You Can’t Get There From Here

Though I am a ridiculous old fat man on a bicycle, I have been working on increasing my mileage and exploring how to integrate cycling into my daily activities better. My goal for 2013 is three thousand miles on my bike. I knew I would start out behind (the weather in the winter is too often simply too nasty to ride) but I try to get as many miles in as possible.

Saturday was a gray post-misty day, cool but not cold – usually considered depressing winter weather – but without a breath of wind, perfect for a bicycle ride. I cruised all over Richardson and North Dallas, getting in about thirty-four miles of city riding, which is a lot for me. I was pretty well worn out.

Sunday was more of the same, a little warmer and a little windier and I wanted to ride somewhere and get a few more miles in – somewhere more or less useful.

About eight miles away (as the bike rolls) is White Rock Coffee, one of my favorite independent coffee spots. There are a number of Starbucks within walking distance of my home, and a couple of bubble teas/smoothie emporiums, but White Rock is the closest non-national-chain coffee spot. There is a new branch of The Pearl Cup, under construction in Richardson, and when it is done it will be a nice bicycle destination. But they are still working on it – so until it’s done it’s White Rock Coffee.

The problem is, I can’t find a good route to White Rock Coffee. The biggest choke point is LBJ/635 Interstate Highway loop. The best crossing between my house and the coffee place is the pedestrian bridge next to the Skillman DART station.

The pedestrian bridge over LBJ at the Skillman Dart station - photo from Googlemaps.

The pedestrian bridge over LBJ at the Skillman Dart station – photo from Googlemaps.

Once you start looking at that crossing you realize a nefarious little bit of nasty city planning. The bridge is useful, mostly because it connects a couple of neighborhoods of rundown apartments (on either side of the freeway) with the train station and each other. The problem is that it is almost impossible to get into or out of those neighborhoods on foot or on bicycle.

I don’t think this is an accident. Streets running up to these areas lose their sidewalks – some residential streets are cut and blockaded. It is obvious that the powers-that-be don’t want folks walking out of their rundown apartment complexes into the more upscale areas of housing.

So I have been working on finding the best route. I came up with one and it’s not that great – there are several nasty road crossings (Yale and Walnut, Leisure and Forest,  and Adleta and Skillman are the some of the worst), four places where I have to walk my bike, and some heavy traffic. A long stretch of narrow, crowded residential street with parked cars filling both sides – the door zone fills the whole street. It’s especially tough because I’m riding my road bike right now – I’m rebuilding my commuter/bad weather bike. The narrow tires are pickier about terrain.

I decided to give it a go today – stuffed my laptop and an extra shirt into my backpack and set off. I know eight miles isn’t very far, but it’s a tough eight miles. The backpack was heavy and I was always riding into the wind (how does that work?). It’s all crowded urban stop-and-go riding.

That’s the thing about riding a bicycle in the city – you see things you never do from a car (or on foot, really, because you can’t travel that far). You see beauty, notice hills you never would otherwise, connect with the weather in an intimate, organic way… but you see a lot of nasty, brutish, and ugly stuff too. A lot of trash, homeless people, and neglect.

I hadn’t anticipated the amount of broken glass on the streets and sidewalks in some of these neighborhoods. Sure enough, crossing 635 on the pedestrian bridge I put a sliver of shattered malt liquor bottle through my rear tire and had to patch it in a nasty little parking lot covered in antifreeze and oil that had been dumped there, keeping an eye on the crack dealers that were keeping an eye on me.

Life in the big city in this best of all possible worlds.

I had better finish this up and drink the rest of my coffee and get home – I don’t want to do that ride in the dark.

Here and There – Chihuly and Winfrey Point

A photo I took a while back of the Chihuly Exhibit in the Arboretum, with White Rock Lake’s Winfrey Point in the distance across an arm of the lake. This huge glass sculpture is called “The Sun.”

Chihuly with Winfrey Point in the background, across the water.

Chihuly with Winfrey Point in the background, across the water.

A shot I took from a bicycle ride on Winfrey Point, with the Arboretum and the Chihuly Sun in the background.

Arboretum from Winfrey Point, a peloton of cyclists going by on the road.

Arboretum from Winfrey Point, a peloton of cyclists going by on the road.

Messing about in boats

“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

Spoken by Ratty to Mole in Wind in the Willows a children’s book by Kenneth Grahame

Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

(Click for a larger and more detailed version on Flickr)

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea…”

– Antoine de Saint Exupery

All the Way Around

I have been working hard, riding my bicycle every day. I’m out of shape and too big and too old, but still I try.

One helpful thing is that I have done this before. I was a lot younger then, which makes it a lot harder now, but I know it can be done because it has been.

When I first moved to Dallas I was young and full of pee and vinegar, but I began to give in to my slothful and dissipative nature and started eating out too much and lounging around watching too much television. So I fixed my bike up and started to go our riding on a regular basis… at least four times a week. Now there are bicycle trails everywhere, but back then, in the early eighties, there was only one in Dallas, the White Rock Lake Trail. When I started, I lived on Lower Greenville… then I moved a little north to Lover’s Lane and Northwest Highway – and both gave access to White Rock Lake.

