Nov 23

The record setting ride

After some time working on them today, the fig tree is now covered in two parts. I used a lot of twine, a few utterances, and two buckets, just to add some personality.

After I stepped back to take that photo I added a bit more twine, created some tension tiedowns and pronounced, to the surrounding shrubs, that there was no way wind is getting under there now. Soon I’ll fill in the base with leaves to help keep the cold and frost away. After that, I’ll be satisfied that I’ve done everything I can do, and the tree will need to look after itself for a few months.

“Kudos to you, dude,” said the crossing guard as I went by.

Hey, you’re out here, too …, I replied.

“Yeah, but I have to be out here. You want to be.”

Why am I out here, anyway. It felt like 25 degrees. And, yes, that is ice in the field.

I have a page on my cycling spreadsheet, tracking my highest mileage, by month. Recently, I noticed that this month had the potential to make it onto that chart. On Nov. 20th, this month sat in 12th place overall on that list. Two good rides that week put it in the top 10 with a bullet. And so, these last few days, I’ve been riding with the goal of trying to make November 2023 my best month of all time.

It made since. The leader on the board was January 2023, but all of that was indoor riding. Wouldn’t you rather have your best number be on open roads?

The only problem is that these last few days it has been windy, or bitterly cold, or both. Tomorrow will be nicer, but I’ll be in class. And so today was my shot.

My shot. This is why I’m out here. First of all, it is, of course, a meaningless record or goal. No accolades or money. Nothing monumentous beyond the personal. So it’s just that, a personal best. It’s not a real accomplishment, not an achievement, not really. It’s an endurance effort. Put a few more miles in the legs, learn some cold lessons about layering in cold weather, trying to time it all out with limited daylight.

So there I was, measuring out rides these last few days, and it all came down to today. Should I ride enough? It wasn’t a question of could or would. I had the time and two jackets and long pants and gloves and so on. It’s not a race, and no one was trying to stop me, or slow me down, not that I can go much slower. So, did I want to try to find the time to ride tomorrow, in the morning, or tomorrow night after class. Or should I just do it today.

And by how much should I best the old mark?

This is what I did, I started out planning to ride a combination of our regular two routes, but started a bit later than I should have, meaning daylight was going to be a question. So I did one of those routes, added an extra road just to see where it went, and then modified the tail end of the course to add a few more miles. All told, that was 31 miles in the cold air, by little ice puddles and through a lot of open fields exposed to the wind. When I got closer to home I added all of the neighborhood roads to bolster the total. I figured all of this would give me about 30 miles for the day. I decided I’d let that be enough and there’s always tomorrow if I really, really need it.

I finished today’s ride at 31 miles. And that meant, when I got back to my spreadsheet, that I set a new best for miles in a month. By one mile.

Kudos to me, I guess.

My best December ever is in ninth place on the all-time list of months, by mileage. That was 2020. If I am to best that mark, I’ll be starting from behind: I’m taking tomorrow off. Maybe Friday, too.

We’ve been talking about going on a ride with a friend on Saturday. After that, we may be close to retreating to indoor rides, depending on what the prevailing weather patterns.

This is the 18th installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike across the county to find the local historical markers. Including today’s installment we’ll have seen, I believe, 36 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database. (This marker was not found on today’s ride, just so you now.

Today’s marker is about a church.

Their website is … unfinished. The name of the congregation is altogether too common to stand out in web searches. The erstwhile local paper only has about 20 years of archives digitized and uploaded — the wrong 20 years to pick up a lot of history — to any database I have access to.

It hasn’t been digitized on the National Register or the National Archives Catalog. Do they expect me to talk to actual people?

I love that the old walls were made a part of the new building. Now, all of it is old, and they’re still making good use of it.

Mt. Hope UMC offers a traditional worship service every Sunday, supports youth and children’s ministries, the Neighborhood Center and Cornerstone Women’s Center. The children’s ministry supplies cold weather wear to the children and they also cook meals for the community and maintain a food pantry.

