Monday, April 28, 2008

Another Bike and Rowing Weekend

Ah the weekend. Somehow we need to have five day weekends and two day workdays. That would definitely work for me. Saturday was beautiful with temperatures heading into the 80s and Ann and I did our usual ride on the W&OD Trail. Ann must have been feeling her oats or at least picked up some confidence and we competed the ride out to Leesburg in just over 48 minutes. A five minute improvement over our first ride of the season just a few weeks ago. Coming back my left knee must have tightened up during our rest in Leesburg. The first mile or two were quite painful. As Ann continued the ride back to our car, I stopped on the trail next to the Loundon County Animal Shelter (about a mile and half from where we turn around) to refill our water bottle at a water fountain and it was after that stop, the knee started to feel better. It took me several minutes to catch up to Ann and we finished the ride in fine fashion, finishing the ride back in 46 minutes. We're slowly getting better. Ann has decided she really likes the menu at the Old Dominion Brew Pub and we stopped there for lunch again. I tend to get the same thing (cottage pie), while Ann will be a bit more adventuresome as long as she deems it healthy. For me it's all about the beer, but then we all have our priorities. The rest of the day was spent running to the grocery store, attending Mass, cooking some ribs on the grill for a late dinner and watching about two innings of the Nationals game before getting disgusted with Matt Chico's pitching and heading to bed (in Ann's case) or surfing the web for me.

Sunday dawned dreary, overcast and cool. Temperatures only reached the mid 50s. I checked the weather radar and saw no rain in the area and decided to go for a row. The change in weather while lowering the temperature also calmed the winds and the water was smooth and flat. I wasn't sure how long I wanted to row so I headed out and decided to play it by ear. The Occoquan was mostly deserted, which is a good thing. The cool temperature kept the fisherman with their outboard motor boats at home. That equals no wakes. And yes, there are fisherman who being bored with fishing, will deliberately wake rowers. I rowed up to Fountainhead and I was feeling good so I decided to row up to Ryan's Dam another half mile up river. Once there I decided to go another half mile to make it a four and a half miles each way and a round trip row of 9 miles. On the way back, my stroke came together and the boat was flying along without manhandling on my part. It was definitely the best row of the year so far. I can't wait to get back out and see if I can replicate what I did on Sunday. I like to think that every time I go out, I learn a little bit more about what makes the boat move. It's the eternal quest to find the perfect stroke and rhythm. After I got back to the dock, the George Mason Men's Crew Team was at their boathouse. I assumed they were unloading their boats from a regatta they had been to the day before although that may be or may not be the case. As I was returning my single to the racks, I ran into their coach who said they were preparing a YouTube moment. What they were preparing to do was tow a rower on a wakeboard behind one of their 8+s. There has always been debate on the rowing community whether you could, in fact, water ski behind an 8+. An 8+, unlike a power boat, does not provide constant power. The boat coasts during the recovery part of the stroke. The Mythbusters did a segment on it where one of them did ski behind the Stanford Men's Collegiate 8+. So I guess as a fun activity to break up their practices and competing, the coach decided it would be a good idea to try it. So I hung around to watch what would happen. remember the temperature was only in the 50s and the water isn't much warmer than that. On their first attempt, the wakeboarder (they were launching him right from the dock) , made it about 4 strokes before he lost his grip on the tow rope and went into the water. He did make it up though if only for a moment. The second time was better with him staying up for about 10 strokes before ending back in the water. There were more attempts i think, but it was time to head home. It was fun to watch though. The rest of the day was spent just relaxing. i watched the nationals beat the Cubs and win the series. Then I watched the Chipmunk movie. It was kind of cute. It was interesting to watch the Special Featurette on how the Chipmunks came to be. It's hard to believe they're 50 years old. Now that makes me feel old.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Internet Problems

For the past month or so our Internet connectivity has been somewhat spotty. We have a wireless network here at home compliments of Comcast. We've had it for several years now as it was the only way to save our sanity with everyone wanting to be on the Internet at the same time. Through replacing our computers from time to time and the kids all getting computers as they headed off to college, we have quite the collection of new and old computers connected up. Also, The Son, using his Computer Science degree, has also helped getting the various printers connected up as well. All was running well enough until about a month ago we started having problems with our gateway linking up with the Internet. Over the past month we've had three technicians come to the house to diagnose the problem. All pretty much agreed that the problem was the signal coming in from the street. It wasn't as strong as it should be. The first two also thought that we had too many splitters on our system between the box at the back of our house to our various TVs and gateway. Paperwork was put in to fix the box out on the street, but nothing got any better. Finally this past Tuesday the third Tech arrived. He sort poo poo the whole splitter argument and said the problem was definitely the signal coming from the street. A call was made and confirmation received that paperwork was in the system, but no one had gotten around to looking at the box out on the street. More calls were made and a Comcast truck showed up in short order and voila, a working reliable signal is now reaching our house. It took them all of about 15 minutes to fix whatever was wrong. It's all about priorities I guess. It never affected our TV signal though, which was kind of weird.

