Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year 2012

November and December have been quite cold here in KS.  Most bike riding has been short errands downtown and to the store.

Working as a professional at KU has also eluded me.  Librarians, and all staff that work up on Mt. Oread are "Lifers" which means most have been at their posts 25 to 30 years.

My "Desert San" Campus Bike from my Tucson Days has morphed into an all-weather urban commuter.  Fenders and racks means I can ride year-round.  I rode to Haskell to work every day except for May, when I had my fall and injury.  I rode everyday to work up to KU for my part-time job as well.  Its been almost two years since I've lived here and this bike has logged many miles around Lawrence.

I made a trip to San Antonio to see my Brother and his family.  Bill and I went down to the Alamo, which I thought was sort of perplexing--I mean we were driving on busy freeways and then into congested downtown San Antonio and he kept saying, "There it is, there it is..." and I was like, "Where? Where?  I don't see anything!"  So there it is up there for you to see, mes amis.  Very pretty but the bad thing was that when we arrived to go in, about 200 middle-school-aged kids arrived as well--and they were kinda unruly.

I know there was a lot going on in Texas at the time of this famous fight--it appeared to be a very complex matter and I didn't really understand the site too clearly in the context the Daughters of the American Revolution have explained it--but it was worth seeing.

Just a few blocks walking distance is the San Antonio River Walk.  I spied their bike share program bikes here near the Alamo.

The River Walk.  It was a WPA project in the 1930s.  It was okay and it was a Friday around lunch time so there were not a lot of tourists--mainly office workers from down town San Antonio having a long lunch.  The sidewalks were narrow and I couldn't see biking here.  I can't imagine hordes of tourists either.  Also lots of over-priced shops for shit you don't need and galleries with bad art work.  This is a place to bring your big brother who's in town to take a break from working a year without a vacation--eat at a cool place--and walk a bit.   

My brother and I ate at a pub.  While we were waiting for our lunch and sipped a few beers, a group of young professionals came around and lit up cigars.  They were a bit on the arrogant side, rude to our waiter, and the smoke was foul.  One the fellows asked if the smoke was bothering us, and my brother, who is a great guy but not to be trifled with said, "Fuck yeah..." And so the cigars gradually went out after some awkward glares.   My dear Brother, being a good sport after all, bought their table a round of beers so there were no hard feelings.

My contract job as the Academic Librarian at Haskell Library ended late November.  It was a good run and I met a lot of great people and students.  It was good to see many of them get their degrees and move on--many transfer to KU, or on to graduate school back in their home state.

The library was not always the best place to work.  The Director, my boss, was mean to the staff and often berated them for things that really started with her own lack of leadership.   She spent the year doing all the paper work for retirement, and had little time or interest in what the staff were doing or what the students and faculty needed.   Most interactions with her related to her letting us know we were her subordinates, and always in a condescending manner.

There was also a culture of indifference and not being helpful (this was the long-time para-professional staff) and I worked very hard to change that during my year as the librarian.  I did make friends with many students and faculty.  A lot of students that I first met in the research classes I taught, I got to know better from them seeing me working out at the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center.   That went a long way as many of the athletes sough me out for help with papers and other studies.

Being friendly (professional) and helpful (doing your job) goes a long way, Gentle Reader of This Blog, and I know it will help me get another position there again if I need one.  I'm going through that process of looking for another job now--and its going well!

Haskell Staff had kept a fire going on the grounds for the students--many going back to the reservations and onward from graduation.

My Brother, Bill

 Looking forward to a new year!   Cheers!  Bruce

Friday, November 16, 2012

Farmer's Turnpike

With warm weather during the week, I'm getting out on the bike on my days off.  One of my favorite rides is out to Lecompton.  I used to go out on narrow Hwy 24--which I don't mind so much--but I was told to take the Farmer's Turnpike west, instead of taking 24.

 One my way out of town I pass the historic Black Methodist Church in Old East Lawrence.  This is the church (built 1901) that poet Langston Hughes attended as a small boy when he lived here with his grandmother in Lawrence.

