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.