Sep 23

Of bricks and cannons

It was just 26 miles. No big deal.

This morning’s bike ride was in no way remarkable. No big speeds, no new PRs, no new roads, but the weather was perfect and the colors of this mini season are dazzling.

It was only remarkable in its unremarkableness. The ability, and the opportunity, to set off for a mid-morning bike ride is not to be underappreciated. I mean, I was still working out some lecture material in my head as I rode — because that never turns off, not really, apparently — but it was a wonderful day for a bike ride, and I was happy we could take advantage of it.

After which I, of course, sat down and went over notes and prepped my slides and figured out how to pace some things out for classes tomorrow.

Then I took a break. I pulled in some tomatoes. I tied up a few tomato vines that have been running wild all summer. I enjoyed a few tomatoes. (They were delicious.) Somehow, this kept work out of my noggin for a bit.

Oh, and then there was the evening’s ironing session. Nothing was percolating in my brain during my de-wrinkling chores.

But now I am back to it. So while I spend doing some class work, please enjoy these videos from Tuesday night’s concert with Pink.

Her daughter, Willow, came out to sing. Pretty great in front of a big crowd.

And here’s the big finish. The stage was in center field of the park, and they had a rigging set in the infield and then some more mounted somewhere above and behind everyone, which allowed all of this fanciness to happen.

It was a good show, though it wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I’m glad I went. The wire act and the aerials and the trampolines were all fun enough; I would have liked to seen more of the act without the over-the-top performance, to see how good it could be. Though I don’t think anyone there minded what they saw from the summer carnival.

Time now for the eighth installment of We Learn Wednesdays, where I ride my bike to find all of the local historical markers. I’m seeking them out by bike because it’s a great wayis one good way to go a little slower, see more things and learn some roads I wouldn’t otherwise try. Counting today’ to discover new places, and at a better pace. Counting the two you’ll see here I have now visited 17 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

To find our first location you had to go down a quiet country road, and then turn onto an even more quiet country road. Every little click and noise you could make sounded like an interruption of nature. And then, you round a little curve and you find yourself at the Dickinson House.

The Marker wasn’t up the day I visited, but the database tells us what it said.

Dickinson House – The most ornate of early glazed brick patterns decorate the west wall of this house, built in 1754 by John Dickinson

It’s a one-of-a-kind pre-Revolutionary War-era home, then, and it is still a home today. This is what makes the place singular. This county was the home of patterned brick houses, a style you didn’t find in great numbers or intricacy anywhere else in America. There are about 20 of them that survive (they numbered 43 at the end of the 18th century).

Those bricks get that distinctive color by a firing process akin to vitirification. Extreme heat turns them from red to shiny blue. Usually, you’ll apparently see them installed as dates or initials, but the intricate designs here are something special. The owner thinks that this wall was an advertisement for the builder, John Dickinson. The letters are the initials of the Dickinsons, the original owners.

The house has four fireplaces. One of the original hearths is apparently at the state museum.

About seven miles away on the modern roads, you can see the Pole Tavern Cannon. The marker has been removed, but it said …

The Cannon Il Lugano which was forged in Naples in 1763 weighs 800 Pounds. Il Lugano was used in battle against the Austrians. Napoleon who visited Italy once in 1796 and again in 1800 dragged the cannon over the Alps and Eventually back to France. Napoleon then sent the cannon to his brother Joseph who was the ruler of Spain. In 1808 the Duke of Wellington’s Troops captured the cannon from Joseph and returned it to England. It was then used in Canada during the war of 1812 when American colonists captured it in 1814 in Plattsburg, New York. After the war was over the cannon was declared surplus by the United States Government, and sold to Salem County to Supply the county militia. During the Civil War (1861-1865) the cannon was used by the Pole Tavern Militia in preparation for battle. Since 1913 the cannon has been in the Pole Tavern Area.

The Cannon was restored in 1986 by Jay Williams and David Harvey with tremendous pride in their accomplishment.

