Monday, April 30, 2007

A Daughter's Visit

When we last left our hero on Thursday evening, he was stranded in southern Maryland due to a broken down commuter van. The horror of this event was somewhat soothed by a few beers at the Outback Steakhouse across the highway from the disabled van. Friday was a work from home day so not having to rise at the crack of dawn after my four hour commute the day before helped. We also got the new that Daughter #2 would be visiting the following day with the Black Demon. The SIL would not be coming along as he was helping his Dad plant corn on the family farm in McGaheysville.

Daughter #2, who is the complete opposite of her older sister, seems to have inherited the family gene for never getting on the road on time and was about an hour late arriving at 11:00 from Harrisonburg rather than the planned 10:00. We had coordinated that she, I and Ann would hit the W&OD Trail for a bike ride before having lunch. Because of her late arrival, we debated about eating first and then riding, but decided if we ever sat down for a big lunch we would never make it to the trail. So some of us had a snack on the way to the trail. It was sunny when we left Woodbridge, but was cloudy and cool by the time we arrived at the parking area. It took us about 20 minutes to warm up. We stopped at mile 27.5 on the trail, which is where the trail crosses Ashburn Road and is 3.5 miles into our ride. The country store there cooks and sells fresh BBQ right there next to the trail that I've always wanted to try, but never have. The stop was necessitated by Ann not wanting to continue, that she was holding Daughter#2 and I back and she would just ride back to the van and wait for us. After much cajoling and pleading, we convinced her to continue on and we made the trip to Leesburg in about 54 minutes. After a short break to use the potty and rehydrate, we started the return trip. It was getting chilly again just sitting around and we didn't want to stiffen up. Coming back we made much better time and completed the 10 miles in 45 minutes. Despite her pleas to the contrary Ann's ride back was much better.

After the ride, we packed the 3 bikes in the back of our van and headed down Rt 28 to Sweetwater Tavern for a late lunch. It's definitely one of our favorite places to eat with good food, good service and they brew their own beer. What could be better? Since we were eating late (or early if you considered it dinner), we indulged in a shrimp type appetizer and a few Black and Tans before pigging out on our various entrees. I personally had the Drunken Rib Eye, which is so tasty. We also had a coupon for two free deserts because, horrors, we had to wait like 15 minutes at one of their other locations over by INOVA Hospital in Fairfax a while back. After all that, I let Ann drive the rest of way home so I could nap. That evening daughter #2 left for DC to visit with a couple of friends, one of which was leaving for London to continue her Veterinary education. We got to babysit the Black Demon for the night. In all fairness, the Demon, who is a Black Lab/Border Collie mix has quieted considerably from her puppy/teen years. She still bullies Rosie, our miniature schnauzer/dachshund mix, a bit, but usually everyone gets along fairly well. The Demon is also appreciative of all the treats she receives while in our care much to the dismay of Daughter #2. On her way into DC, Daughter#2 missed a turn around the Lincoln Memorial and called for assistance. I've lived in this area on and off since I was 15, but I can't say that I know downtown DC all the well. I can get around the major points of interest, but after that I'm lost. I called up Google Maps and kept her on her cell phone till she got to her destination. Mission accomplished as my ultimate boss once said. Erroneously, as it turned out.

Sunday, Daughter #2 returned home around 9:00 and we had some bacon and eggs prepared by yours truly (fake bacon for the almost vegan daughter). Then to wear the Demon out for the drive home, we took about an hours walk around the neighborhood. It was nice having her home for the short weekend. Her visit did throw off my plans to go rowing on Sunday, but it was worth the sacrifice.

