Author Archives: nodyrb

Adventures in Laundry

I was a camper at Camp Stephens every year from the beginning of eligibility at age 9 in 1964 until I aged out in the ’70s. I think I was an Intermediate in 1966 or 1967 when I heard the definition of “mung” from Jeff C. I think he was one of the canoe program trippers at the time and he and some other miscellaneous camp staff were in one of the old white cabins on the cabin line just before Neoniskos. I was in that cabin a lot because as a camper, I gave massages/back rubs to the various canoe staff on many afternoons, partly as a means of escaping the mandatory siesta time in the cabin. Jeff’s description of mung was quite gross and had nothing to do with the bean. The polite version is that mung was some sort of biological material that had gone far more than rancid, and graphic descriptions involved decomposition, ooze and an obnoxious array of really awful odours. A slightly nastier version was called mungus, and was embellished with mold or fungus. Several jokes and examples were provided involving dead animals and some squished food item on the bottom of a pack at the end of a canoe trip.

That year, I was in a cabin with Jim H, Hume M, and 5 other campers (who’s names escape me). Hume was, shall we say, not quite organized with his laundry, right from day one of camp. A few days into camp, he had already accumulated a small pile of laundry that showed up on the cabin floor, and for some reason, was not picked up or processed appropriately like everybody else’s. We had a bit of wet weather and Hume did not like to be wet. He repeatedly changed into dry clothes and left the wet ones to somehow get dry in that pile on the floor. I remember Jim and I needled him a bit after a couple of days since a bit of mildew had started to set in and the aromas were not friendly. We referred to the pile as “Hume’s mung” or “Hume’s pile O mungus” after noting that it continued to grow and continued to be really gross. Somehow, adding fresh (but wet) clothes to the top of the pile seemed to subdue the odours a bit and Hume managed to get away without picking up the mess. Methinks there was some kind of favoritism from the counselor. Right about the time the pile of laundry would have reached critical mass and been cleaned up, our cabin went out on trail for a few days. The pile remained in the cabin, waiting for our return. … which we eventually did, about 6 days later.

It was awful! Jim and I harangued Hume immediately, referring (naturally) to Hume’s mungus by name. The entire cabin joined in. Hume’s great pile O’ mungus came to life and got a lot of attention very quickly. Neighbouring cabins heard about it and everybody developed stories, which changed, expanded and morphed as the last week of camp went on. A lot of the tales involved the pile getting more and more toxic; some stories involved the pile getting bigger and bigger and eventually overtaking the island, the lake, and the planet. Some suggested using it as a weapon of war. Never mind the Geneva convention. Somewhere along the line, the pronunciation of mungus changed from soft “G” (rhymes with “brung us”) to hard “G” (rhymes with “brung Gus”). The phrase “hume mungus” became the word “humongous”, used as a synonym for something large, threatening and foreboding, along the lines of Godzilla’s arrival on the next supply boat from Kenora. Camp was a place where campfire stories involved chainsaws, serial murderers and death in the woods. Hume’s mungus fit right in, and the stories of the hermit miner and “the green hand” were left in the dust. Counselors and camp leaders used the word as part of the nightly camp fire entertainment. We had a lot of fun with this and a few days later, went home for the summer. I don’t recall what happened to the laundry.

The next year upon return to camp, Jim and I ended up in the same cabin again (I don’t think Hume was there at the same time). We were surprised to hear “humongous” as a term used in frequent conversation amongst fellow campers and counselors. The campfire style stories continued, with Hume’s laundry a long forgotten feature of the tales. Nobody seemed to know the origin of the magic word, but everyone enjoyed using it, and propagated it as a feature of every camp tale.

Sometime that fall or winter, I was at home listening to a Winnipeg radio station and heard the lady being interviewed say that something was “humongous”. I smiled quietly to myself, thinking that perhaps she knew someone that I knew from camp.

Then I heard it on a national show on CBC television. I heard it several times over the next year or two in other places from people disconnected from camp. Hmm, my acquaintances from camp travel a bit.

A couple of years later, I was watching Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, and he said that something was “humongous” in one of his punchlines in his opening monologue. I thought “Oh. My. We’ve created a monster.” The word was out, so to speak. At that point, I realized how far this thing had gone.

Over the years, I have heard ‘humongous’ used many times by many people. I live in the USA now, a long way from camp. For a few years, every time someone said “humongous” around me, I used to say something along the line of “Hey, I was one of the guys that invented that word!” The replies were always similar to “ummm yeah whatever” or “yeah and I’m the King of France”. I don’t interject that way any more, but I’m still amused and think of the wet pile of laundry in the cabin every time I hear it. Two weeks ago, I heard my mother in law (from Florida) say “The Word”. I didn’t say anything but I think I laughed out loud. The conversation continued unabated as I smiled quietly to myself.

I’ve lost touch with most camp friends, but think of my camp days often. At least, every time I hear somebody say that something is humongous. I also wonder now if Hume does his own laundry.

Day 24

Sat 2013/08/03

Daily mileage: 9.34 Segment 206.8 Total 709.0

Route: Ride the bike from the hotel to the Memphis bus station, Greyhound bus back to the car.

My free ride didn’t work out, so my ‘back to the car’ option is Greyhound bus from Memphis to Fordyce, AR.  It turns out that the bus from Memphis to Fordyce leaves at 03:05 a.m.  Hotel checkout is 11:00 a.m.  I probably should have just travelled from the I-55 bridge crossing to the bus station and not checked into the hotel.  I was told that the bus station was on Main Street in the Northern part of downtown Memphis.  Research on the web gave me departure times and the updated address, near the airport.  I got my bike and gear together, checked out of the hotel, and rode to the Greyhound station on Airways Blvd. Right when I rolled out of the hotel property, it started to rain.  I didn’t need to be in any hurry, but I went straight from the hotel to the bus station.  I bought a ticket, and was told that my bike needed to be in a box; the shipping department around the corner would help me.  I had all the time in the world, so I took my time and packaged the bike as well as I could with the resources available from the shipping department – a box for $10 and all the packing tape I could handle.  At least I wouldn’t have to worry about the driver rejecting me or my bike after waiting all day for the dang bus.

