Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Every Super Neighborhood in Houston - Trip 9

Wow, it's hard to believe I've been on 9 trips now. Only 4 more to go after this one! Follow along on the map. Sorry it took so long for the update (the ride was on May 31st), but I had a lot of personal stuff I had to take care of.

I had a social gathering at my place the night before the trip, so Drew slept in our guest room rather than driving back to his place, then all the way back early in the morning. A new cyclist to these trips, David, also joined us, all dressed in his fancy MS150 gear.

The forecast was good, but still kind of hot. I made sure to bring sunscreen, and our first stop was at Kroger to stock up on Gatorade. After all, it was going to be around a 45-mile trip.

The first stop was not too far from home on Ella Blvd., to see this sign in #12 Oak Forest/Garden Oaks, saving us a trip to Oak Forest Elementary.

We continued on Ella straight north (which became Wheatley) until we came across the Acres Homes Center in #6 Acres Homes.

I was worried about the next super neighborhood, Hidden Valley. I spent a long time researching online and couldn't find anything bearing it's name. Even Hidden Valley Elementary School changed its name to Jones Elementary. There was a road that went through called "Hidden Valley Dr.," so I figured, worst case, I could get a shot of the street.

When we got there, we hit Hidden Valley Drive and I had an idea to go to the edge of the Super Neighborhood, on Hidden Valley Drive, to see if there was a "welcome" sign. We drove all the way down Hidden Valley to the freeway, and didn't see anything. Admitting defeat, I said we'll just go back and take a photo of the road sign. And wouldn't you know it, on the way back, completely covered by branches, was a sign for #7 Hidden Valley.

Greenspoint was our next stop, and it is (luckily) very oddly shaped. We crossed over to the other side of I-45 and went up the back road to Greenspoint Furniture in the very bottom skinny section of #2 Greater Greenspoint.

I think the next stretch was one of our longest (intentional) stretches without a single super neighborhood. We went along West Rd to Veteran's Highway, then crossed the beltway for the first time ever on these trips (Beltway 8 is about a 28 mile diameter loop around downtown Houston). 11.8 miles later, we were at Willowbrook Mall to grab #1 Willowbrook.

Willowbrook is one of the three disconnected areas of Houston; we were driving through unincorporated Harris County for nearly all of those 11.8 miles. The other two disconnected areas are the IAH Airport, and the Kingwood/Lake Houston area. I'll be doing both of the other two in the same, final trip.

By this point we were getting pretty hungry, so while on the way to the next one, we kept an eye out for donut shops. We drove south on Gessner. When we got back to the Beltway, we were stopped at a red light and Drew and David were behind me. I noticed it was clear (but still red) and so I went. They guys started yelling at me so I looked back and saw a cop car follow behind me through the red light. He looked at me through the window and gave me a "are you stupid?" look and kept on going. While I stopped and waited for Drew and David to catch up, the cop turned around twice, turned his loudspeaker on, and said (without stopping) in a heavy Texas accent: "Can y'all hear this?". We stopped and nodded as he was driving past. As he got close to us he said "Y'all don't be running red lights now!". We said "OK, sorry!" back to him even though it was obvious he couldn't hear us. It ended up being a running joke for the rest of the ride.

My guess for the reason he didn't write me a ticket is because he was an HPD officer and we were technically outside the city limits. So he would have had to stop us and call a Sheriff's Deputy over just to write us a ticket for running a light on a bicycle.

But moving on, after a few turns and two shut-down donut places, until we were on Antoine. Right after we turned on Antoine, I saw this:

It was not scheduled, and I still felt like we were out of the city limits (I later found out I was right), so I decided to keep an eye out for another Inwood.

After we stopped to take a photo, I found myself extremely fatigued and hungry. My chest was tight and I felt overheated. Before we took that photo, I sat on the ground for about 5 minutes to recover. It was very hot and humid at this point, and we had already gone 30 miles and I hadn't eaten, so I was not in a good place.

After the photo, we rode down to the next light and found another shut-down donut shop (I guess people in this area don't eat donuts?). I went to the convenience store instead and got some more gatorade and a snack. I told the guys I really needed to eat, and so we went over to a little taco trailer in the parking lot of the gas station across the way. The cashier didn't speak English, but we did the best we could. It was really great Mexican food, but not as good as the tacos I had on Trip 6.

