Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Hope you and yours had a fun and spooky Halloween. Here the celebration is not what it use to be when the kids were little. The good part is the we no longer have the pressure to come up with three costumes that were just "right". The down part is we have no one to dress up and send out for their share of the evening's spoils. Our neighborhood has changed a great deal since we moved in almost 25 years ago. When we moved into the community, there were a lot of kids the same age as our kids and we would have lots of kids ringing our doorbell Halloween night. We easily gave out four bags of candy. Then, as kids do, they grew up and our neighborhood got old with them. The number of Trick or Treaters fell off. We weren't even handing out 2 bags of candy anymore. Recently as the neighborhood kids went off to college and graduated and moved out, the neighborhood began to turn over. Our neighbors started to retire and move away. Some passed away and their houses sold. Newer and younger families moved in even though we still refer to the houses by their original owners. Its still the Stewart house although they haven't lived their for years and three other families have come and gone since they lived there. Its still the Patterson house although he retired and they moved away several years ago. One of the the teenagers we used as a babysitter when our kids were little now brings her kids by for Trick or Treating. The number of Witches and Goblins that visited was more this year then we've had for a while. Its makes the neighborhood feel a little younger.

The Son and I carved our pumpkin mere hours before dark. We hadn't even carved one for a few years now. Seems like we always ran out of time. I think the fact the Daylight Savings Time starts a week later gave us a little more daylight to play with before the spell of darkness fell and the innocent looking kids we see walk by everyday on their way to school transformed into the scary monsters that demanded a treat lest they wreck havoc on us, our furry children or our humble abode. Its easy to buy them off with a few sugary treats. Of course one advantage of being the one that shops for the candy is you get to pick out what you like to eat. You know, just in case there are a few pieces left over and may be sitting in out freezer right now to enjoy as an after dinner treat for the next few days. Boo to you all!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rained Out

Today dawned overcast and still raining. I packed for the regatta in Philadelphia while it was still dark outside. I made sure to include several changes of clothes anticipating getting wet during my two races. Three of my teammates met at my house for the ride up to Philly. We met up with others at the old Hechinger's lot to see if any others needed a ride. We filled up three cars and headed off. We stopped on the I-95 rest stop called the Maryland House north of Baltimore. Its about half way for our trip. While most of my carload hit Starbucks, I opted for a sausage and egg sandwich. As we chatted among ourselves, we called ahead to the team members who had transported the trailer and boats the day before. Its then we learned that the regatta had been cancelled due to too much debris in the water. None of us complained about the cancellation as we looked outside at the pouring rain. We took our coffee and eats and headed home. I'll just curl up with a good football game instead.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wet Stuff

After a summer and fall of nearly no rain, the heavens have finally opened up. Its been raining since Wednesday evening and we've received about an inch of rain on Wednesday, another on Thursday and now a third inch today. To say it was badly needed is an understatement. This should refill the Occoquan enough to take away some of the obstacles and save the Head of the Occoquan (HOTO). The docks at Sandy Run were getting close to unusable so this rain should help out a lot. I need to get off my butt and volunteer to help out with the regatta.

Speaking of regattas, tomorrow I head up to Philadelphia for our last away regatta of the season. Its the Head of the Schuylkill. Its always a treat to row in Philly what with their Boathouse Row and the city skyline right there. Sort of offsets the lack of parking and the usual crappy weather. Tomorrow is no exception as they are calling for rain in Philadelphia, which I'm not looking forward to at all. I suspect I'll spend a lot of time in the car waiting for my races and trying to dry out in between. I need to remember to bring plenty of dry clothes. I'm scheduled to race at noon in the 8+ and at 3:00 in a 4+. The original idea was for me to row in a Quad at 5:15, which, seriously is just too late. By the time we finished our race and made it back to the docks, it would be almost dark and then add in a 3 hour drive home? I think not. So that was thrown out, thank goodness. I'll have enough problems tomorrow just trying to row from the opposite side in the 8+. I'm a port rower so I'm usually in the #2 seat or the stroke (#8) seat. Tomorrow I'm rowing starboard in the bow (#1) seat. I wonder if our Coach forgot I'm a port rower since he is used to seeing me in the bow seat when I'm in the Quad. Sculling with two oars is not the same as rowing with one oar. I pray I don't embarrass myself by catching a crab tomorrow. I also volunteered to drive tomorrow so the minivan will be filled with six rowers from my 8+. I wish the CD player wasn't busted. I guess we'll have to make do with the radio. Its hard to believe that tomorrow and next Sunday finishes our season. The fall season has just flown by. I will miss it.