This building was constructed in 1994 by Nicholas Hutchinson and fellow Scouts, to house and protect this historic cannon. Nicolas chose this project as a requirement to achieve Eagle Scout which he proudly received in 1995.

The canon, which has city in this small town’s main intersection for ages, was bought by that local militia along with three others, and 287 muskets.

Napoleon, since he’s mentioned by the marker, had also been fighting the British, of course, but he’d abdicated earlier that same year. That allowed more experienced British fighters to be shipped to the new world, and some of the key officers, too. But the Battle of Plattsburg, in August and September of 1814, when the cannon finally fell into American hands in 1814, becomes an important moment in the War of 1812. A combined land and naval engagement, it brought to an end the invasion of the northern states by the British, when the New Yorkers and Vermont men held Lake Champlain. (Having sat out much of the conflict, Vermont came into the fight here was a key piece of the timing.) The British commander knew he would be cut off from re-supply without the lake, so he ordered a retreat to Canada. They were to destroy everything they couldn’t haul back with them, a standard tactic, but there was no follow through. The British left under cover of darkness and, somewhere in all of that, Il Lugano was captured once again.

Three months later the peace treaty was signed, though that battle probably didn’t influence the mood among the delegates at those meetings in United Netherlands.

In May of 1889, veterans from another small town came up and stole the cannon for their Independence Day celebrations. The cannon then somehow wound up in the state capital, where it stayed for almost a quarter of a century, before finding it’s way back to its current location. It was displayed in the town hall, but that building burned soon after, in 1914. So the cannon, apparently, was outside for several decades. That (really great) little building that houses it is almost 30 years old, and is showing its own age.

You might think that the good people of that little town are proud to watch their cannon grow older each year — 270 years old this time around the sun! — but they trot it out now and then. They did so in 2016, when they fired it as part of a festival and parade. I found two different clips, but neither have audio. So I found something better: the time Il Lugano was heard in 1991.

If they keep to that schedule the Pole Tavern Cannon will be about 288 when it roars again.

Miss some of the markers? You can see them all right here.

Sep 23

Going fast, and also seeing things slowly

I have two classes tomorrow, so a substantial part of yesterday, and almost all of today, have been spent in making notes for myself, trying to think up ways to keep students’ attention and give them some useful information. This is always a learning process, both in terms of pedagogical techniques but, sometimes, in the actual material. I learned a few things yesterday. Now I get to share that information with others. That’s a lot of fun. Hopefully they’ll think so, too.

Just kidding. I’m working on a lecture a few weeks from now. But I did learn some things. One of the things I learned is that some of the reading materials have disappeared, and so I had to scramble for suitable replacements. Another thing I learned involved something arcane and technical. The journalist in me would have benefited from the existence of this technology, but not understood why or how it worked. Sorta like me and, say, an important converter in a hydroelectricity plant, or the part between solar panels and light switches.

What was really fun, and quite gratifying, is when I get to a new section of notes and text for this lecture that will take place in a few weeks and realize, “Hey, I know how to do this. I’ve been doing this for a long time, as it turns out.”

Can’t buy the sort of confidence that comes with steady realization, I’ve always said, since at least the beginning of this sentence.

The one big break from all of that today was a bike ride this morning. Here we’d just been chatting, when I looked down and we were soft pedaling through the low 20s.

On this particular route we follow that road for some miles until it ends. Then we turn left onto a road that parallels the river. The road is mostly flat, but there is the slightest little gradient. And my lovely bride will crush a false flat. I could still see her when she got to the next turn, but I didn’t see her turn. Despite having a clear view down that next road, I didn’t see her there. She wouldn’t have continued on straight ahead, owing to the logistics of the ride, but no can see.

So I spent the next four miles putting in some of the ride’s best splits, just to catch back up to her, which I finally did. We talked again for a moment, which was mostly me just trying to get out “You’re fast!” Then I went past her. I held her off for four miles, after which she dropped me with a “Why’d you do that?” look.

