Thursday, March 17, 2022

Odds and Ends II

 Couple of quick thoughts.


As part of the Houston Citywide Cleanup, Neighborhoods to Trails Southwest (NTTSW) and Friends of Keegans Bayou will sponsor two cleanup sites Saturday,April 2, along Keegans Bayou.  10:00-12:00

Those working in the area between BW 8 and Wilcrest may either bike in, or drive and and park at Archer Collision Center, 11107 Southwest Fwy, North Bound frontage road.    We have been asked to keep the gate clear, in case a wrecker needs access.

Those working Keegans Bayou between S Gessner and Riceville Cemetery should plan on parking behind Fiesta Market.   We will start there.   I have not asked permission from Fiesta yet, but will early next week.

Volunteers should bring gloves and grabbers and sturdy shoes.   If you have big trash bags, please bring them.

Please email dannagel1@att.net or text 281-799-2673 to give us a headcount.   No  messenger pigeons, please, my pigeon flew the coop!

Dan Nagel

Self-Appointed third Assistant Resident Gadfly, NTTSW

Next thought:

You may know that my granddaughter is a barista at her neighborhood coffee cafe.  As Papa Dan, it is my job to provide an endless stream of "dad jokes" to include picking on all those people who order a Frappuccino with soy, turbinado sugar, a twist, and make sure the coffee is grown in America.    OK, you can tell I never order coffee.

But it suddenly hit me as I was fixing my iced tea:  decaf, infused mint, two yellow sugars, squeeze of fresh lemon and a shot of sugar-free raspberry syrup.    Yep, I'm trying to hide the taste of tea, just like the millennials are hiding the taste of coffee!    What's with that?



Monday, March 7, 2022

Double Standard

I'm going to invoke Arsenio Hall for a moment.   Sometimes you look at something and just go .......Hmmmmmmm!!!

I'm a 69 year old fat guy with diabetes and other problems.    I am noticing more and more, that pretty women are asking me very personal questions every day, like what is my phone number, my birthday, and one young lady at my doctor's office always wants to know my weight.    Even beautiful voices on the phone, like at my financial institutions ask me a lot of personal questions.    One even wanted to know my Mother's maiden name, and where my father met my mother!   (If you are really not getting it, these are my backup security questions!)

If I ever started asking these pretty ladies the same questions, I am sure I would be ushered into an office where some serious looking supervisor would tell me how inappropriate my comments are.   


So what is with that?


Hmmmmmm



Monday, February 21, 2022

Whistling Ducks

 

I came upon a large flock of Black Bottomed Whistling Ducks last month, in the most unlikely place.   Keegans Bayou, between Wilcrest and US 59.    The trail is dirt, the bayou is littered with partially submerged shopping carts, and the scenic back drop is the backs of a small strip center.    Yet, here were a large flock of ducks!    I recognize them as the ones you can spot all spring with their ducklings, trying to find their way to the bayou, because momma laid her eggs in my neighborhood without looking to see where the water is.    

I stop here to apologize for not having a picture from that day; I took a video that is too long to upload, and my tech savvy won’t let me edit a few frames.   I did find a shot from last Spring.  They have orange beaks and make more of whistle than a quack.


   Anyways, the ducks have moved on, but I expect them back this Spring.    When you see them leading their families along the bayou, don’t marvel too much at the size of the family.    Momma could be leading 24 ducklings – They are not all hers!    Right out of Dr Seuss, other Whistling Ducks are apt to lay their eggs in a nest that is already occupied!  Apparently, Duck-ologists (I made that up) have documented a nest of 100 eggs.    I don’t have my source, but talk to our friend Google for more info.    A nice thing about this part of Keegans Trail, in the South East corner of Alief, is the lush tree cover from which you can marvel at God’s creatures.    Don’t bother the campers who live under the freeway, they have never bothered me.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Odd and Ends



The Chimney Rock and S Rice bridges over Brays Bayou are almost complete, but only almost  Trying to ride a bike through the construction is interesting because even the trail detours have trail detours!  Don't know how much longer until the barricades come down, but at Chimney Rock, I would aim for Subway.   You can get a sandwich, but I had more in mind that heading South on Chimney Rock, you might go through the Subway parking lot, and if you need to cross the bridge from the West (good luck), hit the parking lot of the former HEB.   As you approach Subway, you will see a nice path right next to Chimney Rock.   Avoid construction equipment and take that across the bayou.

