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Parkour Is Safety

Posted by Justin Deffner on July 1, 2013 in Recreation, TW Parkour |

By Guest Author: Justin Deffner

Often times when I’m training, I’ll get asked, “how often do you get hurt,” or, “what’s your worst injury?” Although it may seem like what I do is dangerous, I can honestly say that in the three years I’ve been training, I’ve only had one significant injury from doing parkour; a large bruise on my arm from attempting a jump and using a technique incorrectly. From everything I’ve seen so far, I’ve come to the conclusion that parkour is one of the safest physical disciplines that can be practiced.

Have I taken drops that could sprain ankles or break legs? Yes. Have I jumped over gaps that were sketchy? Yes. Did I risk myself while doing any of these? No. I, along with almost any traceur out there (especially those I know in The Woodlands scene), knows their limits and understands the capabilities of their body. Issues can arise from the miscommunication and lack of understanding about this discipline. I will say this right now, I know that many people are not familiar with parkour, and similar to other things, a lack of understanding can result in misconceptions about what parkour is or is not. Parkour is not just a bunch of kids trying to out-perform each other by doing the most dangerous stunt they can imagine. Parkour (French pronunciation: ​[paʁˈkuʁ], abbreviated as PK) is a holistic training discipline using movement, which developed out of military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to move quickly and efficiently through their environment using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves, negotiating obstacles in between (wiki). It is a fairly new discipline here in America, and is sometimes greatly misrepresented on TV and the internet. My goal is to bring to light what parkour truly is.

Martial Arts

Let’s take a few other disciplines and sports into consideration when thinking about potential danger. Along with parkour, I’m a martial artist (and I love every second of training). Parents and authority figures everywhere love the fact that kids are involved in the martial arts. Practicing these physical disciplines teaches self control and self defense among other things. They also put you in situations where you have to fight (commonly known as “sparring”). I have been kicked, punched, rammed, choked, and grappled more times than I care to count in my martial arts training. Is it dangerous? Obviously yes, it is. In the real world, if somebody attacks you, they likely mean to hurt you – or at the very least, prevent you from hurting them. It is neccessary to learn how to react to potentially dangerous situations and how to protect yourself if somebody is actually attacking you. By donning hand and foot pads, martial artists practice “controlled” fights, and will go to tournaments to spar against people they’ve never met before. It’s quite intimidating, especially when you’re a short guy like me going up against the bear-size men I’ve had to spar against.

Now, learning to defend yourself is great. I love the martial arts, and wish I had gotten started in them earlier. However, there is another way to defend yourself against most any potential attacker. What if, instead of trying to overpower an attacker, you can simply avoid the confrontation by safely getting away from the situation? As a test, I had one of my friends (who doesn’t practice parkour) attempt to chase me in a variety of outdoor environments. In every attempt, I successfully evaded him very quickly. If you can scale a wall in less than a second that takes another person three seconds to get over, or jump off a staircase (SAFELY) instead of taking fifteen seconds to go down the stairs, you can get easily escape from bad situations in quick and safe manner.

Gymnastics

We’ve all seen the people in the Olympics flipping and twisting and doing those movements with funny names (as a gymnastics coach, even I sometimes laugh at the names of some moves), and those athletes are applauded for what they can do. In just over a year since we opened, we have had 1,400+ students enrolled in our gym whose parents want them to learn how to flip, jump, and tumble to some extent. Who can say that gymnastics isn’t dangerous? Yes, we have what seems like a million different cushions, pads, and foam pits. Why? Because tumbling is so ridiculously dangerous to do. Gymnasts learn to flip and focus on pointing their toes, sticking landings, and making sure their form is perfect – and they will fall while learning to do so. Imagine the impact in your knees after doing a double backflip and sticking the landing. I’ll tell you from experience, it doesn’t feel good; and it is hard on your body. With parkour, we learn the flips in a completely different way. A gymnast will worry about sticking their landing, while in parkour, the emphasis is on dispersing the impact of the landing so that we don’t take as much shock throughout the body. A gymnast will focus on pointing their toes and using correct form, while in parkour, we just worry about what naturally works for a flip and what will get us through it in the safest and most efficient manner. Have I fallen while practicing parkour? Yes, countless times; but learning how to disperse the forces of the impact became second nature to me mere weeks after starting my parkour training. In fact, because I learned how to tumble and flip outside of a gym, I’ve become much more capable and versatile with what I can do compared to gymnasts who have trained the same amount of time. It’s not uncommon to see me or my friends do flips and land in the most bizarre ways (on our stomachs, kneeling in a “Power Ranger” pose, or even flat on our backs) not unlike what you might see the hero do on TV or in the movies. Because we trained our bodies to react to our physical environment, we learn to adjust at just about any point, in any movement, to position ourselves to land in a safe – if not always graceful – way.

The Unexpected

Wooden items breaking as we jump from them, rails shaking as we vault over them, or tables being slippery and wet when they might look completely dry. Yes, we learn to test the durability of items before we climb or jump on them, but at the spur of the moment there may not be time to decide if the rail is loose or the grass is dry. Things like people walking in front of us as we’re about to start a maneuver, or even shoes slipping in the grass can happen to all of us everyday. Parkour teaches us to learn how to react to these situations and greatly lessen the odds of being injured. You could think of it as the most masculine form of ballet; learning how to be graceful in the great outdoors. Many of these and similar situations have happened to me, and I’m not going to lie, it is scary. But through my training, and the training that every traceur has experienced, these situations become nothing more than simple obstacles and handleing them is second nature. Before we can even think, our bodies can react to these situations accordingly, and we either jump, roll, redirect, stop, or even fall in the safest possible manner.

