Tuesday, September 20, 2016

War on Zombies: Their Finest Hour

After three posts in July, I thought I might be on a roll, but then there was August with no posts at all. And now it is mid-September and the drought only now comes to an end. One reason for my paucity of posts is that a post I started at the end of July turned out to be much harder to write than I expected and is still "in preparation". (That post is finally nearing completion and will be posted Real Soon Now.) Also, That Which Must Not Be Named continues to be an issue, and there were a couple of out-of-town trips that prevented me from posting as well. Finally, there is the War On Zombies: it is not over, as this post documents.

My fellow Zombie and I flew back into Houston on a Wednesday. On Thursday morning, I rode over to the Rice Track for my morning ride. No joy in Mudville, as illustrated by the photo at the top of the post: Rice track is closed. All hail the coming of football season1. So, I go for my backup ride. Riding through the Texas Medical Center, I hop onto the Braes Bayou Trail, head west on that trail, only to find that it has been closed as well:

The barrier closing the trail can be seen at the left side of the picture. The machinery responsible for that closure can be seen at the right.

They are building a parallel trail on the other side of the bayou and to join it to the existing trail, they have torn up a key piece in the middle of that existing trail, completely spoiling it as a place for me to ride. I have to confess at this point that I am being a bit disingenuous. I had driven by this construction a few days before, so it's closure was no surprise; I only rode out to this point on the trail to take the picture for this blog. I had actually had planned to ride east along the Bayou, rather than my usual west, but guess what? That direction is closed as well:

In the long run, this temporary closure is a huge win for Houston cyclists, me included. The reason for the detour is newly-poured concrete, creating a lovely new bit of trail where previously there had been a difficult and dangerous dirt stretch. Brays Bayou trail east from the Texas Medical Center to McGregor park is now complete (except for the stretch destroyed by flooding last spring that now needs to be repaired). Also, work is being done to extend that trail from McGregor Park all the way to the ship channel. When completed, this will be an exceptional venue for pedestrian and cyclist alike. This is what the new bit of trail looks like:

Finally, in an earlier post, I complained that an approximately 3 mile extension of the Braes Bayou trail along Keegan's Bayou, once opened, had been closed. The last time I rode out that way, the status of that extension was somewhat ambiguous, as can be seen in this photo:

The barrier has been moved to the side of the trail. Is it open? Is it closed? Given this ambiguous status, I decided to give myself the benefit of the doubt and ride it. As I neared the end of the extension, I encountered one barrier that seemed to resolve the ambiguity. Unlike all the other barriers, which had been pushed aside, this one still spanned the trail. Although unmarked going out, as I returned, I saw that the trail is indeed marked as closed:

Oh well, what has been done cannot be undone, and anyway, I learned something during my transgression. At the current end of the trail, there are clear signs of construction, promising to extend the trail past Highway 59, a current barrier to east-west cycling in Houston. Once completed, I think it will be possible to ride from the Braes Bayou path all the way to Terry Hershey and George Bush parks. This would require some street riding and only experience will show how rideable the available streets are. Up until now, I had wondered how this crossing would be effected, as it seemed that there was no place to put a trail. What seems to be happening is the construction of an engineering marvel, a hike and bike trail suspended off the side of the bayou:

This is all well and good for the future, but for the present, my two daily cycling routes, Rice Track and Braes Bayou are closed. What is a Zombie to do? Two routes I have used in the past are Terry Hershey-George Bush park and White Oak Bayou. Recent flooding has damaged the Terry Hershey-George Bush park trails, rendering them impassible:

From Facebook, posted by Randy LeBlanc to HTX Bike Social

In any case, the drive to Terry Hershey/George Bush park is too long for this to be a daily ride. The roads from White Oak Bayou to my house are too busy for me to ride during the week, but I figured I would give it a shot last weekend. And guess what happened? This:

The Hazard Street Bridge is under construction! Fortunately, this is not that big an issue, as the Hazard Street Bridge is one of six bridges crossing Highway 59. It is the one I prefer because it has the least traffic, but early on a Saturday morning, the next one down the line, The Woodhead Bridge, is tolerable. (In fact, Woodhead rather than Hazard is the designated bike route, though as I have posted before, I disagree with this assignment.) It has been awhile since I have been able to ride this trail on my own, so this was the first time I was able to explore a recent extension at the northern end of the trail. This new extension adds about 3 miles round trip to the ride. In addition, it (currently) terminates into another set of older trails that go along the backyards of neighborhood homes. These trails are extremely narrow and a bit in need of maintenance, but are more charming for that and add another 2 miles to the round trip. Here is a view, looking from the older trail back towards the new. This part of the older trail goes along the opposite side of the bayou, and connects to the new trail via a rather rickety-looking wooden pedestrian bridge:

I did not ride across the bridge (nor would I want to), it is not necessary to do so because the trails directly intersect farther along, but this bridge is nice to look at. Construction is also underway to extend the main trail both farther north and farther south along White Oak Bayou. In summary, the future looks rosy but the present looks bleak. At the moment, I have absolutely no idea where I can ride my bike tomorrow. Will the Zombie be returned to the cycling graveyard, or will he find a place to ride? Stay tuned.

The Title) As noted in the text, I have an earlier post entitled "War on Zombies." Rather than title this one "War on Zombies 2" or "Another War on Zombies", I chose the append the title of the second volume of Winston Churchill's six volume history of World War II. It happens to be rather appropriate.

1) The Rice Bicycle Track is located in the middle of the main parking lot for their football stadium. This space is not needed most of the time, making it a perfect site for a bike track, but during football season, they periodically take down the track to generate more parking. When they take it down and for how long is entirely unpredictable, so I cannot plan around these trackless days.

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