The rest of the day was spent watching the Nationals play the Mets and doing the grocery shopping. All in all, not a bad weekend.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Damn Van

Last night's commute home hit an all time low. It was my turn to drive and not five miles from the base, the van breaks down. One minute its running fine, the next moment, total loss of power. I manged to get it off to the side of the road. Smoke was pouring out from under the hood and oil dripping out from underneath. Attempts to restart it were futile. It was dead. Not going anywhere. We contacted the company that owns the van and they sent a replacement. The problem was we were in southern Maryland. The van company is in Fredericksburg, VA. Two hours away. The good news, the van broke down across the street from an Outback Steakhouse. During Happy Hour. I finally got home at 8:00. Thank God I can work from home today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Learning to Row

Every year my rowing club hold s a series of "Learn to Row" days. It's a way of introducing the sport to others and hopefully get new members. We feel if we can get you out on the water, you'll be hooked. The sport is that good. When I see joggers running through the neighborhood, all I can do is shake my head. Running is not only boring, its tough on your legs, knees, ankles, etc. Plus you only working your legs. Rowing is low impact and your working so many more muscles - legs backs arms.
This weekend was out first of three Learn to Row days and we had about 65 people show up. I believe its our best showing ever. Of course the nice weather didn't hurt either. We start them off with a tour of the boathouse, a little history of the club, show them the shells (boats), explain the difference between sweep rowing and sculling. Let them know the various membership options, including a two week introduction camp that is held prior to the club starting its regular season in June. We team them up with experience rowers in the 8s so we have 4 new rowers and 4 experienced rowers. This gives the new rowers a chance to learn at a faster rate then if they were in a boat full of new rowers. Its 12 hours on the water (six 2 hour sessions) and by the end of the camp we have them feathering and all. We also end up the two week camp by holding a mini-regatta so they can have a taste of what its like to be in a race. We've had nothing but positive feed back on it.
After the tour of the boathouse, we take them to the ergs, which are on the bottom picture. Here we teach them the basic rowing stroke - catch, drive, recover - fast hands away, slow up to the catch. After learning the basic stroke, we send them to the barge. That's the contraption in the middle picture. As you can see its a very stable platform where the visitors get to try out the stroke using a real oar. We have coaches on the barge that help them out and refine their technique, such as it is. After a trip around our cove in the barge, they're ready to try a real shell. Like our camp, we load the boat with 4 experienced rowers and 4 visitors and take them out of the cove onto the Occoquan itself for a 5 t0 10 minute row. Its all fun and everyone seems to enjoy it. We also ply them with refreshments and information on how to sign up for the camp and the club. We have two more Learn to Row days coming up, one in May (May 6) and another in June (June 3). We also run a rowing camp for high school students, including those entering the 9th grade in the fall, in July.
Its great being out on the water again.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What a Weekend

The weather gods finally smiled upon us and blessed us with some great weather. Sunny in the mid to upper 70s. I tried to make the most of it. I rowed on both Friday and Sunday. Friday I was in a double and Sunday I had my first row of the season in a single. Friday was a bit windier than I would have liked, but after bailing on my partner two weeks in a row for similar reasons, I didn't feel like I was in a position to say no. Rowing on a Friday evening is no mean feat to pull off. Mostly because that's when all the high school teams are getting their final practices in before their Saturday regattas. Chaos ensues. You have boats being put in the water (mostly 8s and 4s), boats being taken out of the water, long handled oars being swung around and carried up and down the hill leading to the docks and kids running everywhere. We managed to launch and headed upstream. For the first mile, its rowing through wake after wake from all the coaches launches. Once clear of that mess, it was pretty east rowing except for a few windy parts. We rowed up to Ryan's Dam, which is the old Occoquan dam that has been mostly been dismantled. Its a four mile row each way, so I felt like I got my moneys' worth. Sunday's row was better. I try to go as early in the morning as I can get my old bones out of bed. I did go a little later than usual because I wanted it to warm up a bit before I headed out. By the time I arrived at Sandy Run, all the singles were out save for three and two of those are only for lightweights. While I'm technically a lightweight (for men that's under 165 lbs), the lightweight singles are for those weighing less than 155 lbs. I was lucky to get the last non lightweight single. The water was flat, the temperature warm, but not hot, so it was a gorgeous day to be out on the water. I did the row to Ryans Dam again. My legs did feel a little rubbery by the end of the row, but a good feeling none the less.

