Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Local Bikeway

Bike trails are a key ingredient in the recipe for cooking up a livable city.

The Longleaf Trace, name inspired by the indigenous longleaf pine, runs along an abandoned freight rail track from the university out 39 miles through a handful of small towns. Right now, it is utilized primarily as a recreational bike and walk path, although some outlying apartment complexes are catching on. Shy little concrete paths are popping up to connect the (mostly student) apartments to the trail. No celebrations of neighborhood-meets-bike-trail yet - every new development so far along the trace has been planned solely around the car as the only means of transportation with the trace as a distant afterthought - but the few miles just beyond the university is prime for bike-centered student and young professional housing.

Plans for extending the trail from the university into downtown (about 3 miles) will transform the trace into an integral part of the city's transportation infrastructure. Situated alongside a major east/west corridor, this bike and walk path will offer a quick commute for students living downtown, cultivate downtown street activity (the lifeblood of public space), and create a stronger connection between the city's two main urban centers.

I live near the current mouth of the trail so it's very easy for me to pop on for a nice bike ride; most mornings I do go out for some peaceful yet-your-blood-flowing exercise. I took these pics this morning.

The Longleaf trace is a Rails to Trails project. There are several of them around the country. Local civic leaders and bike enthusiasts joined forces, and worked diligently over a number of years to bring this about, and the fruits of their efforts are bountiful.

Here's a link to the national Rails to Trails program. Find one near you...or build one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Extra, Extra, Read All About It latest newspaper column entitled "The Frank Lloyd Wright Home." For a fresh take on architecture, livable neighborhoods, and sustainable design, ask your local newspaper editor to start carrying my weekly essays. Enjoy...

A Little More Line...

Graphs don't lie. This nifty illustration came from Project Laundry List, a non-profit group advocating the production and usage of energy from sustainable sources, i.e. the sun.

Their website, with a nice helping of wit and creativity, offers some good information about the benefits of line drying and more. Clothesline art can be found there as well.

From their website, a nice quote:

"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately."
-Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Walkin' the Line

On the very local scene, as local as your back yard, a new-old technique of powering your clothes dryer: the sun! Zero carbon footprint.

The clothesline movement is growing as a green alternative. Over the past 50 years, as electric dryers, albeit energy hogs, became ubiquitous, many neighborhoods have outlawed line drying for "aesthetic" reasons. But the TIDE is changing. Who's looking at my underwear anyway?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Farmer Meets Market

The Thursday evening farmers market is one of a growing number of markets in the area, all with their own character and personality. This market has a decidedly organic feel.

This market came about, from what I understand, because of the personal initiative of Chris Cagle, owner of the organic grocery store and cafe across the street. I call Chris a socio-economic entrepreneur, meaning what he does creates economic AND social (or cultural) capital simultaneously.

Tom, an organic farmer makes the short drive every Thursday with his seasonal fare. Lettuce, unfortunately, is gone for the season here, and his lettuce is superb - almost too beautiful to eat, until you taste it. But he had plenty of squash and zuccini and I scooped some up. Got a ripe plump watermelon from the guy next to him. They're just in.

It's a fairly new market (located in a park downtown that I helped design several years ago) and catching on fast. It's not just a place to buy veggys and art, its a place where social connection happens naturally, where a deep sense of "neighborhood" prospers.

And what a delight to hear a really great local bluegrass band - the Simpson County Ramblers. Perfect addition to the "texture." They kept changing instruments. Nice soulful sound, good bounce, great timing, some original compositions - they really enjoyed playing music and playing together. Love that bluegrass!

Earlier I posted a photo of some beautiful eggplants from another market, an indoor venue open Saturday and Wednesday morning. It has a completely different cast of characters and produce and crafts.

And Saturday morning, in the same park, another group (from the University) organizes a market, again with a different group of vendors and artists.

Variety, community, fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally crafted art all promote a rich cultural experience. Go ahead, take a bite of that juicy ripe peach.

A Solution for High Gas Prices

Nothing makes the point like a timely 3-D art installation. James Moore, proprietor of a local bike shop, fashioned this nice assembly in full view of the "$4-a-gallon" parade. It instantly illustrates, in a very creative way, the ever increasing cost benefits of riding a bike instead of always defaulting to automobile transportation.

James is a great example of being the change you want to see. A long-time bike shop owner and, more recently a city alderman, he is a tireless advocate of "complete streets" and was instrumental in the creating of a local recreational bike trail - a Rails-to-Trails project - now 39 miles in length with additional construction in the works.

"Turn any car into a hybrid" he explains, "by attaching a bike rack to your vehicle." Drive in to work, park your car and run local errands on your bike - brilliant!

And James is slowly educating me on bike-riding etiquette and safety issues. A great example of why buying local is a key element of sustainable living. No Wal-Mart sales associate, cheap Chinese Huffy in box, will ever give you the "hows and whys" of biking 101, but at this local shop, it comes naturally.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Local Bounty

Here's a partial display of dividends from a local farmer's market. The fresh vegetables so beautifully captivated the spirit of early summer that they won out over wildflowers for our evening table bouquet.

Donna threw in a few extra peppers - banana, jalapeƱo, and a spicy breed of light green bell pepper, I cannot remember the name - as she weighed up two varieties of purple eggplant and some plump home-grown tomatoes. Another vendor's table offered up white eggplant; I couldn't resist. Fresh corn, baby cucumbers, onions and bell peppers rounded out the morning's take, all grown within 25 miles of home.

And of course, Mrs. Douglass, the grande dame of the market, talked me into buying another one of her propagated plants, this time an aloe vera. "It's summertime," she said. "You always need an aloe vera plant for sunburn. And you can wipe it on a little cut and it'll go away." Sage words of wisdom: no charge.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

In the spirit of Fathers Day, here's a photo of my two sons - Clay, 19, on the left and Avery, 15, on the right - along with my dear mother Mary Nell taken at Unity Chapel last weekend.

And, a picture of my new father-in-law Jim Johnson walking his daughter Vickie down the aisle. Notice the sun beaming in the windows beyond. Amidst all the Midwestern rain of the past two weeks, the skies opened up for a brief moment to back-light a beautiful bride. The sun shone bright throughout the wedding ceremony, birds chirping. Thunderous showers resumed immediately afterwards.

Happy Father's Day.

Check out my weekly Sunday newspaper column:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wedding Bells

Last Saturday, I married Dr. Professor Frau Victoria Johnson in Unity Chapel near Spring Green, Wisconsin. 'Twas a simple, elegant affair and went off without a hitch - no dramatic objections, nobody fainted, both said "I will" - even in the midst of surrounding stormy weather. In fact, the sun came out, gloriously, as the wedding began and light beamed in the windows for the entire ceremony. Magical!

Unity Chapel is the Lloyd Jones family chapel (FLlW's mother's family) built in 1886. Frank Lloyd Wright was a teenager at the time, and though he proposed to his Uncle Jenk - the family's famous Unitarian Minister - that he be the architect, the chapel was ultimately designed by J. L. Silsbee, a Chicago architect, and Frank Lloyd Wright was his "man on the ground." Wright later went on to work for Silsbee at the age of 19 (for a year) before moving on to become Louis Sullivan's draftsman.

More wedding photos to come...

Post Script: Can anyone identify the significance of the left side of the chapel photograph?