In next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesday, we’ll see another church. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Nov 23

We have company, we also have a bike ride, markers, music

My in-laws came in last night, right on time and as expected. We were waiting for them in the garage, to hustle in all of their stuff from the rain. Rained the whole drive, they said. But, other than precipitation, reduced visibility and traffic, it was a good drive. They’ll be spending a few days with us over the holiday, and we’re happy to have the company.

So happy that we spent a little time with them last night before going to bed. And a little time with them this morning and early this afternoon, before going on a bike ride.

We offered for them to go along with us. We have the bikes; we could make it work. But they politely declined.

So we set out for a quick 20. My lovely bride invited me to go longer, if I want to, which I did. I did the first eight miles or so in this nice windbreaker that I’ve had for several years now. It was, if I recall correctly, a present from the in-laws. But, today, I started to think that this technical windbreaker might actually be technically functioning as a parachute. It was a headwind, but still, I could not turn my legs over.

And, too, we were right on the cusp, today, of needing a light jacket, which means that, after some time at flailing about on the bike, it didn’t seem like I needed a jacket. The opposite condition, in fact, seemed to be the case. So I took that off because, by then, I was losing a lot of ground. (Jacket as parachute.) I spent the next 12 miles yo-yoing off The Yankee’s back wheel. But feeling stronger because I wasn’t pedaling against my clothing. So, occasionally, I would take a pull off the front.

So we did one of our usual 21-mile routes. She went back to the house and I continued on. I wanted to do that first leg of the route again, into the headwind, to see if it felt different. (It did.) Also, I wanted to turn around at the other end to ride with the wind at my back. I wanted to see how fast it would push me. (It did.)

Over the course of the ride I set four PRs on Strava segments, all of them with the wind to my back, or in a crosswind. Some of them are impressive compared to the previous bests, but none of them overly impressive compared to the rest of the people on Strava. Some of my splits were actually impressive. And it wasn’t until mile 37 or so, when I was already plotting out the easiest way to get to 40 and get back inside, that I remembered: tomorrow, we have to go run.

So I finished with 41 miles on a cold, damp day, and felt my quads all evening. They’re only just beginning to explain how they’ll complain tomorrow.

This is the 17th installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike across the county to find the local historical markers. Including today’s installment we’ll have seen, I believe, 35 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

And, today, we visit the home of Abigail and Elizabeth Goodwin. They were Quakers, daughters of William Goodwin, a farmer who manumitted all his slaves during the American Revolution. Abigail and Elizabeth were founding members of a local Female Benevolent Society, dedicated to aiding the poor, infirm and elderly.

Historians know more about Abigail (1793-1867) than Elizabeth (1789-1860). More of her letters have survived. Abigail was written about in a book published by one of her contemporaries, a railroad conductor. Also, they had a nephew who wrote about them in his diary, which has also made it into the archives. They lived here. Their home was the first site in the state to be included in the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.

This house joined the Underground Railroad in 1838. Here’s a part of one of her letters, writing to William Still:

I have read the President’s proclamation of emancipation, with thankfulness and rejoicing; but upon a little reflection, I did not feel quite satisfied with it; three months seems a long time to be in the power of their angry and cruel masters, who, no doubt, will wreak all their fury and vengeance upon them, killing and abusing them in every way they can – and sell them to Cuba if they can. It makes me sad to think of it. Slavery, I fear, will be a long time in dying, after receiving the fatal stroke. What do abolitionists think of it? and what is thy opinion? I feel quite anxious to know something more about it. The “Daily Press” says, it will end the war and its cause. How can we be thankful enough if it should, and soon too. “Oh, praise and tanks,” what a blessing for our country. I never expected to see the happy day. If thee answers this, thee will please tell me all about it, and what is thought of it by the wise ones; but I ought not to intrude on thy time, thee has so much on thy hands, nor ask thee to write. I shall know in time, if I can be patient to wait.

Still was a businessman, a writer, historian and civil rights activist. His own records show that he helped 800 or more slaves in their quest for freedom. Abigail and Elizabeth had a hand in some of those, as well.

If those walls could talk, their tales would have listeners. Still today, the home of Abigail and Elizabeth Goodwin, a key stop on the eastern route of the Underground Railroad, is a private residence.

