Friday, August 24, 2012

Calgary’s Natural Beauty is Most Apparent by Bicycle and Foot

Originally published at Mobility Lab.

Before heading out to Banff in Alberta for a long-planned family vacation in the Canadian Rockies, I had about four hours to kill in Calgary before my wife and son's flight arrived. So, like I do in all new cities I visit, I headed downtown to take a bikeride and walk around some too.

Using social media the day before leaving home in Washington D.C., it took about five minutes before Bike Calgary's Facebook page responded to my question about where I should rent a bicycle and where I should ride. Sure enough, the recommendation was right on. The taxi from the airport drove me about 20 minutes to Rapid Rent in Eau Claire Market, where Taste of Calgary had the place buzzing with people. Christina at Rapid Rent was super helpful and steered me towards biking up and down the nearby Bow River and also saving some time to walk around downtown.


Prices for the bike rental were reasonable, as they seem to be in all cities around the world. I paid about $25 for three hours, plus a lock and helmet. Then I rode about 20 miles of trail that follow the river on both sides west and east of Eau Claire. The red Peace Bridge was one of the first sites worth stopping at for photos.

The paths are lovingly constructed and one must watch for signs where the bike paths separate from the pedestrian paths.

At one point, I took a photo in one single frame of a train station, a bus depot, bike and walking paths, and countless rafts floating down the river. It made me wonder why the nearby road was filled with cars and trucks belching along. But at least nobody can say Calgarians don't have mobility options!

After dropping my rental bike off, I took Christina's advice and spent an hour walking around downtown before catching a taxi back to the airport. The sites included Olympic Plaza, built for the 1988 Winter Olympics; the Calgary Tower, a space needle of sorts built in 1967 to celebrate Canada's centennial; 8th Avenue SW, which is a pedestrian street lined with shops, bars, and restaurants; and the +15 Skywalks overhead, known as the second most extensive network of skywalks in the world.

There is certainly plenty more to see in Calgary, but I don't think there is any better way of seeing a lot in a little time than biking and complementing it with some walking.

Although I saw plenty of wildlife throughout the afternoon, I did somehow miss the coyotes. Signs along the river trails cautioned me to look out for them. I guess that's something I'll have to wait to see until my next trip to beautiful Calgary!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Best New Albums: August 2012

This is a new monthly feature recently introduced. You can stream all the albums mentioned here for free at this Spotify link, which I keep updated.

Best Album of the Month:
Jeff the Brotherhood - Hypnotic Nights
Wanna be able to play something poolside this summer that your one or other two friends with good taste in rock music will dig alongside all the others who consider Weezer way out on the edge? Look no further.

Best of the Rest:
Foxygen - Take the Kids Off Broadway
A weird little discovery that is actually quiet epic with its 6-minute songs that shift frequently musically from Pink Floyd to Neutral Milk Hotel and other innumerable acts. The band is able to remain completely original, and even includes a vocalist who sometimes sounds more like Mick Jagger than anyone not in The Rolling Stones.

JJAMZ - Suicide Pact
Please don't hate me for suggesting you should listen to an album like this. Call it my guilty summer alternative to Carly Rae Jepsen. It's super catchy, and perhaps not even disposable!

Soul Asylum - Delayed Reaction
I loved this Minneapolis band in the 90s (two of my favorite concerts were their And the Horse They Rode In On shows in St. Louis and at the University of Missouri), and this is a return to form. Half of the album recalls Soul Asylum's more rowdy early days and the rest hints at the poppier side from their "Runaway Train" mainstream era.

Lee Ranaldo - Between the Times and the Tides
Sonic Youth's guitar player shows why his main band is so good. It's not all Thurston Moore after all. This solo LP is laced with great riffs and CBGB New York attitude in the vocals throughout. He was also great in concert last month opening for Wilco.

Beachwood Sparks - The Tarnished Gold
Has it really been 10 years since these sun-drenched beach bums released anything? This is drippingly and soothingly, simply, beautiful. It makes me want to sit in a hammock and just listen every time.

Donnie & Joe Emerson - Dreamin' Wild
These two kid brothers recorded this in their basement back when classic rock was still classic. If you can get past the ridiculously cheesy cover art of them rockin' out in leisure suits, it's very groovy rock n' roll.

Savannah is for Walkers

In front of the famed Garden of Good and Evil fountain.
There are so many beautiful sights and photos I could share from my recent trip to Savannah. But it's always good to self-edit oneself, so these are the ones you get.

I was working and sick with a nasty summer cold for my four days in the Georgia city, but it was still fun to explore the city a little with my fun new colleagues at Mobility Lab who joined me there for the Association of Commuter Transportation conference.

Palm trees line many of Savannah's streets
My main advice for staying in Savannah is ... walk, walk, walk. Don't get on those trolleys unless you absolutely have to. Even in the sweltering humidity of July, the way this city should be enjoyed is by foot (or possibly bicycle if you are inclined and want to venture a little further out from the center).

Its southern charm is truly highlighted with a good old-fashioned stroll.

Homey restaurants and countless major discount and luxury chains line the city center streets, and shoppers will have plenty of choices

Candy purchases are a must in the stores in the market area and along the river. I bought a bag of peanut brittle, but at the counter, couldn't resist adding some pralines and other chocolate goodies

A view out my hotel room of one of the city's many beautiful clock towers

These pedestrians have the right idea. I watched them while eating BBQ in the park while the tourists on the trolley looked uncomfortably hot and bored

And, ahh, yes ... the Spanish moss