The Son has had a rough week of it. He seems to have contracted some nasty stomach bug and its kicked his ass but good. He came down with it Tuesday night and he's just now being able to keep simple things like toast down. He's been sleeping about 20 hours a day, which is freaking Ann out a bit. I think she's convince he'll have some sort of relapse while I'm away tomorrow. Hopefully not and he'll be back to his usual self. That, plus I hope we don't come down with it

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Of Course It's Good....It's Beer HOCR 2007

So this past weekend I traveled along with 8,200 other rowers and their 1,700 shells to the Head of the Charles Regatta. As the numbers might indicate, its the largest two day rowing event in the world. Throw in the Red Sox in the playoffs the same weekend and Harvard playing Princeton in their old, but looking oh so retro these days, football stadium next to the Charles and you have one happening weekend in Beantown.

I left from Dulles on Friday morning around 9:00. At the airport I ran into three women from my club who were traveling on the same flight. We chatted away while munching on bagels while we waited for our flight to board. Once in Boston, I was picked up by the bowman of my boat and whisked down to the race course. The last time I traveled to Boston to race in the HOCR (2005), it was cold and I froze my ass off. This weekend, the temperatures were in the upper 60s/lower 70s. Quite pleasant actually. Once at the race course, there wasn't much to do. We wanted to get in a practice run, but our coxswain, Katie, was at the coxswain clinic and wouldn't be finished until early afternoon. Our club had two entries for the men - Senior Masters 8+, which is the boat I would be in and a Club 8+. The Club 8+ had all their crew together so they headed out for their practice. Since we were sharing a boat with the Club 8+ and Katie wouldn't be back for a while, I took the opportunity to walk through the vendor tents, although most were still setting up their booths. It also started to drizzle so I found an empty chair in the Pocock Boat tent where several members of our team, both men and women, had taken refuge and took a nap. One thing you learn quickly about rowing at regattas is that there is a lot of downtime with not much to do. Eventually Katie returned from her clinic all the wiser on steering on the Charles and the Club 8+ were back with our boat and soaked from the rain. As we launched, it seemed every other boat had the same idea and the river was very crowded. It took us forever to get up to the start. The row up was just horrible. We couldn't set the boat properly consequently our oars were dragging on the water on the recovery and our reach was short. Once at the start, we rowed back at about half pressure so not to wear ourselves out. We had stretches that felt good, but overall it was a disappointing practice. It did not bode well for tomorrow's race. After we returned to the dock and placed the boat on slings, we headed back to the hotel. The hotel sits right on the Charles and looking out my window, i could see the boats practicing for tomorrow. i was sharing a room with the coxswain of the Club 8+. A nice kid, but since he's all of 18, if that, we didn't have a lot in common. Its not like we could have a beer or two and botch about how bad we rowed that day. We had no set dinner plans and trying to find a place that could handle 14 people turned out to be a task. We finally settled for a Thai restaurant after our first two choices, A Bertucci's and an Uno's both had waits of over an hour. Now nothing against Thai food, but its certainly not my food of choice when I have to race the following day. I ended up getting a meal of duck, broccoli and rice. And two Kirins. From that came the title of this entry. As I was drinking my first beer, which is brewed in Thailand, the stroke for our boat asked what I was drinking and was it any good. My reply was "Of course its good. Its beer." My teammates found this reply somewhat cute, I guess and it became the catch phrase for the weekend. I'm so proud. This is the view from my hotel room overlooking the Charles.

