2009-03-02 32 -95
Robyn had to drive from Longview, Texas to Fort Worth, drop off a car at a hotel, take a shuttle to the airport, and get on a US Airways flight. The flight wasn't until 3:15 p.m. She was in Longview ready to go at 8:30 a.m. Perfect scenario for a little geohashing en route. What could go wrong?
Thing one that could go wrong: Wireless
The location where I had arranged to get my rental car normally had wireless, but it wasn't connecting. I could hear vague comments from the employees about rebooting the servers, so it was clearly a building-wide computer problem. They got it fixed in about an hour, and the rental car guy took longer than expected, so I eventually got connected, but the half hour I had expected to use to plan my attack while waiting for the rental car pickup became an hour to hang around and play minesweeper followed by three minutes of zooming in and jotting notes before shutting down and getting in the car with the Enterprise guy.
My notes said: 32°47'52.26" -95°31'17.88" Lindale, Quitman, Hwy 154, L, last L bef. river
This was supposed to convey to me to take the Lindale exit from the I-20 to Quitman, leave Quitman on highway 154, then take a left fork on a road that I hadn't zoomed in enough to get the name of, and take the last sideroad to the left before some river. A foolproof plan, you can see.
Thing two that could go wrong: Rental Car Availability
The rental car pick up, as I mentioned was already behind schedule, but I had all day to do this. All I had to do when I got there was sign some paperwork and drive away. Well, except that there was a line up of people outside the rental car place when my ride, the only employee working on that Monday morning, and I arrived. So there was a further wait for other people's paperwork, and my paperwork, and then it turned out the car had only just been returned, so he had to check it out and vacuum it. Finally, around 10:30 a.m. I got the car, along with directions to the Interstate.
Thing three that could go wrong: Directions
I followed the directions, which were pretty simple: go straight down this road and you'll find the freeway entrance. I got onto a freeway, which initially promised me access to the I-20, but while it had lots of signs like "Fines Double in Construction Zones" and I never managed to make it from there onto I-20. I suddenly found myself in a residential area at a T-intersection. I picked right. My GPS is not a driving GPS, its database shows only very major highways, like the I-20, and which direction I'm going. My route was still plausibly a connection to I-20, but not a very efficient one. I'd been going east for some time. My goal was to get on the I-20, going west, and without breaking very many local traffic regulations. A few U-turns later I had succeeded, but at the cost of almost half an hour. It's only a hundred fifty miles to Dallas, though, and the speed limit is seventy. So I'll be there around one o' clock if I drive fast. That's two hours and fifteen minutes before the flight. I only need to be an hour early. Or really half an hour, it's a domestic flight.
Thing four that could go wrong: Construction
The speed limit is only seventy when there is no construction. It's fifty where there is construction. There's a lot of construction on the I-20. In fact I figure I probably initially missed the entrance to the highway because it was closed or moved or hidden by construction. But fifty isn't that slow. I still have time to geohash.
I reach the Linden exit at 11:25 and give myself very strict instructions. I have to be back on the highway westbound by 12:15 at the latest, so I have fifty minutes to find this geohash and return to the interstate. That means I can drive for twenty-five minutes before I have to turn around. That's ten to noon. I drive towards Quitman. An inner voice, one of the sensible ones, evidently, muses on the significance of the name Quitman. Could it have some symbolism, some kind of message pertaining to the current expedition. My less sensible, enthusiastically geohashing voices shout it down. There's more construction on this road, and a lower speed limit. Also the signs don't say Quitman.
It's 11:45. There is no way I'm getting to this geohash in five more minutes. But wait. I'm passing the entrance to highway 80. Highway 80 is a highway. It goes west to Dallas. I can keep my promise of being back on the highway going west by 12:15, and I need can continue for another fifteen minutes. Loophole! There may have been a voice somewhere in there that wondered about the wisdom of exploiting loopholes in agreements with myself but that voice was completely drowned out by the voices that were still arguing enthusiastically about the wisdom of geohashing on the way to an airline flight.
For some reason the primary form of intersection control around here is the four way flashing red light. They have a huge infrastructure of traffic lights, but instead of programming them to let some people keep driving and while other people wait and then reverse the situation, they have them all in blink mode, so that everyone has to stop, figure out what order he arrived in and then go in turn. Really expensive stop signs. And inefficient. But I get to Quitman. I turn left (at a four way stop) following both the GPS arrow and the highway 154 sign. I drive down highway 154 until just past the fork that I somehow remembered I was supposed to take, did a U-turn and took the fork. Just after the GPS arrow pointed abeam my track, I reached a bridge. Evidently this was the river after the left I was supposed to take. I planned this remarkably well for three minutes.
Thing five that could go wrong: Gate
I make the U-turn, take the first right, and ... there's a gate. It's not a really forbidding gate, and the geohash is only 1.44 km down that road, but it is 11:52. On level ground, wearing track shoes I could probably run a kilometre in six minutes ...
The parts of me that want to reach the geohash are so awed at the audacity of a flat out sprint to the geohash that they fall silent, allowing the voice of sensibility to be heard loud and clear as it screams commandingly for me to put that car in gear and get out of there before I miss the plane. It's clever enough to put it in geohashing terms: I do not not want to have a new consolation ribbon created for this achievement.
We leave the gate behind and head west on highway 80. Nothing will stop me from reaching that airplane on time. Nothing.