• Rain, Rain

    It looks like it’s mostly over for now, but we’ve had a ton of water come down overnight and this morning. We’ll probably get more (the remnants of Tropical Storm Isaias) as the week progresses.

    So yesterday we went on a ride, and a pretty big one: up to Delaware Water Gap via Cherry Valley Road, then back via National Park Road and the Plainfield Trail, for a total of about 80 miles. Our ride was about eight hours moving time, but we also stopped for (a disappointing) lunch in Delaware Water Gap, a visit to the cave on 611, a dip in the Slateford Creek waterfall, and several stops to say hi to people Scott knew — we went with Scott & Kellyn. Our total time was probably 11 hours, 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM. What an awesome day! …and we seized it but good. Dinner was hoagies from Carl’s Corner, and bedtime was a bit early.

    In about an hour we’ll be leaving for our quartet meeting, minus our violist who is dealing with water in her basement. It is currently both drizzling and sunny out; it’ll probably be very muggy but beautiful at the barn where we play.


  • Hot Hot Hot

    We’re deep into the summer heat now. I got in a few rides in anyway last week, and as usual found myself more comfortable on the bike than off — for each one I was fine until I got home, then took a long cold shower and a nap…

    Yesterday was my “ground-truthing” trip down the Delaware Towpath from Tinicum Park to New Hope, to verify all the access points I could find. Just as with the section from Riegelsville to Tinicum, my “find access point candidates with GIS, load them as waypoints on the Garmin, and mark any differences as more waypoints” method worked great; there were only a few problematic locations, easily fixed. What did go wrong, or seemed to go wrong at first, was my drive to the start: I drove down the river, then pulled into “Tinicum Park,” and got the last parking place, but it turned out to be a different section (for access to Giving Pond), miles from my target destination and not particularly near a towpath access point either. Luckily, my own map found me an easy way to the towpath, some singletrack over to a side road… On the way there I passed a woman with her kids, who were also looking for the D&L — they were going to park at Frenchtown but “Frenchtown was a madhouse” — it was a beautiful summer Saturday, sunny and hot, and apparently so many kayakers and tubers and swimmers were out that all the parks and towns along the river were completely full, except the two parking places we found. So my mistake actually paid off!

    Like I said, I was comfortable riding, and there were plenty of others out who chose cycling too, but the Delaware was packed. There were so many boaters and tubers out, individually and in flotillas, that it looked like entire cities were afloat, the entire way down the river. New Hope was also crowded, but not unusually so. I did what I had to, rode back, and then went home to my shower and nap. About 37 miles, maybe 4 hours total riding.

    The riding and the heat are having their effect, I’m happy to say: I’ve been 178 lbs for most of this week. I’ve been flirting with “under 180” for a while now, reaching it and then backsliding, maybe this will be more permanent. I am currently eating diced ham and eggs with diced vegetables, so we’ll see where things go.


  • Chillin’

    We did a “socially-distant bike check” with Scott on Sunday, down at Sand Island. (CAT has done this before, offering free tire pressure checks and air, maps and such like.) There were a lot of cyclists out, and we got a few takers, but not as many as previous weekends. Still, it was a nice, productive way to start the day.

    We finished just before 11, when Kellyn, Diana, and Rick & Shari joined us for a ride down to the rope swing outside Freemansburg. The rope swing was gone — the tree it was tied to had been cut down by the town — but as Anne said, the river was still there, so we parked our bikes and took a dip.

    It was sooooo cooooold! It took a while to get all the way under, but once we got used to it we were in heaven. Eventually John and Donna joined us with the boys, and we splashed about for a good two hours or so. We found a spring feeding into the river, which was even colder… Once again (like at Glen Onoko) we were cold enough to forget what hot even felt like. Anne remarked about having “goose bumps in July” at one point when the breeze picked up. We were reminded of the heat again when we rode home, but we stayed refreshed all the rest of the day.

    When we got home, Anne noticed that we had a dead bird stuck on the front of our car; we probably hit it on our way home from quartet practice on Saturday. I went out and removed it after I showered and changed. The bird itself was beautiful, patterned almost like a hawk though it wasn’t one. It had died a hard death: it got its head caught in our grille, and likely broke its neck when it got hit. It still had an insect in its mouth when I removed it from the grille. The whole thing was funny and sad, and beautiful and kind of gross all at the same time.

    Today was a bit of a low energy day for me at least (Anne was busy), just some laundry and cello practice. I finally got my Trail Amenities database back to where it was before the big OS upgrade dabacle, now I can start moving forward again with exploring the last parts of the trail. I have tto say — upgrade disasters aside — I am really liking this new system.


  • High Summer

    We went out picking blueberries today, a sure sign — assuming we find ripe blueberries — that we’re into the main part of summer. We did collect quite a bucketful, but the season hasn’t quite arrived. It was a bit funny, we went up “with” Donna, parked next to her car and texted with her every so often, but never saw her — she got there before us and was a bit further along the lake. Now that is how you do social distancing!