Wednesday turned out to be a perfect spring day with temperatures in the 70s. Since I work from home that day, I rushed over to Sandy Run during my lunch hour for a quick row. As I suspected the boathouse was locked up. Most people tend to row before or after work, so I unlocked it and dragged out a rack that holds 5 singles. I grabbed a boat and headed out. Usually when I row I don't have any time constraints and I can row as long as I like, but since I was on my lunch hour, I couldn't be out all that long. So I did a 6 mile row. Given time to drive to and from, get the boat out and row took me about 2 hours. I added an hour at the tail end of my work day to make up the time. Next time I'll try just 4 miles and see how that works. It was a great day to be out on the water though. There was a some debris on the corners of the lake, which is common after heavy rains, but I manged not to hit anything. Even better when I got back to the dock, someone was waiting and offered to take my boat out so I didn't have to wash it and put it away. Score!

Thursday at work was a designated clean up day. A day to get long overdue filing done and generally throw away those old files you haven't looked at in two years. Management went all out for us providing us with both breakfast and lunch. For breakfast it was homemade waffles. Two of the bosses manned waffle irons keeping us full. They also had donuts and some fruit. For lunch they ordered up over 30 pizzas of various types. It seemed like all I did all day was eat. I hardly wanted dinner. Not that I skipped it or anything. I'll need some extra rowing or biking this weekend.

In Virginia we have a requirement to get our cars inspected once a year. This month our minivan was due for its inspection. I was worried it might fail as the van now has over 50,000 miles on it, but still has the original tires. They still have some tread, but it's not like they're brand new. My worries proved unfounded and the van passed so it's good for another year. Yea!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Washout, Some Biking and Some Rowing

So our Sunday Learn to Row Day was mostly a wash out. A storm system moved in Saturday night and it's still here. We've had over 3 inches of rain. We actually did have six brave souls who braved the weather to come see what our club is all about. Due to the weather, we couldn't take them out on the water so we just gave them a tour of the boathouse and explained the different programs that we offer. We invited them back to our next Learn to Row Day on May 4th. Hopefully, we will have better weather and we can get them out in a shell. While killing time, some of us moved shells around in the boathouse.

Saturday was just beautiful. Sunny and warm. A perfect day for a bike ride. Ann poses with our bikes before we head off to the W&OD Trail. Note she decided it was ok to wear one of her bike jerseys this time.

This was the first really warm weekend day we've had and as to be expected, the Trail drew a big crowd as witnessed by the almost full parking lot. It was totally full by the time we returned to the car.

The leaves were coming out all along the trail and the flowers and flowering trees are at their peak.

About the halfway point for our trip out to Leesburg and back in an in-line skating rink. The youngsters were having a game. They looked pretty small - maybe 7 or 8 year olds.

At the end of the trip we were hungry and it was almost noon so we decided to stop and get something to eat on the way home. We really enjoyed the Old Dominion Brew Pub last week and they don't seem to mind if you come dressed in spandex and have helmet hair, so we stopped there again for lunch and treated ourselves to some good food and tasty beer. Tasty stuff.

Friday was a day off and I was determined to get out on the water again. I got to Sandy Run about 9:30 and the sun was out and it was about 63 degrees and just a hint of a breeze. The water looked perfect - nice and flat. It was as perfect a day for rowing as you could ask for. I rowed up to Fountainhead Park and back. A total of seven miles. It was so nice out , that upon getting back to Sandy Run, I decided to keep going down river toward the race course. I rowed to the finish line before turning around. It was my first view of the upgraded grandstand where they added covering/roof to provide some shelter from the elements. It looks pretty nice. I know there were days when Daughter#1 and The Son were racing that I would have loved some shade or a place to get out of the rain. The row to the race course and back added an additional mile for a total of eight. My hands survived relatively unscathed, unlike last week. My butt was sore, but overall a very nice row. I can't wait to do it again.
I'll be looking to Rock the Red as the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers meet for a deciding game seven in their Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow night. It's been some exciting hockey.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Eyes

