Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Commute Up Mt. Oread

Fraser Hall atop Mt. Oread at the University of Kansas.

After I returned from my Tucson trip, I was able to work one more day at my part-time, temporary job up at KU. All the guys I worked with knew that I was working hard to get a full-time professional position--so when my ship came in they were happy for me.

Since The Little House is just over a mile away, it only makes sense to go by bike to work. In the photo above, I'm about half a mile away from the office. I get to work in about eight minutes--I have to climb up very steep 14th Street, which reminds me of going up the back side of Gates Pass in Tucson!

I rode to work every day by bike for eight months! I never once drove to work by car!

When I got to the office, I used the men's room to quick change into my work clothes. Even on the coldest days, I had to wipe off and dry up because I always broke a sweat riding up the hill.

Starting the climb up Mt. Oread on 14th Street.

Sun coming up on The Hill (Mt. Oread) and I'm not quite at the top.

The Natural History Building and Museum inside the Hall here is 112 years old--quite stately in the morning sunshine.

Fraser Hall, build in the late 1950's can be seen from many miles away as you drive towards Lawrence--or in my case, out in the Wilds on the Bike.

Lippencott Hall, another 100 year old building on the KU Campus. There's a light dusting of the first snow on the ground, mes amis.

Looking East down 14th Street from atop Mt. Oread, KU Campus.

14th Street was in dismal shape most of 2011, Gentle Readers of This Blog, and going down you had to be very careful as the all brick-paved streets seemed to surge up through the layers of asphalt over the years. Well they paved over with yet a new layer--and it was quite nice to ride on--no pot holes or old bricks to surprise you with a thud.

You can see how steep the ride was up 14th in the morning--most students walk up--or take the bus. I got home very fast of course--but I had to be very careful because there were always students searching (often hopelessly) for a place to park up here. Often they were in a hurry and not paying attention. Now I'll have a longer commute to the new job--about two miles--but its all gonna be flat.

Wish me Luck with the new job and the new commute in 2012! Still I think its quite an accomplishment to have ridden my bike to work every day in 2011.

Cheers! Bruce

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Calle de los Higos

The neighborhood Kestrel watches me as I embark on my last ride. I think its a good sign--he'll carry my prayers for safe journey as I embark on a cross-country trek back to Kansas--the first leg by bike.

Much has changed and I've been busy, Gentler Readers of This Blog--the changes are good, but they have been a long-time coming.

Our house in Dog Mtn we rented for two years--this came just as Little Egypt deployed for Kuwait in early October. Also, my part-time job at KU ended as I have a new appointment at Haskell.

So we have good renters again (hooray!) and I will be back in my profession--and making money again--the down-side is that my appointment is only for 11 months while I fill in for faculty on leave-of-absence. But the appointment will help me secure another position in the future.

My new job took me about two months to complete all the federal forms--now I'm just waiting for the FBI-Background Check, and then I should be starting in early 2012.

Old Pecan Grove on the Santa Cruz. You'd get a quick glance of them as you drove past on the Interstate 10 at 75 mph.

So what I had to do, mes amis, is fly to Tucson, pack up our house and the things in storage, and then drive it back to Lawrence, Kansas. As I was about to print off my boarding pass the afternoon of December 6th, I received an email that I had the job at Haskell. Things then moved quickly as I had to pack, fly to Arizona, and at the same time finish up a bunch more paper work at Haskell the next morning--then catch a shuttle to Kansas City and fly to Tucson that afternoon--I just made it!

I had the good fortune to borrow a car from my friend Stef. I used his car to run a ton of errands to get my house ready to rent--thanks Stef! Then I would return the car to Stef's house in down town Tucson and ride the brand new Santa Cruz Bike Path back up to Dog Mtn.

Rain was in the forecast, Gentle Reader, so I had to quick get Stef's car back, ride home to beat the rain, and then get my rental truck.

