2009-02-27 30 -93
The geohashing gods have been good to me this month. I'm in a corner of a graticule, with limited access to transportation, and the DJI is rolling a lot of corners for me. Today's geohash is 8.3 miles away by road, according to Google Maps. It looks like I can go down highway 90, up highway 63, then take the first right on an unamed road after crossing two little streams. From there I turn right at the T-intersection and the point should be on the right. Annoyingly the Geohashing Coordinate Calculator used to have a scale on its maps, and it doesn't anymore. But the point shouldn't be that far off the road. And with over twenty kilometres round trip walking I'll secure top spot in the walk geohash leaderboard. (I deliberately didn't convert Google Maps miles to kilometres before leaving. It sounds shorter in miles, doesn't it?)
I leave town walking, with a brief detour for a lunch stop. I'm walking alongside a highway, but the shoulder is wide and there isn't too much traffic so I don't feel imperiled. It's rural land. I pass a field of cattle. The bull has wide yellowing horns. He looks at me and I see his nostrils working as the wind blows my scent from me to him. He looking like he's concentrating, assessing his chances, but eventually he figures out that I'm the wrong species and looks at me boredly again. Another couple of kilometres later there are goats for sale.
A truck passes, then slows down and comes back around. The driver asks me where I'm going, if I need a lift. You know what? It's almost another hour to get to the turnoff for the geohash. I can take the hitchhiking award rather than a new walk achievement. I accept, telling him I'm going a two miles up the road. "It's just past Huff Creek Road," I tell him. "Right after two little creeks. Are you going that far?" He says yes. I tell him that I'm playing a game where I have to get to a place down here. He's remarkably accepting of that.
After a little while he mentions that he's never been this way before, that he always turns off before. I tell him not to go out of his way for me, but he says he hasn't lived here long and he's heard that there's another way to his place, so he's going to see if my road is it. We pass a gated road: I hope that wasn't it. If not I can walk back and walk down it. I see one creek, not a second one, but there's the big dirt pit that was visible on Google Maps, and the GPS shows I've passed abeam the point, so this right must be the road. He takes it. It winds along, around some corners, I hadn't memorized every bend in the road, but the GPS is drawing nearer and nearer. The T-intersection I remember from Google Maps comes up and I tell him that I'm going right here, giving him an opportunity to be going left, but he turns right. If he's one of those polite people who won't give you a ride partway but insists on taking you right to where you are going, I'm wondering how exactly I'm going to say "This is my stop" and get out in the middle of nowhere. The GPS says 1.12 km and is pointing directly off to the right, when my driver points in the same direction as the needle and says "that's it, the white house." The house is well set back on the property. I would estimate that it is a hundred and twenty metres away. A random stranger who picked me up lives within a kilometre of the geohash. But these things happen in geohashing. I tell him, "If you played this game, you'd get an award for living so close to the point." There's a moment where I think he might be considering joining the game, for the sake of the award, but it passes. I thank him for the ride and get out. I know the geohash is just the other side of the river, and here's the bridge.
 Walking Some More
Now I know there's a closer road to the geohash than this one. The map with its damnable missing scale didn't tell me how close, but panning around to distances I knew, I could tell it was far less than a kilometre. Probably less than 200 metres. This should be an easy one, with the only hard part being all the walking. I am determined to keep my stupidity distance today under three hundred metres. There has to be a road just along here that cuts up close to the geohash. Eight hundred metres away, I find one that appears to be going right towards the geohash, but it only goes a couple of hundred metres and then ends at a deer blind. There's a trail going beyond it, so I follow that, but after two or three pieces of orange flagging the trail seems to end. With 598 metres to go, I start to bushwhack past it before I remind myself that today's stupidity distance is not 600 metres. I manage to cut my hand anyway, on a thorn tree. I swear this tree is sharper than barbed wire. Back out to the road. I'm now past abeam the geohash but if I find a parallel road it will be worth it as long as the road is less than 800 metres away. A bit of Pythagorean calculation tells me that will be when I am sqrt(128) = 11 hm = 1.1 km further along this road. At pretty much exactly that distance, there is a crossroads. The street sign assures me I'm on Huff Creek Road, so this is the right place. I turn north.
I soon come across a road leading directly towards the geohash, but only for a couple of hundred metres. It ends at a trailer. I go back out to the road, and now the right side is lined with No Tresspassing signs. Damn. But there has to be a way in. That point was so close to a road on the computer.
