Trip Log – Day 353 – Fort Worth TX to Dallas TX

to-dallasOctober 23, 2016 – Sun, 75 degrees

Miles Today: 49

Miles to Date: 18,421

States to Date: 45

The United States is emptier than most people think. When we drive freeways at rush hour, fill up mall parking lots on weekends, load warehouse goods in the morning, or descend on baseball stadiums for a night game, we populate places for a particular activity. We associate them with bustle and crowds. But there are hours, days, entire seasons when these places sit unused. The inevitable result of an environment cordoned into specialized zones in a nation of excess, if ill maintained, infrastructure.

I spent a Sunday pedaling from Fort Worth through Arlington, Grand Prairie and Irving to Dallas, aka The Metroplex. What does the fourth largest SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area) in our country (after New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) look like on a mild autumn afternoon? It’s mostly empty.

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Arlington is the sports and entertainment center of the Metroplex, home to Six Flags Over Texas, Ranger Stadium, and Cowboy Stadium. But the city’s main street is a former US Highway whose traffic has shifted to the nearby Interstate. What’s left are used car lots, repair garages, pawn shops, fried chicken in any shape, and budget motels.

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The industrial zone is a no man’s land.


Houses in Grand Prairie have designer grates that hide any life within.


On a perfect cycling afternoon, even the bike path in Irving is empty. Most Americans are watching their favorite football teams. The only humans I saw were Indians playing mad cricket.

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Downtown Dallas is full of vacuous plazas where groups of poor people huddle in shade and a guy with a megaphone barks the Gospel. I.M Pei’s City Hall is brutal modern architecture with the subversive message that government could topple and crush us. Another example that just because we have the technical capacity to build something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The First Baptist Church complex is also a hodgepodge of meaning. Yes, there’s a cross. But everything else looks mighty corporate to me.


I really loved the cattle sculpture stampeding through Pioneer Square. There were more of them than humans. Actually, I rather liked the entire day. I got to pedal through every kind of landscape: residential, civic, industrial, retail, natural, without having to bother with any people.

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Trip Log – Day 352 – Weatherford TX to Fort Worth TX

to-fort-worthOctober 22, 2016 – Sun, 75 degrees

Miles Today: 45

Miles to Date: 18,372

States to Date: 45

Pete Parsons, a Texas gal of supersize personality, has put me in touch with fascinating people all across my journey. She outdid herself in setting up a meeting with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, a cycling enthusiast and health advocate. Mayor Price and I met at the Blue Zones Project Festival at Bluebonnet Circle near Texas Christian University.

img_8081A number of cities across the United States have initiated Blue Zone Projects to encourage people to make choices that extend life and health according to the precepts of the world’s Blue Zones. There are about thirty communities in the US with active projects supported by local non-profits and foundations. Fort Worth is the largest city to fund a Blue Zones Project. The city monitored its relative health by several parameters before the project started, funded the initiative through 2018, and will assess them at the completion. The project works with individuals to take the ‘Blue Zone 9 pledge’, employers to incorporate movement and mental release in the work place, and educational groups to spread the message. Fort Worth hopes to become a designated Blue Zone City, for improving Blue Zone attributes (which is not the same as being a Blue Zone; that represent generations of behavioral traits).

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-4-49-05-pmSteve, my host for the night, took me to a feast of barbeque ribs, cheese biscuits and local beer with his Marine buddies. Not exactly Blue Zone food, but there was a pan of green beans for color and we passed around a salad, sort of like swilling the vermouth bottle over a martini. Patrick asked if I was Steve’s dad, so everyone called me dad all night. Ryan, who served with Steve in Iraq, is a founder of the Decentralized Dance Party movement. DDP orchestrates massive public dance parties; 63 cities around the world so far. Tonight we did something smaller but equally thrilling: banana pedaling through Fort Worth’s downtown.

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img_8093Three active duty marines, two retired jarheads, two girlfriends, and me slipped on banana suits, drove downtown, and rode our bikes through the city streets on a busy Saturday night. Dance tunes blared from the suitcase turned boom box strapped to Ryan’s bike. Fort Worthian’s high fived and fist pumped us as we slipped along the sidewalks, circled the convention center plaza, and sped down the ramps of Tarrant County College. We ran into a group of skateboarders in an empty parking garage, rode up to the top and careened down seven floors of concrete ramp. I was last in line when an elegant woman outside of Circle Theater asked if I was their chaperone.

img_8101Truth is, I did tire first. Despite the exhilaration of the night breeze and downtown lights, by midnight I was keen to hit the sack. The sound system broke down a half hour later. Ryan was bummed but I was ready to call it quits. We got to bed just before two. If the tunes kept flowing, who knows how long we would have cycled downtown Cowtown?

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Trip Log – Day 351 – Breckenridge TX to Weatherford TX

to-weatherfordOctober 21, 2016 – Sun, 75 degrees

Miles Today: 86

Miles to Date: 18,327

States to Date: 45

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-3-50-21-pmThe wind took a vacation day, and so I got one as well. Rare in this part of the world to have no wind, but incredibly easy to ride when the sky is calm.

Texas has perhaps the least bike-friendly drivers in our country. Riding in any city, from Port Arthur to El Paso to Muleshoe, is precarious as Texas streets paved concrete with integral curbs. There’s no place for me to be except in the traffic lane, which annoys the pickups. Fortunately, the highways are another story. Texas has wonderful highways, with wide shoulders and rumble strips. There’s plenty of space. Everyone gets along because we don’t have to interact. Robert Frost wrote that good fences make good neighbors. In Texas, distance makes good neighbors.


img_8058Mineral Wells is a peculiar place. The massive abandoned hotel from its early 20th century days of healing waters hovers over the near deserted downtown like a mirage from The Shining. East of town I came upon the National Vietnam War Museum, which is seriously less official than it sounds. Not a soul at the place, no staff, nothing. There’s a plywood replica of the Vietnam Memorial in DC, a stucco replica of a Vietnam camp’s honor wall, a helicopter with propellers fabricated in Mineral Wells, and well tended gardens. The big picture eluded me.

