Ride To Nowhere

We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride

I’m feelin’ okay this mornin’
And you know,
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
—-Talking Heads

Trinity Skyline Trail (east side) from the Continental Bridge Park Dallas, Texas

Trinity Skyline Trail (east side)
from the Continental Bridge Park
Dallas, Texas

View From the Levee

Trinity Skyline Trail

Bike to Coffee

I am working on trying to minimize my reliance on the automobile here in the most car-centric of cities and have wanted an independent (aka not Starbucks) Coffee shop that is a good bike ride from my house for a long time. My wish finally came true. There is an excellent place down on Henderson, The Pearl Cup, that I have frequented and enjoyed… but it is a long and difficult drive from my house (and no train station nearby).

Almost a year ago they announced they were building a new location in Richardson. I began plotting a bicycle route to the place. It’s on the other side of a giant highway from where I live, in a more upscale neighborhood, but I was able to find a route with a good highway crossing (underneath) and that had most of the way on trails or dedicated bike lanes, with the only remaining roads low traffic.

It’s a hair under seven miles – about the perfect distance. Not too far, but fourteen miles round trip is a good workout.

This weekend was a beautiful warm day, so I was able to make to ride out. It’s a really nice route across Richardson, with some varied scenery along the way.

Bike trail along the creek near my house.

Bike trail along the creek near my house.

The first bit is down the Huffhines branch of Duck Creek on the last few yards of the Glenville trail. One of the reasons we bought our house was that they had planned and funded the trail in the creek behind us. We never thought it would take six years to get the thing finally built… but now it is.

Duck Creek Linear Park

Duck Creek Linear Park

Then the route crosses the neighborhood on the Duck Creek Linear Park.

Owens Bike Trail under the power lines.

Owens Bike Trail under the power lines.

And then north under the powerlines on the Owens Trail. A lot of bike routes in the Metroplex are through powerline right of way. It’s not very scenic, but gets the job done.

Spring Creek Natural Area.

Spring Creek Natural Area.

The nicest park of the ride is through the thick creekbottom woods of the Spring Creek Nature Area.

Under the Highway

Under the Highway

Then under Highway 75 along a creek bridge. The city is working on bicycle/pedestrian crossings of the highway, with success in the northern part of the city.

Along Highway 75

Along Highway 75

Up the highway on the east side, then down busy Renner road. A lot of fast cyclists use the road, but I’m slow and lazy and poke along the trail.

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

The last little bit is down a dedicated bike lane on Custer. These dedicated lanes have been popular and are cropping up all over the city. The only problem is that there is often parking in these lanes which forces the bikes through the “door zone” – so riders have to go slow and careful, looking into each parked car as you go by.

The Pearl Cup's Outdoor Patio and Shady's Burger Joint.

The Pearl Cup’s Outdoor Patio and Shady’s Burger Joint.

And finally, the coffee shop. A great place for some Java and maybe a book or some writing. Next door they opened up a burger place, Shady’s. Candy met me there for lunch. They had a nice selection of craft beers – Dogfish Head, Devil’s Backbone, and a couple others – but no local beers. We talked to the owner and suggested he get some Deep Ellum or Lakewood on tap.

So it was a nice lunch, and a nice ride – one I hope to be making a few more times.

My Commute Home from Work

I used to tell people that I couldn’t ride a bike to work because the route wasn’t safe. The streets I drive on have a long, blind, fast curving stretch that would be fatal for a slow bicycle. But as I thought about it, I figured out that I could find a safe route – especially after the Glenville Trail that runs behind my house opened up. I thought about it for a year, then finally started to ride. It seemed like a big deal for me when I was thinking about it and when I rode the first time, but now it’s routine.

I don’t ride to work… there is no way for me to take a shower and I sweat like a stuck pig in this summer Texas heat – so I get someone to drive me in to work in the morning and I ride home. This has another advantage of taking away any time constraints so I can ride as slowly as I want. Friday I loaded a point and shoot into my handlebar bag and took some shots along the way.

Near my work I have a couple routes through the parking lots of an extensive area of small business parks. Looking at these businesses – of a tremendous variety – is always interesting to me. I admire and am fascinated by entrepreneurship and these strips of cheap space are the heart and birthplace of new industry.

Magrathea

Magrathea Incorporated? What a cool name. I looked them up – they are on facebook – they’re in the business of restoring classic old cars. A bit of a fall from making entire custom ordered planets – but still pretty interesting.

Wood World

Wood World – a neat store with all sorts of rare and useful wood raw materials, tools, and pen kits.

I emerge from the industrial parks and cross Spring Valley at a busy intersection next to the DART station. It’s a long, long light – then I play chicken with the transit busses turning left in front of me.

Here’s the hardest and most fun part of the ride. When you drive around Dallas, you think it is as flat as a pancake. But there are hills that you can notice on a bicycle – when you have to expend the energy to get up them. There’s this alley that I found – almost a mile long, and a slow steady uphill the whole way. When I first rode, it was a struggle riding that stretch. Now I barely even have to downshift. It’s a shock how quickly that changed.

Bike Lane on Grove.