I then waited in the bus station for 14.5 hours until my bus arrived at 03:05 a.m.  I was a bit taken aback at the slice of society that I observed in the bus station.  The station was never empty but yet never really all that crowded, as buses arrived and departed from various destinations.  I figured that I might be able to catch an earlier bus to Little Rock, where I had to change buses anyway, and do some of my wait time there instead of Memphis, but the few buses going there were all full or nearly full.  I ended up waiting the full time in Memphis.  My bus arrived about 30 minutes late, departed almost full about 60 minutes late, and I was concerned that after waiting the majority of the hours in a day, I might miss one of my connections in Little Rock and/or Malvern.  But connections were there and the SCAT bus in Malvern was waiting for us.  It was a 12 passenger bus with 7 of us on board.  I was tired, and hadn’t slept, but I somewhat enjoyed the trip back to Fordyce on the roller coaster road.  The bus driver dropped me about a half mile from where the car was and I had all gear loaded in the car about 10:30 after some creative cargo movement.  I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and I was on my way.  The trip was done.

More later…

Day 23

Fri 2013/08/02

Daily mileage: 8.78 Segment 197.4 Total 699.5

Route: West Memphis to Memphis TN (Super 8 at Crump Park).  Today’s mileage is a lot lower than average; I was unsuccessful in stopping earlier yesterday, but I wanted to allocate a lot of time for today since I had to find the route across the Mississippi River.  It is not straightforward.

I left West Memphis about 11:20, and headed to the river crossing route I scoped out the week earlier.  I was here in my car about a week earlier, and spent about 8 hours finding the bicycle route to the I-55 bridge.  I only have the bike today; hopefully it will be a lot simpler today.

I am hurting from the saddle sores, but I pushed through it all and survived.  The previously locked red gate was unlocked and open.  I stopped for a break after the gravel road/paved road change, stopped at the BASF factory, told them about the mislabelled MRT sign.  They were friendly and happy to get the info this time.

The time I spent last week was quite worthwhile.  I was quite relieved that I was able to find my way to the I-55 bridge without any trouble. Crossing the bridge was no problem.  I pushed the bike through the grass, up the embankment and for about 50 feet after the concrete bridge walkway started, and was able to ride all the way across the bridge, arriving in E.H. Crump Park on the Memphis, Tennessee side.  When I visited by car the previous week, the bridge railing did not look that high and I thought that I might have to walk the bike across the bridge, but I was able to ride the bike all  the way without any confidence problems or vertigo.  The side clearance changed every 15 feet or so due to the bridge structure, and I did not hit anything in passing.  On the other side, I rolled down the grass embankment, across the park’s parking lot into the hotel parking lot without getting off my bike.  This was much easier than I had thought it would be.  I was quite amazed at the amount of shaking and vibration on the bridge.  I somewhat expected a little seismic activity from all of the heavy trucks, but even passenger cars made it shake.  The bridge is quite old and I don’t see how it stays together like that.  I suppose that it is appropriate that the bridge to Memphis has a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on”.  Sorry Elvis.

Well, I made it to Memphis.

Day 22

Thu 2013/08/01

Daily mileage 41.05 Trip 188.7 Total 690.75

Route: Forrest City to West Memphis AR (Quality Inn).

I was fighting a fairly strong cross wind all day (8 to 10 o’clock).  I was well rested but got exhausted early for some reason.  I went about 8+ miles before my first break.  After a cloudy start, the sun came out, and I struggled the rest of the day.  I had numerous
breaks.

I missed out on breakfast, couldn’t find a restaurant or otherwise reasonable place to eat until about 13:00, when I stopped at a gas station in Shell Lake.  There were friendly people at every stop I made.  Before the gas station lunch, I stopped at a house under construction, and owners/builders gave me an iced bottle of water topped off with some nice conversation.

The lunch (I suppose it was really breakfast) rejuvenated me and I was able to make it to West Memphis without any issues.  I thought I would run into a hotel (any hotel!) before making it to town, but the nearest one was more than half way through the city at an I-55 exit.  I spent a little time trying to figure out how to get to it without interacting with freeway speed vehicles, and I made it to the Quality Inn by crossing an old overgrown parking lot.  The nearest restaurant was a Cracker Barrel that I had to get to by walking along freeway access road about a half mile.  Challenging route, good meal after a tough day.  I had some serious saddle sores in Djibouti, soothed a bit in the hotel pool.

Day 21

Wed 2013/07/31

Daily mileage 42.47 Segment 147.6 Total 649.7

Route: Clarendon to Forrest City AR (Save Inn).

Weather forecast: 40% chance of rain (“scattered showers”).  It seems to have rained overnight (I slept through it).  It was cloudy in the morning but no rain following departure.  More importantly, I had a tail wind almost all day!!  After about 10:30, the clouds cleared, and it got very hot and humid.  I started having breaks every ~5 miles after the heat/humidity showed up (Brinkley & East).

I didn’t have breakfast at the gas station or diner next to the motel, and just started riding, anticipating that there would be somewhere to eat before I got through town.  There wasn’t, and I ended up not eating anything until I arrived in Brinkley about 10:45, and had an early lunch.

I was pretty tired when I rolled into the Save Inn in Forrest City.  The hotel was under some renovation, and my room was not stellar, but the price was reasonable.  Again, I soak my saddle sores in the shower.  After recovering from the ride, I walk about 2 miles (round trip) and have dinner at a Mexican restaurant nearby.  This is not a good part of town but the restaurant is a bright spot in the neighborhood.

Day 20

Tue 2013/07/30

Daily mileage 22.41 Segment 105.1 Total 607.2

Route: Stuttgart to Clarendon AR (A&J Motel).