Just a reminder that if you live in the northern Virginia, Washington DC area and would like to try your hand at rowing, the Prince William Rowing Club will hold a Learn to Row Day this Sunday at the Oxford Boathouse in the Lake Ridge Park from 1:00 to 3:00. Directions to the park can be found at the link for Lake Ridge Park or at the PWRC website:

Wednesday I went in for a follow up exam on my eyes. My eyes have been giving me problems since January. They've been very irritated plus my eyelashes were scratching my cornea. My eyes were better despite requiring a few more eyelashes to be plucked and the decision was made to try and fit me with some new contacts. I've been wearing glasses now for over 15 years and I've never really liked them. I tried hard contact lenses for awhile, but I couldn't keep them moist enough and I'd have to take them out after 4 or 5 hours. I also have pretty severe astigmatism, which up to now made most soft contacts and Lasik unsuitable. Technology continues to advance and my Doctor wanted to try some new contacts that are part hard lenses and part soft lenses. He fitted me with a pair and wow I could see. Currently my glasses can't correct my vision to 20/20. These new lenses will. The contacts are now on order and I should have them in about a week. It should make a big difference on how I see the world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Learn to Row

Have you ever watched the rowing events in the Olympics and marveled at how fast and smooth they moved the boat through the water? Or have you ever driven along a river or lake and seen rowers moving as one in a shell as it seems to move almost effortlessly through the water and said to yourself, that looks like fun. Like something I'd like to try. Well you can. The Prince William Rowing Club ( is hosting the first of their three Learn to Row Days this coming Sunday (April 20) at the Oxford Boathouse in the Lake Ridge Marina from 1 to 3 PM. Club members will be giving tours of the boathouse, teaching the basic rowing stroke on ergs and the barge and finally taking guests out on the water in an actual 8 person shell. Guests will be given an opportunity to row out of the marina cove and out on the Occoquan. Refreshments will be served and it's all free. What a deal! More information is available on the club web page.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First Bike Ride and First Row

After an abortive attempt to row on Friday when the weather was simply to die for, I finally made it out on Sunday for my first row of the season. I actually drove over to Sandy Run on Friday to try and row, but while it was nice and warm and the sun was out, by the time I got over to the park during my lunch hour, the wind had picked up making the water quite choppy. So much for the forecast for winds 5 to 10 miles an hour. Of course there was no wind in the morning (but I had to work) or the afternoon (a million high school shells out with Coaches in chase boats churning the water up like crazy. It's a nightmare to launch and recover too with all those kids). So Sunday came and while it was on the cool side when I woke up (49 degrees), I decided to bite the bullet and go. I even took my camera to take pictures to share, but alas I should have checked on the camera's battery status before I left home. It was deader than dead. I'll try to take some next time. In lieu of my pictures, here is one from the Virginia Tech Crew web site showing the view of the reservoir from the boathouses.

The row went well. I got some good run for my first time out. I think sculling in a single is a lot like learning to ride a bike. It takes time learning to balance and you'll probably flip a time or two into the water as your learn, but once you master it you never forget how to do it. I rowed seven miles up to Fountainhead Park and back. I can say that my conditioning needs a lot of work and my hands show the result of it being the first row of the season. My calluses from last year are long gone and my hands are pretty soft. My right hand came through pretty well, but I had two spots on my left hand that blistered and tore. They're a bit tender this morning. They should callous over in time. It definitely felt good to be back on the water and I'm already looking forward to my next time.

It's impossible to row from Sandy Run on Saturdays in the spring due to high scchool crew and thier regattas are held on Saturday. Saturday's forecast wasn't great (cloudy), but it looked like an opportunity to get in a bike ride. I semi-guilted Ann in coming along with me even though it meant lsitening to whining about how she wasn't in enough shape to do a 20 mile ride. Whatever girl. So we loaded up the bikes and headed out to the W&OD Trail. We chose our usual entry point at Rt 28 in Ashburn area.

It was pretty chilly starting out and I regretted not wearing a sweatshirt, but then the sun came out and warmed things up nicely. About 3.5 miles into our ride toward Leesburg, we reached Ashburn Road and Ann asked for a break. The stop features an old Country Store that serves freshly cooked BBQ. We've never tried it since we usually bike early in the morning way before lunch, but does it ever smell good.

