Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say . . . Tornado

Let’s talk about last Friday, Good Friday—or “Bad Friday” as they’ve dubbed it in St. Louis: Friday, April 22, 2011. They’ll be remembering that date for a long time in St. Louis!

But here in Central Missouri, we really lucked out. It was one of those cases where the sirens went off right as the skies grew dark and green—the sirens make that eerie, ominous moan that opens into an ear-splitting wail, shrinks back into a moan, and rises again into a wail. Over and over. And then it goes silent (which is even worse).

For me, here’s the drill: Firefox > Bookmarks > News > TV > ABC 17 – KMIZ TV – The Spirit of Missouri > Weather > Interactive Radar. Then, I click on “Live Storm Tracking” to get the up-to-the-minute stuff they’re saying on the TV.

The first task is to determine which direction the evil red blob with rotation was heading.

Just so you can appreciate what we went through (and what we go through), here are some excerpts from KMIZ’s live storm tracking chat that evening. I’m omitting a lot of stuff—many reports on hail and wall clouds, notifications of tornado warnings expiring in western counties as the storm moved east, miscellaneous questions from the public, etc.

4:53 Comment From Scared:
Is the cell tracking to Jeff City?? Sirens going off

4:54 Met. Jeff Huffman:
Supercell capable of a tornado will move slightly north of US HWY 50 and threaten California, Jamestown, Centertown, and the northwest side of Jefferson City.

4:55 Comment From Ryan
Is the cell tracking to Columbia?

4:55 Comment From Sandy
Are tornadoes expected for Columbia tonight?

4:45 Met. Jeff Huffman
At its present course, the biggest threat from this storm in Columbia would be large hail around 5:20 . . . mainly on south side of the city.

. . . . . . . . .

5:11 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: 4 W Centertown [Moniteau Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 05:09 PM CDT – spotter located in Centertown observes a funnel cloud just to the west.

. . . . . . . . .

5:14 ABC17Stormtrack:
Tornado Warning issued for Boone, Cole & Callaway Counties until 6:00pm.

. . . . . . . . .

5:15 Forecaster Justin Abraham:

5:15 Forecaster Justin Abraham:

. . . . . . . . .

5:25 Forecaster Justin Abraham:

. . . . . . . . .

5:39 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: 1 N Holts Summit [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 5:37 PM CDT –

5:39 Forecaster Justin Abraham:

. . . . . . . .

5:51 ABC17Stormtrack:

. . . . . . . .

5:54 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: 8 E Holts Summit [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 05:51 PM CDT – spotter 2 miles north of Tebbetts reports a funnel cloud 3 miles north of his location going up and down.

. . . . . . . .

6:03 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: Mokane [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 06:01 PM CDT – spotter in Mokane looking north reports a funnel cloud.

. . . . . . . .

6:04 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: Portland [Callaway Co., MO] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 06:02 PM CDT – several funnel clouds . . . strong rotation in base of meso[cyclone]

. . . . . . .

6:21 Forecaster Justin Abraham:

. . . . . . .

6:32 Forecaster Justin Abraham:
STORM REPORT: LSX: Rhineland [Montgomery Co., MO] trained spotter reports WALL CLOUD at -6:30 PM CDT – large . . . low . . . rotating wall cloud. No funnels spotted at this time.

So this worrisome supercell passed eastward through Central Missouri, from Centertown to Hartsburg, south of Fulton, through Tebbetts, Mokane, Portland, and Rhineland, at forty miles per hour, dumping large hail and showing people what “wall clouds” and “funnel clouds” look like.

Here is a picture I took from our third-floor dormer, looking north toward the beast as it passed over southern Boone County, pelting it with hail. That’s the Capitol Plaza Hotel, by the way, for reference.

Thus it slipped rather cleanly between the cities of Columbia and Jefferson City, sparing us from the fright that the folks in rural areas along Highway 94 were experiencing.