There is possible rain in the forecast, but I saw nothing but a slight sprinkle in the early afternoon.  The temperature was a little more bearable, so I suppose that means that I had no weather issues today.

The major challenge for today is the bridge just before Clarendon over the White River.  I drove this by car the week before, and my recollection was that it was a 2 mile bridge with no shoulder, no breaks.

I left Stuttgart at 09:00, and found myself pedalling steadily for a mostly uneventful ride.  With cycling, teenagers and explosives, boring is good.

When I approached the dreaded bridge, I discovered that there is a new bridge under construction just before old bridge.  I pedalled about a half mile into the construction zone, and determined that there was no way to cross with my bike.  I talked to a construction worker, who said that it will take another 2 years for the new bridge to be completed.  I ride back to the dreaded 2 mile bridge, and discover that it is actually about a 0.5 mile bridge, separated by berm with narrow shoulder for 0.5 miles, then another 1+ mile bridge.  This is not outstanding, but at least I was able to have a break to recover a bit and let traffic clear before the sprint across each bridge.  Four cars passed on the first segment, 4 trucks (1 18 wheeler) on the second segment going up the main slope to river crossing.  I survived!

I stayed at the A&J Motel in Clarendon, taking the last room and paying for a double bed.  I would have been in a little trouble if the room was not available.  The hotel was fairly old but in reasonably good shape, run by a friendly lady.

I had a late lunch at a nice diner around the corner from the hotel, and a fried chicken dinner later on from Valero gas station next door.

My saddle sores have gotten worse, and I know will cause problems tomorrow.

Day 19

Mon 2013/07/29

Daily mileage 34.95 Segment 82.66 Total 584.8

Route: Pine Bluff to Stuttgart AR (Best Western).

The forecast called for 92 deg temperatures, with a South wind.  It was very hot, with the wind from 2 to 4 O’clock all trip – the same as yesterday.

Again, I had a nap at about the half way point (Wabbaseka), in a city park.

There were more friendly people in a gas station where I had lunch and filled up with water in Humphrey.

The saddle sores are starting again.  I had a well worn seat pad, which I replaced just before this trip segment.  I’m not sure if that has changed anything, but I’m getting quite sore a lot sooner than I think I should be.  A long shower in the hotel helped a little, but unfortunately not enough.

Stuttgart is a nice little town, but there are no dinner places open in the evening.  Everything seems to close at 17:00 or so, and I walked probably 5 miles to figure that out.  I had 6 wings from a nearby Valero gas station.

Day 18

Sun 2013/07/28

Daily mileage 47.71 Segment 47.71 Total 549.8

Route: Fordyce to Pine Bluff AR (Best Western).  I left the car at the “A OK” Motel, while I am cycling.  I’m not sure when I depart if I will return via Greyhound bus or catch a ride with someone.

Today’s ride is mostly uneventful.  The roads are really nice, with wide shoulders, and relatively flat.  I know that all of Arkansas is not flat like this, but this route is a winner.  I make good headway.

The weather forecast predicted the wind to be from the South.  An airport windsock shows the wind to be from my 2 O’Clock, and it seems to stay a crosswind between 2 O’clock and 4 O’clock most of the day.

At about the halfway point, I stop at a highway rest stop, and fall asleep for over an hour.  Whew, where did that come from?

I met up with several friendly people on today’s trip.  I took my usual breaks in several places.  The property owner at a pole yard checked on me and had a friendly chat.  Several locals chatted me up at a gas station.

Despite being next to a mall (which closed early on Sunday), the hotel in Pine Bluff was a bit of distance from any eating establishments.  I didn’t see where I wanted to go and ended up walking about 2 miles for dinner at McDonald’s.  Yum.

Hiatus II

Although my ride through Arkansas is more pleasant than Louisiana, the bus experience left much to be desired. There is much more to the story than I am revealing here, but Greyhound and SCAT have really dropped the ball with this “service”.

[later] On the equipment front, I have a flashing tail light, which I always use, and a headlight, which I don’t usually use (except at night).  I see from an Arkansas bicycle publication that some places in Arkansas require a bell, which I don’t have.  Another item for the gear list.

I hope to make it back here soon so that I can continue my journey to Memphis and say that I made the trip. I have the strength, resources and initiative to do the trip now but my saddle sores are quite bad and I need the break.

Day 17

Sun 2013/06/09

Daily mileage 6.62 Segment 190.3 Total 502.2

Route: Ride the bike from the hotel to the Fordyce bus station, bus ride back to Marshall, bike ride back to the hotel where the car is, stay over night, head back home.

I was unable to get ahold of anybody at Greyhound last night, and the web page took me through a frustrating maze of options before telling me I had to buy the ticket by phone. I rode to the bus station (here), and arrived almost 2 hours before the bus’ scheduled departure. I was hoping for either the bus station to have a person present who could help me (they didn’t) or arrival of another bus to help me with ticket purchase options (no other bus). The bus station (sic) was an Arkansas government office, which was closed (okay, it was Sunday) but nothing posted anywhere relevant to ticketing or operation of the buses. I am able to get through the Greyhound ticket office by phone this morning, and purchase a ticket by phone from an agent. Everything seems okay.

The 12 passenger bus arrives about 10 minutes late, right when some fairly heavy rain starts, and after loading my bike, the driver will not accept the Greyhound ticketing information. I have to come up with another $29.50 cash, exact change (with my bike on the bus) or I don’t get a ride. I happen to have $30.45; he gets $30. Ripped off by bus driver! After an interesting but hilly ride through Southern Arkansas, the SCAT bus drops me off at their office in Malvern AR (which is closed). The driver says I can take up the $30 issue with them when they are open Monday through Friday. Thanks for nothing. I am picked up a little later by a “real” Greyhound bus, where the ticket confirmation information I got on the phone is accepted. We do a milk run to the Texarkana bus station, where we stop for a while and I change buses. When asking about a refund (or at least a credit) for my SCAT ticket in Texarkana, the Greyhound ticket agent is polite and sympathetic but not helpful. I will later make numerous phone calls to numerous people at Greyhound and the cheapo SCAT commuter bus company in an attempt to get my $30 back. That’s another story for another day. The driver from Malvern to Texarkana had no problem with my bike, but the new driver in Texarkana wants the bike in a box. The station agent smooths some feathers, and I am able to load the bike on the bus myself “at my risk”.

