Monthly Archives: November 2013

Bikes and jazz at the Plaza


Every vibrant city needs a public gathering space – a plaza, piazza, town square – a place to celebrate civic accomplishments, welcome visiting dignitaries, bring in a new year, or simply hang out on a nice day.
My hometown, Fort Worth, now has such a place: the Sundance Square Plaza.
And, with hardly any hyperbole, I will say that it is magnificent.
A quarter-century in the making, including 18 months of construction, the plaza opened Friday with a weekend of events and entertainment in the heart of downtown.

Erik Hansen, the leaping Danish Viking, and the Sunday morning neighborhood bike group in Sundance Square Plaza, Nov. 3, 2013

Erik Hansen, the leaping Danish Viking, and the Sunday morning neighborhood bike group in Sundance Square Plaza, Nov. 3, 2013

On Sunday, our neighborhood bike group included a stop at the Sundance Square Plaza during our weekly ride. We took some photos, lolled about in the fine autumn weather and listened to music by the Gloria D’Arezzo & Friends Jazz Band.
The one-acre space, anchored by two new buildings at the eastern and western ends of the plaza, sits astride Main Street.
It is bordered by Third and Fourth streets on the north and south and Commerce and Houston streets on the east and west, respectively.
The plaza features a 216-jet fountain that is illuminated at night and four 32-foot retractable umbrellas that resemble giant blossoms.
Check out the time-lapse video of the plaza’s construction by friend Brian Luenser, who lives in a condo in The Tower, a skyscraper overlooking Sundance Square.

Or the report by the local NBC station, KXAS/Channel 5, on the opening of the plaza.

http://www.nbcdfw.com/entertainment/the-scene/Sundance-Square-Plaza-Opens-in-Fort-Worth-230232381.html

Kathy McReynolds, Missy Gale, Kathy Hansen and Kelly Pinto with the Chisholm Trail Mural in the background, Sundance Square Plaza, Nov. 3, 2013

Kathy McReynolds, Missy Gale, Kathy Hansen and Kelly Pinto with the Chisholm Trail Mural in the background, Sundance Square Plaza, Nov. 3, 2013

Phil Love strikes a heroic pose with the Chisholm Trail Mural in the background, Nov. 3, 2013

Phil Love strikes a heroic pose with the Chisholm Trail Mural in the background, Nov. 3, 2013

Mark Gale, in his London Harlequins jersey, points out to Erik Hansen a feature of the new Sundance Square Plaza, Nov. 3, 2013

Mark Gale, in his London Harlequins jersey, points out to Erik Hansen a feature of the new Sundance Square Plaza, Nov. 3, 2013

Sundance Square takes its name from Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, aka the Sundance Kid, seated at far left in this painting of an iconic photograph taken of the Wild Bunch gang in Fort Worth in November 1900.

Sundance Square takes its name from Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, aka the Sundance Kid, seated at far left in this painting of an iconic photograph taken of the Wild Bunch gang in Fort Worth in November 1900.

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Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, History, Texana, Urban cycling

Up the Great River Road


One of my favorite bicycle rides, and arguably one of the most scenic in America, begins at my hometown, Alton, Ill., and stretches up the Mississippi River about 13 miles to Grafton, where the Illinois River meets the Mississippi for their conjoined journey to the sea.

My bicycle at Grafton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

My bicycle at Grafton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

I was born and grew up in Alton, just upriver from St. Louis, Mo., and even closer to the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers.
I have traveled along that stretch of road between Alton and Grafton countless times, in all weather – in dense fog, in driving rain, in snow, in frigid winter when the river is sometimes clogged with car-sized chunks of ice, and in the splendor of a crisp, clear autumn day when the trees that cling to the limestone bluffs are clad in dying leaves of russet, gold and bright crimson.
Last Monday was such a day.
I was on a visit to my hometown and I had brought along my bike. I logged 42.09 miles on my bike that day, including that magnificent stretch of the Big River.
That same day, a website called All Around Alton filmed a video of that length of the highway. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find myself in the video.

During my ride, along a nice bike path parallel to the road, I stopped several times to take photos, including a stop at a little park at Clifton Terrace, near where my aunt and uncle used to have a bluffside house that afforded a grand view of the river.
At a little pavilion in the park, I found on a sign these words by John Madson, an Iowa naturalist and author of a 1986 book called Up On The River: An Upper Mississippi Chronicle:

Pumpkins at a yogurt shop in Grafton, where I stopped for a sandwich

Pumpkins at a yogurt shop in Grafton, where I stopped for a sandwich

“I am certain of one thing: My work has taken me from one end of the Mississippi River to the other – from the crest of the watershed above the Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the mouth of Southwest Pass a hundred miles down from New Orleans. And in all those 2,500 miles of river, there is nothing else like the 13 miles between Alton and Grafton. Nothing! … Nowhere are there such palisades as ours, and nowhere is a lovelier stretch of the Mississippi so accessible and beloved by so many people. It belongs to the nation and is in our trust. We must not betray that trust.”

The scenic river, Mississippi above Alton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

The scenic river, Mississippi above Alton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

Steel sculptures of Canadian geese, Grafton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

Steel sculptures of Canadian geese, Grafton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

The Mississippi River between Alton and Grafton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

The Mississippi River between Alton and Grafton, Ill., Oct. 28, 2013

The working river, the Mississippi above Alton, Ill., Oct, 28, 2013

The working river, the Mississippi above Alton, Ill., Oct, 28, 2013

Lighthouse at Grafton, Ill., at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, Oct. 28, 2013

Lighthouse at Grafton, Ill., at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, Oct. 28, 2013

My bike at Grafton, Ill., the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, Oct. 28, 2013

My bike at Grafton, Ill., the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, Oct. 28, 2013

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Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, Cycling across America, History, Travels