Nov 23

Sometimes, you get lucky

We have a well. And all of the well apparatus is located in our basement. I have never had a well before, but both sets of my grandparents had them once upon a time and both of them had the well guts in a little outbuilding and, basically as far as I knew until we looked at our new house, that was how it was done.

In the course of puttering around the basement — it’s a pretty awesome space, and not just because we went without a basement for 13 years — I noticed that there are some stickers affixed to the well guts. Fine, let’s be technical: the machinery. The tank and filter and the piping that connects everything. Hereafter referred to as the well’s guts. On the sticker for both the tank and filter, you can detect a pattern emerging. This one gets serviced every year. That one every two years. And in the fall! So make a mental note of that, and when late October rolled around I called the well people and said, come on out and meet the new neighbors, why don’t ya? Also, give me a well education.

The well guys are booked pretty solid these days, it turns out. Even the manager of the joint seemed impressed by the volume he was dealing with. So it took a while to get them out. And, since we’re talking about it here, you can safely surmise that today was that day.

And not a minute too soon, it turns out.

The guy goes down to the basement with his two crewmates and looks it over. I was not sure, at first, if he was passing a stone or reacting to what he saw. It was the latter. He described the problems he saw, forecast what they would turn in to and then said “I have this on the truck, or you can wait … ” but there’s really no waiting.

Do your thing, well surgeon.

His crew gets to work, quietly, efficiently and solve the problem. Out came the entire old tank.

In went a new tank. At first, there was some worry about the new tank because they couldn’t find the o-rings. (They found them.) I said “I grew up a Challenger kid; I know o-rings are a big deal.”

The head guy misheard me, and asked if I said I worked on the Challenger. (No. I was in the third grade. Also, not a rocket scientist. He doesn’t know the last part, couldn’t know that, but how old does he think I am?) One of his assistants didn’t know what the Challenger was. So I started explaining the space shuttle, all the while thinking Make this short. He doesn’t care. And that’s how I got into a conversation about o-rings.

This was about the time the old tank was brought up from the basement. Here’s the underside.

The guy pointed to some particular points, used some technical terms. Rust was one of them. He said we had a few days, maybe a week or so, before this exploded. And then a flooded basement, aggravation, insurance claims, etc. Sometimes, you get lucky.

I had a lovely 27-mile ride this evening. This afternoon, really, but it goes from light to dark in the blink of an eye. I pedaled over to one of the neighboring towns. We drive through there, but hadn’t ridden to it yet. And it was no big deal. Nice empty roads for the most part. In the town, they were decorating the museum with Christmas lights and going about the beginning of their festivities. They do it up big, for a small place, or so I gather. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Because I knew time and light were working against me, I took a slightly different and more familiar route back to the house. And, just before I got there, I was rewarded with this view.

I got inside at about 4:38, and this matters. Into the garage. Off come the bike shoes and helmet and jacket. Stop the apps, turn off the taillight, shed my gloves, all of it one smooth practiced sequence. I looked at the time, glanced at the GPS and thought, I can make it.

It being the inconvenience center, which closes at 5 p.m. It’s only about seven miles away and through town and I have to load the car. But if I make it today, I don’t have to do it tomorrow. So I shed the cycling kit and put on an old shirt and shorts and, still sweating, load up the car with the garbage cans and recycling. I drive. The GPS says I’ll get there at 4:57. And what do you know, I got there at 4:57.

The guy that mans the place is serious about time. It’s Friday and he’s got dinner on, I’m sure, but he’d already pulled his pickup down to the gate and was preparing to close it when I pulled in.

Got time for one more quick drop off?

“I close at 5,” he said. He held his out, fingers wide. almost pointing with his palm, making the emphatic point about time.

He let me in, and I understood I was supposed to feel bad about it. There was another guy dropping off his rubbish, too, though, so I stopped pretending to feel bad. But I did hustle. It was 4:57 when I got there. It was 5:01 when I again saw the guy that worked there, waiting to lock up behind me.

Sometimes, you get lucky.

I would like to apologize to him and his wife for making dinner one minute later than necessary. But he was a gentleman and I was grateful for the gesture. It won’t happen again. I hope.

On the drive back, I saw this view, to my left.

The photo is timestamped 5:10 p.m.

Back to the beach! Which is where we were Sunday afternoon! And I’ve been rationing out photos to keep this space busy looking during a busy week! Exclamation point!

While the photos I shared from Cape May yesterday included both an accidental and intentional overexposure, here is a deliberate underexposure. Sometimes you need a dancing silhouette.

Here’s one more shot of the Cape May light house. Built in 1859, automated in 1946 and still in service. It is the third lighthouse to announce this part of the coast. The remnants of the first two are now underwater. Going to the top will cost you a climb of 217 steps, and a small fee. They say you can see 10 miles away on a clear day like this one.