Because being chased is every bit as fun as chasing. Moreso when your legs are beginning to feel pretty decent again. (That only took two months.)

Also, I set three Strava PRs on that ride. All of which is why there’s only one shot in the video. I was too busy, and then too tired, to get more shots.

The seventh installment of my efforts in tracking down the local historical markers did not come from today’s ride, but rather a weekend expedition. Doing this by bike is one good way to go a little slower, see more things and learn some roads I wouldn’t otherwise try. Counting today’s installment, I’ll have visited 15 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database. What will we learn a bit about today? I’m so glad you asked!

Downtown is an old town here. Quaint houses. Signs on the walls displaying the original or locally famous previous residents. Hitching posts out by the modern curb. Lots of cars, but the whole vibe. It’s a charming little place, and houses like this are part of why.

Built in 1724 by a second generation immigrant, Samuel Shivers had one of the first houses in this town, and it is still today a fine example of several different generations of architecture. Historians would point out that there’s four centuries of work here, included the remnants of Samuel’s father’s 1692 cabin. The house we see today, then, shows us work that spans four centuries. The door, the hinges and the rest of the hardware there are period original, but I don’t know which … again, several centuries of work are in here.

The mantel is original. Some of the window glass is original. It wasn’t long before the Shivers family needed more space, so Samuel bought a nearby tavern and had it moved onto his property. Samuel’s daughter and her husband took over the house in 1758. That man, Joseph Shinn, helped write the state constitution in 1776. Their son, Isiah Shinn, took over the house. He was a state lawmaker and militia general. Isiah presided over more additions in 1813, adding a dining room and two more bedrooms, and this was the look on Main Street until 1946. The woman that owned it then made a lot of changes and whoever produced this sign did not like it. But for the past few years a preservationist has owned The Red House and is restoring it to its original style.

Apparently, the first film produced by Samuel Goldwyn in his studio Goldwyn Pictures in 1917 was shot in this town, and all of the interior scenes take places in this house, or on sets modeled after it.

The whole movie is online.

The Red House, also, has this fancy plaque on the front wall.

I touched it. It’s some sort of vulcanized rubber. But the rest of the house, though, it’s something else. Some day I’m going to have to work my way into an invite.

What already seems like six or seven years ago, somehow, but was merely last Wednesday, I showed you the marker that stood by itself, with nothing to memorialize. It was a fire ring. There’s one other in town, and it is within just a few feet of The Red House.

And even though, last week, I shared a screen cap of the Google Street View car’s photo of that now-missing fire ring, it’s important to see it for yourself. So now here is a fire ring.

This all seems pretty obvious now. It sounds like this.

I’m just tapping the ring with the metal head of my bike pump but the sound really jumps. Imagine, years ago, hearing this in the middle of a quiet night, when someone full of adrenalin is striking this ring. “FIRE! COME QUICK!” I bet it was an effective system for it’s time. The Red House’s sign says it has survived, among other things, fires, so that ring must have been an effective call to the community.

Also, ‘Old Discipline’? What a great name. What a great name for anything.

If you’ve missed some of the early markers, look under the blog category We Learn Wednesdays. What will we learn next week? Something quite unique indeed. Come back and see!

Aug 23

I am onboard; I know where my towel is

With the viewing a lot of web videos and slideshows, I have now completed my onboarding process. I am onboarded. I only need to be welcomed aboard.

Speaking of which, there should be a form email in my inbox … oh there it is, right to the spam folder.

I had to forward that email to another email, as per the instructions of the ethics module. It was an hour-long slideshow telling you not to take gifts, and all of the things you can do, if you get special permission. It reminds me of a place I worked once that had very specific rules, the third rule in that old job you just knew showed up that high because someone was caught doing it and someone else realized Ya know, we don’t have a rule for that.

So the rules and the guidelines are all good. Some very specific. And there was a lot of time spent on whether or not you can own, manage or work in a cannabis shop. I don’t see myself owning, managing or working in a cannabis shop one day, but it’s nice to have the official guidance.

