Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Bike buddies

 I may have a new bike buddy.   Not trying to replace Don, my Saturday bike buddy, but as a fully retired guy, I find I have room in my schedule to ride several times a week.

Jerry is new to the Brays Bayou area, but has lots of cycling experience.   He told me he wanted a 10 mile ride, no more than 8-9 miles an hour.   Great.   I'm there.   We ended up with 12 miles, but we enjoyed the ride.   I enjoy the company, and Jerry liked having someone who knows the route.  I also find, for good, or bad, that when I ride with someone, my rest breaks are not as long as when I ride alone.

One of the things we talked about was the possibility of putting together routes that can be shared with others, especially those new to cycling, or new to an area.   He was also interested in how easy it is to use a B Cycle.   I guess I need to learn a few more features of my Under Armour bike App.   It says I can share my maps, but I have been hesitant to share.

Those who like to bike on Keegans Bayou Trail should be aware that the flood control people are reworking Keegans Bayou, probably for the next little while, between Southwest Fwy and Dairy Ashford.   There is a lot of dirt piling up just off of Dairy Ashford, and the trail itself, between the freeway, and Kirkwood will also be affected.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Back to the Beginning

 If you have recently discovered my rambling thoughts on Houston B Cycle and the almost-over Tour de Bicycle, and don't quite understand what is going on, let me suggest that you scroll down to September 25.   It was just a month ago, and I did give an overview of the fun, but no one seems to have read it.

And (Ms Northen, English III, told me to never start a sentence with 'And"), as you are reading any of these posts, I remind you that part of social media, is being "social".    At the end of each post, there is a place to comment.   Please.    I know someone is there, because my view meter says something like 30 people peeked at this blog, but its been a while since anyone offered a comment.   Agree, disagree, tell me how you did it, share your thoughts on the crazy idea of riding all over Houston looking for a geeky bike with a basket.   By the way, I now look for the biggest basket, so I don't have to WEAR my backpack.

Hermann Park Conservancy will sponsor its 8th annual Park to Port Ride Saturday, November 5, 7:30am at the Bill Coats bridge.    About 20 mile ride to Mason Park and back.   Last year, it was about the most organized thing I went to .


Will I see you there?

Monday, October 24, 2022

Uptown and Memorial Park


One of the challenges of bicycling as well as B Cycling, is getting to the start point, if you live some distance away.  I have gotten pretty good at taking Park & Ride buses down Southwest Freeway to downtown and the Medical Center, and then getting on my own bike, or using a B Cycle, but how the heck can you get to the Post Oaks and 4 Oaks Station in Up Town?

I am very leary of parking in Houston.   Commercial Park garages charge too much, and most store parking lots have signs that threaten to tow me away if I am not a customer.   One of my favorite group of videos on YouTube are the tow truck videos (GTOGER) where idiots who ignore the numerous signs, come back to find they must pay $150 if they want their car back.

What to do then?   Well, in Uptown, there is the Silver Line.   This is a bus that acts like a Metro Rail train, with it's own dedicated roadway, and stations, but without the massive cost of  overhead power and tracks.   I parked at the Lower Uptown station on West Park and took this novelty.   Do not be afraid of the fact it's a bus, I was almost the only rider.   The bus took me right to the 4 Oaks station area.    Stopped at one of the nicer McDonald's for a fish sandwich, and then crossed the street to look for the B Cycle Station.    Aah, someone is getting sneaky!   The app said there were four bike, and not only were there NOT four bikes, slots 10, 11, and 15, that showed bikes, the slots didn't exist!    What the......?   I looked around for a few minutes, and found the rest of the station a block away!    Don't I have enough trouble with technology?

Got me an E Bike and headed North East, following Uptown Park Blvd right to the Loop frontage road, where I turned left onto an almost hidden, but very smooth concrete trail that took me North to Woodway, where I crossed under 610 Loop and entered Memorial Park.   Full separation from car traffic, put the brain in neutral and cruise!   I soon found myself at the Living Bridge and a B Cycle station.   The Living Bridge makes about 3/4 of a circle up and over Memorial Drive, then falls prey to construction detours.   That's OK, I had nothing  else to do.   