On Saturday, Ann and I did our first bike ride of the year. We both bought new bikes about 2 years ago as just another means to get some exercise. We usually go ride on the W&OD Trail . It likes to bill itself as the skinniest park in existence. The bike trail is built on the old tracks (actually the tracks are long gone and replaced with asphalt making a nice smooth trail) of the W&OD Railroad and the trail stretches for 44 miles from Shirlington (not far from the Pentagon) to Purceville out in the Virginia horse country. We usually ride from a parking area just off Rt 28 north of Dulles Airport and ride to Leesburg and back. Its a 20 mile round trip and takes us about 50 min each way with a break at the Douglas Community Center. We don't actually go inside, but they have a playground out back and a sidewalk from the trail and most important, a bathroom. Riding with Ann is always an adventure. She knows she should exercise, but hates to do it. During our rides and when we stop at the community center, its a constant stream of comments on how she can't ride this far, or its too hot, too cold, too windy, too many people on the trail, her legs hurt or her butt hurts. Of course at the end of the ride she's proud she made the 20 miles and feels good about it. Hopefully we can make it a weekly event. We both rode with our VA Tech sweatshirts on and got a few "Go Hokies" from fellow riders. Speaking of which, it was nice to see the number of people who wore either maroon or orange on Friday in remembrance of the victims of VA Tech. A lot of people had also put ribbons on their mailboxes. I like to think that the students know we're thinking of them.

Miles rowed to date: 28.5
Miles Biked: 20

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hokie Hope

We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness ... We are the Hokies ...
-- Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor, poet, activist

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This About Says It All

This picture sums up how we all feel. Its all so sad and tragic.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech ...
-- Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor, poet, activist


As you might expect, I've spent most of my free time keeping up with events at Virginia Tech. I didn't attend VA Tech, but I've been there numerous times. My first visit was in 1998 with Daughter#1 taking the campus tour as she considered various colleges to attend. I've sort of adopted it as my own as I have my other children's' college - Ohio and Radford. When you visit Tech you're struck by the beauty of the campus, its openness with the sinking drill field in the middle that divides the dorms from the classroom buildings, the building all made of Hokie Stone and most of all the friendliness of the people. Va Tech is located in southwest Virginia, a very rural area and is surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains. It is the last place you expect such violence to occur.

So far I've thought the media coverage has been pretty fair if a little hard on the President of VA Tech. The one exception was Paula Zahn on CNN. As I watched her interview various people last night, her sole intent seemed to get an admission that the authorities had mishandled the whole event. Few took the bait, but it sure was annoying. I think they did the best they could given the situation. VA Tech is not a high school or middle school. Locking down a single building, like a high school, is not the same as trying to lock down an entire campus. You cannot simultaneously contact 35,000 people (students and staff). Not everyone is sitting in front of their computers reading e-mail. Most were either in class or on their way to class or driving to campus or sleeping. Plus since the first killings occurred in a dorm, a lock down of the dorms, given the gunman was not accounted for, were not a guarantee of a safe haven. And to the gun nuts who have called radio talk shows and claimed that if the students had the right to carry guns on campus, they could have prevented or minimized the horror, lets get real. 25,000 not quite adults all packing guns? That's a disaster waiting to happen. Its all a mess and fills me with an unimaginable sadness. Still I look forward to visiting VA Tech again in the fall and creating new memories.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy

The news is reporting a major shooting incident on the campus of Virginia Tech. VA Tech is the Alma Mater of daughter #2. The news is reporting 21 students plus the gunmen dead and another 21 wounded. The shootings occurred in a dorm and an Engineering building. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims. Blacksburg is such a typical pretty small college town. I've visited there dozens of times. Its hard to believe that this is happening there. They're now saying its the largest shooting on a college campus now eclipsing the shooting at the University of Texas and the clock tower shootings there.

2:30PM Update. They are now reporting 31 are dead. Its a sad day for the Hokie nation.