But then it turned wicked, dropped its funnel around 8 pm, and that tornado plowed through the north St. Louis metro area in a path twenty-two miles long and almost a half-mile wide. It caused major damage to Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, closing it, and in the community of Bridgeton, it reached an intensity of EH4, essentially destroying everything in its path.

I’m not sure anyone can say why the tornado zapped St. Louis and not us. We were incredibly lucky.

Here, you can see a nifty animated radar of that supercell as it travels from Callaway County into the St. Louis area. (Special thanks to Chief Meteorologist Sharon Ray of ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather for sharing this link with me!)

Here’s a link to NOAA’s official report of the “Good Friday Tornadic Event” of April 22, 2011.

Below, as I did with the two radar images above, I shamelessly copy pictures from the KMIZ Web story on the St. Louis tornado. This is one of Columbia’s Mo-X shuttle vans—familiar to anyone who drives I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis.*


Boy, were we lucky here in Central Missouri.


* Note: Mo-X has some of the most blatantly sexist advertising in Central Missouri. (Well? I'm just sayin’ what everybody knows.) I sure wish they’d find a more dignified way to sell their services.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Storms

We’ve had some chilly, damp weather recently. It’s the time of the spring where we get farther and farther from the memory of snow, and the belief in it. It’s getting hard to even picture what the sidewalks looked like with ice on them. (Every day without icy sidewalks is a good day! Hooray!)

Granted, I’m not constitutionally “against” winter weather, but by the time it’s April, I yearn for all that stuff to be over! And so instead, we usher in the season of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes!

As you know, this spring I reread Edwin Way Teale’s North with the Spring, which describes Edwin and Nellie Teale’s zigzagging travels as they traced the progress of spring from the southern tip of Florida to the northern tip of Maine. Their trip occurred in 1947.

The book covers much more than just violets and robins; Teale examines several aspects of springtime that few people think about. The arrival of elvers in fresh waters and their long, wriggling trip up rivers and streams to the place where they will breed; the seasonal vertical migration of duckweeds within a single pond; and the movements of some bird species that migrate altitudinally on a mountainside instead of longitudinally up and down the map. He witnesses the springtime activities of Appalachian herb gatherers, who pick bags and bags of waxy balm-of-Gilead buds that ultimately wind up in salves and ointments. Spring is many things to many organisms.

One thing that Teale left out of his book—probably because in his trip he stuck to the eastern quarter of the United States—is “tornado season.” For folks in the Midwest, this is the time to make sure the emergency radio has fresh batteries, that there’s a comfortable place in the basement in which to wait out the storm, and for public officials to test the community’s emergency sirens. In schools, March usually includes “natural disaster awareness week” or some such, where all the kids learn what to do if there’s a tornado watch, tornado warning, or severe thunderstorm watch or warning. (Of course, a lot of that has changed since I was a kid!)

So they’ve been predicting possible severe weather practically every other day these last few weeks. Sometimes we get a good thunderstorm out of it; on Tuesday the 19th, at 3:45 a.m., we got quarter-sized hail. (That’ll wake you up!) But in regard to serious, serious destruction, it “never” amounts to anything; often, it’s absolutely clear it’s going to bypass us. And sometimes we don’t even get a drop of rain (sometimes the storms are very scattered).

So it tends to make one apathetic. But then there are a few times each year when the forecasters, the radar, the sirens, the sky, the birds—everything—indicates a strong possibility of a tornado heading right toward us. Again, it “never” hits, but then, you never know . . .

(To be continued in my next post . . .)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! For fun, I'm just sharing some pictures with you today. A few weeks ago, Dad brought over a box of stuff that had been my grandma's; it was some of the stuff that Dad had retrieved from the house after Grandma died, and before we bought the house. He's been on a kick recently, going through old boxes. (He's been giving me more old recipes, too.)

Anyway, this was in a box from the long-defunct King Candy Company of Fort Worth, Texas. Check it out:

Inside it--on a cushion of two generations of fake-green Easter-basket grass--were Grandma's Easter decorations. Now this Grandma-belia is back at the house again.