Traceurs go through training that is just as rigorous as that of the martial arts and gymnastics. We learn the extent of our bodies and our own capabilities. We learn how to preserve our bodies while doing what should be natural for us to do. When we are on a narrow ledge, or up on a high surface, we aren’t doing it to be reckless or try to get millions of hits on Youtube. We are doing it because we know we can do it safely, and we want to move past the state of mind that says “you can only do things one way.” If I can make a standing five foot jump between two ledges on the ground, why shouldn’t I be able to do it twenty feet in the air? If I can do a backflip and land in the same spot on grass, why shouldn’t I be able to do it on a concrete ledge nine inches wide? We don’t throw these tricks to show off, we do it because we know we can, and we have to prove to ourselves that we, as humans, are capable of so much more than we may know, or think we are.

In closing, consider this statistic from Parkour Visions, a renowned academy known for teaching parkour. Rafe, one of the instructors there, calculated injury statistics from the gym. “For the record, we calculated our injury rate recently in the parkour visions teaching program. It came out to two injuries per thousand hours training time. This is probably lower then self-directed training, but it is not in my experience a huge difference. Indoor rock climbing averages around three, gymnastics (training) around four, soccer (training) is 7.6 and American football (training) is 16. I could not find statistics for MMA training but concussion rate alone for MMA competition is 15 per thousand hours – that’s not including any other types of injuries.” (Source)

If you have any questions about parkour or the safety of the discipline, feel free to email me at XMAparkour@yahoo.com

Related:
Movements of Parkour
Parkour: Fact versus Fiction

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Movements of Parkour

Posted by Justin Deffner on May 19, 2013 in Recreation, TW Parkour |

By Guest Author: Justin Deffner

When you were little, did you ever climb a tree? Did you ever play on the monkey bars? Do cartwheels at the park, play the game “floor is lava,” or jump from one spot to another? If so, you have done parkour. By moving differently, creatively, and by using your body in a way different than the norm to overcome obstacles – or simply to have fun – you are doing exactly what the freerunners on YouTube are doing.

Often times when people see me doing parkour, they ask how I can do most of the things I do. That question has always confused me, because the movements I do come second nature to me. When I’m out doing parkour, the moves area as natural as walking to me. I firmly believe that everybody has the ability to do what some consider to be the basic movements of parkour, which I’ve listed below.

Shoulder Roll

The Shoulder Roll is the first thing that just about every traceur learns to do. The roll is similar to a gymnasts somersault, except instead of going over the head and down the spine, the shoulder roll passes over one shoulder, goes diagonally across the back, and ends at the opposite hip. This is used whenever the traceur trips, falls, over-rotates, becomes off balance, or needs to disperse impact. On an episode of Fight Science, scientists measured the impact of Red Bull Athlete Ryan Doyle taking a drop of 14 feet and landing with the shoulder roll. The result? The jump resulted in about the same amount of impact that you might feel when doing a simple jumping jack.

Safety Vault

The Safety Vault is used to vault over an obstacle quickly, and with as many points of contact as possible. The traceur puts one hand and the opposite foot on the obstacle. He then jumps over the obstacle and continues on his way.

Safety Vault

Speed Vault:

The Speed Vault is used to pass over an obstacle quickly, without changing direction or body position. The traceur jumps over and plants a hand on an obstacle, pushes off, and continues on his way.

speed vault

Kong Vault

The Kong Vault is used to pass over an obstacle and gain momentum/distance. The traceur dives towards the obstacle, and after planting his hands on it, pushes off and pulls his feet through.

Kong vault over two tables

Precision Jump

The Precision Jump is exactly what it sounds like – jumping to a precise location. Sometimes the obstacle being jumped to can be as tiny as a handrail.

Kong vault to Precision

Cat Leap

The Cat Leap is used when an obstacle is too high to precision jump to. The traceur jumps towards the obstacle, and will put their feet on the side of it, then latch onto the top edge with his hands before climbing over and continuing on thier way.

Cat Leap at SHSU

Lache

The Lache is simply swinging off of a bar. Commonly used in combination with other movements (lache to precision, or lache to cat, etc).

Lache

Wall Climb

The Wall Climb is used when the traceur wants to get to the top of an obstacle that is too high to jump up to. He runs towards a wall, plants his foot about waist high on the wall, and pushes off the wall at an angle that allows him to convert forward momentum to upward momentum.

Tac

The Tac is similar to the wall climb, except instead of traveling up a wall, the traceur pushes off the wall to travel to another spot. Commonly used in combination with other movements (tac to precision, tac to cat, etc).

Tac

Parkour, at its most basic level, is simply movement. It’s jumping from one curb to another. It’s vaulting over a bench. It’s going over a rail instead of around it. It’s not adrenaline-fueled jumps off the tallest thing you can find, or doing the most dangerous thing you can imagine. The movements I’ve listed above form the basis of the physical aspect of what parkour is, and as I have said before, anyone can do it. I’ve taught hundreds of students over the years, from 4 years to over 40 years old; and all of my students have been able to do most of the movements listed above. Granted, a 4-year-old will have trouble climbing a 6 foot tall wall, but many kids that age love the rolls and cartwheels and laches.

