Posts tagged ‘travel’

New York: Driving to Newburgh

Sunday, July 3

It so happened that a family wedding coincided (within a week anyway) with a programming conference. After a small course correction for “New York State” vs. “New York City” anyway ;^)

I drove out with my parents; their brilliant plan to avoid an extra night in an expensive New York hotel was to start driving very early. I’d say it was the butt-crack of dawn, but it was earlier than that. I believe we started at two, so I had to be up even earlier to finalize and drive down to my parents house. Despite several reminders that we could take over at any time, my father drove the whole twelve-hour (fourteen with stops) trip himself.

On the upside, we got a front row seat for dawn, with a gradual reddening of the horizon revealing valleys filled with mist, which scattered with the rising sun. Once the sun was up, we could also see many of the exposed rock formations going through the hilly country of Pennsylvania

The hotel my parents picked was right next to the Orange County Choppers store/workshop. The TV show is often on when I’m at my parent’s house, but for some reason I’d always assumed Orange County was in Florida or California.

After checking in at the hotel, we headed into Newburgh. It has a very broad broadway, although the town looks a little distressed, with rolling shutters on most storefronts. There were rumors of a picnic, but the rain we passed through on the way in put a damper on that, so we got taken out for friend chicken at the store instead.

Iowa Trip: Amana Colonies

Wednesday, May 4

Early Wednesday morning, figuring Amana businesses probably wouldn’t be open yet, I headed for one of the walking trails identified on the map. It was organized as a set of successively longer loops, and I opted for the longest one. I must have misread something however, because whereas I thought it would be a complete loop, the furthest section was actually a dead end. I barged on anyway, getting quite thoroughly lost for a while. First I was in country thick with thornbushes, and after searching on for a bit I realized that this was quite out of character with the rest of the trails. Then I found my way back to some semi-maintained grassy trails, but these were also out of character with the dirt ones in the park. Somehow, after doubling back, I stumbled across a gateway that returned me to the trails proper.

In the afternoon I wandered around the main Amana village a little. There was a local artist’s cooperative chocolatiers, an Amana museum, and lunch at a restaurant in an old communal kitchen hall. Once again, it looks like good antiquing country, but it’s not quite my thing. I also think I might have liked it better at a busy time (It seems I just missed Maifest, which was going on while I was at the various weddings) when I could blend in a little. There were so few people that I draw lots of attention. A couple of the shopkeepers seemed kind of dour and unwelcoming. Some lingering resentment towards the capitalist lifestyle, or were they they just reflecting my own disinterested attitude?

Iowa Trip: Henry Doorly Zoo

Tuesday, May 3

Prior to the trip I had asked if there was anything I should definitely see while in town. The two things that came up were downtown (yesterday) and the Henry Doorly Zoo. The zoo was conveniently between me and Iowa, so I stopped there to look around for a day, where I was greeted by free-roaming peacocks.

One of the zoo’s big (although somewhat recent) attractions is a desert dome. It provides space for some free-roaming birds. It’s a wonder how often they were found near their signs – or maybe the keepers let the animals settle down before placing the signs.

The dome offers a large space a number of different desert species, including these adorable little goats (or relatives thereof), which I forgot to snap a name plate for.

Underneath the dome is a creatures of the night exhibit featuring nocturnal animals. It was an interesting look, although not great for photography.

Another set of small domes housed butterflies and other insects.

A large netted aviary gave a number of species a bit of free space. Though a few of the birds preferred the roofs of the walkway gazebos.

Though they got though most of the day, my camera batteries finally gave out. After a few more exhibits I started driving home. It was plenty dark by the time I got to eastern Iowa, and I started looking for some place to stop where I might be able to look around a bit more. Finally I saw signs for the Amana Colonies, which I’d heard of several times while attending college nearby, but never actually visited. The hotel I stopped at was an odd sort of duplex – a cheaper hotel on one side, and a fancier one at the other, with a single clerk manning both desks through an internal passage.

Iowa Trip: Just the Fax

Monday, May 2

Monday I stuck around to actually visit a bit, having missed the lead-up activities while I was at another wedding. There wasn’t a formal gift-opening party at this one, but a group of people went out breakfast at Petro’s, apparently a somewhat famous diner.

