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.

Another Man’s Weeds

One man’s wildflowers are another man’s weeds.

—-Antonio Vitalis, From Hell’s Heart I Stab At Thee

Wildflowers, Huffhines Park, Richardson, Texas

The City allows patches, often in vegetated medians or along the borders of parks, to grow unattended, unmowed, into patches of wildflowers. I stopped along one such patch on my bike ride and took a few photos. Mostly the ubiquitous Texas Bluebonnets, but also other, similar, wildflowers of various colors. On this patch there was a singular clump of these which stood out and above the others. I have no idea what these are (Black Eye’d Susans?) but they drew the eye. And the camera.

All Work And No Play Make Jack A Dull Boy

Yesterday, I wrote about riding my bike and drinking coffee. I really like my little thermos that I bought years ago at a gift shop called Plum (now sadly gone) off Magazine Street in New Orleans. It is small and has a cool leather wrap printed with graphics inspired by The Shining.

 

It’s pretty cool and keeps the coffee pretty hot.

My coffee thermos.

With All Their Speed Forward

“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization — that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls.”
Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons

A while back, on July 26, 2012 to be exact, I wrote a blog entry called Bicycle Lanes. In it I wrote a bit about Richardson’s attempts at improving its cycling infrastructure. I praised the bike trails and especially the bike lanes (while noticing some dangerous flaws).

But I also mentioned how dangerous some of the railroad crossings are. For example, at Arapaho (a very busy street that is necessary for me to get to the library and a few other spots) I took this photo:

Rail crossing on Arapaho road – July, 2012.

I wrote:

There are three lanes of traffic both ways going through that little space – going fast, up to fifty miles per hour or more (don’t lecture me on speed limits… this is Texas). There is no sidewalk, no shoulder, no other way to cross. That hump has a set of rough wheel-swallowing steel rails sitting there on top of it. You hit that wrong on a bike and you are going down. There is no other crossing to the north for a mile. It’s two miles south to a safe crossing.

The Grove road bike lane is right behind me… as is the Arapaho DART station. If I want to ride my bike to the library; I have to go through there. If there is any traffic at all I have no alternative than to stop, get off my bike, and carry it over the tracks.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world… but I wish someone would work on these choke points.

It’s been almost seven years now, and the city has done something. Here’s what that exact same railroad crossing looks like now:

Railroad crossing on Arapaho road, Richardson, Texas

Railroad crossing on Arapaho road, Richardson, Texas

It’s really only a couple of concrete plates, a bit of asphalt, and some sidewalk work – but it makes all the difference. To almost everybody – those that only drive – this is something completely unnoticeable. But to people that cycle for transportation (and for pedestrians) this sort of thing is a game-changer. To think that the city and the transportation departments are actually, finally thinking about people that aren’t in hurtling steel boxes is a breath of fresh air.

I know, by the way, that it isn’t a good idea to ride on the sidewalk – but that is a rule that sometimes, like along fast moving arterial streets – is made to be broken.

They did the same thing on the other side of the road – going the other way. That makes it not only possible, but easy, for me to ride my bike to the library. Little improvements.

Time Gains Momentum

“I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable–if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”
David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

Bicycle Drag Race, Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas

 

David Foster Wallace wrote the quote above thirteen years before he hung himself. He will never be as old as me. I am closing in on being twice as old as he was when he wrote that quote.

It’s a shame he wasn’t able to stick it out – as time grinds on things get increasingly weird… especially in the sense of “weird” as in different than you expect and stranger than you imagined.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

“How dare you laugh,” Mr. Thomas said. “It was my house. My house.”

“I’m sorry,” the driver said, making heroic efforts, but when he remembered
the sudden check to his lorry, the crash of bricks falling, he became
convulsed again. One moment the house had stood there with such dignity
between the bomb sites like a man in a top hat, and then, bang, crash, there
wasn’t anything left—not anything. He said, “I’m sorry. I can’t help it, Mr.
Thomas. There’s nothing personal, but you got to admit it’s funny.”
—-Graham Greene, The Destructors

Destroyed V-Bike, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

I found this destroyed V-Bike when I was taking a photo of the mural called “The Storm” on the Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street for yesterday’s blog entry. If you look in the lower right portion of the photo of the mural you can see the bike, sort of – gives a sense of scale.

The full mural (previous photo center bottom) – Ace Parking, Dallas, “The Storm” Art Mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street

If you live in Dallas, you are used to seeing bike share bikes broken all over the place. This one was in particularly bad shape – it looks like it was torn apart by a T-Rex. I assume it was run over – hopefully nobody was riding it at the time.

I have wanted to write about the saga – the rise and fall – of the bike sharing movement in Dallas, but it is/was too complex/bizarre/exciting/sad and kept changing – writing about it was like nailing jelly to a tree.

This Texas Monthly Article is as good a summary as you will read. In short, four or five companies jumped on the Dallas dockless bike share bandwagon and tried to stake out territory by putting thousands upon thousands of bikes out on the streets and sidewalks. They were everywhere. Then, there was a predictable crash and now you rarely see a rideable bike – except a lot of homeless have hacksawed the locks off and are riding them for free. Where the bikes failed they were replaced by electric scooters – which seem to be more practical for a few reasons.

I have mixed feelings – of course I loved the idea of the dockless bikes, freedom and anarchy and all that, even though I couldn’t imagine actually riding one (I have one of my personal bikes with me almost all the time in Dallas). The highly regulated bike share in New Orleans seems to work very well (though that is a tourist city – something completely different). And I do find the scooters useful.

So I’ll just be sad at the torn up bikes. Especially the V-Bikes – they were assembled locally and have some interesting innovations – single front fork blade and chainstay, enclosed shaft drive, and no-flat tires for example. They did have one fatal flaw though – the seats weren’t adjustable and I am too tall and couldn’t ever ride one.

Two V-Bike share bikes flanking my vintage Cannondale at Mockingbird DART station, Dallas, Texas

Shaft drive on a V-Bike bike share bike.