Tuesday Update: The final count was 33 dead. The total is almost inconceivable. VA Tech is one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever had the pleasure to visit. It was always a treat to roll down I-81 to visit Daughter #2 and the Black Demon and the now Son In Law. Its so strange watching the pictures and the chaos and all how familiar the settings. This is not what VA Tech is all about. Blacksburg was recently ranked as one of the top 10 places to retire to in the nation. Its that kind of town, that kind of place. I know Tech will recover, but I also know it will never quite be the same.

Meet Me in St Louis

Well not me, really, but The Son is gone on a three week business trip to western Illinois to help support a new Human Resource software release. He'll fly in and out of St Louis. Our weekend was mostly spent getting him ready for his trip. Its not exactly a Failure to Launch situation although at times it feels like it. Friday and Saturday were spent making sure his work shirts made it in and out of the cleaners and the rest of his laundry was done and folded so he had plenty of clean underwear for his trip. Ann even packs his suitcase for him. That is a little babying there, I believe. I did finally convinced Ann that he could afford having his shirts professionally done and she didn't have to iron them herself. I felt justified in making that argument because, heaven forbid, if I suggested that she iron my shirts, I would have been instantly transformed into a mass of goo from the laser eyes that would have shot from her eyes. Its what I refer to as "the look". Every married man knows "the look" and also understands what thin ice he's standing on when its directed his way. Its best to lay low and cut your loses especially since in all likelihood you've been cut off for a day..or a week..depending on the transgression real or perceived.

After making sure he was set to go, he did take us out to a late lunch on Saturday. By late I mean 4:00. He informed us at Noon that he needed to just make one short raid in his World of Warcraft game and that he'd be ready to go by 1:30. HA! Liar! Like anyone could pull off a raid in WoW in an hour or so. I settled in to watch the Nationals beat the Mets figuring it would be 2:30 before we left. Gross underestimate on my part. After several trips down to his dungeon...oppps..I mean bedroom, we were finally able to shake him from his shaman or tree elf or whatever character he transforms himself into and off we went. By the time we were all seated at the restaurant , we were all starved not having much of anything to eat all day. Of course we all over ordered and overate with plenty of leftover for the small furry children at home. It always amuses me to discover that The Son is somewhat of a minor celebrity amongst the 20 somethings of his age. Everywhere we go we seem to run into someone who knows him and his old car. This time it was our waitress. His old car that he had during high school and college was a 93 Honda Prelude (known far and wide as the 'Lude) that he had installed a body kit from Australia, of all places. That was my first and last dealings ever with US Customs at Dulles Airport. I felt all important and everything. My new Import business. Actually when the people at United Airlines cargo forklifted it out to the dock, we literally had to unpack it to get the various pieces to fit in our minivan. Anyway, apparently the now one of a type car cruising Woodbridge got him noticed. My first encounter with this phenomenon, was at the local Honda dealership. We had the Lude in for something or other and I drove The Son over to pick it up. The teenage girl working the cashier desk all but drooled over the receipt asking him about himself and the car. Of course he was totally oblivious to it all. I chalk it up to his being a teenager at the time but jeez, she was dying to give him her phone number.

After our late lunch/early dinner including a few Redhooks. All I wanted to do was crash. So I walked the furry kids and went to bed. By 8:30. I really am getting old.

Sunday we set out for Dulles to drop him off for his flight. We were worried that his flight might be delayed given the nor'easter that was upon us, but he got off with only a minor delay. We stopped off on the way home to grab some groceries and then watched The Island. Definitely not Ann's cup of tea, but after the first 30 minutes or so, it was really entertaining. Scarlett Johansson was stunning.

Daughter#1 Update. Her boyfriend had to work on Saturday so her day was spent working on a project for her UMASS course. She keeps asking for us to mail her softball glove since the bf plays on several different teams and we keep forgetting to do it. I guess its a case if you cant beat them join them. Although truth be told, she did play slow pitch softball growing up and also watched me attempt to play and drink beer between innings. I had to, it was a league rule or something.