The t-shirt Ann is wearing is a hand me down from Daughter#1 and her first year of crew - as a freshman in 1995. It's from the Cherry Blossom Regatta up on the Potomac. That's how old that shirt is. Now Ann has two nice biking jerseys, including a brand new one from her alma mater, but she didn't want to wear either one. Why? She didn't want people to think she was a hard core biker that was pathetically out of shape. Like she was a poser or something. She's weird sometimes.

At this stop you can also buy antiques and get your bike repaired. The bike shop (by the tent) is fairly new, but what a great location.

After 53 minutes of riding, we reached the Leesburg Community Center where we rested and used the bathroom before heading back. It also gives Ann some time to whine about how tired she is and how she'll never make it back to the car alive.

Our fearless rider back at the car at the end of our 20 mile ride. We made it back in 50 minutes. The times were pretty slow even for us, but it was our first time out and the times will come down.

We finished our ride around 11:30 and we had nothing back at home to eat for lunch so we were going to have to eat out. Fortunately, right off the W&OD Trail resides the Old Dominion Brewery and Brew Pub. They even have a sign right on the trail so they do cater to bikers. I convinced Ann that going there for lunch was a good idea even if we look a bit of a mess and both had helmet hair. So we motored over to the Brew Pub. For those not familiar with Virginia law, one can not strictly operate a bar and sell alcohol. In order to do so, one must sell food or in reality be a restaurant. I don't know the exact percentage, but a certain percentage of revenue must come from food sales. Old Dominion wanted to be able to sell their beers directly to the public along with sales in stores, hence the Brew Pub. It's located in a industrial park therefore the outside isn't very imposing, but the food is very good and the beers even better. It was a nice way to end up the ride.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Paint

Back in September when we had the house resided, Ann decided that she would like to get those areas not covered in siding painted. In particular, the front door and garage door to match the color of the new shutters. Yesterday the painting began. It's not yet complete, but you can get an idea of the changes. Here is the house before:

And here is the front and garage doors with the first coat of paint. Around the bay window also is about half painted. The area around the front door has also received some new paint. We're pleased by the way it looks and even our next door neighbors complimented us on it.

If you look closely at the trees behind the house on the right side, you can see a hint of green. Maybe spring really is here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shopping and Erging

Sunday dawned cold, rainy and breezy so no on water rowing for me. The next window will be Wednesday. Erg class it was then. Before I headed out for my erg class, I got up and started the laundry and ran out and did the grocery shopping. Both Ann and I work, so I it's only fair that I pull my weight around the house. Ann hates grocery shopping so I do it. I don't love it, but it doesn't bother me like it does her. I'm not sure why she hates it so bad. When I shop I like to make a game of it. I call it turbo shopping. I head in, printed list in hand with items listed in the order they come up in the store as I make my way through the various isles and see how fast I can get in and out. Before I head in, I'll take a look at the list and give myself a time goal to beat. This irritates Ann to no end. In the rare case she accompanies me, her idea of shopping is a leisurely stroll through the store carefully comparing several brands for each item on the list. This is true even though we almost always buy the same brands. When she begins one of her zen comparison moments, I'll leave her and continue shopping often finishing the list while she contemplates the various benefits of Campbell's versus B&B baked beans. This brings us to the two things the drive me crazy when I shop. If Ann accompanies me, if a question comes up about something on the list, say something she listed isn't available and I need her input, I can never find her. I'll return to where I left her and no Ann. I then half to scour the various isles trying to find where she wandered off to burning up precious time. The running joke is that she's having an affair with the butcher back in the meat department, which is why I can't find her. Once I do find her, usually checking out the makeup or shampoos, the line is "How was the butcher?" For some reason she doesn't find this as amusing as I do. Which brings us back to the list. Most of the items on it we've previously discussed as we try and come up with a menus for the week, but inevitably there will be a few items on the list that need further clarification. This week it was deodorant. I pay no attention to what deo Ann uses. So I called home from the store to find out what kind she uses. No answer, I try another number. No answer. I try her cell figuring she might be out walking the dog. No answer. Ok, I'll just continue shopping and call back. While I'm finishing up, I think of a few things Ann might have left off the list, but I don't make a note of them on the list as I make my way through the store. Once I'm done shopping, I call home again. No answer. At this point I'm on the verge of just checking out figuring she can buy her own deo. I try one last time and she finally answers. She was drying her hair and couldn't hear the phone(s) ringing over the noise. Grumbling, I find out what brand she likes and I check out and make it home in less than an hour. Decent enough time, but not great. I figured I lost about ten minutes trying to get her on the phone. How can she expect me to set new time records if she won't answer the phone? Also the items I thought she might have left off the list? She did. So no broccoli and Vanilla Zero for her.

