Friday, January 27, 2017

Progress Report: Braes Bayou West

Closed off section of the Braes Bayou Trail, heading west.

Wow. Oh wow. Two months since my last blog post. Worse yet, this is part 2 of a 2 (or 3?) part series which should have followed directly on it's predecessor. I still am forbidden to give any details, all I can say is that life is tough at Chez Zombie right now.

Last post, I described how, out of desperation, I started riding east on the Braes Bayou bike path, and how, when I did, found that it had been significantly improved since I last rode it, making it a delightful alternative when the Rice Track is closed. The one fly in the ointment was a collection of ominous "Path Closed" signs, not blocking the trail, but lined up along the side, threatening a closure at any moment. When headed towards that path for the second time, I was convinced I would find it closed, but open it remained. After a week of riding this path, I started to relax, which is when the axe fell. One day, I rode to the end, and as I headed back, found that the trail had been closed behind me. I begged the workman manning the sign to let me through so I could get back home, and he reluctantly agreed, but shook his finger at me saying "This is for your safety!" In an attempt to figure out how long this closure might last, I asked him why it was closed, which caused him to repeat "This is for your safety!" Blaming myself for having been unclear, I apologized, then explained I was just trying to figure out when I could use the trail again, invoking a third "This is for your safety!", this time at elevated volume. Not wanting to create a situation, I gave up, thanked him profusely, and headed home.

What to do? Rice Track closed. Braes Bayou West closed. Braes Bayou East closed. I tried a ride through the local neighborhoods, which was too short and didn't allow for the intensity I was looking for. I tried White Oak Bayou, which was lovely and delightfully long, but more than I can do on a regular basis. And then I reconsidered Braes Bayou West. Yes, the beginning of the trail was closed, but was there some way I could join the trail downstream of the closure? Indeed there was, and there was a surprise wait for me at the end of the trail.

My alternative route to the Braes Bayou, West bike trail. The route is took is in red. It is a loop, because it made sense to take one route to the trail and a different route returning from it. The normal route I take is in blue. The stretch of the trail closed at the time I made this switch is shown in purple.
The newer stretch of the trail going from South Braeswood (past Gessner) under Highway 8 has been on again, off again closed or open at different times I have ridden it. On this ride, it was open. When I passed under Highway 8 and proceeded to the end of the trail, I came across both a new sign and a new trail:

This sign would not have made sense previously, as there was no trail past this point to close. Now, there appeared to be a completed if not yet open trail, one that promised to cross the oh so important barrier of Highway 59 (a.k.a. US 69.) Should I proceed? To do so would appear to be a violation of the rules and promised to put me in conflict with angry construction workers. But nobody appeared to be around, and the trail looked completed. Maybe it would be OK to go just past the sign, and take a little peek?

Do not be deceived! Although the narrative might suggest that this is the trail proceeding under 59 heading west, I actually took the picture on the way back, so this is the opposite direction. No matter, both sides look the same and this picture makes my point equally well.

Although it seemed clear the path did proceed under 59 as I had hoped, the density of roadways make this underpass look dark and forbidding, a good place for an angry construction worker to hide. But I simply had to know; did this path really go past 59?

It did! Here I am on the other side of Highway 59, looking at the trail ahead. The orange barrier is there to prevent cyclists heading west to east from traversing the trail on which I had just come. It is not very clear in the picture, but the paved trail ends just past the barrier. I have marked the transition from concrete to dirt with the red arrow.

The map above shows just what this trail gets me (or at least will, once it is officially opened.) The red line shows what I rode. The yellow arrow is where the "Trail Closed" sign is, the previous end of the trail. The green arrow shows where the paving ended, at the time I did this ride. And promisingly, the blue arrow shows where I think existing trail picks up again.

So what's the big deal? A few more miles added onto the end of the Braes Bayou trail. Well, these few miles bring you to busy but rideable roads that take you to the trails around George Bush and Terry Hershey parks. Those trails take you to trails around Bear Creek Park. Those trails take you to busy but rideable roads that take you to the White Oak Bayou trails, which connect to the Buffalo Bayou Trails that lead you (with a gap or two yet to be filled) to the East end of the Braes Bayou trail, a circle about 67 miles in circumference, 53 of those miles on trails, 67 miles within the city limits of Houston, Texas. This is all diagrammed on the map below. Wowza.