Bicycle Route on the Viaduct

Trying to integrate bicycling into daily life – using a bike as transportation rather than a child’s toy – here in Dallas, the worst city in the country for cycling, I have become very sensitive to the barriers that cross potential cycling routes. Barriers… that leave chokepoints. All the trails in the world are merely outside exercise paths if they don’t have a way through the barriers. Barriers like highways, or railroads, or worst of all, rivers.

The Trinity River, as rivers go, isn’t much to write home about. In dry weather it’s not much more than a muddy green strip of particularly wet swamp. However, as a barrier, it’s more than river enough. Until recently, there has been no safe way to get across this riverbottom no-man’s land.

The City constructed a trail over an old railroad trestle (next to a failed attempt at a whitewater canoe feature) but they neglected to connect it to anything and it is useless for transportation. There are grand plans for the future, but I’ll believe those when I see it.

But now, there is something… something pretty good. There has always been twin roads over the Trinity, connecting downtown with Oak Cliff – the Houston and Jefferson viaducts. Built at different times, with different designs, they have been twinned, with one going in and the other going out.

Money has been found and now, the Houston Viaduct has been closed for construction of a Streetcar Line that will run from the Convention Center in Downtown across the river and over to the edge of the Bishop Arts District. In the meantime, both in and out traffic has been routed over the Jefferson Viaduct.

And, wonder of wonders, one lane has been blocked off and marked out for bicycle traffic, one lane going each way. There is now a safe and reliable route from Oak Cliff into downtown on a bicycle.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

It’s been there for a few weeks now, but I haven’t had a chance to ride it until Sunday. I took the DART train down to the Convention Center with my commuter bike hanging from a hook in the middle car. A little girl in a stroller stared at me, sitting there holding my bike’s rear tire to keep it from swaying with the train’s motion, wearing a helmet and sunglasses, the entire way. Meanwhile, a con man with a little shell game monte played with tiny red plastic cups on a newspaper folded across his knees relieved her mother and a friend of a quick ten bucks.

I left the train in the parking garage under the Convention Center and wound my way up into the daylight by the new Omni Hotel, then looping around to the viaduct. I rode across, visited a little gateway park, then came back, pausing to take a few photographs here and there.

The bike route was nice – the bridge had a bit of a hill to it, but nothing too difficult. The views in all directions are pretty spectacular – you never notice how impressive when you are in a car.

The only downside is that the approaches to the bike lanes are very awkward on both ends. Since this is a converted one-way bridge, with both bike lanes on one side – there is no good way to get cars and bikes on and off without a lot of confusing and difficult signage and odd routing.

One odd thing is that there is an old deserted parking garage in the middle of the span. It had been built to service long-gone Reunion Arena and it now sits abandoned – acres of bare concrete and sweeping ramps. Surely something useful (maybe a rooftop park?) could be done with this monstrosity.

I didn’t spend too much time – I was meeting Candy for lunch at Lee Harvey’s in Southside and then I had about twenty five miles to get home. That’s a long way on the heavy, inefficient commuter bike… but the day was nice and I was in no hurry.

Plane in the Pool

I like taking photographs of reflections, I like photographs of planes landing over downtown Dallas, I like reflections of planes landing over Downtown Dallas, I like the reflecting pool in front of the Winspear Opera House, I like the high metal sunscreen in front of the Winspear, sometimes I like black and white reflections.

Here’s all of it.


What I learned this week, April 26, 2013

The Worst #1 songs of the 1980’s

The Worst #1 songs of the 1970’s

The Worst #1 songs of the 1960’s

Music is definitely getting worse over the years. There are a couple on the 1960’s list that I thought were pretty good songs (Downtown, Windy) but the other two…. Well, there’s one on the 1980’s that has sentimental value for me (Mickey, I can’t believe that made #1 – it really does suck) but otherwise that is a bunch of rank music. I would imagine that the 90’s and the ought’s would be even worse. What even makes a #1 song anymore anyway?

Creatures of Coherence: Why We’re So Obsessed With Causation

The Revolutionary Effect of the Paperback Book

This simple innovation transformed the reading habits of an entire nation

First Impressions are important.

It’s everybody’s nightmare to have a bad first day on the job. No matter how bad yours was – it was better than this guy’s.

It was also, of course, his last day on the job.

My road bike - an ancient Raleigh Technium.

My road bike – an ancient Raleigh Technium.

