ve noticed that the cardinals tend not to yell over one another – they take turns and sync up. I’d say that this is a good example of an optimized game theory strategy. This other bird though (I know what it looks like, but not what it is called) isn’t quite so courteous. There was a consistent baseline of song, partially shrill and indistinguishable, in the backdrop of the forest soundscape.
The sun never did come out. Armleder Park is still holding strong down in the valley, having been underwater for over two weeks now. I can’t imagine how many giant carp or catfish are grazing the prairie grass and soccer fields. I just realized that you can fish in the small pond that is located on the eastern side of the park – does that now expand to include the whole park? Hmm. I may have to go get a fishing license after all. I also wonder what effect this will have on the fish population in that small pond. If the prarie is the flat basin of the new “Armleder Lake”, the pond would be the deep trench that the catfish would probably want to hide out in. When the water recedes, I bet we’ll see some giant fish pulled out of that pond.I’d like to imagine a young kid and his dad heading out to Armleder for a quick fishing trip after work. By this point, lets say late August, the 4 foot grass carp hasn’t had a good meal in weeks. He’s desperate for some protein. The kid feels a yank on his line, and the next day his dad can tell his work buddies that his son caught a 100 pound grass carp in a tiny pond next to the soccer fields. Heck yeah!
Lunken Airport is a bit under water, too, but that doesn’t affect business. The run ways are elevated, perhaps because they got sick and tired of getting flooded out over the years. Or maybe they built it that way originally. Who knows.
Normally I would over look these smaller flowers, but now that the cherry blossoms, magnolias, and daffodils have moved on they stand out against the green backdrop. (More after the jump) (more…)