There’s always a specific story in the specifics.

There were some fun hypotheticals, the stories populated by characters with great names. My favorite was Paul Pushalot. There were two characters, though, that sounded familiar, both in name and circumstance. Familiar in a 1990s sitcom sort of way. Hopefully no producers with ties to ABC every watch that training module.

But, if they do, they’ll know about the cannabis store rules.

At the very end of the work week we took the garbage to the convenience center. (I wonder how long before I start writing that as the inconvenience center?) The gentleman that had to wait for us to drop off the recycling so he could close the gate behind us, on a Friday, wore the weary “I get home every afternoon at 5:08 and if it’s 5:09, the wife begins to worry” look on his face.

With that chore just barely done, the man checked his watch when we pulled in, I rinsed out the garbage cans back at the house. I considered how we can simplify the recycling paradigm. At the previous place the recycling center did containers for different kinds of glass, plastic, steel and aluminum. Here, it all goes into one bin. Maybe that means I don’t need to keep four big tubs in the garage. That would mean I have three extra tubs. I wonder what we could do with those.

Store tomatoes in them, probably. I brought in a great big armful again today. I’m enjoying so many tasty fruits that there is no way I can be dehydrated, or keep up. It is a great treat, though, to see all of the things that grow here.

We finished the first half of the seventh season (thanks Ronald Moore, for that silly innovation) of “Outlander” tonight. It took seven seasons for the characters to cover 30 years (and forget, mostly, about agin) and it’s taken an interminable amount of time for the show to work its way into the Revolution.

Daniel Morgan’s sharpshooters play a small part in these last episodes, as we have finally arrived at the Battle of Saratoga. Shows can’t show the full scale of battlefields, of course. Too expensive to have that many extras, and showing things as they were probably wouldn’t translate well to the format. But these guys were firing from 300 yards, at a time when volleys were effective at about 70 or 80 yards, and on TV it looked like close combat.

Also, Benedict Arnold is there. Now, in the show’s time in Scotland our protagonists rubbed shoulders with important people real and fictional. In France, they were in the king’s court for reasons I forget. And, in a Forrest Gump sort of way, they bumped into George Washington, when he was still that tall fellow from Virginia. The heroine is a mid-20th century time traveler of course — and I’m just here to see that explained; I’ve been assured it isn’t a coma, dream or aliens, but even as the characters are now trying to guess at understanding it, I am concerned about the resolution — but she’s British and only remembers the broadest strokes of the war in America.

Also, also, they keep running into other time travelers. Four that I can recall. All play bit parts and none add a lot to the story. Quantum Leap it ain’t. But there’s Benedict, calm and charming, personable, handsome, slight limp. They don’t give it away until you learn he’s a pharmacist, and then the limp becomes an editorial fixation. Later, some exposition clues in people in clever way what that guy’s story is, but Claire, the British protagonist brilliantly played by the Irish Caitríona Balfe, doesn’t know the details. She’s sure he must become a turncoat for the colonies to win the war, which is the side she and her main man are on. But the rest is … Why couldn’t a historian be a time traveler, you ask? Claire’s son-in-law is a historian, a 20th century Scotsman. When he went back to the past to chase his future wife he decided to become … a preacher. Not an especially good use of a unique skill set given where they were, but a delightful nod to the difference between the practical and the knowledgeable.

It reminds me of Arthur Dent, on Lamuella. You run across a backward planet and figure you could be running this place with your superior knowledge, skill and ambition, but then you realize the one thing you know how to do: you can make a really good sandwich.

Or, as Stephen Frye aptly said, “A joke about a small thing tells you a lot about a big thing, and a big thing turned into a small thing is just as true.”

So anyway, Claire knows Benedict Arnold has to, eventually, commit treason. Only know they are in each other’s orbits. And, eventually, she finds herself caring for him after a battlefield injury, and he confesses his anger. This part of the Arnold character is correct, though it seems like he isn’t intense here as he becomes in real life. Also, because our characters don’t know the real story of the man, they don’t know the audacity of this pharmacist as a military man.