I followed a very nice dirt/crushed gravel trail that followed the Memorial Loop Dr, a fair piece until I found a legal way to cross loop drive and headed back South where I picked up an East Bound trail that took me around the Land Bridge construction and almost out of the park before it would let me cross Memorial and go to the MP Picnic Loop, where another bike station is.    Continue West on the trail.

Right in the middle of Houston, it looks like they are recreating the prairie that once was here.   The city planners, I guess they miss their Tonka Trucks,  are constructing two land bridges over

Memorial Drive and I hope eventually there will be cool trails over them.   But right now, I kept going west until  I encountered the trail that parallels the railroad.   A bonus today was two trains heading south at the same time.   I will tell you the first one was going to Sugarland Business Park, because I have chased that one so often, that I know these things!

I got back on the Memorial Drive trail and headed back to Uptown, with a minor trip down South Post Oak lane.   Total distance on the bike: 7.19 miles, but I could have done a shorter trip into the park.

If you take your own bike on public transportation, remember:   Silver Line and Metro Rail, take the bike into the train.    standard city bus, put it on the rack on the front of the bus (there are only three steps and they are numbered!), and there is a rack under Park and Ride buses where you can slide your bike.   I would drop the seat before stashing.

And a final thought, it took me a long time of experimenting, but if I insert the pictures first, I can type around them and put the text next to the right image.    I can be taught, but it is very messy.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Texas Medical Center by Bicycle and a final Evening ride

 Wednesday, October 19.

I actually went by Bill Coats Bridge the other day, but its a cool bridge.

I drove to Hermann Park and grabbed a bike.   I visited B Cycle Stations South of Brays Bayou last Saturday, so today I just had to mop it up.   I have been joking that riding a bike in Houston is like playing Frogger.   The real game can be played in the Medical Center, at any Metro Station!   Try to cross lanes of traffic, only to find there is a train in your way, and there is no median of safety between the train and the car lanes!   But, none of the 257 ambulances in that area were for me!

A few blocks South East of the Metro, in the part of TMC where patients don't venture, is something called the Commons.   A food court with water wall on the outside!

Thursday evening, I was back in Hermann Park for a group ride through the Museum District.   It was a short ride, four stations.   We went past most of the more popular museums.

Our group consisted of about 7 young people (I'll guess around 20-30 yrs old) and me, who will turn 70 in November.   During introductions, one young man, after 3 weeks of riding, has four points.   I was feeling smug, until I realized it's not the age that makes a difference, it's the time!   I am fully retired and have made myself available up to three times a week.   I can take public transportation to Downtown and TMC and I have not been worried about getting to work on time.   So, time definitely makes a difference!  Which doesn't explain the first two gentlemen who finished this treasure hunt in two weeks!   My bike helmet is off to them.

So, anyways, I finished!   Mary tells me I get all sorts of SWAG, including the right to name a bike.  I don't do flashy nicknames, and my dog Cocoa really doesn't resonate with anyone but me, so I think I will ask for "DAN, THE MAN".    Many, in and out of my circle, seem surprised I did the Tour de Bicycle    Even more question WHY I did this biking exercise.   I'll tell you.   It was there, and I thought I just might be able to do it.  I saw interesting parts of Houston, previously unexplored by Nagel eyes.

Here is a thought for all of us.   I saw a number of people trying to figure out how to check out a bike, while those of us on this scavenger hunt would pull out our phone, or the cute little key fob, and be on our way in seconds.    Could we establish a volunteer group who would hang out at a couple of busy stations, like Centennial Park, or by the Zoo Train, with brochures, and a friendly offer of help?   If the first ride is frustrating, there may not be a second ride.   We might even suggest a couple of routes.   Give me a B Cycle T-Shirt, and a clipboard, and people will assume I know what I'm doing.

Here is one more thing before I change subjects:   Any time I had trouble with the station technology, I called the service desk.    Even if Daisy (also known to me as Angel) couldn't answer the phone, if I left a message and/or emailed her, my station problems were resolved very quickly.  The staff tell me that many of my fellow riders would yell at Daisy if things didn't go well.   Not nice at all.   It's not like we are on bikes that cost $20 and hour, a monthly pass is what?, $15?    Daisy kept me from getting stranded in some pretty isolated areas.   I met her last week, she is just as sweet as she sounds.

On to my exciting news!

