Sometimes we are blessed in life by unusual circumstances. Or, to put it another way, we get lemonade when life hands us lemons. Such is my current reaffiliation with the Southlake Toastmasters of Southlake, Texas. According to its website, Toastmasters boasts 364,000 members from 145 countries around the world. Participating in Toastmasters helps develop and hone our organizational, leadership, and communication skills. I have been involved with the organization off and on since taking my first speech class in college many moons ago.
Southlake is a northern suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth. Under normal conditions, they meet at 7:00 Monday mornings at the Southlake Town Hall. (Yes, I am very much a morning person!) When I relocated from Keller to Houston in early 2016 I had to discontinue my membership for about 285 logistical reasons. Now, due to gathering restrictions courtesy of COVID-19, Toastmaster clubs around the world have pivoted to virtual meeting formats. Not only does this allow me to rejoin the Southlake group I have missed so much, but it also facilitates visiting Clubs from all over the world! See? Lemonade!
Several years ago, I added a page called “Toastmaster Speeches” to this website. I was happy to log on this morning and update that page with the Icebreaker speech I offered this morning. Although COVID has forced much of normal life to be placed on hold, I am thankful for the technology that allows us all to remain connected to some extent. To be sure, virtual meetings have their limitations, but in these trying times the technology is a Godsend.
What are you doing to maintain normalcy as we fight this pandemic? Life is short. And we’ve got to keep living it.
After a couple of weekends deemed by yours truly as too cold and/or wet to ride, we were blessed with beautiful weather here in Houston last Sunday. I had a lot on my plate, so I wasn’t sure whether I would ride or not – that is, not until I logged into my Fitbit app all 1,221 calories of my James Coney Island Sunday lunch – two coney dogs and a pile of chili-cheese fries. At that point, there was no doubt that my Schwinn was going for a ride and I would be on it.
As I left the house, I decided I would re-embark on the Barker Reservoir trail with my goal being to surpass the turnaround point on my last ride. As I rode west along the reservoir, I faced a stiff breeze. I wondered if the breeze would be multi-directional as it seemed on my last ride but I pressed on. As I turned left to head north from my previous turnaround point, I was pleased to enjoy a nice, smooth trail right through the reservoir. I really appreciate that nature is so close by and accessible.
Of course, cycling through nature is not without its hazards. As I approached this day’s turnaround point as Westheimer Parkway, the “pop, pop, pop” from the nearby shooting range grew increasing louder. I was also thankful for the sign reminding me not to swim in the brackish water and to keep my eyes peeled for alligators.
As I turned around at Westheimer Parkway, I noted that I had ridden 11.3 miles thus far. And I was pleased to note, as I turned east between the reservoir and I-10 that the wind was at my back. My ride home was a piece of cake.
I leave for London this Saturday, so I will lose the next couple of weekends to travel. I continue to enjoy my new hobby, and I look forward to daylight savings time allowing me the option to hop on the bike a few evenings a week.
January 12, 2019 – What a beautiful morning! As I prepared to depart on my ride the sun was shining and the temp was a cool 61 degrees. This is the perfect morning on which to attempt the 22-mile round trip around the Barker Reservoir. Or so I thought. As I headed up our street towards Memorial Drive, the more-brisk-than-I-realized breeze blew into my face and hindered my progress. And the effects of a late night out presented themselves in royal fashion. No, today is not the day for that longer ride. It’s OK; plans can be changed.
As I rode up Memorial Drive towards Terry Hershey Park, I pondered my options. I could do the loop trail and go home, but that would be too short. Then I remembered an access point into a neighborhood adjoining the park. I decided to explore that, and see where the roads would take me. Lo and behold, they took me to work!
I know a few coworkers to ride their bikes to work and back. We are blessed to have a workout facility at the office, complete with showers and changing space. So I could do it, if I wanted to. Something to ponder…
I rode up Enclave Pkwy to Briar Forest, turned around and rode back to Hershey. From there I headed back up Memorial Drive to the comfort of home. Not exactly the ride I envisioned as I prepared to leave, but I’ll take it given the circumstances. The Barker Reservoir trail will be there when I’m ready to tackle it.
January 6, 2019. After having walked a portion of this trail I’ve looked forward to exploring the rest of it on my bike. Beginning at Terry Hershey Park to the east, the trail is roughly 11 miles long to its end at South Fry Road. The weather was, again, perfect for a ride: temps in the los 70’s with partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze. As I mounted my bike to begin my journey, the saddle-soreness from yesterday’s ride immediately dictated that this would be a partial exploration of this trail.
Our home, along many others, was flooded after Hurricane Harvey when the federal government opened the flood gates at the Barker Reservoir with no advance notice or warning. Seeing those gates now still brings back the memories of forced evacuation and significant property loss.
The section of trail I rode is unshaded, and follows the berms that form the reservoir. As I rode north and then turned west towards Barker Cypress road the breeze was in my face and I looked forward to a nice tail wind on the ride back. Reaching my turnaround point near West Houston Audi on the Katy Freeway, I snapped pics of the section of trail to be explored next weekend (left) and looking back over the route over which I have come (right) as I enjoyed my water break.
As I retraced my route eastbound, I was surprised that the breeze in my face was stronger than it was headed west. How in the world does that happen? Ducking my head to the wind, I persevered, soon arriving back at Terry Hershey Park. I couldn’t help but capture a few pics of an over-full Buffalo Bayou before heading home.
Having ridden two days in a row, my body is telling me it needs some rest, and I’m happy to oblige. I continue to enjoy my new hobby and look forward to hitting the trails next weekend, weather permitting of course!
January in Houston offers some outstanding weather for hitting the cycling trails and today was absolutely perfect. I pulled out of the garage late this morning, greeted by a sunny sky and beautiful 64 degree temperature. My goal: Ride the bayou trail to Gessner Road and back. More on that in a bit.
We had a lot of rain this past week, and the bayou was overflowing its banks as a result. Many stopped to check it out, including this family.
As I approached the Sam Houston Tollway overpass, I was excited to pass this previous turnaround point for me. Proceeding under the bridge, I came upon several of Houston’s first responders practicing fast water rescues and maneuvers in the bayou. How cool is this??
Continuing on, I rode up a slight rise headed east towards Gessner Road when it happened. Dead end. The trail continued through a locked gate at a very nice looking apartment building. Best laid plans, I guess…
Well, what could I do? I rode up to the tollway and took a quick tour through an adjoining neighborhood, hit the trail and headed west towards home. I’ll be checking out the Houston trail maps, as I still intend to ride downtown and back by end of this year.
It doesn’t really matter, though. I ride for fun. I enjoy the weather and the scenery. Today’s ride was excellent. My new Schwinn is performing beautifully, and I’m enjoying the Strava app. I like that I see other Strava users marked in the app but haven’t found any local Strava friends yet. And the app calls me an “athlete” – that by itself makes it a keeper.