Thursday, November 13, 2008

Every Contiguous State with a Twist

I came across this post, which describes a plan for the world record for visiting all 48 contiguous states using the highest fuel efficiency possible. They plan to do it in 2 weeks. The previous record is 58.82 mpg. I didn't even know such a record existed... awesome!

There is a nice map on the post as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Old comment

Just thought I would point out a comment that was received on a very old post about our Ohio county trip.

I randomly came across your blog while googling something completely unrelated about PC. I'm from West Alexandria and I find it totally hilarious that you ended your trip through every county of Ohio in the extremely small town I grew up in! Great blog and great idea for a mini-road trip! My friends and I might just have to attempt to do it ourselves. Oh and for the record, there are "Welcome to Preble County signs" elsewhere, just not on 35 for some strange reason! ODOT works in mysterious ways!

Good times!!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Soccer Golf

Not quite an Every Whatever, but a game / competition in the same silly vein. Myself and 2 co-workers set out yesterday on a round of soccer golf. I didn't think that we invented the sport, and I see now that there are several instances - (reference Dan's first law of the Internet).

But the game we played is slightly different. First, here are the codified rules:

1. Game starts when each player kicks a soccer ball from the same "tee"
2. Game ends when each player kicks the ball into a pre-determined "goal", which can be set up in any manner that is agreed to by all participants.
3. Players are allowed to take any route they choose.
4. Each time a player touches the soccer ball with their foot, it is counted as 1 stroke. Players are not allowed to throw, head, or otherwise propel the ball besides kicking it. No outside transportation (kicking it into your truck, etc) or help from other people is allowed, except as detailed below.
5. No mulligans are allowed.
6. Players are allowed to, at their discretion, either allow the ball to come to a complete stop, stop the ball manually with their foot (counts as a stroke), or kick the ball again while it is rolling (also counts as a stroke). Players are advised to be aware of potential obstacles in the path of a kicked ball (cars, houses, trees, other people, etc) - all objects are in play.
7. If a ball should have to be extricated from an unplayable position (lake, in a tree, under a car, etc), there is a 5 stroke penalty, and the ball is placed where it entered the unplayable position. If that is on a hill or otherwise causes the ball to move once it is placed, the ball may be allowed to come to rest or kicked while in motion (counts as a stroke).
8. Touching the ball with your hands or any other part of your body (besides the foot) is a 1 stroke penalty. Should the non-foot touch be ruled by the other players to have been intentional, a 5 stroke penalty will be assessed.
9. If an outside participant touches or affects the ball, it is in play (see Rule 6). However, if in the opinions of the other players, an outside person is a "plant" or unfairly aids the player, the ball will be considered dead at the point of the outside person touching it.
10. If a player touches something that inadvertently affects the ball (e.g. the ball is laying in some tall grass on a hill and as the player walks near the ball, it causes the grass to shift and the ball to roll), no stroke will be assessed unless in the opinions of the other players it was egregious and intentional, in which case it will count as 1 stroke.

In our case, we set the course as from Randy's house to our work (about 0.95 miles as the crow flies, or about 1.5 miles with the route we played). Here is an approximation of the route. The colored circles denote interesting events which I will explain below:

We started down at the A marker. First few kicks were pretty easy as the road slopes in the direction we wanted to travel. Randy was able to kick it all the way down his street and around the corner on his "tee shot". Clearly that's because he was cheatingly practicing beforehand. At the orange circle a few things happened. First of all Doug kicked his ball into a parked Mustang whose owner was out mowing his grass. Then a lady walking her baby in a stroller stopped to talk to us and look how weird we were looking. Then Doug kicked his ball right into a tree, causing it to bounce backwards. This caused our spectactors / folks who drove us to the starting line (Molly and Elizabeth) much amusement and caused me to fall to the ground laughing. Then as Randy's ball was rolling down the street, a "helpful" man in a truck got out and stopped the ball as Randy yelled "No no no leave it"

I was in the lead as we made our way out of Randy's development towards the pinkish circle, 1 stroke ahead of Randy and 3 ahead of Doug. This was aided by a beautiful kick over a ditch that Doug and Randy got caught in. We made our way across an open field and towards a small (10-15 foot wide) covering of trees that separated us from the access road that would take us to Innovation Way. We all tried to kick over the trees but none of us were successful. Randy in particular got stuck in a really bad place in the middle of the trees. He pondered taking the 5 stroke penalty but in the end decided to just kick forward. He managed to get through the trees in only 1 or 2 additional kicks, whereas Doug and I used multiple kicks to try and finesse our soccer balls through the small path through the trees. This gave Randy a lead he would not relinquish.

The access road was gravel and the ball did not roll as well as we initially thought that it might. We all took many kicks to try and get the ball down to Innovation Way. Then, the "dodging moving cars" part of the fun began. We got a little separated as we all tried to make sure none of our balls got run over by cars. In particular I had quite a bit of problem getting my ball successfully rolling down the street (slight down grade for the first part of Innovation). At the yellow circle, again a "helpful" runner stopped Randy's ball from rolling down the street.