I'm guessing these were made in Europe. Pretty cool, huh?

Here's the kicker: two of them have petrified candy inside! I guess it was too doggone pretty to eat.

The papier-maché eggs have beautifully printed interiors--like wallpaper for the candy to look at while it "incubates." This one has clover in it. Clover! Imagine that. Who gets excited about clover these days? These must be really old.

This candy has had a good long time to incubate, I'd say! Hello, Little cheep-cheep!

In addition to the paper/cardboard eggs, there are some sugar-panorama eggs, too.

When I was a kid, these used to really impress me. I could stare into the little peepholes for hours. You never know what you might see inside!

Somewhere along the line, these eggs got a little beat up. That's what happens when you keep something for like seventy-five years. If it survives one generation of kids and miscellaneous handling, chances are good the next generation will cause the injury. (No, I don't know what happened to these.) Fortunately, Grandma was not one to let a little mishap ruin her Easter. Nope, she just "repaired" the egg with a cute little sticker! See? Good as new.

There's one sugar-panorama egg that's in particularly good shape--because it's still in its original cellophane wrapper (which is rather out of character for Grandma--she was not one to keep pretty things "under wraps").

Here's the view inside that egg; cute, eh?

Spring is a time for cute things--babies--delicate little flowers--nests--little blue robins' eggs--tender green sprouts--violets--leaves that are the size of squirrels' ears--you know. I hope you've seen something somewhere today to make you go, "Awww"--because that's part of Easter, too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Egg Recipe: From My Favorite “Cookbook”

Are you getting tired of egg recipes yet? I hope not, because I have one more for you. (Look, I’m trying to be timely, what with Easter coming up!) But this will be all for a while, since I ran out of eggs. (Hey, Rhoda . . . when can I pick up some more?)

The following is a very simple idea, but it illustrates one of my favorite cookbooks. I’ve raved about this book before, and I’ll probably rave to you about it again!

It’s not really a recipe book so much as it is an idea book—a gentle introduction for how to go about improvisational cooking—in a healthy and vegetarian way. If you’re not vegetarian, you can still get a lot out of this book, because it glorifies vegetables, grains, eggs, and dairy products. It’s fun; it gets your creative juices going. And it’s simple; it proves that awesome cooking doesn’t have to be complex.

It’s an excellent book for a young person just learning to do his or her own cooking. (Hmm: think graduation gift!)

The book is Tassajara Cooking, by Edward Espe Brown. When it was originally published in 1973, Brown was the cook at the Berkeley Zen Center in California. Now he’s an internationally renown chef and cookbook author.

Here’s a link for purchasing a copy. Seriously—I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It opened doors for me; it gave me permission to play around in the kitchen, to “visualize” flavor combinations. It gave me basic guidelines that I still use today.

Since I’ve been talking about eggs, and a few recipes I’ve shared have been rather, um, rich, here’s one that you can feel pretty doggone good about. It’s from the “greens” chapter, and it appears on pages 68–69 of the 1973 edition. It follows such unusual and fun-sounding creations as “Green, Orange & Mushroom,” “Spinach Goes Bananas with Sesame,” and “Spinach Could Also Go Apricot”!

Greens Get Egged On

The egg can appear or disappear, but in any case the greens are meaty.

greens – oil – salt, pepper – eggs

Sauté-steam the greens until they’re nearly done. Stir in some beaten egg or eggs. With a few eggs and lots of stirring, the eggs will blend in much like a seasoning. With more eggs and less stirring, the effect will be more omelette-like. A few teaspoons of soy sauce can go in with the eggs. If you like onions, start by sautéing the yellow kind, or sprinkle on some chopped green onion as garnish.

Pretty easy, huh? Go try it! With a handful of strawberries and a piece of bread, with or without Tabasco or salsa, it would make an awesome lunch!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Opossum Massage Video

Hey, a couple of friends have shared this video via Facebook, and it's so hysterical, I had to share it here, too. Enjoy!

