Saturday, December 28, 2013

The One Less Traveled By

The new South Walnut Creek Trail does not start at Govalle Park.

I mean, the city website says it does. But you won't find a trailhead at the park. What you will find, if you ride around aimlessly in circles, are a couple of footbridges, a basketball court, a playground with small children (you must make a sincere effort not to run over these), and a worn track in the dirt that leads out to a neighboring street.

Go north on this street to the next main cross-street, Jain. Jog just a scoche to the right and you'll see the trailhead on your left. I think they'll eventually continue it southward into the park proper, and even connect it to the Town Lake Hike-and-Bike. But for now, it ain't there.

Seriously, I spent much too long Googling "South Walnut Creek Trail" and squinting at project maps on the screen of my phone with a Cannondale awkwardly propped between my thighs not to understand the value of what I am doing here. This has been a public service announcement.

Once you find the trail, it's a dream. Some of it is so new that the forms haven't been removed yet. But it's completely road-bike suitable. It's supposedly about seven miles (or will be, once it's complete - it ends just after Loyola) and will eventually hook up to the Manor trail and the North Walnut Creek Trail, and open up some serious possibilities for a bike commuter interested in helping to gentrify the East side.

Gentrification is a ravenous monster, but we're all on the food chain. I'm not sure who overran California, forcing its inhabitants to sell out, move to Austin, and render housing here completely beyond the reach of a normal middle-class worker, unless you want to live in Georgetown or Elgin or Buda (and if you are here because you love Austin, you do not want to live in those places). They are probably aliens from a planet where a broom closet goes for $75,000 a month and you have to haul your own recycling to the processing facility with a pair of magnetized chopsticks.

I'm thinking of moving to Seattle. Seattle seems cool, and there are not nearly as many Starbuckses there as you might expect. But I digress.

The new trail is paved in cement for its entirety and has a yellow stripe down the center, which I love because it sends a clear message to joggers that, while welcome, they might want to consider keeping to the right. So much pedestrian-cyclist animosity on the Town Lake hike-and-bike trail could be avoided if people would just bear in mind that someone faster will eventually come up behind them, and that you can't hear "On your left!" if you have your earbuds cranked to full volume.

But as new as the trail is, it apparently isn't immune from the greatest threat of all. On our briskly cool ride today, we saw four other cyclists, three joggers, and A FUCKING SUV PARKED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL.

I am not even kidding. I wanted to get a picture, but since my boyfriend had just confronted the owner, I didn't want to stop for fear of getting shot (this is Texas, so shooting a person who wilfully and maliciously criticizes your parking technique is considered self-defense); but a white SUV had apparently driven down the trail from a construction entrance nearby, and its driver was taking pictures of his small child and medium-sized dog in front of an adjacent field.

The body of the SUV being slightly less wide than the trail, the driver had thoughtfully left all four doors open.

My boyfriend didn't raise his voice very much, just said something along the lines of "Hey man, you need to move this - you really shouldn't be here. This is supposed to be for bikes!" And, because this is Austin, the guy actually seemed embarrassed and said, "Yes, okay, I'll move it, I'll move it."

He wasn't entirely unjustified in not expecting to encounter anyone at all. I only know about the trail because Bicycle Sport Shop posted some photos on Facebook of a ride there last week. It's possible the other cyclists we encountered found out the same way.

I'm not sure if the full 7.2 miles are open yet. It certainly didn't seem that far in either direction. But on fairly level ground, with pavement, and no traffic, it's possible. It did seem more like four or five, tops. But what the hell, we'll say 7.2. My boyfriend needs the encouragement.

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