A Pedal in the Park

Boathouse Flotilla

I’ve mentioned before the little mystery of Forest Park Boathouse pedal boats appearing in the police pasture, on the south side of the park. At first there were only three of them and I could convince myself that they had been repurposed as horse troughs. Now, there are almost a dozen, plus a purpose-built horse trough was already there. In light of this deepening mystery, our only recourse was to head to its source. Near the end of our ride on Saturday, we headed over to the boathouse for a late lunch. While waiting for our table the mystery was solved, when we spied the new blue boats along the side of the venerable green ones that are being put out to pasture, sort-of-speak.

Cycle Zydeco is less than two-weeks away. Our bicycle training is beginning to feel like it is having an effect. We both feel stronger on the bike now. It is with some trepidation though that we hear the news from Louisiana. Last week’s church burnings have given way to this weekend’s deadly storms. Still, we will be accompanied by Saint Louis friends and this event appears well-organized.

I’ll leave you with another mystery story that was in yesterday’s paper. It comes from Oregon. There Police responded, guns drawn to a report of home invasion. Exercising restraint, while still under extreme duress, they faced an unknown danger behind a locked bathroom door. The suspect rejected repeated demands to surrender. Defiantly choosing to respond with “banging and rustling” noises. It was unclear if a hostage was involved. Even with three officers already on the scene, backup was called for. A detective and two canine officers responded from the nearby Beaverton Police Department. Repeated calls elicited no more response than the same banging and rustling, “Like a loud thud, thud, thud on glass.” Finally, after exhausting all avenues of negotiation, the moment came to bust down the door. There they encountered a most dastardly villain, a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. “Book ’em, Danno.”

Peak Spring

We sloughed off after the weekend, but got back on the bikes. We had been contemplating revisiting Madison County in Illinois, but people up north are having some sort of bomb cyclone that is dragging high winds across the bare corn fields here. Instead, we let discretion choose the better part of valor. We opted for a city ride. Wind wasn’t the only deciding factor though, news reports said that the gardens had extended their hours, because its Japanese garden’s cherry blossoms had peaked. It wasn’t only just there. Our neighborhood trees are flowering, the park is flowering and as anyone with hay fever would tell you, the whole city has blossomed.

It was the perfect spring day. We launched in the morning with just a hint of winter’s chill still remaining in the air. By the time that we recovered, after the day had warmed, there was enough heat to further hint at summer. Spring in Saint Louis has always seemed to teeter on a fulcrum, one day being winter and the next summer. If this year be true to form, then this is that day when it flips.

We headed out into a headwind, passing through the park. Anne chose to pose beneath some flowering cherries. I especially love the petal grout between the tiles. We toured Tower Grove Park and then lunched on South Grand. This being a weekday, we were able to get in at the Vine, a middle eastern flavored restaurant, probably halal too. We had been shutout last weekend, because it was so popular. The food was great. Afterwards, we swung by the gardens just to see those cherry blossoms.

Sped by a tailwind, we hurried home. An I-44 overpass on Tower Grove Ave. that is under construction, bottlenecked our route and we had to suffer truly deafening noise as we traversed it. We have been experimenting with alternative ways around Tower Grove Ave. On our return we discovered a vast swath, 15 acres, of Forest Park Southeast that is undergoing immediate gentrification. I may be blind, but I just woke to this change on this ride. This traditionally black neighborhood that was just honored this month with the naming of Bob Gibson Way in also undergoing wholesale slaughter. We heard about the 15 acres from a construction worker. It is a Wash U development. It’s not surprising. This low rent neighborhood is sandwiched between the Grove and the all-consuming Wash U / SLU central corridor and enjoys the last un-redeveloped park access. 