 Historic Downtown Lawrence is getting razed to make way for wealthy out of state developers to put in high-end hotels and condos.  There would also be galleries and studios--the kind of stuff that most people cannot afford or don't want to buy anyway.   When Lawrence was attacked by pro-slavery Bushwackers, it was said that Black Union Soldiers killed in the raid where hastily buried here.  It may have been a ploy to slow down or stop the developers, but a dig by archaeologists found no evidence of any graves.

 This apartment complex is actually pretty nice--its across the street from the vacant lot I photographed for you.  Lawrence is a slum lord's dream; every long-time Lawrence resident or family owns a couple of rentals they lease out to KU students.  

 On the outskirts of town, I pass near the entrance of the Power Plant.  This is an old power line from the 1930s that they saved for posterity.  I think that's pretty cool to have a reminder of those days.

 This house is at the intersection of the Farmer's Turnpike and the edge of town.  Now I'll be heading West--into a headwind of course--on my way to Lecompton.

 The section of the Farmer's Turnpike runs next to I-70.  K-10 is the old Oregon Trail route.

Its windy, mes amis! 


There's some new manufacturing plant that has been built out here recently, and there were a lot of big 18 wheeler trucks on the Turnpike.

 I discovered that this old one room school is called the Winter School House, built in in 1869.

I'm riding West on the wide shoulder of the Turnpike, and on the left  you can see I-70.  This kind of reminds me of the Frontage Rd. I used to ride back in Tucson along I-10.   

 Here in Lecompton, where you see the replica of the cabin that was here, Jayhawkers from Lawrence rode up  (probably along the same route I rode) and attacked this pro-slavery outpost called Ft. Titus.  After a several hour shot-out, the pro-slavery men surrendered.  

 This is the historic Kansas Territorial Capitol which was illegally built by pro-slavery homesteaders in 1855.  Congress was still debating whether or not Kansas would be admitted to the Union as free or slave, but pro slavery folks didn't want to wait for the outcome.  

 The building was never quite completed and later the State Capitol moved to Topeka--along with everything else.  It was bought and finished and became Lane University.  President Dwight Eisenhower's parents met here at Lane and were married in the building.  The Mighty Trek is leaned up against an old hitching block.  I guess you could park you saddle horse or buggy here back in the day.

This is the way cool Constitutional Hall, built in the late 1850s.  The Kansas Constitution was written and fought over here--later it was a dorm for Lane University, the State Land Office, even a hotel. 

 This year the Historical Society bought the old jail, which wasn't far from the Hall and in a private resident's back yard.  The private owners donated the jail building, and it was taken apart, moved, and is now being re-assembled next to the Hall.

 After I ate a Hamburger at the Kroeger Gas Station and Meat Market, I headed back to Lawrence.  I had a powerful headwind to take me back.

 This is the Baldwin Barn built in 1979.  Its a ways off the Turnpike, but since I had a little time, I rode down to take a closer look.

The power plant North of Lawrence is coming into view. 

I'm riding back into the city limits and through an old neighborhood Northwest of downtown.  Lawrence was an affluent stronghold of Free State Abolitionists, mainly from New England.  With Lawrence being so close to Missouri, it was always eyed with resentment, which is why it was probably attacked back in 1861.

It was a fun ride with nice weather.  I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Cheers!  Bruce

Bicycle Recycle

When  ever I run a quick errand to the supermarket, which has just re-opened after a make-over, I recycle what glass we have at the liquor store.   I can carry a case of beer on the Old Desert San Campus bike, mes amis. 

 Even though its November, the weather has been warm!

Part of my route through the back streets to the store, which is only about 1/2 mile from The Little House.  Winter is on the way but its been so warm--and no rain.  A mild Winter is okay but it means the drought will continue.  

I've brought back a bag of groceries on the bike, and the empty boxes that hold the beer bottles for the week.   I really enjoy being able to do more than half my errands on the bike.  Ricky walks up to KU or rides his bike,  and I've ridden my bike to work all year.  The exception was May after my fall and injury.  I'm trying to get Little Egypt to bike to work a few days a week but I have not made her a convert quite yet!