Instead of going from Texarkana to Marshall, the bus goes South to Shreveport, then West to Marshall, TX. I have my maps with me, and look at some of the alternate route I missed by going over that nasty bridge East of Vivian.  I probably took the better route.  I get to Marshall after dark, and after spending 20 minutes setting the bike up again, ride 4 miles in the dark back to the hotel. I am a little uneasy about night riding, but it works out and I get there safely without incident.

Ha ha: riding up one of the hills on the shoulder, there is a traffic light with a warning sign connected to radar. “Intersection ahead, watch your speed: 7 MPH”.

Day 16

Sat 2013/06/08

Start mile 5965.5 end 5997.9 Daily 32.56 Segment 183.6 Total 495.5

Route: Camden to Fordyce AR. Good breakfast at the hotel (in Camden).  Just after I started, I realized that I rode about 1.25 miles with yesterday’s numbers on the bike computer (adjusted accordingly).

I had a major problem with the rear tire near today’s half way point, and had to replace both the rear tire and tube with spares.  This time, I was at least able to do it in some shade.  Lots of poison ivy, but it was in the shade.  In paring things down for this trip, I wondered if I really needed a spare tire.  I now have the answer.

This is the third time I have had a major tire problem on a trip, and the second problem with this brand of tire.  I purchased the original tire, and after about 200 miles on it, had trouble with bulging on the sidewall during the 2012 MS150 (which I replaced with a gator skin at the halfway point/Saturday night stop).  The tire that I had trouble with today was an exchange/replacement, and I had put less than 100 miles on it.

Several friendly people stopped at 2 of my breaks.  Arkansas people are much different from those in Louisiana.  I had no lunch (well ok, granola bars), stayed at the Days Inn Fordyce, dinner at “Four Dice” buffet across the street.  I was starved, and ate more than I needed to.

Saddle sores are causing significant trouble.  I’m pretty much done because of that, but my poor planning with my airplane connection overrules that.  Well, I suppose it is a better excuse.  I figured out that the blister on my right thumb yesterday is from the shifter.  I didn’t realize I was shifting gears that much…

I will try to catch the bus back to Marshall tomorrow.  Greyhound sells tickets from here with no hint that it is a third party bus, but the hotel clerk says that the bus at the bus stop is a small commuter bus (not full size Greyhound) that merely takes you to the Malvern bus station.  Either way, tomorrow I hope to catch a ride back to Marshall TX.  The forecast also calls for more big storms tomorrow, which I hope to avoid.

Day 15

Fri 2013/06/07

Start mile 5927.7 end 5965.5 Daily 37.75 Segment 151.2 Total 463.1

Route: Magnolia to Camden, AR.

Lousy breakfast at the lousy hotel before departure, about 09:10.  There is a strong headwind from start until early afternoon… strong enough that I rolled to a stop going downhill.  Flags flying towards me, flapping with nothing touching the flagpole. 15+ mph?

I stopped for lunch at a gas station in Stephens, AR, and had some brief discussion with some friendly but crazy locals.

The destination is Holiday Inn Express… the first nice hotel of the trip.  I had a swim at the hotel that felt very nice (first hotel with a pool on this trip). KFC dinner next door.  My saddle sores are a little less than yesterday but definitely not gone.

Day 14

Thu 2013/06/06

Start mile 5900.0 end 5927.7 Daily 27.73 Segment 113.4 Trip 425.3

Route: Springhill to Magnolia, AR.

No breakfast at the hotel, so I had a quick McDonald’s breakfast before departure.  There were several hills at the start but a good start nonetheless. Most of the route was flat and I was able to make good progress until ~10:40, when an expected major storm arrived.  I waited out heavy rain under some shelter in a church yard until 12:50.

I only go 28- miles today, but the saddle sores have gotten the best of me.  I planned for arrival at a Best Western hotel in Magnolia, which was apparently sold to private owners.  Not quite the quality I had hoped for.  I have to return home to catch a flight in a few days; the problem is, I don’t have my itinerary with me and don’t have anything that even suggests my flight date, so I will plan to return at least a day before my first gross estimate. I researched bus station locations but there are none until tomorrow’s city (Camden).  No sweat.

Magnolia is a nice little town.  I like it here.

Day 12

Tue 2013/06/04

Start mileage 5856.1 end 5900.0 Daily 43.88 Segment 85.7 Total 397.6

Route: Vivian to Springhill LA (Holiday motel).

I started a little late. The hotel did not have breakfast, so after getting loaded and a quarter mile ride, had breakfast at a nearby Sonic ~09:50 until 10:15.

The major worry for today’s ride is a rather intimidating bridge over the Red River. The road narrows down to 2 lanes with no shoulder, no sidewalk and no visibility to the other side of the bridge. If traffic from behind arrives at the same time as traffic from ahead, there is no escape route. I crossed this bridge by car on Sunday on the way down from Hot Springs, and I didn’t like it in the car. After waiting on immediate traffic from behind to clear, I pedaled up the steep bridge approach and I hope nothing arrives while I cross the bridge. At the edge of the bridge span, I also discover that there are some nasty expansion joints as well, and I get a flat tire (front) crossing the second one. The tire blows out immediately and I pedal as hard as I can to get to the other side, travelling ~25 mph with a flat tire on the front. Not an easy feeling but I survived the big concern of the day. On the other side of the bridge, there are open fields and no trees or shade. I change the tire in an open area at the end of the guard rail, with the hot 92 degree sun beating down on me.