Below is my friend Bryan’s video from last year. He does most of the movements described above, along with a few others in his video. Everything in this video was accomplished in only four months time. This is a prime example that you don’t need to do huge drops, or big flips to do parkour and have fun while doing them safely. All it takes is some time, a good attitude, and willingness to learn.

Should you ever run across Bryan or myself doing these movements here in The Woodlands, feel free to stop and say hello!

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Parkour: Fact versus Fiction

Posted by Justin Deffner on May 15, 2013 in TW Parkour |

Parkour In The Woodlands

By Guest Author: Justin Deffner

I’d like to start this off by saying that I mean no disrespect to anybody in this post. If anything comes off as disrespectful, I apologize. I’m simply trying to clear up any misconceptions about something I’m passionate about. I have full respect for park rangers, officers of the law, and the people of The Woodlands.

In the film industry, it isn’t uncommon to see people doing flips off of walls and action stars climbing buildings as if they posed no problem. What is rarer, however, is seeing these things happen in real life. A new discipline called parkour is starting to make a breakthrough in America, and it is being misunderstood by those who do not practice it. As a result, many authority figures are casting practitioners out of public areas around The Woodlands, such as parks, The Waterway, and sports fields. They claim that parkour is dangerous, that the athletes are criminals, and that they disturb the people around them. The art of parkour is greatly misrepresented and should not be restricted.

In order to understand why parkour deserves to be recognized instead of looked down upon, it is important to understand what it truly is and how it started. Parkour is the discipline of overcoming obstacles by going over, under, or through them using only the human body. It originated from the French military as a way for soldiers to move from one point to another quickly and efficiently without getting hurt. A French man named David Belle brought it from the military to his hometown, and started training with his friends. Soon after, the discipline spread all over Europe, and it is just now starting to become recognized in the United States. Common movements include vaulting obstacles, scaling walls, and jumping from rail to rail. Some practitioners, called traceurs, have started adding creativity into the discipline, as a way of expressing themselves through movement. It is not rare to see flips, twists, and spins added to the art; and due to this, some people immediately assume parkour is a dangerous activity.

parkour on the railsParkour is not as dangerous as some would have the public believe. Traceurs spend years working on basic movements and body conditioning in order to avoid injuries. These athletes do not enjoy getting hurt, and injuries only set them back in their training. Due to the sheer amount of time spent working on basic training and safety measures, injury statistics are incredibly low compared to many popular sports. According to a study done by a renowned parkour academy Parkour Visions, parkour-related injury rates “came out to two injuries per thousand hours training time.” This is relatively safe, considering “indoor rock climbing averages around three, gymnastics (training) around four, soccer (training) is 7.6 and American football (training) is 16… concussion rate alone for MMA competition is 15 per thousand hours.” Another parkour organization, Texas Parkour, states, “emphasis has always been on safety and community.” Texas Parkour is the single largest parkour organization in Texas, and is known throughout America. With such a huge group saying “Jumping off buildings, roofs or bridges is not encouraged,” it is clear that dangerous activity is frowned upon by those who participate in parkour.

Almost every traceur, whether they started training with an experienced group or by themselves, starts off by learning what to do in situations gone wrong. Traceurs learn through muscle memory what to do and how to stay safe – in case they are over-balanced, falling backwards, or even fall ten feet or more to the ground. Experienced traceurs become almost animalistic in their training; I myself was nicknamed “Creature” by a crowd that was watching me train. I once vaulted a wall and landed on a tiny ledge, but lost my balance and started to fall off. By instinct I jumped to the closest wall, grabbed the edge, and pulled myself up all in one fluid motion. When training, we don’t have to think about what to do if something goes wrong; muscle memory and instinct take over, and we find the most efficient way to stay safe.

While some authority figures will claim that parkour practitioners are vandals and criminals, this stems from misinformed stereotyping and couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, traceurs will often wear baggy sweatpants and hoodies, because the material flows and is comfortable during training; but authorities will sometimes stereotype the athletes and start harassing them based on their appearance. Many authorities will stop me from training by claiming that I’m “disturbing the people” around me. This is a very common reason given by authorities for traceurs being told to leave, but often it is a misguided reason. Traceurs are very respectable as a whole, and if anybody, whether it be an officer, a business owner, a parent – even a child – asks me or almost any other traceur to leave, we will do so quickly and quietly.

But more often than not, the people that are around us are more entertained that frightened or disturbed. There are thousands of videos of parkour online that show the looks of awe and enjoyment that people express while watching traceurs training. I was told by a bystander that watching me was like “watching an artist paint a picture. Except, you were using your body and environment instead of pen and paper. It was really inspiring.” Another time I was training with my brother, and I was getting ready to do a back-flip on a narrow ledge. While my brother was working the camera and I jumped for the back-flip, my brother saw two police officers walking towards us. In the video, his groan is audible and he mumbles “time to pack up.” however, the officers simply walked up to me, shook my hand and said “that was really awesome. You could probably charge people to watch you. Keep up the good work!”

Justin Deffner practicing parkour in Town Green Park The Woodlands

Unfortunately, not all officers are this understanding. I myself have been verbally abused and lied to by officers (who I will not name) who patrol The Woodlands Waterway. Just a few weeks ago, I had two friends from Houston come up to visit and take pictures of The Waterway with me. Within a few short minutes of us being at the stairwell where Six Pines Drive crosses over The Waterway – a beautiful spot right by the Marriott – an officer approached us and said he had gotten calls “fifteen minutes ago about some kids jumping around.” When I tried to explain to him that we had just arrived, and that we hadn’t done anything more than taken pictures, he became extremely angry and told me to stop lying to him. We had to listen to him tell us how he “knew” what we were doing, and we agreed to leave the Waterway immediately. My friends and I realize the officers are just doing their jobs, but we end up having to leave a beautiful, public place – all because of a misunderstanding. In the three years I’ve been training, I’ve only been asked by a civilian bystander to leave an area once. Other than that, most people are sorry to see me and my group walk away.