Seven Health Problems Eased by Exercise

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street, New Orleans

I didn’t make it to this beer festival in Fort Worth – I still haven’t completely recoverd from the Big One at Fair Park a couple of weeks ago… But had I realized it was sponsored by Paste Magazine – one of my favorite things, I might have made the trip.

A big shout out to Lakewood Brewing (located only a couple miles from where I live) in this nice writeup.

Paste Untapped – Fort Worth, Texas

Accidental engineering: 10 mistakes turned into innovation

Trammell Crow Center and the Winspear Sunscreen

Trammell Crow Center and the Winspear Sunscreen

DALLAS is known for its conservative manner, an obsession with American football and oil—not so much for its culture. But recently, that has been changing.

Dallas Art Fair Cultivating culture

The lost algorithm

I’m glad to have stumbled across this article. I actually had a teacher (seventh grade, I think) spend a day or so and taught the class how to do square roots on paper. A skill that will be very useful when the zombie apocalypse comes and our calculators stop working. Oh, and if memory serves, after learning the square root method (the same one in the linked article, I remember “bringing down the next two”), we quickly went over a way to do cube roots. Only a couple of us could do that. I don’t remember how, which is cool… because who would ever have a reason to do cube roots on paper?

Five Statistics Problems That Will Change The Way You See The World

Quick Rant: Worst Name for a Restaurant in Dallas
You’ll have to click on the link to find out.

Taco Talk

This weekend we were at the North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum. It’s a continuation of the events associated with the Deep Ellum Market (such as the Filipino Fest last year) and the most successful so far. There were a lot of people there. Unfortunately, more people than tacos and the lines were too long (I’ll talk more about that later).

But still, it was a beautiful day and a fun time. At the side of the street, next to the Curtain Club, I saw a sign that said, Taco Talk – 1 PM. Looking at my phone, it was about ten after, so we went in.

Inside was a lecture put on by three taco experts. It was sort of fun being a couple minutes late because we didn’t hear the introductions and had to figure out who they were by inference.

John Cuellar, Anastacia Quinones, and Alejandro Escalante - the panellists at the Taco Talk.

John Cuellar, Anastacia Quinones, and Alejandro Escalante – the panellists at the Taco Talk.

First was a man that kept referring to his “family restaurant.” He was the supporter of Tex-Mex among the three experts and knew a lot about the history of that branch of the Mexican food tree. He said, “When we needed to revamp a menu, we would go to California, Mexico City, or San Antonio. Each place has such a unique take on the history and style of Mexican Food, you could find something new to bring home and adapt.”

I realized that his was John Cuellar, of the El Chico founding family. His family sold their chain and now he is responsible for a restaurant in Oak Cliff, El Corazon de Tejas – a place we will have to check out. I’ll let you know about it.

Next to him was a woman that graduated from the CIA and was the representative of the expert culinary aspects of the humble taco – elevated to gourmet heights. She was Anastacia Quiñones, the chef at Komali. After the talk, we spoke to her for a few moments and she gave us a card and a free appetizer – so… well, another place to go and report.

She talked about the wonderful taste of fresh nixtamal. Most tortillas are made from commercial ground cornmeal or processed mix. She said her restaurant was the first in the city to make fresh nixtamal – whole kernel corn processed with lime (like hominy) and then ground fine on a metate each day. All three experts said that fresh nixtamal produces tortillas with a unique and wonderful taste and must not be missed.

Well, there you go then.

The third panelist was an expert on all things taco. He was Alejandro Escalante – the author of the book, Tacopedia. He talked passionately about the wide variety of tacos available throughout Mexico and all the variables in tortilla, meat, and salsa that can be used. The depth of his knowledge and the obvious love he had for the form made his contribution something to be enjoyed and savored.

One interesting point they made was when they were asked about Mexican Fast Food – about Taco Bell and Chipotle. These are Taco Experts and passionate about quality food and you would expect them to rant and complain about the bland and poor quality of fast food. They did not, however. Mr. Escalante pointed out that Mexican Food, tacos and nixtamal in particular, are an acquired taste and Taco Bell helps people become accustomed to the food style. Ms. Quiñones agreed and Mr. Cuellar used the phrase that occurred to me immediately – that Chipotle is the “Gateway Drug” to real Mexican Food. I thought their attitude to be refreshing and honest.