I packed my Raleigh Super Grand Prix in the car, drove down town, hung out with Stef and Angela--a bit too long--then started up to Dog Mtn as clouds loomed.

As I left, I surprised a little falcon--maybe I was too close to him and his mate's nest or territory--and he followed and eyed me and landed here and there to make sure I posed no threat. But as I said, I took it as a good sign as he began to lightly and gently glide just above me, looking at me with interest. He was so close--his grey head and the bold black lines over his eyes and down his head--I felt him understanding my heart and the worries built up inside. Not to worry! Now a chance to ride my bike!

The new Santa Cruz Bike Path is so new that I don't think they've actually completed all the signs for which way the path actually goes. I mean it looks simple on the map, but it was hard to follow and confusing. Most people I stopped to talk to on the path had only ridden sections, like me with Le Tigre--but no one as far up as Dog Mtn. The only person I know who's done it is Dan--and he's ridden beyond.

After a few wrong turns, and a few frantic calls to Stef and Le Tigre--I got going the right direction and pushed steadily against a head wind. A storm was coming and the air was getting cold and rough, and I had to go slightly up-hill to get back.

I stuffed my jersey full of pecans from the Old Grove. I don't know if the trees are even harvested anymore. They look neglected--but still I found fat tasty pecans!

I'm glad there's a Santa Cruz Bike Path but I must admit it seems a bit barren. Its like the wasteland between the Interstate, the river, and then the urban sprawl. But, as my friend Phil said, this is where the Indians lived and thrived before White People. Around here are a few dig sites but they are kept low-key so they won't be disturbed. I asked Phil what those people would have thought about how this land got thrown away--and he said they're probably laughing at us and how we live now.

I have a 25 mile ride home. But its good to be on the bike, mes amis!

The Santa Cruz has some water in it, but mostly its dry, and it seems forgotten and barren as I said--but I think it will come back as the bike path has given me some new insight into what this area is about. Along the path where the Old Pecan Grove is, there an open pit mine. Phil told me that there used to be many more pecan trees before the pits came along. They seem abandoned just like the trees now. Should you be on the bike path be sure and get some of those pecans because they tasted fantastic!

Old pit mine along the bike path.

I get mixed up a few times as the bike path suddenly stops--I discover that I missed the entrance to the path that takes me up over the river.

I stopped and asked three different cyclist which way to go, and all three gave me three different confusing directions--until the last guy took me over and showed me the way to get over the bridge to keep going North. I would have never have figured it out, mes amis--and each of the riders told me that they had never ridden up to Dog Mtn and did not know exactly if it went through. I wish I had had Dan's phone number because I was running out of sunlight, Gentle Readers of This Blog!

Here I am almost to Twin Peaks Rd. then I ride up Twin Peaks to my house in Dog Mtn.

At Twin Peaks Road I had about 20 minutes of evening sunlight left. The last leg would be a bit tough as I had a steady head wind--and no lights. I'd just have to push it up the mountain. The evening saw no car traffic and it was just me and my bike, the road, and the silent desert.

I got home before the real dark darkness rolled in, and I left messages with Stef and Le Tigre that I made it back and not to worry. By the evening, rain poured down and it got very cold. It rained for three days straight as I packed and loaded the moving truck--it just made everything the more difficult. I worked non-stop and had little time to call my friends to meet them from dinner or a few beers.

Eventually, by the 13th of December I had everything loaded in the rental truck. I pulled out of town the morning of the 14th and then took three days driving across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and then Kansas.

Then it took me two days to unpack the truck and move the Tucson House into the Little Kansas House. And that's what I've been doing all this time, Gentle Reader of This Blog--that is where I have been.

Soon, you'll see me on the road again here in KS--I still plan to return to Tucson one day--with all the bikes, my wife--and live and prosper. Let's just see how 2012 turns out, shall we?

Allure Libre! Cheers! Bruce

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Historic Lecompton and a Cheeseburger

Constitution Hall, built 1855, Lecompton, Kansas.

