And the Moon Rises

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

One of my favorite bicycle rides is the Full Moon Ride – put on most months by the fine folks at Bike Friendly Downtown Dallas. The idea is for a group to meet downtown and to ride down into the Trinity River Bottoms and watch the full moon rise over the buildings of downtown. here and here It’s a lot of fun – especially since the trails in the river bottoms are a blast to ride at night – but it’s not exactly a place where most folks feel safe riding alone in the dark.

I struggle with a desire to take photos of the moon rising over the city – or of the folks riding their bikes. It’s a struggle – the lighting conditions are not good (it’s dark) and I still have not figured out a good way to carry a decent tripod on my bicycle.

There was a ride last month, on Friday the 13th, and thinking about it – I went out and bought an inexpensive portable tripod. Unfortunately you get what you pay for and the thing was not sturdy enough for timed exposures with my heavy DSLR. Only one shot – taken before the sun had completely disappeared (and before the moon appeared) was even good enough to stave off deletion.

Downtown Dallas from the Trinity River Bottoms – click to enlarge

I see there is another full moon this weekend. Here are the details via MoonCalc. I might skip taking my camera this time and simply try to enjoy myself. That is always the problem with carrying a camera – you can get so caught up in taking a photo you miss the fun of life itself.

On the other hand, I need to take my good tripod out and practice night photography. Once I get the bugs worked out and some skills developed maybe I’ll give it a go again.

Tired With the World’s Weight

“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

A watermelon in my bicycle panniers.

I was on a routine trip to the grocery store on my commuter/cargo bike with the grocery panniers installed. I had “watermelon” on my list, but there were only two left in the big cardboard bin and they were both really big. Would one fit in my pannier? Could it take the weight?

I figured I could walk home lugging the watermelon if I had to. But it fit and it barely took the weight.

It was a slow ride home.

The Inmates Made Jokes About the Chair

“The inmates made jokes about the chair, the way people always make jokes about things that frighten them but can’t be gotten away from.”
Stephen King, The Green Mile

Nic Noblique, Chair No. 3, Anita Harris Phelps Park, Dallas, Texas

There is a mathematical formula (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before) to calculate the number of bicycles you should own.

N = the number of bikes you have

X = the number of bikes you should own

X = N +1

I’m at three right now. One supposed advantage of having three bikes is that if one breaks, you have others that you can ride. This does not work, because of some divine sense of humor, all three will break at the same time.

Last weekend I wanted to ride the train and my bike down to the Design District West of Downtown Dallas for a birthday party for some of my kin at a combination Cidery and Video Game Extravaganza. The tire blew out on my folder the day before and the front wheel on my “road” bike needed truing.

No problem, I’d ride my Commuter/Cargo bike (a converted mountain bike with front and rear racks and fenders) – it weighs a ton, but is comfortable and works well as long as I’m not in a hurry. I took it out and started riding to the train station. I noticed that I was having a bit of trouble pedaling and stopped to take a look. The shift cable housing for the rear derailleur had come apart to pieces and the chain was stuck in high gear.

For a minute I thought about quitting, but really wanted to go for the ride. I have a toolkit that I carry and with a few minutes of work, I had the chain on a more manageable middle gear. I couldn’t shift, but I could move. The route to the Design District was mostly downhill… the only steep uphills I would have would be on the way back. I’d worry about that later.

The commuter tracks in downtown are being replaced, so I was spit out by the train at the east end of the central city. I used Google Maps to find a route through uptown to the American Airlines Center and on under Interstate 35 to the Design District. That’s were I found the nice little unexpected pocket park with the three Nic Noblique sculpture. It was a welcome peaceful spot to rest in the middle of the crazy city.

The trip back was mostly uneventful – without my low gears I did have to walk the bike in two spots – but I have no pride, so that was OK.

When I caught the train (the Blue Line this time) back to Richardson via Garland two women with five kids, including an infant in a stroller, tumbled on and took some seats in front of me. The kids were really hyped up and the women yelled at them constantly. At the Mockingbird station, one of the women suddenly shouted, “This is our stop!”

They herded the kids to the door where the four of them ran out the egress. The two women were maneuvering the stroller around when the door suddenly shut and the train started off. They were still aboard the train and the kids were on the platform. The two women panicked.

“Call the driver, push the red button,” another woman on the train said.

“We need to go back!” they said.

The voice in the metal grill was riddled with static, “This is a train lady, it doesn’t go back.”

I figured I needed to help. “Get off at the next stop, White Rock, and then take the next train back. You’ll be there in twenty minutes. Does your oldest kid have a phone?”

“My battery is dead.”

“Use mine, call him.”

