Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reskinning the House

The house we live in was built in 1978. We moved into it in 1983. We are the second owners. The house still has the original siding and windows. As anyone knows, new construction does not always use top of the line building materials. Our siding was looking old and faded. It also contained a number of dents from soccer balls and street hockey balls being banged into it. It was time for an update. We finally took the plunge and after getting a few bids accepted one. Last week the new siding arrived. Below is the siding being stored in our garage waiting for the installation crew.Before you can put up new siding, you have to take down the old siding and create quite the pile of junk on our lawn.
We tried to match the color of the original siding as close as possible, but it apparently doesn't exist anymore so we chose something as close as possible. We also went with a beaded siding. You can see the difference in the picture below. The old siding is above and new siding is below.

We also sprung for new windows. Most of our old windows no longer opened and were drafty as all get out. In the picture below, you can see the finished siding including new shutters and how all of our windows have been removed.
It was an interesting sight seeing all the windows out. Below is the old bedroom of Daughter #1. Hanging on the wall are her commemorative oar blades from her high school and college.

We also replaced the two sliding glass doors. The one leading out to the deck required superpowers to get it opened and closed and the screen had been missing since the kids were toddlers. Withe the new door you can open it with one finger.

By the end of the day, voila! new windows.

I'm interested to see what the difference is in our cooling and heating bills now that we replaced the siding and installed the new windows. It will be nice having windows that actually open now that fall seems to be coming. Our house seems all new and shiny now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Wye?

So Wye Island. Its easily one of my favorite races. Not only because of the distance (12.5 miles), but because of the location and it also marks the start of our head race season. It takes a lot of planning, logistics and everyone helping out to make a successful trip to a race site. It begins by derigging our boats and loading them on the boat trailer. Above we have six 8+s and two doubles (2X) loaded up and ready to go. Most of us left between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning to travel to Maryland's eastern shore where the race would take place. The day started out cloudy and even a few drizzles. The forecast called for clearing skies but windy as a front moved through. I was scheduled to stroke the Men's 8+.

Once at our race site, we have to unload the boats from the trailer. I'm on the far left here coxing the rowers taking the Poseidon off the trailer.
Next we have to reattach the riggers to the boats. Usually each crew will rerig their boat, but its also not unusual to help out on other boats. I'm on the middle boat attaching a rigger.

We're a Masters rowing club. Most of our rowers are 30+. Its hard to find adults that are small enough to be coxswains. We rely on high school coxswains to fill that void. They do a great job for us. Here are our coxswains returning from the Coaches and Coxswains meeting before the racing begins. This is the hardest race for these kids to navigate because of the distance and unfamiliar landmarks. They receive a crash course in dead reckoning, waypoints and compass headings. They have to keep us on course for over 90 minutes. We have it easy. We just have to row. The coxswain for my boat, Katie, is in the red sweatshirt. At the meeting it was announced that the 12.5 mile race around Wye Island would be reduced to 8 miles. The course would be adjusted to a 4 mile stretch, up and back, on the backside of the Island due to the wind and rough water.

Here we are finishing up the rigging on our boat, named the Titan.

Our novice women ran into trouble with the conditions and the revamped course. Their boat collided with a Quad and heavily damaged their boat. The bow ball and part of the front of the boat was ripped off. They weren't able to finish the race, but everyone was ok and no one was hurt.

Here the novice women's coxswain, Sammy, is comforted by our Operations Director, who is responsible for the boats. Boats that we don't own, but rent. She took it really hard and was a tearful mess for a while. Everyone went out of their way to let her know it wasn't her fault.

After the race its time to enjoy a few adult beverages and to start packing up. Here two of our rowers grab a handful of oars while wearing their new Wye Island t-shirts.

Our novice men picked up a first place medal. They beat my boat so kudos to them.

One of our mixed 8+ boats also took a first. The Men's coach is in the red shirt and helped out by rowing with us. We also took two first in Women's Double (2X) and Mixed Double (2X).

Back at the boathouse after another successful and fun day.

Photos courtesy of Mike Lee.
Additional photos can be seen here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Noisy Times

It's been a noisy few days here at the homestead. We're in the process of getting new siding put up and my god the noise...noise...noise. Its constant hammering away. It will look fine when its done, but the outside of the house is a mess with all the debris. I do give them props for cleaning up rather well at the end of each day, but I'm ready for them to be finished. The dogs are going crazy. They alternate barking their heads off with cowering under our desks. They definitely want the noise to just go away.