Riding through these parts of old historic Kansas Territory, what strikes me is how unassuming this quiet village seems--150 years ago things would have been very different mes amis. What the people did here sowed the seeds of the Civil War.

Like now, many of the issues stemmed from over-zealous politicians--on both sides--trying to make a name for themselves. Sounds all too familiar doesn't it, Gentle Readers of This Blog?

Blokes in Congress grab-assin' for power, and others using the cloak of morality to justify murder--while for the most part, Kansas People wanted to farm and make a living. Still others on both sides, the Jayhawkers and the Bushwackers, used the issue of Slavery to steal and kill each other for personal gain.

Crossing the Kansas River as I leave Lawrence.

The last few weeks have kept us all pretty busy. Little Egypt deployed to Ft. Hood with the Kansas Nat'l Guard, and as I write she's on her way to Kuwait. Work, school, planing, and getting set for a year without her has been work. Rico is prepping for the end of the semester with papers and exams. Also, the weather here has been bleak--but this Saturday promises to be warm--almost 70 degrees! Its going to be windy, as a storm with rain and snow are on the way--I will get in a ride, mes amis!

Sun Kissed.

You can see that little reflection from my messenger mirror--I'm riding due West and the Sun is quickly rising up over my shoulder. With the wind dashing and gusting in every direction--sometimes I get a tailwind, then a sudden violent crosswind! The clouds are riding this wind as well and they race over head.

Stamped of clouds roaring onto the Wilds!

Farmers that have prospered and continue to do so.

Fields put down for Winter Time.

Now to get off this road with the headwinds and ride to Lecompton.

I rode like a bullet out of Lawrence as I had a bit of tailwind. Riding West on Hwy 24 was tough as I had headwinds and cross winds--and some traffic too. Riding on Hwy 24 West reminds me of Hwy 79, the Pinal Parkway, between the Tom Mix Memorial and the Junction at Hwy 79 and Hwy 77, which takes you down to Saddlebrook and Oro Valley. The traffic is fast and the shoulder narrow. I had to really work to make 15 to 16 mph in that wind.

Before I ride into Lecompton I ride over the Kansas River again.

The Kansas River here about 18 miles West of Lawrence probably looks like when it did 150 years ago. The bridge I'm on is modern and smooth, and I'm glad there was no traffic so I could snap a few pictures and try to get one for you, Gentle Reader.

Territorial Capital of Kansas. Look at those flags! The wind has switched directions and now howling straight out of the South!

I almost missed this old building as come to find out, the old Lecompton High School was built in front of it in the 1930s--that was weird I thought at first. This was to be the State Capital of Kansas--the State Capital of Slave Kansas that is! The building was started up in 1855 but when things didn't go in favor of Pro Slavery backers, the construction was stopped and the site abandoned about 1857.

With the building about a third completed, and all the cut stones and material lying around, a few years later it was bought by a church which in turn built it as Lane University. Lane wasn't actually finished until 1882--the old building sat unfinished for a long time...

The claim to fame here is that at Lane, which at the time was progressive co-ed liberal arts university, is where President Dwight Eisenhower's parents met and go married in 1885. Lane University closed in 1902 and the old building remained unused for another 70 years. It was only recently restored in the early 1980s. Amazing that it survived at all.

The Mighty Trek hid behind the big juniper bushes at the entrance.

Territorial Capital Museum.

Christmas Time!

The upstairs chapel was pretty awesome--and the volunteers had just finished putting up a large live Christmas Tree--it was very beautiful. Big Christmas trees like that don't last long in Tucson because its so dry--but this one was well worth the trip riding out here from Lawrence.

Did not seal the deal.

First try up there for the Pro-Slavery backers--who in reality were Southern Senators and Congressmen trying to gain power in Washington D.C. by admitting Kansas as a Slave State. The citizens of Kansas Territory opposed slavery and felt that they had the right to vote on what kind of government they wanted--the idea of "Popular Sovereignty" instead of what Congress interests were in Washington.