We cyclists are often asked why we ride.   My favorite, tried and true answer is "I ride for my health.   It's great exercise."   We say that with a straight face.   My favorite bit of nonsense is that we ride to decrease our carbon footprint.   OK.  Wait.   Huh?   Next you will say "totally tubular!"   Come on.   The real reason we ride is we are looking for something to eat, and we want the family to think we are so noble!    I offer Exhibit A.    3 Brothers Bakery on S Braeswood just West of Stella Link.   There is a City Ordinance that all cyclists must stop and buy at least a cookie!   Stay away from the BearClaw, unless you have 3 friends you can share it with.   Leftover BearClaw makes a mess in the saddle bag!


Now, for those who are nostalgic about 40-50 years ago, when Der Wienerschnitzel was in Houston - get on your bike at ArchBishop Fiorenza Park (Eldrdge Parkway by West Park Toll Road),  Your family will think you are getting fit.   Sure.   Ride West.   As you go around one of the man-made hills, you will see a parking lot.   Leave the park, turn left and ride to Highway 6.   Cross at the light, get your hot dogs or Polish Sandwich (my comfort food!) and you can be back in the park before your family misses you.   Puff and pant to let them know how hard you are working out!   For those who think I jest; from my house to Der Wienerschnitxel and back, on neighborhood streets, and the park, is 14 miles!    For a Polish Sandwich.   Worth every mile!   By the way, get ready to scratch your head, one of the menu boards lists "VEGGIE DOGS"    What is the world coming to>



At last week's meeting of Neighborhoods to Trails Southwest (NTTSW) we had a rather spirited discussion about the dangers lurking along the trail, specifically, where Keegans Trail crosses South Braeswood, and the weird way Brays Bayou Trail crosses the bayou at South Gessner.   We all know the average Houstonian wants nothing more than to pain a little silhouette of your bike just under the driver's window on that F-150 (I watch too many war movies), but here is a thought.   Keegans trail, at least Eastbound, has a stop sign directed at cyclists.   Now it's just a thought, but why don't we bikers follow traffic laws, as well as we expect motorists?   STOP.    look both ways.   Its not a blind intersection.    Don't play Frogger, wait for the traffic to clear, pedal to the median, and watch for traffic again.    I ride there about once a week.   I don't think the motorist is under any obligation to stop for us.    I think NTTSW is going to petition the city, county, state, the Empire, to erect something so we bikes can ride through this crossing.  OK, but in the meantime?    People - Houstonians think stop lights are only a suggestion.   As cyclists, we need to assume they want to hit us.    Don't be a target. 


And finally, this is my second blog post this week.   I have two more in draft form.   I you enjoy them, please comment at the bottom of the post, so that I may get the idea someone reads this mush.

 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Restrooms Along Brays Bayou Trail


For those of us who have been saying that we won’t live long enough to see the Brays Bayou Greenways Trail completed, let’s get our affairs in order, because the contractor is about to break ground!   Survey stakes marking the center of the pathway are going in now.  Brays Trail will be extended West from Braeburn Glen Park to Arthur Storey Park (west of Beltway 8) and then will continue West through Alief all the way to Eldridge Parkway.   The trail already meanders through ArchBishop Fiorenza Park and continues across Hwy 6 to the headwaters of Brays (not to be confused with the headwaters of the Nile, but that is another story!).   


One of the agencies that operate the trail got ahead of itself..   There has been, for several years now, a sign on Brays Trail, at South Gessner, pointing to Arthur Storey Park.    OK, so sign painting is a little less intensive than bull dozing and pouring concrete.    Along that line, let me offer a tour of restrooms to be found along the trail, including that part that has yet to be constructed.


I am a 69 year old, fat diabetic on a bicycle.   I make it a point to know where the closest restroom is, at all times.


Following the bayou almost to the ship channel, Mason Park offers restrooms in the community center.   The park itself is a very nice place to play and relax with friends and family.   Several miles upstream is MacGregor Park.   It also has a community center, but I have never found it open.   There are clean porta-potties in the parking lot.   There is also a B-Cycle station there.