Saturday dawned warm, but overcast and windy. After snagging the free hotel breakfast and grabbing a bagel to eat later on after our race, we loaded up and headed down to the race course. We were not using our regular shell for this race. Our usual shell is made by WinTech and they graciously agreed to let us use one of their demo shells that they were displaying at the regatta. Its rows much better than our slightly older WinTech. The boat was ready to go when we got there so all we had to do was wait for our start time. When it came for our time to launch, we headed out and rowed up to the start. There were 45 boats in our event. Our bow number was 41 so we were toward the tail end of the pack. Its quite a rush to see that many boats assembled in one area waiting to head off. We could hear the other boats being called to the start line and started off in a single file procession. Soon enough our number was called and we headed off to the start line. Our star,t as we approach the line, is to row by stern 6 using the bow pair to provide a stable platform. This allows the stern 6 to get the stroke rate and power where they want it and not worry about the set. About 10 strokes from the start line the bow pair joins in. Its really a rush when you hear them call your name: "Prince William you're now on the course". We had a good start and within a minute we were under the first bridge by the Boston University boathouse. Almost immediately after going under the bridge, Katie told us we had almost caught our first boat. That were only about 10 meters behind them. We settled into our race pace of 30 to 31 strokes per minute. I figured we'd run that first boat down soon enough. Halfway through the race we were still 10 meters behind, but we finally overtook them. Turns out it was a crew from Ireland that had made the trip over. We fought with them for almost 2 miles before we got a clear lead. As we approached the final bridge, the Elliot Street Bridge, we were passed by another boat. As they approached, i thought it strange they had Bow Number 2. I guess they had gotten up to the start late and had started at the back of the pack. We finished with a time of 18:18 good initially for 28th place out of 45. However, two boats ahead of us were given time 1:00 minute time penalties for various infractions and that allowed us to move up two places to 26th. The oat in 25th place finished less than a second ahead of us and the 24th boat a mere 1.5 seconds. We were pleased with the result. Our Women's Senior Masters 8+ did even better placing 7th and earning an automatic invite for next year. Our men's Club 8+ finished 63rd and the Women's Club 8+ finished 39th. Overall a good result for our Club.

As rowers we try to stay hydrated. The downside is you spend a lot of time waiting in line to use the porta potties. The closer to race time, the more you have to go.

For us non-Boston types, one of the highlights post race is enjoying a bowl of "Chowda" from a bread bowl. Here Daughter#1 waits while her bf buys a bowl.

My teammates enjoy the same.

Our Club 8+ poses for a group photo before they launch.
After launching, our Club 8+ heads up to the start line.

The Club 8+ racing approximately 500 meter from the finish line.

After we finished our race, I changed into some dry clothes and just in time to meet up with Daughter#1 and her boyfriend. She was up from CT to cox for her rowing club. She wasn't racing until 3:30 so it gave us a chance to hang out and buy t-shirts and food. She had been on the Elliot Street bridge cheering for our boat as we passed underneath. I could hear her yelling and i kept telling myself, Don't look up...Don't look up, but of course I did. When it was her time to race, we watched her launched and headed off to the bridge and cheered her as she came through. her boat finished 4th. so she did the best of us all. Its nice to be able to share this sport with her and getting to see her at the various regattas. Because she's young and therefore poor, she and the boyfriend were headed back to CT after she raced and had put her boat back on their boat trailer.
Here's an example of what can happen when your coxswain steers the boat to close to one of the bridges. These guys are from England and their 7 seat holds his damaged oar. I'm sure this will make for some grand stories at the pub when they return home.
Daughter#1's Women's master 4+ from the Saugatuck Rowing Club carry their shell down to the launch dock.

Stepping into their shell. Their coach is on the far left. She rowed on the Romanian Junior National Team and then coached their National Team at the Olympics at Barcelona

Getting ready to push of the dock. This 4+ is known as a bow loader, which means the coxswain is in front of her rowers rather than behind them in the rear of the boat.

Bow seat strokes the shell away from the dock.

Rowing upstream to the start.

Cambridge Boat House as seen from the Elliot Street Bridge.

Daughter#1's 4+ coming around the turn leading to the Elliot Street Bridge.

On their way to a 4th place finish.

I headed back to our hotel and got cleaned up and a large group of us, about 34, headed to the Mount Vernon restaurant for lobsters, other assorted seafood and prime rib and plenty of drinks. We all got to bond and swap stories and drink too much, but it was a load of fun.

