Saturday, February 28, 2009

It is finished

67 counties are done. 5:34:36 a.m. was the finishing time for a total time of 21 hours, 14 minutes and 42 seconds.

We have just finished in Bucks Pocket State park and have completed our finishing rituals.

Congratulations to Jim, Carey, Adam and myself on a job nicely done.

Stay tuned for the next trip!


That was what I was about to post. Due to a raging river blocking us from the final county no more than 200 yards before the ending point, we had to detour around, adding an additional 53 minutes and 58 seconds, ending at 6:28:32, and for a final time of 22 hours, 8 minutes, and 40 seconds. After averaging nearly 60 miles per hour for the trip, we averaged 0.0052 miles per hour to go the final 25 feet.

We hit our 66th county, Marshall, on an out and back at about 5:25 and then made our way into Bucks Pocket State park. As you can see from my message above, I was confident that we had completed the job.

In Bucks Pocket, we wound our way down the road. We saw a green sign that we thought was the final county sign and we wrote the finish time down. We began to celebrate as we turned the van around to illuminate the sign for proper finishing pictures. Then, we saw that it was some sort of camping sign. So we continued going forward down the road towards the county line. As we go around a bend, Jim sees the green county sign about 200 feet ahead and says "There it is" - following which, Carey yells out "Stop!", as the van plunges into a raging river.

Luckily, Jim had stopped in time and as steam arose from the van, we were able to pull it back out of the river. With the insane amount of rain we got yesterday (there was a flash flood warning at one point), the bridge over the river that marked the county line between DeKalb and Jackson (the final county) was washed out.

We got out and investigated crossing it but decided (wisely in my opinion) not to. Had it been 23:50 perhaps we would have tried it, but with 3 hours of buffer time we pulled back. We saw another option on the map but after about a 20-30 minute detour realized that the map was wrong and no entry to Jackson would be permitted from that direction either.

We finally managed to navigate around to the other side of Buck's Pocket, where we had been nearly an hour beforehand. We actually got into Jackson County about 10 minutes before that (at the times listed above), but continued down to the sign of our original defeat. We snapped pictures and had our way with Jackson County and called it complete.

Nearly finished

We actually made it all the way to the finish line only to BE STOPPED BY A RIVER IN THE ROAD NO LESS THAN 200 FEET FROM THE FINAL COUNTY SIGN

No. Really. We are detouring around. Everyone is safe and we'll post again with more details in a bit.

Old Sudsville Water

It's now 2:44 AM and things are getting weird. Jim and Adam are talking in an old man voices trying to get everyone to buy their Old Sudsville Water. Dan is slipping in and out of consciousness (no, he's not driving).

We are now at 57 counties, only 10 more to go. We're hoping to get this closed out by 5:20am or so, nearly three hours ahead of schedule.

Gas adventures solved

We managed to limp to the Interstate at Opelika on fumes only to find out that...... all gas stations were closed. Luckily we had enough to make it one exit up the Interstate where there was a Shell open. We put 19.26 gallons in, so assuming a 20 gallon tank, we had about 10 miles left in us.

We are still about 1:50 ahead of pace and at 53 counties. We're heading northwest on US 280 out of Opelika

Adventures in gas land

Barbour county is down one 'possum.

Current county count is 53. We are in Lee county. We are trying to make it up to Opelika to get gas before we run out. We are pretty sure that we can make it. Our van says it has 31 miles till empty, and we stand at 22 MTO (Miles to Opelika)

We are at just shy of 2 hours ahead of pace, so it looks like we will finish somewhere around 6 a.m.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What a country

One of the big differences between this excursion and the Ohio trip has been the amount of technology available to us.

First, we're featuring a Garmin GPS unit on the windshield. We don't have our entire route programmed into the unit, but it does offer several benefits. It has a speed limit feature that tells you at any given time how fast you must go to violate the law. It also gives a good relative view of upcoming turns.

Second, Carey is rolling with some sort of prototype uber-phone, which must have been developed for secret intelligence agents. It also has a full-color GPS, along with a map of county boundaries which he downloaded. The phone is also broadcasting our position (via and taking pictures, which are automatically uploaded.