Art in Bloom

While Anne was at school, I walked to the art museum and attended their Art in Bloom show. In this show, florists arrange their bouquets to mimic artworks in the museum’s permanent collection. Pictured is Bob Hauck’s arrangement that is based on the sculpture Titan. Using black calla lilies, he won best in show. The following is the museum’s synopsis of the underlying Lüpertz sculpture: 

A monumental bronze figure stands with feet firmly planted, one arm raised while the other extends straight ahead. Markus Lüpertz modeled the pose of Titan after an ancient Greek sculpture of the god Zeus who is preparing to throw a lightning bolt. According to Greek mythology, Zeus led the Olympians to victory over the Titans, older deities, in a ten-year battle for control of the world. In contrast to the balanced proportions and smooth surface of the original sculpture, this work has roughly formed features and a craggy texture that expresses the brute strength of the Titans. Lüpertz painted a leg and arm green, creating the appearance of an ancient patina that reinforces his references to classical art and mythology.

This opening was crowded, what with the presence of the florists. Anne called while I was viewing all this. I had forgotten that she was only working a half day. She ended up getting a walk in too, on her way home from school.  

Forest Parkour

New Signage

The weather yesterday was fantastic, which is good, since today’s forecast goes back to regular winter humbug. Anne and I got out on our bikes again and rode around the park. The bike path was a little drier than Wednesday and it was definitely warmer, what with a high in the sixties. Anne got to wear her new ¾ length tights. A strong south wind was the cause of this warmth and it was also the cause of more exertion on our part, giving us strong headwinds to battle.

This fancy new signage is at the Wells Drive entrance, just off Skinker. I’m glad that it is finished, because it was more than a year in construction. The work site caused a minor detour of the bike path. It looks nice, except that the spacing on the letters is a little funky. While I was lining up this shot, a guy walked into the frame. I thought that he was going to photo-bomb my picture, but he sat down on the benches that are on the other side of the wall.

This is the latest addition to the new signage that has been placed throughout the park. Hundreds of directional maps now make it easier for visitors to figure out where they are and where they want to go. There’s nary a straight road in the park and it is easy for people unfamiliar with it to get lost.

Forest Park Forever, a charity dedicated to park upkeep has shouldered most of the responsibility for doing park maintenance and improvements. On this day, like most days, they have more workers in the park than the city has. The city couldn’t afford to maintain Forest Park and had allowed it to fall into disrepair. Forest Park Forever had a crew out that was managing the savanna around Deer Lake, when we rode by. They were raking the forest. Anne had to laugh. This organization’s work has truly brought back this once decaying gem.

Before the 1904 World’s Fair the park’s land was known as Skinker’s swamp. There’s a reference to this in the movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. Speaking of which, we saw the new Loop trolley entering the park at the History museum. Clang, clang, clang went the trolley!

Courting Colors

Great Blue Heron in Spring Plumage

Cardinal pitchers and catchers reported this week for spring training in Florida. Where did we leave those baseballs last year? Spring can’t be that far away. Yesterday, it supposedly warmed up some and Anne and I got out on our bikes. Our own form of spring training. It was brisk. It was too cold for Anne to wear her new three-quarter length bike tights and had to wear old full length ones.

The week of rain that we’ve had has left the bike path inundated. Orange cones were placed at the most egregious spots. They’ve never done that before. I’m not sure how helpful they were. The spots that were still flooded were self-evident. The ones where the water has receded were only of passing interest. Bicyclist have a real advantage over pedestrians at these spots. We can glide through the water, with pedals held level and not get wet. I could see where runners had cut cross-country and churned the soggy grass into mud.

We saw the pictured Great Blue Heron near Jefferson Lake. It is resplendent in its nuptial plumage. Is this another sign of spring or is fluffing its feathers, because it is cold? The bird allowed us to approach quite closely. Although, as you can see, we were being eyed even more closely. We are the bird paparazzi after all and shall not be denied our pics.

Later that day we had gyrotonics and we’re feeling it afterwards. We’re starting to get the hang of these exercises, which means less time is spent instructing and more time is spent doing. By the end of our period, I welcomed conversational asides, because they gave us a rest break. Maybe two exercises is too many.