Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tales Fram The Trail - Day 2

Day 2 of the ride from Washington to Pittsburgh started with the group (Daughter#2 included) headed back to Whites Ferry to cross the Potomac and hook back up with the C&O Canal Trail. They found out from the hotel that they have a shuttle to the ferry so that saved them about 5 to 6 miles of biking, particularly along busy Rt 15. They had a great day for biking. Sunny and in the 70s. Little wind. Daughter#2 called in to let me know that they are averaging between 11 to 13 mph and stopping every 8 miles or so for breaks or if they come across a point of interest. To get a feel for the trail, I added this picture from mile marker 41 and includes Lock 27. I should add that all pictures are from the McMullen C&O Canal Virtual Tour. If you visit their site you can see many more pictures of the canal.

Further along is the Monocacy Aqueduct. It has 7 arches is just over 500 feet long and is one of 11 aqueducts along the canal.

Another view of the trail at the remains of the Noland's Ferry Bridge. I have to admit the trail is a lot flatter than I would have imagined and while not paved looks like an easy ride. It also looks like an incredibly beautiful ride.

The Potomac has relatively few bridge crossings considering it flows through a major metropolitan area. The only crossing up river from Washington until you reach Harper's Ferry is at Point of Rocks. This is the train station in the town.

Leaving Point of Rocks and passing Brunswick, MD, the C&O hooks up with the Appalachian Trail, which is kind of interesting in my opinion. Daughter#2's group stopped in Harper's Ferry for lunch. They dined at the Cannonball Deli. You can read a review of the deli here. A very positive review. As a number of the group are vegetarians, sometimes finding a suitable place can be a challenge. Luckily, considerable research had been done prior to their leaving so they had an idea where at least one vegetarian restaurant was available at each stopover (less one stopover, which will be discussed later in the week). The original idea was to do some sight seeing in Harper's Ferry, but after eating, they decided to save their strength and by pass the sightseeing. Below is the bridge crossing into Harper's Ferry.

Leaving Harper's Ferry, the group passed the Antietam Aqueduct, which crosses Antietam Creek. This Aqueduct though somewhat similar looking too, should not be confused with Burnside's Bridge, which is part of the Antietam Battlefield. This Aqueduct is downriver from the battlefield itself. They won't pass Sharpsburg and the battlefield until tomorrow.

Their stop at the end of Day 2 was Shepherdstown, WVA. This is the bridge into town.

Dinner was at the Blue Moon Cafe. Daughter#2 had some sort of salad with Bruschetta. Not my choice, but then I'm not vegetarian. So far the trip seems to be going well and well worth the time and effort.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tales From the Trails Day 1

As I sit down and write Daughter#2 is on a ridiculously long bike ride with three companions. Daughter#2 is riding from Washington DC to Pittsburgh. A distance of 33o miles over seven days. They started off yesterday from Georgetown and will ride the C&O Canal Trail to Cumberland, MD. At Cumberland they will transfer to the Cumberland and Pittsburgh Trail that will take them on to Pittsburgh. Overall the route is known as The Great Allegheny Passage.

Day 1 was a 40 mile ride starting in Georgetown in DC to Leesburg, VA. This leg totals 40 miles. The day was overcast with temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s. There were widely scattered light showers. Now technically Leesburg is not on the C&O Canal, but they do need a place to sleep overnight and Leesburg was the choice. The highlights of this leg was riding by Great Falls.
In order to cross the Potomac to get from the C&O Canal Trail in MD to Leesburg in Virginia, they took Whites Ferry.

From the ferry it was about a 5 mile ride into Leesburg with a very short portion being on the W&OD Trail. They shared a room at the Comfort Inn Suites. I haven't gotten a report yet on where they went to eat for dinner. So far everyone has kept up, which I know was a concern for Daughter#2. We'll see how the rest of the trip goes in that regard.

