Rock Island Spur Trail

18 February, 2017. Yesterday was the most incredible February weather I can ever recall. A good chunk of my day was devoted to bicycling a section of the newly opened Rock Island Spur Trail. A Rails-to-Trails initiative that connects the southern most section of the Kansas City area to the Katy Trail, the Rock Island Spur Trail also offers snapshot views of scenes not always obvious or accessible by car. I love to explore and discover new places, especially small towns, “discardia,” and architectural elements.

Emerging from a bank of trees, the trail crosses a paved road a few miles along the route out of Pleasant Hill, Missouri. There is an unimproved trail head at this location that abuts a property I imagine to be a “personal” salvage yard. In other words, it doesn’t appear to be a commercial operation; a pungent, thick smoky fire was burning – tires perhaps? – and the land was very overgrown and littered with wrecked and inoperable cars and trucks and other “discardia.” Trees had taken root and sprouted from the midst of literally everything. This 60’s era sedan has an orange New York license plate attached to the front.

I find “discardia” interesting. Such things, whether they be architectural, vehicular, or simply everyday detritus, are signs of human touch – of human impact. There’s history to be found in these artifacts of our existence … but it’s fleeting, because they are quickly disintegrating. As they return to their constituent elements, whatever sights they’ve born witness to are also disappearing.

Small towns throughout the Midwest are often an intriguing mishmash of architectural styles, with a few extant examples of Federalist style and Antebellum homes to be found if one searches, along with a smattering of Victorian “Painted Ladies,” Art Nouveau, and – more often than not – cautiously woven together Art Deco elements. Of course, bungalows and later box style structures still are the predominant structures, but they bore me and I choose to ignore them unless there is something unique to pique my curiosity about them.

On this particular afternoon, I’ve chosen to carry an even more Spartan kit than usual: a pen and small pad. They seem to suffice as I quickly scribble impressions from time to time, before pedaling off down the trail. (Uni-Ball Deluxe Micro pen in 4 x 5 inch lightweight sketchbook.)



  1. 28pwilson · February 20, 2017

    Nice blog post Mark.

    • azorch · February 20, 2017

      Thanks, Peg. I always enjoy getting out and discovering new and different places. I added one additional sketch to the Facebook page for our group – a watercolor I made from the comfort of my car after having finished on the trail. I’ll add it to the blog, along with a couple of new ones from today once I get a chance to scan them.

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