Monday, August 26, 2019

When You Realize It Was All Worth It

The Reluctant Cyclist, Stealth, Sailor, Pedal Pal, Velo Junkie

It was a glorious, mid-August morning. The temperature hovered in the 70’s and the sun was on the rise while Velo and I waited for our compadres at Humble Monk Brewing in Northside. It seemed like a good place to start and end since I hadn’t been there before. To make it easy to follow along as the tale unwinds, here’s the route of brewery stops with approximate miles:

  • 3 Points Urban Brewery, 331 E 13th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 - 4.8 mi
  • Braxton Labs, 95 Riviera Dr, Bellevue, KY 41073 - 2.5 mi
  • Darkness Brewing, 224 Fairfield Ave, Bellevue, KY 41073 - 0.5 mi
  • Taft's Brewpourium, 4831 Spring Grove Ave #1, Cincinnati, OH 45232 - 7.7 mi
  • Urban Artifact, 1660 Blue Rock St, Cincinnati, OH 45223 - 1.8 mi
  • Humble Monk Brewing Co., 1641 Blue Rock St, Cincinnati, OH 45223 - 200 ft

We were a small assemblage of urban riders on a purposeful trek. The Reluctant Cyclist (me), Velo Junkie (hubbie), Pedal Pal, Sailor, and Stealth (silent but deadly) were on a mission to find and avidly enjoy the perfect summer pint. We left the parking lot at Humble Monk about 10:30 a.m. with Velo pulling the chain.

It was my birthday ride. For those who know Velo and I, you know he plans some extravagant, ball-buster ride for his birthday in February. Something about riding the same number of miles as your age and stopping at a few breweries for relief. But this was my birthday, the summer skies were promising a 95 degree day, and I wasn’t going to play by such grievous rules. I had a much less tortuous route in store for those who wanted to share my day. How about half the miles and twice the breweries? Since the goal was to find the best malted energy drinks in the city, I called it my Birthday Bike Beer Binge and it was all about fun (and beer). We went from brewery (A) to brewery (B) as straight as the crow flies and didn’t try to loop in an extra 10 miles just to make sure we paid our dues.

The first stop was 3 Points Urban Brewery in Pendleton. The bartender thought our adventure was really cool and was glad we chose 3 Points to start. Now, here is where I fail as a journalist - I didn’t write down what everyone had to drink. I only kept a list of my beers, but mighty fine beers they were. My first perfect pint of the day was Cuddle, a brilliantly tart and lightly fruited sour that was a pleasure for the taste buds. Kind of coral in color, it was just as pleasing to the eyes.

As chance would have it, 3 Points is a hop and a skip from Stealth’s front door but, unaware of the route, he met us at the start and then, of course, had to ride back to his city block. “We love your company Stealth, so glad you could join us!” To the contrary, Sailor does not live in Cincinnati and he couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a restaurant that serves whiskey and biscuits. Boomtown is one block down from 3 Points and definitely on the next group ride.

Stop #2 took us across the river to Braxton Labs in Newport, KY. It is always fun to ride across the bridges from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky, so we rode the Purple People Bridge south toward Newport. Single file is required to avoid the crowds and Stealth continued to bring up the rear with Velo in the lead. Braxton Labs in in the back of The Party Source and a brewery we frequent regularly. They make a Sweet Potato Casserole beer that is to die for, but not available until almost Thanksgiving, so I settled for one of my favorite beers of this summer season, SummerTrip - a tart Berliner Weisse with a hint of passion fruit on the finish. Perfect for this sweltering summer day on a bike. The five of us were sharing a couple of big bags of chips, courtesy of Sailor, when Pedal got a call that he needed to head home for another celebration. We said good-bye to Pedal and now we were a group of four merry peddlers.

About a half a mile down the road was Darkness Brewing in Bellevue, KY, of which none of us had visited yet. We had heard great things and, due to the close proximity, couldn’t miss the opportunity to try it out. I had another awesome beer, ChristoThor the Blonde. It was the lighter beer for a brewery specializing in dark beers, but hey, Sailor imbibed in the Man on the Moo, a dark milk stout. I will be back to enjoy my own pint of Man on the Moo when the temps drop about 20 degrees, but today I was seeking fizzy-tart beers (is that a thing?).