Rowing Update. I set a new personal record for meters rowed in 30 minutes. I bested my old record bu 60 meters so I was very pleased by that. Still hoping to get off the erg and out on the water one of these days.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday Update

Friday was a workday so not a lot of time to do much other than work even, if it was from home. It is kind of amusing though as Ann and I both work from home on Friday and along with The Son's computer, we have five computers running on our wireless home system. Which brings me to a complaint about our work remote access. If we connect via broadband, which we do, we get disconnected after being on for just an hour and have to reconnect. Its truly annoying. Not to mention you're always in the middle of doing something that you haven't saved for a while and then it all disappears into the ether world. So far requests to adjust things have gone unresolved. I'm so glad we've outsourced our whole computer operation.

I was suppose to go out rowing yesterday evening. The forecast was for clear, but windy. I went down to the end of our block where I can see the Occoquan. It looked pretty choppy so I called my partner and cancelled. I don't think she was too pleased. Of course ten minutes after I called, the wind all but disappeared. Figures. We'll try again next week. We're suppose to get a big nor'easter on Sunday so rowing then is out. This is turning out to be a tough spring to row.

I used to be a big baseball fan growing up in NJ. I loved to play the game as a little leaguer, (Yea Newfoundland Cardinals!). I used to love the NY Yankees in their heyday. I can still name all the starters. I owned a Mickey Mantle signature glove (that I still have) and batted using a Yogi Berra model. I think half the team use to use it. I all but cried when I broke it. Back in those days you just put a few small nails in the handle where it was broken, taped it back up and you were good to go. Sort of. It was never quite the same. I adopted the Mets when they came on the scene and suffered through many a losing season till they won the World Series in 1969. After moving from NJ when I was 14 though it was harder and harder to sustain my love for the Mets, the world series not withstanding. When I moved to Virginia as an adult, Washington no longer had a team and frankly without a team I wasn't really interested in following baseball anymore. I still played - softball for a work league. I know there was the Orioles, but lets be honest they're the BALTIMORE Orioles. Peter Angelos position to the contrary, they're not Washington's team. So it was kind of exciting when the Expos moved from Montreal to Washington and became the Nationals. Sure they had no real owner other than MLB who refused to let them have any payroll whatsoever. So we ended up with castoffs that nobody wanted. To every one's surprise they've been pretty competitive. Except that is, for this year. They finally got real owners, a new stadium is being built (despite the gross ineptitude of both MLB (greed is our name) and the DC government (I think they all were schooled at the Marion Barry School for Idiots) ). The new owners have laid out this grand plan of building up the farm system and being ready for next year when the new stadium will open. All well and good, but lord could they have not spent a little money on players this year? They've discarded anyone of any value save one or two players and it shows. They've lost all but two games this year and usually by large margins. Its going to be a long summer for the Nationals. I fear the new owners risk alienating the fans to the extent that it will hurt them in the future. You just can't write off a whole season.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

If Its Thursday, Its almost the Weekend

Ah Thursday and in my world that means one thing - Treat Day. Today's Treat day gets a B. Fruit salad for the healthy eaters among us (not me). I just can't stand the taste of melons, whether it be watermelon, honey dews or cantelopes. They just taste nasty to me, so I'll skip that. Bagels from Panera Bread. Frankly their bagels are only so so. I can get comparable bagels from Giant or Safeway, which isn't a ringing endorsement. Also available are something akin to donut holes in chocolate covered and something that appear to be some sort of mini eclair. So today was ok, but nothing to write home about. Oh, also an angel food cake with strawberries to add. However, since the cake is all wrapped up, no one wants to be the first to dig in. Todays Treat person needs to prime the pump, so to speak, by unwrapping the cake and taking a piece. The rest of the vultures will dig in.

I got stuck driving the van in today and it sucked. Even on a nice day, driving in in the morning while its dark is a chore. Maryland needs to look into actually repainting some of their lane lines because I can't see them. What made it worse today was the rain. My way of coping was just to follow someone else and hope they didn't end up in a ditch. The up side to this is I can take my Treat Day sugar coma onto the van this afternoon and sleep all the way home.