They all three spoke about their first memories of eating tacos and about their “Desert Island Tacos” – what they could not live without. In high school, in Nicaragua, there weren’t really any tacos, so my first real memories of great tacos were from Hutchinson, with flour tortillas filled with ground beef, sealed with toothpicks, and then fried crispy. You would crack them open and fill with lettuce, tomato, and salsa right before eating.

They talked about what makes a taco (who knows?) and the close relatives of enchiladas and tamales. I thought about the Nicaraguan Nacatamles – giant savory concoctions layered with masa and served in steaming packets of banana leaves – and how I can’t get them anywhere (although the Salvadoran tamal served in local pupuserias does come close).

They talked about the future, about lengua, cabeza, and authentic barbacoa, and about how far can the form be taken. I thought about the Ssahm Food Truck here in Dallas and their wonderful Korean style Kimchi tacos.

They even mentioned puff tacos – which were really popular when I first moved to Dallas in the 1980’s. That’s when you take a disk of masa and drop it in oil… and it puffs up crispy, so it can be cracked open and filled. John Cuellar said there was an art to getting everything, temperature, moisture, oil, just right and if you had a sixty percent success rate, you were doing good.

It was a very fun and interesting talk. We spoke to the folks for a minute afterward, but they had to get set up for the judging of a taco contest. We walked out the side door where a handful of local chefs were preparing their contest entries – they looked wonderful.

A long ways from Taco Bell – the gateway drug.

Professional competition Tacos

Professional competition Tacos


PHOTOS: Inaugural North Texas Taco Festival draws huge crowds

Yum! Chocolate fruit, zen pork tacos highlight North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum

The First North Texas Taco Festival (Photos)

The Day Tacos Ruled Deep Ellum: Recapping the North Texas Taco Festival

Recap: How the North Texas Taco Festival Stole Deep Ellum’s Heart

Photos: Omar Flores of Driftwood won throwdown at DFW’s first taco festival

Happy Chefsgiving: Anastacia Quinones

El Corazon de Tejas in Oak Cliff opens softly, with seductive mole on menu

Amazon – La tacopedia. Enciclopedia del taco (Spanish Edition) [Paperback]

Read: It’s Finally Here… La Tacopedia

Old Man River

Old Man River, Robert Shoen, New Orleans

Old Man River, Robert Shoen, New Orleans

Back in 1991, the newest attraction at Woldenberg Park was an 18-foot-high marble statue titled Old Man River located behind Jax Brewery. The sculptor, Robert Schoen, decided to create a monumental male figure with arms stretched up, a stylized human figure made of 17 tons of Carrera marble. The figure’s circular movement seems to convey a harmony between the artwork and its location. The river is connected to the land through the openings of the legs and arms. Old Man River is supported by a twin-tiered base with ridged sides that imitate currents in the Mississippi River.

It has been suggested that the muscular figure is, like the port of New Orleans, cosmopolitan in spirit. Stylistically, the sculpture suggests sources as diverse as streamlined neo-classical statuary of the 1930s and Asian and pre-Columbian art.

“I wanted to make a sculpture that would reflect the river’s embrace of the city,” Schoen said of the statue. “The sculpture is a modern statement with European roots, which is what makes New Orleans unique in America.”


Old Man River
A Man with a Past
Arms reach empty handed,
God to a city in Love
with Water
Robert Schoen
Artist 1991

Two Days Later

  • It’s even harder to get up at 5:30 on a Sunday than it is on a Friday workday.
  • There are fewer people on a train before dawn on weekends, but there are still more than you would expect.
  • A lot of people that are on the train that early on the weekend look like they are involved in sports. I guess that makes sense. It looked like an entire woman’s tournament (maybe volleyball) was going somewhere south in Dallas.
  • It’s cold before the sun comes up.
  • I estimated that the sun’s disk would rise up in the center of Main Street in Downtown Dallas two days after the official henge date.
  • I was pretty much right.
Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image - three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image – three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.


The sun rising in the canyons of Main Street, Dallas.

The sun rising in the canyons of Main Street, Dallas.

I took a lot of photographs in the short few seconds that the sun peeked up down Main Street. I’ll probably post some more as I post-process them.

So now I’ve done it, I don’t have to get up that early and go anymore. Well, maybe not. As I was walking back towards the train, I discovered another spot with a morning “henge” view directly down Elm street, right along the schoolbook depository. It wasn’t as scenic as main street, but had a more “canyon” appearance. Maybe next year I’ll go and shoot that one.