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.