    We managed to see Ben and Candace this weekend; we met them on Broad Mountain and cycled in to the top of Glen Onoko Falls. We were a little ahead of the crowds and had the place mostly to ourselves for a bit, but eventually the top was inundated with hikers who had climbed up from the bottom. Still it was nice, picnicking and cooling our feet in the icy creek water. We rode from there to the nearest overlook and got caught in a heavy downpour, which we watched move through the gorge. Very dramatic sky and hills, and pleasant despite (or maybe because of) the cold rain, but hikers we saw earlier showed up and so we moved on. It was a shame to have to ride on those old trails, old favorites with a lot of history but now almost ruined by the heavy “ballast” stones the Game Commission put down. (We speculated that they did it to make the trails less enjoyable for bikers, but it’s probably something they had to do to armor them, after allowing motor vehicles on the trails.) Ben and Candace were not on mountain bikes, so the “improved” trails were especially stinky for them, but I think they still managed to have a good time. We grabbed some subs in town afterward, and ate them at the park up the street from where Anne grew up.

    Yesterday was a ride up the towpath with Anne’s friend Bernie, a local blogger and cyclist who is part of her legal crowd. We got up to Catasauqua but took the road from there — Bernie was pretty vehement that the unimproved trail sections were not his cup of tea. Coffee in Northampton, then we took the Nor-Bath Trail and local roads back to Bethlehem.

    It looks like it’ll be hot and rainy for the next few days, so hey! Rest day.


  • The Update

    Bike:

    So Sunday’s ride was pretty nice. It just turned out to be Scott & Kellyn and us, out of the dozen or so people who might have shown up; we rode to Milford and back, via Bucks County and the river road on the NJ side of the Delaware: 46 miles, about 5 hours combined riding and hanging out — we got coffee and snacks in Milford, stopped to pick berries on occasion and generally did not challenge any speed records. We may have been a small group, but we saw plenty of other cyclists, especially in New Jersey, including some pretty big group rides and a surprisingly large percentage of familiar faces. Great minds think alike!

    Monday and Tuesday were rest days (and stinking hot anyway), Wednesday was a ride to breakfast with Judy in Easton, and Thursday was a towpath ride. Tomorrow we meet Ben and Candace for a ride on Broad Mountain.

    Cello:

    At the suggestion of my teacher I busted out some of my duet books and have been practicing the songs I find there, as well as the new pieces we’re working on for the quartet. I’m still doing the lesson stuff, but it looks like my emphasis is shifting from exercises and learning experiences to actually playing music again.

    Computer:

    This is where things are not so amusing…

    I have been getting notifications that my OS version is about to reach end-of-life, so I should upgrade my system. Most of the time, adding and upgrading software is beyond easy on Linux, but I’ve always found the major system upgrades to be somewhere between major pain in the ass and complete disaster, so avoid them as much as I can, but that time had come at last and it was a nightmare right from the start: the main “press this button to upgrade” software did not work, so I had to revert to a lot of internet research and the command line. Even that didn’t work at first, but I was able to see what the problem was, and each time the upgrade ran it loaded a few more of the packages it needed. (I finally wrote a one-off loop to just keep restarting the process every time it failed, and left it to work on its own.)

    That took several days of messing around and (slow) downloading, but finally the upgrade was ready to happen, and that part went without a hitch. Everything looked OK, but this was where my real troubles began.

    The most important part of my computer life these days is the GIS part, and my GIS projects depend on two pieces of software: the Postgresql database, and a Postgresql extension called PostGIS, which enables the database to work with geographic information. For minor upgrades, these are kind of complicated but not too problematic; for major upgrades it can be incredibly tricky. These are not things I expected to be upgraded by an automated system, but they were. The upgrade was careful to not mess with the old Postgresql version — it installed the new system alongside it and left both running — but it was less careful with the PostGIS stuff: it erased the old version, which means that the geo data in the old database cannot be read. (I spent a day trying and failing to reinstall the old version.) It’s actually worse than if the data had been erased, because I can still see it there, just out of reach…

    Of course the proper move would have been to make backups just before the upgrade, but of course I didn’t — did I mention that our 2TB NAS drive, which we use for backups, just crapped out a few weeks ago? (That’s not why I didn’t make backups, but it is another thing I need to vent about.) My next best alternative — my only alternative — was to go back to my old laptop, dump the databases and reinstall them on my new version. This would mean that everything I added to the database since I got the the new laptop would be lost, but I did keep most of the preliminary data and — I hope — I should be able to reproduce the workflow to get it back.

    So yesterday was the big move, which wasn’t without a few hitches here and there, but I got the scary part over with, if not the bulk of the work. For now I need a few days off, maybe some time lying on the fainting couch.


  • Independence Socially Distant Quartet

    Happy Fourth Of July! I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I have always loved Independence Day fireworks, but there have been so many fireworks in the neighborhood in the past month that I’m heartily sick of them.

    Anyway, we celebrated this morning by getting together for the first time with our new quartet: Jeff and Anne on violins, Digg on viola, and me with the cello. We met at Jeff’s farm, outdoors and socially distanced but under a barn roof to block sun (and rain — luckily there was none). I was the “new guy” in this bunch, and also by far the weakest player, so had a bit of trepidation but we all took to it right away and played fine. We spent a bit of time on a Mozart quartet, then worked on portions of one by Schubert, and before we knew it three hours had passed. We’ll probably do this again in a few weeks, an I can hardly wait. What a fun morning!