Next on the route was Taft’s Brewporium, a large taproom out on Spring Grove Ave. This is a great destination because A) Spring Grove Ave. has bike lanes traversing almost the whole way and B) Taft’s has great beer. And on Sunday they have great food to go with beer. I believe our eyes were bigger than our bellies when we ordered the large brunch pizza with ham & more along with a side of garlic knots. My beer of choice at Taft’s was Salute Your Schwarz, a traditional Schwarzbier, and a mighty fine one, too. An appetizing dark color with the perfect hint of coffee, the ideal mate for brunch. Before pulling out of the parking lot we had to rig up some sort of bungie contraption to secure the leftover pizza to the rack on Stealth’s bike. It was too good to leave behind!

Stop #5 - Urban Artifact in Northside. This brewery has always been on my list of places to try, so I decided I would try it on my birthday. They specialize in sours, of which I have become a fan of late. The brewery is in the basement of an old church and eloquently provides sufficient bike parking. The selection of beers did not disappoint and I opted for a beauty called Photo Shoot, a sour gose fruited with grapefruit. Spectacularly refreshing, especially since the sun was high in the sky and the mercury had peaked.

Finally, we headed back to where the day began for our final malted beverage. It had been a fantastic day with good friends and I wanted the final stop to be new and memorable. Humble Monk Brewing did not disappoint. Lately some of the breweries have been experimenting with hard seltzers and Humble Monk offered a Pomegranate seltzer called Halo. It sounded spectacularly thirst quenching and dangerous at the same time. I will undoubtedly be back for this treat.

Sometimes it takes something as simple as a beer and a bike ride to bring friends and families together; to get us out into our community and discover our surroundings; and to realize it’s all been worth it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

In Pursuit of Significance

Hi friends. For those who know The Reluctant Cyclist, I am back! If you are a new friend, welcome to my world of cycling, camaraderie, cohorts, life, and comedy. I am writing this blog as more of a reintroduction than anything because I have been absent of late, in pursuit of significance. Rewind to the summer of 2017, when I had decided to embark on a graduate degree in conservation biology and advanced inquiry. Not the typical program you would expect to find a lifelong professional of manufacturing and asset management, but I like to think of myself as an avid learner & adventurer, and this program fit the bill.

While you may think I have abandoned cycling by the lack of published rides and commentary, to the contrary, cycling holds a much deeper meaning to me now. Allow me to explain my connection between car-lessness, urban biodiversity, conservation biology, and significance through some excerpts from my graduate research.
I attempted to make a behavioral change in my travel habits to affect my carbon footprint.

This life change project to reduce my CO2 emissions brought me to the realization that it is very difficult to use alternate modes of transportation in an urban neighborhood, and specifically, in Cincinnati. Even so, I reduced my emissions by carpooling, combining trips, and simply by planning my trips. As a result of a change in my behavior, I conclude it is possible for a person to lower their CO2 emissions. However, to effectively reduce pollution in South Fairmount, more residents of the neighborhood and surrounding areas would have to be willing to plan smarter use of their vehicles. 

However, current infrastructure of the neighborhood makes car ownership very desirable due to the hardships I experienced when cycling or using public transportation. 

The  proliferation of car-centric geographies continue even though the practice is unsustainable (Sattlegger & Rau, 2016). Throughout the 20th century the growth of car ownership and use outpaced other sources of CO2 emissions and currently vehicular mobility is a fundamental requirement in developed countries, one that will be very difficult to turn around (Sattlegger & Rau, 2016).
I confronted the relationship between epigenetic inheritance and environmental justice

One of the environmental burdens placed on urban residents is the exposure to greenhouse gasses emitted by the transportation sector. My neighborhood is no exception as it is located between the suburbs of Cincinnati and the downtown and uptown business core with interstates on two sides and the railyard on the eastern boundary.

Society tends to address a new science with old ideas. To that end, there is the risk that treating the symptoms, such as behavioral issues, obesity, or diabetes with clinical solutions may garner more support than addressing the xenobiotic exposure cause (Rothstein, Harrell, & Marchant, 2017). Acknowledging epigenetic inheritance and transgenerational traits based on one’s environment opens the door to new ways to address human evolution and adaptation (Wang, Liu, & Sun, 2017)

I planted an urban pollinator garden and provided nesting spots for solitary, native bees.

Pollination is an ecoservice. Flowers are planted in an effort to restore the populations of pollinators, which, in turn, restore the pollination service to plants. This is important because almost 90% of plants, including agricultural crops, reproduce via pollination by animals (Winfree, 2010).  It has become increasingly urgent that we find ways to supplement the natural habitat of pollinators as those spaces become scarcer and detached.