Lastly, this uber-phone is obviously offering us the opportunity to blog live from remote corners of Alabama. Although we don't have a constant connection, we do have the ability to hop on and create posts, and check your messages.

Even this van's technology blows away that of the Town & Country of '05. It has 11 cup holders and 4 (FOUR!) portable DVD holders. Also, it's got Satellite radio (a feature which we have not used, but was promised on the Town & Country and never delivered).

My mother and Yakov Smirnoff would say, "what a country!"

A plan comes together, hopefully

We are cruising along nicely, beginning the last of three large North-to-South swaths we cut across the state. We'll sweep up the Eastern side of the state and pick up all of those counties, eventually finishing in Buck's Pocket State Park, where DeKalb County meets Jackson County.

As of this writing, that means we've got about 468 miles remaining on the trip. The van is currently 217 miles until empty, so this plays out nicely. Although most of the remaining distance is classified as "middle of nowhere," we do hit the interstate for just two miles around Auburn / Opelika, between exits 60 and 58. Assuming we can hit a gas station there, we'll be able to fuel up roughly 13 miles before the fan hit fumes, and then have just 234 miles until the trip ends.

The plan does hinge on finding a gas station in that area, though.

Our county count is at 42, and Dan is moving at a predictably plodding pace. We could still finish in 20-21 hours, though.

We'll get you, Bibb County...

A minor setback strikes the intrepid traveling party near Calera.

While attempting to jaunt off of the interstate at Exit 228 for a quick out-and-back to Bibb County, we noticed flashing blue lights at the end of the off ramp. An accident had blocked the way to Alabama Highway 25 Westbound, leaving only a lonely, wet, moronic cop listlessly directing traffic.

Dan rolled down his window to engage the young officer in conversation, and he strolled over to the driver-side window, not grasping the enormity of our dilemma. My powers of observation are not currently at their keenest, but according to my recollections, the conversation went like this:

Dan: "Is this road closed?"

Cop: *Gestures with his flashlight at the accident*

*Five seconds pass*

Cop: "Yeah."

Hastily, a new plan was formulated. Unfortunately, Highway 25 is really by far the best way to get to Bibb County. So the new plan required us to double back on I-65 for three miles and bypass the accident, then circling through Bibb County.

The whole incident is reminiscent of the Ohio trip's Darlington Road debacle (I trust Dan will hyperlink that later here). Although this one cost us at least 10 minutes.

However, with Bibb successfully traversed, we're now at 34 counties, officially marking the point at which we're more than halfway through, at least on the county count.

Update from the center of Alabama

32 counties have fallen, and the second gas stop has been made, accruing 5:06 more pansy time.

We are roughly 1 hour, 45 minutes ahead of schedule, which allows us for three key delaying factors: potential traffic delays as we move into Birmingham, tornado warnings and storms throughout the state, and Dan taking the wheel, with his aching hip and AARP card.

Adam was a fantastic driver, lopping several minutes off of the projected times during each leg of the trip.

To Dan's credit, he can't be blamed for the slow-going traffic right now. We're pinned at a few miles per hour under the speed limit.

Google's traffic maps are not to be trusted. They've been wholly inaccurate so far.

I'm going to be driving the anchor leg, once Dan's shift is up. I still think we're going to finish this thing before the sun rises. Sunrise is at 6:17 a.m., which would be a finish time of 21:58. As I type this, traffic has slowed to its most glacial crawl, and we have also crossed into Shelby County (named after former Governor of Kentucky Isaac Shelby).

I think we've seen the worst of any traffic and tornados that might befall us, and I'm thinking that we're still looking at a 20-hour finish.

- Jim

Update - county count 30

Thought we'd give an update.

County count - 30

We are on I-65 heading down from Huntsville. We'll be on this for over 100 miles, hitting all the middle counties from north to south. We'll pass Birmingham and Montgomery and exit SE of Montgomery, heading to the SE corner before coming up the eastern edge of the state and ending in the NE

Rain has started again but we're making good time due to being on the Interstate.

Still making great time.

Boring update

A request came in for more updates of what we were doing.

