Head up I-71 and the hills level off, the horizon grows distant, and you enter buckeye country – for real. Nothing drives home for me the uniqueness of the Cincinnati area within Ohio, and its proximity to another world – the South – than venturing up away from the Ohio River and into the true midwestern flatlands. About 90 minutes in that direction – perhaps a little more if the state troopers are out in force, as they were – and you reach Columbus – state capitol and Big Ten university hotbed, home to the defending national runners-up in both big-time college football and basketball. And even though the gridiron Buckeyes were suiting up this past Saturday in the ol’ horseshoe, our goal was horses of a more literal stripe.
As we rolled into town, we admired the majestic homes on Neil Avenue, and made a mental appointment to return next year for the annual tour of area homes. Soon we escaped the madness of a football Saturday and headed out of Columbus to introduce our youngest member to a broader cross-section of the animal kingdom than dogs and cats. To the delight of all, the roads featured those stomach-dropping rises I remembered from my childhood, so we were good and queasy by the time we arrived to meet goats, ponies, a rooster, a mule, a donkey, and horses. Mairin was delighted to see and even pet the animals, but less than thrilled at the prospect of sitting on a horse. No matter – the rest of us took a quick lesson in English riding, and were deemed quick learners by our instructor.
Then it was back into Columbus for a tasty meal with friends and the short drive home. Growing up in Cincinnati, I believe I went to Columbus all of one time (for a state soccer championship game). Our family excursions were more typically southbound – I’ve been to Mammoth Cave and the Great Smoky Mountains many more times than I’ve been to the other great Ohio cities, and I’m not sure I’m alone among Cincinnatians. All of which is to say I’m looking forward to returning to and exploring Columbus – perhaps around state fair time?