Day 2 will have them riding from Leesburg to Sheperdstown, WVA with a mid day stop at Harper's Ferry, WVA. I'll get details on this leg and post about it tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

I hope all the Dads out there had a great Father's Day. Having grown children, two of which do not live close by, my Father's Day was pretty low key. A card and call from Daughter#1, a call from Daughter32 as she and The Son In Law and their dog/child Gracie headed to the Shenandoah National Park. Apparently yesterday was get into your National Park free day and they were taking advantage of it. I also received a text from The Son around 9:30. I guess better late than never. Ann also gave me a card and other...ummm..gifts. Since it was my day, I decided to go for a row. The plan was to complete Concept2's Summer Solstice row, which consisted of rowing (or erging) 21,000 meters. That's just over 13 miles. The plan was to row up river to where Bull Run enters the Occoquan. The forecast called for partly sunny, but winds 15 to 20 mph. I was hoping by going early (7:30), all would be calm and I could beat the wind. Unfortunately that was not the case. The water around Sandy Run was fine, but shortly after rounding the first bend the wind hit and the water was pretty choppy. I gave it a try for 3 miles and it kept getting worse. I decided rather then fight the conditions, I'd just call it a day. I rowed back and actually past sandy Run toward the race course as the water around Sandy Run was actually pretty good. I ended up rowing a total of 8 miles for the day, but it wasn't all that much fun. Ann and I finished of the day by grilling some ribs. Overall not a bad Father's day. Pretty quiet actually.

I did call my own Dad and sent him an ecard. He lives in the Orlando area so I don't get to see him that often. This year being a bit of an anomaly as I visited him in February for his 80th birthday and I also saw him at the end of May for Daughter#1's wedding. He looks great for 80 and is generally in pretty good health not withstanding ongoing problems with a pinched nerve in his back that forced him to give up golf and makes it difficult for him to walk any distance. But we caught up on what each of us was doing. I was interested in hearing about his time after the wedding. He and my sister drove up to Gouverneur, NY where my Mom is buried. Its the 25th anniversary of her passing from cancer. It's where she grew up. For a time my Dad and Mom owned a small cabin on Sylvia Lake, just outside Gouverneur. My sister took a bunch of pictures and it was nice to see. We actually vacationed on Sylvia lake when the twins were 3 so that was about 24 years ago. The lake is pretty and the water is so clear. It's also freezing, but it is upstate NY after all. After Gouverneur, he traveled to Rutland, VT and then on to Hartford, CT. Some old friends of the family from when we lived in NJ now live in Hartford. Our two families were pretty close. They had kids our age and we pretty much grew up together. I know he enjoyed the visit. So Dad is doing well I'm hoping to visit him in Florida later this summer and also get some beach time. Hope you all got to spend some time with your Dads and hope yours is as special as mine.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thunderstorms and Tweaking Meds

Its has been an interesting week, weatherwize, as every afternoon seems to bring thunderstorms and torrential rain. Now thunderstorms here in Virginia are not that unheard of during our hot humid summers, but the ones this week seem to have gone above and beyond. Needless to say, it has played havoc with my rowing schedule. Our safety rule states that no launching of boats until at least 15 minutes has passed since the last sound of thunder (or visible lightening but its hard to have one without the other). I didn't row on Tuesday, although that was more due to a family issue then the weather. Last night (Thursday), the storms came and dumped a few inches of rain on us, but luckily cleared before practice. The bad weather did have me running late to practice though and our coach had already assigned seats and I had the choice of riding in his launch or going to Sandy Run to row on my own. A third alternative emerged when I talked a fellow rower, who originally decided to sit out a practice, to come row a double. He has limited experience sculling, but unlike most of the men (or women for that matter) in my club, he actually rowed in college (Naval Academy) and is probably the strongest rower we have. I let him row the stroke seat and I rowed bow. Like on Saturday, we rowed up to Ryan's Dam (actually just beyond) and manged to get in a 7 mile row. We even raced the Men's 4 from Fountainhead Park up to the Dam. We actually held them off for the most part until I caught a semi-crab, which brought us almost to a complete stop. Considering my stroke had wanted an easy row so as not to aggravate a sore shoulder, we decided that was enough racing for one night. Going back we passed out fitness rowers and out novices so I suppose that means the double was moving pretty well. Turned out to be a good row overall. I had to agree with my stroke when he commented that the Occoquan was the most beautilful piece ofw water he's rowed on.

Today I had a follow up visit with my Doctor. He's been trying to fine tune my blood pressure medicine. I think we are getting pretty close to where he wants me to be, but he did tweak it a bit more. The medicine he increased slightly this time has a known side effect of making some people dizzy so I'm suppose to be aware of that. I can't imagine that being to good for my balance on my bike or when I'm out rowing. Hopefully that side effect won't rear its ugly head.

Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Row and A Lunch

After the whole clothing debacle on Friday with the gloves and bike shorts, Saturday had to be better. Saturday's rowing practice had only 10 guys show up. Not a good mix. Our coach put 8 in an 8 and me an another guy into a double. We're both experienced scullers so to speak although we had never sculled together before. We were the first boat out and we had decided to head up river to Ryans dam. We thought we tag along with our fitness rowers, but after waiting a while and they still weren't out, we decided to just go. We were not exactly a perfectly mixed pair. He's almost 6 foot and is over 200 lbs. I'm short and 160 lbs. At first it was a bit rough. Our timing was definitely off. By the time we reached the dam and turned around, we were starting to get it together and by the end we had the double really running. It was sweet. It also gave me some practice for Sunday's row across the water.

Sunday I drove over to the other side to Sandy Run for OBC's Race for the Strawberries. The race is just an interclub race designed as more of a social activity then anything else. I originally wanted to race in a single, but I waited to long and all the singles were taken. I did mange to get a place in a Quad after my partner from Saturday had to drop out and I got invited to fill his seat. As I parked my car and headed down to the water, this is what I saw:
What a perfect day for a row. Sunny, but not hot, and nice flat water. Below are my Quadmates checking out our boat before we launched.

While a bunch of us were out rowing some of the other OBC members were setting up to feed us pancakes and strawberries (hence the Race for the Strawberries). Our boat was the 9th boat to start and we passed most everyone, which you would suspect given we were in a Quad and racing against singles and doubles. Having never rowed together, I think we did ok. I didn't have a chance to adjust my foot stretchers after we launched and they could have been further back. I wasn't able to lay back quite as far as I would have liked and had some problems clearing my hands as a result, but overall it was good. I rowed bow so I was responsible for steering (the rudder control is attached to my right foot). We didn't hit anything or run over other boats so I'll put that down as a success. I did have a heck of a time locating the race course buoys. When I scull I'm use to looking over my left shoulder. For the race all the buoys were on my right side. It was awkward for me to look over the opposite shoulder plus my visor was canted a bit down to the right blocking my vision even further. We didn't cut the buoys as close as I would have liked but we didn't lose a lot of time at the turns either. Overall it was a fun time and the pancakes tasted great afterward. I big well done to OBC for that.
After the race, I returned home and showered and then headed out to Front Royal for lunch with Daughter#2 and The Son In Law. The Son was missing in action for most of the morning so Ann and I believed he had blown us off for going with us and we left. After driving about 6 miles, I get a text saying he's on his way to the house. Annoying. We turned around and met him at the house and then headed west. Daughter#2 had picked out a restaurant in downtown Front Royal called the Soul Mountain Cafe. We chose front Royal Royal as it's midway for us coming from Woodbridge and her coming from Harrisonburg. It was a nice lunch. The Cafe basically just has sandwich's and wraps for lunch. I'd like to return sometime for dinner as their dinner menu sounded really interesting. I got the andouille sausage wrap and it was pretty tasty.

After eating lunch we wandered main Street for a bit. I found it unusual that almost all the shops, less the restaurants, were closed. We ended up at the Front Royal Visitors Center, which is in an old train station. Daughter#2 and The Son In Law:

The Son and Daughter#2 (aka The Twins), myself and Ann.

It was definitely a fun time and the drive out I-66 is beautiful what with the mountains and all. I love a good road trip.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Size Were Those Shorts?

On Friday I decided to go for a bike ride. I figured it would be a great way to start my day off from work. I had briefly considered going for a row in a single, but on Thursday night's practice, when I was in an 8, I saw that there was still a lot of debris (i.e., logs) in the water due to the heavy rain. It's not much fun when you have to turn around every other stroke to make sure you're not about to hit something in the water. Anyway I was running around getting ready for my bike ride - loading the bike, putting my helmet in the car, etc. I also was running around trying to find my bike shorts. I was pretty sure I had put them in the laundry last Sunday so I figured they would be on the ironing board in the laundry room where they were left to dry. I grabbed them and put them on. Odd, I thought, they sure feel tighter then the last time I wore them and they seemed somewhat shorter as well. I put this down due to being laundered and shrinking some in the wash. I figured they would stretch out. So off I went fat, dumb and happy. I drove out to the parking area on RT 28 adjacent to the W&OD Trail, unloaded my bike, put my bike shoes on, then my bike gloves and then my helmet and I off I went. All seemed well enough on my ride, especially after I remembered to buckle my helmet. I rode to Leesburg and back. 20 miles round trip. Back on the car I was sitting on the tail section of the minivan with the rear gate up and taking off my gloves. Something seemed amiss. Turns out I had put my gloves on backwards on the wrong hands so all the padding was on the back of my hands (and therefore providing no cushioning) instead of over my palms and heels of my hand. Dumb. After driving back home, I commented to Ann that I thought that my bike shorts had shrunk considerably in the wash. Now we do our laundry, for the most part, in cold water and we don't run the bike shorts through the dryer so they really shouldn't have shrunk at all. Ann asked to see them so I slipped them off and handed them to her. She, unlike me, read the label. They were Women's shorts, size small. In other words, they were her bike shorts. Geez no wonder they felt tight and short. I don't know what that says about me or about Ann that I could fit in her bike shorts and not realize that they were her bike shorts and not mine. Good for me, I think.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The House across The Street