Much of the rest of the day was spent chasing fax machines. We got away for a little while to the rustic old downtown area, though I’ve become so unaccustomed to needless shopping that I wasn’t able to appreciate it very much.

Iowa Trip: Two Walks and a Wedding (the sequel)

Sunday, May 1

Iowa Falls, take three

I choose to stay around for the morning gathering, catching a little of it before heading out. I was up early enough that I had a little (but not a lot) of time to spare, so drove up into Iowa Falls again, heading towards a green patch on the map. It proved to be the Ira Nichols Refuge.

A large portion of the refuge truly was, fenced off from idle access, but there was still are large section of woods open for walking.

Way out back, I startled some deer.


Technically, Omaha is in Nebraska, but it’s just over the Iowa border, so Iowa is essentially where all the driving took place. I had left quite enough time for traffic and other eventualities, and arrived at the grotto with a bit of time to spare.

Apparently the grotto was once a spring and a functional water source. The grotto itself is an aside to a larger park (of the cut grass variety). It’s in something of a ravine which runs a bit more wild, albeit with well beaten paths. The area shows evidence of other tunnels and drains, many appearing of ancient construction, and several washed out from leaks and other erosion.

The area is also home to a university (the students no doubt beating many of the paths), and after checking out the short ravine, I took a quick walk around the university grounds.


I returned to the grotto to find people setting up a sound system and paper isle. They later tried to make it a petal-strewn path, but the wind wasn’t very cooperative.

There was some strange guy in a top hat; I guessed he was the groom, and was later proven right.

People ended up sitting on tiered rocks around the grotto. Since I was alone I crawled up to a small corner, and ended up with an interesting perspective on the walkway into the grotto, peering through some bushes.

The ceremony was once again to the point, if rather less traditional. On the same theme, the reception was held in a biker bar called Chrome elsewhere in Omaha. This wasn’t as surprising as it might have been, after seeing the groom and some of the ushers. Space was a little tight at times, but it was interesting to see how they adapted – wedding party on stage, food on covered pool tables, etc.

Iowa Trip: Two Walks and a Wedding

Saturday, April 30

Iowa Falls, take two

The wedding being the afternoon, I went back to wander around Iowa Falls some more. Having made the trip yesterday, I theorized that it was in fact walking distance, which I proceeded to prove. Along the way I passed under a rail bridge, which was alive with the cooing of a great many pigeons taking shelter under it’s beams.

Going through town I happened across all manner of art – in yards, on public buildings, and even a star-spangled house.

Quite by accident, I found my way down a long stairway to the local dam.

Nearby, a stream ran through a built-up-and-fallen-down area. Upstream, a deep canyon was spanned by an arched bridge over to the local water park.


The wedding itself was to be in the neighboring town of Alden.

I headed over about mid-day figuring I would find some place to eat. I parked at the church, which was the obvious base station.

I happened across the groom – the wedding party was in early for pictures – and got invited in share sandwiches. Then I headed out to go wandering through town. Alden is a small town deep in farm country.

It has it’s own dam, with some of the surrounding works still evident.

Nearby, a small stone bridge goes out to an island that was apparently once held parts of the mill as well. At the bench nearby I met an elderly resident and got a little town history. Alden has seen better times, with so many grocery stores and so many gas stations, but the rise of the automobile made it just as easy to go into the larger Iowa Falls, which looks like it’s seen better times itself.


I returned to the church to find everything set up and ready for sign in – time to change clothes. The church was fairly packed, and the ceremony was well run, covering what it needed to without carrying on too long.

The reception back in Iowa Falls featured a quilt stitched together with contributions from many different family members. There wasn’t a whole lot of dancing, although the children took to it with boundless energy.

Iowa Trip: Outlook on Iowa Falls

Friday, April 29

The long belated story of two weddings and some walking.

Strange chance had two old college friends getting married on two consecutive days (quite unbeknownst to each of them at scheduling time) in not too-distantly separated places. Two narrowly timed stops, one in a very small town, pretty much cinched it as a driving trip.

