Right Round Like a Record, Baby

All I know is that to me
You look like you’re having fun
Open up your lovin’ arms
Watch out here I come
You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round round round
—-Dead or Alive, You Spin Me Round

Carnival, Tulane Campus, New Orleans

Oblique Strategy: What wouldn’t you do?

I remember getting sick at a carnival. The rides can’t be designed to do anything but make you sick, really. The fear doesn’t come, like it does in a huge roller coaster at a big theme park, from the stretching of the bounds of physics. The fear comes from the rickety old equipment, dripping grease, and the dirty meth addict running the ride. You assume he put the thing together, did the safety checks.

The smell of a small carnival – popcorn, rancid grease, and ozone. The sound of the rides, the screaming of kids, the pops of the rifles shooting at paper targets.

It is all a relic of a bygone age. A carnival – I think it’s a predecessor to the video game, without the score. The lights, the sounds, the movement… everything just slightly surreal. I’m surprised that there are any left.

I think I need to try and track one down.

A Full Moon, Gravel, and S’mores

“Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

The moon rising over cyclists and the Dallas skyline. From the October Full Moon Ride. (click to enlarge)

Oblique Strategy: Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

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

There is a monthly bike ride held at dusk on the first day of each full moon. It starts in a park in Downtown Dallas and heads out into the wilds of the Trinity River Bottoms where we can watch the moon rise over the city.

I had a blast on the October ride and was looking forward to the next one. It was a little more ambitious. We would head out on the gravel roads that line the levees along the river. Because of the crushed rock, I wouldn’t be able to ride my vintage Cannondale and would have to use my heavy, fat-tired commuter/cargo bike.

My heavy Commuter Bike with Dallas skyline in the background

We would ride ten miles to an abandoned golf course where we would have a campfire and make s’mores before riding back. I was a bit concerned – twenty miles, much of it off-road, is a long way for me to ride on my heavy, thick tired repurposed mountain bike. Despite all my despirte fanfaronade I am the world’s slowest bicycle rider, especially on an inefficient vehicle. Even riding the best of bicycles – the engine is old and worn out.

I rode the DART train downtown, as the sun was setting, met up with about a dozen folks, and set out. The gravel wasn’t too bad, but it was jarring and a job to control the handlebars, especially in the dark. I have a good headlight on my bike and the world was reduced to a pool of small rocks moving toward me while all around was invisible, inky blackness. It was fun. I slowed to the back of the pack and realized that if I cut my speed a little bit the ride became smoother.

The gravel road in the Trinity River Bottoms
(click to enlarge)

So, I was slow, but not too much. There is a bridge about every mile through the river bottoms and we would stop so everyone could catch up. We made our destination on time, and the s’mores were delicious.

Roasting marshmallows for s’mores. (Photo from Bike Friendly Downtown Dallas)

The only hitch was that I didn’t get any photos. I had brought my camera, a small Gorillapod, and a remote shutter release. I spent too much time having fun, and had to rush setting up my camera. I put the tripod on an old air conditioning unit, and before I could shoot, the release fob slipped out of my hand and disappeared inside. I took that as an omen, and packed it all back up.

We rode concrete back – by then the traffic was light. Only when we neared the American Airlines Center (the Dallas Stars were playing hockey and the game let out at the same time we passed) did we run into angry, aggressive drivers.

So, now I’m looking forward to next month. I need to put my nighttime photographic, time exposure kit together and practice, so I’ll be ready.

He Believes in Miracles

“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.

Because he believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen. Because he is sure that his thoughts can change his life, his life begins to change. Because he is certain that he will find love, love appears.”
― Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light

Warrior on the wall of Bowls and Tacos, Dallas, Texas

Taken on the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Pub Ride.

Oblique Strategy: In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

Snippet – from “The Death of Xaco” by me

The yellow vapors poured down the slope, choking the men. They all had rough masks made from torn T-shirts, but that offered scant protection. The decades of working in the toxic sulfur cloud did not give them any resistance – corrosive is corrosive. The men coughed and shook their heads, struggling to breathe. After a thick cloud passed by, Buelo pulled his hand across his bit of cloth and scraped off the yellow crystals that had condensed there.