I guess what I’m saying is that a series about Benedict Arnold and his upstate New York struggles could be fascinating. (They’d over-cast his wife.) Daniel Morgan, could he be a series? He deserves an anthology episode, at the least. Everyone knows Arnold’s name, even if they were never taught or read about the details. Morgan only comes up if you go to the battlefield, which is a shame, because his name should have passed into the common folklore. He is all over some of the specialty history books, the sort that dissect certain elements of that war, the sort I read from time-to-time. I’d suggest Washington’s Immortals and With Musket & Tomahawk as two I’ve read most recently. In the latter, Timothy Murphy gets a nice moment. In fact, one of the important sequences in that episode should have been highlighted as Murphy’s, but that’s TV for you.

I just realized I brought Douglas Adams into a historical fictional romance anecdote some 300 words back. That’s how you know when the rambling should stop. Belgium, it’s late.

(That makes sense. I probably won’t remember why when I traipse back upon this post in six years or whatever, but I promise, future me, that makes sense. It’s just really, really obscure.)

Aug 23

Is August too soon for ghost stories?

One of my former students, I learned yesterday, is beginning her new job as a reporter in Savannah. Great city, of course. The Yankee and I were married there. We visit often. And I’m excited for my young journalist friend. It should be a great market for her to start polishing her skills.

The day before yesterday I learned another former student has just begun a job reporting at NBC in Chicago. Her third stop in the business is number three in the Nielsen rankings. Only New York and Los Angeles are bigger markets, of course. In the media, the dues paying a young employee does sometimes means starting in smaller newsrooms, or in smaller markets, or both. Over time the successful worker bee moves up the ladder. Courtney, who is now in Chicago, started in market 138, moved to 35 and is now in market number three. To make it that high, that early in her career is a testament to my innate ability to her incredible talent and superior networking skills. Success stories are successful for a reason, and I’m always so proud to see my friends continue their success.

I keep a map of where my former students are. They’ve spread out across the country, of course. But I know, from my map, that four of them are working in Chicago. A few are working abroad. The problem is that I’ve been doing this long enough that inevitability some people fall off my radar. I only catch so much on LinkedIn. (I updated four of those map locations last night, for example.) So please keep me updated with your success stories, my friends.

Someone I met 15 years ago in my first year on campus went out into the world, and then law school, and is now teaching classes at a law school. That’s the one that aged me.

Today’s errands put a few new lines on my face too, I’m sure of it. I took the garbage to the garbage taking place, because, again, no one picks up garbage in this neighborhood. Despite two companies which pick up garbage in the neighborhood. I have witnessed it and taken photographic proof. Monday, a truck stopped at the house across the street. A gentleman stepped off and grabbed our neighbors’ discarded materials and drove off to … wherever garbage trucks go when they’re through on your street.

We had a little chat with our neighbor yesterday. A wonderfully pleasant and cheerful man. The sort that knows everyone, and talks about them like they’re all old friends, and you are too. I should have asked him about the garbage truck. Probably he owned the company, or the person that does owes him some not insubstantial favor.

Anyway, in and out at the convenience center, as it is locally called. And, except for the location, it is convenient. Of course, if that isn’t too convenient, or at least upwind, that’s OK, too.

From there I went to the Tractor Supply to inquire about peach baskets. They have no tractors, a thin selection of supplies, and no peach baskets. The woman I spoke with there suggested I go to the Coal and Ice, which is a local hardware store that has kept it’s name, if not it’s original products. The Coal and Ice does not carry peach baskets. (I wonder if I can make a gag of renaming that store everything they don’t have. This would be unfair, it’s a small store. And it would become a long gag pretty quickly. For example, so far it would be the Coal and Ice, and Digital Deadbolt, Sliding Glass Door Lock and Peach Basket. They do carry, however, weather stripping for basement doors. I have to be fair about this inventory gag I won’t pursue.)

