Trail on the West Bank Levee

“Just as the Mediterranean separated France from the country Algiers, so did the Mississippi separate New Orleans proper from Algiers Point. The neighborhood had a strange mix. It looked seedier and more laid-back all at the same time. Many artists lived on the peninsula, with greenery everywhere and the most beautiful and exotic plants. The French influence was heavy in Algiers, as if the air above the water had carried as much ambience as it could across to the little neighborhood. There were more dilapidated buildings in the community, but Jackson and Buddy passed homes with completely manicured properties, too, and wild ferns growing out of baskets on the porches, as if they were a part of the architecture. Many of the buildings had rich, ornamental detail, wood trim hand-carved by craftsmen and artisans years ago. The community almost had the look of an ailing beach town on some forgotten coast.”

― Hunter Murphy, Imogene in New Orleans

My Xootr Folding bike on the West Bank Levee Trail

My son lives in a high-rise in downtown New Orleans. He works two blocks away. He doesn’t need a car and has gone without one for several years now.

One reason I drove there was he needed to send a painting back to Dallas, one that barely fit in the back of my Toyota Matrix… I was hoping there would be room back there alongside my Xootr Swift folding bike (there was – no problem).

Lee had to exchange an expensive video game controller at Best Buy and the closest store to where he lived was in Gretna, across the Mississippi on the West Bank. That’s a fifty dollar Uber round-trip so we decided to take my car over there. We could then eat lunch in Gretna after a long run (for him) and bike ride (for me).

I knew there was a nice trail along the top of the Levee from Gretna on past Algiers point. I had ridden the trail two years earlier, during a Writer’s Marathon. That day I had ridden across the river on the Ferry with a group of poets and we wrote poetry in a succession of restaurants and coffee spots in Algiers.

On the way back, I spotted a blue rental bike at the Algiers Point Ferry station – rented it – and rode back and forth along the levee. The only problem was that was July and it was unbelievably hot. I wrote that it was like cycling through a blast furnace.

New Orleans Bike Share Bike along the levee on the West Bank from two years ago.

This was November, though, and the weather was perfect. It was a blast. I cycled down to Algiers point and stopped to take a photo of my folding bike with the river and New Orleans in the background (see top of the entry).

While I was stopped, Lee ran by. We agreed that he would run a bit more then turn around and I’d ride a couple miles to the end of the train and also turn around. That would put us back at the car at about the same time.

My son, Lee running along the West Bank Levee Trail, Algiers Point, New Orleans

The problem was that when I reached what I thought was the end of the trail I discovered a strip of fresh asphalt stretching into the distance. This was brand new trail – and judging by the oil and marking flags it had been laid down less that a week ago.

And that is irresistible to me. Although I knew I should turn around or I would leave Lee waiting at the car (I had the keys) I kept going. And going. And going. I didn’t get to the end before I felt guilty and turned around – but I was close… maybe four more miles. I justified myself by saying, “I know he’s waiting – but over the last almost three decades I have had to wait on him a minute or two.” I ended up riding about fifteen miles – which is a good distance on the inefficient folding bike.

He was hungry and frustrated when I got there – but the restaurant had half-price burgers and cold beer and soon everything was right with the world.

Crossing The Brazos

“During dry spells, the whole river used to dry up into sandy bed, leaving only a faintly damp white trail. Years ago, on my walks I’d trace that trail upstream, searching for where the river had gone”
Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

Crossing the Brazos River alongside Interstate 35, Waco, Texas

One of the cool things you can do with a folding bicycle is to keep it in the trunk or back of the car on long road trips.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

That way, if you feel like taking a break – check Googlemaps on the phone and see if there are any bike routes or trails in the area (there usually are) and you can park and go for a little ride. It’s a great break from driving.

So Long As You Move

“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want–you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don’t know. I’ve forgotten the difference long ago, because it really doesn’t matter, so long as you move.”
Ayn Rand, We the Living

It’s been a difficult winter, but spring is here. I’ve struggled since January with allergies, infections, weakness and laziness. The worst of it is that I haven’t been riding my bicycle enough and have lost enough fitness to keep me from riding a long distance.

That’s bad.

The only thing to do is to start all over again. I’m trying to ride a little bit each day… every day, a little bit, and then, maybe, a little bit more. To keep everything going is tough, it’s too tempting to give up. One thing that helps is to try and at least make things interesting and there are a lot of compact places in town that I can drive, or better yet, take the train to – ride around a bit, maybe stop and read or get a coffee or a beer or something to eat. That’s not so hard.

So the other day I took my folder to the Mockingbird DART station and rode around a bit. I met Nick for lunch, then went home. No big deal… but it felt like one. A little bit every day.