Now obviously, private property is another matter. Especially here in The Woodlands. I, along with the people who train with me here, know that climbing buildings, hopping over certain fences, and jumping around right outside a building is extremely disrespectful, and could be considered trespassing. One of the guidelines among those training here is that trespassing is an absolute “do not,” and that if anybody tells us we are on private property and asks us to leave, we MUST leave immediately, without causing any problems whatsoever – no ifs, ands, or buts. Statistics show parkour is also not as destructive as some claim it to be. Traceurs are respectful, and will not destroy any property. Doing so is reckless, needless, disrespectful, and destroys things to train on.

In a recent debate about opening a parkour-based park in Live Oak, Texas (just outside San Antonio), fliers were posted in opposition, asking “Do you want a haven for heroin addicts in your backyard? Do you support nefarious activity?” and even going so far as to say “Bikers break bones, skaters smoke pot, and parkour kills.” That is taking things to the extreme. Parkour is anything but nefarious and full of drug addicts. In fact, the art of parkour commonly pulls people away from drugs and into a better life. World-famous traceur Daniel Ilabaca, who has been in many commercials including a 5 RPM Gum commercial (where he is shown doing a variety of flips), shared his story in a video “Choose Not to Fall.” Ilabaca states “I used to do drugs, I used to do all those things. Then one day I saw a guy do a wall-flip in the streets… It was that individual and the way he looked at life! I never knew then, but I… know now, that’s what it was. It was a way for me to break out of this mold, this uncontrollable system I was in.” (full transcript here) The art and discipline of parkour pulled Ilabaca out of a hard, crime-filled life, and turned him into a respectable role model for many young people.

Ilabaca isn’t the only man to have his life change for the better through this beautiful art. My good friend Stephen Laster, also known as “Viking” for his tall stature and long hair, is one of the most well-known traceurs in Texas. He has performed in live shows, is constantly being interviewed, and is sponsored by Take Flight Apparel, one of the biggest names in parkour. However, he didn’t get this recognition due to any incredible skills; it was his story and his journey that sparks inspiration. In an interview with AmericanParkour.com, Stephen says, “Parkour literally changed my life. Before I had a bunch of problems, I was on probation, I was a smoker, a drinker, and I was overweight. Parkour and the [parkour] community have really helped me straighten everything out and get my life back on track.” Viking started off training when he was over 300 pounds. Needless to say, that isn’t really your typical athlete body structure. However, in just four years, he has completely turned his life around, and is always seeking to help others do the same.

Parkour is no less of a discipline than the martial arts (I would know, I teach martial arts as well!), and should not be restricted. The parkour community is a respectable lot, and the only problems people have with us is through misunderstanding. With law enforcement in Europe practicing the discipline, it should be accepted, even applauded for people to learn. The best thing to do is find some middle ground where this miscommunication can be cleared up.

A little bit about me: My name is Justin, and I’ve been doing parkour for just over three years. I am one of eleven athletes in Texas sponsored by Texas Parkour, and I currently teach gymnastics and tumbling at ASI Gymnastics, and martial arts at Cox ATA Martial Arts. I do stunt work and acting for indie films around the Houston area, and have fielded requests to do things such as dress up like Spider-Man for children’s birthday parties, be a “ninja” for videos, and perform for events for Plato’s Closet. I graduated from TWHS in 2011, and currently take classes for acting and film editing. I love living here in The Woodlands – I’ve been here for 18 years, and never once regretted it – and I hope to make parkour an acceptable discipline here before I move away! If you would like to discuss parkour with me, or have any thoughts about this, feel free to email me at XMAparkour@yahoo.com.

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April Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on April 3, 2013 in Business Spotlight, Services |

The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. SAAM raises public awareness about sexual violence, and helps to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

According to RAINN (2010) someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. It could be your son or daughter, your brother or sister, your spouse or a friend. On average, 44% of victims are under the age of 18; 80% are under age 30. As many as 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and an astonishing 97% of rapist will never face jail time. Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.

It is imperative that everyone takes a stand!

montgomery county women's center

rape abuse incest national network

Nina Carlson, owner of N-Style Hair Salon, located in Grogan’s Mill Village Center is working with the Montgomery County Women’s Center to create a world without violence. During April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, N Style Salon is collecting items for the victims of sexual assault. The items requested for donation include: deodorant, razors, shampoo & conditioner, hair brushes, combs, styling aids, body lotion, face wash, mascara, lipstick and rubber gloves (sizes medium and large).

As an extra incentive, N Style Salon is offering a 25% discount on the purchase of products donated for the awareness campaign through the month of April. Individuals and companies are being asked to participate with single items or cases. Items can be delivered to N Style Salon, 7 Switchbud Place, Suite 189 in The Woodlands (77380), Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM daily.

nina carlson and staff at n-style salon

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The Woodlands Iron Girl

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on March 10, 2013 in Recreation |

From the ‘how many would you tolerate’ and the ‘didja know’ department –

Did you know that The Woodlands Township Board of Directors recently almost voted on whether or not to host an “Iron Girl” (3 year plan type) event in The Woodlands to begin this fall? This event is (as the name describes) the female version of The Iron Man event, which is a the halfway mark on it’s 5 year Run through The Woodlands. The race is officially known as “Iron Girl,” and would be held on a Sunday in October, 2013 then in November in 2014 and 2015, with an estimated completion time of 10:30 AM. At the most recent board meeting, the primary concern regarding the road route is that it would pass near one of the largest churches in The Woodlands. Depending on the route, this could be either Lake Woodlands Drive, Lake Front Circle the major thoroughfare, Grogan’s Mill Road, or some combination thereof.

