Slowly, I am able to ride farther and farther on my bike. I’m still slow – I am riding an old, inefficient mountain bike (which does have the advantage of being able to go anywhere). I have my ancient road bike which I’m trying to get into rideable condition… but I am struggling with mystery flats. When it is fixed I should be able to up my speed and distance. Right now I am limited not so much by my fitness but by time and the amount of water I can carry. I drink an amazing amount of water in this heat.
What I like to do on weekends sometime is to load up my bike in the back of the Matrix, fill a cooler with bottles of iced water, and set out across the city. I use GoogleMaps on my phone, with the Bicycling option turned on – showing up the bike trails and dedicated lanes bright green. I look for long stretches or connected clusters and give a shot at riding somewhere I haven’t been before.
On Sunday, I headed northwest and the first place I came across was the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. This is a large Plano park which I had seen a couple years ago when I made a wrong turn leaving the hospital where Candy was getting surgery. It had an odd parking lot, beige rock buildings, and a big ol’ mess of hilly woods. I looked it up online and had wanted to pay a visit ever since.
It was an interesting place to ride a bicycle. First – it does lack distance – only a couple miles of paved trails (I wasn’t in the mood for hitting the dirt). It isn’t a very good place for speed either – the trails are lousy with clots of people wandering around and others walking their dogs.
What is nice, though, is its hills. There are a lot of wooded nature trails in the Dallas area, but almost all of them are located in worthless river bottom floodplain and are as flat as a pancake. Arbor Hills has a good bit of ups and downs – not enough to make it too difficult or even unpleasant, but enough for a good workout.
The trails all wind around and rise up to a stone lookout, a nice destination, a pretty place looking out over the trees and scrub fields with only a hint of the millions of rooftops rising along the horizon – a reminder of the fact that you are not really in a wilderness, but merely a forgotten pocket of vegetation left over somehow when the world was paved over.
I looped around a couple of times, then packed my bike up and drove on. I wanted to go down to Carrollton and check out their trails. I had read about how they had been doing a lot of work on extending their hike/bike trail network. I did a circuit of their Orange and Blue trail routes, about ten miles total.
I applaud their work, and some of their trails are nice… running beside some swampy ponds and wild green creeks. They need to do more to access the network, though. It was fine for some exercise, but the pavement doesn’t really go anywhere – it would not work for commuting to work or shopping.
Sitting at a little shaded bench I gulped down my last bottle of cold water and knew it was time to head back to the car and go home. There is always tomorrow, and more stretches of pavement in a different direction.