Katy Trail Ride

Yesterday, Jen, Katie, her brother Steve, and I went out to the Katy Trail for a ride. It was a gorgeous day for a bike ride, so we started at the Greens Bottom trailhead and headed south.

It was sunny and cool, the perfect weather for a fun ride and great pictures:

After about ten miles, we reached the Weldon Spring trailhead, which seemed like a good place to stop and eat lunch. There wasn’t much there, but we saddled up on some nice benches and dug into our picnic supplies. Here I snagged a pic of the trail, to give you an idea of the beauty and majesty of this part of the journey:

After lunch, we headed back. Jen had the camera and took the lead in the caravan, which led to these awesome over-the-shoulder shots:

and:

and my favorite:

We made it back in one piece, even though Steve’s new (to him) bike needed a tuneup badly. More than anything, we’re just hoping this nice stretch of weekend weather holds up for a little while longer so we can take these trips again. Click here for more pictures.

Riverfront Trail Ride

On Sunday, October 12th, Jen, Katie and I took a ride on the Riverfront Trail, which links downtown St. Louis with the Great River Road in Illinois. This also checks another one off of the STL 101 list:

42. Your bike on the Riverfront Trail, from the Arch leading up to—and across—the Chain of Rocks Bridge, stopping midriver to admire the architecture of the two water intake towers originally used to supply the 1904 World’s Fair with one of its marvels: “crystal clear” drinking water.

We started at the trailhead just north of Laclede’s Landing:

The first thing you see is the old UE plant. Totally awesome:

There was a slight detour at the beginning of the trail to allow for construction, but we found the trail pretty easily and were on our way. Now, I had ridden this before, and the improvements to the trail in the two years since are really noticeable. The new signage is a great example of the improvements:

The only downside to the trail is that a large portion of the trail that bent underneath some train tracks was washed out. This is what it used to look like:

And this is the same area from the other direction, looking back toward the railroad trestle:

So the trail was technically closed there, but we were able to walk our bikes over the tracks and around the washout, so no big deal.

After riding through a much improved Blase Park (did this used to be called Riverfront Park?) and the hilly section on the west side of Riverview Drive in the overgrown and somewhat sketchy Chain of Rocks Park (which, I swear, I was told lead up to an old abandoned amusement park, so I did some quick googling and lo and behold. The internet is awesome.) we made it to the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

From the bridge, you can see the Chain of Rocks, and downtown St. Louis in the distance:

We picnicked on the bridge:

And took some photos:

You can see the rest on Flickr. Once we finished our snack, we headed back downtown. It was a fun ride, and a great excuse to get over the mighty Mississippi. Highly recommended.

City Museum Moonlight Ramble Pancake Spectacular!

Saturday night was a fun one. Kenny and Krissy were in town for the weekend to pick out bridesmaid dresses for Krissy’s Sister’s wedding (congrats, Katie D!) and instigated a trip to the City Museum. Now, as Jen, Katie and I had already made plans for the Moonlight Ramble, Jen wasn’t sure we’d be able to cram that much fun into one night. Thankfully, Kenny wore her down and off we went to the City Museum, or as I like to call it: The Happiest Place on Earth.

We got there around 9pm and stayed for approximately 2 hours (as we had to get on to the ramble) but we were able to climb in, on, and around many of the wonderful attractions. Jen even found a new tunnel in Monstrocity that we hadn’t noticed before:

Well, technically, Kenny found it, but was too big. And no trip to the City Museum is complete without several trips down the Big Slide:

Click here for a full set of pictures. Totally awesome.

After that, we got our stuff together and made our way to the Soldier’s Memorial for the start of the Moonlight Ramble. No sooner had we found our way to the checkin table, than we run into Mike and Clara:

The amazing thing here is that Mike is leaving the next morning for a weeklong hiking and camping trip. The next day, I spent it prone in front of the TV watching the Olympics, trying to recover from the night before. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves…

The turnout for the Ramble was HUGE. It was so cool to see so many biking enthusiasts in one place. To give you an idea, it took us 45 minutes just to get to the starting line. Thankfully it opened up pretty quickly after that. While the wait was a little annoying (it was past my bedtime!) it did afford us the opportunity to get this cool picture:

That’s a lot of bikers.