My Xootr Swift Folding Bike at Mockingbird Station, Dallas, TX

That blue bag on the back of my bike is a Thomas EMS Emergency bag (I picked up two old ones that weren’t being used anymore) converted into a bike pannier. I removed most of the interior pockets and mount it with some carabiners to the rack. It works great as a small pannier (I have some grocery panniers if I have to carry something larger, like groceries) for daily rides. I have my camera, kindle, and lock inside and those outer zip pockets are exactly the right size for extra water bottles.

Eat it Off

“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po’ boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week–yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.”
― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

When you are on vacation in a city with as varied and variable opportunities as New Orleans there is always a struggle between new experiences and going with what you have known and enjoyed in the past. A balance between the two is best.

I drove from Dallas to New Orleans to stay with my son and attend the 2018 New Orleans Writing Marathon. He lives in a downtown high rise and parking is horribly expensive, so I stashed my car a couple miles away on a side street in the Lower Garden District. It sat there untouched for a week. I took my Xootr Swift folding bike out of the back to ride back to his place on Poydras.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I’m always surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folds down. I’m able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

It was hot and I was thirsty and I was hungry so I decided on a stop at one of my favorite and familiar places in the Big EasyThe Avenue Pub.

My folding bike locked up outside of the Avenue Pub in New Orleans

The big black thing on the back of my bike is a Bushwhacker Omaha grocery pannier mounted on a Xootr Crossrack. Very ugly and even more handy.

The beer selection at The Avenue Pub is second to none. It was a hot day and I wanted something cold and lighter and selected an excellent French Saison – Cuvée des Jonquilles from The Baron and Baileux brewery. Really nice on a summer afternoon.

They have a good kitchen in the bar and I ordered something I had before, and will certainly have again – Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade. Delicious.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade

New Orleans is actually a good city to ride bikes around in. It’s flat and the ancient streets slow the traffic down. Once I finished it only took me seven minutes to ride from The Avenue Pub to my son’s place.

I don’t think I could have driven it in that time.

The Abyss Will Gaze Back

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Table of tiny monsters, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Question the heroic approach

Yesterday was a long and tiring day (though it was fun) and my head felt like it was full of cotton. I kept forgetting things all day – until late at night when I realized that we had left Candy’s car parked at the train station. I didn’t want to leave it there all night and didn’t want to have to deal with it in the morning. So there was nothing to do but to move my lights over onto my Xootr folding bike and ride to the train station. I made sure I had the right station and that I had Candy’s keys in my bag and set out.

My folding bike, Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

I immediately realized that a front had blown through and, although it had been windy all day, the north wind had kicked up a notch, and it was cold. I had not dressed for it. But it is only three miles to the DART train station, so I just soldiered on.

Once I get off my lazy ass and get going, I enjoy riding my bike at night. The traffic is so much less, the trails are mostly empty (of people… there are a surprising number of various critters that come out even in the city) and everything is so quiet and still. I understand that it is dangerous, but my lights are good, I keep my eyes out and my ears open… nothing is safe… nothing worthwhile, at least.

As I rode farther, my efforts warmed me up and I felt better. I fell into the Zen mode of bicycling. If I think of the distance that I have to ride, it feels daunting, like I might never make it to my destination. The key is to only think about the next few feet in front of your handlebars and look around and enjoy every second. The miles drop away.

Before I could really think about it I was at the station. I rode around until I found Candy’s car and popped the trunk. That’s one big advantage of a folding bike – yank a couple of quick releases, pull out the seat, fold the wheels together and the bike goes into the trunk. It’s really handy for going and fetching a car.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

My Xootr Swift folds differently than most. You undo two quick releases and pull the seat post up. Then the bike folds front to back (most fold side to side) until the two wheels are together. If you need more space, the seat can come out completely and another quick release lets the handlebars slide out. It doesn’t fold as compactly as, say a Brompton, but it has the advantage of being strong (a big rider like me needs the strong frame) and it uses standard bike parts – which is a great thing over the long term.

So I drove Candy’s car home and stowed everything away in the garage.

Tomorrow’s another day.

What I learned this week, August 5, 2017

Speaking of Bike Lanes…

Someone took the future into their own hands and installed a bandit bike lane on a street in Oak Cliff. Complete with barriers and paint – it was done for a couple hundred dollars and in a few hours – not over the years and tens of thousands of dollars the city requires.

Of course it was deemed “illegal” and immediately removed.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.



 
 
Sometimes there are no words for the pernicious vastness of human stupidity.
 

Not a shot! Anti-vax movement prompts Brooklynites to withhold inoculations from their pets, vets say

 

A Clinton Hill–based veterinarian said she has heard clients suggest the inoculations could give their pups autism, however, echoing the argument of those who oppose vaccinating kids. But even if pooches were susceptible to the condition, their owners probably wouldn’t notice, according to the doctor.