Sunday it was home and a long nap. You can see a clip of my race here at the 1:46.25 mark. Click on the link for the races on 10/20/2007.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Chase

The Occoquan Chase was held this past Sunday. Its hosted by the George Mason University Men's Crew team. I competed in the Masters Men 8+ category. We came in third out of six entries in our category. As last week in the Challenge, our time was a bit slower than last year. I don't know if its our boat or changes lie with the lower water level that effect boat speed or a combination of factors.

I've eluded to the low water level in the Occoquan and here is a picture looking back at our boathouse. As you can tell from the tree line on the left of the picture, the water level is down a good ten to fifteen feet. Most of what is brown dirt in the picture is usually covered by water. You can see our dock barely reaches the water and that's with extra dock sections added.
The Chase is run from Jacob's Rock down river to the first set of powerlines that cross the Occoquan. The finish is just past the 500 meter marker on the 2000 meter race course.
This is our Women's 8+ "A" Boat passing the cove where our boathouse is located. They came in first.

Just past our cove, the boats have to make a left hand turn around the a buoy. Our Women's 8+ is the boat to the far right, not quite yet to the buoy. I believe that is Alexandria that is trailing them.

The following picture was taken right before the Men's 8+ race. The boats gather at the start and start off single file with 10 to 15 seconds between boats. This picture is of our Men's 8+ "B" boat. This was the boat I was originally scheduled to be in. I was to be in the stoke seat. The stroke seat is the one just in front of the coxswain.

This is my boat. I'm way at the other end in the Number 2 seat. We were the next to last boat to start. We passed an entry from Northern Virginia Rowing Club, which in all fairness was a mixed boat. They had two women rowing. We also passed our men's novice boat at the first turn. A distance of probably 3/4 of a mile. We cut inside them on the turn, clashing with their oars as we did so. Since slower boats have to yield to faster boats, they had to go wide. There wasn't much space on the outside of the turn due to the low water and they were forced to stop before running aground and reposition their boat. Our "B" boat almost ran into them also before also having to stop and reposition themselves.

As you can tell from the picture it was a gorgeous day for rowing. The temperature was barely 70 with low humidity and just a touch of wind. Also much better than last week was that I only had to race one time. I think I've discovered once is enough.
This weekend I head to Boston for the Head of the Charles. This race is considered the highlight of the Head Race season and draws crews from around the globe. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good weather and tasty lobsters.
All pictures were taken by Alex Torres.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Irish Red Ale

Its well known to most of my family and friends that I enjoy a good beer. That being said, I've often toyed with the idea of trying to brew my own, but for various reasons I've never tried it before. After a very generous gift from my Dad for my birthday and reading about others trying their brewing skills for the first time, I decided to give it a try. So I ordered a beer brewing starter kit and a beer ingredient kit for some Red Irish Ale from Northern Brewers. Not long after I ordered it, these boxes arrived.

Inside the smaller of the two boxes were the ingredients for the Irish Red Ale. In front of the box are the hops, the malt is in the brown bottle, the yeast is in the package to the right of the malt and the grains are on the far right. Also included were instructions.

The bigger box contained my beer making starter kit with such things as a big pan to cook it up in (which turned our to be warped), tubing, a fermenter jar, bottle brushes, etc.
The first step is to fill a pot with water and not quite bring it to a boil. While waiting for the water to heat up, I drafted The Son to help me crush the grains.

The water was suppose to be around 170 degrees to seep the grains in so I drafted my other assistant brew master, Ann, to take the water temperature.

After the water was ready, we steeped the grains much like you would making a cup of tea with a tea bag. The grains turned the water a deep Carmel color.

I was constantly looking over the instructions trying not to mess it up.
After letting the grains soak for about 20 minutes or so, they were removed and the water bought to a boil. Once it came to a boil it was time to add the malt. The malt had a honey type consistency.

After the malt was added, the mixture, now called wort, went back on the stove to bring back to a boil. Once it reboiled, the first of the hops were added. The mixture was left to boil for another 60 minutes. In the last minute of boiling, the second group of hops was added.

