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After driving past Smith Preserve for a month or so, I decided to give it a shot.  There's a clear sign indicating that mountain biking is allowed there. It's a network of double-track trails likely to draw cross-country skiers in the winter months, along with some single-track that I have yet to fully explore because I don't want to be lost in the dark back there. Mostly, I've managed to eke out small 30-minute rides before fearing that darkness will set in and leave me hanging. It's clear that there's more to explore, and I have yet to find a soul in the woods.

It's not at all challenging from a technical perspective, though the flat terrain does make for a good cardio ride.  It's a soupy mess in places, owing to the general marshy nature of the entire Kennebunkport area.  Autumn leaves littering the trail do make the ride a bit challenging since boulders, downed logs, and more hide in the puddles.  There are definitely trail hazards in there. Even with a good night light, the dusk rides get a bit scary in places.

It's hunting season as well.  Pick-ups are parked all around the area, a clear sign that one could get shot.  My guess is that the preserve is off limits, but I'm not sure.  I broke out my fluorescent orange waterproof cycling jacket for the occasion. The bonus is that it keeps me warm enough to ride as the temperature dips.  No frosty rides - yet.

I started to struggle to get myself around Mt. Agamenticus before darkness set in once we turned back the clocks.  Not wanting to be caught out in the cold and the dark on the mountain, and tiring of the 35-minute drive just to hit a trail, I had to strike out and find another riding spot if I wanted to stay on the bike. Smith Preserve fits the bill just fine right now.

WP, Win, MySQL, PHP

Last April, at the Northeast Writing Across the Curriculum Consortium (NEWACC) Steering Committee meeting at Boston University, I agreed to work with Mike Palmquist at the WAC Clearinghouse to get a NEWACC site up and running by the upcoming NEWACC meeting at Quinnipiac University. NEWACC was imagining a website within the Clearinghouse, as well as a blog. Ideally, this would run in a single tool, a CMS with a blog built into it. I started thinking WordPress because of its strong blog platform and its functionality as a CMS. (Obviously, that's not the only option.)

Unfortunately, the Clearinghouse didn't have the back end apparatus to host any of the popular blog platforms. And there were concerns about security in a PHP/MySQL setup. At first it looked like a unified solution would not be possible. But Mike is a great guy who is willing to push the boundaries a bit.  He told me they were experimenting with virtual servers for local projects at Colorado State. After a few months of testing, in mid-September Mike got a virtual Windows Server up and running, with IIS on it.

WordPress on Windows?  Hmm. Generally, Windows and PHP with MySQL don't even belong in the same sentence. My first response was, "This won't work." Then I thought, "This won't work without major hacks, patches, and a major months-long headache." Surprise!

6 Hours Later...

WordPress is notable for its famous "5-minute installation" instructions. Right in the instructions are guidelines for installing WP on Win. Microsoft has a FREE (yes, free) product called MS Web Platform Installer that makes relatively quick work of all this headache. Get it installed on your server and you can manage all the app downloads and installations through checkboxes and a GUI.  Sweet!

It wasn't quite that simple, though I have to take some of the blame because of my lack of knowledge.  I didn't know there was something called IIS until I started trying to run a tool built to run on Apache on a Windows Server.  It took a couple meetings with some web folks at UNE (Al and Neal, thanks!) before I started to get a handle on the Windows Server/IIS thing. My internet access in Maine is pretty spotty, and this really limits file transfer speeds. The first installation of WP went into a subdirectory, and so it was in the wrong place.  And the FTP access wasn't activated on the server until after I poked around.What is amazing to me is that it's running at all. And it is!

WP 3 as a Network

The new power of WordPress 3 is that it can run multiple blogs in a single installation. It's important to activate this feature within 30 days of an installation. I don't know if NEWACC will have a use for this feature, but if we don't do it now we'll find it harder to handle down the road.  So I took on this piece as well.  I found instructions for Network activation on a Windows installation of WordPress at Laura Gentry's site. Smooth as silk.

Next Steps

4.5 months into the project we're set up with server space at Colorado State. We have a virtual server running WordPress 3, a platform that will integrate the NEWACC website with the NEWACC blog, and a tool that can actually scale up to host multiple blog or sites over time. I can now turn my attention to the thing I agreed to do in April.  I can start to build the website for NEWACC!

I found another nice set of bike trails in the area.  Mt. Agamenticus is a cool mountain in York at the heart of "one of the largest remaining expanses of undeveloped forests in coastal New England" (http://www.agamenticus.org/index.html). On Sunday I rode the trails that head to the mountain peak. It's only about 30 minutes away from my place, making it fairly easy to ride.