Being several strokes behind at this point, you can see the darker blue line where I deviated course from the other 2. I kicked my ball over a barbed-wire fence and through some grass. I think that this saved me a few strokes. At this point I was on about 55, with Doug at about 51 and Randy around 40. At the green dot, as I kicked my ball across Western Row, a "helpful" construction worker thought it would be funny to give it a good boot back over Western Row, costing me 1-2 strokes as I had to re-kick it across the street.

As we got through the back lawn of where we work, we faced another dilemma. Separating the "goal" of the back patio from where we were is a decent-sized ravine. Over, or around? Doug and Randy went around where again, needing to do something different to get myself out of last place, went over. Well, I tried to go over. Mostly I went through. Again though, after I found my ball through the heavy underbrush (pricker bushes!) it only took me 1 additional stroke to "chip" it out of the weeds and up over a bench and on to the patio. Doug went off the side of the path into the other side of the ravine, whereas Randy got his ball stuck in not one but TWO trees, costing him 10 strokes.

I avoided the dirty looks of the people eating lunch on the patio as I kicked my ball into the goal, finishing last time-wise but in 2nd place with 71 strokes. Doug was last with 75 and Randy was first with a world record of 67 strokes.

All in all a very fun happening and hopefully not the last!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Every Super Neighborhood in Houston - Trip 3

This past Saturday was Trip 3 of Every Super Neighborhood in Houston, yay! Sorry it took so long to update this, I was sick earlier this week.

Here are Google Maps and Super Neighborhood Map for this trip.

As with all trips, each is longer than the last. This one was scheduled to be 22 miles.

We started out going the exact same path at Trip 1, down Heights and across Washington to Downtown. In fact, we passed the first three stops of that first trip. Once we got to downtown, I already got confused and missed our turn. After going a quarter-mile off-course, we turned around and went back towards Minute Maid Park. Once we crossed under the freeway, we were in #63 Second Ward. It didn't take long until we saw the sign I was looking for.

I wish it was open, I really need a haircut

The last trip was a ride through a predominantly black neighborhood, and this one was definitely predominantly hispanic. There was a Taqueria on nearly every corner (the entire street smelled SOOO good). But it was still pretty early, so we decided to wait and maybe hit one on the way back.

WhenI was hispanic, I mean really hispanic. For the most part, all the signs were in spanish only, no english. The only people we saw were hispanic. It was like we were transplanted to Mexico, only a little nicer.

The houses in this area were not in that good of a condition, but after going down Navigation for a while, the quality of houses and the neighborhood got better. After a fairly long, straight ride, we entered #82 Magnolia Park. We turned and crossed a busy street and stopped at the Magnolia Services Center for the photo.

I don't know what that face was for

We rode through a residental neighborhood and before long, we were in #88 Lawndale/Wayside. I got my photo taken in front of this cemetary, even though I wasn't completely sure about the boundaries (it wasn't a scheduled stop). I later found out it counted, woo!

They had two signs in two languages, one on each side of the entrance to the cemetery, this one was in spanish.

My 'victorious' pose

Since, at the time, I wasn't sure if the cemetary was actually in Lawndale, we continued down to where I knew Lawndale Dental was. We found Lawndale Dental, but right next door was a much better sign to take a photo of.

Mmm.... fried chinese seafood burger....

And then, I really screwed things up. First of all, I missed my turn to get to Pecan Park. We went a little bit too far, but for some reason, I thought we headed in the wrong direction altogether. So we turned around, passed Lawndale Fish Market, passed Lawndale Cemetary, passed the Bayou, and I stopped and checked my map again. I apologized deeply to Drew, and told him our stop was right around the corner from where we turned around before. So we turned around again, past the bayou, past the Lawndale Stuff, back across the railroad tracks, and was able to find the Iglecia de Cristo in #70 Pecan Park.

I think this is my "please don't kill me, Drew" smile

And so along we went. Next up was our last Super Neighborhood for the day, Greater
Eastwood. Out of nowhere, the Eastwood post office pops up. I'm a little suspicious about it, since I thought Greater Eastwood started on the opposite side of the railroad tracks a few feet down the road. I took a photo, but I was going to continued to my scheduled Eastwood stop. Turns out I was right, leaving us with our first false alarm.

Faker! You're not in Greater Eastwood!

Drew made a crack about just trying to find a video store so we could take a photo of the box of Outlaw Josey Wales or something, ha ha. After we turned the corner, we saw a fun building that was called Drew's Corner. I ordered drew to pull over so I could get a photo of him in front of it. He uncomfortably obliged.

"That's right, it's my corner!"

"No one can park here but me!"

It was just a couple short blocks after the fun stop before we came up to Eastwood Academy in #64 Greater Eastwood. There were actually some students and parents outside, but they oddly didn't give much notice to the two white guys on bicycles taking a photo of their school. I guess that's a good thing.

Texas Recognized 2004/2007. Carey Recognized 2008.

So that was it for new Super Neighborhoods. We made a quick stop at Center Bakery for some breakfast tacos and oddly-shaped pastries. Then we stopped by Target on the way back to try to get a replacement tire repair kit for the one that broke last time. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to have any. Then on our way out, we saw something that Drew had been talking about all morning, a Zeppelin in the sky! So here it is, one of only three working Zeppelins in the world. Sorry I couldn't get better photos, I only had my cell phone camera today.

Is it made of Led?