The mixture is then cooled down to 70 degrees in a ice water bath and then poured into the fermenter.

It was difficult at this point to figure out how much water we were suppose to add to the mix. The instructions weren't too clear about it. I hope we didn't add too much.

The beer is now down in our basement fermenting away for the next week when I'll test it to see if its ready to be bottled. I sure hope it doesn't end up tasting like garbage, but we'll see. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Columbus Day in Harrisonburg

One of the benefits of working for Sam are the number of holidays. This past Monday was Columbus Day and a day off. The Son, however, was traveling for work and needed a ride to the airport. He had a 6:00AM flight so off we went to Dulles at 4:00AM, on my day off. Something is not right there. Since I was going to be up early anyway, as would Ann, since The Son demanded to be fed before he left, we decided it would be a good time to go visit Daughter#2 and the Black Demon. We headed down to Harrisonburg and arrived around 9:00AM. We had talked to Daughter#2 beforehand and decided to try a hike again. First, though, we needed sustenance. We traveled south to the town of Dayton for breakfast. We each had huge breakfasts. I had an everything omelet that literally took up the whole plate. Ann had sausage biscuits, which she couldn't finish and Daughter#2 had eggs easy over with a side of oatmeal. We were served by a young Mennonite woman, which was a bit different. As Daughter#2 pointed out she must be a new order Mennonite otherwise she'd be at home taking care of her kids. Its always a bit weird encountering their horse and buggies on the road.

After stuffing ourselves, we headed back to Daughter#2's house to pick up the Black Demon and head out on our hike. The Son In Law couldn't join us as he had to work. Bummer. As Ann and I are not the accomplished hikers that Daughter#2 and The Son In Law are, she had picked out a fairly tame hike for us. We ended up at the Paul State Forest.

With Gracie, aka the Black demon, leading the way we headed into the forest.

It was a fairly short hike as hikes go. It took us a little over an hour so I'm guessing maybe2 to 3 miles. The trail ended up at a farm.

While we hiked 2 to 3 miles, Gracie probably traveled three times that far going back and forth and running into the woods.

After a little more than hour we were back at our car.

Daughter#2 gave us a short tour of Rockingham County and specifically, she took us by the house her Mother In law grew up in. Very rural area. Lots of farms. beautiful country. After the tour we headed back to Daughter#2's house for a short rest.

After returning to the house and checking out Daughter#2's new (new to her) road bike. I' m jealous. We then headed off to lunch at Calhoun's, which is a microbrewery/restaurant in Harrisonburg. After a tasty lunch and a few microbrews we dropped off daughter#2 and headed home. A fun day all things considered.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Challenge

This Sunday was the first of three head races that are held on the Occoquan. I'll compete in all three. This Sunday it was the Occoquan Challenge. The Challenge is unique in that unlike most head races which you start at Point A and finish at Point B, with the Challenge you start and finish at Point A. There is a 180 degree turn midway through the race course that brings you back to the start. Actually the start and finish line are offset otherwise there would be a number of collisions. Something that you want to avoid. Sunday was sunny hot and humid. Not exactly ideal rowing conditions. At our practice the day before, I found out that I had been moved up from stroking our B 8+ to the #2 seat in the A 8+. This will continue for the next few weeks including the Head of the Charles in Boston. In addition to being moved up to the A boat, I was also scheduled to double row with my second race being in the Quad. When I arrived at our boathouse, the Capital Rowing Club's trailer was there unloading our Women's boats. They had competed in the Head of the Ohio in Pittsburgh the day before. One of the boats they had taken was the Quad we were to use in our race on Sunday. The Quad's steering cable had been fraying for some time and the women decided to tape it to prevent it from breaking, but by doing so they lost the ability to steer it. The tape was located such that it prevent the foot steering from working. The rudder became fixed and all control over the boat now has to be done by varying the pressure on the left or right oars. That makes making a turn much more difficult and a 180 degree turn a struggle to say the least.