I rode Ring and Fisher on the way up, and Witch Hazel, Ring, Chestnut Oak, Porcupine, Rocky Road, and Ring on the way down.  I missed the turn to hit Chestnut Oak, ending up on a nice, technical ride down Goosefoot.  But Goosefoot dropped me at Cedar, a trail that ran off my trail map.  I had to climb that same technical hill back up to catch the Chestnut Oak trail. (Oops.)

Perhaps the coolest thing about this ride is the bonus view from the top of Mt. Agamenticus.  A lookout on the north end of the mountain offers views of the hills and valleys of Maine and New Hampshire, and I could see the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the distance.  (A panoramic sketch of the mountain silhouette helped me locate those mountains, taking me back to the days when I used to hike those mountains all the time.) And from the southeast side of the peak I could see the Atlantic ocean. This will be a great place to ride as the leaves turn, and as they drop and the views just open up. This is a great place for hiking as well.  On the summit, at the ranger station, there's a wonderful nature exhibit, with hawk wings, pelts, and plants that introduce visitors to the wildlife of the region. I'll bring the family here soon!

It was such a nice ride that I headed back for more on Monday evening.  I met Rob, a local Ogunquit bike shop owner, at the trail head.  He offered to show me some of the trails I hadn't yet explored.  We had a really nice, quiet evening ride as I explored the northeast end of this conservation area.  After running around Ring and out around Second Hill, we rode straight up the north side of Agamenticus on Sweet Fern.  We hit the summit just as the sun was setting over the mountains to the west.  Gorgeous! I don't normally ride with a partner these days, unless I'm riding with my kids.  It was great to have someone to ride with and I'll be sure to try to ride with Rob again.

Apparently, there's another network of trails in a water district conservation area just across Mountain Road.  Rob and I agreed that it would be nice to explore that area some other time.

I have a really cool space in Kennebunk, inside a historic Masonic Hall. With 15' tin ceilings, massive windows, and an open layout, the space just breathes. After wrapping up my second week with the Masons, I'm starting to feel at home. It's a very quiet area, though the construction on Main St. starts at about 6 AM. (Good thing I'm an early riser!) And the people in the area are so friendly and helpful.

Masonic Hall
Masonic Hall - Main St., Kennebunk

I met one of the individuals running the cafe downstairs (Jason), and took a brief bike ride around the Kennebunk neighborhoods to check out housing in the area. I was even able to unpack some research and do some writing. I'm feeling like this is going to be a great place to live, at least for now.

After waiting all summer to sell our house so we could hold a yard sale, we decided to have the sale even though the house hasn't sold. Emma came up with the idea of a lemonade stand, and she added iced tea to the menu. She sat out front all day selling lemonade to people who came to the yard sale, to the mailman, and to passers by. I think she made almost $20 over about 6 hours. (That's more than I made in 6 hours when I started flipping burgers at 16!)

At the end of the day, I pulled out my phone and shot some video of the kids pitching lemonade. Today I pulled the video off my phone, imported it into iMovie, added a filter to give it an old movie look, and put a piece of the video on my Youtube account.

[Video deleted at Emma's request - February 22, 2013]

You'll notice that Emma isn't offering more than unpaid internships at her stand! Too bad for her brothers.

I just completed the "rough" migration of my website into WordPress 3.0. I'm wrapping the weblog and the pages all in one blog. I'll post the procedures once I finish tying up all the (very) loose ends on the project. For example, I just realized that I deleted the files that were controlling my CSS-switching experiment, a 4-5 year effort that I'd hate to lose just because I'm moving to WordPress for the site. Repairing the damage will take a little time. (Major ouch!)

What's good about this move?

  • I get Web 2.0 functionality and the database web moving forward.
  • My weblog is integrated with the rest of my site.
  • With WordPress 3.0 I can roll multiple sites/blogs into a single install, and manage them from one admin panel.
  • This enables me to move all my course sites into WordPress (going forward). I experimented with WP-driven course sites in Spring 2010 and I mostly liked it.

What's not good?

  • My focus on content migration took my eye off design. I have a "designed" site, to be sure. But it has a very bloggy (or blocky?) look/feel to it.  In time I'll push this issue, starting with experiments in course website.
  • Lots of up front work to move things.
  • Errors will be huge. (Let's hope I don't err.)