(Make sure you notice the opossum's expressions throughout.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poached Eggs, Veggified

I’m still groovin’ on these lovely fresh eggs! Here’s another way to treat eggs like they’re really special, and it’s a bit healthier than “À la mode sunshine” and “eggs goldenrod”!

And if you skip the sop, this can be a low-carb breakfast, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I have to admit, this is not so much of a recipe as it is a “construction.” And it’s something you can put together easily for breakfast, especially if you have the right leftovers.

The first thing is, Heat your plates. Seriously, this little step is so helpful for breakfast foods! For me, this is easy to accomplish, since the pilot light in our vintage Maytag oven keeps it nice and toasty in there. All I need to do is set the plates in the oven first, before I start cooking. Or, if I’m really on the ball, I’ll set them in there the night before.

This recipe/construction is three things: poached eggs, cooked greens, and a tomato sauce. It’s improvisational; do it however you want. Also, I like to serve it with good, whole-grain bread, to sop up all the juices.

Poached eggs—you probably have a favorite way of making them. Here’s a link to a fairly classical approach; Sara Moulton simplifies it quite a bit; and here’s a technique “Bony-Patoots” has recently suggested. (You know whose version is the one I use!)

Figure one or two eggs per person. Cook them the night before and reheat them, or cook them last. At any rate, they should be warm when you assemble and serve the dish. I like the yolks runny!

The greens can be spinach, kale, turnip, mustard, kohlrabi, or beet greens—whatever you like, or have on hand—and you can prepare them however you want. Here’s how I make cooked kale, and it’s fairly healthy (especially if you opt for olive oil instead of bacon grease). Or you can do a full-fledged southern-style greens dish, which is traditionally packed with pork fat and sodium—so delicious! Or heck, you can prepare the greens in the Indian fashion, as palak paneer, which is zippier than the previous two.

Or to make this even more quickly, you can use frozen spinach or canned greens—just heat it up in a pan and season to taste.

For the tomato sauce, to avoid conflicting spices, I would flavor it inversely to the amount of flavoring in the greens. If the greens are spiced up somehow, then I’d just use plain cooked (or even good raw) tomatoes. But if the greens are rather plain, then I’d use a flavored marinara or spaghetti sauce (even one out of a can), or a tomato-based salsa.

It’s best to keep the greens and the tomatoes within the same ethnic flavor palette, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t try basil-and-garlic (Italian-style) tomato sauce with greens flavored with ginger, cumin, and fenugreek (as in some Indian greens recipes).

Again—serve on heated plates, or shallow bowls. Plate the greens, then the tomato sauce, then the perfectly poached eggs on top. Garnish if you want. (Crumbled feta? Some chopped fresh herbs?)

And be sure to offer some toast, biscuits, naan, whole-grain bread for sop—whatever fits.

Special thanks and an “Op Op, Hooray!” to our friend Jane Phillips, who turned me on to this yummy breakfast combo!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Eggs Goldenrod

Look, it’s another version of “à la mode sunshine”!

Yep, I’m still groovin’ on those awesome free-range eggs from my friend!

I found this in my beloved copy of The Good Housekeeping Cook Book (ed. Dorothy B. Marsh, New York: Rinehart, 1949). As with my friend’s mother’s recipe, this rich, warm dish with a white sauce and hard-cooked eggs takes advantage of the bright yellow yolks to make for a festive presentation.

Sure, you could just crumble the yolks with your fingers or smash them with a fork, as in my friend’s mom’s recipe. But in this case, pressing the yolks through a wire sieve makes them particularly fluffy. It gives them tons of volume. Definitely a unique presentation!

It takes a bit of effort to make this, especially if you don’t have the hard-cooked eggs ready-made. But I made it recently for dinner, with a bit of kiszka and a light, fresh green salad. A Stone Hill Chardonel paired well with it. Pretty darn good!

