City Review: Having fun in the Big D! (May 20, 2017)

Day two of our recent vacation began the focal point of our trip.  We woke up on May 20, 2017 in Texas, the state that we would be remaining in for the next four days.  Our first stop in Texas was the Big D, a city that neither of us had been to before.

Stop 1: Dealey Plaza
After driving to Dallas from Texarkana we pulled up to possibly the most (in)famous plaza in America.  Although there was a line for us to purchase our tickets, the line moved quickly and we were able to get into the museum after less than 30 minutes.

The museum included an audio tour that you had followed through the museum that included being able to look out the window next to where Lee Harvey Oswald made the infamous shots (picture to the left).

After visiting the museum we went for a quick walk around the plaza including visiting the infamous grassy knoll, the location that Zapruder was standing when he shot his famous film of the assassination and looking at the white “X” that marked the location of the President at the moment of each shot.  It was great to be able to walk around a place that almost every American has seen hundreds of times on film that has had such an effect on the world we live in today.

Stop #2: Globe Life Park & AT&T Stadium
After grabbing a quick lunch, and driving around SMU campus, we headed out to Fort Worth for a can’t miss appointment (discussed below).  On the way to Fort Worth we stopped by to look at both Globe Life Park (home stadium to the Texas Rangers) and AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys).  We didn’t take a tour or anything and it was a quick visit but I saw enough to know that I have to come back for a game at each stadium.  The Rangers’ stadium was a beautiful brick facade that had a great photo opportunity outside of it that Bride could not pass up.

AT&T Stadium is just a parking lot away from Globe Life Park and there is a mixed use development being built to connect the two stadiums that will add a lot of life to the pre and post games at each stadium.  AT&T park is well known for its size but I never really believed that the stadium could not be as big as the reports.  But I was wrong, the stadium is the largest stadium I have ever seen.  After we left we got back on the interstate and headed west and AT&T Stadium dominates the skyline and is visible for miles down the road.  It is truly impressive from the outside.

Stop 3: Fort Worth Stockyards
The last stop of the day was Fort Worth.  Bride was super excited to see the Longhorns walk back to their pens at the end of the day.  The stockyards are a step back in time to when each day thousands of steers would leave the stockyards for locations to the north including Kansas, Missouri and eventually Chicago.

Walking around the stockyards you realize what a big operation they were at one point with multiple train tracks ending at the stockyards that were used for trains that would be loaded up daily with steers.  Walking the longhorns is just a small sample of how busy these few blocks were for decades.  Lastly, the longhorns are HUGE! The pictures cannot due justice to how big each one is.

 

Dallas/Fort Worth as a Running/Cycling City:
As I was driving around Dallas I did see quite a few bike lanes, but I did not see many running paths or parks in the downtown areas or around SMU.  Although there was a small river near the stadiums that had a path widing around it.  Fort Worth, on the other hand, had a large park on the river in their downtown that included a great running path.  I think that both cities would be great for running but no path that I saw, or read about really had the distance that you would want for a great cycling path.

Next Stop: Austin!

-Runner

City Review: Little Rock Arkansas: A Great Way to Start a Great Trip (May 19, 2017)

Friday, May 19: Little Rock Arkansas is not high on many people’s list of places to visit. It wasn’t on mine either as we left for our week long vacation but I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed my time in the city.

On the way:

Leaving Bright and Early!

We left early in the morning (around 5:30 am) to make sure that we got there with plenty of time to explore the city.  The drive was an easy one with no traffic since we did not go through any large cities (we only skirted Memphis) and we arrived in Little Rock before 11 am so we missed any morning commute traffic.

First Stop: Clinton Presidential Library


We decided to make one step before we had lunch.  That stop was the Clinton Presidential Library & Museum.  We had only been to the Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL so we did not know what to expect to find at the museum. The museum was two stories and in the first story, there was a replica of the cabinet room and a long corridor that was arranged based on the years of the presidency.  Each year had its own panel in the center with sections based on topics surrounding them.

Mitra sitting in the President’s Cabinet chair

On the second floor there glassed in sections that held many of the gifts that President Clinton was given during his 8 years in office.  Also, Bride’s favorite part of the museum was the last thing that we got to look at.  There was a life-size replica of the Clinton Oval Office in the museum that we were able to walk through and take pictures in.  This room not only was impressive because it was the oval office but reading about all the symbolism found in the items that are located throughout the office. Overall the museum was a great experience, and some of the artifacts are priceless pieces of American history.

Second Stop: Lunch

From the Clinton library, we walked downtown to the River Market District and had lunch at the covered food hall located in the district.  The hall had multiple stands and restaurants, similar to the standard mall food court.  Although this one had a variety of small and diverse stalls to choose from.  You could eat from a different stall every day and could come back every day for over a  week or two without eating from the same place twice.

Third Stop: Arkansas Capitols

Little Rock has some similarities to Springfield, IL.  It has been the state capital for a long time and with that distinction comes the fact that there has been more than one capitol building in the city.  In Little Rock, the old capitol is in the downtown district right on the river.  The old capitol is open and is free for anyone to walk around and look at the displays throughout the building.  The displays include the history of the building, an overview of every Arkansas governor as well as a new display focused on the first ladies of Arkansas including dresses from the first ladies, including Hilary Clinton.