She told the kids to wait on the platform. Then I called the emergency number and asked the police to watch the kids.

“What train do I take back? We’re not from here!” – she was still on the edge of panic.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “There’s only one train on this line – it goes back there.” When we pulled into White Rock another woman made sure they crossed the tracks to catch the train going back the other way. I looked up at the display and one would be there in ten minutes – so I’m sure it was fine.

It was only four miles from the Garland Jupiter station to my house – a lot of spring parties were going on in the yards on that route, I rode through clouds of bar-b-que smoke the whole way. It was nice.

Matcha

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

Matcha Tea, Berkner Park, Richardson, Texas

I am having success with my plan of riding my bicycle some every day, even if it’s only a short ride (though the average length is slowly increasing). I make it as interesting and enjoyable as possible – one way is to take goodies (hopefully healthy) along with me to consume while I take a short rest. Since the Texas summer is pretty much already upon us – my treats usually take the form of cold beverages.

This is some Matcha Green Tea, in a bottle with ice. It is supposed to be healthy, and doesn’t taste all that bad.

You Will Be An Ocean Too

“Here is a good message from the ocean: You will be an ocean too if you let every river, every rain, every flood and every stream flow to you freely!”
Mehmet Murat ildan

 

 

I have written about it before.

All my life I have wanted to live on a creek lot. I remember living in East Dallas and riding my bike along the hilly lanes east of White Rock Lake (back then I was young and thin and fit and I welcomed hills – now I’m afraid of them) and spotted homes along streams – some with little patios down among the trees perched out over the water. They would have a grill, some seats, and I imagined knots of people at sunset enjoying the setting – always wanted that sort of thing.

My wish finally came true, sort of, when we bought our house in Richardson. Technically it is a creek lot – but the creek (which emerges from the flood control ponds in Huffhines Park at the end of our block and runs a short distance beyond where I live to join with Duck Creek) has been manmade wrestled into an arrow-straight path. It’s really more of a ditch lot.

On most days it’s barely an algae and trash encrusted trickle. There are a lot of ducks and turtles (both the friendly box and the prehistoric snappers) with a nighttime cohort of opossums, bobcats, coyotes and an occasional beaver. There are a few trees – but the number is limited by the Corps of Engineers to insure proper flow. They only allow new plantings when an old tree dies. It’s a sleepy stretch, mostly useful to the local kids and cats, feeding and stalking, respectively, the ducks.

That changes with frightening rapidity when a big Texas thunderstorm strikes. The water rises and moves in a symphony of wet muscular gravity.

Last night one hit, hit hard. The ground was already saturated, the flood control ponds already overflowing when the sky dropped six inches of water in a couple hours.

I opened the garage door and looked out through a forest of honey globs of water caterwauling off the roof into the dark. Illuminated only by staccato bolts of lightning like a galvanic Gene Krupa, the bellowing water stilled by the strobing arcs into impossible waves rising above the creek banks and beyond. The usual quiet night lit up by blue thunder. The gleaming fury as millions of gallons of deafening water scream by is frightening and intoxicating. I watched from my house – afraid to get any closer.

This morning I walked around the strip of creek, grass, and trees. The highest water level was marked by a line of twigs and plastic water bottles. In several places the delimitation moved up over the bike trail and almost kissed the alley that runs behind the houses. By then the creek was down to its usual level, having dropped as fast as it rose, with only a little more water flowing by than usual.

The flow was a dozen feet below the level of the detritus line – which was in turn only a couple feet below the level of the houses (though it would take a lot – a lot – more water to raise the flood up that last bit).

I hope.

I did think of those little patios perched in the winding creek lots of East Dallas. I always liked them – but I’m sure they are all gone now.

My folding bike on a bridge over Huffhines Creek.

A line of detritus showing how high the creek had risen the day before.

I wrote that four years ago, but the creek continues to rise with every powerful thunderstorm. On my daily bike ride I stopped on the bridge over Huffhines creek and took a shot of the line of trash that marks yesterday’s high water mark. I’ve seen it quite a bit higher than this.

Not all that spectacular, but imagine what it looks like with all that water roaring down that little space behind my house. The amazing thing is how fast it rises, minutes is all it takes.

Now, I need to get a before and after shot – harder to do than you would think. Especially to do safely.

Everything In Life Is Writable

 

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Unicycle, Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, Dallas, Texas

 

 

There are storm clouds all around, boiling and dark – but it looks like I have a few minutes and I want to get in a short bike ride. I’ve been trying to ride around the neighborhood every day – that seems to be the only way to build my fitness back. I’ve been riding my folder – it’s not the most efficient bike, but that means it is better for exercise (maybe?). It is comfortable and nimble – which makes it good for bombing around the ‘hood. I have this idea of wanting to have a destination – someplace to ride to… a purpose to the pedaling. I’m not sure why. Riding should be its own reward. If my goal is to integrate cycling in my day to day life as much as possible, these trips or errands run by bicycle make sense.