Erg class was a bit different this week as we had a substitute instructor. In our regular class, we erg for about 45 to 50 minutes to music with the songs being of variable length with the instructor varying the intensity at which we are erging (say half pressure or full pressure, etc.). We usually get 20 to 30 seconds between songs to grab some water. Yesterday we did a series of four minutes on full pressure and three minutes off. We did seven of these with warm-up and cool down periods before and after. It was quite intense and the last two cycles were quite the challenge. Our instructor also kept upping the stroke rate during each piece. It was different so it wasn't boring, but not something I'd like doing every week.

The reason our normal instructor was absent was that she was attending the wedding of one the former members of our rowing club. So, congratulations Mel!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Having Our Bread and Eating It Too

Friday was warm enough to go rowing, but alas it was also rainy and way to windy so getting out on the water will have to wait. Today the high schools will be racing and it's impossible to get into the park where the boats are kept. We'll see what Sunday is like although I'm betting I'll just go to my regular erg class. The weather forecast isn't that great. If I have time, I'll try a neighborhood ride on my bike.

Yesterday we finalized plans to have some painting done on the exterior of our house. It's not a lot since we have siding on the house. Just the area around our front door, the garage door and the cinder block on the sides and back of the house. We're trying a new painter, which we'll see how that goes. We need to go buy the paint today and it's suppose to be done on Tuesday. After meeting and agreeing to terms with the painter, we headed out to lunch and had some BBQ and then to Target for some odds and ends. We just goofed off the afternoon and went out and had pizza with The Son for dinner.

A week or so ago when I came into work, someone had put out starter kits for Amish Friendship bread. In an obviously weak moment or maybe since it was early morning and I was still half asleep having just woken up from my long commute in and hungry to boot, I decided to grab a bag and give it a try. After following the directions, which take about a week and half before you get around to baking it, I was ready to bake the bread Friday night. Here is the bag with the starter mix in it as I get started.

I kept adding ingredients, flour, milk, eggs, cinnamon, sugar, etc. until it was ready to mix together.

It only took a few minutes to stir everything together and have it form a thick sticky batter.

I filled two bread baking dishes with the batter and into the oven they went.

After an hour they were finished. I think they could have used another few minutes though. It tastes sweet and not unlike banana bread.

Part of the recipe calls for saving starter kits to give to friends and relatives. Hence the friendship part, I assume. I didn't save the four they called for, but just kept one for ourselves in case we decide we like it enough to make more. Time for another piece.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Erging, Flying and Baking

My slow return to some sort of reasonable rowing shape continues. I attended my erg class on Sunday and actually survived and clocked in 11,200 meters. And I could still walk. I actually erged again today. I did another 5,000 meter piece and my splits continue to come down, but still a ways to go, but it's encouraging. Today is the first day I could go out in a single, but it's way to windy. I'll take a look and see how Friday looks. Saturday is definitely out as the high schools will be racing every Saturday between now and mid May. Sunday is also a possibility, but I'd like to reserve that for my bike, but I'm flexible.

Daughter#1 is back in Connecticut after taking some time off and going to Florida. In a little deja vu along the lines of Daughter#2 and her trip, Delta delayed their 7:00PM flight until 10:30PM with actual take off at 11:05. Needless to say, she didn't get home until about 2:30 in the morning. I'm sure she appreciated that. While she was gone, we had some work done on her car. She has been driving around with her "Check Engine" light on for quite a while. Turns out her catalytic converter was no longer functioning. $$$ Also her brakes were basically metal on metal - front and back $$$ Her tires were also worn out and she somehow had managed to dent two of her rims. $$$ Ouch.

Today being Wednesday, it's my day to make dinner. I also have to bring in food for work tomorrow. I usually just buy various baked good for people to nibble on and, in fact, I have bagels and donuts already bought, but today I'm going to try baking some bread to take in. We see how it turns out given my limited baking skills.