Let’s drop in on the Re-Listening project. You’ll recall this is where I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the order in which I acquired them. And, today, we are firmly back in 2004, with “All That We Let In,” the ninth studio album by the Indigo Girls. It climbed to a respectable 35 on the Billboard 200.

Generally well received by critics, this record was their third in a row that settled in the 30s. They’re 19 or 20 years into their career, here, and there’s all of the earnestness and activism that people that knew them came to expect. A lot of reviews point this out, but those are reviewers and, I’d argue, not people who spend a lot of time thinking about any one given band. You just can’t take that part away from this duo, even if you wanted to. It wouldn’t be them if you did. So people noted or complained about that, but

There’s a CD+DVD version of this record, the DVD has six live songs. I think I’ve played it twice. But the CD gets a lot of spins.

I think I bought this without knowing what anything on it would sound like. In my mushy memory, it was nighttime when I put this CD in the player and heard the first notes from track one.

I was already in love with every musical thing Amy Ray did by then, and this record didn’t hurt. Track two was hers.

“Tether” is on this record. And here’s a performance we saw at the mother church, The Ryman, this summer.

One of my favorite songs in the catalog, and this is no easy call, is “Dairy Queen.” It’s the string action, the stuttering percussion, all of the accentuating instrumentation and, oh, I dunno, pretty much every word they wrote down and sang into microphones here.

And then there was “Cordova,” just so starkly beautiful. I knew someone who lived in a small town named Cordova. This was not about her, of course, but it’s easy to put people into songs when you have flimsy excuses like that.

Carol Isaacs is all over this song on the record. She’s playing the piano, the B-3, the penny whistle and, I think, the ocarina.

They brought the energy way up to finish the CD, it’s a full band effort: Isaacs, Clare Kenny, Brady Blade and some other guests, like John Holmes and Joan Osborne, appear on “Rise Up.”

I didn’t see the Indigo Girls in 2004, but we will see them again soon, and we’re excited about that.

And I’m almost as excited about the next installment of the Re-Listening project. We’re going Tex-Mex, and we’ll do that Friday, or Monday. Care to guess who it might be?

Nov 23

We are rich in colorful photos today

So much typing. Some of it was even for classes. Where I must now turn attention toward grading. Friday. Or maybe Tuesday. Probably Tuesday.

That’s how it is, plotting things out around the this-and-that. I keep thinking I’ll find a rhythm to it. All of campus moves on rhythms. And, sometimes, it seems distinct enough that you can almost see it. Almost reach it. Almost find the way to shape your work into the rhythm. That’s happened twice this semester, then something will conspire to break that up. This week it’s four days of extra things, but I think I wrapped that up today. It’s always my doing. The last time I got hung up on being sapped of energy, and a desire to not do a thing. The time before that it was sleep-related. It’s all my doing.

But things must be done! And so they are done.

In tomorrow’s we’ll talk about public service announcements. Tonight I am finishing a text-heavy slide deck and breaking up two classes into groups.

For today’s bike ride I changed it up. After the first seven miles, the usual straight road through the wintering farmland, I turned right instead of left to ride along the river in the other direction. It’s a fast two lane road with broad shoulders and Phragmites on both sides. On your left there’s a bit of light industry and some empty strips of land running right up to the river. On your right is farmland, some of it just over a high embankment. Everywhere, you’ll see Phragmites.

Before long you’ll run across this bridge, which has no name. This is in a spot with a lot of water, and I’m not even sure if the inlet it spans has a name, but this little bit of water does feed into a creek a bit farther away that takes it’s name from a village — or vice versa. Who can be sure?

Just don’t park, fish, swim or do anything else on this bridge. There are signs.

Soon after that, I took a right turn, and pedaled three miles into a small town, busy with commerce and warehouses and, just then, a shift change. Got off that road to get away from that. That was an unexpected thing, so my hastily laid out route was no more, but this was a good thing. The sun was going down, I was heading south and to my right I found four great spots for future sunset photos. Happy accidents.

To get back to where I needed to be I had to ride a familiar rode in reverse, in skies that were getting darker with each turn of the pedals. And, as is my apparent habit, this was when I passed two police cruisers. (This time I had my light, and it was on!)