The final count for the day was 25.2 miles (roughly three miles longer than anticipated) and about 3 hours 15 minutes including the stops for breakfast and Target. At that rate, the final trip to Lake Houston will take about 8 hours. Even though we only had 5 new super neighborhoods, we "touched" on 9 total.

Next weekend we're going to be going through a mix of warehouse and suburban areas at about 30 miles. We're also going to set a record 8 new Super Neighborhoods in one day. Should be fun!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Every Super Neighborhood in Houston - Trip 2

After 2 1/2 months, ESNH trip 2 was finally on its way. I convinced my friend Drew to cycle with me, since it was a neighborhood with a reputation for crime, and there is safety in numbers. He arrived at my door at around 6:50am and, after arming ourselves with pepper spray, we were on our way shortly after.

As usual, you mapophiles can follow along in Google Maps and Houston's Super Neighborhood Map

We started in my home neighborhood of Greater Heights #15 and went north and enjoyed the sunrise and sparse traffic. It wasn't long before we crossed under I-610 and were in #13 Independence Heights. I missed the turn for the park, but not by much. When we found Independence Heights park, there was a man in a beat-up T-shirt walking around the corner, so I decided to ride past him and wait until he left. As we turned the corner, a car drove by and yelled at the man, and the man smiled (probably friends of his). After he left and I was no longer self-conscious about a photo, Drew snapped this beauty.

Not a bad little park... could use a cleanup

Now continuing east, we crossed under I-45 into #45 Northside/Northline. The original plan was to go to the Northline Mall, but we managed to see this realtor's sign about a quarter mile before we got there.

I'm pondering the meaning of life

Continuing east on Crosstimbers and coming up on the Hardy Toll road, we encountered an impatient driver who decided to honk at us because I guess I wasn't far enough over in the bike lane. I try real hard not to be one of those cyclists that think they own the road and can do whatever they want, so I talked myself down from getting upset about it. I turned to Drew and said "I figured that was going to happen at some point!"

Shortly after my comment, Drew motioned that we needed to stop and that he had a flat tire. As you can from the picture below, he has a rather old bicycle. We spent a good 20 minutes trying to get that damn tire off the wheel. It was so old that the rubber had fused to the wheel, so we had to use the removal tool to pry it apart.

Oh noes!

Luckily I had my trusty patch kit!

Patching a bike tube is a dirty job

Getting the tire back on the wheel was difficult, but not quite as difficult as getting it off. Drew pumped his tire full of air and we were back on our way.

After the incident, we continued on Crosstimbers and turned on we turned on Jensen road. We had originally planned to go down Jensen (which just happens to be my last name) without a bike route or lane all the way to Cavlecade to see Jensen Supermarket. Then, this convenience store conveniently popped up right after we turned. It was the Jensen food store in #46 Eastex/Jensen.

It's me!

Since we found it so close to the bike route, we turned around and continued on the bike lane on Crosstimbers. After a brief ride through #48 Trinity/Houston Gardens (where I wasn't planning on seeing anything photoworthy, and I didn't), we missed our turn for Hirsch. Quickly checking my map I decided rather than crossing a busy street to turn around, we would just go through the neighborhood.

Much to our surprise, when we turned a corner there was a big black man with a rifle!!! He shot it into the tree and we could tell it was a pellet gun and calmed down a little. I tried not to make eye contact as he kept shooting and we turned out of sight. I can only guess that he was shooting squirrels or birds or something.

Continuing on the southbound part of our circular trip, we passed Key middle school, and then back into the loop under I-610. After a short jog off Hirsch, we came to Kashmere Gardens Baptist Church in #52 Kashmere Gardens. We thought the entrance looked cool, so I got a photo in front of that as well, even though it didn't say "Gardens" on it.

Praise be!

I heard gospel music inside

Unfortunately, the next two super neighborhoods were failures. We got to #55 Fifth Ward where Mozelle's Fifth ward florist was supposed to be, and it was a barber shop with a different name. Fifth Ward has a reputation of being one of the highest crime areas of Houston, and people were up and about and loitering and staring at us, so it made me a little too uncomfortable to search more than a back-and-forth on the main street once. That, combined with Drew's rear brake cable snapping (he really does have a crappy bike), caused me to decide to leave.

Later, I found there was a library down the way that bore the name Fifth Ward Library. It's been closed since 2007, but the stucture should still be there on my next attempt... I hope.

Next up was #51 Northside Village. One interesting business of note when we first entered the neighborhood was Mr. Burger Seafood, which boasted Groceries, Beer, and Candy. I wish I had taken a picture.

We were supposed to go to Northside Bakery, but we couldn't find it. We couldn't find anything that said northside or even village on it. We made a quick donut stop at a non-descript bakery, turned on Quitman to get back to the Heights, and failed to locate a photo op for the neighborhood. Later, I looked up the address of the Bakery again, and found that someone had reviewed it on Yelp this year! I shot him a message and he told me that they had the best cheap fajitas (apparently it's a restaurant too). But the kicker is that he told me it was not where it was supposed to be on the map, and that it was half a block up Main street after we turned on Quitman. That pissed me off a little.