This is crucial in the current political environment of the United States as leaders gut regulations that were put into place to preserve pollinators and to protect us from exposure to hazardous materials. (Reread the part about epigenetics). We cannot rely solely on scientists to restore pollinator populations. Individuals can plant and manage pollinator gardens, nesting sites, and woodlands for foraging to encourage growth. Even small gardens in urban neighborhoods can improve pollination services.

Check back for more entries as I continue my immersion studies of the role of people on this planet and the interconnectedness of species.


Rothstein, M.A., Harrell, H.L., Marchant, G.E., (2017). Transgenerational epigenetics and environmental justice. Environmental Epigenetics, 1-12

Sattlegger, L., & Rau, H. (2016). Carlessness in a car‐centric world: A reconstructive approach to qualitative mobility biographies research. Journal of Transport Geography, 53, 22–31.

Wang, Y., Liu, H., & Sun, z., (2017).  Lamark rises from his grave: parental environment-induced epigenetic inheritance in model organisms and humans. Biological Reviews,  92(4), 2084-2111.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Flutter by: A Late Summer Ride

August seems to be the month that only the die-hard cyclists can still be found around town. At least it seems that way here in the midwest. The summer is coming to a close, schools are back in session, and the temperature can still be raising the mercury by mid-day.

Velo Junkie and I had a vacation to Key West planned for mid-August, a spontaneous reservation made after a night at our favorite neighborhood brewery. Due to circumstances beyond our control (sort of) we decided going out of town was not the best decision, so we canceled the trip, but not the time off from work. You see, I had adopted two pups that needed rescue - both under a year old, and both over 65 pounds. The two of us also had work obligations that required multiple overnights on both sides of the scheduled get-away, so a late summer staycation it was for Velo Junkie and the Reluctant Cyclist. This did not discourage, nor disappoint, as we had plenty of adventures to keep us busy close to home. One of those was our annual bike ride on the Cardinal Greenway Trail to Scotty’s Brew Pub in Muncie, Indiana.

The Cardinal Greenway Trail is a Rails-to-Trails path that starts in Richmond, IN and travels north, past Muncie. Scotty’s Brew Pub is a friendly place in the college town of Muncie that has many beers on tap, including their own brand, Three Wise Men. Velo Junkie and I have been making the trek annually for about six years now. The beer is always worth it, but the Shewman, a large burger topped with cheddar, jalapenos, and peanut butter, is the perfect sandwich to satisfy the appetite after a warm, thirty to forty mile ride through the agricultural heartland of the Hoosier state.

This year we opted for a sixty mile ride starting at the Williamsburg trailhead.  The late summer morning was cool and dewey, the kind that fogs up your glasses and makes your skin feel clammy in your kit. The canopy was still lush, although the shortened days had caused the trees to start shedding leaves. The sun was low in the morning sky behind us, casting long shadows in front of our handlebars as we cantered off on our northwest expedition. The shade of the trees faded fast as the sun quickly rose high above the agricultural fields of Indiana, rich with feed corn nearly ready for harvest. As we rolled along the trail we were greeted by the hues of many butterflies feeding off the nectar of the purple and fuchsia bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), including many orange and black Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) stopping to refuel during the migration to their winter home in Mexico. Scurrying chipmunks crossed our path while readying their burrows for the coming seasons, and finches flew low around us, darting from flower to flower for the precious, ripe seeds that August brings.

A detour took us through the The Red-Tail Nature Preserve, a beautiful, natural area and wildlife sanctuary. Velo Junkie and I were confused at first because the trail is hidden amongst the high grasses of the prairie. It was a short ride through the preserve, one that I would have liked to have lasted a little longer.

By the time we reached Scotty’s Brew Pub we were ready for nourishment and a cold, refreshing beer. Blonde Bunny, a blonde ale, was the perfect accompaniment to the Shewman. After our satisfying lunch we turned our bikes southeast for the warm, leisurely ride back to the trailhead. The butterflies and bees were still busy around the abundant thistle. I couldn’t help but consider what we, as the human race, can do to help prevent the extinction of the delicate but magnificent Monarch butterfly. If you read this blog, please share your ideas, and what you have done for preservation of butterfly habitat and wildlife corridors in your community.