Bicycling the Delaware Water Gap – Port Jervis to Trenton

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There are numerous ways to connect between Metro North and SEPTA service heading south to Philadelphia. New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are logical ones; riding 125 miles down the Delaware River is probably the most scenic. For a recent weekend visit to Swarthmore, I took the Old Mine Road through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, camped in Worthington State Park, and spent the second day riding old canal towpaths in Pennsylvania and New Jersey down to Yardley on SEPTA’s West Trenton Line.

The route – Overall, scenic and very low traffic. I was a bit worried about some of the roads between Stroudsburg and Easton, PA, but they were quiet and the cars that did pass me were courteous. The unpaved canal towpaths made for slower going than I expected, especially after some rain made them a bit muddy in parts. Wildlife sightings included six deer, a family of groundhogs, four cardinals, five great blue herons, two black bears, and hordes of geese intent on blocking the canal towpaths.

The bike and gear – A heavy folding bike was easy enough to take on the bus from Boston to New York, the Metro North/New Jersey Transit train from New York to Port Jervis, the SEPTA train from Yardley to Swarthmore (and back to Philadelphia), and the Amtrak train from Philadelphia back to Boston. I brought cooking equipment and food in one small pannier, and extra clothes and supplies in another. On top of the rear rack I had a duffel bag with my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent. I also had a handlebar bag for my camera, phone, directions, and snacks. At the campground, I made sure to hang all of my food in a pannier when I went to bed; a bear poked around camp in the morning, so it was a good thing I did.

Commencement

Some of my family on Swarthmore's big chair

Some of my family on Swarthmore's big chair

I was fortunate to have many members of my family travel to Swarthmore for graduation. Student Romane Paul, molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler, Quaker activist and organizer John Braxton, Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, and actor Stephen Lang delivered meaningful, thought-provoking, humorous, and reflective speeches. You can watch the whole ceremony here.

Since the Engineering majors are awarded separate BS degrees, we have a history of pulling pranks as our names are read. We wanted to ease President Chopp into this tradition; we had her illuminate light bulbs on our caps by flipping a switch as she handed us our diplomas:

Our Engineering graduation prank: lightbulbs on our caps

Our Engineering graduation prank: lightbulbs on our caps

Senior Week

Sparklers in Wharton Courtyard

After four years, our last hurrah at Swarthmore came in the form of Senior Week.  Highlights included a night of bowling at Northbowl, our last bonfire in the Crum Woods, trips to Tom Jones, fireworks, Star Wars viewings, and tours of the college belltower:

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The Engineering Department's Suburban

On the way to Chester

On the way to Chester

I recently had the honor of driving the Engineering Department’s 1986 Suburban Scottsdale. I first encountered this vehicle, a veritable institution of the Department first acquired as a chase car for a solar car race, in my freshman year trips to Chester to tutor with the Engineering Department. Until being instructed to drive to a water quality sampling site the other day, I never thought I would have the honor of driving this esteemed vehicle. (Esteemed meaning that the brakes are questionable, there’s no power locks or windows, and the lining on the back ceiling is falling down so as to obstruct the view out the rear-view mirror).

My Small Liberal Arts College Unexpected and Possibly Too Close for Comfort Vehicle and Professor Accessibility Index (SLACUPTCCVPAI) is now currently:

  • Number of Faculty/Administrators I’ve been driven by: 8
  • Number of Faculty/Administrators’ houses I’ve dined at: 3
  • Number of Faculty/Administrators’ vehicles I’ve driven: 1

Las Vegas

Fountains at the Bellagio

Fountains at the Bellagio

I had a great time in Las Vegas for the 2008 International Writing Centers Association and National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing joint conference.  A fellow Writing Associate and I presented a poster of some research we have done on diversity in Swarthmore’s Writing Center.  We went to a great workshop on anti-racist work in the writing center and heard a great keynote address by Nancy Grimm, a scholar whose work we drew on.  I also got to meet and hang out with some writing consultants from the Harvey Mudd Writing Center.  It was quite fun, and Halloween on the strip was grotesquely intriguing.  Of course, the TSA had to do their part in dampening the fun.  Apparently, the Las Vegas snow globe that one of my travelmates bought for her niece was too much of a threat to homeland security to pass through the security checkpoint.

My first destination was the monorail station, of course

My first destination was the monorail station, of course

Lights

Lights and confusion

Our band of engineers was fascinated by the spiral escalators

Our band of engineers was fascinated by the spiral escalators

Pirate seductresses singing "let's go all the way"

Pirate seductresses singing "let's go all the way"

Westward Bound

Las Vegas from the air

Las Vegas from the air

Later this evening, I will be flying to Las Vegas for a joint conference of the International Writing Centers Association and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing.  Tomorrow afternoon, a fellow WA and I will be presenting a poster detailing some of our work here at Swarthmore.  Updates to follow…

Water Quality Exam

Gross looking runoff under the Baltimore Pike overpass

On Wednesday while studying for my first exam in Water Quality and Pollution Control, I decided that I needed to go for a jog up the Crum Creek.  I could get some exercise while at the same time exploring a local impaired stream – what better way to prepare for a test on urban runoff?

I’ve wanted to go explore Smedley Park, which is north of Baltimore Pike, for a while.  What had stopped me up to this point was having to cross the creek, Paper Mill Road, and Baltimore Pike, all without any clear pedestrian markings.  This means getting from the lower right to upper left corner of this picture unscathed:

I found the appropriate paths and made it to the park.  The quiet woods and fat groundhog were enjoyable.  I’m definitely glad I found the way up to the park and plan on returning there soon.  Things should be gorgeous when the leaves change.

One lane road in Smedley Park

Groundhog

The Human Cost of Coal

The Environmental Studies Program at Swarthmore sponsored a great talk tonight centered around mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. Ken Hechler (Swarthmore Class of 1935), the former long-serving Secretary of State of West Virginia, and Larry Gibson, an environmental activist, shared their perspectives on the harms of coal inherent in its mining, processing, and combustion. I met both of them before the talk and was impressed by their passion and energy. At 94 years old, Ken was a little hard of hearing, but had a vast amount of experience and perspective to share. Larry shared some deeply personal stories about his childhood in West Virginia; more about his work is available at the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation. While Appalachia is a vastly different setting than Roxbury, MA, where I was working this summer, I definitely consider the issues they discussed tonight to be ones of environmental justice.