Right after work today, Ann and I are heading out to College Park to attend the Maryland vs. West Virginia football game. We do a little tailgating first, of course. We're trying to decide what to bring to eat. Its a toss-up between KFC chicken or subs. There will be adult beverages of course. Its a big game for both teams after each has opened with cupcake opponents. This game usually determines how each will fare for the rest of the season. I certainly hope Maryland wins as having to put up with West Virginia fans afterwards will be a drag. They have, by far, the most obnoxious fans in the world.

Our first head race of the season is this Saturday. Its the Wye Island Regatta put on by the Annapolis Rowing Club. Its a 12.5 mile race around Wye Island on Maryland's eastern shore. The weather forecast sounds promising ( mid 70s). Now as long as its not windy, it should be a good time. Good time being relative in this case. It will be constant rowing for 90 minutes. Blisters will be many, but its still a good time.

We heard from the Head of the Charles and we got four entries. Two Senior Master entries (Men and Women) and two club entries (Men and Women). Usually we are lucky to get one entry so we feel like we hit the jackpot. That should make everyone happy.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rowing Mishaps

Its been a rather disappointing week of rowing. Practices have been disrupted by groundings and outboard motors that haven't been working right. Tuesday's practice was the least eventful. We took out an 8+ plus two quads. Luckily, I was assigned to the bow seat in the Quad that has the bow steering. We rowed down to the racecourse and did a five minute warm up piece where we manged to finish third. We spun the boats and after a brief rest started off on a twenty minute piece. We were first off, followed in 15 seconds by the second Quad and then the 8+. As we rowed back down the race course and Sandy Run, we were able to slowly pull further and further away from the second Quad. The 8+ was closing the distance, but slowly. We maintained the lead past Sandy Run, the painted rocks and the cove to the Oxford Boathouse. The second Quad was now a very distant third and the 8+ was slowly closing the distance. I maneuvered the Quad to keep the 8+ directly behind us so they had to row in our wake and oar puddles. Finally on the curve that leads to Jacobs's Rock, I manged to take the inside of the curve forcing the 8+ wide. With approximately one minute left in the piece the 8+ finally pulled even with us. Both boats were calling for a final power 20 to finish the piece. It was at that point, our 2 seat caught a crab and we had to come to a stop for him to free his oar. Overall a solid piece for us. We did a final race from Jacob's Rock to the cove. The second Quad went first, we were second and the 8+ third. We caught and past the second Quad and the 8+ was closing on us. However we managed to pick up the rate and the power and hold them off. Definitely a good practice.

Thursday we rowed up to Fountainhead Park and spun the boats. We were rowing a Quad and an 8+. This time I was 2 seat in the 8+. We were racing the Quad for a 20 minute piece. About 30 seconds into the piece, our starboard oars hit something right below the surface and our coach hit the same obstruction and his motor died. He was unable to restart the engine and had to be towed back in. Since our practice had been disrupted we rowed back to the cove, but the intensity of the practice was lost.

Today's practice was more of the same. We had a substitute coach. Nice guy. Fresh from Princeton and their crew team. We were late getting out as his engine wouldn't start. After waiting about 15 minutes and the coach switching launches, we headed out. We did some drill work as we headed to the race course. Upon arriving there, his engine died and wouldn't restart. He had to be towed back to the boathouse with us following. Tinkering with the engine back at the boathouse ensued and they were able to start it and we headed back out. We did some more drill work and did a short maybe 500 meter sprint race at the end. I hardly worked up a sweat with that practice although the drills were good. The novice rowers provided us all with breakfast when we got back to the boathouse which was a nice treat.

This was the last week we are able to row in the evenings. With the days getting shorter, the park we row out of is closing earlier and the high school fall rowing programs are starting, it makes it impossible for us to row during the week. Beginning tomorrow we start rowing on Sunday mornings to make up for not being able to row during the week. That makes it impossible for me to bike on Sundays. I'll have to start thinking about biking on Fridays instead. This past Friday I took out a single for the first time in a while. I had mixed results. At times it felt like I was dragging something behind me the boat was so sluggish. Other times the boat was just flying. I'm not sure what I'm doing different. I think I need to concentrate more on making sure I'm catching with my legs.

I'm off to watch more college football. Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Its a Long Way to Purcellville

Sunday dawned sunny and bright. Not a cloud to be seen and the temperature a cool 60 degrees. The forecast called for it to climb into the 80s. It was a perfect day for our planned ride of the W&OD Trail. All 45 miles. Below we unload the bikes in Shirlington preparing for our ride. I'm applying sunscreen while Daughter#2 adjusts her helmet. Photo courtesy of Ann who was nice enough to drop us off and then pick us up again in Purcellville.