We are driving around. We have gone up the west side of Alabama, pretty much from the whole south to north.

We just hit our 25th county - Lawrence. We're soon to be heading towards Huntsville where we'll hit I-65 down nearly the entire of the center of the state. We are hoping to avoid rush hour in Birmingham.

Build me a depot Phil Caaaampbell

So we just passed through the thriving metropolis of Phil Campbell, Alabama. Not Campbellsvile, or Campbellton or Campbell's Crossings. But Phil Campbell, Alabama.

So we managed to do a quick lookup of its wikipedia page.

Guy promised Phil Campbell if he built a depot and spur to the railroad track that he would name the town after him. So he did and then he did.

Sing it with me (to the tune of Bill Bailey)

Build me a depot Phil Caaaaaampbell
You'll bring the train right throuuuuuuuuuuugh
Build me a depot Phil Caaaaaampbell
We'll name the towwwwn for youuuuuu.

Doesn't it sound like an old time victrola?

There was a "Phil Campbell Day" in 1995 where 22 people named Phil Campbell got together.

Current County count - 24 (in Colbert county - in the NW corner)
Ahead of pace by - 1:42:19

The republic of Winston

So as part of our county trivia, just recently we learned that when Alabama seceded from the US, that Winston County seceded from Alabama and declared itself the Republic of Winston.

It is also 97% white, and judging from the Wikipedia demographics, there are 9 African Americans in the entire county.

County count is 21, and we are currently 1:33:25 ahead of pace. We're definitely looking like a potential sub-20 hr time.

Some updates / responses

To answer Jay's comments on this earlier post:

1. Adam is currently driving and has been since the start. We discussed switching at our last gas stop but Adam decided to carry on.

2. No black bean pueblo pie nor beef jerky. Jim is definitely tearing through the gold rold pretzel rods though.

3. There are 67 counties in Alabama, we just whipped through Fayette, county #19. That is one more than our last post.

4. I brought along 2 binders. One map binder and then a backup binder. I also had Carey print out and bring the wikipedia county pages for each county, for appropriate demographic trivia.

Jim - king of county sign photography

Jim is in fact the king of photographing county signs. It is unfortunate that I can not upload the photo he just snagged.

You may be able to see up on the photo that Carey just snapped of the logging truck we were stuck behind, whipping up spray in a torrential rainstorm. Just to give you an idea of conditions.

But despite that, Jim snagged a perfect shot of the Welcome to Lamar county sign (#18). I bow to his mad skills.

The rain has slowed down quite a bit. And actually it just appeared a lot worse because the truck in front of us was whippin up spray like there was no tomorrow.

Currently we are ahead of pace by 1:20:55

Additional pansy time

2 recent occurrences have added 46 seconds of pansy time.

9 seconds at a toll booth on the Black Warrior parkway west of Tuscaloosa. The toll booth operator was manning both sides and refused to acknowledge us for 9 seconds.

Then just now a truck was trying to fit under a 13'6 railroad bridge and all turning around and backing up and blocking the road - 37 seconds.

We're currently in Pickens county, county #17. Last schedule was 1:12:52 ahead of schedule / pace.

Sumter county - county count of 14 - first gas stop

We just had our first gas / bathroom stop. It took us 4:36 at the gas station, so our current TPT (Total Pansy Time) is now 4:39.

Carey was assessed $1.60 pansy dollars for looking up on Google and telling us there were no gas stations at AL-28 and I-20/59. So we stopped earlier for $1.79 a gallon when in fact there was a gas station right by the highway selling gas for $1.69.

1:11:59 ahead of estimates. Current county count is 14 and we are in Sumter county. Approaching Greene on I-20/59 East.

To follow along check us out at - see earlier posts for instructions.

County count 13

We just zipped through Perry County and back into Marengo county and then into Hale county, for county #13

We are continuing to make astonishing time. We are now up to over 1 hour ahead of pace. Jim threw out the possibility that we could finish in under 20 hours. That would get us finishing around 4 am on Saturday.

We'll keep you posted. To see our live status, go to then click on careyj, then click on trips then click on EFALC. Or click on Careyj and go to live! to see current location.

