Bicycle, Coffee,  and a Notebook

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”

― Will Self

I meant to get up early – and didn’t really… but didn’t sleep too late. I ground some extra beans and made a thermos of coffee with my Aeropress. My portable Aeropress Go and hand grinder are on my desk at work – or I might have simply filled the thermos with hot water and made the stuff fresh – but the few minutes it sits in the steel vacuum vessel won’t hurt the taste much.

I packed up my loose-leaf binder notebook and selected four pens. Recently I bought some pen holders (brand name Diodrio) that fit on interchangeable stretchy Velcro straps – and they have been very useful to me. The straps come in several sizes so the pens can be attached to any notebook, from a small Moleskine to a big loose leaf. This is truly the  best of all possible worlds.

Diodrio Pen Pouch – on my the loose-leaf notebook I use for morning pages. It comes with interchangeable Velcro straps to fit smaller notebooks.

I have been trying out the idea of morning pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Every day, I had write three pages in the notebook – about whatever comes to mind. She recommends never re-reading them, and even destroying the writing after each day. I don’t do that – there may be some useful ideas in there so I am keeping them… at least for a while.

The idea is to write in the morning, immediately upon rising. That doesn’t work for me – there are too many emergencies and interruptions starting as soon as I open my eyes.  I have been able to finish the pages (one important aspect is to write the three sheets every day, without fail) daily, but sometimes haven’t finished them until late at night.

It’s actually easy for me to do the writing – I’ve been writing daily for at least three decades, after all – but I like the aspect of handwriting (it slows me down a bit – and gives me a chance to use my beloved fountain pens) and the idea of writing with no preconceptions.

One thing I also enjoy is writing in different places. So today I decided to pack up my bike with some coffee, my notebook, and ride to some place to get in the scribbling and caffeinate myself at the same time. It looked like some rain – so after about five miles of riding I settled in at a little pocket park with a roofed picnic area. Collins Park – at Alma and Collins – I have stopped there before – and have met other riders there for pre-work coffee. It’s nice, has a power outlet, a drinking fountain, and a bike rack (that I never use). I pulled in just in time, as the rain started coming down – not too bad – little more than a stout Texas sprinkle.

My bike, in a little pocket park I like to stop at. Collins Park – at Collins and Alma, in Richardson, Texas.
Some coffee and my notebook – stopping on a bike ride to write a few pages. The pen is a Pilot Kakuno with a stub nib – Diamine Marine ink.

So I put my earbuds in, started a Spotify playlist on my phone, and wrote my morning pages.

Then I pulled out a folding Bluetooth keyboard and wrote this entry on my phone. It worked pretty well – a morning with a bicycle, coffee, fountain pens, and some extra blog writing. Yes, this is truly the best of all possible worlds.

3 Bikes in the Back of a Toyota Matrix

“We have annexed the future into the present, as merely one of those manifold alternatives open to us. Options multiply around us, and we live in an almost infantile world where any demand, any possibility, whether for life-styles, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied instantly.”

― J.G. Ballard, Crash

Last weekend there was a local bike ride to three different local breweries. Both my sons wanted to go – and I was tasked with showing up to the starting point with all three bicycles.

I drive a tiny piece of junk Toyota Matrix – which is classified as a sub-miniature-station-wagon. I can get one bike in the back with ease (with the back seats folded, of course). I didn’t know if I could cram three in there – but after removing the wheels they all went it there with no room to spare. The resulting mess had a post-modern complex ridiculous sculpture look to it.

It was difficult getting everything out and reassembled – it was all tangled up. But, in the end, it was all good.

Three bikes (and shoes, locks, helmets, and a pump) in the back of a Toyota Matrix.

Something You Don’t Care About

“I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It’s maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it’s not these things, quite. It’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I’m small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It’s wanting to jump overboard.”

― David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

I am going to write tonight about something that you don’t care about… don’t pretend… I know you don’t. It is something that I care about – and that is a fact that I’m more than a little embarrassed and ashamed. Such trivialities.