This is all part of a coastal heritage trail route. “A park in the making,” the sign says. You can check out maritime history — fishing villages, light houses, forts and more — coastal habitats, wildlife and historic settlements. It’s a lovely area. And, this time of year, no tourists. We’ll surely go back for another visit soon.

We had a mid-afternoon snack at a local shop, one of the few places that was open on Beach Avenue, the main drag. My favorite New Englander ordered a lobster roll and talked me into a shrimp roll. It was a good choice.

Texas toast, basically, stuffed with shrimp and drizzled with a cocktail sauce. Hard to go wrong.

So we sat there, just over the dune from the shoreline, and had some seafood and counted ourselves lucky for the experience.

Sometimes, you get lucky.

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

A lot of keyboard time today

I spent a lot of time staring at the computer screen today. It was productive, right up until the point when things got blurry. That’s a mental distinction, not a visual one. I just keep typing when that happens, hoping it still makes sense after that and wonder why it happens more quickly these days than it did, once upon a time.

I assume this is a conditioning issue, or a problem with the spatial mechanics of my desk and chair. Maybe it could be that I sit in a westerly direction. Could be the altitude. Maybe the water or the air. Definitely has nothing to do with age.

Some of today’s typing had to do with Thursday’s classes. So I have some time to circle back and check that work, at least.

It could also be the changing of the clocks. I am still having a difficult time adjusting to two aspects of it this year. First, the time of day when a bright sunny day turns to the early silver gray before twilight and just how rapidly night comes on here. It’s fast.

I did get out for a bike ride this evening. I set off at 4:37. I bumped into a neighbor, who is also a cyclist. He was walking his dog, Prudence, so we chatted for a moment, before he cautioned me that I wouldn’t have much time. But I have a light, and lots of sun and I was just going to ride around here, I said.

I set off on one of the regular routes, heading the opposite direction. I pulled the pin 22 minutes and five miles and change in. I should turn left, to follow the regular route, which would give me a 21-mile circuit. But I turned right, realizing the hour — it being all of 4:59 at that point, and the light was fading fast. Two miles and seven minutes on that road before I take another right. And then, a half-mile later, one more right. Now I’m back on the road that leads to our subdivision. I’ve been out 32 minutes and gone just over seven miles. It’s now 5:09 and it seems like a good idea to just keep it within the neighborhood.

So I spent the next 50 minutes in a two-mile stretch, covering three neighborhoods, back and forth, back and forth, to get an additional 12 miles and change, and almost all of that in the dark.

When I got into our neighborhood, I met my lovely bride, who had returned from campus and was taking a walk. She saw me first, of course. Guy on bike, bright-as-the-sun headlight. I rode the circle and saw her one more time.

All of this was very slow — ’tis the season — but I did enjoy one 18 mile per hour split, very early, and did set a PR on one Strava segment. Barely had a chill, until right near the end. Funny how that happens.

Here are a few more photos from our Sunday afternoon trip to Cape May this past weekend. I’m stretching these out to cover the week.

We’d just turned away from one marshy inlet or pond — all of this being in the area of some brackish water that looks distinctively different and yet the same — where we’d watched ducks look for a late lunch and swans judge everyone. That was our first of two such observation points where we could spy on the waterfowl, but as the trail looped us back into the woods, the sun was dancing perfectly on the leaves.

It isn’t a hike, I don’t think, when the trails are so well maintained as all of this, but it was a splendid place to be. And, if you’ll notice at the top of this photo, the implication is that part of the trail is not only tree-lined, but offers a canopy.

I like pictures like that for some reason. They’re a dime a dozen, but I don’t care. It isn’t a metaphor, but there’s just something about not knowing what’s next that makes it an intriguing visual. I stopped my lovely bride from walking into the shot, but before she figured out what I was doing, she stopped to pose for a picture or two. This one is one of my favorites from that little sequence.

Still smiles like a little kid. I have digital scans of all of her childhood slides to prove it.

More from the beach tomorrow, including some actual clues we were at a beach! And, also, we’ll see more of the local historical markers in another installment of We Learn Wednesday. Do make sure you stop back by to check it out.

Nov 23

A visit to the coast, and some other stuff, too

Late Friday night, and this really sets quite the tone for the weekend, I straightened up the laundry room. I did it because it needed to be done I am an impulsive party animal. Also, I was standing right there. It’s easy rearranging cabinets, but what really sparked the exercise was I needed to reorganize the Covid cabinet. There are masks and tests and various other supplies. Somehow they all got jumbled. But you want to stack them up with respect to expiration dates. It’s a detail that appeals to me, for some reason.

Then there were some shoes to move. And a cubbyhole to straighten up. And, because the laundry room is between the garage and the rest of the house, there’s always something that is intended to go from one or the other, so I moved those things.