Getting ready to start our ride at the beginning of the trail in Shirlington. You can see how blue the sky is.

Daughter#2 hams it up for the camera as The Son and I play is straight. This was The Son's first time on a bicycle in about 10 years. He does work out regularly, but both Daughter#2 and I thought it rather ambitious of him to try such a long ride his first time out, but he did great. A few early mile near death encounters with other bikers and pedestrians not withstanding. As we headed out, I took the lead with The Son second and Daughter#2 bringing up the rear.

Stop number 1, 11 miles into the ride was Vienna at Rt 123. We've had been riding for about an hour so far. At this point, we've traveled through Shirlington and Four Mile Run Park. I lost the twins at one point as they stopped to lower The Son's bike seat. After back tracking, I caught up with them and we were back on our way. The Son commented on how many people are out on the trail. I have to agree. It was much more crowded than what I'm use to. We passed though Falls Church and crossed I-66. There is a tough hill leading up to the crossing, but great downhill after. The Son almost wrecked trying to avoid another biker on the downhill side. He also gets yelled at by his sister for dogging it on the down hill portions of the trail. We also crossed the beltway (I-495). This also ends what has been almost all uphill at this point. We enjoy some downhill and flat sections of the trail as we ride into Vienna. There is a park there adjacent to the trail with a fountain to remember those who have served our country. The down part was the water fountain didn't work. At this point we were feeling pretty good. We also decided we could skip the restrooms at a park in Herndon and ride to stop number 2, which is the Smith Switch Crossing. Here we are at our stop in Vienna.

Actually we do make one quick stop between Vienna and the Smith Switch Crossing. Here are the twins at Mile Marker 22. Our midway point. You can see the mile marker between and behind them. This is in the Herndon area. Notice the heavy vegetation on each side of the trail. This is pretty typical for most of the trail. A nice buffer as northern Virginia is heavily developed.

Stop Number 2 is the Smith Switch Station. 25.5 miles into our ride. We've now been riding just under 2 hours. We take a break and daughter#2 and I split a banana and we all drink a lot of water. The water fountain here works almost too well. We also make use of the porta potties. We saddle back up but unknowingly leave my water bottle behind. Damn. Below is Smith Switch Station and The Son filling up the water bottle that will be left behind.

The next stop was Leesburg. Daughter#2 lived there right out of college working for the State Health department. We stopped just past Mile marker 35 at a gazebo by a park. It only took us 37 minutes to complete the 8.5 miles from Smith Switch Station to Leesburg. After a brief rest and finishing off the rest of the water I had brought along for The Son and I to share, (Daughter#2 has a Camelback so she was all set) we headed off on what would be the hardest part of the ride between Leesburg and Purcellville.
After leaving Leesburg and crossing the Rt 7 Bypass, we headed up the first of two long hills between the two towns. The first felt like it would never end. About 3/4 of the way up and about 3 miles west of Leesburg, I had to stop and take a rest. My quads were just too sore to keep going without a break. A bit if stretching and I was good to go. Sort of. This bridge greeted us near the top of our first climb.

Shortly after we passed this bridge, we hit a downhill and a flat stretch for about a mile or so before we began the second climb. Again I made it about 3/4 of the way before needing a break. Daughter#2 was kind enough to share some of her water with me and her twin. We also received a call about this time from Ann who was waiting for us in Purcellville wondering where we were. We were abut 4 miles from the end of the trail and told her we'd be there in about 15 to 20 minutes. We finished the climb and headed into Purcellville. Purcellville is best known around here for being the home of Patrick Henry College. Its a college established for home schooled christian students. It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration loved filling their intern positions from the student body. Finally after 3 and 1/2 hours of biking (not counting our breaks), we reached the end of the Trail.

Then we celebrated our efforts with a tasty lunch and a few beers to add some carbs at Magnolias. It's literally right at the end of the trail. Judging by the number of bikes stashed at the restaurant, its a favorite with other bikers on the trail as well.

All in all, it was a fun ride. Not something I would try very often, but I'm glad I did it and I'm grateful that the twins decided to make the trip with me. It certainly made it all the more enjoyable and easier. There was talk, mostly by me, of making it an annual event. We'll see how that pans out. Hope everyone else had a fun filled Labor Day weekend.