Friday, October 23, 2009

BABBLE Trip Report

I have either cleverly waited to see what the other bloggers would say about BABBLE so I could have a unique take on the event, or I have been lazy and slow to get around to it.

It seems I had an earlier start for the event than most of the participants. I rolled out of my rack at four thirty in the morning with the aim of getting on the road at five thirty. I wanted to get to the nearest DART station to board the seven forty nine departure time to be sure I made the connection onto the TRE. Two hours and ten minutes ought to be sufficient to traverse the twenty five mile distance even if most of it would be in the dark.

It has been cloudy at night for the past ten days or so, and I was unsure which phase the moon was in. Alas, no moonlight to speak of. This lack of light led me to my first mishap.

It has been wet in this part of the world, so wet that standing water remains even today after five days of warm nice weather. The area between my doorstep and the driveway is a spongy, muddy mess. There is a "path" that will allow one to traverse it, even at the high water stage without filling ones shoes with water. But it is not a straightforward path. In addition, it was cold that morning, around 55 degrees. (It will be even colder soon, but it has been in the low eighties in the mornings until this month. We are all scrambling around trying to remember what clothing we are comfortable wearing in these temperatures. March seems so long ago...)

Because I don't want to pack my cleats with mud, I wear sneakers to cross the lawn and change into my cycling shoes on the driveway. In a lapse of judgment, I chose to carry my stuff outside without bringing a flashlight. I did not stay on the high ground very well! So it's back to the house to grab a towel to dry my feet before I put on my shoes and socks out on the driveway.

I hit the road late, closer to six than I would've liked. It is so dark I adjust my route on the fly, choosing a longer route, but one that avoids smaller secondary roads. I will be riding faster in the dark than I had planned, and I am worried about potholes.

It is daylight when I reach the Ledbetter DART station, and it is warmer, I am over-dressed. That gets fixed on the way to the TRE connection on the DART train.

On the platform of the TRE, I see four other cyclists boarding the train, and I join them- they look like they know what they are doing. At this point, even Keri has more experience riding the TRE than I do! It turns out this is the first TRE experience for all of us.

I am dismayed to find out that these three fixed gear cyclists are going to Fort Worth to join the BABBLE ride. I have visions of a critical mass style mob. Every one knows the fixed gear crowd is just a bunch of anarchists, right? If there are four of them on my train car, how many more will be showing up via different transportation?

I decide to make the best of it, and put my best foot forward.

This is Eric, who was egregious and generous.

This is Nate on the left and Alicia on the right. Their other companion wished to remain an enigma.

We got along quite well. I would later learn that they are advocates of vehicular cycling! Zounds! As the day progressed, I was very impressed at their bike handling skills and traffic judgment. I would be proud to ride anywhere with any of them. They are accomplished ambassadors for our sport.

The rail car was nearly empty save for the five of us, but all the train stations were crowded with football fans going the other direction.

When we exited the train, there are other cyclists getting off. I don't recognize any of cyclists, but I do recognize Frankenbike!

At the meet-up, we all basically do two things, take pictures and drool. As I look through my photos, I discover to my horror that I have taken picture after picture of the back of peoples heads. I imagine I am taking great photographs like Christopher does. Sigh. Believe it or not, these are the best I have, there are loads more that are even worse!

Once again, Christopher is out of step from the crowd! (He's the chap who's face you can see.) As you can see with this next shot, I am a genius for not getting ANY faces in the picture!

To the right is Richard, and with his back to me is Steve and Frankenbike. By looking at shadows you can see that I positioned the shot perfectly to completely obscure Christopher! Sigh.

Maybe if I move around I will get some faces...

While the adults were drooling, Rose waited patiently for her ride to start. "Giddy-up Daddy!"

Here is Rose and her father Ray, as Rose wonders what it would be like to sit on the trike.

Just around the corner from Colonel's Bicycles there was another football game scheduled, TCU and Colorado. I spotted this pedestrian, who goes by the name of Alexander, and he granted me permission to take his photograph and use his name on-line. Curiously, he is the only one in this post that has given me permission... Lady and Gentlemen, call your lawyers!

As I stopped to get Alexander's photo, the ride continued on without me, which didn't alarm me. there were fifteen of them (Counting Rose) and they were going at a moderate conversational pace. I'd have no difficulty catching up.

I sprinted up to the next signalized intersection I saw them at, and I expected to see them just up the way. No one in sight! So I start off up the street in the overall direction the ride had been heading and put my head on a swivel. How far could they have gone? I didn't tarry for long with Alexander!

Well, it turns out that Colonel's Bicycles was just around the next corner, and looking over my right shoulder I spot them them milling about parking their bikes as proceed through the intersection. So now I am riding away from the group in heavy traffic. (The TCU vs. Colorado game!) So I turn right into the gasoline station on the corner thinking I can cross the street at the other entrance to join them across the street.

There is a solid line of cars queued up for the light, and I realize I will have to go around behind them- even though they are backed up more than halfway up the block- did I mention there was a football game nearby? So I swallow hard and -Steve, Paul, Herman, Keri, I hope you are sitting down!- I ride the wrong way down the sidewalk! (ChipSeal blushes with the memory of it!) I reach the end of the line of cars and pull into the street behind them, and only then realize that there is a median curb there!