Cheers!  Bruce

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Windy Club Ride

The Club Ride took off at 11 o'clock--due to an exchange of several emails on the group list.  The normal time is 9 but this morning it was only 37 degrees here in lovely Lawrence, Kansas.  Still, when I showed up in the parking lot at Broken Arrow Park, there were riders just coming back from the 9 am fast group.  A couple of fellas wished they would have stayed in bed because they looked exhausted and were not thawed-out  when I arrived.  Temps were only about 40 degrees for the second group starting  out at 11, and it was getting windy.

I was warm for the most part--this was the first really cold day to ride.   The sun was out but the wind was choppy, blowing hard, and shifting this way and that.  I held on--only barely--to a wheel in our small group, but I was sure working hard, mes amis.  Finally on the last big climb up to the Big Farm, I got dropped.  Luckily at the turn to start up to Lone Star Lake, my comrades waited for me.

At Lone Star, the Sun was out and warming us up.  Everyone just standing there in a daze but letting that sunshine and warmth soothe cold and wind-blasted bodies.  When the wind suddenly started blowing hard from the North, our Ride Captain took notice.  "Let's get outta here, gang--wind's shiftin' on us..."  Usually we would have a tail wind going back, like I did on my last post--but not this time, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  This time riding back was a slog-fest.

I stayed with the pack and rode pretty well but soon I tired.  As we started a climb I just couldn't keep up.  I also noticed my heart rate going very high and almost to the max so I thought I better just back down a little.  The main group was about a quarter mile in front of me the whole way back, and there was no use trying to catch those four riders up ahead.  The headwind was too strong.

I found a good gear and a rhythm to keep me going just knowing that I'd be home soon enough.

Cheers!  Bruce

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Into the Winter Wild Lands

The Big Tree on the Big Farm
Today November 1st, I got off work at 11:00 so as to work the evening shift at the Library for a sick colleague.  As it was almost 70 degrees I quick ate a bite of lunch and set out on the bike for Lone Star Lake.  The lake is about a three-hour round-trip ride so I'd get back, clean up, and then come back to Haskell for the evening.  Since I've been riding in the pack out to Lone Star and other places, its been hard to take pictures for you, Gentle Reader of This Blog--so being out by myself and slowing down to take a photo--well this is what things look like about now in Kansas.  I have missed the Big Cottonwood--it is massive--and its a good and welcome landmark.  Hello Old Friend! 
Bike Path to Haskell is open.
When I started work at Haskell Indian Nations University back in January, the 23rd Street Bridge, an old WPA Project from the 1930s, was finally torn down.  But it meant that our bike commute trail to work was closed off.  I had to ride, as you know, on super busy backstreets--mainly taken by automobile drivers that were running late and taking a short-cut.  Speed limit on Barker, my route, is only 30 mph, but people drive 50 or faster.  Its that kind of driver that keeps potential bike commuters off the streets.  Little Egypt would bike to work but she doesn't feel all that safe--especially with speeding soccer moms talking on cell phones--that's what I've had to put up with all this year...
Path is open but not offically
23rd Street / K-10 running East and West--originally part of the Oregon Trail.
 On the other side of the bridge is Haskell Campus.  The bridge has just opened and cars can't get through here yet, just construction trucks.

 This bridge replaces the one built in the 1930s.  Its pretty nice--I wish they could have used something or done something different other than the rocks just poured out everywhere.  Before there used to be hundreds of sunflowers growing, and when you rode through and under the old WPA bridge is was a flash of yellow flowers...

Arch dedicated 1926
 The gate by the road when I pass Haskell Stadium was open, so I wanted to get a good shot of the Arch and the football field.  Haskell had the best team and the best players in the country during the 1920s and 1930s.  Jim Thorpe played in the 1926 exhibition game for the dedication (he played for Carlisle) , but there were many other great Haskell football players like Jon Levi and Tom Stidham to name a few.  After I cut through campus its a short distance to the edge of town and the Wilds!

Out in rural Kansas

 I need to mention that the wind, as always, howls out of the South.  There a few hills to get out of town until things level out, but with a headwind that will not let up--Gentle Readers, I must tell you that it is a battle!  There was sunshine, but the wind made it just a bit cool.  I'm wearing my long-sleeve layer under my jersey so I'm okay.  Riding in a group its just a little bit better but not much!