The Woodlands Iron WomanHere are some key facts from the World Triathlon Corporation Iron Girl presentation to The Woodlands CVB:

  • Three-year event starting October 6, 2013, second and third events in November (11/2/2014 & 11/1/2015).
  • The Iron Girl Triathlon consists of a 1.5-mile swim, a 15-mile bike and a 3-mile run.
  • The event is expected have 2,000+ participants.
  • Creates an opportunity for residents of The Woodlands to participate right at home.
  • Creates an opportunity for local hotels and retail businesses to generate sales which benefits The Woodlands Township in sales tax collection and hotel tax collection.
  • Creates an opportunity to create additional name value of The Woodlands being a “fit” community.
  • Iron Girl events provide women with a competitive platform, unique amenities and a fun and comfortable environment to set and reach their fitness goals.
  • Hundreds of volunteer opportunities for residents and businesses of The Woodlands to participate in the event
  • Iron Girl began in 2004 with two events, and currently has 18 events nationwide. The Woodlands is one of the [more than] 20 events planned for 2013.
  • This would be the only Iron Girl event in the Greater Houston market.

We know that when the event was initially presented to The Woodlands CVB on January 8, 2013, and subsequently to the Township Board on January 17, 2013, without a specific date included but with an option for either Saturday or Sunday during the first weekend in October. The vote to host the Iron Girl event was then tabled at each subsequent board meeting through early March, and is currently scheduled to be voted upon March 21, 2013. The plans are expected to be updated with route information at that time. According to the Iron Girl presentation, “venues for Iron Girl could include Northshore Park, Lake Woodlands, The Woodlands Waterway, and Town Green Park.” Exactly why or when the decision to hold the race on Sunday was made is unclear, however, Sunday was chosen at some point during this process as the Feb. 27, 2013 agenda calls for it as below:

• “Tabled a Host Venue Agreement with World Triathlon Corporation¹ regarding the proposed [Woodlands] Iron Girl event with a proposed date of Sunday, October 6, 2013 (The Board is schedule to make final decision at its Thursday, March 21, 2013 meeting scheduled at 9 a.m.)”

Board members Ed Robb and Mike Bass agreed that “..the number of similar [race] events in the community is an issue,” and “the race [Iron Girl] would be on Sunday…” Specifically, Board member Ed Robb pointed out routing traffic via Lake Woodlands Drive, and/or possibly the stretch of Lake Front Circle that connects Grogan’s Mill Road with Lake Woodlands Drive around “one of the community’s largest churches” – The Woodlands United Methodist Church, where Robb is senior pastor – could possibly cause problems for “thousands” of parishioners and visitors. Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said he wants to work with Iron Girl officials and the township to bring the event to the community without affecting residents. The Precinct 3 Commissioner’s Office maintains the roads in The Woodlands and would be involved with helping with road closures. Additionally, there were concerns regarding area resident tolerance levels of the addition of a ‘similar’ event; this would be the “fifth event like this in just over a seven month period,” according to Bass. Technically, it would be the sixth such event, in period just over nine months – and that’s just in Town Center. It would bring the annual total to seven similar events in The Woodlands in that same time frame, when you add the Muddy Trails races held in Village of Creekside Park.

Perhaps residents of Village of Panther Creek – and the community as a whole – might consider voicing their opinion about having another race (or road closure event, depending on your point of view) to the Township, or their favorite Board Member, in an effort to help them to make a better-informed decision. To our knowledge, the Township has not requested any resident input regarding the Iron Girl event.

The Woodlands Township Board of Directors meeting schedule usually consists of one board meeting, typically held at 9:00AM on the third Thursday of every month, and one board meeting, typically held at 6:00 PM on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Both meetings are held at offices of The Woodlands Township, 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard, and are open to the public. In accordance with state law, meeting notices are posted at least 72 hours in advance. This posting occurs at the Montgomery County Courthouse, inside the boundaries of the Township at its office building, and on The Woodlands Township website.

Current Iron Girl venues include: Atlanta, GA (triathlon), Austin, TX (triathlon), Bloomington, MN (duathlon), Cherry Creek, CO (triathlon), Clearwater, FL (1/2 marathon & 5K run/walk), Clermont, FL (triathlon), Columbia, MD (1/2 marathon & 5K run/walk), Columbia, MD (triathlon), Del Mar, CA (10K & 5K run/walk), Fountain Hills, AZ (10-Mile & 5K run/walk), Lake Las Vegas, NV (triathlon), Lake Zurich, IL (triathlon), Pleasant Prairie, WI (triathlon), Rocky Gap, MD (triathlon), Sandy Hook, NJ (triathlon), Seattle, WA (triathlon), Syracuse, NY (triathlon), Webster, MA (triathlon).

Iron Girl Triathlon event markets in the planning stages include: Canada, Chicago, Houston, Northern California, and outside New York City.