I went riding in Alief (Southwest Houston) yesterday.   My ultimate goal was Der Wienerschnitzel on Hwy 6, but I'll tell you I was riding to see how the Brays Bayou Extension is doing.   Without crossing any construction barriers, I was able to ride 1.3 miles East from Arch Bishop Fiorenza Park, on eight foot wide concrete trail, with underpasses at Eldridge and Synott!   Serious work is being done all the way past Wilcrest.   It is very possible that Summer of next year, I will get an opportunity to ride from South of Addicks Dam, all the way East to the Ship Channel!  There is a great spot where Broadway meets Harrisburg Blvd, to look out across the ship channel and see ocean-going vessels up close and personal! 

Looking East from Synott Rd in Southwest Houston

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Midtown by B Cycle

 Again, I am running behind on my posts.   This trip actually happened Monday, October 17.

I took the Park & Ride bus up Louisiana and got off around the Pierce Elevated.   YMCA let me use the restroom.    Hey, I'm almost 70, I don't pass up many opportunities.  My first intended stop was behind Randalls, but was out of service, so it good that I started at YMCA.   Then I started meandering around Midtown, defined, apparently, by B Cycle, as East of Spur 527, South of Pierce Elevated, West of 288, and North of 59, except for Peggy Park, which became my bridge to Texas Southern University.  Was that sentence too long for you?

I read the Historical Marker in the middle of Midtown.    Way back when, the state fairgrounds were here, with a baseball park and a racetrack, at the edge of the prairie that marked the end of Houston!   I enjoy the murals that have been constructed all over town.   I very much like the idea that most of them remain undisturbed by vandalism.

Houston Community College has their main campus here in Midtown, near the old Sears building, which is now The Ion

Columbia Tap Trail is one of my favorite Hike and Bike trails.   It goes from the soccer stadium, through TSU (my destination) across Brays Bayou, and ends at Dixie Road where a short ride will put you on the east edge of Hermann Park, and the Bill Coates Bridge.   This is one of Houston's Rails to Trails.   Years ago the railroad ran from about downtown, to West Columbia, on the Brazos.  "Tap" is a railroad term meaning the line was usually owned by the industries (sugar and cotton) that it served, and letting these industries tap into the main trunk line.   I enjoy rails to trails because of the lack of hills for my 70 year old knees. 

Had to take my picture because this station ate my bike!  Mary, at B Cycle will give you credit for out of service stations, if you show were actually there.  No need to notarize and certify.

Texas Southern University is a beautiful campus, fairly compact, and with five bike stations.   You can be at University of Houston in about 5 minutes, and at Hermann Park in about 15.   But TSU seems to be a much slower pace than UH, and also is not near as crowded.

Hermann Park has wonderful bike trails, Bill Coats Bridge, and the kiddy railroad.   It tried to rain pretty much all day, which kept the crowds away.   

Rice University is full of the super intelligent students, although they didn't LOOK any smarter than me.  Maybe one of them knows what this sculpture represents!

I finished up and went back by Memorial Hermann to catch the Park & Ride.   One of my fellow commuters had his bicycle, and I watched him load it in the compartment under the bus.   I had tried this last week, and maybe I read the instructions too carefully, because this guy literally threw his bike onto the rack and then slammed the rack shut!   And it fit!

We are getting very close to the 153rd B Cycle Station!

Eastwood Home Tour

 I'm getting behind on my postings.   Part of the problem is I still haven't figured the most efficient way to move photos from my iPhone, to the computer, and to Blogger.   Se, for right now, I may leave pictures off, so come back in a few days, and I promise (pinky swear) to post photos.

After church on Sunday, October 16, I headed to Greater East End, as B Cycle calls it, or Eastwood as the civic association knows it.   Old neighborhood, crossed by Polk, Telephone and Lockwood.   This is an area I have been through with the Tour de Bicycle this month, and the paper had an article last week about a home show.    1935 is a common build date.   Some architect converted the old Church of the Redeember into 45 affordable units, and four of them were available to see.   A challenge for the remodel was that this is on the historic register, so the exterior couldn't be changed, which made things interesting in that the original sanctuary lacked windows.   The new design is interesting, and I had a nice conversation with one of the residents who did 85% of his decorating from Goodwill, etc.   I liked it.

One house was stripped to the studs, and is now quite the contemport home, while another has left most of the 1935 character, while totally modernizing bathrooms and the kitchen.    