Once we got underway, the biking was fun. It started out pretty flat. Here’s us going north on Tucker (12th St.) headed towards the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, one of the major beneficiaries of this year’s event:

Next mission, hack together a handlebar mounted tripod for my digital camera. That would have been so nice.

We rode up 12th, circled around by the MEH (on or near Cass Ave.), then headed back down to MLK and took that out to Jefferson. It was pretty flat through here, a nice warmup. We headed west on Market Street, and then we merged onto Forest Park Parkway in Midtown. This part of the route had gradual hills going both up and down and was still a pretty leisurely, yet slightly exercisey ride. We took the Parkway all the way to Lindell (where there was an overcrowded rest stop) and turned into Forest Park right then. It was amazing to feel the difference in temperature that came about as soon as you passed under Kingshighway. While the weather was perfect for a bike ride, it was probably 10 degrees cooler in the park. That was OK though, because Forest Park is very hilly. The toughest hill was the climb to the Art Museum. Fortunately, at the top, I used the opportunity to take a picture of my favorite image of St. Louis as an excuse to catch my breath:

From there, we rode around the zoo and back out the park, retracing our path down the Parkway, onto Market and back to the Soldier’s Memorial. The 17 Mile ride took about 1 hour and 45 minutes, although we weren’t exactly pushing ourselves — partly because there were so many other riders and partly because we wanted to enjoy the experience. How often do you get to ride around downtown St. Louis at night and not worry about getting run over or at least panhandled?

It was a beautiful night for a bike ride, but afterwards, we needed some sustenance. To Uncle Bill’s! I must say, I’ve never been there before midnight, and I’ve never been disappointed with the food:

Yum! Click here for the full set.

After that we took our sorry asses home for the night, sore and tired and ready to sleep. A great night to be sure, but on top of that, we knocked off three things from the STL101 list:

75. To ride the third- to first-floor “Monster Slide” at City Museum, wholeheartedly.

Check.

81. To show up for a midnight movie at the Tivoli—or a midnight bike ride at the Moonlight Ramble.

Not sure if I’ve ever done a midnight movie at Tivoli…

93. Pecan pancakes at the original Uncle Bill’s on Kingshighway at 3 a.m.

We figured the Original Uncle Bill’s would be too packed, but this was a nice substitute. It was definitely 3 am.

All in all, a successful evening. Thanks to Jen for organizing, Katie for accompanying, and Kenny for convincing.

Recap of Last Week

Monday: A-Bei and A-Um decided to take us exploring the countryside on Monday. We visited two markets that are popular places to go on the weekends. One area had a suspension bridge over a river that ran from the mountains. It was a beautiful area, being surrounded by the green mountains. Apparently, it’s a great place for people to hang out by the river and barbeque. We then went to the site of the largest deity I had ever seen! It is still under construction, but the statue is essentially finished. We will have to post pictures when we get back, it’s pretty incredible. We also got to see a 300-year-old temple, we didn’t take any pictures of the inside but the intricate carvings on the pillars were magnificent. Every time I walk into one of these old temples, I am just awed by the history, culture and tradition of Taiwan.

Wednesday – This was our first bus ride into Taipei. We were actually staying the night in the city because the funeral was on Thursday. Once we arrived to Taipei, we went directly to the Tzu Chi Hospital, where a monk led us through another prayer service to help my father in the afterlife. When the service was over, we walked out of the room to be greeted by three or four police officers, guarding one of the rooms. I happened to look inside the room as we walked by and there was a body covered by a sheet on a gurney. Hmmm, didn’t know what that was about and didn’t think anything of it until later that night when we saw on the news that a Taipei councilman had been shot five times by a lone gunman and killed and his body was transported to the Tzu Chi Hospital! Holy crap, that’s crazy! And as of now, he has not been caught. All that they have to go on is a surveillance video taken of the suspect leaving on a moped.

