|We've all pretty much accepted that I am an eco-geek, sometimes to an annoying degree, right? So it shouldn't be a surprise that I put a lot of thought into the environmental impact of my travels*. I addressed the issue, albeit novicely, back when I got back from Asia (remember?). Well since then, I've done more reading on the subject. This is the conclusion I've come to.
Calculating the impact of travel on the environment is hard. Do you measure the impact in CO2, which is ever so popular these days, or do you focus more on what type of fuel is being used and the impact of how we obtain that fuel? How does infrastructure play in? (ex: Building roads and rail lines across long distances can really gnarl up the landscape while planes just require a place to take off and land at each end.) What role does/should capacity play? (ex: If the plane I fly on is 1/4 full vs. totally full, my passenger miles per gallon are extremely different, with me having no control of that.) Even within a give style of transportation, there are huge variations that make generalizing towards a usable rule difficult. (ex: Turboprop planes, which are often used for short commuter flights, are way more fuel efficient than their jet engine cousins. And diesel trains belch more particulate matter per mile than electric trains.)
This graphic (and an expanded version over at their site) does a great job of summing up a general rule when thinking about travel: in order of most to least harmful goes traveling solo by car, flying, traveling via mass transit (train, carpooling, bus), non-motorized travel (walking/biking), followed up by not traveling*. While is isn't a hard fast rule, it is helpful for a quick sanity check.
The impact of all this for me is complicated, and I won't get into it too much. Sufficient to say, I take this all into consideration and I try to make responsible decisions. I try not to travel frivolously*, I try to fly less, and I actively seek out mass transit options. And I try to encourage awareness without being too much of a jerk about it. I hope I somewhat succeeded.
P.S. Happy Earth Day!
|Tuesday April 22 2008||File under: environment, travel|
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|Traveling can be tiresome, tedious, and draining. I was reminded of this yesterday as I left New Bern NC to start heading north. A botched attempt at hitchhiking (in a thunderstorm the likes of which you can only dream of) followed by bus, taxi, and train, all with their hidden annoyances. Normally I try to avoid noticing the grittier side of travel, or at least avoid posting about it on the old blog. Yesterday, however, it seemed particularly noticeable because I had just got done spending a care-free, easy time with with the SirMaxALot crew.
I had such a great time. It was the perfect mix of downtime/recovery* and cultural and local activities, with plenty of time for catching up and philosophical conversation (with a healthy dose of Simpson quotes, of course). The weather was crazy good–so good, in fact, that I got to participate in one of my favorite activities ever: being shirtless outside*. I felt so welcomed into their home that it made all the hassle of travel just drift away. My collection of photos hardly does the time justice*. All the good shots ended up on their camera, so you will have to stay tuned over there to see the goodies (although I am hoping to snag a few for a wrap-up slideshow)*. That said, here are a few captured moments: my first NC geocache is Max's first cache ever; Sean, Max, and I enjoy some of the lovely riverscapes surrounding New Bern; and Christen, Max, Jack, and I did a little strawberry picking (the real photos from this one should be great).
Yep, now I am back on the dusty road with the next stop in NYC. Small town North Carolina to the City; I'm sure I will hardly notice the difference.
|Monday April 21 2008||File under: travel|
|Blogging can sometimes be a funny thing. When I've got all the time in the world to make posts, nothing bloggable seems to happen. On the other hand, when I am out having adventures that I want to write up and share, it is often hard to find the time (and computing resources) to make a post. During these periods of activity, posts inevitably either get totally out of sync with what's currently going on or lost in the excitement of the next thing. Case in point, the last two weeks.