So all in all, we got 4 super neighborhoods of the 6 sought. The grand total mileage was 18.7 miles (the Google map doesn't have the exact start/stop). We're going to take another stab at Fifth Ward (library) and Northside Village (bakery) in trip three, when we visit the area just to the south of this one. I'm going to try to keep these going at one every other week, give or take.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

ESNH Trip 2 Coming up

I know that our loyal readers have probably been wondering "whatever happened to the super neighborhood trips?"

Unfortunately, half marathon training got in the way and pretty much killed my chance of biking on Saturday morning, as I've already committed to doing a long run. Then Sunday morning was generally for Go Club, and it's still been hot (upper 80s) in the afternoons. And don't even get me started on hurricane Ike!

But anyway, now my friend Drew is wanting to get into cycling, and I invited him to join me this weekend for trip 2! I'm glad I'll have someone else with me, especially since we'll be riding through some poorer neighborhoods (safety in numbers and all). As far as Go Club is concerned, I'll just have to skip it. Plus now there won't be as many mug shots of me since someone else can take the photos.

My plan, as it stands now, is to alternate weekends between Go Club and ESNH. It's getting much cooler now (low 60s in the morning), so I'm more inclined to get out there and ride.

The plan is basically unchanged from the proposed route here. It's about an 18-20 mile ride (depending on how lost we get). The new super neighborhoods (and landmarks) we're hitting are:

1) Independence Heights (Independence Heights Park),
2) Northside/Northline (Northline Mall),
3) Eastex/Jensen (Jensen Supermarket),
4) Kashmere Gardens (Kashmere Garden Baptist Church),
5) Greater Fifth Ward (Mozelle's 5th Ward Florist), and
6) Northside Village (Northside Bakery)

Of course the landmarks are subject to change, as google doesn't always account for the fact that places go of business. Also, I may come across a different landmark with the super neighborhood name that would shorten the trip.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NYC subway redux

So setting the Guinness Record for visiting all 468 stations on the NYC subway has long been an interest of mine.

I mean, it's even in the masthead of the blog!

Jay and I have toyed around a few times with writing a computer program to help with it. Solving it completely is analagous (well, at least similar) to the Travelling Salesman Problem and as such, might be a bit difficult to solve completely. But a computer program could at least help with some of the more mundane tasks in creating a route.

But the big problem has been data. While technically the subway data is in the public domain (since the MTA is a publicly-owned enterprise), getting all the right data in the right formats has been challenging.

It was just yesterday that Jay and I had dusted off some of the ol' spreadsheets and such. And as I was again just looking at a few things, I noticed that Google Transit had (finally) added NYC to its list of cities

I found a few posts on the Internet about people getting all the NYC subway data into GTFS (Google Transit Feed Specification), so I think that before too long we should have something.

Every County in Alabama

There are only 67 counties in Alabama, as compared to the 88 in Ohio. But Alabama is approximately 25% larger (in land area) than Ohio.

Since international rock-star Jim Tocco lives in Montgomery, I have toyed around with doing an EFALC.

Here is a first draft at a route

The 26:20 was my initial draft at a time, but upon further review, and taking into account our actual times from EFOHC, I think it's doable in 23:53.

I have sent Jim a test route which he will be doing sometime over the next month or so. Once he does that segment (roughly the SE section of the route), we can compare his actual time to the route estimates and see if this is doable.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blacksburg to Cincinnati

Sunday was a day of rest that we stayed with my dad and it was definitely nice to not have to drive back to back long days. Monday morning we headed out bright and early. I had talked with my dad about places to buy gas. We were really low on gas since I didn't want to buy gas on Sunday and hadn't filled up on Saturday (though I should have). I was worried if there wasn't a gas station nearby on 460 that we'd run out before we got to one, and was considering going back eastbound to a gas station. My dad said there was a gas station only about 3 miles west on 460 so I said a prayer and crossed my fingers.

We ended up making it there without any problems, so that was nice. My dad had said that typically it was more expensive than other ones nearby but it ended up being the best price ($3.65 I think) that I saw for the entire day!!!

We took the standard US 460 into Princeton WV but then instead of taking our standard route home up I-77, we continued west across the Interstate. Continuing with my pattern of getting lost whenever I have to go through city streets (or as I like to think of them - scenic deviations from plan), I missed the turnoff onto Ingleside Road and ended up going northbound on US 19 over to WV 20. Clearly the learning here is that for future trips, I need to give myself more detailed maps of cities (or get a TomTom).

WV 20 led us to US 52 and 4 WV counties (McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo and Logan). US 52 was pretty windy and hilly and not a great road for traveling. It was very interesting to go through these little towns and how they would just be cut out of a hillside. We turned off onto Buffalo Creek road and bypassed Williamson, WV and then rejoined US 52 where it had multiplexed with US 119 and was now a sweet 4 lane highway. We were on that for not very long before we exited back onto US 52. One neat part of that little stretch was that although for the most part the road paralleled Tug Fork to the east (the border between WV and KY), there is one section where just to make the road construction easier, it crosses the creek, which snagged me Pike Co KY!

