Saturday, April 14, was a day I had marked my calendar quite some time ago. It was the day of the first Ciclovia de Dallas, and that looked really cool to me. I had never heard of a Ciclovia before. It means bike path, or in this case, the temporarily closing of a road to automobiles so that it can be taken over by cyclists and pedestrians.
The good folks at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff had organized this event and the City of Dallas had closed off the Houston Street Viaduct to cars. The viaduct is a long bridge that reaches out of the skyscrapers of downtown over to Oak Cliff across the vast Trinity River Bottoms. Over the decades I’ve lived in Dallas I have driven across the Houston Street Viaduct many times and I knew it would be a dramatic place to hang out and ride a bike because of the view of downtown and the long drop down into the river.
My intention was to get up early and get to see the whole thing, but I had a rough Friday the Thirteenth the day before and I was so upset I didn’t get to sleep until about five in the morning. So I slept in and it took quite a bit of willpower to drag my aching and worn out body from the bed and into the day. My mind kept racing and coming up with a million reasons not to drive down there and ride my stupid crappy bicycle over an old bridge.
But I persevered, took my bike apart (reminding me why I want to save enough money for a folder) and shoved it into the trunk. Then I drove downtown and proceeded to get caught in several massive traffic jams and lost and lost. I was hungry, frustrated, and sleep-deprived and couldn’t find a parking spot or make the right turns. I fought my way through downtown at least four times, crossing over the Trinity, then making a mistake and ending up on a crowded Interstate going the wrong way. Twice, I went by so closely I could see the folks on bicycles riding back and forth, but couldn’t find a place to stop (or at least couldn’t spot one before I drove by it). I was getting very close to packing it in and going home, but I thought I’d take one more drive across the river.
Finally, after wasting an hour driving around, I gave up and turned down an obscure side street in Oak Cliff, deciding I’d park there, assemble my bike (reminding myself why I want to save enough money for a bike that folds) and ride around looking for the bridge on my bike. After heading off I realized that the entrance to the bridge on the Oak Cliff side was only fifty feet on down the road.
I was late and a lot of the Ciclovia festivities were past, but there was still a nice crowd there and it was a lot of fun. I rode back and forth over the bridge enjoying the views of downtown and the Trinity river bottoms and looking at all the interesting people.
It was so much fun I didn’t pay much attention to getting photographs – I missed the bicycle powered smoothie maker. Didn’t get photos of the unicycle riders on their single wheels. There were food trucks on hand so I was able to get something to eat and I felt a lot better after that.
While I was eating I noticed a guy along the bridge sitting there with a manual typewriter. I’ve wanted a manual letter-hammerer for years and I asked him what he was up to .
His name is Thomas Cantu and he types up little chapbooks on that manual typewriter. I bought one (A Mexican American’s Guide to Your Parent’s Homeland) and chatted with him for a minute. Thomas writes about the Mexican-American experience and how drug violence is destroying Mexico. He says the typewriter is nice because people come up to ask about it and it’s an easy introduction. I told him I’ve always wanted one to put a roll of paper into – he recognized that was how Kerouac wrote.
So I rode one more lap of the bridge and then went back to my car, took my bike apart, and loaded it into the trunk (getting grease all over and reminding myself about how nice it would be to have a folding bicycle). It was a lot of fun, I hope the event was enough of a success for the city to take the ball and run with it. It would be a great annual thing – to close off the bridge and allow one day of slow riding and walking.
A Ciclovia… what a great idea.