I more-or-less copy it from page 133, where it’s given as one of six variations of “Creamed Eggs.”

Eggs Goldenrod

6 hot, shelled, hard-cooked eggs
3 tablesp. butter or margarine
1 tablesp. minced onion (optional)
3 tablsep. flour
1/4 teasp. salt
Speck pepper
1 teasp. Worcestershire sauce (optional)
2 cups milk
1 tablesp. minced parsley

1. Hard-cook eggs, then peel off shells.
2. Partially fill base of double boiler with water; cover; bring to a boil.
3. Melt butter in top of double boiler over direct heat. Add onion and simmer until tender. Remove from heat. Add flour, salt, and pepper, mixing well. Add Worcestershire sauce, if desired.
4. Set top in place over boiling water. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened.
5. Cut hard-cooked eggs in halves, remove yolks. Cut whites in slivers; add to sauce. Heat; pour over toast. Sprinkle with yolks, pressed through sieve, and minced parsley.

Friday, April 15, 2011

À la Mode Sunshine

When you come into the possession of top-notch comestibles, it’s time to cook something special, something that celebrates the gestalt of that particular foodstuff, so delicious, perfect, and lovely.

Now that I have some really good eggs, I’ve been indulging in some particularly eggy recipes. Here’s one I got from an old friend who grew up in a rural area near Toledo; her mother used to make this dish for her back in the forties. It’s called “à la mode sunshine” (not “sunshine à la mode,” though I don’t know why). Its warm creaminess, and the golden rays emanating from the bright crumbled yolks, helped to make up for all those grumpy gray days that plague northern Ohio.

Also, it's a nice, and rather elegant, way to use up leftover hard-cooked eggs . . . in case you anticipate having an abundance after Easter!

(Hey, hold on a minute: I like you—so don’t eat this if you have troubles with cholesterol, okay? Make yourself some oat bran muffins instead!)

À la Mode Sunshine

You will need:

sliced bread for toasting
salt, pepper
other optional seasonings to your taste

1. Hard-cook eggs; cool, remove shells.

2. Separate the whites from the yolks.

3. Chop the whites into fairly big chunks.

4. Mash the yolks in a separate dish.

5. Make a white sauce (per your taste). Add the whites to the white sauce. Adjust seasoning.

6. Spoon white sauce mixture onto plain (or buttered) toast.

7. Sprinkle the yolks (the “sunshine”) over the top to garnish.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Eggs!

One sign of spring is farm-fresh eggs! I don’t think that many Americans realize that eggs are a seasonal item. Their appearance in spring is one reason why we think about eggs at Easter.

If you stop to think about it, most birds don’t lay eggs in wintertime, and so neither do chickens—according to nature, anyway. The reason we have hens’ eggs in our grocery stores year-round is because big commercial egg farmers manipulate the photoperiod using artificial light to trick the chickens into not having any idea what day, month, or season it is! There are no calendars in commercial chicken houses.

Before farmers figured out how to fool the chickens with electric lights, and before refrigeration was available, it was a real game for people to figure out how to preserve eggs during the months when hens weren’t laying. To give you an idea of this chore, here’s a quote from The Hearthstone; or, Life at Home: A Household Manual, written by Laura C. Holloway, published in 1883:

To keep Eggs Fresh.—One of the best means of preserving eggs is the following: Select good fresh eggs and pack endwise in a mixture of equal parts of fine dry charcoal and salt (cold). Keep in a cool, dry place until required for use. A thin coating of gum or a trace of oil will prevent loss of moisture through the shell. The best time for preserving eggs is from July to September.

So anyway, there are still some chickens in this land, our land, that do natural things, like scratch in the dirt, flap their stubby wings and go clumsily airborne (as chickens do), peck at corn, strut around and cluck, nibble on grasses, capture beetles, and listen to robins singing on these fine spring mornings. And they do know what season it is: It’s the season to lay eggs!