Driving Out

I set out mid-morning expecting to stop and eat my last few bananas somewhere in route. I stopped at the Long Hollow Scenic Overlook in northwest Illinois.

The tower made it stick out a bit, although the tower itself turned out to be closed. Very closed indeed – they had actually pulled up the lower level of steps to keep people from getting adventurous.

After eating, and taking a picture for a group of travelers who seemed to be wrapping up their own lunch, I wandered around a bit, and found an area of cliffs and tilted rock back in the dog walk area.

Iowa Falls

After checking into the hotel at Iowa Falls, I was told that downtown was well beyond walking distance. It seems the main bridge was out, so I drove around the detour and parked downtown in order to wander around a bit. The bridge was quite out, with cranes and equipment along the banks and lots of shore work evidencing a substantial rebuild.

After a bit of searching I crossed the infamous swinging bridge.

The other side was more of a sports park than a nature park. After wandering around I found a deep cut in the cliffside from some stream feeding the river, with something of a small cave in the side. I couldn’t resist crawling around the cliff to take a closer up look (with a few small trepidations about the possibility of having to exit by way of the river)

Returning to safety, I found the Peter Toth indian-head sculpture quite by accident.

Finally I headed back into town, and stopped in at the Princess grill and pizzeria for a plate of spaghetti before looking around downtown proper a bit.

Back to the Future

A few weeks go I went to Toronto for FutureRuby (whose website seems to have died with the event) I wasn’t in any hurry to leave, hoping to avoid rush hour going around the lake. I checked the chicago traffic site, however, and found that there little variation in travel times, and in fact it tended to increase throughout the day, rather than showing a rush hour spike.

Once I finally did get going, I realized several hours in that I had forgotten my shoes. I was wearing sandals, and since the shoes are normally in the entryway, I overlooked them while packing.

I figured I’d take the trip in two strides. I thought I actually made it to Flint in time to look at the art museum, but I forgot to account for the time change. So I headed off to a couple of parks, including stepping stone falls, a great monument of concrete and algae.

For a change of pace, I stayed the night at a bed and breakfast outside Flint. Fairly nice place; housing for a large family turned to new uses, but very quiet during the week. One good idea was the outdoor play area for children.

The Canadian boarder guard seemed very wary, but she let me through with any trouble. The people at the BNB had assuaged my fears about currency conversion; there is a currency exchange just on the other side of the gate (almost too close, really) The dollar coins worked out fairly well; it’s a shame the US gave up too early it’s on dollar – these kinds of shifts take time for the novelty to wear off.

Toronto is a nice place, although if the hotel is any judge I don’t know if it’s affordable. Toronto is a city of neighborhoods. I could walk from the main shopping strip, through chinatown, to eclectic areas proclaiming organic food. It’s probably a good thing it’s so walkable. The FutureRuby kit included a weekend transit pass, which I promptly lost. As best I can figure, it fell out of my pocket while getting dinner Friday night.

I started following the #futureruby tag on Twitter for breaking news. It looked kind of interesting when people were discussing the restaurant recommendations. It looked kind of scary when the conference started and the floodgates opened.

There were some excellent and varied talks, though of course I didn’t have to go to Canada for the straight up talks – they are already starting to appear on InfoQ. I went to try and pick up some programmer society, which is of course is a struggle. I was fairly lost during the parties, though I did manage some conversations, and met Collin Miller, a fellow dreamer looking beyond text editors. One thing I’ve run across during this is that I don’t have a good name for textless programming. Structural editing is the best I’ve come up with.

Coming back across the border, I got in a slow line and figured “great, I’ve got a tough one” but I got passed through pretty quickly. I guess I don’t look too suspicious.

I figured I’d keep going until I got tired; I was getting a little weary at one point, but after stopping for dinner, I was good to go the rest of the way home.

The local ChicagoRuby group had a meeting the following weekend, and had put out a call for lightning talks. I thought that an overview of FutureRuby would be topical, and a lightning (short) talk would be a manageable way ease into presentations. I didn’t really consider how hard it would be to compress even my meager notes into ten minutes, however. All and all it went pretty well, although it took a day of writing, editing, and practice runs to compress it down.

Shortly after finishing that out, I moved my bookmarks from MyHq to Delicious (a long planned project) so that I could make all the FutureRuby links more accessible.