No legs at all in this ride, so it seemed silly to tally up miles on neighborhood roads, but that’s what I did.

We are fully in the season of no legs, I’m sure of it now.

More photos from our trip to the beach on Sunday. Here are some of the birds of Cape May, as glimpsed from a distance and photographed with a 55 mm lens. (Never occurred to me to carry a longer piece of glass.)

It was a lovely day. Had a great time. Saw a lot of birds.

And, look, more reedy sea grass!

In tomorrow’s space-padding installment of our afternoon trip to the beach we’ll actually see the beach.

Speaking of bike rides, it’s time to learn more about the local history. This is the 16th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. I ride my bike across the county hunting down the local historical markers. Including today’s installment we’ll have seen 34 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

These are from a ride I took on the last Saturday of October. It was still warm, but got dark before I got back to the house. And that’s because these two markers were all the way at the other end of the county. I’m pretty sure that tracking down these two, at a state park, make the longest ride for this project.

So we’re in Parvin State Park. The pine barrens and the hardwood forests meet in the area, which is quite ecologically diverse.

The markers I wanted to find were in the state park — a place with a long and complex history. The first Europeans came into the area in the 1740s, but there’s plenty of evidence of Lenape habitation before that. In 1796, Lemuel Parvin dammed the Muddy Run stream to power a sawmill, thus creating a lake, named after him, and the future state park, that also shares his name. Turns out he’s buried in a cemetery I went right on Saturday, not too far away. In 1930, the state bought the acreage to make a park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed much of that park, which, in 1943, was a summer camp for the children of interned Japanese Americans. The next year it was a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers captured in Africa.

These cabins have been there for almost 85 years, now. Pardon the photo composition, I shot all of these as I coasted by — almost literally shot from the hip.

They’re closed right now for upgrades, the cabins, though the park is open for business.

The first CCC men working there made up Company 1225, which was formed in 1933. They got food, clothing and lodging. They made $30 per month. They were required to send $25 of that home. They stayed there until 1937, clearing forest, making trails and roads and the like. Some of the pavilions that first group made are still standing. Company 1225 also built the main beach complex and several bridges

In late 1937 Company 2227V, comprised of World War I veterans, came to life. Skilled workers, they put on the finishing touches, making the picnic area and completing the landscaping. They also made all of these cabins.

There was a big flood in 1940, and Company 2227V tried to save the dam at the lake, but nature won the battle. But the CCC built a new dam, which happened just after the U.S. entered World War 2. The CCC camp was closed in May of 1942.

There are two signs in the park, which sprawls nicely as all parks should. And while the first sign was right where I expected it, this one was harder to find. I basically stumbled upon it by chance. It was the last little place I was going to look before heading out. The time was getting late, I had to get back up the road and … there it was!

There was no time to try to figure out which of these things are still around. It was enough to see the view. I bet those CCC guys appreciated the opportunity to make a little money, and they had some nice views to enjoy, too.

Some of them, they helped make. And, for 80 years or so, a lot of people have enjoyed the fruits of their labors.

In next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesday, we’ll head back to the 19th century. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Tomorrow: class, the beach and a video from this park.

Nov 23

Found it, and other stuff

We found my lens cap. “We” is the right word. There was a search party. The search party was comprised of myself and, most importantly, my lovely bride. She was the one that found the lens cap I lost yesterday. It was under the sweetgum tree, just as I expected.

She wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t dropped it there yesterday.

One day she’ll notice I’m manufacturing reasons to get outside to enjoy this beautiful weather before it changes this weekend.

In the afternoon, she found a reason of her own. We, of course, went on a bike ride. She’s wearing long sleeves, but that might have been an overdressing. I had a jacket rolled up on my back pocket, but never felt the need to put it on.

We passed a few combines today. Everyone is cleaning up the last of their fields. All the good stuff will be going in bins, like this, or out into other fields, for feed.