Near Kermit WV, we crossed over Tug Fork on to KY 40. We had been looking for places to eat for awhile and near Inez spotted a Wildcat Mart / McDonalds combo so we stopped. Ate lunch and I found a quarter in a "Pot O Silver" machine. Took KY 3 to US 23/460 and I got a kick out of heading "East" on 460 when earlier this morning I had been heading west. Though really at this point it was more going south. KY 114 turned into the Bert Combs mountain parkway, which continued the good roads we had been having. Got off that on KY 205 and headed US 460 west into Mt. Sterling. 460 was a pretty good road with some slow parts near towns. KY 11 to KY 36 to KY 32 to US 27 in Cynthiana (where I actually didn't get lost!) and then US 27 took us home.

Total on the day - 21 counties (16 new)

Kitty Hawk to Blacksburg

Initially I had thought that during the week that we were over in the Outer Banks, we could hit the first ring of NE NC counties (Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan) while I was there. Well, initially I was trying to figure out a way to snag SC (one of now-10 states I have not been to). In the end, I decided to bail on both of those plans. So instead of going home in a way that would go through Tyrell, Washington, Martin and Bertie counties, I went through the 4 listed above (US 158 to US 17 to NC 37 to NC 137 to US 13), in addition to Gates and Hertford counties, which both routes did.

Coming up on US 258 Truck route near Franklin, VA, I could not figure out why Google would not let me turn on to VA 616. Field reconnasiance reveals that the 2 roads, although they look like they connect, in fact are overpass/underpass. Makes sense! Don't mess with Google. We were on the lookout for a place to stop and stretch but were shut out. Franklin was kind of shady looking, if you ask me. Not to mention I got a bit lost (because I didn't realize my route had me going off US 58 Business (onto Armory Dr / VA 671) and so I got confused when the road signs were not matching up with what I thought the route should be). We ended up stopping at a 7-11 gas station on US 58 west of town. The restrooms were ummmm un-sanitary but hey my son found me a dime in the parking lot so it all worked out :-)

US 58 was a very solid road. Originally we were going to stop at Emporia (where it crosses I-95) for lunch but ended up going to South Hill (where it crosses I-85) and eating at an Arby's and then wandering around Walmart for awhile to stretch out. We continued on US 58 past Danville (with a slight detour on US 15 and 360 (to pick up Charlotte county). The US 58 bypass around the south of Danville was just SOOOOOOOO close to North Carolina that I took a 2 minute detour for Caswell Co.

It's Danville baby!!! You can also see down in the bottom right corner part of my license plate printout that I did to keep the kids (well one kid) entertained.

US 58 took us into Martinsville, where I again got slightly lost. Not too badly though and we headed out on VA 57. And here's where the day's adventures got a bit interesting. SW Virginia is verrrrrrrrry hilly and although we were pretty much done countying, there were just no good roads to get where we needed to go. The roads we took were very windy and very hilly and thankfully nobody got carsick. After talking to my dad, he suggested that I should have taken VA 8 which I guess is a better road. Once we got into Christiansburg, the familiar US 460 took us where we needed to go

Total 25 counties - 22 new to me. The repeats were Greensville and Emporia VA (from my trip down I-95 to NC on my honeymoon) and Montgomery VA (home of Blacksburg)

Hershey to Kitty Hawk

Day 2 started off a bit slower. We woke up bright and early (of course) but with all the packing and eating and our kids just being so dang loud in the lobby, we didn't end up leaving till a bit after 9:00.

We headed southeast out of Hershey on Bachmanville Road into Lebanon County and then various middle of nowhere roads till we got onto PA 283 East. Went through Lancaster where I dropped off another post card. Not sure why that has a Harrisburg postmark unless that's where the gas station employee lived?

Went down PA 72 / PA 272 / US 222 into Cecil County Maryland and then took a brief out and back on US 1 to get Harford County, before heading east. BACK into Pennsylvania (Chester County!) and then back into Maryland onto MD 273 to MD 272. We hopped onto I-95 and before too long hit some nice traffic. Apparently on a Saturday morning everyone was heading beach bound? Just over the Delaware line, we stopped at a toll plaza that was INSANELY crowded. Just tons of people all over the place, many of them shady looking. I'm not sure if the toll plaza itself was dirty or it just seemed that way due to the masses of people. I bought some Delaware postcards and mailed the first one off. Too bad I didn't double check, but it was a duplicate.

Shortly after we got back on the road, the van started going crazy. We had been having some battery trouble and it was acting up. A few months ago the belt just came off of all the pulleys. It was kind of acting that way and we pulled off at the Christiana Mall. We said some prayers, I got out and jiggled the battery cables, and that was that. We had no further van troubles for our entire vacation. With the help of a missing fingered man, we got back on I-95 to I-295 into Salem County New Jersey. I had never been to New Jersey (or Delaware!) before and was glad to cross those 2 states off my list.

An immediate turn around in New Jersey and we dealt with traffic westbound too. It's dang crowded over here! We ended up getting back on DE 1 and passing the same mall we had just stopped at a bit earlier. I think that, given the van trouble, if I had realized that this was the way that we were going to continue after the NJ detour, I would have punted on New Jersey. But knowing now what I do (that the van had no further trouble), I'm glad I didn't!!