March 28, 2013 After suffering just over two months of postponing a vote, The Woodlands Township no longer has the opportunity to host and Iron Girl event as the World Triathlon Corp. has withdrawn their offer.

¹ The Iron Girl® Event is licensed by World Triathlon Corporation.

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Please Don’t Feed The Ducks!

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on February 18, 2013 in Recreation |

Waterfowl In The Woodlands

Spring is in the air, which means spending more time at all of the parks and ponds here in The Woodlands. Most all of the ponds around The Woodlands are home to a host of wildlife, including fish, turtles, herons, egrets, and of course, geese and ducks. Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of feeding ducks in the park or watching their own children feed them?

can you feed the ducks in the woodlands?

Unfortunately, though, not only are signs posted at all ponds throughout The Woodlands expressly prohibiting the feeding of ducks, more importantly, doing so is unhealthy for the ducks. Feeding the ducks at the ponds here in The Woodlands causes:

Unnatural behavior – The natural behavior of wild ducks is to spend most of their time in the water and steer clear of humans. Ducks which are used to being fed will hang around on the shore instead, waiting for food. Depending on where the park is located, this can sometimes lead to dangerous behavior, such as crossing a busy road to get where they’re used to being fed.

mallard ducks in the woodlands

Overcrowding – Too many chiefs, not enough Indians? Too many ducks in one area will lead to territorial aggression – both among the ducks, and in some cases, towards the very children that just wanted to feed them in the first place. While rare, ducks and geese around here have been known to chase and bite.

pekin ducks in the woodlands

Poor nutrition – Ducks eating human foods will suffer from malnutrition. Bread, crackers, chips, donuts and popcorn are a great source of carbohydrates – but they offer little other nutritional value for ducks. In fact, bread is the equivalent to junk food for the birds. The ducks and geese fill up on bread and crackers, instead of eating the nutritious, natural foods they need. This in turn will cause the ducks to suffer from heart disease, liver problems and excessive weight gain.

mallards and pekin ducks in the woodlands

Also problematic is the ducklings will not learn to forage for food, and will therefore be unable to survive without human help.

Spread of disease – All that bread, buns and crackers which are not eaten by the ducks will be left to rot. Ducks also poop in the place where they eat, further adding to the unhygienic nature of the area. Young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems can easily be infected by disease. Additionally, rats, mice and insects will also be attracted to the food, causing more spread of pestilence and disease.

muscovy ducks in the woodlands

Pollution – Rotting bread in the water will cause algae growth; a far more serious problem in some of our smaller ponds than Lake Woodlands, but it can still cause the under-oxygenation of the water, which will eradicate fish and other wildlife that live in or near the water.

egyptian geese in the woodlands

The best thing to do would be to obey the signs and not feed the ducks at all. But kids are kids, and if you’re going to let them feed the ducks, give them nutritious food instead. You can purchase commercial duck feed, cracked corn, barley, oats, birdseed or other grains – or give them grapes cut in half, a thawed bag of frozen peas or corn, or kale, romaine or other leafy greens.

Finally, if you’re feeding ducks as a way to avoid waste, a better solution would be to add your bread to a compost pile, or use stale bread in recipes such as croutons, bread pudding and stuffing.

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4

Odd – Even Watering Days

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on December 29, 2012 in Woodlands Texas |

Montgomery County Water Restrictions 2013

Most of southeast Texas is or was under a serious drought in 2012 and while we did get some much needed rain in the last few months of the year, a water shortage remains.
 Community leaders in The Woodlands have implemented water restricitons to help reduce the critical water shortage. Begining January 1, 2013 Homeowners here will be required to water just two days a week at most.

Conservation is key. The population in Montgomery County has grown so much in recent years that those living in The Woodlands alone used 7 billion gallons of water last year. All of that water coming from nearby area aquifers. “We are withdrawing or pumping more from the underground supply than is being replenished,” said James Stinson, the general manager of The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency. Stinson also stated that The Woodlands and Montgomery County faces a pending water supply crisis, and they’re trying to reduce water waste. One of the best ways, they say, is to educate the public, starting by convincing people that their yards don’t need as much moisture as they think. Fewer waterings in longer durations will help build a deeper root system while saving countless thousands of gallons over the course of time.


Conserver Water

Over-watering is the most frequent mistake The Woodlands’ homeowners make in lawn care. Too much water promotes a shallow root system and this causes grass and plants to be much more vulnerable to hot/dry weather. During hot and dry conditions, native plants require no more than one-inch of water per week. This should be done in one or two applications per week, which will allow water to soak deep into the soil and promote deeper root growth thereby increasing the lawn’s ability to withstand hot summer days.

A healthy turf requires no more than one, maybe two deep water applications per week if it doesn’t rain. So here’s the recommended defined watering schedule:

  • Odd house address water on Saturday and Wednesday
  • Even house address water on Sunday and Thursday

Don’t water at all if the grass doesn’t need it! It will cost you $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second, $200 for each additional. But those fines won’t be implemented till June so Montgomery County Residents will have six months of adjustment time before they will face those fees which incidentaly is when lawn watering becomes more prevalent.


