Walking East Across Memphis

Last Saturday, I walked across Memphis with several friends, starting at the historic Mississippi River cobblestone landing at dawn and ending in Collierville, only a few miles from the Fayette County border. We covered just over 19 miles in less than 9 hours.

Tom, truk, Richie, and Robert Setting Out

Richie, Robert, and I made it all of the way to Houston Levee Road at Wolf River Boulevard by 3:45 PM before needing to be picked up to make another appointment. Tom started with us but had to leave earlier than that for a previous engagement.

Union Extended Overpass, with Midtown Impound Lot

The purpose of the trip was to do a bit of urban exploring and see how far you could get by simply walking through the city in a single day. The original idea, which came from Frank (though he had a schedule conflict and couldn’t attend the walk), was to start at sunrise and stop walking at sunset. Simple enough, but Memphis offers several major routes running east-west, and part of the fun of the walk was figuring out, on the fly, how to see the most unusual sights in the most common locations while making the most progress eastward.

Robert and Richie Standing Above I-240

Downtown passed quickly. We started on Madison, switched to Union after visiting Quetzal for some coffee, and then rambled back to Madison before sliding over to Union again as we headed through Midtown. Poplar Avenue proved to be the best route through East Memphis, but in Germantown, we opted for a more directly easterly route, heading down Farmington Boulevard and Wolf River Boulevard before stopping after entering Collierville.

How Germantown Sidewalks End

All along the way, we encountered interesting sights in places we had all driven through hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. Some highlights: the metallic art chair on Marshall, random apartment complex art in Midtown on Union, boats in the Midtown impound lot, giant drainage ditches in view of Clark Tower in East Memphis, railroad tracks over I-240, random sidewalk placement in Germantown, and a high school with an ornamental front entrance that isn’t accessible from the road.

truk and Richie in Collierville

All along the way, we were amazed by the amount of “car crumbs” (Richie’s description for the endless stream of broken bits of automobile plastic and metal that litters the sides of our roads and sidewalks) and lack of pedestrians (in spite of a perfect weather day for being outside – low humidity, with a high about 80). For example, we didn’t see any other pedestrians between Midtown to Farmington Boulevard, a distance of over 11 miles.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone else that just wants to get out and see the city. Several folks mentioned that this might be a dangerous trip, but I found it to be trouble-free. Just get some comfortable shoes and a ride to drop you off downtown, and start walking east. You can buy everything you need along the way, and there are surprisingly few barriers or big intersections to trouble you.

Click here to view more photos from the walk


How to Install the MBString PHP Extension

Sometimes, I just love working with Red Hat, PHP, and MySQL.

I was setting up a new Linux server today, and I noticed the error in phpMyAdmin, a popular web-based application that uses PHP to allow a user to administer MySQL databases. I’ve been using phpMyAdmin for a long time, and the more recent versions of MySQL have been released with a Unicode character set (UTF-8), which is actually a good thing, since it can handle storing data from many more languages and language sets. However, phpMyAdmin was barking about a problem with my default Apache+PHP setup on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 server:

The mbstring PHP extension was not found and you seem to be using a multibyte charset. Without the mbstring extension phpMyAdmin is unable to split strings correctly and it may result in unexpected results.

I did some research in what was involved to enable the mbstring PHP extension, and it was looking like so much work I was just going to leave it, but finally, I turned up the easy answer: Simply install the php-mbstring package. With an up2date subscription, it is easy:

up2date -i php-mbstring

Finally, bounce Apache, and the error message went away. Wow, easier than I thought…