I took my own advice and quit the "you fly, you die" philosophy while erging. My last two pieces have me back very close to my personal bests in the 30:00 minute row (within 4 meters) and the 5,000 meter row (within 6 seconds). I'm looking forward to getting off the erg and back on the water, but the weather is just not cooperating. I'm schedule to row a double on Friday, but the forecast is not looking promising. Where is spring?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter

A Happy Easter to you all. This is a special day for most of us regardless of our individual beliefs. Congratulations for those of you who actually made it to church. I didn't, but did contemplate about the holiday while on my solitary walks with the dogs. I figure that counts for something.

How weird is it to have a thunderstorm early in the week and snow later in the week? We've had both. The snow wasn't much - maybe an inch if that, but still. The average temperature here in Virginia is suppose to be 65 degrees this time of year. We shouldn't be having snow and the high temperature today shouldn't just be in the 40s, if we're lucky. This is totally messing up my rowing and biking schedules.

This was payday weekend so we tend to do a lot of shopping and eating out before all the money runs out. We did Red Lobster for lunch on Friday and had Pizza from the Pizza Gourmet on Friday night. The son took us out for lunch on Saturday to Bar J. The good news was the food was as good as usual and the Dos Equis was cold. The bad news was the cute red haired waitress wasn't working yesterday.

Apparently my recent erg pieces have gone to my head giving me delusions of grandeur. These delusions have me convinced I can hold certain 500 meter splits longer than I can. It all came crashing down on me this weekend when I rowed so so 5,000 meter and 30:00 minute pieces by starting out too fast and dying at the end. Our Sunday morning rowing class is cancelled for today because of Easter, but I'll try another 30:00 minute row today on my own with more realistic opening splits.

Being the good husband that I am, I'm now off to color Ann's hair. I do the touch up in between salon visits. It use to be a chore, but now I'm used to it and it does earn me a lot of points with the wife. I'm also in the midst of doing the weeks laundry. My Sunday's are always so exciting.

Daughter #1 Update. I haven't had a chance to talk about daughter #1 lately as she's been busy with work (she has a big trade show in NYC coming up this month), school (she's taking an on-line certificate course from UMASS (she got a perfect score on her most recent test - we're so proud)) and her bf. They're spending Easter with his parents. We appreciate them opening their home to her.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Light Show

Tuesday night we were hit with our first thunderstorm of the year. It came rolling through at 4:00 in the morning and I must say, its the most dramatic light and sound show I've been privy to in quite some time. I can accurately quote the time as our two little furry kids did not care at all for all the loud noise and if they were up they wanted to make sure we were up. During the last part of the storm, it rained so hard it sounded like the house had been placed under a waterfall. Maybe the thunderstorm was related the Baptist visit and my reluctance to visit their church? Usually thunderstorms happen during the warmer months and, in fact, Tuesday the temperatures had been in the 70s. Alas no more warm weather for a while as the temperature has dipped significantly with lows in the 20s and 30s at night and high 40s during the day. Bring back the heat!

Yesterday was my night to cook dinner. We had balsamic pork chops. They were good although The Son is tiring of pork chops on Weds regardless of how they are prepared. Looks like he might be headed out to St Louis on another business trip next weekend.

Treat day today earned a B+. Excellent egg casserole. No bagels though. There was some cheese danish, which was tasty but nothing really to nibble on other than a cheese ball. Not sure about a cheese ball in the morning. Hmmm..that sounded sort of porny.

Erged 5,000 meters yesterday with an ok row but not as fast as my previous two 5,000 meter pieces. Not sure if I'm just hitting a plateau or if I went out too fast. I'm suppose to row in a double tomorrow (Friday), but not sure if I want to row in the cold. We'll see.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Holy Rollers

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood as temperatures got into the 70s. The trees are beginning to show signs of greening up and there are flowers everywhere. The cherry blossoms are at their peak downtown around the Tidal Basin. The kids are happy as it's their spring break this week.