So today I rode to the ATM for the weekend’s cash, then to Taco Bell to get Candy something to eat. I decided on a bean burrito too and stayed there for a bit to read on my Kindle and to write.

I’ve got several portable digital writing methods to take on my bike. I thought about bringing my netbook (an old Toshiba netbook that I refreshed by installing Lubuntu Linux) but decided to go lighter. I have an adapter that lets me use a Penclic portable wireless keyboard with my Kindle Fire. I have a little folding plastic stand. Instead of a mouse (I do have a small one I could carry) I just use a stylus. I’m trying to decide on the best software – for now I’m using an android app called WPS Office/ Write.

My Kindle Fire, Penclic Wireless Keyboard, Stylus, and new wallet at Taco Bell

I’m using a new wallet when I ride my bike. A few weeks ago I went to a cycling event in Oak Cliff – which is too far for me to ride. I was feeling lazy, so I drove to the Arapaho Train Station and loaded my bike there – taking the the Red Line Downtown and then the Streetcar to Oak Cliff. After riding around all day some friends asked me if I wanted to eat some Mexican food at a familiar restaurant. I rode over there, locked my bike up and discovered, to my horror, that my wallet was gone.

I have a routine of packing my bike, places to carry my phone, my wallet, emergency supplies and such. My missing wallet was a bad thing. The only thing I could think of was that I forgot to pack it at the train station. Either it was in my car back there – or it was lost/stolen. I begged off of dinner and rode the streetcar/train back to my car.

That was a long hour. All I could think of was the sheer number of things in my wallet and how much of a hassle it was going to be to replace it. My work credit card was in there, for example and that was going to be bad. I resolved not to carry so much stuff, so many cards.

When I arrived back at the train station (it was dark by then) I desperately looked inside – in the console where I probably left it – with no luck. A heavy sign and I sat down and started the car and began mentally running down all the unpleasantness I was going to have to go through. I looked out the windshield and there it was.

My wallet was sitting right in the middle of my hood. It had been sitting there all day in the middle of a train station parking lot. I must have piled my stuff on the hood when I was loading my bike and missed my wallet. It was black leather on a black hood and hard to see. Still, I can’t believe nobody stole it.

So, I found a little zippered bag with a second zipper inside and decided it was a perfect way to carry my license and one credit card… along with some cash. I’d hate to lose it – but it wold minimize my exposure.

Actually, since then I’ve added my debit card and library card and carry it all the time. Minimization. The fat leather wallet stays in a drawer at home – I can get stuff out of it when I need it.

It’s On

“SEAL, I have a problem,” I say to him. “I didn’t bring any extra underwear.” “So what?” “I can’t run without underwear.” “Nah, bro, you can’t run without legs. It’s on.”
Jesse Itzler, Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

The Block, Richardson, Texas

 

The other day I was surfing the interwebs and came across – I don’t remember how – the story of some rich dude that hired a lunatic Navy Seal to live with him for a month and help him train.

I know it sounds silly and contrived – but the guy kept saying things like “stuck in a rut”, “drifting on autopilot” and “doing the exact thing day after day”- despite being a billionaire. That resonated with me (well, except for the billionaire part). So, throwing caution to the wind, I spent six bucks on the Kindle book. I usually read (at least) two books at once – one fiction (finishing up The Conquest of Plassans) and one non-fiction – so I started Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.

Not sure if I can recommend the book unequivocally – but it is interesting and an entertaining read. I went for a nice bike ride in my hood and stopped for coffee and a quick read.

The first chapter has an interesting idea. The SEAL wants the guy to do a hundred pull-ups at the gym. The author is in really good shape, but is a distance runner without a lot of upper-body strength. He can do, say 15 or so.

The SEAL says, “Wait forty-five seconds and try it again.” So the guy does and does six. The SEAL has him wait another forty-five. He can do one, barely. At this point the guy is ready to go home.

“Nope,” the SEAL says, we’re not leaving until you do a hundred. After a minute of rest, the guy can do one. Over and over again. Until he hit a hundred. I guess it only took a bit over an hour or so.

I am fascinated by that concept. Not in terms of pull-ups – but on goals in general. Say, I will ride my bike fifty miles today – even if I have to stop and rest ten times. Or, I will write two thousand words, even if I have to stop and think twenty times.

It would require some time… but it’s an interesting concept.

My folding bike at The Block, Richardson, Texas