Hermann Park has a number of restrooms, but the one closest to the Brays Trail is on Almeda on the East edge of the park.    Cross the Bill Coats bridge, take the Columbia Tap trail South to Dixie.   A very pleasant detour.


I have not found another public restroom for some distance, but many of us believe there is a city ordinance requiring all cyclists to stop at 3 Brothers Bakery, 3036 South Braeswood and buy a Hamantaschen, a delicious cookie shaped like a three-cornered hat.Everything else is good, but very filling!   Once you buy a cookie, you can use the restroom without guilt!


West of 610 Loop, construction is wrapping up on the South Rice and Chimney Rock bridges.  I estimate that the trail will be whole again this Spring.


Stein Family Park is a hidden gem, across the bayou next to United African Seventh Day Adventist Church on Brays Bayou Drive.   Clean restroom, about 20 parking spaces.   



Braeburn Glen Park, at the current Western end of Brays Bayou Trail. I think there are restrooms by the tennis courts


Now, assuming you are adventuresque, or don’t mind driving, Arthur Storey Park is one of the more used parks in Southwest Houston, located just South of the Home Depot, on Beltway 8.   Restroom is at the entrance to the park.


All the way West, and a wonderful gem of a park, is ArchBishop Fiorenza Park.   I am talking about the one West of Eldridge Parkway.  Restroom.   Extensive system of trails, in and outside the park.   There is a short stretch of trail on either side of the bayou, just Northeast of the park.   


I don't claim these are the only restrooms along the trail, but, aside from the bakery, all are open to the public. With the exception of Mason Park, I have used all these restrooms.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Archbishop Fiorenza Park



Main area with parking lot

 It was a beautiful, overcast and cool morning, so I headed Northwest from my house, not that easy when you are avoiding main roads.   I did a lot of right-left-right, etc turns from neighborhood to neighborhood and only spent two blocks on Synott (my wife pronounces it snot, go figure) before turning into Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park, located on West Park, between Hwy 6 and Eldridge Parkway.  This is one of many nice parks in Alief.

One of my e-maps shows the Southern trails to be future, but all trails exist and are asphalt and fairly smooth.    There are two man-made hills here, my 7 speed Schwinn and I avoided them, but I guess you can get a workout if you want one.    There are also exercise stations along the trail, Dan was doing well just to pedal!   Maybe next time!



Archbishop Fiorenza Park is part of Brays Bayou.  It and several other parks West of Beltway 8 have been built to give Brays Bayou a place to rest during flood events so that my friends down stream don't get flooded so often.   Brays Bayou crosses under Hwy 6 and flows into the lake that the park was built around.   A trail branches off from the park, goes under the highway and follows Brays Bayou West for some distances.   I will take this trail some other time.

At a scenic spot on the back end of the park, I found this swinging bench.   I tried to get a selfie, but I guess I am too old for selfies!   It's rather comfy!

The parking lot, playground, and clean restroom are on Westpark Dr, just West of Eldridge Parkway.   This might be a good place to park and ride, if you want to continue on to McClendon Park and even farther.   Bring your own water.   Both water stations I saw were out-of-service.

This might be a good time to discuss who runs this park.   Harris County Precint 3  is responsible for parks all over West Harris County.  Because of gerrymandering, Precint 3 is also responsible for Brays Bayou Greenway Trail from Gessner to the railroad tracks west of Stella Link    Other agencies who also control parts of these trails include Precinct  1, which has a small sliver just west of Gessner, and a good bit of trail east of the railroad tracks. The City of Houston (Keegans Bayou) and probably other groups I have not seen.

Steve Radack, commissioner of Precinct 3, has more constituents (population) than the governors of about 10 states.   He has almost total control of the budget for roads, bridges and parks in our precinct.   See www.pct3.com     An interesting fact is that our state constitution established that each county (I have visited all 254) is governed by 4 county commissioners and a county judge, regardless of size or population.   Loving County has about 100 residents, Harris County about 4.7 million!  Go figure.

   Commissioner Steve Radack has been in office for three decades.    His name is on park signs and county structures all over West Harris County.   At www.pct3.com, I found parks, dog parks, trails, community centers and two senior centers.   All carry his name.  An older park, just across the street from "Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza Park" is "Bishop Joseph Fiorenza Park", and the sign was cast of concrete,   I guess, long before Steve Radack was elected, because his name is not there!The park page on the pct3 site shows this as phase I with the bigger park as phase II.  A sign that I wonder about are the numerous signs that warn of alligators!   Maybe why they say no swimming.