When I get to Plain Dealing, LA, I hoped to travel highway 157, and start up that route and stop for a break about a half mile in.  A city police officer rolled up several minutes after my stop.  It turns out that the property owner next to where I stopped didn’t like me there and “called the law” on me.  The office was very nice and we had a good conversation for a few minutes.  He convinced me that highway 157 was very hilly from there to Springhill, and a better route would be highway 2 through Sarepta rather than highway 157.  The route is about 4 miles longer but much flatter.  I think he is right, and U-turn.  I make good progress for the first few miles on highway 2.

I don’t know why, but today is very hard on me.  The temperature is in mid-90s, and there is a at least a light headwind for the eastern portion of the trip. It is very hard riding and I have many breaks.  I hate to admit to this but it took almost all day (~09:45 until after dark) to get 43.9 miles.  I also had to baby some saddle sores which I was alarmed to see developing on day 2 of the ride.

Somehow, I managed to reset my bike computer during the ride, and have to back-calculate my mileage and the riding stats are only for the last part of the day’s ride.  Also, the battery on my GPS ran out and did a hard reset on the device (I don’t know yet if it lost any data from the day’s ride).

In my younger days, I used to live in South Louisiana, and noticed several unique things about the state.  The roads near where I lived were all very narrow, with no shoulders, meandering between all the little towns and country subdivisions.  I figured this was related to the history of the roads, perhaps originating in the days of horses, with the roads meandering between the large plantation properties of the area.  The quality of these roads left something to be desired, with many patches and pot holes, even on the busy roadways.  There is a distinct contrast between Texas and Louisiana country roads.  Later I will discover that Arkansas roads are also superior as well.  The people in Louisiana are also not as warm or forthcoming as people elsewhere either.  I noticed in my earlier days in Lafayette, LA that there was a lot of xenophobia and “us versus them” thinking in the locals.  A lot of distrust of outsiders or somebody who did something differently from you or even somebody from the next town had to go a long way to earn trust.  The civil war was still going on, at least in spirit.  People didn’t interact; if they saw something they didn’t like, they called the authorities to deal with any perceived problem.  Today’s ride took me back.

Day 11

I wanted to start off this leg of the trip more or less where I left off in Marshall on part I.  This is essentially the Marshall bus station.  It turns out that it moved over the winter, from a dedicated property downtown to a corner of the Pony Express gas station, near the junction of Hwy 59 and I-20.  This meant a little backtracking.  No problem; a little duplication of effort.  I stayed at a small family owned hotel the previous night, and arranged to leave my car for the time I was riding the bike.

Mon 2013/06/03

Start mile 5814.3 end 5856.1 daily 41.8 segment 41.8 trip 353.7

This first day of the second leg of my trip, I rode from Marshall to Vivian, Louisiana.

The forecast called for 90 degree temperatures and 5-10 mph headwinds most of the way; judging from flags and waving grass, I think they topped out about 15 mph.  This was a mostly flat and level 41.8 miles but was my first ride after a while and the heat and wind got to me.  I had numerous breaks, and drank a lot of water.  I freeloaded water from 2 places, a nice lady who visited with me when I had a break in front of her property, and a Baptist church.  There was a mix of good roads with wide shoulder and narrow or no shoulder.

I stopped for an awful lunch at a gas station in Texas.

In Vivian, there was only one hotel in town, which I had located on the trip down from Hot Springs.  The front desk lady was a bit surly in my interaction with her, and I was tired, so I didn’t ask too many questions at check-in.  I spent some time in the room and the attached restaurant closed by the time I got to it at 21:00, and there were no others nearby.  I ate some gas station food and crashed for the night.

June 2013 Cycling Trip (continued)

After waiting out several logistical problems and time conflicts, I was finally able to continue another segment of my bike trip from last summer.  I had a little more experience and confidence about what I was doing, and as with last summer’s trip, I intended to continue towards Memphis and beyond, with the first part of the trip planned in some detail and hard plans morphing into nebulous wishes towards the end.  After attending a music conference in Hot Springs (here), I left my car in Marshall, and headed out through the Northwest corner of Louisiana and central Arkansas, towards Memphis. I ended up going from Marshall, TX to Fordyce, AR before returning home.
MarshallToFordyce

 

Hiatus

Well, I accomplished the main goals of interest for this trip.  I tested out my equipment, travelling kit, riding skills, endurance.  While many things worked out well, I was disappointed in my endurance towards the end.  Two 20 mile days?  Bleah!

I was happy that my packing list worked as well as it did.  I was happy that I didn’t get sick and have to figure out how to manage any emergencies, large or small.

For the next trip, I could take less clothing (or more correctly, reduce the duplication and add items of varying warmth).  Exception: more socks.  A second set of footwear is a good idea but sandals/flip flops would do the trick.

My rear pannier set was destroyed (both sides) but the trip saved, thanks to the miracle of duct tape.

Observations:

  • It was a challenge, but I did it.
  • Consecutive travel days are harder than independent travel days. Daily travel distance doesn’t seem to relate well to exhaustion level.  I didn’t mind wind (or even rain) that much but hills are really difficult.
  • Chicken trucks really stink.
  • A computer with route mapping and a GPS were worth the weight and trouble.  In fact, crucial.
  • I should have picked several better cycling routes (and in the future will).  Some of the paved, well marked highways were a bit dangerous (hwy 30, 94, 999).  Hwy 59 was very busy but was actually a very good cycling highway.  One of the best was hwy 105.
  • There was a lot of variation in the amount of debris on the side of the road, which could not be predicted by software, Google images or reasoning.  More debris -> more flat tires.  I think I had 4 flat tires in ~315 miles.
  • Greyhound Bus turned out to be very amenable to bike transportation – that is the way to do the return trip.  I have also since taken Amtrak (not with bike) from Houston to California, and I see from their own posters and publications that they are hostile to bikes and bike riders.  Within California, they have bike oriented commuter trains, but not the long distance trains.
  • Looking ahead, it seems that a major challenge on long distance trips will be in crossing rivers.  Most bridges seem to be on interstate highways or narrow high speed highways.  More later…
  • My amateur logistical efforts worked out.
  • Definitely for the next trip: state map, GPS, cell phone, duct tape, spare tubes, armored tires.
  • [Addendum: I traveled the route from home to Huntsville a second time since the dates listed here.  They took a really nice highway between Anderson and Roans Prairie (yay!) and added chip seal to it (boo!).]