Riding out on the Big Farm
 A few times, I will admit, I wanted to just turn around.  The headwind was picking up, and I kinda worried that the wind might actually shift.  I don't usually ride in the late afternoon like this.  But its a weekday and there's no traffic at all.

Big Cottonwood on the Big Farm
You can't tell from my photo, but this Old Man is huge.  It is by far one of the biggest cottonwood trees around.  You can see it for a few miles out as you crest a few hills and look out South to the Big Farm.  Now that Fall has come and other trees have shed leaves, you can see the tree as you're riding out and past the Big Farm. 

Used my mirror today as I was riding solo into the Wilds
This tree is very much alive, and you feel it as you ride past, mes amis.  I wonder how many years this Old Man has been here, and what he has seen--what stories he must have! 

Tall Tree
 I have to tell you that this is a very common site out here in the Wilds--trees growing in old silos.  This fellow is a landmark for the bike club--it says,  "You boys are almost to Lone Star Lake!"  The pace of the pack picks up and its a dash to the lake.  Its also a curvy road with blind turns, so if you're gonna buy the farm--this is the stretch of road mes amis!

About 18 miles from my house--Lone Star Lake at last!
That was a tough ride out to here.  The wind was blasting in my ears and I had to work pretty hard--but here I am!  It will be a very fast ride back--the tail wind will be incredible! 
Lone Star Lake and Park was a WPA Project back in the 1930s.
 If you look in the back ground you can see the road coming up to the entrance of Lone Star Lake.  It is a killer hill and from the tree in the silo, everybody picks up the pace to try to speed up this hill and be first to the top.  The road to the entrance suddenly gets very steep.  I usually get dropped by the fast guys here at the very last.  Weird but Lone Star Lake is up on the higher areas out here. 

You can imagine the very fast descent I've about to have--with the downhill for almost all the way back, and a dream tail wind--mes amis--I flew back to Lawrence like an arrow.  Even the long  three mile stretch to Hwy 59, where I turn left and head North back into town--even those miles were effortless with my tail wind.  I kid you not when I tell you that I'm riding 28 mph and hardly pedaling.
Haskell Indian Nations University, est. 1884
 Soon I'm riding into the city limits and here's Haskell I'm riding by.  I think Hiawatha Hall, built in 1898, looks pretty good in this late afternoon sunlight.  I'm also happy to report that some renovation money is on the way, and this historic building will be open again.  It was the girl's gym and I've heard that the basketball floor is still in good shape.  I believe however, some other parts of the building will be renovated and used for classrooms.  I'm very glad about this as the building has been unused for almost 20 years.  Onward Haskell!

 As it was Halloween the other day, there was a lot of talk about the ghosts of Haskell.  There were stories about how late at night, people said sometimes they would hear drums coming from the stadium--and of course no one was there.  I'll save the ghost stories I've heard for another post, Gentle Reader of This Blog, but my hope is that before I leave my post (my contract ends soon) I get to go out and see the Haskell Football team play.

 Fighting Indians!

There were some historic football games played here!
Haskell Stadium was one of the first football stadiums to have a lighted field.  That was a pretty big deal back in 1926.

 Back by the new bridge and turning round a curve on some sand in the road, my bike slid out from under me and I hit the pavement with a thud!  Just a scraped up knee and elbow--I was laying on the ground fearing the worst--like I injured my knee or something all over again!  But I got back up and was okay--thank goodness! 

 Its good to have some meat back on the left leg.  The muscles on my leg and calf seemed to have just disappeared after my fall back in May.   Now after almost six months things are getting back to normal.  Most days I feel okay but often my leg feels weak when I'm tyring to stand up getting out of a chair, or walking on a slight down slope.  Walking downstaris is still difficult.  The surgeon, my therapist, and Will my weight lifting coach all told me it may take even up to a year for a full recovery.  Funny how my bike legs feel awesome--its the walking legs that are slow to make gains. 

For a long time my real fear riding my bike after my injury was falling while trying to get on and off the bike--once I got to pedaling I was fine. 

I hope I can get in a few more good days out in the Wild Lands before the wind is too cold...  Thanks for reading the blog!
Cheers!  Bruce