The Mighty Trek is still there, thank goodness!


And now... Constitutional Hall built in 1855.

It is amazing that this old wood building is still standing, mes amis. It was built to accommodate the Territorial Legislature and it was here that Pro-Slavery and Free State interests debated and argued over the fate of Kansas.

You can see some of the original frescoes and see three chairs that were here when the Territorial Legislators hashed out the State Constitution.

So in 1857 the guys got together here and drafted the famous/infamous Lecompton Constitution--which would have admitted Kansas as a Pro-Slavery State. It was rejected after fierce debate in Congress, mainly by Lincoln and Douglas, and many historians feel its where Southern and Northern States drew up sides which tipped the US into civil war.

Window to let in sunlight in the stairwell going up and down from first to second floor.

Eight drafts of the Lecompton Constitution were hammered out in this large room before the one sent to Washington D.C. for President Buchanan to sign in 1857--which he didn't sign into law.

For many years later Constitution Hall was used as the Government Land Office.

Once the writing was on the wall that Kansas would be a Free State, people moved on to Topeka where the State Capital would be built. Lecompton faded quickly--while Lawrence prospered--but that is another story Gentle Readers of This Blog.

Again I believe its a miracle that Constitutional Hall was not burned down or dismantled by Free Staters. Probably people moved on to their business pretty quickly once Statehood happened in 1861.

The very fine museum staff and volunteers told me where I could get a quick bit to eat as it was now about lunch time--I was starved. All I had to do was go down the road just a few miles and pull off to the right at Kroger's Meat Market.

Staff making my cheeseburger in Kroger's family meat market.

The Kroger family have been farmers and cattlemen for many generations. At the store besides selling meat from the cows they raise on the farm right there, they sell gas, beer, candy, and stuff like that. I'm glad I know where it is now because its good stop to make before the trip home back to Lawrence.

Eisenhower Rd. a.k.a. Rural Kansas Hwy 1029.

I'll take 1029 South to the Old Farmers Turnpike that runs East and West (438 Rd.) and head on into Lawrence. Here I'm fighting a pretty strong crosswind from the West--the cold front is on the way, mes amis!

Hay cut and stored to feed cattle this Winter.

Old Barn Landmark right before Farmers Turnpike.

Lecompton Interchange at Interstate 70 and Kansas 10.

I decided that I'd go the fast way back, as least that's what the bike shop lads have told me, and take K 10 to Hwy 40 (6th Street in Lawrence City Limits) instead of scenic Farmers Turnpike all the way.

I cross over I 70 which is a wide concrete river packed with fast car traffic--to K-10 which I know has a wide shoulder. I've been told that riding on Hwy 40, which is the old highway from Lawrence to Topeka, is dangerous for bikes, but I'll give it a go.

Actually with the wind now shifted and coming right from the West, I am riding with the wind, mes amis! I make some very good time on K-10. When I get to Hwy 40, it has a wide shoulder for me to ride on just into the city.

With a tailwind on Hwy 40 and then on newly re-paved 6th Street--I fly into town!

Yeah I rode fast, and when I ran out of shoulder on 6th Street, I was able to ride the wide sidewalk next to 6th. Instead of having a bike lane, what the Lawrence people did was build a wide sidewalk--unlike Tucson and most cities where riding a bike on the side walk is illegal, riding on the side walk is legal except for Massacusetts Ave in Old Downtown Lawrence.

When the side walk ran out, I just hopped back onto 6th Street and rode in traffic. The street has been newly repaved, and with the tail wind I had, I was riding 28 mph in a 35 mph zone. I got a few looks from people passing me like, "Dang that Cat is fast!" I popped right onto Mass Ave, Downtown Lawrence and it was cool to see everyone out and enjoying the afternoon. Lots of car traffic so I had to be careful.

A quick stop by the local bike shop.

Bone Shakin' Short Cut back to the Little House!

Back at the Little House before the cold and rain and maybe snow arrives Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by and continuing to read the Blog mes amis. Take care!

