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Lost in the ‘Burbs

A week and a half ago I was in Houston, helping with preparations for the imminent Weichbrodt-Hudson nuptials. Every time I am in Houston I am filled with renewed trepidation over the in-laws neighborhood. It’s lovely, of course, but it’s also a Houston suburbs’ subdivision. Despite having visited numerous times over the course of the past three and a half years, I am remarkably unable to maintain any sense of cardinal directions or relative location once we enter the sprawling land of pale-red-and-cream houses in well-manicured cul-de-sacs with nice names. It’s all:

And I’m all:

And yet, on this particular morning, I decided to go running. By myself.

I conscientiously charted a route on mapmyrun.com, left a note announcing my early morning departure, and brought along my cell phone. I was certain that this was being overly cautious and that surely, sixty minutes later, I would be back home and eating breakfast with the fam.

This did not happen.

Things progressed smoothly for the first forty minutes. Other than the intermittent disappearance of sidewalks (Digression: Why, in the name of urban planning, did subdivision gods deem it wise to randomly dispense of sidewalks along routes that, at their onset, seemed so very promising and cheerful-neighborhood-like?), my planned loop appeared to be, well, looping. And then, with very little warning, the sidewalk and most other signs of established housing vanished, leaving me running on damp grass next to a rather busy road flanked by expanses of pine trees. Hopeful, I pressed onward, waiting to see those rows of pale-red-and-cream homes re-emerge. Instead, I arrived at a strange T-intersection where street signs declared a state-of-being not revealed on my map and the litter-filled shoulder fell short of happy suburb land.

Unsure of which way to proceed, I called Noel, keeper of the iPhone, who was still back in St. Louis. I described the situation. I gave my cross streets. He Google Mapped. He told me the name of another intersection. I insisted that those were not my cross streets. He told me my cross streets did not, in the world of Google Maps, actually cross. He switched to satellite view and, low and behold, the trusty pictures from orbit showed my current location under construction. Directions were still a bit tentative after that but, half an hour later, I did manage to find the correct pale-red-and-cream house in the correct coyly named cul-de-sac and, most importantly, eat breakfast.

And this what the world is coming to. The suburbs are growing too fast for even Google to keep up. How are runners to remain safe?

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