Thursday – I really won’t go into the details about the funeral. I will mention that the funeral was a traditional Buddhist funeral, a lot of bowing, kneeling, chanting, incense burning and chanting. This was the first Chinese funeral I had ever been to and it was emotionally and physically exhausting. After it was all said and done, we went back to my aunt and uncle’s house to rest before heading back to Hsinchu. While there, with Yuejing (aka Sau Sau, A Um’s oldest son’s wife – cousin-in-law for those of you keeping score at home) took Bob and me to the Shilin Night Market (Taiwan’s largest and most famous night market) to look around. It was incredible, the amount of people and food and stores. A couple of streets are shut down every night for this night market. We didn’t stay very long so I will definitely have to go back before I return to St. Louis.

Friday – Friday was a relaxing day. We slept in, did some laundry, read books and tried to relax. In the evening though, we went out to dinner with A Bei, A Um, Uncle Simon, Cousin Steve, his wife Yuling, and their three adorable kids. The dinner was a traditional 10-course meal, and Uncle Simon and Bob got into some of the local Taiwan Beer. It’s capitalized, because it’s actually called “Taiwan Beer”. There are two varieties, and Bob liked both very much. He said they are halfway between Budweiser and Heineken in terms of flavor. The only problem is that Uncle Simon, still jetlagged, could not keep up with Bob, although he tried, valiantly. It proved to be his undoing. After the meal, Bob, Chris and I went over to Cousin Steve’s house to chat and check email.

Saturday – Chris, Bob, Uncle Simon and I woke up early and took the bus to Tzu Chi, where we began the journey of transporting my father’s remains to Yang-mei, a Buddhist mausoleum. Again, it was a long, complicated, and emotionally draining experience. After we left Yang-mei, Chris and Uncle Simon went back to Hsinchu while Bob and I went with Sau Sau back to Taipei where we checked into a hotel that was adjacent to the Living Mall. The three of us explored the huge mall, and had a good time doing it. The defining feature is a round building that the rest of the mall is wrapped around which contains the main department store. After that, Sau Sau left us, and we went to dinner with the 4th Aunt (Si Gu Gu) and Uncle, and their children and grandchildren. Again, we had a splendid traditional meal with many exquisite courses. Cousin Richard had brought out for the occasion an aged bottle of Kaoliang, and Bob found it much to his liking. We returned to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow, it was going to be a busy day…

Sunday – After checking out of the hotel, Cousin Steve and family, who had been in Taipei for a concert the previous night picked us up, and we went first to the National Palace. This museum, which we had stopped by briefly before but not gone in, houses some of the oldest and most spectacular artifacts of Chinese history. The most famous piece was the jade cabbage, a piece of jade sculpted to look like some cabbage. Combined with the second most famous piece, the “meat stone” (unsurprisingly, a piece of rare stone carved to look like meat), and you start to get the idea that Chinese sculptors might not have been very well fed. Food was always on their minds! Speaking of food, we had some snack and a tea service in the restaurant at the Palace and heard a woman playing some traditional Chinese music. After lunch, we journeyed back to downtown Taipei to the tallest building in the world (for now), Taipei 101. We rode the world’s fastest elevators to the observation deck where we could see the entire city. It was awesome. After a good bit of picture taking and listening to the free audio tours (in English, no less!), we returned to earth and toured the mall that takes us the bottom six or seven floors of the building. We ate dinner at the snack street there – we had Chinese food, while the kids jumped at the chance for KFC, naturally. After dinner, we took leave of Taipei 101 and went down the street to Eslite Bookstore. It was basically a six story department store except for books and things related to books. Totally awesome. After that, we returned to Hsinchu and promptly went to bed. It had been a long day, but a fun one, and we were quite tired.