Note - no www on that bliin link.

Choctaw - County Count 8

We just passed Zimco. We are wondering if that is the alphabetically last city / town in Alabama. Perhaps some intrepid reader can check for us and post in the comments.

Our thoughts were that it would certainly be a competitor, if perhaps there were no Zorn or Zutroffs (or Zwyckzwck)

There was 3 seconds pansy time accumulated when Adam thought that we were turning around at the Clarke county line and so slowed down (so as to turn around) before we let him know that we were continuing straight until Choctaw.

We just hit Choctaw county, #8. We are murdering all pace records - currently 30:46 ahead of pace.

Carey update and Clark-ee county

Time for a Carey update. First of all, two lane roads and white trucks suck.

But first, background. My trip over to the starting point was fun, but I didn't get to pick up any new counties beacuse we had a late start. We stopped in Beaumont to check out an awesome fire museum. They had a fake front of a firetruck with flashing lights and a tiny house with safety tips to play in. Next up we stopped east of Lafayette at a small cajun restaurant called Boudin King, which had pretty horrible gumbo (some of the rice was uncooked even). After that it was pretty much a straight shot in the dark all the way to Mobile. We stayed for free with my new couchsurfing friend Chris, and in the morning, David and Conan dropped me off at the starting point. We beat Dan there by 5 minutes.

We're now 7 counties in, in Clarke county, and we're about 20 minutes ahead of schedule (I'm not quite as precise as Dan is).

Here's more instructions on how to use bliin, beacause it can be kind of confusing. Go to

To see where we are, click on "careyj" and click "Live!" and the map should center on us. Right now we're at 3 second interval updates, but we have to turn it off to update the blog. Click the "M" on the left control panel if you prefer street maps instead of satellite view.

In order to see the "trip" so far, click on "Trips" underneath "careyj" and open up the EFALC (not EFCAL).

Stay tuned for more updates, I'm sure there will be many more.

Sense of urgency - county county 4

We are driving with a sense of urgency. We are in our 3rd county with an elapsed time of 26 minutes, 22 seconds. Which isn't that impressive given that we had 2 counties in the first 2 seconds.

But we are 4:03 ahead of pace after the first road (US 43)

UPDATE - while waiting for this to connect we reached our 4th county and nearly 5th (Conecuh)

First update

Okay we are out exactly 2 minutes 30 seconds into the trip right now. We started at officially 8:19:52 Central time.

After some debate, Jim, Adam and I decided to get a hotel room. There was talk of some sleeping in a van, for some restful coma-inducing "van sl.eep". In the end, we got into not a Motel 5, not a Motel 7, but a Motel 6.

It was approximately what you might expect from a $33.99 hotel room. We made a reservation before we left Montgomery, but when we got to mobile, the clerk informed us that he had just sold his last room. The gentleman was not fazed when informed of our so called "reservation". Very reminiscent of last time with the van. In the end, he told us that he could sell us a room that "had something wrong with it".

Naturally the appropriate first question is "well what is wrong with it". Jim's first thought was a room with tigers inside. In the end, we had our choice between a room with purple dye on the bathtub or one with dirty carpets. We went with the dye. I have a picture that I'll upload later.

Jim also wants to point out that the desk clerk made him give his key back, depriving him of an addition to his hotel key collection.

While in the car, we were playing some of those "lateral thinking" puzzles, like "a man has hung himself and there's a puddle of water underneath him". We stayed up way too late trying to find out why a man killed himself after eating abalone.

I will keep you posted. Also, if you check out you can see the photos that we uploaded, as well as if you click on trips it will show our current location.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Every County in Alabama

Preparations are being made, trips are being planned, rental vans have been rented, and all systems are go for visiting every county in Alabama this Friday (the 27th).

Stay tuned for more updates

Monday, February 23, 2009

Alabama county trip is on!

As posted last fall, wheels have been in motion for an Every County in Alabama trip.

After weeks / months of speculation, the trip is on. It is happening this Friday, February 27th. The route is pretty similar to the one posted in that earlier trip.