 

Day 10

Wed 2012/08/29

Start mileage 5041.9 end 5046.2 daily 5.4 trip 311.9

Route: hotel to Marshall bus station.

The weather forecast calls for strong headwinds 15-25 mph (Hurricane Isaac) in the afternoon as I proceed North, followed by an 80% probability of heavy rain for 2 days. Checking outside, the wind seems to be solid 20 mph already. I plan for several actions: (1) proceeding North to the next small town (with a questionable hotel where I will have to hole up for 2 days), (2) stay in this hotel for 3 days (3) bus home (or elsewhere). I notice that there is a bus station in Marshall. I also note that there is a bike shop, where I might be able to get a bike packing box etc. If I take the bus, I figured that they would accept me without problems but I don’t know their packaging expectations for the bike.  I programmed waypoints on the GPS for the bus station, bike store and the next town.  I checked the bus schedule on the web, and without deciding what I will do, I put on my street clothes (ie. not cycling jersey/shorts), check out of the hotel and head for the bus station.  I get a flat tire on the way, and push the bike the last 3+ miles to the bus station, without fixing the flat tire.

The bus station says that they have seats to Houston, and will take the bike as is. Problem solved; I get a ticket to Rosenberg, which is a better choice than central Houston or Houston SW (59 near Hillcroft). I arrive at the Rosenberg drop off point just before sunset, fix the flat tire but get a cab home rather than ride the bike in the dark.  I arrive home in Sugar Land about 20:30.

Day 9

Tue 2012/08/28

Start mileage 5016.4 end 5041.9 daily 25.536 trip 306.5

Route: Carthage to Marshall Best Western.

I struggled a lot on this segment. I’m not sure why but something is just hammering me. Many breaks; the first after only 4 miles or so. Wind is disorganized, coming from every direction (but strong/gusty). Solid headwind for the last 5 miles.

At ~5 mile point going over a bump, spokes catch the other (left) pannier, tear it open. Duct tape repair again. Really glad I brought that stuff.

Lunch ~13:00+ at gas station just 0.5 miles from destination (quart of milk and a sandwich), at I-20 intersection. Nap 15:00-18:50. Steak and hash browns at Waffle House. Yum.

Mileage (measured) is probably about a mile short from actual; I traveled about a mile with the odometer off.

 

Day 8

Mon 2012/08/27

Start mileage 4960.5 end 5016.4 daily 55.818 trip 281.0

Route: Nacogdoches to Carthage Best Western.

I was able to pump up tires properly at a bike store that I spotted next to Steven F Austin University (“SFA”). My portable bike pump will only give me about 65 pounds pressure (need 100 to do it right).  I asked a few directions (the staff on duty didn’t seem to know much about the area), and traveled on.

I am completely drained. Headwinds and hills at start. Rain and more rain. Several breaks at country churches for rain.

Pizza and milk for lunch at 15:00+ at a gas station in Gary TX (“Gary City”?) while I waited out a little questionable weather.  When it seemed to be good going, I left.

A detour on hwy 10 south of Carthage (North of Gary) forced me from Gary via hwy 999 back to hwy 59, an additional 4 miles or so. Heavy rain started on hwy 999, about 10 minutes away from Gary.  Flat (front) tire and more heavy rain on hwy 59.  My sunglasses fog up in the rain, and I am almost blind going down some hills on 59, with fast traffic to my left.  A lot of debris on the shoulders to avoid (also, a cause of flat tires).

Everything is soaking wet when I arrive at the hotel.

I anticipate headwinds and rain from hurricane Isaac soon. The Republican convention has worked around it and sent it on my way. I might have to quit around Texarkana because of the weather on the way.

There are a lot of chicken farms today and I have passed at least a couple of Tyson chicken processing plants. A lot of the traffic on these back roads is chicken trucks. They smell bad – empty or loaded. In the rain, they are nothing less than vile. The spray from passing vehicles stays with you. Yuck.

Day 7

Sun 2012/08/26

Start mileage 4941.6 end 4960.5 daily 18.945 trip 225.1

Route: Lufkin to Nacogdoches Best Western, mostly by way of Hwy 59 (across the street from my favorite Nacogdoches seafood restaurant).

Good wide shoulders, but most of the route is chip seal.

Very hard getting started. The route seemed to be more downhill than up, slight tail wind for the second half. Arrived exhausted after only 18.9 miles…

Checked in at 11:15, napped to 15:00+, lunch at seafood restaurant.

I again seemed to be quite dehydrated, drinking ~3 liters after arrival. I need to figure this out better.  Only 19 miles?  I’m not feeling very good about my capabilities.  I probably should have gone on further.

Day 6

Sat 2012/08/25

Start mileage 4885.8 end 4941.6 daily 55.769 trip 206.2

Travel: Trinity to Lufkin Super 6 Inn (ex-Motel 6).

Hwy 94 is a really bad highway for bicycling. It has chip seal most of the way, with varying shoulder size from 6 inches (ie. “nothing”) to 8 feet. Most of it is high speed single lane with 6 inch shoulder and a lot of debris.  In this part of the state, there are a few chicken farms, and tractor-trailer transports hauling chickens to a few Tyson plants in the area.  These trucks really smell bad (empty or full), and travel very fast.