Monday – We slept in and relaxed for the morning. In the afternoon, we met us with my Mom’s siblings and went to rent bicycles and tour the park areas along the Taiwan Strait. Of course, this being Taiwan, these were no normal bicycles. Bob and I snagged a tandem bike, my sister got a low-rider cruiser bike (would have looked right at home in South Central) and the adults crammed into a six person pedal-powered carriage. The path we took wound through some quiet woods before opening up to the Strait (really, the part of the Pacific Ocean that separates Taiwan from Mainland China) and it was really beautiful. Bob took interest in the assorted armaments that must have been put in place to discourage the Communists from invading the island, but we all agreed that the sea was quite nice. There was a strong breeze, which kept us cool (if a little sandblasted) and it was a nice bike ride. Upon returning the rentals, we met a group of my mother’s siblings’ friends at a local restaurant for a (you guessed it) 10-course traditional Chinese dinner! Again, the food was excellent, and they were all impressed with Bob’s chopstick skills.

Which brings us to today. We actually haven’t done much these past two days, just passing time and trying not to suffocate from the heat and humidity. How does a country that excels at making electronics/computers not be able to figure out central air for the home? I just don’t get it.

It’s the Judy Ride!

On Saturday, Kenny, Yao and I undertook the Judy Ride, a charity bike ride where the proceeds go to fund breast cancer research. Scratch that, at 32 mile bike ride along the Riverfront Trail. So, yeah, that was a bit of a stretch for me, but we had a good time with it.

Bikes

We met at Kenny’s and loaded our bikes up on the back of his Jeep. Right before we left, Kenny remembered to grab his helmet. Phew! It said on the website that helmets were required. I actually bought a lid specifically for this ride. It would have totally sucked if Kenny forgot his.

The start

As soon as we got down to the Arch parking garage, Kenny realized that he had, of course, forgot his helmet. Fortunately, there was enough going on at the starting line that we were able to sneak out without Kenny getting yelled at.

Left Behind

So within the first mile, I felt like I was going to die. After that, it got better. Of course, by then, Yao and Kenny had sprinted off and left me to my leisurly bike ride. This part of the trail had the flood wall to the left and the river to the right. It was pretty flat and a reasonably scenic. The flood wall blocked the view of some of the more industrial parts of town that were not quite as pleasing to the eye (or the nose).

Trains

This boxcar also supports breast cancer research.

Me

HI!! I’M BOB! I RIDE MY BIKE!!!

Shipping containers

Hey look, shipping containers. These looked pretty neat.

The river

There’s a ton of great vistas of the Mississippi River, this is just one.

The trail

Here’s another shot of the trail.

Construction

This part of the trail was under construction. This picture is a little crooked because I was trying to make sure I didn’t wipe out.

Trail

This part of the trail winds through Riverfront Park. This is the oldest part of the trail, and a little overgrown, but by the looks of things, will be repaved soon.

Water purification

This part of the trail crossed Riverview Drive and was quite hilly. This picture shows the road and the water purification plant.

The Bridge

Phew! I finally made it to the bridge. This is the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (the New Chain of Rocks Bridge is just to the north), a former two lane bridge that brought Rought 66 across the Mississippi. It was replaced in 1969 and had sat vacant, attracting drug dealers and other miscreants for years until it was reclaimed and integrated into this trail. Because of this bridge a masochist cyclist can go all the way from Downtown St. Louis to the Great River Road, supposedly one of the best bike rides in the country.

Bob, Kenny, and Yao

Look who I found! One of the neatest things about the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is the huge bend in the middle. As I rounded the bend, I saw Kenny and Yao pedaling my way. Turns out that Yao made it all the way to the official halfway point, turned around, caught Kenny a couple miles back, and found me right over the river. We estimated that if Yao did the whole 32 miles, Kenny probably did about 28 miles and I did 24 miles.

Pump Station and Progress

Looking out over the river, you can kind of make out Downtown St. Louis. You see the Arch? Yeah, that’s where we started. Looking back from the bridge, it really was kind of astounding that I made it that far. Of course, the ride back was just as strenuous, but I gotta say, I made it all the way. Awesome.