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” said Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care. “We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”

My son’s dog, Champ


On the Road with Cirque du Soleil: Brompton is the Star of the Show

I have always loved Cirque du Soleil – now I like it even a little more. Run away to the circus on a Folding Bike!

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I was surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.


More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane

Biking has become part of New York’s commuting culture as the city expands bike routes and Citi Bikes become ubiquitous. There are more than 450,000 daily bike trips.


I found these articles on the word’s worst smelling stuff fascinating. Then again, it is what I do for a living.

Things I Won’t Work With: Thioacetone

But today’s compound makes no noise and leaves no wreckage. It merely stinks. But it does so relentlessly and unbearably. It makes innocent downwind pedestrians stagger, clutch their stomachs, and flee in terror. It reeks to a degree that makes people suspect evil supernatural forces. It is thioacetone.

The Dangerous Stink of the World’s Smelliest Chemical

“During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away.”


The amazing ways the function keys F1 to F12 can save you a ton of time


When I Replaced Soviet Workers in the U.S. Embassy

If this seemed like overkill, I quickly learned that it wasn’t. Over the course of my time at the embassy, all kinds of strange episodes occurred. One Saturday, while I was on a sightseeing trip to Leningrad, a Russian stranger sidled up to me and murmured, “So, how’s everything at the embassy?” (A classic K.G.B. move, a diplomat later told me, to “let you know they’re watching.”) Another time, a new Russian friend — a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory, whom I’d met by chance in the Metro — referred to plans I had for the following weekend, although I hadn’t yet told him about them. Even more ominously, after I tipsily confessed to a fellow American that I’d had a girlfriend in college, a pretty Russian woman started showing up at embassy parties and chatting flirtatiously with me. Was she a K.G.B. agent, sent to seduce me just as Violetta Seina seduced Clayton Lonetree? Or was I just imagining things? It was impossible to know for sure.


Here’s another short film for your enjoyment – this one also stars Natalie Dormer.

Shade Structures

“since some people had told me that I was ugly, I always preferred shade to the sun, darkness to light”
― Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

Shade structures on the Continental Avenue Bridge Park, Trinity River Bottoms
Dallas, Texas

Continental Bridge, Dallas, Texas

Continental Bridge,
Dallas, Texas

My Xootr folding bicycle, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr folding bicycle, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

What I learned this week, August 01, 2014

The Wyly Theater in the Dallas Arts District

The Wyly Theater in the Dallas Arts District

Finally! Small, Local Theater Companies to Perform in the Dallas Arts District


Outlook grim for orbiting Russian zero-G sex geckos

Gecko in a Watering Can

Gecko in a Watering Can

Thank God – The world is saved!!!

All systems “go” as control restored to beleaguered sex gecko satellite


Amanda Popken on the Dallas Cycle Style Seersucker Ride

Amanda Popken on the Dallas Cycle Style Seersucker Ride

These 53 Colorized Photos From The Past Will Blow You Away.


Lawsuit Filed To Prove Happy Birthday Is In The Public Domain; Demands Warner Pay Back Millions Of License Fees

Happy Birthday remains the most profitable song ever. Every year, it is the song that earns the highest royalty rates, sent to Warner/Chappell Music (which makes millions per year from “licensing” the song). However, as we’ve been pointing out for years, the song is almost certainly in the public domain.


This Ultra-Foldable Commuter Bike Is Also Ultra-Spendy

A five thousand dollar Dahon folding bike… wow. I don’t feel so bad about the cash I spent on my Xootr.

Stock Xootr Swift - I only added the seat bag and bottle cage (click to enlarge)

Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It basically folds in half - and it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package - but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.

The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It basically folds in half – and it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package – but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.

I drive a tiny car - a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks).  I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

My Xootr Swift bike with picnic supplies loaded in the pannier.

My Xootr Swift bike with picnic supplies loaded in the pannier.


10 Quotes from Tarantino-directed Films


Dallas Leaders Walked Arm-in-Arm with John Wiley Price in the Betrayal of Southern Dallas | Dallas Observer


Eggs Florentine at Smoke

Eggs Florentine at Smoke

The porch and entrance at Smoke

The porch and entrance at Smoke

A really useful list of local restaurants… tied to a map. Of course, there are plenty worthwhile that aren’t on here, but I’ve been to about half of them and they are all deserving.

The 38 Essential Dallas Restaurants, July 2014

Jimmy's Italian

Jimmy’s Italian

Meat Case - Italian Sausage and more

Meat Case at Jimmy’s – Italian Sausage and more

Babe's Chicken Dinner House

Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

The odd fire pit outside at Babe's Chicken Dinner House in Carrollton, Texas.

The odd fire pit outside at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House in Carrollton, Texas.