The hotel I planned for in Lufkin (Storybook Inn) did not exist, and I had to continue on another ~5 miles inside Lufkin loop to the “Motel 6” per my GPS (which also doesn’t exist any more, but is now a Super 6 Inn).  My GPS is not perfect, but this is the first day when it saved me a considerable amount of trouble.

Four cars honked at me today. One after passing, one which dipped into the shoulder and honked about 10 feet behind me, 1 car full of kids in Apple Springs who threw something at me (missed). One short toot after passing might have been a guy I talked to for a while at the Apple Springs Exxon/Subway. He had recently purchased an old panel truck to pull the engine and install into his dune buggy (and trash the truck).

About 5 miles of tail wind; mostly cross wind.

Day 5

Fri 2012/08/24

Start mileage 4864.9 end 4885.8 daily 20.877 trip 150.4

Travel: Huntsville to Trinity.

Chip seal most of the way.

It is day 5 and the first day of the trip that actually had a tail wind, for about 5 miles.

Coming into Trinity, I sensed that the front tire was losing pressure, and I pedaled really hard at the end to avoid having to stop and change a tire on the road.

Today I only planned on 21 miles because I am staying in hotels each night and the next hotel is likely beyond my comfort zone.  Despite the short mileage, I feel challenged about the distance for some reason.

When I get to the hotel, I realize that I am quite dehydrated and didn’t recognize it until I was in the room, when I drank a full bottle of water without thinking about it.

 

Day 4

Thu 2012/08/23

Layover day 0 miles

I have had a few tough travel days, and even though the weather is nice for travelling, I decide to hang out in Huntsville for a day to work on bike and equipment repairs, route planning and related computer activities. I had a nice “Atkins” lunch and dinner at the Bandera Grill next door.

Day 3

Wed 2012/08/22

Start mileage 4822.4 end 4864.9 daily 42.523 trip 129.5

Route: Navasota to Huntsville Econo Lodge.

At departure in the morning, I left, encouraged that the main purpose of the trip was fulfilled, and didn’t fuss about the daily logistical details.  Anything I did from here on was interesting, but additional achievement beyond the goals of the trip.  Hmmm … did I set my goals too low?

About 5.5 miles into trip, the pannier is a little loose, and the right side is caught in the rear spokes, tearing the bag open. Repairs made on the side of the road.  Hooray for duct tape.

At the hotel in Huntsville, the crickets in and around the hotel were awful.  They were in the passageways, the pool, and a couple made it into the room.

Head/cross wind most of the trip.

Day 2

Tue 2012/08/21

Start mile 4769.9, end 4822.4 daily 52.538 trip 87.0

Travel: Brookshire to Navasota Best Western via hwy 362.

I had never travelled hwy 362 North of hwy 290 before; this is the start of the “new stuff” for me.  This part of the highway varied between good wide shoulders and none, nice flat pavement and chip seal.  There were a number of hills North of hwy 290 that I wasn’t expecting.  I finished my water, and was resting on the side of the road when a guy in an SUV stopped.  I told him I was a bit thirsty but was otherwise okay.  I asked about any stores on the road ahead (one, about 10 miles).  He left, I travelled on, and we met again at the junction with FM 2, when he returned with 2 bottles of water he had obtained from somewhere.  It turns out he was a coach/trainer for a Texas A&M University women’s sports team and he was traveling with the women for an event somewhere.  While we chatted at the corner of hwy 362 and FM 2, 2 a couple of maroon buses full of student athletes rounded the corner with some razzing – I’m not sure if this was directed at him or me.  Yay TAMU.

A few miles later was the store (Whitehall, TX). A light lunch, rest, water, then head on out!

Highway 105 is a very nice road for cycling – smoothly paved with a nice wide shoulder.

There was still a light head or cross wind for most of the trip.

There were even more dead frogs on the road.

I had a minor collision with a pickup truck (~5 mph) at a gas station just before the day’s stopping point (corner of hwy 105 and 6).

The hotel was nice, and a welcome sight after 52 miles of pedaling.  There was a nice steak restaurant nearby where I had a good “recovery” meal.  Doing 52 miles is a considerable accomplishment for me.

Day 1

Mon 2012/08/20

Start mile 4735.4 end 4769.9 daily 34.488 trip 34.488

Travel: Home to Brookshire Executive Inn. Hwy 362 from Pecan Grove/Plantation blvd.

I fixed a flat rear tire at 9.98 miles in, on hwy 90A in the construction barrels at Harlem Rd exit lane (third flat this year on this stretch of hwy). I am only getting 65 pounds pressure from the cheapo portable pump; Memo to self: try to get a real air pump somewhere…

Light headwind from Fulshear to Brookshire.

No conventional roadkill on the highway, but for some reason, there are a large number of dead toads/frogs on the highway, and a weird light odor that I don’t recall from previous trips.  Whatever, I can handle it.

This trip was about 1+ miles longer the last time I did it; I must have stopped somewhere last time or done some sort of loop or something…

I had previously done all of this part of the trip on my own twice before, so wasn’t expecting any surprises.  I was a bit nervous from starting this trip on my own with no backup or support, but the fact that I had done this segment before made it much easier on the soul.

 

August 2012 Cycling Trip

In early 2012, I wanted to go on a relatively short, unsupported cycling trip on my own. In August 2012, it became a reality, when I rode my bike from home in Sugar Land, TX to Marshall, TX, which was 320 miles away by the route I took.

RouteMapIn August 2012, I departed on my cycling trip somewhere “North and/or Northwest”.  I had never done this kind of thing before, and wasn’t sure what to expect.  Really, it was a sort of dry run for perhaps a longer trip if I discovered that I enjoyed myself and didn’t encounter any disasters or showstoppers.  I’d done about 4000 miles of cycling on my road bike either unsupported/by myself, or on rides up to 100 miles a day, which were supported/part of a group.  I planned a route, but didn’t have a specific finish line in mind. I determined that if I made it past 100 miles and 2 nights that it was a success.  Anything after that was additional accomplishment/bragging rights.