At any rate, the City of Richardson (where I live) is in the middle of spending some taxpayer largess in executing the idea of an Active Transportation Plan. This is something that I am interested and involved in. All in all it is a good thing… a very good thing. However, it is not what I’m writing about tonight

One minor part of the plan is the putting together of an inventory of bike parking in the city. I became way too enthused about this – wasting a lot of time riding around looking for bike racks. These were then entered into an interactive map. I did win a fifty dollar gift certificate in a contest… so there is that.

But one thing really frustrated me. There is an LA Fitness – a health club/exercise place at the end of my neighborhood. Back when we had a disposable income the whole family belonged and we worked out there regularly. I have been there literally hundreds of times (though not in the last few years).

It always bothered me that the club did not have a bike rack. The gas station on the corner has a bike rack. The Mexican rotisserie chicken place across the street has a bike rack. The new Dunkin Donuts down the road has a bike rack. But this place – big and dedicated to health and exercise… did not have a bike rack. Not one in front… not one on the side where the parking is.

But the other day, I was out for a walk, trying to get some non-stressful exercise in, and strolled past the health club. This was the first time I walked to it – all the time, over the years I rode my bike (and locked it to the railing because there was no bike rack). Because I was on foot – I turned a corner I never had before and looked down the narrow alley-like space between the health club and the Korean Bar-B-Que place… and there, lo and behold was:

Bike rack hidden off to the side of the LA Fitness, Richardson, Texas

a bike rack. It has been there all this time. I never noticed it.

I don’t feel too bad – it’s really hidden, off to an obscure side and behind a pillar. I seriously doubt that there has ever been a bike locked up to this thing (though I’ll try to ride there this weekend and lock up… for no reason). But still…. I thought I was good at finding these things.

So there it is. The high point of my day. Now you all can go back to what you find interesting and important and leave my with my pitiful useless epiphanies.

Northaven Trail Bridge Update

“I delve into the mysterious and counterintuitive world of helmets and high-visibility gear later in the book. But it’s worth immediately noting this: while they’re not inherently bad, they’re less a safety device for cycling than a symptom of a road network where no cyclist can truly feel safe.”
― Peter Walker, How Cycling Can Save the World

Nice Tribe Urban Bike parked outside Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Let’s see when it was…. May 9, 2021 (well under a year ago) when I went down to the groundbreaking of the Northaven Trail Bridge. It’s exciting – a bridge system that goes over the giant deadly Hway75 North Central Expressway and also White Rock Creek. It will join the Northaven trail with the White Rock and Cottonwood Trails – East and West will come together, opening up a whole new galaxy of bicycle riding in the Metroplex.

Here’s a virtual simulation of the thing:

Whenever I drive down Central or ride down the White Rock Trail I look at the construction. Although the signature bridge is still a long time off – the progress is palpable. It truly is the best of all possible worlds.

Here’s drone footage of what it looks like right now:

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part Seven – Leg Shield

“I had to ride my bike to and from their god damn plant way up north in the high-chemical crime district, and reachable only by riding on the shoulder of some major freeways. I could feel the years ticking off my life expectancy as the mile markers struggled by.”

― Neal Stephenson, Zodiac

My commuter bike

Winter is upon us – and here in Texas that means the two weeks of nice weather is in the rear-view window and the days of windy/wet/cold have begun. Winter is Texas is best described as mostly uncomfortable.

But it does mean I have to dig out my winter cycling gear which consists of two things: layers and long pants.

When I look at my supply of long pants I notice a couple of things – the cuffs of my right legs are shredded and there are grease stains on those same legs.

My bikes don’t have effective chain guards. I remember in the seventies we had these little metal clips for our right pants legs… they didn’t work well and were easy to lose. I am old enough to remember those times – pre-velcro, believe it or not. Then the metal clips were replaced with little nylon velcro straps – which didn’t work well and were even easier to lose.

As I was thinking about these things I thought to myself that there must be a better way to shield my right pants leg and, after a short web search, I found a solution – Leg Shield.