The part that doesn’t wind up in the road, that is. I took this photo and then spent the next minute or so weaving around chunks of cob that had been blown into the street. You never think about that unless the operator is right there in the field as you go by. It wouldn’t much matter in the car, but my bike tires are just 25 m. Even the humble stripped corn cob could be dangerous.

Anyway, we got in almost 22 miles in the sunshine, some of it on new-to-us roads. Here we are near the end of the route, going through two corn fields that haven’t yet been chopped down.

I don’t know why YouTube does that in their compression algorithm. Being the biggest company in the game and using a lossy format just feels cheap at this point.

Let’s go back out into the yard, since I had to look for that lens cap, anyway. We’ve got a small Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) to enjoy off to the side. It seems a little out of place this far north, but there are some cultivars that are hearty enough for the weather.

Magnolia cultivars can be rather famous, for whatever reason, and I’d like to know the story behind this one, but it’s just one more thing we’ll never know.

Speaking of that sweetgum and its ankle aggravators, its tenderfoot terrorizers, its shoe stickers …

This is, I believe, a black cherry (Prunus serotina) tree. The previous owners promised one, but we found no fruit this year. But, if I have this right, we might have a good crop one of these days.

Here’s the maple. Acer platanoides, I think, maybe. I’m saying, until an expert corrects me, that this is the Crimson King cultivar. The front yard star has shed most of its leaves. And what remains have turned yellow and red. I was not expecting that.

And some of the leaves on that same tree turned green, which was quite the surprise.

Oh, and I found another pear tree. Which sounds like I’ve just discovered it. It’s in a obvious place and though I have enjoyed its leaves and removed weeds from beneath it, I’ve never bother to actually, ya know, consider what this big shade giver is. But it’s a pear.

Too far away from the pear tree in the backyard for the two to work together to bear fruit, unfortunately. I’ll just have to get my pears the old fashioned way — by hiring a neighborhood kid to go into a neighbor’s yard under cover of darkness.

This is the 15th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. I’ve been riding my bike across the county looking at all of the local historical markers. I have written here about 32 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database. Cycling my way around to find them is the preferred way of doing it because that pace lets you see and learn new things. Today’s entry in We Learn Wednesdays is a good example. I would have missed this little spot if I was driving, and though it isn’t on the database, it is worth a mention.

I found it by riding out to the markers I’ll show you next week. And, at just the right time, I glanced to my left, and the sun was shining on this plaque perfectly. Maybe it was the shine that made me look. I circled back and walked up for a quick look.

Frank H. Stewart was a successful and controversial early 20th century businessman. He made his money selling electrical goods. He bought the U.S. mint building in Philadelphia, razed it, and then he wrote a book about it.

He was also a man of history, a collector of artifacts and source material. And a conservationist. He helped preserve a Revolutionary War era fort, had his company develop new tech to find cannonballs underwater (metal detectors!) and his will plays an important part in the creation of all of the parks and many of the public lands in the next county over.

This little park is just that. A happy little playground with slides, swings, a zip line and climbing arches. They’ve got picnic tables and a pavilion. It all exists because of that one man.

His papers — thousands of books, untold manuscripts, artifacts, wills, deeds, family genealogical lines, maps and more —
are kept at Rowan, some of it is his own extensive Revolutionary War research. I wonder what we might discover in there.

In next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesday, we’ll go back to the 1930s. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Nov 23

There are a lot of plants

We had a garbage can out back full of leaves and pine needles. The wind caught the lid this morning and ripped it away from the can. I just happened to see it right after this happened, so I spent a few minutes cleaning that up. Putting the leaf bag in a different can, one that will be disposed of later this week. But we’d crammed that first can with so many leaves that I had to use a tool to pry the bag out. The bottom of the can smelled, for some reason, like root beer.

While I watered the plants the mail came. In the mail were two little indoor plant lights I’d ordered for the winter time. We have outdoor plants, but I can’t bring them indoors because cats will eat them. So they’re going into the basement. The plants, I mean, not the cats. The cats are kept out of the basement, which means they time their sprints perfectly to make it through the basement door.