Cheers! Bruce

Thursday, November 17, 2011

We'd All Be Happier If We Rode Bikes

Sunny but cold morning for the commute to the office.

October and November have been busy for us here up in Interzone, Gentle Readers of This Blog--but I am still on the bike! I've been mostly car free since the move, and I'm happy to report that I have never driven a car to work since I began working at KU back in late March. I've had a few rides with Little Egypt and Son Rico giving me a lift--or picking me up--but that has been rarely. If need be I walk home.

It has been one-point-two miles to work and back home by bike every day! The secret? Packing the night before, and then giving yourself enough time in the morning so you don't have to rush. Even though its just over a mile, I have a huge hill to climb--and even with the cool weather now, I still have to change clothes and clean up a little in the men's room up top at my office.

It has also helped that all the streets going up to the top of campus on Mt. Oread have been repaved over that last few months with new black cake-icing-like asphalt. The streets are narrow, steep, and 100 years old. The original bricks were heaving through on many of the roads--which made going down-hill pretty dangerous. You could hit a spot and get flung over the handle bars real quick mes amis.

Still every morning I see the students who are running late, speeding up and down Mt. Oread--always in vain--for parking spots that do not exist. In a panic and on a cell phone, they're not paying attention and if you're a cyclist you have to be real careful not to get run over. Most kids simply take the bus--which is free for them--or they walk up the hill. If the buses did not run I think more people would have to ride bikes.

I did have to run errands today and I had to drive. I had to be on one of those streets where there's a lot of traffic because its a main artery, and things like grocery stores and stuff are there. Lots of lights and lots of speeders and rude cutting people off and shit. Every asshole on a fucking cell phone too. Even in the grocery store parking lot people on cell phones speeding though there not giving a fuck about almost running some old farmer and his wife over.

This store is about 3 miles away and probably the same for most people over where I live. What if we were all on bikes? Wow what a sight! It would be a happy time--and then those people that are too old to bike, well they could drive because they had too--and they might even feel safe.

Well come Spring I plan to make more of a leap with biking to the grocery store. They tore down our local grocery around the corner so they could re-model it--it was old and falling apart. Now people like me who used to live nearby have to drive so there's a bit more congestion. The store we have to go to now (same chain) is not safe for bikes--I still see a lot of the workers from the old store working at this other location--they still have to ride to work many of them and its not easy I know...

Rock and Roll mes amis!

Lastly, I got a set of rollers--used--and so there they are! On warm days I'll test out the new winter clothing I'm starting to collect!

Allure Libre! Bruce

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Purple Stain

The Purple Stain is a Time Traveler.

My apologies to you Gentler Reader of This Blog--busy days have kept me away from the bike and away from the Triple B Ranch--the original name of the blog when I set it up back in 2005. Things are changing and in the changes it strikes me that here in Interzone, the Seen and the Unseen can be passed through ever so lightly--as they exist together--right on the border where one memory--one collective memory of a place--fades and then rises into the next.

Here too, some of my memories appeared like a reminder, or a signal or sign--that I am traveling and will continue to travel--forever. Riding a bike instead of walking or even driving--the flow of the world changes. You are quite aware of the Seen and Unseen at the same time.

100 year old Trees.

The trees here are very much alive, and I've noticed them changing as Winter approaches. Leaves fall off like our work clothes slip off each night before we go to bed.

100 year old streets.

Maybe not people riding horseback, but probably automobiles as early as the teens on these streets. I am probably not the only bloke to ride his bike into downtown in this manner.

Neighborhood of Old East Lawrence.

Might the street and the trees have such a memory of a bone-shaken rider on a cool mid-day Autumn afternoon? It feels like I'm flowing through a dream, mes amis--am I slipping through thoughts of the trees?

The Pig--one of many cafes in Interzone.

Liberty Hall's southeast corner--built in 1877.

The Ethridge Hotel on that corner--first built in 1858 and then burned by Quantrail's Raiders in 1861.