So stay tuned to for updates.

You can also join our Facebook group

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Every Super Neighborhood in Houston - Trip 4

Well, it's a long time coming, but it's finally here. Trip 4. Now that marathon season is over, I'm hoping to do these at least every other week. Drew and I have all the way up to Trip 11 by the end of April scheduled.

I'm going to have to stop doing a regular google map, because there are too many points to fit all in one. You can still view the Super Neighborhood Map of the trip.

The day started off with Drew and I messaging each other that we both wanted to start about 30 minutes late, so that's what we did.

The first stop was an easy one, I drive by this sign almost every day. It's for #14 Lazy Brook/Timbergrove, right across from my grocery store.

Less than a mile from my house

The neighborhood was a lot nicer than our previous rides through impoverished Houston. The small two bedroom houses around here go for about $280k.

Our next stop was at Houseman Elementary, which is in the Spring Branch school district. We rode up and down and all around the school and didn't see a single sign that said Spring Branch ISD on it. Since it wasn't that far from my house, I wasn't going to freak out about having to pick it up later. We continued on down the route and came across the sign below practically smacking us in the face. I wasn't completely sure it was in #86 Spring Branch East, but when I got home, I verified that it was.

I hate deed restrictions almost as much as I hate zoning

We decided to take a shortcut on a busy road instead of taking the marked bike route. The shortcut saved us about a mile and a half, but we had to ride on a 40 mph road (where people go 50) with no sidewalk or shoulder. We survived, but I don't think I'll be doing that again unless I have to. In one of the detours from the main road, we went up to Langwood Baptist church, which was supposed to be in Langwood, but was actually a block away from Langwood. We're going to have to revisit this one in trip 6 when we go up to Willowbrook.

It took us a while to figure what the sign meant. Stupid church not being in Langwood.

Along the main fast road, I came to a screeching halt when I saw this place, since we were supposed to be looking for #4 Fairbanks/North Crossing. I wasn't sure if it was actually in Fairbanks, so we continued on to Dean Middle School, which had "Cypress Fairbanks" ISD in the title, like schools should have (stupid Spring Branch). So we got this one twice.

There was actually a guy hauling trash behind the fence, but he didn't seem to take notice of us

This is about the point where you can see me progressively getting more and more tired

After a serious wrong turn which added about a mile to our trip, we got to Carverdale Community Center in #3 Carverdale. We were starting to get really tired, because the 20mph winds were no longer at our backs, but we were going directly into it. You can tell from the next picture, I look a little more worn out.

"I can't believe we're only half way"

Drew pointed out this sign was more interesting, so I took a pic of him with it.

Back into the wind, we went south toward #8 Westbranch, intending to go into the subdivision and look for the Westbranch Recreation Center, but luckily found this sign early and saved a little bit of precious milage.

Is it over yet?

We definitely needed a break to recharge, so we rode down Gessner (on the sidewalk, because it was very very busy road) and looked for a place to eat. We found a little donut shop called Donut World, which had amazing donuts and good kolaches. The donuts were all warm and soft but not undercooked *drool*. Although we made the mistake of both of us getting orange juice, which was not a good choice with 12 miles into the wind to go.

We went back to kempwood, seeing Spring Shadows signs everywhere (but I didn't feel like stopping because I knew there was a school ahead and I knew it was in the superneighborhood). After getting nearly all the way through the super neighborhood, we came across Spring Shadows Elementary in #84 Spring Shadows.

Wildcats, rwar!

It was an uneventful quater mile to the next stop at #85 Spring Branch Central

Getting tired again.

And just for good measure, I got this one on the way back in Spring Branch East, just in case.

My sweat pattern looks like Kazakhstan

The ride home was brutal. We had a wrong turn which took us to Ikea (all in 20mph head winds). At some points it felt like if we stopped pedaling, we would roll backwards! But we finally made it, crashed on the couch with a lot of water, and that was it.

It took about 4 hours and 30.1 miles to pick up these 7 new Super Neighborhoods. Next trip is going to be roughly the same distance, but only 3 new Super Neighborhoods. It's also going to be back out in the east (low-income) area.