My friend Rhoda lives in Columbia and has chickens, and now that her hens are producing again, she let it be known (Facebook to the rescue!) that she was ready for buyers again. (Note: if you are reading this and are wanting to contact her, let me know, and I’ll put you in touch. Realize—she’s not a commercial chicken farmer, so she doesn’t have a bazillion to sell.)

For my Central Missouri friends who are wondering, hers is not one of the backyard-chicken-coops that have recently become lawful in the city of Columbia (last year the city council passed an ordinance permitting it—cool, huh?)—she’s actually zoned “Agricultural.”

Anyway—what a great thing! Happy chickens, awesome eggs.

I love it that they’re all different colors, shapes, and patterns. Sometimes you want a smaller egg; sometimes you want a great big one. And the variety reminds me of the fact that each of her chickens are individuals—I don’t know if she has names for them, but they are certainly far from being anonymous, confused birds in little boxes.

Having awesome eggs makes me want to do something special with them.

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Touching the Missouri River

There were several speakers at the ribbon-cutting Friday, but the one who made the most hay from his time before the microphone was Mayor John Landwehr, who reminded the audience of the importance of the river to Jefferson City.

Using Woody Guthrie’s “This land is your land, this land is my land” as a theme, he spoke of our common interest in the Missouri River and asserted that by reaching out and “touching” the river, Jeff City will join Hermann, Washington, Little Rock, Memphis, Wichita, and Ottumwa as cities that “learned how to touch their rivers.”

Coastal cities have the ocean; mountain cities have their peaks; and we have our river: We can use its enduring scenic and historic nature as a way to gain tourism revenue and a stronger sense of identity. Landwehr suggested that, as we cross the new pedestrian/bicycle bridge, we think of our connections to the river.

And he spoke of the importance of the Adrian Island project in beautifying and vitalizing the city.

If you’ve ever been to Mud Island in Memphis, you have some idea of what Adrian Island—now just a huge sandbar thick with weedy bottomland trees—could become, albeit on a much smaller scale. Or you could look at Hermann, New Haven, or Washington’s waterfront parks, which are incredibly pleasant places to have a picnic—I know, because I have picnicked at each of them, on food purchased at restaurants in those towns.

Here is a view of Jeff City taken from the new bicycle/pedestrian path attached to the Missouri River Bridge. I've circled Adrian Island for your reference.

The idea of building a tunnel under the railroad tracks to provide access to the island is controversial for a number of reasons (that usually come down to money), but the idea of developing the area as some kind of city park is one that’s long, long overdue. We’ve got a historic and attractive downtown, and a spectacular Capitol, but no way to “enjoy” a view of the river except for a simple MDC boat ramp on the opposite bank.

Surely there’s a way to work with the railroad to provide access to that land without endangering pedestrians or infringing on the trains’ ability to come and go.

Indeed, I find the coming-and-going of trains almost as fun to watch as the river! How about an adjoining train or transportation museum? Perhaps some of this could even benefit the railroad.

Little ol’ Cooper’s Landing, up at Easley, offers better ways to enjoy the river than the capital city.

And although I’m beginning to see that many Jefferson Citians have a grudge against Columbia, where “anything goes,” I’m also concluding that a lot of that is just jealousy. If Columbia were located right on the Missouri, you know there’d be a lovely waterfront park, lots of great restaurants nearby, shopping, and so on. I mean, look what they did with the Flat Branch, which, when I was a kid, was nothing but a trashy ol’ drainage ditch.

Columbia's longtime, recently retired mayor, Darwin Hindman, was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and it was great to see him and outgoing Jefferson City mayor Landwehr chatting together as they began to ascend the new bicycle/pedestrian ramp. Both of these leaders understand the importance of quality of life in a town. I'm afraid I'm going to miss both of them quite a bit. I hope they stay involved.

Now, this is just my two cents. I’m not an economist or a developer, but I can speak as a resident and consumer, and I just know there’s a way for Jeff City to use its proximity to the river to our advantage. My fear is that our city is too pessimistic, reactionary, and inflexible to move forward, and that we will be the last river town in the United States to do so.