Then I remembered that we put up the birthday light in the laundry room, so I took a photo.

I got this for my lovely bride several years ago. It was also in the laundry room of our first house. But, in our second, everything was recessed lighting, so the fixture stayed in a box. But now it can glow again.

On Saturday, I set a new personal best for consecutive days riding the bike. It’s not a big number, but it is for me. And, after nine days in a row my legs are tired. But the weather was … mild. I overdressed, and then took off some layers. For about half an hour, and then I had to put my layers back on.

It was a day for an easy ride, and so I took one of our basic routes and rode part of it in reverse. At the bottom end of the route there is a place to turn right, but I turned left and headed into the next town. It’s the county seat. It’s careworn. And, for me, close by were a handful of historical markers. So I pedaled by and added those to the queue for the next few weeks.

On the way back, I passed this house. It is quite difficult, even at a bike’s pace, to see the shot, dig my phone out of my jacket pocket — a different pocket angle than my warm weather kit — and then get the camera app open through full-fingered gloves.

It would have been better if I could have done all of that about six seconds sooner, but I’m happy with the shot.

You’ll be happy with these shots, because they make up the most popular part of the week here on this humble little blog. It’s time to check in with the kitties.

No one has told Phoebe yet that she’ll be evicted from her favorite mid-afternoon nap spot next week. No one has mentioned Thanksgiving, and the meals we’ll eat on this table.

We haven’t told her because she’ll be intent on trying to get on the table during dinner.

Poseidon needs your attention. He needs your attention. He desperately needs your attention.

If you look closely you’ll see to scratches on his nose. He spends too much time harassing his sister. Occasionally, she runs out of patience with him and he’ll catch a swat or two right on the schnoz. He never learns from this lesson.

Other than that, though, the cats are doing well, thanks for asking.

Yesterday, we took an afternoon trip to the beach — Cape May, specifically. This little town has been a resort destination since … colonial days.

The Cape May lighthouse was built in 1859, automated in 1946 and remains in service today. It is the third lighthouse on the point. The first two locations are now underwater. If you want to go to the top you’ll have to climb 217 steps. The view might be worth it. They say you can see 10 miles away on a clear day, like this one.

We didn’t take the lighthouse challenge, but instead enjoyed the state park’s many walking trails. Some of it was on the ground, some on these well maintained boardwalks over some swampy, sandy soil.

We picked, perhaps, the best weekend for it. Bright sun, cool air and beautiful colors everywhere.

You’ll see more from the cape tomorrow. I’m spreading out the photos to cover a busy week. The busy starts today, with this evening’s class and a bunch of other work besides.

Nov 23

8! (Eight!)

The weather is changing. The sun is glowing, but diminished. The winds, coming from all directions, feel just a little bit bitter. The days are shorter. The nights are still growing longer. But the weather is variable just now. The forecasts show the 40s one day, the 60s the next day. We’re in that moment where a sunny 50 feels nice, but an overcast 50 feels intolerable.

Pretty soon I’ll have to rotate over to indoor hobbies.

Good thing I have a lot of things on the indoor hobby Want To Do list.

Today, like many days, the list was mostly focused on school work. Part of that time was involved with grading midterms. My class did well, I’m happy to say. Either they are brilliant students or I should make harder exams. Maybe I’m a good instructor. Probably the former.

But, it occurs to me, there’s a way I can frame this in class that allows them to make the distinction themselves. And there’s a way I can frame it that they feel inclined to say it’s me.

It’s not, of course.

I was very pleased with this, though. I asked them to list something we’ve discussed in class that they feel needs further clarification. That got me a few interesting replies, which should give us something to start our conversation on Monday.

After the day’s school work was done, it was time to hit the bike. It was time to layer up and hit the bike. I had on the usual bib shorts, of course. Over those I wore my one pair of Pearl Izumi long pants. Those things are so great. Fleece lined. Warm and windproof. They’re season extenders.

I also had on my cycling jersey, a lightweight pullover, which I probably should have left at home, and a windbreaker. I had gloves on my hands and wool socks on my feet.

On my socks I went old school: bread bags to keep out the wind. Turns out that actually works. It was about 70 minutes, just before I got there, and not too far from the end of my ride, before my feet felt any chill.

They’re colder sitting in my office, right now, than they were on the bike. In wool socks. And bread bags.

It was a regular route ride, one I timed well with the day’s fading light. That part was fortunate, considering I’m riding a bit slow right now, and with good reason! Today’s ride equaled my personal best in terms of longest consecutive days riding. That mark, be it ever so humble, was one I set in 2016. I’m only seven years older (and slower!) now. So my legs are tired. I’ll take a day off soon.

When I got in, it was just starting to turn chilly, owing to the disappearing sun. I checked the weather.

Sometimes the apps are misleading.