Spring also brings us Easter. Its Easter which I assume brought about the knock on our door shortly after dinner tonight. It was a couple from one of the local Baptist churches. I know with some religions its important to spread their interpretation of the Word and recruit new members to the true way. So it was that they invited me to Easter services at their church. All well and good and how very kind and neighborly of them. Then they asked if I had a local church. I told them that I did. I'm a cafeteria Catholic. That I did not tell them. I thanked them and accepted their literature and thought that was the end of our brief visit. The he asked if I knew Jesus. Hmmm...ok. Yes, I told him hoping that would make him happy and he'd be on his way. No such luck. Then he asked if I died today did I think I would go to heaven? Now what kind of question is that to ask a perfect stranger? Frankly I thought it none of his business and the question was at best rude and inappropriate. Who knows if I'll go to heaven? I'll leave that to the Big Guy to decide. I always felt someone's religious beliefs were private and between that person and whatever Deity he chose to believe or not believe. These people need to find something more productive to do with their time. Frankly the whole episode pissed me off.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Spring Rowing and Hiking

This weekend marks the start of rowing in this area in earnest. The first high school regatta on the Occoquan was this Saturday and today, Sunday, George Mason University Men's Crew hosts their Occoquan Sprints. April 1 also means that we can now take out singles. The bad news is with Regattas running both days, its near impossible to take a boat out. The park which houses the boathouse, Sandy Run Regional Park, is essentially closed on regatta days for those of us interested in taking out shells on our own. With limited parking and hundreds of shells, rowers, parents and friends, its easy to see why. Regattas, besides providing competition for rowers and their respective schools, are also money makers. George Mason's men crew is a club sport and it depends on its three races (2 races in the spring and one head race in the fall), to help meet their expenses such as new boats, oars, insurance and rack rental fees. The same for the high school regattas. The high schools teams will race every weekend between now and late May. Most of the local schools will have their races on the Occoquan. So Saturday rowing is essentially out until mid May.

Saturday, Ann and I made the trip to Harrisonburg to see Daughter#2, our son in law and the Black Demon, aka Gracie. SIL and Daughter#2 enjoy doing outside activities like hiking and camping when they have the chance. Before I get too involved in rowing for the summer, I thought this would be a good time to let Daughter#2 take us on a not too difficult hike. Harrisonburg is nestled in the Shenandoah Valley between two national parks/forests - Shenandoah National Park, home to Skyline Drive and the George Washington National Forest. Our hike would be in the latter to Reddish Knob, one of the highest peaks in the park with a 360 degree vista at the top. Somehow we missed where the trail began and we ended up driving much higher and deeper into the park then we planned. We ended up just parking the car on the side of the road and walking the last mile and a quarter to the the top of the mountain. The view was as spectacular as promised. We didn't hike as long as we would have liked, but all in all it was fun. Gracie kept us entertain during the walk diving in the forest at various places only to rejoin us a few minutes later. The highlight was seeing two white tail deer on out decent back down the mountain. The town leading in to the national forest, Dayton, is populated with a large number of Mennonite farms. Its always interesting to see them out in their buggies or working their farms. As one Dayton website proclaimed, the hitching posts in Dayton are not just there for show. After our somewhat shorten hike, we headed off to Finnegan's Cove for lunch. Its more of a bar that serves seafood then a regular restaurant, but it has some good beer and a raw bar. Daughter#2 and I enjoyed some seafood jambalaya and I also had a dozen steamed clams. I let Ann drive home and I took the opportunity to take a nap. We made it home in time to watch the basketball tournament. The Georgetown game was a bit of a disappointment and we only managed to watch about half of the UCLA-Florida game before heading off to bed.

Erg class today was a trip. I'll normally row around 10,000 meters during the class. Today it was 11,100 meters. That's an indication how hard we were pushed. Although I didn't feel as exhausted as I should coming out of the class. After a quick shower, The Son, now back from his trip to California, treated us to lunch at Bar J's. It was a late lunch so no one really felt like having dinner. Now its back to the grind tomorrow.