As I'm walking along two dogs run out and bark at me. I just read an article this morning about how to defend yourself against dogs. Apparently they have very thick skulls, so hitting them in the head isn't as effective as with humans, so you should kick them in the jaw. These dogs, however, were small and soon made it clear that their mission was to lick me to death. Also their owner was calling to them from across the street. He asked me a question I couldn't hear, so I went over to talk to him. And, well, this is geohashing, so fast forward a few minutes.
 Playing Games Near the Geohash
I'm sitting in Randolph's living room (yes, that's his name) and he's showing me the toy tops that he carves. They're little driedle-like things and they spin like crazy, right-side-up or even upside-down. He's eighty-five and he's lived here since 1949. He was born in the next town up the highway, and I get the idea he may not have been anywhere else but there and here. He was married once, and there are pictures of her around the house, but there weren't any children. He grew up on a farm, working the land with mules, because they didn't have tractors then. He now has fourteen cats and the two dogs. After a bit of a visit I excuse myself and make a few more forays into possible roads to the geohash. None of them works out and I overstay my "must go home" time of three o' clock, then at three-thirty force myself to go home. I know I could get to it if I just keep looking, but I have two hours' walk ahead and don't want to be by the freeway in the dark.
 And Back
The walk home goes pretty smoothly, I reach the goats more quickly than I expected, and then take an alternate route down a farm road to get off the highway, so I miss the cows. I see instead an old stone pillar labelled 200 Kent and 1200 E ALMA. There is a Kent, Texas, but its maximum ever population seems to have been sixty-five, so I don't see much call for a mile marker. And it's over five hundred miles from here. Plus it's only 420 miles to eastern Alabama. Turns out I was at the corner of Kent and Lela streets, so either I misread Lela as Alma (pretty possible, as it was written vertically and did I mention I was tired?) or they changed the name. I pass the Law Enforcement Offices, including a cool map of Texas made out of gravel with flags in it for different cities, and then the last couple of kilometres got rough. My legs hurt. It occurs to me that the last kilometre to the geohash is always the hardest, too especially the last 200 metres. My strategy for next time will be to plan to go 200 metres past the geohash. That way I'll trick it.
The [http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=http:%2F%2Fwww.physics.ubc.ca%2F~kevinmcl%2Fgeohashing%2F2009-02-27_and_24_30_-93.kmz&ie=UTF8&z=13 tracklog] shows that I went 38.44 km. At first I thought there must be something wrong with that, because I didn't ride more than eight kilometres, probably less. I was about 4 km from the geohash when he picked me up, and the route wasn't that circuitous. I couldn't have walked 30 km today. But then I think about it. I left at ten to noon. I returned home at about 17:45. I took a few short breaks. So I walked for about five hours. Every time I looked at the GPS, I was walking six or seven kilometres an hour, typically 6.2 km/h. I remember being surprised that I was making the same time uphill on a trail as I had along the side of the highway. And five times 6.2 is 31. Add in the hitchhiking and it all adds up. Damn, no wonder my feet hurt. If I knew I could do 30k in an afternoon I would have gone to more geohashes this month.
You can see where I got the ride, from where the log crosses the road. I was walking on the left facing traffic, and my ride did a U-turn to pick me up, and then after I got in, did a U-turn back to the original direction and continued on the right side or the road. I got out after the turnoff, you can see the white house set back from the road.
The waypoints I made on the trip showing the cows, goats, Randolph's house, etcetera were not preserved in the tracklog, but the colour change near the geohash is where I turned the GPS off while visiting Randolph.
You'll have to zoom in on map view to follow this. I missed the correct access road. The GPS track shows me that the turn point off the highway was after all three of those little roads just past the two creeks. There is a second dirt pile just before that wrong road that made me think it was the correct one. I knew there was a potential for that, but I wasn't super worried about it, because they all go to the same place: Huff Creek Road. Unfortunately we must have driven past my right turn off without my noticing, and the creek that I crossed was the one on the other side of the geohash. So I was going up a road that angled away from the geohash and none of the trails, private property or no, would have led to it. I would have found it eventually had I more time, because I would have kept turning right looking for a way in until I got back to where I started. Too bad I didn't do that in the other direction.
All I needed to do after the first unsuccessful road was turn around, go back to the other creek and find the road just the other side of it. Then this would have been a successful geohash. I should have drawn out a scale map and copied all the turn coordinates before trying this. It was a glorious expedition anyway.
I'm going to call it Failed - Technology, not that the technology let me down, but that I should have better maps in the GPS and should have looked up turn by turn coordinates (that's such a hassle) for the trip. I'm annoyed with myself for this one.