After finishing eating, hydrating and applying another coat of sunscreen, we pressed on. I found my "backup" for #5 Greater Inwood at the Inwood Forest Golf and Country Club (which is really the one that counts).

We went all the way down Antoine to Hwy 290 and got even more Gatorade (did I mention it was hot?). We did a very quick jaunt the wrong way on the frontage to get to the Langwood Neighborhood (the one that we barely missed all the way back on Trip 4). This time we got this sign in front of Langwood Park to finally get #11 Langwood.

It was a pretty uneventful ride home after that. We stopped by Cedar Creek Cafe (since Onion Creek wasn't on the way) and had our traditional celebratory beer.

So 7 more Super Neighborhoods and 44.3 more miles down. That puts me at 56 out of 88 super neighborhoods and it looks like the number of miles is up to 243.4 total across all trips. Wow! After this trip, I'm past the original estimate to do all the super neighborhoods in one trip by car (210-220 miles). It's hard to believe that we still have about 210 more miles to go!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Soccer Golf #2

Last Friday, Doug, Randy and I attempted round 2 of Soccer Golf. For those of you too lazy to click on that link, it basically consists of kicking a soccer ball from point A to point B, and counting the number of kicks that it takes. Every time that you touch the ball it counts as a stroke. There is also a 5 stroke penalty if you go into an unplayable situation (e.g. in a creek, in a tree, etc).

This time we did the same course as before, but went in the opposite direction, from work to Randy's house. While Randy and I waiiiiiiiiiited for Doug to show up, we did a few practices on the patio to see what kind of strategies we wanted to make for making it into the back field.

But it didn't really help much. We started off okay, navigating the patio and pathway and making our way to the bridge. We had all agreed that it was extremely risky to try and clear the ravine with a long kick. I was the only one who had attempted to cross the ravine going the opposite way. That way you at least have a slight elevation downhill advantage, and it still took me a chip shot from inside the ravine.

So we got to about 5 or 6 kicks. Randy was first to cross the bridge, and he gave it a pretty decent sized kick, only to find that the bridge had a little lip on it - his ball hit the lip and then bounded high in the air and went down into the ravine. He chose to not take the 5 stroke penalty but instead kicked his ball back out of the ravine and then over the bridge (more carefully this time). Doug made it across the bridge without a problem. I thought I was being careful but ended up hitting the lip too. My ball went further into the ravine, so I decided rather than taking the 5 stroke penalty or kicking back that I would play through. I think that ended up being the best move - it only took me 3 or 4 strokes to make it across to the other side of the bridge.

But Doug was already several strokes ahead of us at this point, a lead he would not relinquish. The next segment was going across the field, a place I was at a disadvantage due to my poor soccer skills. Then we crossed "Eastern Column" and moved on the south side of the street onto Innovation.

Aaaaannnnd let's just say there is a lot more traffic on Innovation at 4pm on a Friday than there was at noon.... We definitely had to evade a few cars, and one guy even shouted out the window "How stupid are you?", an epithet that we chose not to answer. At one point, Randy got his ball stuck on the side of the road, and there was a girl riding her bicycle, and a big semi truck coming, so he chose to take the 5 stroke penalty so as to avoid any unfortunate accidents.

That put him about even with me, with Doug 3 or 4 strokes ahead. We made it onto the service road (see the previous post if you want a map) and I made some good kicks here. It was definitely tricky getting the right combination of momentum to keep the ball rolling with not wanting to go too far into the underbrush.

We also noticed that Duke (or someone) had cut down the trees that separated the access road from the back of Randy's development, so that made things a lot easier. At this point we had to navigate our way around a ravine / stream, and I tragically went in. Well, my ball went in, but then I went in after it. Got real muddy and wasted probably 3 or 4 strokes chipping out.

Then it was just down the residential streets and onto Randy's porch. I believe the final score was Doug 72, Randy 75, Dan 80 (I 2-putted onto the porch).

We have decided that for our next course, we are going to go to a local disc golf course and try that out. We all agreed that Innovation was too busy for our needs.

All in all, it was a lot of fun!