Magnolia Hotel (Pegasus) and Joule Hotel (pool) Dallas, Texas

Magnolia Hotel (Pegasus) and Joule Hotel (pool)
Dallas, Texas

The coolest coffee place in Dallas that you have never heard of.


My secretary setup

One place where the magic happens

Clutter is Killing Your Creativity

Bike Riding in the Big Easy

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

We had a trip to New Orleans planned for Tulane Graduation. Lee actually graduated in December, and didn’t plan on walking, but we wanted to go anyway… sort of a closure.

This was the first out of town trip that we had taken since I had bought my folding Xootr Swift bike. One of the reasons I wanted the folder was to be able to take it along, collapsed in the trunk, and pull it out for a ride whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Lee’s friends had arranged a party for the graduates and parents at Parkway Bakery and Tavern. A few years ago I had seen a television show that claimed Parkway had the best Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwiches in New Orleans. That’s a pretty salty claim – but I have eaten there before and can’t really argue (though Domilise’s is close). No way am I going to miss a meal at Parkway, and I wanted to ride my bike. As early as I could rustle my rusty bones out of our guesthouse in the Garden District I walked to the car, unfolded my Xootr from the trunk, and set out across the city.

I had no real idea of a where I was going, but used my phone and the Bicycle Route little green lines on Google Maps and was able to find my way. One good thing is the way the Crescent City is laid out, as confusing as it can be, all the roads seem to run to Parkway’s ‘hood.

I have been going to New Orleans for decades, and I think this was the first day of really, really nice weather I’ve ever seen. I had ridden my commuter bike around Tulane in December, but the wind was howling cold spitting rain.

New Orleans has been working hard on making its streets more bike friendly and they have succeeded. There are bike lanes and recommended streets. There aren’t a lot of dedicated trails, except in a few key choke points – like crossing Interstate 10.

There is no comparison to Dallas (which is well known as the worst city for cycling). First, let’s face it, the city of New Orleans itself isn’t really very big – it’s only four miles or so from the river to Lake Pontchartrain – as opposed to the hundred miles from Mesquite to Benbrook.

New Orleans is hell to drive in – which, ironically, makes it easy to ride a bike in. The streets are narrow and choked which slows and “calms” the traffic. I could ride across town as fast as I can drive. In Dallas it’s not unusual to come across cars going a mile a minute – which is rolling death if you aren’t wrapped in a steel carapace.

The one downside to riding there are the cracked pavement and the potholes. I had to keep my eyes open and those tiny wheels on the folder transmit every shock right to my spine. I learned quickly to stay off the side streets and use the lanes on the larger thoroughfares – the pavement had been better repaired.

But, other than that – it was a blast.

I became lost less often than I had predicted (only once) and arrived at Parkway an hour early. That gave me time for a quick ride around City Park and along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. City Park is beautiful and huge (though people tell me it is a shadow of its pre-Katrina glory) and Pontchartrain feels like an ocean shore.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

I didn’t have time to waste so I kept pedaling and still made it to Parkway before the festivities. I locked the bike out front until Candy and Lee arrived in the car – then all I had to do was fold it back up into the trunk.

Another advantage of the ride – that Shrimp Po’-Boy sure tasted extra good.

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

Xootr Swift – First Ride

Stock Xootr Swift - I only added the seat bag and bottle cage (click to enlarge)

Stock Xootr Swift – I only added the seat bag and bottle cage
(click to enlarge)

My Xootr Swift folder came out of the box and within a half-hour or so, was ready to go. The hardest part of putting it together was getting the packing paper off of the parts. I only had time for a quick run up and down the block before it became too dark.

So I did some work on getting my lights on the bike – which didn’t take too long. I sat down for a minute, put on a jacket, and then headed out into the night.

I had only intended to try the thing out, maybe once around the block. But you know how new things are. I’m not really into possessions – far from it – but a new bicycle… that’s different. Before I knew it I was at the end of the trail, four miles from home and I needed to get back. I had to be at work two hours early and here I was, in the middle of the night, on a bicycle too far from home. It was going to be a tough day tomorrow.

So far, I love the bike. It took a little getting used to – the small wheels are very responsive. But it is comfortable and fast. Like the reviews said, it is rock-solid.

So far I am very happy. And happy is a good thing to be.

Tomorrow, I’ll work on mounting the Crossrack and then start on thinking about the front derailleur kit. There is always more work to be done.

The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It simply pivots and folds in half - it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package - but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.

The basic fold on the Xootr Swift. It basically folds in half – and it only takes a few sconds. Not a tiny package – but small enough to make the bike more practical to transport or store.

I drive a tiny car - a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks).  I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I ways surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. The handlebar and stem come off with a quick release for a little extra space. Now I have a four-passenger car again.