We’re back in Milwaukee this week, in the middle of a snowstorm, so my jaunt through Memorial Park in Round Rock, Texas, a couple of weeks ago seems like a dream. Thank heavens for photographic evidence!
Memorial Park is home to the rock that gave Round Rock, Texas, its name. The park is right off of I-35. Brushy Creek runs through the middle of it, and a pedestrian bridge under the highway connects both sides. There’s a playground on one side and the Sunset Strip apartment complex on the other. It’s a very pretty park although a little bit seedy.
I stopped there with the dogs after I saw the park off the highway when I was dropping Mike off for work. I had no idea that the famous rock was there, so I missed it entirely. I guess I was close, though. From what I’ve read, if you want to see the rock, you need to walk over the low water crossing near the parking lot and go along the north side of the creek.
I strolled in that direction but got sidetracked by the granite stadium stairs by the softball field. I just had to climb ’em! I did two sets with the dogs, but then Sadie refused to do any more. I wasn’t going to let our little diva hold me back, so I parked the bark babies in the Jeep and did another 13 sets for a total of 15.
The rock isn’t the only cool piece of history in the park. There’s also a Vietnam War memorial and a commemorative WWII torpedo to honor Round Rock residents who fought on behalf of their town and country.
What a fun outing to remind me that there’s more to life than the deep freeze!
Around 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, it was in the mid-30s. Practically a heat wave in Milwaukee. So Mike and I bundled up, hopped on our folding bikes, and pedaled off down the pavement.
The Hank Aaron State Trail, named for baseball legend Hank Aaron, abuts the back of the RV park. The trail follows the Menomonee River from Lake Michigan west about 13.5 miles. We’d never really explored it.
Right by the park, the trail’s not the prettiest, even in the spring when everything’s in bloom. But it holds some surprises. Roughly three miles in, we discovered the Valley Passage mural. Technically known as the Menomonee Valley Passage mural, it was painted in 2011 by artist Chad Brady.
The colorful mural is designed to represent the Miller Park area, Potawatomi Casino, the Brewers, The Milwaukee Road, bridges, buildings, birds, deer, Native Americans, fish, the Menomonee River, trees, manufacturing and canoeing.
The trail also goes through the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District, which is one of three remaining original Soldiers Homes in the country. Since 1867, the homes have provided refuge and recuperation for physically and mentally disabled soldiers – starting with those who had survived the Civil War. Three of the buildings are being restored, but amazingly, the rest are still being used to care for veterans today.
You just never know what you’re going to find in your own backyard.
“I thought this was one of those crazy mud things you’re always doing,” Mike said as I was picking up my bib from the tent near the river. We were in Boston on a drizzly Sunday morning so I could do the Boston River Run along the Charles.
“If I’d known it was a regular run, I might have done it with you.”
I wrapped my arms around him, squeezing tight and grinning up at him as I said, “You still can! They have on-site registration!”
He sighed knowing he was beat and let me drag him over to the next table so he could sign up.
And that’s how we ended up wogging (walk-jogging) our first New England 5K together. We walked most of it, sprinting for the photo opps and the finish line. We held hands and laughed and took delightful detours – discovering graffiti aliens and wrecked crew boats – because we were too wrapped up in the moment to keep track of the other runners. It wasn’t my fastest 5K, but it was definitely one of my best.
Because we were having such a wonderful time with Grant, Barbie and their daughter Catie in Virginia Beach, we didn’t make it to DC to do the Diva Dash. Instead, I ended up doing the Undy 5000 a week later. It wasn’t an obstacle race, but it was notable because it was my first event with a dog. While Mike and Sadie cheered from the sidelines, our little athlete Meeko was my running buddy. He did great. At the halfway mark, I joked with the race volunteers that if Meeko was running by himself, we’d already have finished.
The Undy 5000 is a family-friendly, dog-friendly 5K run/walk that was created by the Colon Cancer Alliance as a fundraising event. All through the course there are informational placards about colon cancer, and the finish area has a giant blow-up colon showing how malignant polyps and advanced cancer look. Participants are encouraged to run in their “undies” to bring attention to the area affected by colon cancer. We were so busy doing stuff in DC that I didn’t have a chance to go shopping for a top-notch costume. So, the night before the race, I created an outfit with a polka-dotted tank top, lace-trimmed boxer shorts, and striped tights. Not my best look, but it worked. Meeko was the real star of the show anyway.
The race was held in Rock Creek Park. Not only is the park stunning, but it also has quite a history.
For millennia, American Indians quarried rock outcroppings to make tools, fished the creek, and hunted wild game in the woodlands. In the 1600s and early 1700s, European Americans claimed title to the land. As tobacco farming and African American slavery became more widespread, Georgetown was chartered at the mouth of Rock Creek. In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, tobacco farming exhausted the soil, resulting in many farmers switching to wheat and corn production. Gristmills, the most successful being Peirce Mill, were constructed along Rock Creek to convert grain into flour.
The Rock Creek area was deforested during the U.S. Civil War. Logs and branches were felled and then laid out systematically throughout the soon-to-be park by Union soldiers to make a Confederate march through the valley impossible. Civil War fortifications in and around the valley bombarded General Jubal Early’s Confederate troops during the July, 1864 Battle of Fort Stevens.
In 1890, Rock Creek Park became one of the first federally managed parks. Since then, citizens seeking recreation and re-creation in nature have sought out this 1700 acre park.
Doing events like this is one of the many wonderful things about our nomadic lifestyle. I am fortunate to run in lovely, historic places all around the country, places I’d normally never get to experience.
A bicycle is a great way to explore a city, particularly when there’s a guide pedaling with you, sharing history and pointing out interesting facts. Bike and Roll offers bicycle and Segway tours in five major metropolitan areas. In Washington D.C., there are several tours available out of three different locations. Mike and I took the Capital Sites tour, which departs from the Old Post Office Pavilion near the National Mall.
We were there just before the government shutdown, so everything was open. (There was, however, a lot of activity on Capitol Hill. I guess it wasn’t very productive, though.) Riding Trek comfort hybrid bikes, we went from one end of the National Mall to the other, stopping along on the way as our guide filled us in on what we were seeing. We rode by the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and a variety of Smithsonian Museums as well as visiting the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and more.
Our favorite memorial was the Korean War Memorial. Nineteen life-size soldiers, scattered over a triangle of grass, are reflected in a large wall. The nineteen and their reflections create 38 people, signifying the 38th Parallel, the latitudinal line that forms the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. While most of the other memorials are very grand and almost overwhelming in their scope, this memorial is very intimate. The soldiers stare haggardly in all different directions. You can almost see them coming out of the bush, looking like deformed giants because of the ponchos covering the gear they’re carrying. The wall itself is laser etched with faces taken from real footage. It’s a powerful remembrance.
For $40, which included a bottle of water and a granola bar, we covered over 7.5 miles of territory on our Bike and Roll tour and learned a lot about our nation’s history. It was a wonderful and emotional experience.