We launched for my first race in the 8+ about 15 minutes before our scheduled start. As with most regattas, they were running a bit behind, but not by much. There were quite a number of 8+s in front of us waiting for their start so we just chilled till our time to go. In Head races you start single file about 10 to 15 seconds between boats. The object being to pass as many as possible while rowing the fastest time. We rowed close to the start with just our stern six and then added in the bow pair right before crossing the start line. We passed out novice men's 8+ in the first few minutes, but that was the only boat we managed to pass. We had just an ok final time and finished second in the 50+ category and fourth overall out of six boats for all Masters 8+s. I was really beat after our race and wasn't looking forward to racing in the Quad at all. After launching in the Quad literally minutes after rowing in the 8+, we found out we had been given an incorrect starting time and had another hour or so before our start so we went back to the dock to wait and rest. Luckily the start line was only about 3/4 mile from out boathouse. After we launched a second time, we were still early so we took the extra time to practice as the four of us had never rowed together before in a Quad. It was pretty rough. Our start finally came, but we weren't together as a boat at all and it was a struggle throughout the race. I think part of it was we were all tired from having already raced once that day and the heat had just sapped us. It seemed to prevent us from focusing and getting our rhythm down in the boat. Another part was rowing in an unfamiliar boat with four people not use to rowing together. Certainly not in a sculling boat. We got passed early by the only other Men's entry in the Quad event and we also managed to hit a buoy. It did some damage to our boat and should have been a penalty, but the results don't show it so I guessed the referees missed it. It was a struggle to finish. It just wasn't a good row. I was happy just to go home and have a few cold beers.

All year I've have been toying with the idea of double rowing in our last race, which is the Head of the Occoquan, in a single and my usual 8+. Its more doable then most Head races since the single sculling events are held on Saturday and club sweep events are held on Sunday. I've never timed myself before in a single and didn't know if I would be competitive or not. So on Friday, I took a watch with me and ran the Occoquan Chase course, which runs down the Prince William side of the Occoquan. Turns out my time wasn't very good so I'm scrapping the idea until next year. I'll try timing myself a few more times before cold weather shuts down rowing and see if there is any improvement.

After practice on Saturday morning, which is when I found out I had been pumped up to the A boat, I hustled home, showered and headed up to College Park with Ann to watch the University of Maryland play GaTech. In our haste to depart so we would have a little time to tailgate, we forgot to pack sunscreen. As anyone in the eastern half of the United States can tell you, its been hot. Not fall hot, but summer hot. The temperature was in the low 90s. Our seats are on the sunny side of the stadium and we fried. Luckily the game was more exciting then it should have been and we were able to ignore, to some degree, how pink our faces and arms were becoming. Maryland manged to hold on for a 28-26 win after jumping out to a 21-3 lead. After we got home, we walked the dogs and then collapsed in bed. Busy day, but tiring

Monday we headed down to Harrisonburg to spend the day with Daughter#2 and the Black Demon. More on that later when I download the pictures.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Trip to Berryville

Last week Ann and I decided the time was right to take a few days off from working for The Man or in our case Uncle Sam. We like working for Uncle Sam, but we also have some vacation time we needed to start losing or our dear Uncle will take it come the end of the year. We work pretty hard for our Uncle and we've earned the time off so and so we did. Daughter#2 and The Son In Law had given us a Christmas present last year of a couple of days at our choice of several bed and breakfasts in and around Virginia. After mulling it over for like ever, we chose to spend their present at The Lost Dog B&B in Berryville. Berryville while not quite the Shenandoah valley is in Virginia's horse country with its historic past and mountains of money. We headed out on Wednesday just before lunch and made the hour and some change drive west. Now I should mention that along with the agony of trying to decide where to stay was what to do once we got there. We Googled endless sites, but never came up with anything hard and fast. We thought about horseback riding since Ann use to ride and we also found a place where you could take a hike with a Llama. However, this wishy washy approach to preparing for a trip does not sit well with our anal retentive Daughter#1. During her many phone calls home, which we love, she would always ask what we had planned. We would hem and haw and said we weren't sure. Finally driven to distraction by such answers, she took pity on us and being the event planner she is mapped out a three day itinerary for us. Her paper in hand, our first stop was the Main Street Bistro in historic downtown Berryville. Berryville, for those somewhat familiar with the area is just east along Rt 7 from Winchester. Below is Ann standing outside the Bistro after we ate lunch there.

