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I-71 North
 Cincinnati to Columbus, Ohio

Ohio’s section of Interstate 71 begins at the Ohio River, where it crosses from Kentucky. Then the road follows a diagonal route that roughly divides the state in half before ending in downtown Cleveland. To the west are farms and fields, fertile and very flat land. It’s the beginning of the Midwest. To the east are the edges of the Appalachian Mountain Range. In northeast Ohio, the land is gently hilly, a result of glaciers smoothing out the land. While in southeast Ohio, where the glaciers did not reach, the terrain is rougher. 

·        Cincinnati is a river town. Its fortunes have been made and sometimes broken by the Ohio River.  The city rose to prominence thanks largely to its location along this water route that carried traffic headed to the west and to the south. But what the river built up, it also took down when floods periodically engulfed the lowlands in and around the city.  Cincinnati grew prosperous during the era when most cargo was carried by waterway, and steamships ruled the river. But when the railroads became the primary mode of transportation, river traffic declined. Cincinnati was then eclipsed by newer, brasher cities that were better located on railroad routes, notably Chicago.

·        Yet, from the early 1800s through about 1870, Cincinnati was the major city of America’s west. It was a center of trade and manufacturing, and fortunes were made, which led to the founding of cultural institutions ahead of most of the other cities west of the Appalachians: Cincinnati’s public library, art academy, art museum, conservatory of music, the nation’s second-oldest zoo—only the Philadelphia Zoo has been around longer—and the nation’s first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

·        As we drive north from Cincinnati toward Columbus, we’ll be in a geographical region that assumed its present form only about 12,000 years ago when the last of the glaciers receded. Those melting glaciers left behind a layer of “till,” that is, a mixture of clay, sand and gravel that forms the principal ingredients of soil in this region. The layer of till is spread on much older bedrock, mostly limestone, that’s over 350 million years old. Occasionally, we can spot that bedrock. Perhaps a stream has cut through the top soil and etched into the rock. Or at a road cut where construction crews have blasted through the surface. This exposed bedrock offers an unusually rich supply of fossils: prehistoric sea animals including trilobites, brachiopods, crinoids, and cephalopods. Collectors from all over the world come here to seek out fossils.

·        We’ll pass the interchange for Lebanon and South Lebanon, both old towns with settlement occurring during the late 1700s. Lebanon boasts the oldest continuously published newspaper in Ohio, The Western Star, established in 1807 when this was still, “the West.” Lebanon is also home to Ohio’s oldest continually operating hotel, the Golden Lamb, at the same location since 1803. The name, “The Golden Lamb,” sounds odd to the modern ear. But in that day about half the people couldn’t read so you needed a name you could illustrate on a sign—like a golden lamb.

·        The Jeremiah Morrow bridge is the highest in Ohio; it takes us across the Little Miami River, which has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years. After we cross the bridge, we’ll spot signs for Fort Ancient, a site constructed about 100 BC.  Early white settlers saw the earthen walls protecting an enclosure on a bluff above the river and immediately thought, “fort.” They assumed it had military significance. But later research has identified this as a site for religious observances and community gatherings where people from surrounding settlements came together. 

·        Much of this route takes us through farming country—about 90% of the land in Clinton and Fayette counties is farmed. Raising horses and livestock breeding is particularly important in the region. But also as we approach Columbus, we’ll see an increase in traffic, especially trucks. This alerts us to a key industry in this centrally-located region: shipping. Trucking companies and air express have facilities along this route, such as, the global shipping company, DHL, has a hub at Wilmington with a handling capacity of 1.7 million packages each day.

·         As we approach Columbus, we’ll see signs of an expanding city: more traffic, yes, but also new homes and businesses replacing what had been farmland.  Columbus is home to Ohio state government and the Ohio State University. Among this city’s contributions to civilized life as we know it are the world’s first filling station, the world’s first supermarket, and the first company that marketed peanut butter. Also, Wendy’s hamburger chain was started in Columbus by Dave Thomas, a former owner of a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. His dream was to open a chain of hamburger restaurants, which he did in 1969, even though he had been advised that there wasn’t a market for yet another hamburger chain. And who was Wendy? Dave’s daughter, who was actually named Melinda Lou. But Melinda Lou’s siblings couldn’t pronounce that name easily. They just called her Wendy.

This program is available for purchase on CD. The narration runs for about 80 minutes in 4 segments and takes you from Cincinnati to Columbus along I-71. The CD sells for $9.95.

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