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img_8067Weatherford may possess the most attractive courthouse in a state whose 248 counties include many contenders. It sits on the axis of the city’s main streets and commands attention from all directions.

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Trip Log – Day 350 – Abilene TX to Breckenridge TX

to-breckenridgeOctober 20, 2016 – Sun, 75 degrees

Miles Today: 61

Miles to Date: 18,241

States to Date: 45

img_8021Grinding against the wind! The only constant is change. That applies to the wind as much as anything. It took me more hours to grind out fewer miles today, thanks to a wind shift that brought steady gales from the northeast. Still, it was a gorgeous autumn day and I had lots of time to savor the saving grass and golden sage flowing against me.


I am no longer in West Texas. The high plains gave way to brush and then creeks and finally across the causeway of a big reservoir; more water than I’ve seen in a month. I was happy to pedal up the last long hill and see my motel. A bucket of fresh ice, a hot shower, can almost make a body forget about the wind. Almost.

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Trip Log – Day 349 – Snyder TX to Abilene TX

to-abileneOctober 19, 2016 – Sun, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 77

Miles to Date: 18,188

States to Date: 45


Flying with the wind! I pedaled through the largest wind turbine farm of my trip today, hundreds of turbines north of Roscoe spread out for more than ten miles. While they generated energy, I made time. A mid-morning wind shift that gave me a tail boost all day; I arrived in Abilene by 2:30 p.m.


I had plenty of motivation to ride so fast. My host Cara, a designer and local artist, invited me to participate in a design charrette, downtownABI, where over a hundred people weighed in on how to improve the city’s core. Depending on your point of view I was either a ringer, since I’ve done dozens of similar exercises; or an interloper, since I’d been in Abilene all of three hours before the event began. Still, my impressions of the city were positive since Laura Lee, Cara’s mom and co-host, gave me a tour in her 1966 Mustang convertible.

img_8034Downtown Abilene has seen better days, but it has more going for it than most small city downtowns: a handful of beautifully restored buildings, a linear green space along the railroad, whimsical sculptures that reflect Abilene’s home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, and a handful of cool new bars and restaurants. Abilene is half the size of Lubbock, but it’s got twice the downtown.

img_8037After the charrette we all ate and drank at Vagabond’s and then continued our far-ranging discussion at home well past midnight. The people I meet make places memorable; Abilene etched a generous niche in my mind.

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Trip Log – Day 348 – Slaton TX to Snyder TX

to-snyderOctober 18, 2016 – Sun, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 75

Miles to Date: 18,111

States to Date: 45

Any day that starts with two mugs of black coffee and two helpings of sour cream and Sprite biscuits baked in a butter basted iron skillet heaped with sausage gravy is going to be a good day. My longtime West Texas friend and overnight host Leanne is a phenomenal cook.

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It’s cotton harvest time on the South Plains. Modern-day cotton pickers are GPS guided machines that remove the bolls off the plant and mechanically separate the seeds, hulls, and lint. One farmer told me, “I just sit there and play on my tablet, then turn around at the end of the field.”

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The plains end abruptly at the caprock. The earth drops 300 feet within a mile. I’m back in the land of sage and buttes, riverbeds, and oil wells. Despite the strong wind, the air is thick and stinks of tar. Post displays a sense of humor on its wells. The town’s founder, cereal magnate C.W. Post, spent over $50,000 in the early 1900’s trying to dynamite the atmosphere to produce rain. To this day, not much falls.

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The string of windmills that line the edge of Llano Estacado remind me of Calvary, in a land where Christian crosses are plentiful.

img_7991Snyder, Texas may have the single most inappropriate piece of architecture I’ve seen on my journey. A box of courthouse proportion sits in the middle of the town square. Its granite facade has no windows – none. On the center of each face is an entry door guarded by three security cameras. A brutal interpretation of ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.’

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Trip Log – Day 347 – Lubbock TX to Slaton TX

to-slatonOctober 17, 2016 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 27

Miles to Date: 18,036

States to Date: 45

Llano Estacado, the Palisaded Plains, also known as the Staked Plains because early Spanish explorers drove stakes to mark their route through the featureless grassland, has been geologically stable for ten million years. Larger than the state of Indiana, this flat land in western Texas and eastern New Mexico tips ever so slightly to the southeast. The Commanches called it ‘the place where nobody is.’ People passed through it for thousands of years; water was available from a series of springs that follow a line from present-day Lubbock to Portales NM. But nobody lived here permanently until the 1880’s, and meaningful settlement didn’t occur until after the First World War, when we developed mechanical methods for drawing water from the Ogallala aquifer.

img_7961To get an idea how flat this place is, consider that I have not crossed a bridge in five days. There are no rivers, even dry ones, on the Llano Estacado.

In less than a hundred years this area has become home to over a million people and an abundant source of cotton, sunflowers, sorghum, and watermelon. Lubbock is the defacto capital of Llano Estacado, home to a quarter million people, major hospitals, Texas Tech University, railroad hubs, and epicenter of rockabilly musical talent.

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On a Monday afternoon, downtown Lubbock is a windblown, lonely place. But its most famous son stands tall against the West Texas Music Walk of Fame. Buddy Holly in his thick glasses. That’ll be the Day.

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