I never got a chance to report on how I had a truly Baltimore day, hosted by Dave (of Publius Baltimore) and Sarah; Orioles game, seafood* at the world famous Lexington Market, geocaching*, and walking around the inner harbor. Or about how enamored I am with Annapolis, with its wonderfully cute downtown and all the nautical goings ons, all guided so informatively by not-
But I suppose if I had to pick a way for the scale to unbalance, it would be towards more bloggable happenings and less time to post. I still try to do my best keeping the blog updated, but sometimes I'd rather go camp on the beach than find a local library to make a post from. I'm sure you understand.
|Saturday April 19 2008||File under: travel|
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|One glance at the comic for this week and you've prolly realized that the pencil pusher this week was yours truly. I just couldn't help myself. The computer I'm working on has this fancy touch screen with stylus so it was like I was a fancy graphics artist guy. Or maybe it was in pursuance of a dream of writing all over a computer screen. Either way, I hope you enjoy.
Thanks for all your great comic captions last week. I would say every single one of them was better than the one I was originally planning. We'll have to do another one of those soon. As for which one will be published, it is such a hard decision that I will put it off until my book deal comes through. I did LOL out loud* at the Beavis and Butthead one, though. Hehehehe.
|Friday April 18 2008||File under: comic|
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|Ten days ago, I bought a used bike in Baltimore. It was nothing fancy; just a couple of wheels, gears, and a rack. The whole idea was to show (both to myself and anyone else interested) that with very simple tools and very little preparation, biking was a viable semi-long distance transportation option. Five hundred miles later, I'm glad to say that I've presented enough evidence to myself, at least, to fully accept this premise (and therefore never have to prove it again).
As with pretty much all my little hair-brained schemes, if I was to do it again, I would do it slightly differently. For one, I would have spent more time on finding a bike better suited to me. Because of the size of this bike, I didn't get to exercise all the muscles in my legs, but just my quads*. Also, learning over the handlebars as far as I had to left me with a bruised palm and tingly fingers.
I also prolly should have spent a little more time in planning out a route, specifically planning overnight locations. When you are road tripping by car (or scooter, for that matter), you have the luxury of waiting until near dark and then starting to look for the nearest campsite, motel, or dirt service road. While riding, my legs had pretty much given up for the day around 5:30 and I was lucky if I could even find a place to eat dinner (usually a gas station*). This led to some need for creativity regarding sleeping spots, which I will address later.
The other thing that I would do differently is to bring sunscreen. Who would have thought that having the back of your hands facing directly up to the sky for 10-12 hours a day would cause them to get sunburned? Well, it does, and in a big way. By about the 3rd day, I was resorting to smearing mud all over the back of my hands to keep the sun off. It actually worked surprisingly well*.
All these little things aside, I think the whole thing worked out great. I'm extremely proud of myself* and this accomplishment. Biking 500 miles in just over a week is something to be proud of. On my long days (everything after Arlington, VA), I think I averaged 75-80 miles a day. Anyway, for anyone that wants to see a general route (with mileage), click here (please to note: this route mileage is somewhat of an estimate in places because I lost track of all the crazy back roads* I ended up on. Also, mileage is off because I did have to take a bus through a tunnel under a river/bay in Norfolk and I couldn't figure out how to dis-include mileage from the ferries.)
Of course there are all the sights I saw (a surprising amount of wildlife, actually) and interesting characters that I met along the way that made this little trip such a grand adventure, but this post is too long as it is. You'll have to hear about that stuff in real life.
|Thursday April 17 2008||File under: travel, USA|
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|Have you ever been to the Outer Banks* of North Carolina? If not, you should check them out. I've never gotten too much exposure to the treasures that the south has to offer in terms of "Hey, you should go visit [insert cool southern place name here]", but I had at least heard of the Outer Banks. That was reason enough for me to check it out*.
Although I only spent a brief day and a half there (and most of that was in the saddle), I can definitely say that it was worth the visit. If you can look past the rampant tourist/consumeristic overtones (that weren't in full force yet by the time I was there, luckily), there is a ton of history and natural beauty. As for history, there are all sorts of pirate stuff (ship wrecks, museums, etc.), civil war place markers, nautical landmarks, and of course Kitty Hawk, location of the first heavier-than-air, self-propelled manned flight. The natural beauty of the area comes in the form of gorgeous beaches and dunes, back water channels, and great wet lands. There are birds galore as well, but I would only be showing my ignorance if I tried to identify them. The area protected in the National Park/Seashore/Whatever looks as if it has been that way forever, which is so interesting to see. When cars weren't flying by, I sometimes would just stop* and marvel at how calming that bit of gorgeous nature was.