Lots of traffic on DE 1 (I'm pretty sure it was beach traffic). We exited on DE 299 and took US 301 back into Maryland (Kent Co). Then MD 299 to MD 301 and back into Delaware. Around here it was getting to be lunch time and we had our eyes peeled for a Wendys or Arbys or some such. I had written down the locations of some Wendys on our route but I thought that we were going to get an earlier start so they were all a few hours down the road. Local roads took us to DE 42 to DE 300 to DE 11 aaaaaand back into Maryland. MD 302 to MD 454 got me Caroline County (not to be confused with Carolyn!), past the border town of Marydel (again, not to be confused with Delmar, which we would pass through later in the day). We went through Felton, DE (where I detoured to find a Post Office and send another (duplicate) post card. We got on US-13, which we were going to be following for quite awhile. We stopped to eat in Harrington and then into Delmar and into Maryland (for the 5th! time today).

US-13 was pretty good - some slowdowns near towns / cities but overall pretty quick. We stopped for gas right at the VA / MD line and the kids amused themselves by having one hand in Virginia and one hand in Maryland. We crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and that was pretty sweet. Several people asked me how long that was and I think I said different things but for the record it has a shore to shore distance of 17.6 miles.

Some pics of the bridge and tunnel

We crossed and went on I-64 and VA / NC 168 south to US 158 east. Total was 21 counties (19 new for me). The only 2 repeats were Wicomico and Worcester Maryland which I had previously hit on a trip to Ocean City.

Home to Hershey

I wanted to take a brief second to recap the driving portions of our recent vacation trip out to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Carolyn did a nice job of talking about the vacation itself, but for some strange reason she barely mentioned the trips to and there.

And while I have already documented the counties / routes in a spreadsheet, I wanted to just mention some of the things that I found / noticed, to pave the way (pardon the pun) for future travelers.

Day 1 was Friday July 25th. We had made the decision to pack up the whole car the night before to try and ensure an early start. Initially I had wanted to just throw the kids in the car in their pajamas ear-lie and change at the first stop but in the end, we decided to just try and make it snappy in the mornings. We put the kids in their backup pajamas (so we wouldn't have to pack them) and made them sleep nightlightless.

We got out of the house at about 8:09 and set up I-71. Carolyn had wanted to stop for fruit somewhere but there was nowhere good to do so nearby, so we decided we'd stop in Columbus. Apparently she cannot live off the standard traveling 3 square meals a day of pop tarts, sandwiches and cookies. It took us awhile to find a store in Columbus. As we circled around I-270 to I-70, I was getting a little worried we would soon be running out of civilization, so we got off the highway and eventually we found a Kroger Marketplace like 2 miles south. I think it was the one near Pickerington but I'm not sure. I should go back and check my receipts for historical accuracy. Except I threw them all away.

I also tried to find some postcards to send to Carey who is collecting one for every county but Kroger nor the CVS nearby had any. Jerks.

I was able to take a picture to contribute to the Ohio Highway Ends project

Anyway, one annoyance of Kroger is that their fruit is dang expensive. And indeed, grapes were $1.99/lb. Grr. We got out and wandered around stretching ye olde legs and such and then got back on the road. One bonus of Kroger is that we spotted a Florida license plate. I had created and printed out a 50 state find the license plate game and my son was enjoying it. This was definitely our best day of the 4 traveling days due to the extensive Interstate-ness of it all.

I was originally going to post my Word doc of all the license plates on here so people could download it if they wanted but it was like 7 MB so if you want it just email me or leave a comment and I'll send it your way.

Anyway we continued on I-70 east into West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Actually had to detour on I-470 near Wheeling since I-70 was closed to through traffic. Passed my aunt's house where I stayed on a previous county trip. Went through the various tunnels on the PA turnpike. We stopped for lunch at the Bedford Travel Plaza. I bought an array of postcards to send at various places in Pennsylvania but tragically 2 of them ended up being duplicates. I also found a penny on the ground - bonus!

We got off at Exit 201 and snagged Cumberland County and then came down PA 696 into the lovely megalopolis of Shippensburg. I enjoyed the sites of an old-school town (not to mention some old schools). After a jog on I-81, we went back on PA 997 to US 30, which we followed into a little town called Gettysburg, where I amused myself (and surely no others) by talking in my Rhett Butler voice for hours.

I even found the post office (after we drove right by it) and dropped off the postcard. I chose to follow the signs for the visitor's center rather than my maps and that confused me for awhile but we eventually got to the right place. We took the 20 minute tour of Gettysburg (about the kids' attention span) and then headed back in the car. Gettysburg was also very handy for the license plate game - we found a bunch of good ones here (CA, AL, and probably a few others).

Then we had to keep going south to snag the annoyingly LCC-d Carroll County, Maryland. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing towards our ending destination of Hershey, Pennsylvania. As we started coming up US 15, the traffic started. Not only was it rush hour, but there was a Jonas Brothers concert there. We went stop and go for awhile with vans full of hordes of pre-teen girls. Luckily our hotel was on the west side of town so we were able to get out of traffic a bit earlier. Also Carolyn spotted a sign that said "The churches of Hershey welcome you" - we couldn't grab a pic, but she definitely thought that a chocolate-based religion was one she could definitely get onboard with!!!

