Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"The Walking Trip"

Skip to the random thoughts

This is another one of those "topics in the queue" for a slow day. It makes me wonder what I'm going to write about for the rest of the week...but I'll think of something. I promise. Even if I'm left with a hackjob post or two, yesterday's post was quite lengthy, so that will make up for it. As for today...

Back in the by-the-numbers days (which are just about over except for miles driven, gas money, and disc golf, thanks to a combination of my AIM semi-hiatus and laziness), I tried hard to think of interesting and creative stats. Late in Summer 2005, I thought of one: walking distance. I did a lot of walking at Penn State, living a short walk from campus and a slightly longer walk to downtown, and also playing frequent golf. But how much walking distance was I accumulating? All I would need to do is wear a pedometer whenever I go somewhere, and it would keep track for me. Sweet! I started this in Fall 2005, the day before classes began (Monday, August 29th).

Midway through the first week, I came up with another idea. Why don't I translate my walking distance to a cross-country trip, and see how "far" I can get? The "first draft" of this trip started in Key West, and I wasn't sure where I would try to go, but I'd just see where the trip took me. But as soon as I realized it would take me several months just to get out of Florida, I decided to do a more practical and shorter trip: State College, PA to Jacksonville, FL. I made this drive semi-frequently (every couple of months or so), and it was an event. I took a bunch of different routes, and I eventually became quite familiar with the drive. So why not take the walking trip on this route? I started in State College, and decided to take the "interior" route to Jacksonville - I-81 to I-77. This trip is 910.3 miles long. How long would it take me to walk that far? About a month into the walking trip, I discovered that I would probably finish the trip within a month of my graduation from Penn State. Perfect! Now I could use the trip to "symbolize" my journey back to Florida (which, at the time, was where I planned on going after graduation).

I kept a web page log of this trip, and Penn State has been nice enough to not delete my web account (yet), so here is a summary of the trip. According to that web page, I finished the trip on the exact date of my college graduation (Saturday, May 13th), but that isn't completely accurate, because the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences actually held their graduation the night before. So I really finished the trip the day after my graduation. But the Saturday of "graduation weekend" is the generally-accepted "graduation date", so I'm satisfied. Close enough, right?

Did I really walk 910.3 miles in 8½ months? According to my pedometer, yes. But is it accurate? Well...I don't know how precise it was, but it gave me a general idea of how far I walked. It doesn't actually measure distance; it measures how many steps you take (based on your vertical movement), which it then multiplies by a stride length set by the user. I set my stride length to 29 inches, even though my full stride length is longer than that, in order to account for those smaller steps that one makes in daily life, such as walking around the office and whatnot. The pedometer provided as good an approximation as I could get. I worked hard to calibrate it with known distances, and 29 inches is the number I came up with. For the sake of the walking trip, I assumed it was 100% accurate, just so I could precisely mark my current location.

How did I manage to walk that far? Well, let's analyze. If I did nothing more than walk to and from Walker Building in a day, that accounted for 2 kilometers (the pedometer measured distances in kilometers for some reason). Every trip to the Water Tunnel building (a.k.a. ARL) added about half a kilometer. A walk downtown for lunch added another kilometer or two, depending on where we went. Disc golf and other downtown trips (Bar Bleu poker, Sports Café trivia, etc) also added a few kilometers each, but the two biggest contributors were golf (10 km per 18 holes) and tailgating on football weekends (~8 km roundtrip to the stadium, plus other walking). Combine all of this together, and there was a lot of walking to be had, and it added up. Even when snow covered the golf course for the season, I still made a weekly walk around town, partly for exercise, but mostly to add up distance.

I've considered doing a new walking trip - maybe a State College to Raleigh trip, since that's my new frequently-traveled drive of choice. But I don't walk anywhere near as much now as I did at Penn State. In any given week, I might not even walk 10 kilometers. Besides disc golf (4 to 5 kilometers on an 18-hole course), how much walking do I do in a week? Not much - besides disc golf, the only non-negligible walking I do on a weekly basis is checking my mail and going grocery shopping. So, it would likely take me over a year to walk from State College to Raleigh. Maybe I should invest in a good bike and do a biking distance trip. Hmm, that's not such a bad idea...

Today's random thoughts:

1) In last Friday's post, I mentioned that it had been almost five weeks since my last trip to Bojangles'. Well, no sooner than the very next day (Saturday) did I end that streak and get my usual 3 piece dinner with fries. This time, I went a total of 34 days between Bojangles' visits, my longest stretch since my move to Raleigh (Cary). How long before the next visit? We shall wait and see. In the meantime, I will mention that there are no Bojangles' anywhere in Cary. I had to drive almost all the way to the NC State campus in Raleigh to find some. What's up with that? (This is the only displeasure I have with the town of Cary so far.)
2) Yesterday was "National Boss Day". Did you know there was such a thing? I didn't, until I got a real job. Ah, the joys of the real world. "Happy Birthday, Mr. Lumbergh..." (Actually, everyone here likes our boss. And I'm not just saying that.)
3) Stalking people update! I don't know if it's just because I was busier than normal at work last week and wasn't as attentive to the people walking outside, but I didn't see "tall guy" or "short late woman" at all last week, and only saw "professional woman" once or twice. Yesterday, however, I saw all three. "Short late woman" was even later than usual, and "tall guy" was wearing a dumb-looking sweater. It had been two weeks since I last saw tall guy. Was he on vacation or something? In any event, it's nice to have him back. The totals are now: tall guy - 35/54; professional woman - 19/24; short late woman - 8/15.

5 comments:

Jeff said...

Wouldn't the exact length of the trip depend on such things as where you stopped for gas and food? For example, say there was a McDonalds right next to the interstate. However, let's assume that you wanted Bojangles on this particular day, and it was half a mile from the interstate. That would have to affect the distance down to the tenth of a mile.

Chris Allen said...

That is true. Needless to say, I didn't include gas/food stops on my trip. The distance I came up with (910.3 miles) is the "no stopping" distance according to Microsoft Streets and Trips 2002 (or whatever year I have).

James Allen said...

New Mexico Tech still hasn't deleted my account, and I graduated 4 years ago.

Jeff said...

OK...I thought you measured it on your trip odometer in your car. Does anyone have an idea of how accurate computer-based mileage calculators are? Let me guess...you now want to test that on your next drive anywhere...

Chris Allen said...

I tested that on one of my Tallahassee-Jacksonville drives, I think...there was definitely a difference, but I forget which way the bias went.