Tuesday, April 14, 2009

September 29: Ride and Park

I finally had my bicycle back from the repair shop so it was time to hit the trails of Winnipeg. There are, in places, paved bicycle pathways in the town, but these are mostly restricted to parks where people can drive in and putter about for half an hour. There isn't anything like the developed river pathway system that Calgary has. There are ad hoc dirt trails by the river in certain locations, but it is never clear which have deadends until you try them, and get stuck in boulders, fences, and fallen trees.

Winnipeg's exclusive means for supporting bicycle commuting is labelling certain roads as bicycle routes. This is a common approach which can create some confusion, because even in communities which do this, it remains legal to drive and cycle on all roads. The point I think is simply to suggest that cyclists use certain roads when possible to create a safety in numbers on certain routes. This can create the confusion that bicycles are not allowed elsewhere, but in Winnipeg the road I was taking had signs posted which suggested the opposite confusion was also at play:


I eventually found my way to Assiniboine Park, and was wandering about in the English Garden when I heard "Cool bike!" shouted from around some bend in the bricked path. I had missed this refrain completely in Portage, and in Winnipeg it was certainly rarer than in Brandon, perhaps because there are other cool bikes, or the city is more anonymous.

The voice belonged to Naomi, who with her friend Mary quickly ascertained that I wasn't hip to her music scene but we shoul have lumch together anyway, somewhere in the Leo Mol sculpture garden in half an hour.

Leo Mol was apparently a Winnipegonian (???) sculptor working in Bronze, and for all I know his life's work has never escaped from the confines of this garden. I walked among the bears, the nymphs, and the heroes, waiting for the appointed time. There was Io, riding a bull, her hair in twin ponytails, perhaps to resemble a cow's horns. There was a man proud to be from Winnipeg, the city which had one so much for him he started its first cultural fund.

The building I thought we were to eat lunch in was locked; I spent a quarter hour trying to find it, but when I couldn't, I just shrugged and walekd away.

Away to the zoo. It had been cloudy all day, and by the time I got to the zoo I was quite chilled, even wearing two jackets. I spent all the time I could in the tropical house, the monkey house, and the little Australian exhibits to warm up.

When it comes to zoos I am quite spoiled, having grown up in the St. Louis area. The St. Louis zoo is still the best I've been to. It has all the well-known large land animals, and collects a number of the small, overlooked ones as well in its reptile house and insectarium, where my sister worked for a couple of years. And although there are always a few dilapidated displays, the St. Louis zoo charges no admission, which is incredible, and sets me up for disappointment when I visit other zoos.

I began to notice that the Winnipeg zoo made some strange decisions about its displays. There was an indoor glass case of "North American birds" which featured a robin, a towhee, a killdeer, and any number of birds I had recently seen quite free, at no cost and not bounded in a small cage with others. Then I began to notice some other curious selections; sure, they are interesting animals, but is a raccoon exhibit really necessary? Who hasn't seen white-tailed deer? I began to wonder if there would be a grey squirrel cage as well.

There was not.


1 comment:

Hutch said...

Bad news: St. Louis zoo is unlikely to be free for much longer from the sound of things.