The men depended on a network of crude ceramic pipes to channel the molten sulfur down from the vent so it would cool and solidify before it caught fire and burned – then they could break it up into chunks to carry down the mountain. The pipes were always breaking or plugging up and it was a harrowing, awful, dangerous job to climb into the even-thicker fumes and do the needed repairs. Xaco was the only man left crazy-tough enough for the job and Buelo could see his sharp eyes and wild yellow-crusted hair peeking out here and there, now and then, amongst the yellow clouds. There were three tugs on the rope and Buelo tied another section of replacement pipe on and tugged back three times. The rope jerked and the pipe rocked, then disappeared into the fumes.

After a few minutes Buleo could make out Xaco hefting the heavy pipe onto his shoulders and struggle upslope before the drifting clouds hid him from view again. Buelo smiled thinking of Xaco from their childhood. He had known Xaco since his earliest memory, from long before they had known or understood that they would all be sulfur miners.

Eye

Photo taken during the Stop and Photograph the Roses bicycle ride.

I had seen the Dallas Eye Before – but have never been able to stop close by it in the daytime. We rode our bikes from the Arts District down to the little side-street Stone Place – a little known oasis in downtown. A long time favorite spot of mine – I remember it from when I first moved here. It, like everything else, has been up and down many times since then.

Unfortunately, we could not cross the iron fence that surrounds the orb. I guess they are afraid that if the uncontrolled public were allowed in, the unwashed masses, things might get out of control and someone might get poked in the eye.

The Dallas Eye, Dallas, Texas

The Dallas Eye,
Dallas, Texas

River Bottom Bicycle Route

View from the high point of the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack, Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

View from the high point of the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack, Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

I have been struggling with a nasty something – maybe nothing more than a stubborn cold – since Christmas or so. I took a look at my notes (the good thing about obscessive journaling – I have notes going back decades) and realized I always get sick on the days between Christmas and New Year. Maybe it’s an allergy to not going to work.

At any rate, since I have been unable to breathe (that oxygen addiction – a nasty habit) and the weather outside has been frightful I haven’t been riding my bike. I really miss it. Yesterday, I was able to get out and ride around the neighborhood. Though I was obviously out of shape and unused to the saddle, it was fun. So today I decided to take a longer ride.

A while back, I went to the Nasher for a lecture on Nasher Xchange – an ambitious art installation that involves ten varied works all across the city. During the lecture, the artists and organizers repeatedly emphasized the size of Dallas, how it is all spread out, and how much driving is involved in getting to all of the sites of the exhibition. One inspiration for the Nasher Xchange is the Skulptur Projekte Münster – which is held every ten years. Munster is so much more compact that Dallas, however, and they talked about how much different it is to have a similar exhibition in a car-based city like Dallas.

This is all true, of course – but I take exception to the whole car thing. By combining a bicycle with the DART train, you can move all over the city – a little slower, of course, but in a more interesting way – without a car.

So I decided to visit the Nasher Xchange sites without use of a car. Some of them are not really permanent, so it may not work out, but eight at least are doable. The thing will end February 16 – so it’s time to get crackin’.

I’ve been to three so far. I’ll write blogs about them when I’m done. I’ve been thinking about dear sunset by Ugo Rondinone and how best to visit it by bicycle. It’s a multicolored wooden pier jutting out into Fishtrap Lake, in West Dallas. There is no train station nearby, so a substantial bike ride will be needed.

Another thing in my “Things to do” list for 2014 is to organize a bicycle ride. An idea turned over in my head – organize a bike ride from the 8th and Corinth DART station, down the Santa Fe Trestle Trail and then north along the gravel roads in the Trinity River Bottoms to Hampton Road, on to Fishtrap Lake, and then back. It’s a six and a half mile route, one way, thirteen miles total. Not too far for a recreational ride.

Trinity River, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Trinity River, Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

The only thing was, I was not familiar with the route at all. There’s a lot of construction down there, and I wasn’t sure of the condition of those roads – would they be muddy? Too rough?

So I decided to do the ride today. And it was a blast. The roads are bumpy in some places (they are actually paved in a few) but nothing a fat tire bike couldn’t get through. The route is, of course, flat, and the scenery is pretty impressive. If you’ve never been in the Trinity River Bottoms, it’s a surreal mixture of vast open floodplain with giant city skyscrapers looming up on the horizon.

Trinity River Bottoms (click to enlarge)

Trinity River Bottoms
(click to enlarge)

The only negative was that it was very, very windy down there. Thirty mile per hour southerly winds made it a struggle going one way (though I barely had to pedal going the other). I was pretty worn out by the end. But that’s… well, if not rare… not an everyday condition.