When I left home in Sugar Land, I had the following tentative plans/goals:

  • Mission success was reaching Navasota by day 2. I tentatively targeted Memphis, TN as final “dream” destination. If I did that really well (ha ha), then I would proceed further north. I had no idea how I would get home (trip completion, emergency or otherwise) or where I was going to end up. Travel choices for the return trip seemed to be (1) ride back, (2) rent a car one way (3) Amtrak or bus (4) benevolence of friends (5) drop/sell the bike and fly back.
  • I planned on staying the first night in a hotel in Brookshire, 35 miles away.  I’d ridden my bike and stayed here twice before, connecting with organized club rides out of Brookshire (the organized part of the past ride started in Brookshire; I rode the 35 miles there myself and stayed in a hotel before/after the organized part).  I had subsequent overnight spots picked out as contingencies and would select the next one based on how much mileage I could muster.
  • Planned daily travel: 20 to 60 miles a day, primarily determined by hotel location.  I have read from other people’s blogs that a reasonable day on a multi-day trip is 35 to 65 miles per day (excluding all the extreme trips and super-fit athletes).  I am not an athlete by any measure and not in the greatest shape.  I set my sights lower right to start off with.  If I did better than expected, I could revise my standards upwards. I figured that this was much more realistic and less humbling than overestimating and revising downward.
  • I observed that for long distance travel by bicycle, a better strategy is country roads and small towns.  There is a lot more trouble when you get near larger cities.  Travel within a city is downright dangerous.
  • If I was going to travel great distances, the route challenge was going to be getting around large cities, and crossing rivers. Most river crossings are on major highways, built to accommodate high speed vehicles, and not bicycles or pedestrians.
  • I have sleep apnea and need electricity overnight. For this trip, all nights would be spent in hotels. No tent, sleeping bag or camping gear (even as backup).

Enough of all of that.  On with the ride!
Day 1

Software Changes Our Vocabulary

My Ideas on Legacy Software

The word ‘legacy’ has been a word that I have watched change in meaning over the years. When I was younger, I remember legacy as being a word describing someone (usually) or something (less often) which for some reason was important after its heyday – profound importance demanding respect, unambiguous visibility, permanence and a model of a life well lived or a design well carried out. I just did a Google search for “legacy” and found 81 million links related to obituaries, politicians and traditions.

The first time I heard the adjective describing software, I was a bit puzzled. The software in question was some industrial software from my company that I had worked on, used internally but not significant enough to garner respect of the general public, customers or even many employees. I initially was a bit flattered that something I was connected with had received “legacy” status, but I soon realized that the term was not being used in a flattering sense.

I have heard the term used perhaps a hundred times since then, in reference to software; the negative meaning, that is. I don’t use the word that way myself, but still cling to the original meaning of the word. I thought about some of the legacy software that is in the world, in the original meaning of legacy. The oldest known software is likely either from Ada Lovelace or Charles Babbage, which are now long gone. Some legacy software that is still around and in active use is perhaps some operating system code or running our telephone system or something on a satellite orbiting the earth. The software that is probably going to be the longest lived in its original form, and perhaps outlive any on Spaceship Earth is the navigation software that went to the moon with the Apollo program. Apollo 8 had two Apollo Guidance Computers (“AGC”) determining its flight path in the Command/Service Module (“CSM”). Apollo 9 through 17 had two AGCs in each of the CSMs (all of which returned to Earth) and one in the Lunar Excursion Modules (“LEM”). All of the LEM AGCs from Apollo 11 on were crashed on the moon’s surface during the trip back, except for Apollo 13’s, which burned up in Earth reentry.

DSKY for the AGC

The Display/Keyboard (“DSKY”) Human Interface for the Apollo Guidance Computer (“AGC”)

This device was not an early computer by any means, but it had several firsts, and it was important enough to guide the Apollo astronauts from Earth to moon orbit, to the lunar surface, and back to Earth – all separately designed tasks. There were only 75 devices made, but the need for them drove integrated circuit technology in the 1960s, and defined part of the curve for Moore’s Law. Each unit had about 70K magnetic core memory in today’s terms (2048 16 bit words RAM, 36864 words ROM), and interfaced to 7 I/O devices.

The software running this device was simple, yet very robust. Despite the newness of software technology, it was capable of handling high data and interrupt loads, failing gracefully and recovering quickly. During the Apollo 11 landing for example, a 1201 alarm appeared, which the astronauts had not seen during training, and called home with some concern. The reply was that this was handled in the software, and they did not need to abort the landing. Likewise if a 1202 alarm appeared, all was well. Right after that reply, a 1202 alarm occurred. It turns out that each of these alarms were overload conditions, and the device was about to do a warm reboot. Since the operating system was dedicated to navigation, a reboot took a fraction of a second and things proceeded mostly as normal. The software was robust enough that it was used largely unchanged for all of the following missions.  Decades later, I know of no modern software that runs with that level of performance, reliability or grace.

That, my friends, is what I consider to be legacy software!

References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Guidance_Computer
  2. http://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/vs-mit-apollo-guidance.html
  3. http://www.drdobbs.com/architecture-and-design/one-giant-leap-the-apollo-guidance-compu/184404139
  4. http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11.1201-pa.html
  5. http://authors.library.caltech.edu/5456/1/hrst.mit.edu/hrs/apollo/public/visual2.htm

Some Idle Thoughts

“Sometimes I sets and thinks. Sometimes I just sets.”

Here are a few things I have determined to be great truths in life, whilst on the great journey myself.

  1. A picture is worth 2048 bytes.
  2. The 5 second rule does not apply to chili or soup.  Or broccoli.
  3. If you walk with a limp, Viagra won’t help you…
  4. Don’t cook bacon naked.
  5. Never eat at a restaurant called “Mom’s”. Never drink in a bar called “Happy’s”.
  6. Approval of something does not mean denial of the opposite.
  7. I am too old for adult movies.
  8. Anyone entering a restroom has right of way.