So, a few clicks, a bit of Amazon Prime magic, and I had a neoprene leg shield on my porch that afternoon.

And it works like a charm. Get one, it’s great.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Fox on the Run

“That’s what people do when they find a special place that wild and full of life, they trample it to death.”
― Carl Hiaasen, Flush

My Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park. From an early part of the October Full Moon Ride.

I have taken to riding my Cannondale vintage touring bike at sunset. The killer Texas sun is down, the heat is bearable, the wind dies, and it is in general – a nice time to be outside. I ride about an hour, about ten miles. I’m trying to do this every evening. I have a new, nice bike light I bought with a gift certificate I won in a local contest – so I don’t have a problem if I stay out a little longer in the dark.

Yesterday I had just crossed Plano and Arapaho roads and was angling down into the creek bottom on the new Duck Creek Trail extension. I try to ride this little bit as much as I can with my Strava on to help make the new trail (which I really like) show up brighter on the Strava heatmap. One of the cool things about riding at this time of day is I get to see some urban wildlife – mostly bunnies – but a few coyotes, a beaver or two, snakes…. Bobcats are out there, though I haven’t seen one yet.

I looked across the creek and saw a red fox looking at me. As I approached he turned and ran into a copse of trees farther back from the creek. It was so cool to see a fox in the middle of the city like that.

My son bought a GoPro Hero 7 Black and didn’t like it so he loaned it to me. I had it on my handlebars and hoped that the fox would show up in the footage. Unfortunately, he was off to the side on the wide-angle lens and only visible as a little dot. Shame.

My Bike on the Bridge

“People will pay any price for motion. They will even work for it. Look at bicycles.”
― William Faulkner, The Reivers

My bike – Vintage 1987 Cannondale ST600 Touring Bike.

On the Margaret McDermott bridge bike/pedestrian path, over the Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

Cannondale 1987 brochure

Margaret McDermott Bridge

“It’s creepy, but here we are, the Pilgrims, the crackpots of our time, trying to establish our own alternate reality. To build a world out of rocks and chaos.
What it’s going to be, I don’t know.
Even after all that rushing around, where we’ve ended up is the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.
And maybe knowing isn’t the point.
Where we’re standing right now, in the ruins in the dark, what we build could be anything.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

Let me check the date on this photo – sometime mid 2015… six years ago. It actually seems like longer than that. They had already been working on the bridge/highway complex for three years, they started in 2012. This was the base of one arch, down in the Trinity River bottoms, near downtown Dallas. I was down there on my bicycle, riding the muddy gravel paths. The other half of the arch was further along – reaching up into the sky.

The arches of a second Calatrava designed bridge rise in the river bottoms. The Horseshoe, Dallas, Texas

These massive arches, designed by Santiago Calatrava were never intended to support the roadway. That would be too expensive and unnecessary – a simple concrete causeway was all that was needed. The immense, soaring arches would cost 125 million dollars and support a bicycle/pedestrian bridge – and look good.

As a cycling advocate I had very mixed feelings about this. Of course, another route across the river was welcome – but 125 million dollars was way too much – that money could do a lot of good in man other places. Well, nobody asked me – and they went ahead and built the Margaret McDermott Bridge – way behind schedule and way, way over budget.

And then things went from bad to worse. When the thing was finished, it was discovered that corners had been cut, the bridge cable fasteners were not properly tested, and the thing was in danger of falling down in high winds.

I had resigned myself to never having the bridge opened… after all these years, but I was wrong. A couple of weeks ago I received in invitation to ride my bike across the bridge during a grand opening ceremony. Now, truth be told, most of my cycling friends had already rode around the safety barricades and crossed the bridge over the last couple of years – but I never did. So I was excited to go down there and ride across.

I rode up right when a news camera was running.

There were about a dozen bike riders – we picked up our… what do you call them? The things that you pin to your shirt at an event? Running bibs? Yeah, that must be it – it says “Printed by Boulder Bibs.”