A nice lady at the Coal and Ice suggested a farm market. Produce stands on the side of the road. That was, actually, my next option. They’re ubiquitous, and that’s lovely. But most of them are all stocked and sold on an honor system, which is charming. I needed to talk with someone, but no dice.

So I set out for a distant grocery store to buy Milo’s. They did not have Milo’s. So I visited a sister store to try my luck again. I think maybe the delivery guy has been under the weather or something, because I went oh-for-two. I need that driver to get back on the road, quickly.

My next stop was a Lowe’s, but on the way there I ran across a place called Bloomer’s Garden Center. A big, sprawling, someone-has-to-water-all-of-these-plants-daily place. A place with a water garden wing, and another bird sanctuary wing. Everything smelled of rich nitrogen soil. These people are in the business of selling things to people who want to grow things. The woman there had no idea about peach baskets. I think they must appear from the very air.

So I went to Lowe’s. I looked there for peach baskets. No luck, of course, because that’s a pretty small, and obviously obscure, item for a box store. I did get two garbage cans, because see above, and a spool of weed eater string. You could purchase this in spools of one or three. I had the three-spool pack in my hand, considered my traditional weed eater habits and opted for the smaller, less expensive version. Rolled my two garbage cans to the self-checkout, and then out to the car.

Next to the Lowe’s there was a Dollar Tree. I walked in there. No peach baskets. But I did find small plastic baskets that are about the proper size, have a big breathable basket type pattern and a convenient handle. I got six of them. Paid eight bucks, which is probably close to how much gas I’ve spent on that search today.

Picked up some Chick-fil-A for a very late lunch and then drove it the 20-some minutes back to the house. Whereupon I learned that one of the two garbage cans I picked up … doesn’t have a lid.

So I’ll go back there tomorrow.

We went on a bike ride early this evening and it was obvious almost right away that I had no legs. My lovely bride waited on me twice, but finally I waved her on. No need for her to slow down if I can’t speed up. This is a training ride for her, anyway.

I just turned mine into a scenic experience. Here’s today’s barn by bike.

The last four miles on this route are uphill, which is to say, have a gentle, gradual slow ascent. There’s nothing bigger than a roller, but you gain the same 70 feet a few times over and over. Also, I was developing a soft rear wheel. I titled the ride “Slow leak, Slower legs.”

Tomorrow’s ride will be a bit better. But I have to allow for a few minutes to swap out that tube. Some first world problems feel insulting even to the concept of the first world problems meme.

For dinner, we took some of these tomatoes from the backyard …

And some of these peaches from the front yard …

And mixed them with some things we purchased at a nearby grocery store to make a tasty little peach salsa.

It complimented everything nicely, but the cilantro and the onion muted the peaches just a bit. Anyway, we’ll have plenty more opportunities to try this concept. We might also soon be eating peaches as an entree. I mean, aside from breakfast and midday snacks.

And I have those baskets now, so we’re now important produce power players, locally speaking.

I have started tracking down the local historical markers. New county, new goals and all of that. I found a site that lists 115 markers in this county, so there’s a ton of easy content!

This is the second installment. You can find them all under this brand new blog category, We Learn Wednesdays. What will we learn about today?

This is a place called Seven Stars. Built in 1762 by a man named Peter Lauterbach, it is architecturally significant, and there are important bits of social and military history inside those brick walls as well. The side features Flemish patterned brickwork, which was once a common thing here, and will come up again in a later post. In this case, the pattern carries the initials “P-L-E” for Peter and Elizabeth Lauterbach.

Their son John Louderback changed his name and lived in the tavern during the Revolutionary War. The British came through and raided the tavern, looking for him. He had a price on his head because he was thought to be giving food to the Americans. Louderback and his family hid in the woods. And, a few years later, he marched with a unit out of Pennsylvania. Earlier he’d served under Casimir Pulaski.