We walked to Hershey World and took the free tour. It was pretty cool. We hung out there for a bit and then took the free hotel shuttle back to our free hotel rooms. Definitely should have taken the shuttle over there instead of walking. We drove over to a disgusting Wendy's (food was fine but things were so sticky and dirty!) Got everyone settled in for bed and went to sleep to the melodious sounds of the Jonas brothers. We had gotten 2 rooms and had planned on having a boy and girl room but our rooms were adjoining so we just put the 3 big kids in one and Carolyn and I and the little'n in the other room. It ended up working okay.

Total for the day: 27 counties - 7 new ones (for me)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ESNH Interactive Map & Stats

Today I finished preliminary plans to grab all the Super Neighborhoods in Houston in 13 trips.

Total Distance: 457 miles (approx.)
Distance range per trip: 15-67 miles
Average distance per trip: 35 miles
Number of new SNs per trip: 4-12
Average new SNs per trip: 6
Estimated time to complete: 4-5 months

Here is an interactive map that I will be updating throughout. As of now, my original trip and proposed trips 2-9 are up. Keep it bookmarked and I will update as I take more trips :)

As you can see from the trips, they get longer and longer as the trips go on. I'm hoping that I can build up some endurance for the dreaded 67 mile trip up to Lake Houston, which is not only extremely long, but I have to ride over two bridges twice each. That's going to be a long weekend!

I'm tentatively setting a goal to be done by New Years '09, so stay tuned.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Every Super Neighborhood in Houston - Trip 1

I had my first trip out for "Super Neighborhood Counting" today. I managed to rack up 8 out of the 88 my first time out. I totaled 15.2 miles and was on the road from 7:00am to 8:45am and then from 11:00am to 11:30am. For those of you that did the math in your head, that's a rather casual pace. I haven't rode a bike in a while, so I thought I would coast as much as possible.

If you want to follow along on a map, click here for Google Maps (may be slow) or here for Google Earth (recommended).

The first stop was at the welcome sign for my own neighborhood, #15 Greater Heights. It was easier to get a shot of this historical marker than the larger sign:

Then I went down Washington Ave. and picked up this shot for #22 Washington Ave./Memorial. This is in the same complex that Howard Hughes was buried in. Washington Cemetery is the older section, while Glenwood Cemetery is the newer (1910s) one. This is where all the obnoxiously rich people in Houston get buried.

It wasn't much longer before I was in downtown Houston. What better place to get a photo for #61 Downtown than the Welcome to Downtown Houston sign? I set up my camera on a tripod across the street, set the timer 10 seconds, and sprinted over there on my bike. I wasn't even in it. I tried a second time, dashed over, then came back and realized I forgot to set the timer. Again, I set it up, set the timer, waited for traffic to be completely clear, then I floored it (so to speak). Then my tire got stuck in a crevace for drainage (for the Bayou underneth) and my bike and I went tumbling forward. Since I was actually in this shot, I figure it was good enough. I wasn't going to do it again. My knee still hurts :(

And here is my good luck shot for the day. I was supposed to be in Fourth Ward, and I in fact roamed all over, following every address of every business listing on Google Maps that had the name "fourth ward" in it, but to no avail. I was about to turn around and this sign popped in front of me. I guess I went too far and ended up in #62 Midtown, which was unscheduled for the day:

Knee still hurting and frustrated at the lack of "Fourth Ward" signs, I decided to take one more pass through the neighborhood, just on random new streets. I screeched my breaks when I came to this house and read the plaque carefully. There it was! Fifth line from the top is the #60 Fourth Ward I needed (click for bigger).

Then on Montrose Blvd, I got an unexciting photo for #24 Neartown-Montrose

This next one was shortly after my break for my go club meeting. #67 Upper Kirby had these signs everywhere, so it wasn't hard to get it.

In another fortnuate turn of events, I passed this elementary school on the way to River Oaks County Club to pick up #23 Afton Oaks/River Oaks. That saved me about a mile.

I was supposed to go to Lazy Brook/Timbergrove, which was maybe 1/4 mile off my direct path home, but I was exhausted, I had already gone nearly 15 miles, I was out of water, and it was 90 degrees outside. So, I decided to save it for another day. After all, it's less than a mile from my house, so I can get it any time.

I forgot how much fun cycling was. I can't wait until I have time for another trip.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Every Super Neighborhood in Houston

Dan and I were discussing what "EveryWhatevers" we were thinking of accomplishing. He was thinking of revisiting Every Municipality in Hamilton County, but with a bicycle instead of a car (since it's only about 80 miles). I'm sure he'll write about it soon :)

Of course, I knew right off the bat that Every Municipality in Harris County (see plan and execution) was out of the question for a bicycle, being about 200 miles. I tried to cull it down to every municipality contained completely within Harris County, but that was still 120 miles, way more than I could bicycle in a day.

Dan said "what about super-neighborhods in Houston?"

My first instinct was "are you kidding?" There are 88 super neighborhoods in Houston (which are political subdivision of the city itself, see map), each one about 7 square miles. Houston itself is 600 square miles. My best guess for a route going through all of them is about 200 miles. Again, no way I could do that on a bike in a day.

But the idea of ESNH was a really good one. It's a great way to explore my own city. It's a great way to get some exercise. So I'm doing what we don't normally do here, and throw the time limit out the window.