I remember the first few times I rode – I couldn’t make it all the way around. This can be problematic, because once you are on the other side of the lake, you have no choice but to ride back. Again, I was young then and the mileage started to increase quickly and before long, around I would go (it’s about nine miles around the lake).

Two memories stand out from those early circuits. Once, I was plugging up an uphill spot when a young woman passed me, standing on her pedals, and shot up the same hill like it wasn’t there. I thought this was the most beautiful thing I had seen – her power, her technique. It wasn’t long though, before I could do the same thing – without even thinking about it. That was a moment of pride.

One problem with riding back then was that it was a nice little downhill jaunt to get to the lake. That meant the last part of my ride, from the lake to my apartment was uphill. I had to be careful and make sure I had enough energy left to get up the hill. One day I miscalculated and had to use up every last bit of willpower I had to get back home. The problem was, I lived in a second story apartment, and there was no way I could make it up the stairs, especially carrying my bike. I had to lie down in the yard, next to my bicycle, for almost an hour, until I was rested enough to trudge up the stairs. I was surprised that nobody came out to see what was wrong with me (not that the people there were helpful – they were very nosy).

So now I’m at it again. The other day I made a list of the rides I wanted to do over my few days off around the fourth, and one was a circumnavigation of White Rock Lake – something I hadn’t done in decades. It brought back a lot of memories, mostly of when I was starting out. I’m riding an inefficient mountain bike, so it is good exercise. I carry plenty of water and my Kindle, and stop whenever I feel like it to read a few pages.

That’s a good time for me. Riding my bike in a nice spot, with memories flooding back, and stopping in bits of shade now and then… reading a bit, riding a bit. It doesn’t get much better than that.

My old Raleigh is hanging out in the garage. Maybe I’ll work on it, see if I can bring it back to life. It’s old, but it’s light and might still go faster and easier than my mountain bike. We’ll see.

I may be old, but I’ve done it before.

Where I started. I think this is the “runners’ lot” – the “cyclists’ lot” is a bit farther down the road. So sue me.

Near the north end of the lake there is a long pedestrian/bike bridge they built to get across an arm of the lake. Back in the day we had to ride on a narrow sidewalk along Mockingbird Lane – a very busy road. If someone was coming the other way… you could pass, but with no more than an inch to spare. It was frightening.

I stopped and visited with the folks at White Rock Paddle Company. I think I’ll go back there soon and rent a canoe. There’s some swampy backwaters I want to explore. It looks like fun.

The old art-deco bath house is now the Bath House Cultural Center and it has a nice sculpture and butterfly garden out front. It’s one of my favorite spots around the lake so I stopped there and read a couple short stories on my Kindle.

A view of the dam across the lake with the towers of Downtown Dallas poking up in the background.

The trail runs between the lake and the Dallas Arboretum. Here’s a bit of Chihuly visible through the trees. That sculpture is about thirty feet tall and is called “Yellow Icicle Tower.” I took a picture of it at night here.

This bench is one of my favorite spots on the West side of the lake. It’s a quiet shady spot. I remember sitting here years ago, taking it easy, though the area looked different back then. The plaque on the bench said that it was dedicated in 1998, so I must have sat there when it was new. These benches have bicycle racks built in to them, a very useful design.

What I learned this week, April 6, 2012

Next to my table at one of my favorite coffee places was this 3D photograph with a pair of glasses attached by a piece of brown twine. Pretty cool (though the twine was a little too short and it was hard to see the full effect). I liked it better than Avatar.


Work hard and sacrifice and you can send your children to an elite private university. That’s my son, Lee, in the following video. He’s the one in the Red Suit. I always wondered who did stuff like that.

Hey, whatever gets you into the final four.


Sometimes, I dream of a life led like this:

Unfortunately, this is only a dream, my real life is like this:

“Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?”




I’m not a huge fan of Titanic (even though I did like it more than I thought I would) and have no intention of seeing the 3D version. However, I am amused at the one change they made in the movie. Apparantly after (spoiler alert) the boat sinks, they had the wrong starfield – plus it was reversed for the second half of the sky. An astronomer was enough of a pest to get it changed in the 3D version.



From Maybe Mousse

The Google Art Project


I am hard at work on the cover for my book of short stories. I shouldn’t care, nobody looks at the cover of Kindle books anyway – but fear based procrastination is rampant. At any rate, here’s a nice TED talk on designing book covers.


What a great idea! From Library Scenester –

sips card

Sips Card brings independent fiction and local coffee shop/bar venues together. Customers can find Sips Cards at participating coffee shop-like venues. Each card contains a QR code, loaded with a short story from an independent writer meant to last as long as their drink. The cards are venue specific and include their business information as well as that issue’s author, story title, and website.


For my own reasons (which some of you may know) I have always wondered what a severed head in a shopping bag might look like. Thanks to Helen Taylor, now I know.

I bet it’s heavier than you would think.

A head in a shopping bag


Finally, a French Scopitone. It’s another odd France Gall offering and has three creepy male dancers with even creepier sideburns… like her classic Bebe Requin.