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