Those of trying to complete the B Cycle Tour de Insanity will appreciate this:    I hit Greater East Side five different times to complete this neighborhood!   Last Thursday I took my siblings on a bike ride through there, stopping at several stations.   At one point, I must have zigged where I should have zagged, because I was still missingTelephone @ Eddington, which, it turns out, is right across the street from registration for the home tour.   I rode around the parking lot, and put an X next to it on my neighborhood list.   

This is neighborhood I knew nothing about prior to the tour. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Inner Loop Southwest, and other sins

 Saturday morning's outing proves that the good people who placed these B Cycle stations, never gave any thought to crazy people trying to bike from one to another in some crazy game.  But this is my biking area, so I figured it was high time to knock it out, even though my biking buddy stood me up, again!   This time it was lame excuse like being on call, and getting assigned four jobs Saturday Morning.   Several times in the past two months, he has thrown me over because his wife wanted to go somewhere, and once he cancelled on me so he could go see his Mommy!   Talk about misplaced priorities!   Not sure this Bromance is gonna make it!

Anyways, I often ride down Keegans and Brays Bayou Trails.   I have actually gone as far as MacGregor Park (and took a bus back!), so this is my territory.    I started at the Meyerland Jewish Community Center Station, parked my car in the neighborhood, and grabbed a bike.    The Bayou bridges at Chimney Rock and South Rice are almost completed.   Workers are now playing with temporary water pipes and have been spraying grass seed on the banks of the bayou.

Before you get to S. Braeswood and Linkmeadow B Cycle station, be sure to stop at 3 Brothers Bakery.  I am certain there is a city ordinance that all bikes must stop for hammentaschen!   At Linkmeadow, I managed to grab an E Bike, which made my left knee very happy.   I consulted a map and headed almost straight to NRG park.   I went through the parking lot to the north of the stadium, to get to the station on Fannin.   Stop in the park and enjoy the rodeo-themed sculptures. I guess this is what they bought with the profits from all-things-deep-fried!.

Texas Medical Center is bigger than anything I ever imagined, and this little trip made it bigger.   I rode through UT student housing, saw an olympic sized pool in use, and watched people play cricket in a paved parking lot!   They had to dodge streetlights as part of the game.

I thought I would take a shortcut through the VA hospital grounds.  Note to self, not all gates are open on Saturday morning!  

I was dictating notes on my iPhone, at the TMC Innovation station on Holcombe, when a young couple stopped at the station to check-in, check-out, wax-on, wax-off just like all of us are doing.  Not sure if it was the dictation, or the image of me on a bicycle, but one of them asked me if I was "the guy that blogs!"   Wow, I have been validated.   Someone really is reading this stuff!

A further note on this station.   The upcoming Park-to-Port ride will probably offer this parking lot as an option, it IS the closest lot to the starting point of the ride, but while it was handy, and easy to get into, when all of us tried to leave the parking lot at once, I spent 30 minutes in line.   I'm going to park by the Zoo.

It was decision time - do I stay South of the bayou, finish my stations, or do I head across Hermann Park for several more hours?   I headed home, which was good, because this smooth ride was about to be interrupted.

The station at Bertner and Braeswood is BEHIND the building, and you drive under the building to get there!  Sneaky

I took my E bike to Smith Lands and pushed it into the slot.   The station grabbed the bike, but would not admit it had said bike.   Since it has not recognized the incoming bike, it would not let me have another bike, and the clock was ticking on my E Bike rental.   I called Daisy, but apparently she was trying to help 20 other riders, so I pulled out my Metro bus card and climbed on Metro Rail, heading home.   Soon, however, Daisy at the Service Desk, got my message and reset my account, so I grabbed a bike at TMC transit station and finished my trip.  I have said this before, the technology may not be perfect, but the B Cycle staff are!  

At one station, I met a mother with a three year old, both on the B Cycle.   Seems she had a URider child seat that quickly attaches to the seat tube and then rests on the main down frame.   the kid has a seat, a front handle, and basically rides between Mom's knees.   I did find it on Amazon.   I saw how she had it mounted, and believe a bungee cord would help stabilize the front of the frame.   Mom told me she had just returned from the grocery store!

This is Cocoa and me.   I decided if I get to name a bike, I will name it for her.

I have lots more to say, but I need to go to the store.   Next posts will cover Sunday and Mondy, October 16 and 17.