Peter, the father, died in 1780. John lived to see the country independent, and died in 1802. His mother lived until at least 1806, which is where historians find her name on a church roll. She also voted in 1800, presumably because of the property she held, inherited from her husband or otherwise. During that period, depending on where you were, it is estimated that between seven and 25 percent of the tallied votes were cast by women. (A state law that was billed as progressive at the time disenfranchised women and Blacks in 1807.)

Seven Stars has a lot of ghost stories attached to it, as well. In the early 20th century, the residents claimed seeing figures on horseback riding up to the tavern window, that small one to the left of the door, which was where people got their orders. Someone is said to have seen a ghostly figure checking on a baby. Supposedly Peter roams the ground looking for valuables he buried during the Revolution. Another spirit is said to be a spy for the British who found his end at the end of a rope in the attic. A Halloween-type site says loud footsteps and scuffle sounds can sometimes be heard in the attic. A pirate is thought to be a frequent haunter, as well. Be as skeptical as you like, but someone also needs to go camp out and see if the ghostly ghosts and their ghostly horses trot up to the tavern window.

It is now a private residence.

In the center of town you’ll find this wonderful bit of signage. There’s a lot going on there, because, for a small town, a lot has gone on there.

I’m sure we’ll pick up on some of those themes again in future installments. For now, here’s the door to that bank, which is still standing, sturdy and beautiful as ever.

Some day, I’ll go back and photograph the whole of the building. When I was there for this, it was small-town rush hour, and people have to get where people want to go.

(Update: A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to improve on the shot. Here’s the First National Bank.)

Which is what you should do, right now. Go to the next place. But come back here tomorrow. There’s going to be a lot more fun to discuss here tomorrow.

Jul 23

A full day’s worth

This morning we took The Yankee’s car to a mechanic. It was a planned event. She needed an oil change and, I suspected, a radiator flush. She searched around, found a place that got great reviews, and made an appointment so, literally, a planned event.

I followed her over, we met the guy, sitting three rooms deep into his shop. Large fellow, sleeveless shirt, bandana on his head. Hunting paraphernalia on his desk. There were fishing rods in the corner, a Dale Earnhardt flag hanging on the wall. I felt like I understood him right away.

We left the car, which he said would be ready this afternoon. We headed back, stopping off at the grocery store for a few lunch supplies. The afternoon passed easily enough. I believe I was finishing up a bit of reading and writing on LinkedIn when she said the mechanic called and her car was ready. So we went back over, the first half of the short trip entirely by memory. And the car was ready! Windows rolled down. Key in the ignition. Inside, she paid the fellow. Cash. He made change, from his pocket. He said the radiator flush was the right call. Said he tested it. So we established I knew what I was talking about, that he’d work on both of our cars, his prices are fair and, possibly, he doesn’t hold up progress by slow-walking maintenance work.

If that’d been it, that would have been a day’s worth, right there.

At the house, she said, there was something she wanted to show me. Turns out, we’ve got a peach tree.

Five varieties of peaches grow here. Now we have to become peach experts.

There are also some tomato plants out back. Do you know who is a tomato expert?

And there’s a corner of Lactuca sativa. Funny, you just don’t think of growing your own lettuce.

This is something called clammy goosefoot, an herb from Australia. I don’t know what you’d use it for, and I have yet to find a site that screams “You simply MUST put this on your pasta.” So probably I won’t.

But we also found some chives …

Nearby was the oregano.

And, of course, the sage.

We’re going to have to determine the schedules for all of these plants now. And, if that had been it, that would have been a day’s worth. But no.

For, you see, we went to join this running club. But, for the second week in a row, they no showed. They are, in fact, running away from us.

Which is fine, because I need someone to chase I wasn’t going to run this evening anyway. It usually works like this. I think Rest day? Schmest day! And then, the next day, I realize the error in that thought, and the wisdom in a rest day. So today, I did not run, or anything else, because I had eight days of workouts (be they ever so humble) in a row, and 11 days in the last 12.