Yep, next time I pass this way, I will allot much more time for beach sitting, nature walking, and pizza eating*. (Oh, and for all you schralpers, there is plenty of gnar to be shralped*.)
|Wednesday April 16 2008||File under: travel, USA|
|Trying to keep this Friday Comic Series going while on the road is proving to be somewhat difficult. But have no fear; I haven't given up on it yet. I have, however, figured out a way to save me time by having you do all the work. All along I've been outsourcing the drawing to talented people. Now I am outsourcing the writing.
The challenge is to write the best caption/speech bubble for this comic (ably drawn by Deanna). Submit your entries in the comments (or, for all those comment-phobic people, e-mail them to me (you can use the contact page if you don't have my e-mail address)). The one that makes me laugh the hardest will pasted onto the comic* for inclusion in the eventual Comics du Wren book.
Oh, and try to keep it somewhat tasteful.
|Friday April 11 2008||File under: comic|
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|Forgive me if I have posted about this before. I remember spending a lot of time thinking about it when I was on my scooter trip.
Signage can make all the difference when travelling, esp. by alternate means. Sure it is annoying when you go 20 miles off your route in a car and have to turn around. When you go 20 miles out of your way on a bike, however, it is very different. And it isn't only lost time and frustration that good signage can help alleviate. It can be a safety issue.
Take today for example: it was all set to be the first big day of the bike portion of my trip. I wanted to go as far south as I could get. I left Arlington VA early and found a nice off-road bike path the 20 or so miles down to Mount Vernon*. After that, I just headed south. I eventually came across a visitor's center with a nice "Bike Virginia" map that was supposed to help keep me off the main roads and on the purty back roads. Well, the map was really unclear about how to get on this mythical bike route. And since it shared the same name as a highway, I figured I would just hope on the highway and find a sign. 25 miles (on almost shoulderless roads with traffic zipping by at 50 mph) later, I senendipitously found a sign pointing me to what a wanted. I'm hoping now that I've found it, I'll be able to stick on it.
Moral of the story: good signage can make a HUGE difference. So for all you planners out there, whether it be for a bike route, a nature walk, or a tour of the bridges of Madison County, I implore you to not skimp on the signage.
|Thursday April 10 2008||File under: travel|
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|Don't worry. i'm not going to do a day by day posting of this whole bicycle thing. i will however use this as an excuse to post a little picture of my steed. Other than that i will not write much today because the computer i am using has multiple eys that don't wor (such as that one that comes after J and the comma (so no complaints about grammar typos or spelling on this post)).
But i did mae it the 40 or so miles from Annapolis to D.C. yesterday and in record time too. i even had enough time to chec out a few of the monuments before meeting up with a friend for dinner and a place to crash.
(There are more photos but since the alligator eys and equal sign don't wor either i will wait to post those another time. (Those that i did get to wor was all using cut and paste character by character which is tedious (but a good challenge (ind of lie a haiu)))
|Wednesday April 9 2008||File under: travel|
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|One used 12-speed bike on craigslist: $65
Used bike accessories (bike rack, lock, helmet, etc.): $30
Chance for a little adventure: Priceless
Day one: Baltimore to Annapolis. 20 miles (after a ride on the light rail). Almost completely on a paved bike path. So nice. But having not ridden much in the past couple months, I was really feeling it. We'll see how my legs (and ass) feel tomorrow. Perhaps buying the first bike I came across (that turned out to be too small, kind of rusty, and fully ghetto) was a bad idea. Time will tell, I guess. Tomorrow is the Annapolis to D.C. leg. Prolly about 30 miles, unless I wuss out and take the metro for part of it. But that's okay. I shouldn't overdo it too much. I've got a long way to go.
|Monday April 7 2008||File under: travel, USA|
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