So I line up in the left lane intending to make a u-turn at the signal and then ride back to the Bike shop and the group about mid-block. I spot a sign as I am approaching the intersection that prohibits u-turns! Jeepers! Changing plans again on the fly, I execute a left turn (No Steve, I did not signal) proceed down the road to where I can make a safe u-turn so I can get back to the group. A tiny unnoticed drama, and I out myself on-line!

In this photograph, I manage two profiles and one face shot out of six people in the photograph. Really, I am pathetic at this! The ride paused here because the planned route included a very steep downgrade. It didn't seem that it was wise to route fixed gear folks and folks who had rod brakes down such a steep hill. We were all enjoying each others company so much, we hardly seemed to notice the pause.

We continued on down the Trinity multiple use trail (MUP). This was the most uncomfortable part of the ride for me. There were a few of the blind corners that seem to be so common for these sub-standard facilities. I was surprised at how many cyclists bomb down them at top speed. Taking the lane on hwy 287 seems safer to me than this narrow bi-directional MUP.

I had to devote far more attention to where I was positioned on the narrow path and oncoming traffic while on the MUP then when we were on the public streets. Not only is the MUP narrow for bi-directional travel, especially with club cyclists hammering toward each other with closing speeds of more than forty MPH. In many places there is a lip, or drop-off, that presents a "high penalty for failure" risk if one should wander off the edge. On the streets there are rules and far more space. (And perhaps, traveling on public streets is so familiar to me and the MUP unfamiliar, perhaps much of the work of being aware of hazards on the roadway are being performed on a more sub-conscience level for me.) I don't find MUPs relaxing at all.

I did manage to to have a sporadic conversation with Myles on the MUP, and it was good to get to know him.

At the restaurant, we were joined by Chandra at last, and and a few of the group chose to end their participation in the event then. There was plenty of bicycle parking due to a wide raised walkway with railing in front of the building. In spite of bicycles locked two deep along the railing, there was plenty of room for three deep pedestrian traffic. I chose to leave my lock at home, and relied on the generosity of Steve to share his lock. I was not careful to note who else shared with whom, but Steve and I were not the only ones who were sharing locks. This was a generous group indeed!

Inside jokes were shared all day, and finding Chandra's bike locked at the railing generated a memorable one. Steve and I were tempted to go through Chandra's handlebar bag as soon as we noted he did not have his "keep out" sign displayed! And of coarse we poked fun at Rantwick- proving that our group is not limited by geography or even international borders.

Of the many pictures I took in the restaurant, these two are the only ones that are salvageable. In the bottom photo, that is (Right to left) Chandra, Steve, Myles, and Paul. I have six more photos of this end of the table, taken while I held the camera extended over the center of the table at arms length, and ALL of them caught Myles in some sort of head movement that completely blurred his features. I'm sorry Myles, but this is the best of the bunch!

I would like to point out that I had inadvertently caught Steve making the the only blog post that was posted during the event! That is him doing the deed! Some of us are dedicated bloggers, but none of us hold a candle to Steve!

As the meal broke up, Steve offered to give a personal sightseeing tour of downtown DFW, and Candra and I eagerly accepted. We were full on ready to do the tourist thing! So after a bit, as the group made a right on their way to the Water Gardens, the three of us peeled out of the group, surprising Eric, who did a great job of avoiding conflict with me. Thanks for yielding for me Eric!

Now for someone who is a snow skier from Seattle, Steve sure knows plenty about Fort Worth! (I suppose he could've made all his narrative up on the spot!) That was great Steve, thanks!

We met up at the Water Gardens with the remaining remnants of the group, most of whom were making plans to further enjoy Fort Worth. Steve, Chandra and I rode back to the TRE station to head home on the same train, each of us getting off at different stops.

The wind that day was six to eight MPH from the north. Great for me on my way home from Dallas going south, but even more work for Christopher on his trip back to Sanger. Between waiting for connections with DART and a stop for liquid refreshment (Diet soda at a Taco Bell) I rolled onto my driveway just before sundown.

A more dissimilar group would be difficult to arrange. Each of us had a unique expression of the sport of cycling. We were all interested in each others style, without judgment. There were no hidden advocacy agendas. We weren't riding to protest lack of facilities or or the dominance of cars. We came to share time with others who love riding bicycles. To put a face and voice to the bloggers we have in our favorites folder. To see the smile we perceive in the words they post.

We had a lot of common ground before we met, and more now that we have parted.

Each of us knows, in our own unique way, that it is the journey that is as important as the destination. And we find joy in journey.

A journey made sweeter with the companionship of new friends.


  1. Great post! I like the way you finished it up. You described the atmosphere perfectly.

  2. So were you careful to explain all this scofflawery to the FW Bike Police so they could counsel you. Chip didn't explain, but we also had him on the sidewalk the wrong way at Sundance Square. He was wishing for SPD cleats so he wouldn't walk like a duck.

    Excellent post. It was worth the wait.

  3. Bummed I missed out. Maybe next time.

  4. Sounds like a great time. Keep those rides going. It's always a good thing to get together. Maybe someday I'll get down there.

  5. it was fun meeting you and riding with you!
    nicely written post!

    peace :)