Defined Watering Schedule for The Woodlands Texas

source: The Woodlands Joint Powers Association

WaterOddEven.com

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23

Christmas Light Displays In The Woodlands

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on December 7, 2012 in Town Center, Woodlands Events, Woodlands Texas |

Christmas Light Displays
In The Woodlands

Where To See The Best Holiday Light Displays
In The Woodlands, TX

Christmas Lights can be found all around The Woodlands, throughout the Township’s communities and neighborhoods. Some of the best displays can be found in some of the oldest neighborhoods of Panther Creek, and Alden Bridge (See scenic drive in map below). Because The Woodlands is made up entirely of master-planned neighborhoods, they are ideal for Christmas Lights Displays. These are completely residential sites so the best time for viewing is between the hours of 7:00 – 10:00 PM. Looking at the holiday lights is a Christmastime activity that everyone enjoys.

holiday light displays to drive by in the woodlands, tx

Panther Creek

One of the best light displays we’ve seen in any neighborhood in The Woodlands, resides in the Creek Pines neighborhood nestled within the Village of Panther Creek. The neighborhood has a 12-year legacy for its holiday light display that honors the memory of a previous resident by the name of Cort Martin. Cort lost his life in an auto-train accident on FM 1488 in 2000, his senior year at The Woodlands High School. Looping around Tangle Brush Drive to Cape Chestnut Drive, you can enter Creek Pines at either end from Glen Loch Drive. The houses on the streets appear to have at least 85% participation, with a lot of the homes putting up a significant amount of lights and displays. This year, the homeowner at 8 Amara Court has coordinated his light display to several favorite Christmas tunes – eight to ten in all – which run about a minute apart. While you’re on the street, you can pick up the tune in your own car by tuning your stereo to 87.7 FM, though if the weather’s nice, it may be better to hear the music directly from their outdoor speakers. Here’s a video we shot featuring one of our personal favorites; Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Alden Bridge

The second of best light displays that we’ve seen so far comes from a subscriber to our Facebook page, who pointed out the Bethany Bend neighborhood where most of the neighbors have a giant candy cane marking their driveway. Though all the homes that participate have a candy cane, everyone seems to have a different idea as to how to decorate it; many are lit, but some are simply wrapped in ribbon or tinsel. The various lighting and yard decorating doesn’t exactly stick with a uniform theme, either; some of the more uniquely decorated have displays which involve both traditional manger scenes as well as jolly old Santa Claus. But because so many homes do decorate, driving through can be a feast for the eyes. Once you enter the neighborhood at Bethany Bend Drive, go left or right to circle around on Bethany Bend Circle. Many of the homes on Redland Place inside the circle also participate.

Also in the Village of Alden Bridge is a single street called June Breeze Place, which has a coordinated, Seussical, “Whoville” display. We first learned of the neighborhood through a follower on Twitter, where (according to another Facebook friend) one gentleman in the neighborhood carves all the characters out of wood and paints them. He reportedly matches them up to the children who live in each house on the street, with unique aspects such as if a kid is in the band, the ‘Whovian’ in their yard plays in the band too. Eventually, he plans to have one in every yard, but it’s a lot of work and will take time. The night we drove through, though, we didn’t get to enjoy the full effect as about half of the participating homeowners didn’t have the lights on. As the holidays draw nearer, however, we’re sure it’s going to be much more impressive.

Central Park

This is the first year for the Christmas Tree in Central Park (Town Center) to be synchronized with music and lights. The 70′ tree is dressed in more than 25,000 multi-colored lights and topped with a Texas-sized star. The musical tree will perform nightly throughout the holiday season at the top and bottom of each hour.

College Park

Our favorite musical, synchronized Christmas lights display in The Woodlands this year can be found in Harper’s Landing, in the Village of College Park. The Dodd Family Christmas consists of a synchronized music and light show featuring more than 20,000 lights, 278 channels of computerized control and 50 sequenced songs and spots that are clearly broadcast on 95.1 FM, so you can listen from your car. On weekends, there are speakers playing outdoors as well. The self-proclaimed “Crazy Christmas Light Guy” began building his display way back in 2001, but didn’t start animating it until 2005. He starts each season’s construction in mid-June, and starts setting up the yard before Thanksgiving. Check out the Dodd Family Christmas at 62 W. Knightsbridge Drive, The Woodlands 77385. The 2012 Hours are from 6:00 – 10:00 PM Sunday – Thursday, and 6:00 PM – midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Check out their Facebook info page for the most current information.

Sterling Ridge

We found another house in the Village of Sterling Ridge on Player Manor Drive. While this house won’t win the most lights competition, the owners did a nice enough job.

If you’re looking more for Christmas light displays you can walk though while out with your family, kids or loved ones, there are of course the Township’s displays at Winter Wonderland on the corner of Six Pines Drive and Lake Robbins Drive, directly outside of the Ice Rink – as well as the musically-coordinated, performing Christmas tree in Central Park at Market Street – all in Town Center.

entrance to whoville in the woodlands village of alden bridge

Whatever you’re looking for in Christmas light displays in The Woodlands, with the variety of homes and businesses throughout the Villages, you’re sure to catch an eye-full anywhere you go; you just have to know where to look!

Chris Dodd reminded us that his friend Clyde, recently of Montgomery and now in Conroe, has a spectacular display up north. Master Elf Clyde Dearing has a 15-song show consisting of approximately 75,000 lights (give or take a light or two), pulling approximately 200 amps (all on), controlled by 512 Light-O-Rama channels, connected by over two miles of extension cords and controlled by a dedicated PC. Here’s a small taste of the Dearing Dazzle in Conroe:

Dearing Dazzle

The Dearing Dazzle – Christmas Eve Sarajevo

Did we miss your neighborhood, or one that you’ve seen in your wandering through the woods? Let us know and we’ll add it to our article. Impress us and we’ll take photos as well! Leave as much information as you can in the comments below, including street names, intersections, neighborhood names and Villages to help us get the article updated as quickly as possible.

