With the delayed arrival of cooler temperatures here, I tend to start my rides later in the day. That also means shorter rides. Today I felt the urge to visit that old rail bridge I noted crossing the Oklahoma River not far from Western Avenue. The foundation says it was built in 1966, making it fifty years old. I suppose it’s current state shows the lack of resolve — and lack of funding — in the once popular idea of turning abandoned railbeds into fitness trails. (As always, click on any image to see it full-sized. CTRL-click will open the image in a separate browser tab.)
The rail line used to run up from the southwest across the suburbs and through some industrial facilities, then across the river and through the edge of downtown. The downtown part was gone long ago, buried under several renovations of I-40 Crosstown, so the rails were pulled up long ago. But as the removal went southwesterly, it stopped near Stockyards City because it runs into a still active rail line that runs across the south side of the Metro. I’ve read about the way the process of deciding which lines to keep and which to abandon has gone back and forth and made commitments to conversion difficult or even impossible. Anyway, this bridge is sturdy but hard to use. The gap between the ties is too wide for us old guys to ride across comfortably, so it needs a deck of some kind, and side rails would really be a good idea.
Still, I walked my bike across as I contemplated some things. I had ridden out westward from home, zigzagging through some quiet neighborhood streets until I was forced to use Reno to get to Eagle Lake. Where the Eagle Lake Trail runs out at Eastern Avenue, I took my usual diversion along the south riverbank where there has been some, but very little, activity starting back to work on the Indian Heritage Center. Down where the dirt road dips under I-35, some guy was sitting on his pickup tailgate fishing in the rowing area. He can get away with it because there’s no training activity and no one’s paying attention to the south bank. I had the bike trails to myself all the way down to the railroad bridge. Once across, it was the same story heading back toward Bricktown on the north bank. But of course, auditory silence is not the same as heart silence. This last image shows the choir that greets me every time I ride by here.
This is the stretch between the very active rail bridge that runs into the OKC rail yard, and the entryway for the tourist dock at the Chesapeake Boathouse. On this part of the bike trail stands a thicket of mixed native trees. You might not hear a thing, but whenever I ride through here it sounds in my soul like the chatter of junior-high kids welcoming me like I’m some kind of hero. How many thousands of folks walk, jog or ride past here without using their sensory hearts? There’s a lot of pent-up emotion from those “standing people” in that silent language of the heart.
I followed the bike path into the boathouse inlet and around the monuments into the parking lot. It’s all interconnected with the parking lots of restaurants, entertainment venues and hotels that dominate Bricktown. Straight north from one of the hotels is a street that changes names once or twice in just a few blocks, but it takes me to NW 4th and that’s my ticket home. The yuppie lofts stop at the underpass for I-235. I run through the south end of the hospital district which is slowly replacing the ancient structures of the forgotten part of “Deep Deuce” and hit the old park that seldom sees many guests. The alleged “bike trail” that starts there is a standard sidewalk that often has too many pedestrians for me to ride safely, so I stick to the road until I’m almost to ML King Boulevard. While the little golf course is on the north side after that, it’s gritty oilfield suppliers on the south side of the street. Over the hump at I-35 and it’s rough road that becomes even rougher road along the tar and blacktop plants before the railroad crossing near Cherry Creek. Just another two miles and I’m home.