Periodic Update

Between taxes and running around the woods like an idiot it’s been a busy day.

A few weeks from now I want to take a bunch of friends out to this park/reservation called “The Blue Hills” I’d heard of in one of the papers around here. Supposedly the place is accessible by public transportation and a pretty nice chunk of nature and wooded trails in the Boston suburbs.

The wooded trails I can vouch for, the public transportation not so much.

I generally like to plan these things ahead a little so I wanted to get a map of the area to see how long the trails were and how steep they were so as not do torture these people with some of the arduous treks I have in the past. Unfortunately, there is not a quality map of the place to be found on-line (at least not by the likes of me), and a notice on one of the official sites said that maps were available for $2 or something at the park entrance.

So I figure, it’s a nice day, why not take the T and bus down there just to grab a map and see what it’s like. I set off around 12:30 and after riding the Red Line out to Mattapan as the directions suggest I discovered that Mattapan is basically the edge of civilization on the weekends. All busses leaving it tend to be heading back toward Boston and the 716 bus, which I assumed the directions were talking about, stopped running at noon on Saturdays (ironically the day I’d most expect people to want to hike).

Fortunately, through one of the many economic/geographic quirks of the Mass Bay transit system, an ancient looking little high speed trolley was willing to wisk me back and forth to any destination between Mattapan and Ashmont T-stops for free (well, at cost to the taxpayer (me) at some point I’m sure). So I managed to take it back and catch the 240 bus from Cedar Grove out to the park instead.

No one along the way on any piece of public transportation seemed to have any idea how to get to the park offices even when they were going right through the park. When I asked to be let off the bus near the Blue Hills the woman driving the bus seemed kind of confused like she was trying to remember if there was actually a stop out there.

Of course, though it goes right through park the 240 bus only makes one stop at the very edge of the park, something like a mile or two from any park buildings. The stop is at a point where the suburbs give way abruptly to forrest, the sort of location you don’t expect to find a bus stop (unless it’s a bus stop in Reading PA, but in that case good luck in having the bus come by any time soon). No one in the suburbs uses that stop because everyone who lives this far out has a car probably and everyone living even a little closer in isn’t going to hike out to the forest to get on the bus.

So there I am at the edge of the woods. To guide me I have a PDA containing PDFs of the local MBTA routes and a road map of the general area made by taking screen shots of the maps function, painstakingly piecing them together in MS Paint, and printing that huge sucker on something like nine 8.5×11 sheets which then got taped together into a cumbersome, unfoldable mess.

My first action was to run down the wrong road for about 3/4 mile to what turned out to be a trailhead instead of a park office. Fortunately there was a map there, although sealed under Plexiglas®. At least it got me going in the right direction.

Maybe two miles of alternating trails and highways later I finally came to the park office. I think I finally arrived around 3:40 or so.

My absolute first priority was to grab a map (in case somehow they should all disappear and the whole journey be for naught), then find facilities to empty an excessively full bladder, and last collapse my sedentary, urban acclimated ass on the ground and praise the Lord Almighty for letting me get here before the place closed.

Also for having it be such a nice day. Running around the place in some of the miserable rain, sweltering heat, or freezing cold this place is known for would have been much less fun.

The funny thing about the maps was I assumed they didn’t post them on-line and made you buy them at the park office in some sort of attempt to recoup costs. But when I got there, although all the office doors were open, no one seemed to be in sight. The maps were actually in a rack outside the building with a little “honors system” donation box. Guess it’s some sort of crazy racket to make people come out here to look at maps in their natural environs rather than in the comfort of their own homes. Frickin’ sly park service people.

The trip back, though still a jog, was shorter since I knew where I was going by then and uneventful.

In other unimportant news: my taxes are done. Yah!

This year I tried e-filing with moderate success. Turns out if you e-file by going through the IRS website to get to other companies then the software for filing the Federal portion of your returns is free. Who knew?

Much as I dislike doing taxes and put it off I must say the Federal Gov’t seems to make it easier to get these things done. By comparison my Taxachusetts state forms always seem more numerous and confusing. Invariably the Feds give me back a nice something and the Staties want a little something extra back for their trouble.

To add insult to injury the companies with tax calculation software don’t charge anything for the Federal Income tax, but don’t feel quite as generous about calculating your State tax. So while I get federal taxes back for free I get to pay more money to find out how much I owe the state. Not that I mind paying the nice Turbotax folks, but it just seems karmically inappropriate that the transaction that gains me money is free and the one that loses is has an additional price tag.

Hopefully with Turbotax in effect at least this year all my calculations are correct.

Anyway, hope you guys are all fine and you procrastinated less on your taxes than I did. And that video deal works out for ya.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

4 thoughts on “Periodic Update

  1. Actually it’s a pocket PC. Color display and everything. We even have a keyboard that sends info to the PC using the UV beaming capability. Unfortunately to get it to work you have to carefully balance the PC on a stand with a little mirror above the UV port and hope that the battery for the keyboard is properly charged.

    I never would have gotten this device myself, but She Dragon has a habit of picking up new electronic toys occasionally. She thought it’d be useful for trying to write stuff away from home, keep appointments, etc. But since She tends to have a tough time getting in the habit of using it She asked that I inherit it so that one of us at least would get the use out of it.

    It’s handy on occasion, but I’m sure I don’t use it to it’s full potential. Still, it was nice to have for holding PDFs, checklists, and things like that.

    I find the on-screen keyboard alot quicker to use than the writing capability. Still doesn’t beat a real keyboard though.

  2. Well – I do admit, pocket PCs and PDAs are the perfect adventuring tool. If I had of had a pocket PC or a PDA when I was kid, the sky would have been the limit. Though then again… I recently found one of my so-called adventure kits from when I was kid. In it there was a piece of paper that said something along the following lines:

    Know Facts:

    1. Timmy is spy
    2. Mom and Dad have a tape recorder I need

    Mission Objective: Yet to be determined.

  3. I liked your adventure kit.

    Speaking of maps, Google Maps now has a satellite map function. Seriously cool. Depending on your location, you can get pretty close… It’s in the top right corner of the screen.

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