And off we rode. It was fun – I’ll be back. There are steep spots – especially on the north (pedestrian) side. I need to look at moonrise – the bridge will be fun at night – the view of the downtown skyline is spectacular.

Folks at the ribbon-cutting. The arches are spectacular from the bike/pedestrian lanes – maybe they are worth the money.

View of downtown from the bike lane on the bridge.

The ceremony made all the news shows. Here’s a good one – you can see me from behind riding my bike near the end, at the 1:56 mark.

Bicycle Parking

“Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living!…Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now, that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it…and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!”
― Jack London

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

So, May was bike month and in honor of the times the City of Richardson, where I live, sponsored a bicycle parking scavenger hunt. The idea was to track down bike parking (bicycle racks) throughout the city and report them on an interactive digital online map. Despite the possibilities of actual prizes, I sort of ignored the thing.

Until our quarterly meeting with the city on transportation alternatives – where we were reminded of the event and encouraged to participate. There was only a week or so left in the month, but that included a three-day weekend and I decided to give it a whirl.

I became sort of obsessed. I planned out bike routes through the city – guided by searches I made on Google Maps. My eyes became accustomed to the tell-tale shapes of the various types of bike racks. I’d stop and take a photo with my phone, then post them on the web site.

Here’s the final map (I’m not sure how long it will stay up, hopefully, it will be a permanent reference and we can add useful bike parking outside the city). The various participants logged 250 or so bike racks during the month.

It was fun and a good excuse to explore the city on my bike.

Here’s a few that I found:

Loop racks next to a bench. I found a bunch of these in an area where a lot of new apartments are going up. That’s my Xootr folding bike.
New racks at the middle school near my house.
A unique rack at a fire station. That’s my vintage Cannondale (1987) that I ride as my everyday bike.
A gas station. There is a good taqueria inside – worth a bike ride.

Northaven Trail Pedestrian Bridge

“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

My Xootr Swift bicycle next to the Secret Mural, Dallas, Texas

I have not been out riding my bike nearly enough – not enough miles and not enough riding with people. So when I read that some folks were riding from the Forrest Lane DART station over to the end of the Northaven Trail for the groundbreaking of the planned bridge over Highway 75 I thought I’d go. I did cheat and drive down to the station with my bike in the back of my car – so it was going to be a short ride.

A city like Dallas has a lot of bike trails and dedicated lanes – but a lot of them were put in as recreational opportunities – for the neighborhood to walk their dogs or get in a few miles of exercise – not as transportation corridors. That lead to what I call “choke points” – barriers to car-less transportation. The most common are highways, which can be impossible to cross without a car.

And the worst of these highways is 75, which slashes Dallas in half north to south.

Highway 75 at Sunset (click to enlarge)

The Northaven trail is a fairly new trail that runs through north Dallas all the way from 75 in the east almost to Love Field in the west. On the other side of 75 is the White Rock creek trail, which connects through miles of East Dallas trails – but it isolated by the highway.

For the last few years, work has been going on to connect these two with a bridge over the highway. Finally, funding has been established, a design has been finished and approved, and work is about to start. Two years from now, we should have our bridge.

And today was the groundbreaking ceremony. The mayor of Dallas was there, Dallas county officials, City Council Members, Park Board Members and more – they all wanted their turn to pontificate about how hard they have been working and how much credit they deserve. It went on for way too long for anyone in the audience – but that’s fine – if their egos and political careers need some service, so be it, as long as we get our bridge.

Groundbreaking ceremony at the Northaven Trail Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge.

I had a good time. I was able to meet a good number of friends that I had not talked to since before COVID. That was nice.

And best of all, I learned a new route back under Highway 75 that joins up with the White Rock Creek Trail, Cottonwood Trail, and Forest Lane DART station where I parked my car. There is a little known footpath through a tunnel under the highway. You have to ride on a sidewalk along the frontage road for a few hundred feet, but it’s a good way to get across. Not the best looking path, but it works.

Bike/Pedestrian path under Highway 75, Dallas, Texas

So why do we need the bridge? A path like this doesn’t give any opportunities for politicians to shovel sand.