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!

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