I'm going with Rico as he gets a haircut in the building here to the left. I have to tell you that the light for photographs was the best--I wish I had a better camera for you mes amis.

Elevator in the old building--which dimension shall we enter? Push a button and find out, Gentle Reader of This Blog...

Third Floor. Rico waits for his appointment in the Salon.

When we ride up the elevator to the third floor, mes amis, I am amazed--I see an old building but I sense many things. Inside the Salon, I can't sit still--its like I hear and see everything, but at the same time there's nothing there! I am right at the line of Now and Then--it is very fluid--things are moving, Time is moving and swirling--here is like a rock in a stream. As time rolls and sweeps over this spot, there's a ripple and swirl of the energy.

The room has a memory.

I feel and and see--but not with eyes--but in my mind the people and the place--but they are fleeting images. Paint and objects are a thin vail to the past. Did Those of the Past have a sense of Those of the Future? What would be here? Who would be here? We never think about that and it does not really occupy my thoughts--but sometimes, if you are fortunate and in the right place at the right time--that thought and that memory can be walked right into.

The Irony.

I know that I was in, or very near, a place where Time and Being ripple and somehow flow together and mix--what ever it is or whom ever it is left me this clue or message. The Kitchen Clock. The Kitchen Clock--we had this exact same plastic clock in our kitchen back in Tulsa where I grew up--in our little house. It was next to our kitchen sink and the window. It was there for almost 50 years--It was the clock that read the time and told me when and where--everything we did and that I did, I did around what the time was on this clock for all of my life in that house. My God what if it was the same clock? Not one just like it--but the very one? From our house and our kitchen? I don't know why and I don't understand this message, but the fact that it a time machine of sorts--well, I have to appreciate the intention. The message and the meaning are for me I know--but what is it? If there is something for me to find--where is it?

The Salon.

Well, when you find yourself in these situations like I did--it's not really scary. It is mysterious and fascinating. I though for a moment that someone was having a pretty good laugh at me stumbling around what could be to them the obvious.

I look for the way to the meaning.

While Rico gets his hair cut, I look around the place, and tread lightly--for who would appear or what would change made me a bit wary. If there are those that travel through time and memory--for why they would want or need to is a mystery to me--how do they do it? Is it a door? A few steps up and then a left and you're in? Who watches and who takes care of the places like these? To make sure someone like me doesn't go where they are not supposed to go? If it is not who--that what?

Our bikes parked outside.

Outside in the sunshine of the afternoon, I see my Campus Bike. I'll take it and go down to the LBS. That is what I'm to do I feel--leave the flow, stand on the bank and let the droplets of my short swim in Time's cool waters evaporate from my mind.

Hotel for Time Travelers.

My gut feeling is that travelers might stay here a night or two--have a breakfast or dinner--before they embark. The Ethridge was built in 1858. Legend is that William Quantril had breakfast here while his Bushwackers sacked and burned Lawrence, back in August of 1861. I read that Quantail's men rode to Lawrence by way of Eudora, and the route, which I know well from my commutes to work and from my rides back into town from the Wilds, took them riding past The Little House. It wasn't here then of course, but there are a few houses still standing where Quantril's Army rode past. I ride past them too. Quantril burned down the Ethridge--it was rebuilt shortly after. Just about all of Lawrence was burned. I wonder what building or what was on the site of the Salon?

Lawrence has always been a bike town.

The Local Bike Shop.

The LBS was a factory or some sort of machine shop for many many years--100 years ago. Then it was an Army Navy Surplus Store--now a bike shop for about 25 or 30 years.

The Tavern.

Rico and I meet up after his hair cut as I'm walking down the street and looking for photographs to take. We decide we'll head home--but first I suggest we slip into our favorite pub and have a pint. I wonder if I'll meet a Time Traveler one day? I know its not too flattering to name him or her so--but for now I'll call 'em The Purple Stain. Until that Time, my Dear Fellow,