Inside the Bistro I'm enjoying my Reuben along with a Black Dog Ale.

After we finished lunch and walked Main Street, we headed off to The Lost Dog Bed and Breakfast located just off Main Street. We stayed in Virginia's room.

The room and adjoining bathroom was quite comfortable as Ann ably demonstrates.

We also made use of the two person jacuzzi tub.

Sandy, our host, was more than wonderful and cooked us the most amazing breakfasts as well as sharing her wine with us in the afternoon in her sun room. We were the only guests the first night, but the second night a dog trainer arrived from Arkansas to show three dogs in a nearby dog show. She brought along a Mastif, a pointer and a Chihuahua. The mastif, a grand master of sorts and we were told was the number one mastif in the country, weighed in at 190 pounds. The chihuahua at 6. Quite a range. They were so well behaved, unlike our own yappy dogs, we wouldn't have known they were there if we hadn't seen them being taken out before bedtime. Our host, Sandy, has her own dog, a labradoodle, Sirius. He would greet us at the door upon our arrival and often returning to the B&B.

After checking in at The Lost Dog and taking a short nap, we headed out to dinner at The Battletown Inn. The Inn was the former residence of Berryville's founder's Daughter. The dinner was tasty although I didn't realize until I was halfway through my meal that the duck breast I had ordered was, in fact, pork tenderloin. It was still tasty.

The next morning our itinerary called for us to go horseback riding. So we headed off to the Marriott Ranch.

Here I'm mounted on my trusty steed Franklin.

The ranch seemed to have a lot of kittens around the barn area.

Here is one of our trail guides. I didn't catch her name, it was something like Arial, but that wasn't it. She looked like a young Angelina Jolie.

The trail ride last about 90 minutes. I didn't really have to control the horse. I'm sure Franklin has done this numerous times before. It was just a matter of relaxing and enjoy the view.

After our trial ride, we headed to Upperville for lunch. Here is a view on the way there just outside Boyce, VA.

Once we arrived in Upperville, we stopped for lunch at Hunter's Head Tavern.

They have a British phone both by their parking lot.

Their patio was open and it was a nice day so we ate outside.

I enjoyed some Fish n Chips and a few Bass Ales. The crusty bread was fresh, warm and delicious.
After finishing lunch we debated what to do, consulted the itinerary and decided to check out one of the many wineries in the area. There is one right outside Berryville called Veramar. Here I'm right outside their tasting area. At this point our camera died and we didn't have the charger with us.
Their wine was pretty good although a bit pricey by Virginia wine standards. Our host bore a striking resemblance to ER's Linda Cardellini, so that was interesting. After the tasting we bought a bottle of their Chardonnay and two glasses of the same. We went out to their patio and enjoyed the glasses of wine and the great view.
After the winery we returned to the The Lost Dog, enjoyed the Jacuzzi and then took a nap. For the evening we headed out to Middletown, VA for dinner and a theatre show. We drove through an incredible thunder storm with quite the lightening show. It was still raining when we arrived in Middletown and we had to run to the Emerald Isle. Its an Irish pub type place. We enjoyed some Shepard's Pie and some Harp beer. As we were about to pay the check, we asked our waitress where the theatre was. We knew we were close, but we figured we would ask a local who could give us final directions. She told us that it was about a block away but also that it was closed for renovations. Ann and I both looked at her with blank stares. Closed??? But we had tickets! Actually as it turned out, the show was going on but in Front Royal, which was a good 20 minute drive away if we knew the area and had directions. Given that the show was starting in 20 minutes, we decided to just bag it and go back to The Lost Dog. We were still a little pissed that the Wayside Theatre didn't tell us when we bought our tickets that they were performing in Front Royal and not Middletown. Grrrr. Anyway after arriving back at the B&B, we enjoyed Sandy and the trainer from Arkansas's company before calling it a night and going to bed.
The next morning Sandy provided us with some tasty Belgium waffles and we took another walk around Berryville before heading home. All in all it was a fun few days and we look forward to returning at some point.