Lake Windcrest

Lake Windcrest Estates in Magnolia, Texas – 4.3 miles north of The Woodlands on FM 1488 has at least one house with lights that are synchronized to music. There are several other decorated houses in the area; several of them are worth the 5 minute drive.

holiday light displays to drive by at Lake Windcrest, Magnolia, Texas

Synchronized lights & Music at Lake Windcrest on FM 1488

Related: Christmas Activities, Winter Wonderland

Houston Christmas Lights

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6

Taco USA The Woodlands

Posted by Woodlands Traveler on November 16, 2012 in Business Spotlight, Restaurants |

 

Taco USA

Business Spotlight

A couple weeks back, we stumbled upon the news of a new restaurant coming to The Woodlands. What we didn’t know was that this new restaurant is actually the reincarnation of an old restaurant, and what that means to the thousands of fans Taco USA has across Texas – most especially from Nacogdoches. So we sat down with owners Chad Byers and Jeff Rhame to get the whole story.

It all started with pizza. Chad’s father, Ottis Byers, had several years of continuous success with a company called Pizza Management International, a company that later became the largest Pizza Hut franchisee. Wanting to branch out, PMI created Taco USA and opened their first location in Del Rio, Texas in 1976. The relevance of the year inspired the theme for the name and logo, as it was the nation’s bicentennial. However, within the first two years and two stores (the second was in Lufkin) it became glaringly obvious to everyone that PMI, a company known for their success with pizza had no business attempting Tex-Mex, and Taco USA nearly became a short-lived pipe dream. Thankfully, Ottis was well-aware of what the real problem was (it was the food. It was awful.) and had the wherewithal to change the recipes… After buying Taco USA from PMI. Such a simple answer, but as thousands of SFA alumni can attest to, the right one.

While the Byers family owned and operated Taco USA, it was truly a family venture. Ottis and Mrs. Byers could be found behind the counter and one or another location just about any time, ensuring the quality and integrity of every dish they served; an uncommon sight at your ‘typical’ fast food joint. Jeff began working at Taco USA in Nacogdoches at 15 years old, joined by his childhood friend Chad a couple of months later, when he turned 15 as well. Though Jeff would move on after just a couple of years to pursue a successful year in financial planning, Chad stayed with the family business – working his way up the ladder and managing the two Nacogdoches locations for many years. Taco USA proved to be overwhelmingly successful with Ottis Byers at the helm for the next 14 years, until, called to move his life in a different direction, Mr. Byers sold the business to some first-time restaurateurs. The new owners made significant changes to the menu, which would prove fatal – Taco USA closed it’s doors only two years later in 1994.

the first taco usa opened in 1976

But that was then. Now, nearly 20 years later, Chad and Jeff are planning on opening the first new Taco USA right here in The Woodlands – at the Grogan’s Mill Village Center on South Millbend and Switchbud Place. And while an in-line, store-front location is one of the major differences between this new incarnation of Taco USA and the stand-alone, self-contained locations of yore, the other potential differences will actually be very few.

For starters, Taco USA is still very much in the family – Chad Byers, having recently dissolved his transportation company, is intimately involved in every step of the process of bringing Taco USA back. Not only does he have all of the original recipes perfected by his parents, as a one-time manager and life-long foodie, he has first-hand experience at crafting all of those memorable dishes.

When he’s not working with the electrician, contractor or architect, Chad is in the kitchen re-creating the Taco Burgers, burritos, chorizitos and Conquistadors.

taco usa restaurants return to texas landscape

Chad is also working with suppliers to ensure only the best quality ingredients are going to be utilized. “Fast food doesn’t have to be low-quality,” Chad told us. “There’s no reason good ingredients can’t be used and still served at prices that everyone can afford.” And just like it was all the way back in the ’70s, everything will be made fresh.

Prep work in the kitchen starts as early as 6:00 AM for an 11:00 AM lunch service. And some preparation – like the infamous red beans Taco USA is known for – actually begins the night before. “The beans have to be red. They aren’t called ‘brown beans’ or just ‘beans,’ they’re red beans,” Chad explained. They don’t come in a can to be scooped out into a steamer dish. Taco USA‘s red beans take the better part of a day to make, from scratch, every time.

Though Taco USA is a fast food restaurant at heart, the personal touches and potential conveniences are apparent in the details. For example, parents arriving with infants and toddlers in tow will appreciate high chairs on casters available right when you enter, so children can be safely seated without keeping your arms full while you place your order at the counter. Additionally, though you order at the counter, your meal will be delivered to your table by a server. The menu is diverse enough that those seeking a gluten-free meal, vegetarian alternatives and a selection of kid-friendly choices in smaller portions. There are even a few burgers and fries on the menu, should someone in your party not be in the mood for Tex-Mex. Taco USA is also building out a full patio, allowing for diners to enjoy the potential cool breezes off of Lake Harrison to the north of the center.

Whether a long-time fan or a potential new customer, from the sounds of things you’ll find something you love at Taco USA when they open this winter. We know we’re looking forward to it!

Taco USA is located at the Grogan’s Mill Village Center, between Woodforest National Bank and The UPS Store at 7 Switchbud Place, The Woodlands 77380. For more information about Taco USA, check out their Facebook page, and find them in TheWoodlandsEvents.com restaurant directory.

Read our Burger Review for Taco USA on TWEats.

The Taco USA Menu

AB

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