A Short #Tableau Data Story – #1 (circa 1986)


I’m going to write a series of short stories related to real data gathered during my lifetime. The data was collected when the events happened and is now visualized in Tableau. If you want to blame anyone for this series, you can point the finger at Brenda Akers of Tableau.

Every time we get together,┬áBrenda has this way of making me tell all kinds of Tableau data stories. In fact, last week she coerced me into traveling back to one of my favorite spots – Austin, TX. She twisted my arm and told me that I could give a keynote presentation at a customer appreciation conference if I wanted to.

Well, that sounded like a good idea, so Toni and I hopped aboard a big old jet airliner. I ended up giving a talk on global warming as visualized in Tableau, despite having a laptop that didn’t want to display the presentation for me!

The night before the talk, Brenda somehow manipulated me into telling a few Tableau data stories. One of the stories was this one, although I hadn’t done the work in Tableau to verify the data. Well, now that work is done and this story is ready for consumption.

The upcoming stories are all true, and I promise to keep them short.


During the summer of 1986, I was getting ready for my second year of graduate school. I was physically fit, so I thought it would be a great idea to ride my bicycle from Carbondale, IL to Fort Worth, TX, as shown in Figure 1. Despite getting hit by a truck in central Arkansas, I managed to complete the journey in good health and spirits.


the Ride

Figure 1- The approximate route I took on my bike from Carbondale, IL to Fort Worth, TX.



Being a grad student, I didn’t have much money. Therefore, I packed my bike with some camping gear (Figure 2) and hit the road in late July, 1986.



Figure 2 – My Schwinn touring bike got the job done. This was from the days when toe clips were the rage as clipless pedals were still not mainstream.



There are all kinds of stories to tell from this journey, but since this is a short Tableau data story, I’ll keep it focused.

Entering Texas on July 31, 1986

On July 31, 1986, I crossed into Texas from Arkansas in the town of Texarkana. I stopped and took a picture of my bike while it was leaning on the “Welcome to Texas” sign.

Texas welcomed me with some serious heat that particular day. About 5 years ago on April 4, 2012, I wrote the description of that day and tagged it to that picture. The description is to the right of the picture (in the Info section) as shown in Figure 3.



Figure 3 – This was 1986 and it was hotter then hell. Many years later, I rode in the real race called “Hotter than Hell 100” in Witchita Falls, TX.



For two consecutive days, the air temperatures were 105 and 106, with heat indices of 125 and 126 (Figure 4). As you can see from the chart, these were “extreme danger” days. However, when I was 23 years old, I was invincible.



Figure 4 – Air temps of 105 coupled with 50% humidity will lead to a heat index of 125.


Now that I have over 126 million daily temperature readings from around the world, I thought it would be fun to verify the quantitative parts of this story. As shown in Figure 5, the Tableau dashboard shows that the maximum temperature on July 31, 1986, was 105.1 deg F in Texarkana, TX, at monitoring station USC00418942.


Figure 5 – It really was 105 deg when I passed through Texarkana.


Final Thoughts

One day, I’m going to write the whole story of this journey. I’ve got my notebook that contains the details. Until then, you will have to wait to read about how a stranded trucker saved my life a couple of days later as Mother Earth tried to suck every water molecule out of my body.

Thanks for reading my first short Tableau data story.


One thought on “A Short #Tableau Data Story – #1 (circa 1986)

  1. Hi Ken, your stories are very fascinating. I can’t even believe that you could bike for such a long distance – I kept checking the distance a few more times to see whether my eyes are failing me. I would definitely interested to learn your non-Tableau insights/reflections from the journey, whenever time permits for you.

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