. . . But my hope is that that isn't the case.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Pedestrian Bridge Is Open!

Friday morning was the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the official first crossing of the new pedestrian lane on the Missouri River Bridge!

I told you about the groundbreaking ceremony for this project last May. Click here for some scary "before" photos!

The new section is attached by enormous brackets to the eastern edge of the northbound bridge.

This nice, wide path is a huge improvement on how it used to be, when walkers and bicyclists had only a few feet of thin air between themselves and the 50,000 cars and trucks that blast over the river each day.

Not to mention that bicyclists attempting to ride south to reach Jeff City were forced to ride on the left, against traffic, which is kind of suicidal, plus it's ingrained into us all as illegal. Most Katy Trail bicyclists, I suspect, simply opted to stop at Hartsburg instead, with an attitude about Jeff having "nothing worth risking your life to see."

To access the bridge from the south (Jefferson City), park near the intersection of West Main and Clay streets—that’s where the pathway begins, behind bright yellow posts.

Round the curve, and soon you'll be on the bridge.

There is a special section with higher fences over the train tracks; I think it's to prevent the slower among us from throwing objects down on the rails.

The path gives you excellent views of Jefferson City and the state capitol. There are two places over the river where the path widens, where you can pause to enjoy the view.

You can take great photographs from the bridge!

Then, once you’re over the river, a big ramp, shaped like a square spiral, leads you down comfortable grades to the river bottom, near the Noren River Access. From there, a short ride leads to the “North Jefferson City” access point of Katy Trail State Park.

The Katy Trail, I should mention, is the longest rails-to-trails pathway in the United States; at the present, it extends from St. Charles in the east to the city of Clinton in the west; much of it includes incredibly scenic stretches through Missouri’s wine country and between tall limestone cliffs on one side and the beautiful Missouri River on the other.

Although initially it was controversial, especially among landowners who believed the trail would deliver riffraff and trash onto their rural properties, the Katy Trail has proved enormously helpful to many small communities that had seen nothing but “bust” since the decline of the railroads. Now, the Katy Trail brings cyclists (such as me), hikers, big-city residents with disposable income, and family day-trippers to these small towns, and they’re interested in dining, shopping, spending the night at B&Bs, and getting a taste of the “local color.”

Towns such as Boonville, Rocheport, Hartsburg, Hermann, and Sedalia are called “Katy Trail Towns,” and now that Jeff City is officially connected, it becomes a Katy Trail Town, too!

I can’t wait until my ankle’s all better, so I can start riding my bike across! (That ramp looks like a lot of fun!)

One more thing: Although the local and state officials who spoke at the ceremony had lots of thanking to do--and I won't repeat it here, for there were many individuals and businesses who donated to this project (look for their names on pavers and a plaque at the south end of the bridge)--I want to express my appreciation, respect, and admiration for the workers who risked life and limb while constructing the pedestrian bridge. Here are some of them.

Folks, they were out there on the edge of the bridge in the freezing cold, with cars whooshing right past them at ninety miles per hour (in a sixty mph zone), and working high over the river; there were dozens of ways to die out there. And it was a record-snowfall winter, yet they finished on time and on budget. Great work, fellows! I will think of you each time I use the bridge!

Thanks, Sue, for taking such awesome pictures!

Friday, April 8, 2011


I hope my previous post didn't get too many folks upset about my welfare--I was recently contacted by one reader who was concerned about my continued swelling and such, and urged me to check in with the doctor, since it could be a sign of a complication, etc.

So let me clarify: I was just complaining--just venting--that's all. It doesn't mean that I'm in any kind of agony. (In retrospect, that post was tactlessly self-indulgent, concerned only with my feelings and problems. It's not a very "Op Op" subject! Should I just delete that post--? Maybe this is not the place for me to "share.")

To me, any swelling is too much swelling. Yes, it's still a bit swollen. But every week the swelling decreases. My leg, ankle, and foot are feeling better than they have since my accident.

