Author Topic: Urban ~Touring~  (Read 946 times)

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Offline TCS

Urban ~Touring~
« on: May 01, 2019, 10:26:05 am »
I bought a Stumpjumper in 1982.  I thought, ‘This is great!  A machine for touring unpaved country roads.’  As my riding buddies bought mountain bikes over the next several years I tried to recruit them for backroad touring.  They didn’t buy it.  ‘Mountain bikes are for singletrack out in the woods,’ they explained without actually explaining.  Oh, oh!, but now, 37 years later, gravel biking and bikepacking are the darlings of the industry and enthusiasts are clambering onboard.  Whatever, eagles soar alone, etc, etc.  I’ve moved on to urban touring.

Yeah.  Urban.  Touring.

We left our home in Plano at 4 PM on Friday and three short bike rides and two long rail rides later we were in downtown Fort Worth Texas.  That might sound trivial to the uninformed but there’s a picture out on the internet illustrating the comparable size of the Metroplex and Connecticut.  Hmm!  Anyway, the unperturbed, perfunctory staff of the Ashton Hotel stored our bikes in the empty ballroom overnight and we walked down the street for some TexMex and then on to Sundance Square where we watched the lights, fountain and people.

Fully embracing ‘early bird gets the worm’, we were up the next morning at about 9 AM, caught breakfast at the hotel and hit the road by 10:30ish.  We shoved off and coasted down to the West Fork of the Trinity River.  The many cities of the Metroplex have been building MUPs, and we turned onto Fort Worth’s Trinity Trail System headed generally east.  We pedaled gently along the river through beautiful parks and past futbol games, kayakers and family picnics for over 11 miles before we came to a low water crossing flooded from recent rains.

It was just before the eastern end of the Fort Worth portion of the trail anyway, so we hiked up the levee and picked up some neighborhood streets to reach the next section of trail.  Finally, about the 14 mile point of the day’s ride, we had to pedal in earnest for the first time, tackling Sandy Lane (peaking at 10.8% grade) and climbing away from the river valley.

We heard peacocks.  There was a stand of native tulip trees.  We rode past a private drive sign-marked ‘EIEIO Ranch’ and another home with a beautiful engraving above the front door that read ‘Thanks’ and featured the stylized outline of a bicycle.  Schweet.

We associate travel with highways, and it’s a bit of dichotomy to tour down small neighborhood streets.  Folks whose paradigms never allowed them to realize they in-fact live on a road that leads somewhere will pause from washing their cars and cutting their grass to watch loaded touring bikes roll past.  Smile.  Wave.  Repeat.  Not pressed for time, we unpacked the necessary food preparation gear (a charge card) and had Chinese food at a little neighborhood place for lunch.  Yum.

We gradually dropped down to Village Creek and rode that trail to the confluence with the West Fork at River Legacy Parks in Arlington.  The developed parts of the park were jammed with families enjoying one another’s company and sharing the beautiful day.  We slowed for safety, but then why rush past such amassed joy?  We stopped and chatted with the lady taking her pet boa constrictor for a walk.

All good things must end, and we left the trail to transit to our overnight camping spot.  We climbed away from the river (as Forrest Gump said, ‘Again’) up Brown Blvd. (peaking at 11.0% grade) and rode quiet neighborhood streets (‘Again’) to the quaint Arlington Hilton, where we had a campsite on the 15th floor.  The desk clerk held the front door for us as we rolled our bikes to the elevator.  Summoning my extensive camp-cooking experience, we walked down the street for pizza.  But then later - score! - I got to catch GoT on the campsite’s big flatscreen.

Our second day was longer and we’re experienced enough tourists to know the importance of an early start.  Our feet hit the floor and we stumbled into the breakfast buffet bleary-eyed at an ungodly 9:30 AM.  Our plan was to head east into the rising sun but impatient Sol didn’t get the memo.  We were forced to navigate by a combination of dead reckoning, the Dallas skyline in the distance and well-marked streets to the western edge of Grand Prairie’s Lone Star Trail, returning to the riparian biome of the West Fork of the Trinity River.  This led us to arguably the loveliest segment of the tour, Irving’s Campion Trail.

Typical of much of our tour, we could hear the faint white noise of cars on a freeway somewhere else in the world, but we were surrounded by visually impregnable forest.  Here, in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan areas in North America, we spotted a tree felled by a beaver.  Here also the trail follows a portion of an old roadway mentioned by Bonnie Parker in her epic autobiographical poem.  Up and over the Irving Heights, we crossed the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and picked up the Trinity Strand Trail along Turtle Creek, paralleling the Main Branch of the Trinity River.  There was a barbecue place right on the trail, we stopped for lunch and urban touring was ready to be featured on one of those ‘Life Is Good’ t-shirts.  Afterwards, we hit the remaining trail into either Downtown Dallas, Uptown Dallas, West End Dallas or the Design District, depending on which developer’s brochure you read.

Our final trail, the Katy, wasn’t like the others.  It runs not through hardwood bottomland but through the high rise apartments of Uptown.  It’s more like a boardwalk than a recreational MUP, and we did an appropriately slow ride and enjoyed people watching.  Up and over Mockingbird Lane on the new cycle bridge (for a not inconsiderable sum the city will name this after you), we arrived at the light rail station and choo choo-ed back home.

Urban touring - in 30 years, everybody will be doing it.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline Iowagriz

Re: Urban ~Touring~
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2019, 07:33:36 am »
Perfect tour for me and my wife. If I can only get her to embrace some minimal packing techniques.

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