• Category Archives day by day
  • This is the category closest to just being a plain diary. Places I go, things I do, people I see, what’s happening in my life.

  • 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’

    Posted on by Don

    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

    Posted on by Don

    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

    Posted on by Don

    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.


  • Speaking of Eating

    We’ve been eating a lot of salad greens, and also turnip greens (that come with the turnips), and I turned to an old go-to recipe: pasta and tuna with wilted greens. I learned the “tuna in olive oil over pasta” thing from my work friend Vito, probably more than 20 years ago at this point, and over the years I modified the recipe to add spring greens. (I actually wrote up a vegetarian version — sans the tuna — for a recipe exchange once.) We had it with tuna one time this week, and another time I made it with smoked mussels. Both were excellent…

    Meantime, this is what I wrote ten years ago.


  • Some Projects

    We’ve been watching our shows, and getting out when we can for walks and bike rides, but what else have we been up to?

    Gardening

    I did a bit of cleanup in the front, but we’ve been mostly working in the backyard, and most of the gardening so far has been food rather than ornamental: last week we ripped up the weeds in our old garden and worked in a bunch of compost. Anne had planted things like radishes a few weeks ago in a separate raised bed, which are coming up nicely, and with the old garden back in play we have three more beds starting to sprout.

    We also have a bunch of day-lilies I planted a year or so ago — they were gifts from when Lorraine thinned her own garden — which I had given up for dead, but this year they came up strong and hardy, and look to be in good shape. So, I cleaned out the weeds that might choke them, and also put, in the same spot, a few potted herbs we had languishing in the kitchen. We’ve had a few freezes since then, so we’ll see how the herbs fare.

    Here are a few photos from the backyard:

    The Coffee Table

    This was purely Anne’s project. We have a coffee table in the living room that I got from my parents when I moved out in 1990. It had originally been a gift from my Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Ed, and they probably gave it to my parents in the early 1970’s; family lore had it that it was made from “driftwood.” (I believe that it’s a merchant shipping “hatch cover” similar to the ones shown here.)

    Anyway, the table’s surface has been getting worse over the years, and Anne, who often sits at the table and gets splinters, finally decided to do something about it. So, she took took the top off, planed and sanded it (much easier to say here, it took her days of hard work), then stained and sealed it (more days, more work), and then we put it all back together yesterday. It looks beautiful, better than it has in decades.

    coffee table
    The old coffee table, sanded, stained and sealed.

    Brewing

    It turns out that the homebrew store is still open — you can order online, and (several days later) when your order is ready, you drive down and get it placed in your trunk. So that’s what we did last week, ordering the ingredients for two batches of beer. We picked up the ingredients on Saturday, and brewed the first batch — our Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale clone — yesterday. There really wasn’t much to say about the process, just the usual cooking and cleaning, but now we have several gallons bubbling away in the corner of the kitchen. It should be ready in about two weeks, and we’ll be making our next batch — our Rye IPA tomorrow morning. I documented some of the process:

    Towpath Amenities

    This is what’s actually been taking up most of my time and energy lately. I have a database of access points along the Lehigh Towpath, along with nearby “trail amenities” like bathrooms or restaurants, from an earlier project that has evolved over time. What I want to do now is expand it to include all access points and amenities along the entire D&L. I broke this up into three parts: the first part being everything north from Northampton to White Haven, where I would also develop (and document) the “work flows” a little better, then the second part would be the sections from Riegelsville south to Bristol. (The final task will be adding the undeveloped sections — from Allentown to Northampton, and from White Haven north — but I suspect that these areas will need a bit more re-conceptualizing first.)

    My first steps were pretty easy: I used an OpenStreetMap search plugin in QGIS to get all the roads near the river, then did other queries to get all the nearby amenities I track that are known to OpenStreetMap — this time I kept copies of my actual queries so I can reproduce them. I combined all the amenities into one layer, then used some spatial queries (and a list of official trailheads) to find all the access points where the surrounding roads contact the trail. So far so good…

    The next step would to identify all the amenities that are actually accessible via local roads, and this part wouldn’t be as easy. I wrote a script to do this when I did the original project, but that script is no longer compatible with the newer version of QGIS so I had to rewrite it. That (aside from typing errors) turned out to be more straightforward than I thought it would be, though it still took several days, especially tracking down and debugging those typos. Along the way I also made it more general, added improvements etc, and now it works really well.

    I haven’t done the final step yet, which is to move the selected amenities over to my database, because I’m not yet happy with the quality of the new amenities data. “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” as the saying goes, and the OpenStreetMap amenities turned out have a lot of missing contact info, outdated info like closed restaurants, and amenities I know about that are just plain missing from the data. So I’ve been slogging through the list, searching Google Maps and Googling for contact information, to try to raise the data quality before I can add this stuff to the database. In the end, and especially because I eventually might want to update OSM, I think I’ll have to check it all out for myself on the ground. Someday.


  • The Way We Live Now

    Happy Birthday to me! It was my birthday the other day. We didn’t do anything in particular about it; Anne made a cake and we ate it while we did a video chat with my parents. We’ve been doing a lot more of that kind of thing lately: I had a cello lesson on Zoom this morning, we’ve done several “virtual happy hours” with friends — our weekly Sunday nights are now online — and we both have been using internet video to keep in touch online with our families.

    I’ve also been riding, mostly road with Anne but some towpath as well. This (bicycling, or even just being outside) isn’t so great right now because the pollen is pretty bad, but the masks Anne made seem to help there. The other day I did a towpath ride and saw a bald eagle, not ten yards away, flying low over the canal, probably looking for fish or frogs or something. I also saw mounted police riding through the neighborhood when I came home, something I’ve never seen before but possibly part of some social distance enforcement.

    The town has cracked down on gatherings in the neighborhood parks. We have been allowed out to get some socially distant exercise, like the rides or daily walks we do, but people have also been playing basketball, and playing on playground equipment, so the baskets have been disabled and the playgrounds are covered in “DO NOT CROSS” police tape. We do a daily walk if it’s nice enough, and we still see plenty of other walkers but the playground crowds are gone.

    Meantime, we don’t need to do much shopping. We’re pretty well stocked with staples, so all we really need is fresh fruit & veggies. Friends of ours are farmers; they are the “farm” for a bunch of high-end New York “farm-to-table” restaurants, but those restaurants are now closed so they’re selling their produce to neighbors like us. They do things like baby lettuce, arugula and bok choy, so we’ve been eating tons of really good salads, as well as a lot of really good bread. Anne and a few friends are making bread to give to neighbors, through Donna’s “Little Free Library” which is now doing extra duty as a “Little Free Pantry” and “Little Free Bakery” to help ease food insecurity.

    Some Things To Watch

    We just saw the Season 2 finale for “Killing Eve,” and the latest (the penultimate) episode of “Devs.” Wow! No spoilers, but both were pretty shocking.

    Right now I’m re-reading The Girl With All The Gifts.