The only rule is that I have to leave my house and return to my house under my own body power, either by running, bicycle, etc. If I use any motorized or electronic vehicle between the time I leave and the time I get back, none of the SNs count. If possible, I should locate a sign, building, business, etc. within that SN, that contains the name of the SN, and take a photograph of it, with me in it.

So here it comes: ESNH. Stay tuned for updates. I'm thinking of doing my first run on Sunday with a route I've done before, with Greater Heights (#15), Washington Ave/Memorial (#22), Downtown (#61), Fourth Ward (#60), Neartown/Montrose (#24), Greenway/Upper Kirby (#87), and Afton Oaks/River Oaks (#23). I know of places where I can get good photographs of all of these, except for Fourth Ward, which is only 0.47 square miles and has no (active) schools, libraries, or police or fire stations, probably due to it's close proximity to the downtown stations. The route is 12.6 miles, and I'll do it in two chunks separated by about 1 1/2 hours.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

48 States in 5 days

Heard from my mom (who heard on NPR) about a trio of folks that are attempting to set "the record" for fastest drive to all 48 continental states. They are aiming to do it in 120 hours (5 days) and are of course following the standard rules of no stops except to refuel and change drivers. As of this writing they are in South Dakota and are 36 states down with 12 to go. They started in Vermont and are ending in 4 corners.

Follow along at their blog at or see the map. Also see Barry Stiefel's 50 States in a Week's Vacation

Good to see people following the lead of our great 88 Ohio counties in 24 hours trip

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Every Ben and Jerry's in Vermont

Some postage at Every Whatever!! I read a blog post by my brother talking about Ben and Jerry's free cone day, which was yesterday (April 29th).

He, as a loyal field reporter manning the lines at Quizno's in the mall, reported that "Towards the end of the day a few people came into the mall all bike-helmet, crazy-cycling-gear-like, and announced to much cheering and applause that they had biked to every B&J in the state and we were the last ones."

He suggested that this was 40-60 miles, since there were only 2 non-Burlington Ben and Jerry's, one in Montpelier and one in Waterbury. But alas, dear brother, there are also ones in Manchester and Rutland. There's also one in Smuggler's Notch that was not participating in Free Cone day.

I did brief mockup of their potential route (which may be off somewhat as far as which order they did the Burlington stores, which shouldn't change the route much.

It's 141 miles. You have 11 hours since the stores open at 10 and close at 9 (at least the ones I could find). Giving 15 minutes per store (* 8) to park your bike, go in, all order ice cream, eat it, and get back on the road, that means you have to do 141 miles in 9 hours (with no buffer time), or a shade under 16 mph. Doable, if you're good. But I definitely need some proof. Ryan, would you be willing to keep working at Quizno's until next year? :-D

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Hampshire towns

So while following the New Hampshire primary results the other day, I came up with a possible new Every Whatever.

Every Town in New Hampshire (EFTNH)!

Towns in New Hampshire are a bit different than the way that they are done in most other parts of the country. Basically they function as mini-counties. Each town may have several villages within the town boundaries, but each town (as well as cities which are just bigger towns) has its own government, and each county is sub-divided into several of these towns (for instance, Hillsborough County has 31).

Further complicating things are the fact that New Hampshire also has things called townships, "grants", "locations" and "purchases" which are also sub-divisions of a county, but they are more like just un-organized county space (similar to how townships work in Ohio). These have no self-government and many of them are uninhabited.

So, EFTNH. Doesn't sound that bad, right? I mean New Hampshire isn't a very big state, right? It's 44th in land area with only 8,968 square miles. I had previously come up with an EFCNH route that was only like 4-5 hours. I can't find it right now but it was something like that - there's only 10 counties!

The rub comes in with sheer numbers. As you may have surmised from my mention of how many towns are in just Hillsborough County (31), there are a LOT of them! 234 to be exact (221 towns and 13 cities). There are 24 (I think) of those location / grant / purchase type things that will not be counted. All but 2 of them are in the northernmost county; Coos (1 in Carroll and 1 in Grafton).

So, I was hashing this around with Carey and he compared that to his trip to every municipality in Harris Co, Texas. 34 municipalities and it took him 5 hours and 6 minutes. New Hampshire is approximately 5 times bigger than Harris Co (1,729 sq. mi.) On the one hand, Harris Co probably has better roads (certainly less hilly and certainly better than the ones in the north of NH), but on the other hand, the towns in NH are more densely packed in. Still, that data point seems to indicate that it may be close to 24 hours, which increases its "cool factor" at least in my eyes. Another data point is that my Every Municipality route for Hamilton Co Ohio (407 sq. mi) clocks in at 50 municipalities and 6:46. So we shall see!

One problem that I was finding was some accurate mappage. Mapquest gives you the county borders, but not the town borders. I found a few places with town borderes, but none with roads as well. If I have to do an out and back, I need to be able to know how far I need to go to the next town over. Or definitive answers on whether certain roads go through certain towns. I searched around and eventually we found some ArcGIS image programs, but they weren't ideal. Finally, we stumbled on Granit, which bills itself as "New Hampshire's Statewide Geographic Information System (GIS) Clearinghouse". Very useful! Not only did they have plenty of GIS datasets for that kind of thing, they also offered 2 very useful maps off of their map library - a PDF with town boundaries and major roads as well as a cleaner PDF that just has the boundaries.

So I will investigate and report