Archive forNovember, 2009

Some Streets are Made for Cars Only (lame)

We approached Route 2 from the south, on Page Road, a gorgeous, well-maintained residential street sprinkled with family farms and McMansions.  It was a comfortable and peaceful ride, and things were looking up. That is, until we got to Route 2. There was no passage – Jersey barriers lined the median for as far as we could see.

We rode along Rt 2 where the shoulder was still fairly wide, but this only lasted a quarter mile or so. As the shoulder began to thin, we also realized that we were on our way to the I-95 on-ramp. Spacewalk-time! We hauled our ships over the guardrail on the south side of Rt 2, and made our return west. To our right: high-speed on-coming traffic. To our left: tall grass, taller trees, some parts of the Cambridge Reservoir.  Below us: rough surface of dirt, grass, garbage, plus a stretch of loose gravel as we cross the Cambridge Reservoir (see exit marker 52A on this map. Pushing ships over this gravely path was pretty intense).  Ahead:  no plans of best way to get home.

We backtracked to where Old Colony Rd met Rt 2. At the time we had no idea where that road would take us, and we no longer trusted our devices.  The Day Star had basically retired, and transports were coming at us, many without headlights (it was that time of evening when most drivers had started their journey while it was still light out).

H4ckw0r+h pointed out that there was a break in the Jersey barriers lining the median. We weighed our options: Head back down Old Colony Rd to unknown territory? Or try to cross Rt 2 to get to Lexington Rd, via which I knew we could get to Lexington? We agreed that the best thing to do now was to get us off the skinny shoulder, and we could see that the other side of Rt 2 offered more space buffer. So we counted off, and ran.

Crossing multiple lanes of high speed traffic really got adrenaline pumping. It also had us missing Acehole and all his orange. The crossing was a complete success, and we continued on Rt 2 west until we found Lexington Rd. Spirits were high; I even mused (maybe too loudly) “Man, I wouldn’t want to be THESE people,” at those homes right along Rt 2 (check out those unmarked cul-de-sacs, near Lexington Rd – how annoying that must be to get to/from home!).  The rest of the ride was smooth-sailing and uneventful: we didn’t miss a single turn and found the Minuteman as expected. And — thanks to the time change back from Day-Light-Savings-Time — we got back home with plenty of time to spare before the work week begins. We even squeezed in some Sapporo Ramen with Threespeed.

Neither the map nor the GPS device could have anticipated the asinine situation that we found ourselves in.  Luckily, Cloudbuster wasn’t with us, and we got out of this fix without no real damage (my pride’s a little hurt from failing my navigational groove, but hey) .

It’s like a friend of mine said: The shortest distance between two points in the Greater Boston area is the way that you know. Consider this lesson learned.

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Unofficial Mission: Operation Suburbia Storm

On a freakishly warm and sunny New England November day, H4ckw0r+h and I hooked up with Threespeed and MsMoon for a ride into the ‘burbs.  Everything started off just fine (except this bruise I gave myself, because, apparently, I fail at flying my own ship): we picked up MsMoon from her station, proceeded to the Minutemen path, and then ventured off into deeper parts of Arlington, Lexington, and Lincoln. Threespeed and MsMoon navigated our pack on a tandem, I followed on SCULly, and h4ckw0r+h tailgunned on his civi-ship (earlier test flights showed that New Ship was not yet space-worthy) .

As the Day Star crawled toward the horizon, we stopped for a short break on the edge of Lincoln.  We decided to turn back and take a different route, knowing that the exact way back would give us some serious Negi g-wells.

5 minutes of cross-referencing Threespeed’s GPS device to his Rubel map, we were off again. The plan was to cross Route 2 and head for the Minuteman. We knew that some parts of Rt 2 out west were pedestrian-friendly, and the crossing we picked looked promising on both maps.

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<3 Maps <3

The topic of maps also bubbled up (incidentally, we discovered this map store near Harvard Square). We talked about how portable electronics like GPS devices and iPhones have taken over the need for maps, and made it easy for people to never learn how to use maps.  We agreed that map reading is a skill, and with that skill came a certain freedom to enjoy being in a particular space, instead of feeling trapped by a mini-LCD.

I love maps. I love the bird’s eye view, I love knowing how my immediate surroundings fit into that view, and I love being able to look at a map to conjure up 3D images of the city in my mind as I had experienced it years ago. I love not missing a turn and having to make u-turns, I love being able to anticipate an upcoming turn and merge safely/accordingly, and I love being able to get from point A to point B without crossing point C, where construction is happening for this month only.  I have experienced more than a few GPS devices, and none came close to the efficiency of a well-made-map + using my own noggin.

But I did experience a serious Navigational Fail recently, something that even the best combination of maps + brain cannot handle. It is thanks to what James H. Kunstler dubbed as the “National Automobile Slum.” Now, I’ve read/seen my share of Kunstler rants on this topic, and I have lived in many places as such (ie “undergrad years in Florida”), but this particular incident really gave me some food for thought like never before:

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When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Like Groningen

A couple of my college friends came through Boston recently for a conference. I hadn’t seen them since my undergrad years in Florida, and they’re now professors at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.  Groningen, the Netherlands, is a city that has been dubbed “The World Cycling City,” where 57% of in-city trips are made by bicycles.  I enjoyed getting their perspectives on urban design and cycling culture.

As their unofficial guide to the city for a day, I chose to take us by foot from their rental studio in Beacon Hill to Porter Square on this path So we’ll have a chance to catch up. The walk also gave me a chance to show off the Smoots, the various squares in Cambridge, and to grab lunch at Mary Chung’s (very good Suan La Chow Show, very bad website).

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Baby Steps

Greetings, good people.

I’ve finished composing my first entry. It is 2+ pages, single-spaced.  So – I’m going to post my initial entry in segments, and take some time to learn how to write short/sweet blog entries instead.  I hope you will enjoy my (mostly) rants and (sometimes) raves.

Thank you for visiting,

y.t.

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