I've been through something like this before, and I realize that the recovery will take at least twice as long as "they" say, three times as long as I hope, and eighty times as long as I want.

And the swelling simply fluctuates depending on how I've treated my leg on any given day. On Wednesday, the day I wrote my last post, I dragged our garden hoses into the backyard (all wrapped around the monstrous, semi-convenient "hose reel") and then watered our pansies and filled the birdbaths. And I carried trash (some of it heavy) into the big trash bins.

Also, I swapped the small three storm windows on our back porch for the big but very lightweight screen. Hey, it was a nice day, and I wanted to work on the porch--and although I felt fine carrying the big screen up from the basement alone, I did not carry the storm windows clear down to the basement (I'll let someone more able-bodied do that).

After all that movement, it's no wonder the tendons and muscles of my ankle were warmer and more swollen that evening! Naturally, I was wanting to ice it down some.

So don't get me wrong--I'm definitely on the mend.

It's just not happening overnight.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ice Zapping

It was a warmish day today, sunny, breezy, a day for open windows. It is that glorious time of spring when the world is greening up but the pollen hasn't yet descended like a noxious yellow cloud. (Springtime pollen allergies are a real curse; they turn something gorgeous into a kind of sickness. It just ain't right.)

As I type this, I'm on our sun porch, and it's dark, but there's still a little glow in the western sky: and here we've already cooked dinner, eaten, and done the dishes, but there's a bit of daylight yet. Things are looking up!

I'm sitting on the sofa, and I've been occasionally dunking my bum foot and ankle into a bucket of cold water. It's too cold, actually; I can't keep it in there very long. Just a few seconds, then--yikes! Pain, aching hard in my toes and all my veins. What's that about?

I mean, I know that most people can't handle putting their feet into frigid water, but usually I'm different. Usually, it's okay with me. I'll walk barefoot along a beach when no one else will touch the cold water. But now that I try pushing my foot into a bucket of water and some ice cubes, I can't sustain it for more than about three seconds.

You might ask why the heck I'm doing this, if it's so painful.

Well, it's my bum foot, like I said, and swelling is an issue still. I got my cast off last week (on Monday) and they told me the fracture wasn't quite healed yet. So I have to use a "cam walker" (a type of "moon boot") when I go out walking and doing stuff. But they told me that around home, and showering, and sleeping, I can go without the clunky thing. (Seriously--it's like having a brick strapped onto the bottom of my foot.)

Last night I hunted out some notes I made of my various physical therapy exercises from three years ago, when I was recovering from my broken foot. Don't worry; I'm not going to go nuts trying to exercise my ankle without a doctor's advice--but I am looking for mild exercises that might help restore circulation, range of motion, flexibility, dexterity. Yes, dexterity--with my toes and such.

I haven't yet been able to figure out if swelling and stiffness is all a result of the injury and the surgery, or if it is exacerbated, extended, by continued immobilization. (My calf looks like a stalk of asparagus. My ankle and foot are still somewhat swollen.)

Anyway, there are at least two exercises that I did back then that I'm confident I can do now: roll a tennis ball around on the floor, and roll a bottle around on the floor. (I'm not sure I'm ready for "gas pedal with a belt" yet, though I think that one will later prove quite useful for ankle strength.)

One other thing I recalled from "PT 2008" was this idea of putting my foot into ice water. Damn! I know I did it three years ago, but I certainly can't do it now. Maybe if I fish out some of the ice cubes . . .

. . . Nope.

I tried this last night, and the same thing. I had to remove the ice and add a little warm water, even. And that worked pretty well.

The deal is, the cold starts off feeling intensely bad--it burns--but if you can stick with it a little longer, it begins to feel pretty good. And the best part is that after some minutes of soaking, the foot and ankle will feel surprisingly good for the next few hours.

So I persevere. Maybe tomorrow I'll try it with fewer ice cubes . . .