Last Stop: Big Dam Bridge & Little Rock’s Running Path

Northwest of Little Rock is Big Dam Bridge.  The bridge is the longest bridge in the country designed only for pedestrians and cyclists.  According to the plaques at the beginning of the bridge, this was the only bridge ever designed to be added to a dam.  All other bridges that span dams were designed as part of the dam structure but when this dam was built it was not meant to have a bridge over the dam.

Little Rock’s Riverfront Running/Cycling Path

*I am planning a larger, more in-depth post of this path later*

The bridge is a focal point of a 16-mile run/bike path that spans both sides of the Arkansas river.  The path connects Big Dam Bridge to a bridge near the Clinton Presidential Library.  The path is really developed and you can tell that Little Rock, as a city, is committed to making this path part of its community.  The path connects the Riverfront outdoor amphitheater, the Clinton Presidential Library, the Big Dam Bridge, Junction Bridge (pictured to the left behind Bride) and everything in between.  I am looking forward to coming back to Little Rock someday and spending some quality time pounding the pavement on the riverfront trail.

Overall, Little Rock has plenty of stuff to keep you busy for a long weekend or even a little longer.  It has a great mix of history, modern entertainment, and a great path to workout on.

Look for another post on our next city later this week!

-Runner

Vacation Posts Begin

Currently, I am in the middle of a 12 state 10-day vacation.  This vacation will include visits to Little Rock, AR, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, TX as well as Panama City Beach and Ginny Springs in Florida before coming back home during the memorial day weekend.

In the next few days, I will begin posting the first in a series of reviews of the cities that we are visiting.  These reviews will not only hit on the attractions that each city has to offer but will also have pieces on the running/cycling trails that each city has and my opinion on how good each city is in welcoming runners, cyclists, and triathletes.

Little Rock and the beginning of my vacation will be the focus of tomorrow’s test.

-Runner

City Review: Harrisburg, PA

Myself and Bride love to travel and experience the cities that we visit and I believe that one of the best ways to experience, and get to know a city is to run around it.  Knowing this I am going to start regularly writing about not just the cities that we are travelling to now, but I will write about the cities that I have traveled to in the past.

Overall Opinion:

Harrisburg is situated on the Susquehanna river and has the benefit of having many waterfront parks that provide the perfect environment for a great running trail.  Harrisburg’s waterfront is home to many old homes, stores, and buildings that have maintained their charm.  Harrisburg, being the capital of Pennsylvania, has the capital building and the surrounding area to run through.

Route:

When researching my route my realized that many of the regular online resources are not very active for Harrisburg routes.

Samsung Galaxy 5 Upload 07-07-2014 3223 Normally a simple Google search will provide ample routes in many cities I have visited in the past.  As I looked the most commonly states area was city island.  This small island is home to the Harrisburg Senators Minor League baseball stadium as well as attractions and the city marina. This island became the starting point for my run.

Samsung Galaxy 5 Upload 07-07-2014 3215 I parked near the capital building and planned on finishing my run with a nice run around the capital complex.  I started by running down Walnut Street to the pedestrian bridge to city island.  When I first made it to the island I quickly was impressed with the atmosphere.  Even though it was early and there were not many people on the island I could tell that before during and after baseball games this would be a great place to hang out and enjoy America’s pastime. The island included places to eat, a paddle boat, a miniature golf course and a small train that goes around the stadium.  Running around it allowed me to see everything and I really think this island would be a great place to go back to.

After running two laps around the island (around 3.75 miles) I ran back across the pedestrian bridge and started running on the path along the river that is part of the Capital Area Green Belt.  The Green Belt is a 19 mile trail  through and around the city.  My time was running tight so I just ran one mile west on the trail and one mile back to Walnut Street.  The parks that this trail connects are clean and are sprinkled with memorials and gardens.

PA CapitalAfter making it back to Walnut street I ran up to the Capital and was very impressed  with the grounds surrounding the capital as well as the building itself.  This capital is one of the few that I have been too that is not built on a hill yet they built it in such a way to still provide strong and dignified feel to the building.  That being said, I can imagine that this area is not an ideal place to run during the week when there are many employees and visitors on the grounds.

 

Highlights:

  • City Island was not only a great place to run in the morning, but I could tell that it would be a highlight for any night when the Senators are in town.
  • The pedestrian bridge to City Island provides a safe and scenic way to get to and from the island
  • The Capital Area Green Belt provides a clean and easy running trail that any runner can follow.
  • The capital is one of the most impressive that I have seen and provides a great area to run

Lowlights:Samsung Galaxy 5 Upload 07-07-2014 3228

  • I have ran in many neighborhoods in many cities but I felt that in the area between the capital and the waterfront was not the safest for any runner.  I felt that the stop lights were not very pedestrian friendly and could use some improvement
  • Although the Capital Area Green Belt is a nice path, that was really the only option for any run over a few miles if you did not want to just do laps around City Island.
  • One of the highlights of running in DC is the ample amounts of water fountains in and around the mall and on many of the public routes that I have frequented  but in Harrisburg I passed only one water fountain and it was not turned on.

Score (1-5): 2 Despite Harrisburg’s waterfront charm its attractiveness does not go far from the water and despite much of my route was empty of traffic so I was not distracted or affected by it but on work days the normal traffic would greatly effect the attractiveness of my route.