Two other places, that Dan thinks SHOULD have Mr. Radack's name on it, are the signs at the toll booths announcing a toll of $1.75, and in front of the empty Astrodome, but now I'm just bellyaching!   Mr. Radack was responsible for a world class soap box derby track, and a permanent home for Houston Area Live Steamers (HALS.org)  in Zube Park.  Mr. Radack is not running again, so I wish him well.

My ride in the park was very nice.   The  trail is patched asphalt and is not near as wide as the more heavily traveled main trail along Braeswood from Gessner to Mason Park, but was scenic and restful.   Next time, I think I will drive there and bike farther west along a part of Brays I have never seen. 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Riding East from MacGregor Park

 My friend Don and I drove over to MacGregor Park, off of MLK Blvd and just South of University of Houston.  We took the bikes down from the car and headed East.    Note to everyone:  MacGregor Park offers parking right by the trail.  Also available are restrooms (presently clean porta-potties), water, and A B-Cycle station, so if you want to rent a bike, you certainly can.   This portion of Brays Bayou Greenway Trail is fairly new; Google maps still show bare earth in many places.   I wanted to see this first hand as the trail dips down under the Metro line and does a cloverleaf up and over the bayou to a beautiful entrance to University of Houston.   By the way, right by the corner of UH is the fifth air pump/bike maintenance post that I have seen on Brays Trail.    Air the tires before you go much farther.  This is a great idea, and I imagine this is part of our tax dollars at work, but it, and the occasional water stations, sure make for a nicer ride.

We were curious, as several of my online maps, and the city's trail map, show several points on the trail, that go under road bridges, to be closed for construction.   The suggested detour is over 3 miles long and takes one along Hwy 90a (Wayside) North of Gus Wortham Golf Course before you get a chance to get back to the trail.   Now, I am a law abiding citizen (mostly) and I have been known to do what I am told, but as a Texan, if you don't want me to drive down a perfectly good road, you better dump a load of dirt in my way or dig a big hole, or both, or I am going right around all those "road closed" barriers, which I did.    

The first signs, around Telephone Road were bypassed, with no adverse affects.   There was no construction (on the way back I could see piles of dirt, etc on top of the bridge, so.....) and we sailed right along.    This part of the bayou looks rather natural, not a lot of concrete embankments and a serious effort is being made to grow native grasses.

The second set of barriers was a different story.   The Lawndale bridge over the bayou has been torn down and construction really is ongoing.   Did that stop us?   Nope.   We took a short detour left, then crossed Lawndale, intending to follow it West and around the golf course, but we spotted a family going around the construction on the other side of the street, so we bumped over a little dirt and followed them back to the pathway.   Not crowded (many people minded the signs, I guess)  and we rode on to Mason Park.   There are two bridges that will take you to the South side of the bayou and to Mason Park.   This is an old city park (est 1929) and actually has something that resembles terrain!  One of the bridges has a dedicated bike lane, the other is an architecturally interesting foot bridge.   We biked to what is truly the end of the trail..    A railroad trestle stands in the way, but work is being done to rebuild the railroad and extend the trail several hundred feet to a final section of the trail that is pretty much not accessible at this time.

So, with just a little caution, you really can ride from Braeburn Glen Park off of Gessner (parking) all the way to Mason Park    One more piece of the trail, and we really will be able to ride all the way to Buffalo Bayou!    And, I read that work should start this year (sure it will) on the Brays trail Northwest of Bissonnet, on to Arthur Storey Park, and maybe, on to Hwy 6 (several parks along the way already).

This is a well maintained trail, a little bit of ups and downs (as a 67 year old fat boy, I need to learn how to effectively use these gears!) and the scenery is quite nice.    I am pretty sure the bayou at this point is either brackish, or its salt water, as this ditch empties into the ship channel in about a mile, which would put this at sea level.     I saw one spot marked as a place to launch a canoe.   

Here, in the midst of a great urban area, and close to the super-busy ship channel, you can still see nature.   Wildlife


and not so wildlife.