The City of Richardson has started designating the right hand lanes on many of their neighborhood thoroughfares as bike lanes. It’s working out well – the bikes like it and it helps control the traffic. The only problem is making left turns out of the right-hand bike lanes – there is no way to do that safely.

One surprising barrier to bicycle transport are the rail lines. This one cuts right through the city and there are few routes across it – and they are narrow, busy roads.

Glenbrook Trail

The last mile and a half of my commute home is on the Glenbrook Trail – which starts out running under a power line right of way. It was supposed to go farther, but they could not get permission to cross the railroad right-of-way (see above).

The Glenbrook Trail crossing Beltline road.

The trail crosses the very busy Beltline Road (everything in the suburbs of Dallas is on Beltline Road) a block west of Plano Road. It’s a nasty intersection – when I went to meetings on the planning of the Glenville Trail they said they were really struggling with this section – there is simply not enough room.

The other day, while I was waiting for the light to turn, a woman in a VW made a left and a huge SUV was coming way, way too fast and she turned in front of him. There was a screech of brakes, horns, and skidding tires – the SUV went up on two wheels and swerved right past me – in the end nobody hit anything, though it was close. I stood there watching it thinking that if the truck hits the VW it will bounce off and crush me standing right there, four feet away, on the sidewalk with my bike.

The whole thing was over in three seconds.

The intersection is lousy with surveillance cameras and I wondered if I had died a sudden spectacular death would it be captured on one of the traffic cams. Would my demise make it onto Youtube? Texas bicyclist crushed by careening Tahoe. Would I go viral?

Plano Road crossing

Where the trails cross busy roads without lights (this one is on Plano Road) they have these S-Shaped islands. At the planning meetings it was explained that this design forces bicycles and pedestrians to stop in the middle of the crossing and then turn and face oncoming traffic to see and wait for a gap to continue across. It actually works really well – I feel safer at these crossings than I do at the lights (see above).

The ponds at Huffhines.

The last part of my commute is the easiest part – the trail goes through the ponds in the park at the end of my block. This is on the bridge over the ponds next to the new Huffhines Recreation Center.

Wal-Mart panniers.

I bought these panniers on clearance from Wal-Mart, believe it or not. They are not the best quality in the world – I wouldn’t go on a cross-country cycle journey with them, but they are handy and work great for clothes and whatever work I have to take home.

Santa Fe Trestle Trail

A few weeks ago, looking around I found out about a trail that I had barely heard of nearing completion in Dallas. It isn’t very long and it goes nowhere, but it looks pretty cool.

When they built the DART rail line along the Santa Fe rail right-of-way going across the Trinity River into Oak Cliff, they constructed a new rail bridge over the river. They left the old Santa Fe iron trestle next to the new concrete bridge. Right from the first, there was talk of trying to preserve the old trestle, both the iron bridgework and the wooden timbers. It was decided to build a hike/bike trail over the old trestle. The first plans were to simply build the trail where the rails used to be, but the Corps of Engineers wanted to clear away the old wooden timber piers to allow debris to wash through during flood periods. So the design was modified with new big, curving, concrete approaches to the metal bridge over the river itself. Over the last few years construction continued, cleaning up the old bridge and putting the new trail causeways into the river bottoms.

I found notice that the construction was nearing completion and although it wasn’t officially open, but the trail was walkable. Sunday I wasn’t able to get some of the things done I had planned, but as the day went on, I was running out of time, but I guessed I would have time to go down and check out the trail as the sun set.

There is parking at the Corinth DART station and the entrance to the trail is across the street. It’s a short walk through the swampy river bottoms (there was a lot of water, mud, plus flotsam and jetsam from the recent heavy rains) and then the trail begins to rise along a long, curving elevated causeway. They are still working on the landscaping, but otherwise it looks pretty much finished.

The sun was setting as I reached the bridge itself. It was pretty cool – the path is wide and smooth and there are nice benches set along the way. I enjoyed watching the DART trains going by a few feet away and there are great views of the downtown skyline contrasted with the vast open areas of the Trinity River Bottoms.

The entrance to the trail near the Corinth DART station.

A view of the Dallas Skyline from the trail. (click to enlarge)

The trestle trail going over the Trinity River.

A DART train rumbles by with the biking/hiking trail in front. (click to enlarge)

I didn’t stick around very long – this is not the part of town you want to be hanging out in after dark. As I was walking back to my car I heard some chanting in the distance. As I walked it was closer and I realized I was hearing some sort of yelling through a bullhorn. Finally, I could understand what was being yelled:

“Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Columbia Packing has got to go!”

Oh, crap, Columbia Packing. That was the place that became infamous last week when they were busted dumping pig blood into a creek that ran down to the Trinity. I did not realize I was so close to the place. It was only a block or so away and I was walking along a stand of trees that bordered the contaminated creek. There was a demonstration going on trying to shut down the plant.

I want to go back to the trail with a group of bike riders during the day once the park is completely open… it’s a cool place even if it doesn’t connect with anything else (yet) – but still, I was glad to get back to my car and get headed home.

A video of a ride across the bridge from a while back. The construction was a lot further along this weekend, and the water in the river was a lot higher.