Tomorrow I’ll … exercise … or something.

Instead of running, we got milkshakes. Dinner. We got dinner. And also milkshakes. We carried that back to the house and watched today’s stage of the Tour de France. And here’s the thing about the Tour … it’s 21 days of racing and this is the 110th edition and that means there’s a lot of history and trivia and wonderful anecdotes and a lot of it, until recently, wasn’t kept with baseball statistic precision. We did know, coming into this stage, that this was the third-narrowest time differential (10 seconds) between first and second place riders after 15 completed stages. We knew that because the TV producers made a fine graphic telling us about it.

Also, you know, it’s a bike race. Real roads, differing technologies and external circumstances and terrain and routes and all of that. It’s hard to compare the apples and pears of the time differential in this year’s race with the leading comparable statistic, which was four seconds between Jos Hoevenaers and Federico Bahamontes in 1959.

Bahamontes wound up winning, Hoevenaers finshed eighth, down 11-plus minutes. But everything about the style of the race was different then.

It also seems difficult to compare the tight affairs of this year’s Tour with the legendary 1989 race, which was a 50-second race on the last day, ultimately won by Greg Lemond by eight seconds. Someone put together the Lemond and Laurent Fignon time trial side-by-side.

Evolving cycling technology is coming into play here. Lemond, on the left, has aero bars and a new teardrop-shaped aerodynamic helmet. He only used the disc wheel on the back. Fignon ran two disc wheels, which leaves you more susceptible to crosswinds. Also, Fignon road a conventional style. It got so silly after the fact that people also speculated that, had he cut his hair, Fignon would have avoided eight seconds of air drag.

I’ve heard Lemond say, more than once now, that he was told Laurent Fignon was haunted by that race for the rest of his life. That he walked around counting eight seconds. Fignon, in his autobiography, wrote “You never stop grieving over an event like that.”

Anyway, that was the closest finish in history, but after 15 stages, the difference between them in first and second was 40 seconds.

It’d be a bit easier to compare the technology of today to the second closest, the 2008 edition, where Frank Schleck, of Luxembourg, was leading Australian Cadel Evans by eight whole seconds after 15 stages. (Also, bikeraceinfo.com reminds me that Austrian Bernhard Kohl was in between them, down only seven seconds to Schleck. Kohl later confessed to doping, so he disappears from the official records.) Eight seconds! Neither of those guys won the Tour.

At least that looks familiar. Modern. It’s only 15 years ago, and those riders have all retired, but the names are familiar. Indeed, I remember that particular tour. The technology and nutrition have jumped significantly ahead in the generations hence. Even the way they race, in terms of strategy and tactics, has been evolving since then. It’s the same, but different, remember.

But this year’s tour will be difficult to forget. Today …

Time trials aren’t usually very interesting to me, but I’d love to know how this ranks historically. The guy in second place, two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogacar, started the day down 10 seconds, and he had an incredible ride. The only problem was the guy behind him, his rival, the defending champion and current leader, Jonas Vingegaard, had an incredibler ride. A gobsmacking ride. Watching the time gaps grow at the checks was something that strained credulity. You could tell he was riding hard, working for it, riding well. It was in the body language right away. But that stage was a deconstruction. This is a place I actually want more statistics. Has a time trial ever done such a thing to an evenly matched opponent? SBS offered a slightly more technical comparative look of the two rivals.

What started the day as a tense, 10-second race finished a mind-boggling one minute and 48 second race between the two best road racers in the world. This will be hard to forget. And there are more mountains to come.

If that’d been it, that would have been a day’s worth, but no.

Because I also updated and upgraded a deadbolt. I only messed up two parts, and it only took several more minutes than the directions promised. But, it is installed. It is square. It matches the door knob. And, importantly, it is functional.

Each entry and exit through that door will now be reported to the ninja barracks out back, via a military grade wifi network, so that they can monitor and approve of all of the comings and goings.

When they aren’t worrying over that oregano.