October 23, 2016 – Sun, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 49
Miles to Date: 18,421
States to Date: 45
The United States is emptier than most people think. When we drive freeways at rush hour, fill up mall parking lots on weekends, load warehouse goods in the morning, or descend on baseball stadiums for a night game, we populate places for a particular activity. We associate them with bustle and crowds. But there are hours, days, entire seasons when these places sit unused. The inevitable result of an environment cordoned into specialized zones in a nation of excess, if ill maintained, infrastructure.
I spent a Sunday pedaling from Fort Worth through Arlington, Grand Prairie and Irving to Dallas, aka The Metroplex. What does the fourth largest SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area) in our country (after New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) look like on a mild autumn afternoon? It’s mostly empty.
Arlington is the sports and entertainment center of the Metroplex, home to Six Flags Over Texas, Ranger Stadium, and Cowboy Stadium. But the city’s main street is a former US Highway whose traffic has shifted to the nearby Interstate. What’s left are used car lots, repair garages, pawn shops, fried chicken in any shape, and budget motels.
The industrial zone is a no man’s land.
Houses in Grand Prairie have designer grates that hide any life within.
On a perfect cycling afternoon, even the bike path in Irving is empty. Most Americans are watching their favorite football teams. The only humans I saw were Indians playing mad cricket.
Downtown Dallas is full of vacuous plazas where groups of poor people huddle in shade and a guy with a megaphone barks the Gospel. I.M Pei’s City Hall is brutal modern architecture with the subversive message that government could topple and crush us. Another example that just because we have the technical capacity to build something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The First Baptist Church complex is also a hodgepodge of meaning. Yes, there’s a cross. But everything else looks mighty corporate to me.
I really loved the cattle sculpture stampeding through Pioneer Square. There were more of them than humans. Actually, I rather liked the entire day. I got to pedal through every kind of landscape: residential, civic, industrial, retail, natural, without having to bother with any people.