    Tomorrow is a road ride down to Milford.


  • More Summer Biking

    I’ve been cycling about 110 miles a week over the last month, a mix of on- and off-road, with mileages running between 15-40 miles a ride — my fitness is starting to build back up, though I do need to build endurance for longer distances. There have been plenty of mellow group road rides with friends, plus my adventure with Doug the other day, and a whole lot of toodling up and down the towpath.

    Today was an afternoon MTB ride at Nox with Renee and Hope. They are both much faster/fitter than I am, but both were on hard-tails and Renee was nursing a sore back from landscaping, so I had a shot at keeping up, especially since it was more a social ride than anything else — I hadn’t see either of them, in real life and on a bike, in quite a while. Here’s our ride, a fairly standard Nox loop:

    The pace wasn’t difficult, but we didn’t dawdle either, and the ride passed fairly quickly. It was nice to catch up with those guys and hear the latest news — Hope is now a grandmother! (The kid is now 5 months old, so I guess this counts as old news to everyone but me.) There were plenty of other people out too, no one I knew but there were a whole lot of parent/child groups, which was pretty cool to see.


  • Sentimental Journey

    Doug and I did a really nice ride yesterday, starting out on the Switchback outside Jim Thorpe, then doing a hike-a-bike up one of the descents and into the strip mine trails on top of Pisgah Mountain. My agenda was to look for and photograph some mountain laurel before the opportunity slipped away, since I was still mad at myself for not going at all last year; Doug I think was just up for a decent ride.

    mountain laurel blossoms
    Mountain Laurel Blossoms

    Neither of us had been in that particular neck of the woods in quite a few years, and though we started out with a vaguely-formed plan to check out “the Blue Ponds” — old quarries, hundreds of feet deep, that had filled with water and were now swimming holes, and I’d guess I hadn’t seen them in maybe 15 years — we eventually were just in “hey this trail looks cool let’s take it” mode. We saw some ponds, but not the ones we started out to find, but we were having too much fun to worry about it.

    bicycle in flowery forest
    The Ridge Top

    Eventually we stopped to look around and realized we were probably lost — everything looked so semi-familiar! Like we’d maybe been there, or someplace just like it, only a few minutes ago, or years, or decades… Actually we were kind of lost, but my GPS had maps that seemed accurate enough, and though we were far off from where we thought we were we could find our way back. We continued on.

    That’s when the rain started, which fogged up my glasses and totally flummoxed my GPS unit’s touch screen; the going was a bit tougher but we were still making progress until we found some more cool trails, which really didn’t go the right way but were awesome… The sun came back out, we rode on, and eventually worked our way back to the Lungbuster and down to the lake. What a great day!

    So anyway, that was our ride in words and pictures, here’s a map of what we did:

    Open that map and you’ll find plenty more photos, which are connected (on the map) to the locations I took them.


  • What Is Your Quest?

    I’ve been moving forward with the additional D&L access and amenities points for my project, but the trail sections south of Riegelsville are terra incognita, especially when it comes to trail access, so I relied on GIS to find access points: I split the road network into “trail” and “not trail” sections, and intersection points (that aren’t at bridges) made for pretty good access candidates; some closer map inspections verified a few obvious trailheads, and weeded out some things like private drives. A lot still needed to be verified via “ground truthing” though, and so the other day I went out for a ride, starting from Riegelsville, south along the towpath to Tinicum Park.

    I had my candidate points loaded in my GPS so I could see on the map when I came upon one; I could add locations I’d missed, and delete false positives as I spotted them, and by the time I was done I should have a pretty good idea of how to get on and off the trail. This method worked really well, and the only real problems were judgement calls at what seemed like private access points. (Things are a little different in Bucks County, there are some wealthy homes between the trail and the river, with their own driveways and footbridges, and while some crossings are obviously marked “Private – No Trespassing,” others were maintained, and painted, as if they were park property.) Judgement calls, and I think I made the right calls, but for the most part it didn’t matter — all these these access points were too far from any amenities to be useful.

    It was easy and pleasant work, and I took pictures on the way back:

    Total distance, out and back, was about 24 miles, and the ride took about two and a half hours. I have the new access points and amenities incorporated into my map.


  • A Movie Recommendation

    Posted on by Don

    It was a total fluke, I just happened to note it among several movie reviews on Vox, but The Vast of Night caught my eye the other day, and since it seemed like something we both would enjoy we watched it over the past two nights.

    We were both riveted, leaning in (along with the main characters) as some old woman tells her creepy tale, bedazzled by incredible camera work, and totally sucked in to what might have just been conventional sci-fi if the story were told less skillfully. But it was told skillfully, almost hypnotically, and the real story was more about the characters and atmosphere than any “and then this happened next” plot, even though that part was pretty good too.

    I suppose it’ll be in theaters eventually, but we saw it on Amazon Prime. See it there, or on the theater, or maybe at a drive-in for that full Fifties vibe, you’ll be glad you did.