Columbus, OH USA

Pedal Pusher
September 2007
by Greg Knepp

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The Downtown Donut Tour

Move over GOBA, get lost TOSRV: the tour that distinguishes the true hardcore Columbus cyclist is the grueling DDT – The Downtown Donut Tour. The tour begins at 8 a.m. on odd Sundays near the Lincoln Goodale bust at the southeast corner of Goodale Park. If you’re a little hung-over so much the better; you’ll be clear-headed soon enough. We leave early because we want to get back home in time to watch Tim Russert rip into the Bush administration on his Sunday morning talking-heads show.

We start out northwest across the park at the corner of Dennison and Buttles. Note Dracula’s town home directly across the street. Heading north on Dennison we immediately pass a real house of horrors – a residential treatment center for dope fiends and drunkards housed in two innocuous buildings on either side of the Hubbard intersection. Word has it that, like Lindsey Lohan, a few of the denizens of this joint are taking advantage of the ever-popular rehab-get-out-of-jail-free card.

We continue on Dennison and pass the ugliest building in the neighborhood which once housed – you guessed it – a real estate office. At the old Doctor’s North Hospital we cross the parking lot, pass the now abandoned Everett Middle School and find a pleasant walkway that rejoins Dennison. We cross Fifth Avenue. For the pedants out there, we have excited Victorian Village and are now in Dennison Place. This is a beautiful little area with brick streets and well-kept houses of the Edwardian era.

We dead-end at King Avenue and head west on King for two blocks to Highland Street. Turning north once more, we see that the houses have become seedy and are interspersed with cheap mid-20th-century apartment buildings. Broken glass on the streets is all that’s left of the previous night’s bacchanals – Sunday mornin’s comin’ down in South Campus and the streets are empty. At 10th Avenue we turn east to High Street, then north at the Gateway shopping center. High Street is a fast run on Sunday morning and we pick up the pace, a sprint to our first DDT checkpoint, Buckeye Donuts on the east side of High, just a tad south of Woodruff.

This is a dowdy little emporium, well past its prime, but all the more engaging for it. If we’re lucky we’ll be served by a pleasant, attractive woman of Greek heritage. She always greets me with an inviting smile and is kind enough to ask about my daughter on those occasions when the latter isn’t accompanying me. Two glazed donuts with chocolate icing, a large coffee served in a ceramic mug, and off we go.

With the sustenance needed for the second leg of our journey, we head south on High to the pedestrian plaza that fronts Wexner Center. Crossing the plaza to College Avenue, we wind south through campus a few blocks, then cut a south-westerly diagonal across Mirror Lake Park. We take this part of the trip easy as the park paths are shared by pedestrians. We emerge from the park onto Neil Avenue in the southernmost section of campus. Now for a long, fast run south on Neil all the way to its terminus at the recently constructed riverside plaza called North Bank Park. On the way, we pass ornate Victorian mansions, the odd, sixties-era mid-rises of Westminster-Thurber Retirement complex; we pass under I-670 and zip through the west side of the Arena District with its attractive post-modern office buildings, and condos. (Thank goodness wiser heads prevailed when the controversy raged about whether or not to preserve the ghastly old State Pen that once stood here.)

We cross Spring Street and join the Scioto River Bikeway at North Bank Park. The skyline unfolds in a lovely panorama as we speed toward it on the bikeway. In no time we arrive at Santa Maria Plaza shadowed by the Broad Street bridge. This is a good time to take a breather and wonder why this handsome downtown setting is virtually deserted. We drink some water if we’re thirsty – if we’re not thirsty we don’t drink – and carry on.

The bikeway elevates to Marconi Street; we follow it to Battelle Park (also lovely, also deserted) cross Town Street at the bridge entry, and head south on the bike trail onto the so-called Whittier Peninsula. This is a nice part of the trail - woodsy and wild.

We spot ramshackle shelters of hobos living in the scrub, and may encounter a few of these temporary residents. We need not fear them, but maintain a smart pace and remain closely packed as we traverse their territory.

The trail terminates at Whittier Street. We take Whittier east a few blocks to South High and turn right. An odd landmark on our left is a garish archway traversing Mittoff Street at High. It supports a large green and white sign reading “Merion Village”. I didn’t know there was such a place. I know now!

A few blocks more and we arrive at our second DDT checkpoint – Buckeye Donuts on the west side of S. High Street at Neff Street. The atmosphere here is different than that of its northern sister shop: squeaky clean and working class. We’re as likely as not to hear someone blurt out “Workin’ hard or hardly workin’.” As always, the coffee is delicious and the donuts are fresh. This time I’ll opt for two cake donuts and a small bottle of OJ along with the joe.

There are numerous side trips that one may take along the tour. Many are obvious but others are not. My favorite is to duck down Neff Street from the donut shop to an alley that parallels High a half-block west. It’s called S. Wall Street. Pitted, potholed and all but forgotten, this mews is lined with short stands of row houses, humble but tidy urban cottages, shade tree auto workshops, kids, dogs, empty lots, and scruffy wooded patches.

A real find. God help S. Wall Street when the überyuppies of German Village discover it.

Blood vessels aglut with caffeine and sugar, we pump northward to our home base. The fast route is Front Street – broad, one-way, and stop-light friendly. The High Street route is more scenic and invites a more leisurely pace. Take your choice. Either way, we’ve pedaled approximately 13 miles. Back home by 10 or so we can take pride in our achievement. We’ve conquered the Downtown Donut Tour and are ready to take on the most challenging Columbus cycling event of all – the venerable Tour de Franks. (Hint: it starts and ends at Phillip’s Coney Island.)

Greg Knepp is a Short North cyclist


© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. all rights reserved.

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