North Carolina

So, I went down to North Carolina the week of 2008-07-07 to 2008-07-14. My parents were going down with some of their motorcycling friends.

Specifically, we went down to the Maggie Valley area, in the smoky mountains. Since it was a bunch of bikes (I had the token car) it was driving all the way. We took highways to Richmond (narrowly avoiding flooded roads near Indianapolis, but not some heavy rain shortly beforehand) to stay the first night. From there it was (by choice) twisty mountain back roads down to our main hotel.

Monday we went into the Cherokee reservation, which has a couple of tourist trap areas in it. There were a few hours of wandering through the expected souvenirs, crafts, and preserves. I saw some weird writing around, and ending up getting a small book on the Cherokee language. I was kind of wondering if their was a pattern to the choice of sigals, but so far the sigals seem to be as arbitrary as the english ones, if I stopped to think about them. Their drama presentation might have been interesting, but we came a little too early in the season. It may have been Monday that my family went up to the Severiville area for a short visit to my grandmother.

Tuesday we headed out to make a run down Deal’s Gap, aka The Tail of the Dragon – 318 curves in 11 miles. It was pretty much 30 mph or less the whole way; fortunately we only ran across one semi in the very beginning. Other than an impatient and loud bike that passed us (there are no passing zones on a road this twisty) things went fairly well. We made a big loop of it, and came back on the scenic Cherohala Skyway.

One of the main purposes of the trip was go gem mining, and we finally got around to it Wednesday that we got around to it. They stated up front that their main business is in heavily ‘salted’ buckets. Basically, you are buying a bunch of pretty rocks and a few uncut gemstones, packaged in a bucket of dirt so you feel special for rinsing them off yourself. The other option is to shovel some fresh dirt and see if you turn anything up – probably much less, but but better chance of something big (one person in our party did get a large sapphire) We tried one of each; we got a lot more stuff from the salted bucket, including more gemstones, while the fresh dirt gave us only small number of gemstones (and a bunch of regular rocks) but it cost a lot less, also. We were pretty much mined out by that point, and went in search of some waterfalls; Dry Falls was closed for parking lot construction, but we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls for a few pictures.

Thursday was kind of a leftover day. Nobody was much in the mind to break up, so we set off in search of a christmas store. We got lost on the way, but found it eventually. It was in a teeming downtown area, where we also stopped at an old fashioned country store, with very high prices. After that we went back to Cherokee searching for the As Seen on TV store. We also found that, and stopped back in one of the mall areas on the way back.

Friday was highway driving back to Vincenes, IN, where we thankfully avoided the flooded areas. We did get some more rain along the way, however. Getting home Saturday was pretty uneventful.

(Mostly written 2008-06-17)

Speed Bump in Vegas

No major updates this week, and I’m even late in talking about it. Last week I had to go to Vegas for a business trip (RFID show) I knew that was coming, although I was partly guessing – It turns out I never got the flight confirmation. Now I was quite certain that I had been asked about leaving Tuesday night. But when I started inquiring about the details Monday I found out that we were in fact leaving that evening – fortunately this was early enough for me to go home and pack. The flight also had very few people, so the late checkin didn’t cause any trouble.

I really wanted that extra day though. Beyond party prep (and various long overdue projects) I had to quickly beg my neighbors to pull in my fruit box and milk off the porch. That spared the worst of it – but I still had to deal with box of fruit that had been sitting in it’s own concentrated ethylene for several days (lots of banana bread; the rest was doing okay) I also turned some milk into yogurt (probably a little too much) And of course I had to supply regular meals after carefully emptying the house out for the trip (and a short detoxifying fast over the weekend before.)

I got the bulk of the cleaning done Tuesday, and was able to finish diagramming out the martial arts form late that night. Things would be clearing up, except for an earlier mistake coming back to bite me hard.

A few months ago, I had to estimate a software project using a radically new platform for us. My mistake was omitting the usual x2 multiplier on the casual comment that a multiplier would be added to the final quote anyway. Now a schedule for the best of all possible worlds is being held up as a divine right, while the technology involved is being extraordinarily uncooperative.