So I strung up the two lights in the rafters. There seems to be one place where I can hang them and plug them in. It’s perfectly placed in the basement. I brought in four plastic lawn chairs, carried the plants down and put them on the chairs and turned on the plant lights. Surely the system will get refined as we go forward. I have to come up with a good way to water the plants, keeping the water in the pots and not on the floor, for example, and I want to put those lights on a timer.

Here’s the previous owner’s quirky decision that appeared in that plant-moving process. On the front porch they left a plant, a golden leaved pineapple sage, which is quite lovely. (You can just see a part of that plant in the photo below.) It sits in a container that is designed to straddle a handrail. They drilled the container into the handrail. It did not come off the handrail today, that frustrating little container holding the lovely, stemy, leafy thing, which is showing off brilliant little red flowers right now.

It’ll dip below freezing tonight. If the plant survives this little cold snap I’ll break out the drill.

That is a sentence that does not appear in any search engines.

Across the way, the neighbor’s tree is putting on a show. It’s a great view from the front door, and the picture window, which the cats are now enjoying.

Underneath that tree is the guy’s daughter’s toys. Right in the middle, little outdoor princess sets and the all weather tea table sort of thing. When she’s there, she’s out there. And when she’s not there, the play sets are: an imagination in progress.

It must be a magical time for a little girl that plays outside all the time. The grass in her yard is a rich, nitrogen-filled green, and now there’s a brilliant yellow carpet of leaves that she gets to dance and flit around on.

He mows his lawn a lot, but it seems like he’s leaving the leaves down. Maybe for pictures, or waiting to get them all, or just because she enjoys them, I don’t know. But it looks nice. Mostly because they’re not our leaves.

We’ll have plenty.

We went across the river this evening. As a perk from our recent hang with Gritty …

… he gave us tickets to a hockey game. Flyers hosted the Sabres. Both teams entered the contest 9-4. I know, it turns out, only very little about hockey. This is my fourth NHL game, on top of a slightly larger collection of minor league games. It’s not a sport I watch on TV, so I don’t know much. But I do know this: if you’ve got twice as many shots and you’re winning three quarters of the face offs, you should probably shoot more if you don’t want to lose 5-2.

And that’s what the Flyers did tonight. “Just shoot it!” must be the hockey equivalent of “Run the dang ball!” And “Just shoot it!” was uttered by pretty much everyone in the seats surrounding the rink.

The Flyers scored in the first 50 seconds and then halfway through the first period. Everyone should have gotten up, gone to their cars and headed for home right then.

Also, the man sitting in the row in front of us ordered cotton candy for his kids.

Nine dollars. Nine dollars for a stick of spun sugar!

Maybe I should buy a cotton candy maker. Tow it around, playing music like the ice cream trucks. I’ll only charge $8 a stick.

This is the 14th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. I’ve been riding my bike across the county looking at all of the local historical markers. A bike is an ideal way to undertake a project like this; you see new stuff, you learn new things. All of it that you don’t discover at the speed of a car. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed 32 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

This is a VFW memorial, a new one. It replaces a 1952 marker that shows up on the database. Google Street View’s last visit, sometime in November of last year, shows an empty patch of grass in this little triangle. But we have a nice, handsome display, standing new and proud on a main road in a small town.

On the back, two small markers.

You wonder where the old markers went. Hopefully in a proud spot in homes or offices.

Also at this site, you’ll find an anchor.

There are no details on it here. It was painted black when it was last on display.

And this gun, the Quick Firing 6-pounder, a 57 mm anti-tank gun. The British and the Americans used it in in the second half of World War 2. The Americans called it the 57 mm Gun M1.

It went into service in 1942 and the Americans used it until the end of the war, but by then the limitations of this weapon were on display. It had to be towed, and some wanted self-propelled weapons. There were also other guns in the field, and probably some on the drawing board. Plus there were fewer tanks to shoot at late in the war.

The British used it, too. And so did the Russians, and the Free French. Other nations used it in the years after. Apparently you can still find it in service in parts of South America. Modern cannoneers like it today because you can still find supplies for it. Some 36,000 of these were made during the war. I wonder how many of those 80-year-old pieces are on display in little towns like this.

In next week’s installment of We Learn Wednesday, we’ll discover a quiet little park for no particular reason. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.