So I think I’ll go ahead and set a date, start the thing in motion. Next weekend is already spoken for, but I’ll see if I can find a Saturday in there sometime.

Hope the weather is good.

My commuter bike along the gravel road in the Trinity River Bottoms (click to enlarge)

My commuter bike along the gravel road in the Trinity River Bottoms
(click to enlarge)

Black Friday Ride(s)

I spent a few more minutes sweeping the bridge over the Trinity River than I had intended, so I had to rush out. Bike Friendly Richardson was doing their annual Black Friday Ride at 1PM and I only had twenty minutes to get out to Beltline and 75. It shouldn’t have been a problem, but this was Black Friday and my GPS showed a dark red streak at 75 and Northwest – folks were backed up trying to get into Northpark Mall. Nothing to do but wait it out.

So often when I’m in my car these days I wish I was on the bike.

It wasn’t too late when I arrived… I was able to put my old Technium together and ride out with the group, no problem.

It was a very nice, easy ride – a ten mile tour of the “other” side of Richardson, across 75 from where I live. I said, “It’s nice to ride around Richardson and not look for sculptures.” We stopped at the Pearl Cup for some coffee and then rode back. The weather was perfect – not a breath of wind… maybe a little cool when stopped, a little warm when pedaling.

Bike Friendly Richardson, Black Friday Ride (click to enlarge)

Bike Friendly Richardson, Black Friday Ride
(click to enlarge)

Bike Friendly Richardson, Black Friday Ride (click to enlarge)

Bike Friendly Richardson, Black Friday Ride
(click to enlarge)

Bike Friendly Richardson, Black Friday Ride (click to enlarge)

Bike Friendly Richardson, Black Friday Ride
(click to enlarge)

Waiting for a flat to get fixed.

Waiting for a flat to get fixed.

After the ride, I should have stopped in for some beer at Haystack, but this was only the second of three bike events I wanted to do. This was the last Friday of the month – so it was best that I head home and get ready for Critical Mass. I was worried about the weather, but shouldn’t have been – it was as nice as it could be.

Usually I am a stickler about leaving my house on my bike but today I thought it prudent to drive to the Forest Lane DART station and leave from there. That way, if I missed the midnight train home, I could ride to that station on the White Rock and Cottonwood trails.

The Critical Mass rides are getting smaller now that the winter is here, but there were enough hard-core fans to make it fun. One interesting thing about these rides is that nobody knows where they are going until they get there. The Black Friday route looped through downtown and then Deep Ellum, ending up on a winding path through Fair Park.

Riding through the fairgrounds with a big group on bicycles after dark was pretty interesting and a lot of fun. We wound through the art deco buildings, past the wonderful murals that loomed overhead in the gloom of darkness, and around the sculptures gleaming as best as they could in the murk. Finally we looped past the bright lights and giddy crowds of the Chinese Lantern Festival which was a riot of bright color thrust above the opaque night.

Pond at Fair Park

A pond in Fair Park. The red paths are part of a massive sculpture by Patricia Johanson. I have always loved those red paths running through the water, weeds, and turtles. A neglected jewel in the city.
– it was a lot darker on the bike ride, of course.

Mural at Fair Park, taken during the day.

Mural at Fair Park, taken during the day.

The bicycles poured out of the park and everyone split up to go to their favorite night spot. I had a quick beer at Craft and Growler and then received a text that Candy and Lee were with friends and relatives at Rustic, in Uptown. After some thought, I realized I could get there on my bike, so I rode up Exposition, through Deep Ellum, across Downtown, then turned north through Uptown to get to Rustic.

I really enjoy riding my bicycle through the big city at night. The traffic is broken up and I have decent lights, so I feel surprisingly safe. The cool night air, the giant glittering buildings overhead, and the close look at the heart of the metropolis from the saddle is a lot more fun that fighting the traffic and looking for parking spaces.

I locked my bike outside on a light pole and walked past the disapproving stares of the doormen carrying my helmet under my arm. The Rustic isn’t my kind of place, but it was fun to see everybody. One good thing is that it is right next to the turntable at the end of the streetcar line and the long escalator down into the DART tunnel – so we rode that back to my car and home. Taking my bicycle down that escalator was a bit awkward – but it worked.

Candy’s car was at another DART station so I left again on my bike to go pick it up, getting home at about one AM. A nice long Black Friday – mostly on a bicycle.