Wednesday, May 30, 2012

School + Hudson Valley + Cycling = ADVENTURE!

Most great ideas come to me when I'm riding my bike. This was certainly the case in mid-April when I was riding one of my 200K permanent routes rather than completing the Princeton 200K after being asked to serve as the master of ceremonies at the school's annual gala auction. As I stepped up to the microphone that evening, I announced my plan: this summer, I will ride my bike to every town in which a student from my school lives, in the shortest amount of time possible.

How better to combine my love of long distance riding with my love of the Hudson Valley and my love of Poughkeepsie Day School, where I have worked for the past 10 years as the head of middle school? Some kids live right around the corner from campus while others spend over an hour and a half on the bus in the morning AND in the afternoon. As you can see from the map above, the school draws students from over 50 towns, cities and villages in five counties and two states. While the greatest number of families live close to campus in Poughkeepsie, others are spread more or less evenly up and down both sides of the river.

The questions at this point are: how long will this adventure take? and what is the best route to use? I asked a few math teachers at school for a little help with route planning and found out two important things. 1) My journey is a close approximation to the Traveling Salesman Problem that has plagued mathematicians for years. Apparently there is no straightforward algorithm that works to determine the shortest distance between so many points. There are simply too many variables to consider.  2) There is a willing group of young people around just about every corner in my school, so today the second and third graders and their teacher helped me begin to measure and strategically design my route using maps cuisenaire rods. Here's a brief film of their work. I'm eager to see what they come up with.

With a goal of completing this ride in one or two days, I have my work cut out for me, but if adventures were easy they wouldn't be adventures, now would they.

More soon!

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