In my neighborhood, there are a lot of military families, people that work for the Government - Federal, State and Local and people that support the Government. Because of that, my particular neighborhood has been pretty isolated from the whole foreclosure mess. Not my county, as we rank up near the top in counties in Virginia in foreclosures, but due more to a tough crackdown on illegal immigrants by our County Supervisor then anything else. He's looking to make a name for himself to move up in the political world, but whatever. But in my neighborhood, things have been pretty much business as usual. Houses are not abandoned and foreclosures rare. Houses are actually selling pretty quickly after going on the market. Except...except...the house across the street. The people that owned it just moved out and into another property they owned and just abandoned it. the grass grew knee hi and the shrubbery grew untrimmed. It was a neighborhood eyesore. That is until about a week or so ago. It appears the property has been purchased at auction. Accordingly rumors on who owned it, etc have been flying around the neighborhood. The latest and greatest is that whomever owns it has thirty days to get it into livable condition. The house is a mess inside. The prior owners had two dogs and a few cats and the house reflects that fact. The owners were also heavy smokers. The skylight over the main entry area leaks and the walls now have mold. The house had to be gutted for the most part. drywall removed and carpet disposed of. Crews are working on the house and replacing the roof and the siding. It should transform into a practically new house. It will get rid of the neighborhood eyesore and help maintain home values. The other side of this is the people who lived there were friends. Not close friends, but friends. They had a son the same age as the twins. they grew up together. played together. Formed a band together (well The Son half of the twins did). It was sad to see what has happened. To see the realities of our current economic condition reflected in the house across the street. It's no longer just a story on the evening news. it's right in our face every day. Soon that reality will be wiped away by the renovation. I suspect the damage to our neighbors who had to move is a bit more permanent.

Over The Dam - Almost

The Occoquan is my home water. It's where I row. Its a river and it is also a reservoir. No one really calls it the Occoquan river or calls it the Occoquan Reservoir. It's just called The Occoquan. Occoquan is derived from the Dogue Indian word meaning "the end of the water". It's the main source for drinking water for northern Virginia along with the Potomac River. In order to increase the amount of available water, the river is damed. The dam is located just above the historic town of Occoquan. Because of the dam, the Occoquan is pretty benign. No rapids and no real current to speak of - with one exception - when the water level is such that water is going over the dam. Like now. The flag pole at Sandy Run will display a purple flag when the water is going over the dam. A warning not to go to get to close to the dam. Besides the flag warning, there are also warning buoys as you approach the dam. The dam deserves your respect. Its a 75 foot drop if you don't. I've never gotten that close to the dam in a single. I usually head up river away from the dam. When I'm in an 8 or 4, we'll often travel down in the vicinity of the dam as the Occoquan racecourse is down by the dam. However in truth, during the summer, water is rarely flowing over the dam and therefore doesn't pose a danger.

We had a dry winter and early spring. We were 4 to 6 inches below normal. We've made that up and more here in late April, May and early June. The water level is very high at the moment and the water is pouring over the top of the dam. Truly a scenario to stay away from the dam. Apparently not everyone pays attention to water conditions. Two fishermen had to be rescued by helicopter when their boat lost engine power and the boat drifted toward the dam. Both fishermen leaped from the boat right as it went over the dam and they were holding on to a pole/uprooted tree for dear life. They were two lucky dudes. You can here/see the video of the rescue here:


Live and learn.

Monday, June 8, 2009

To Row Or Not To Row

This past weekend was to be all about rowing and nothing but rowing. My weekend schedule was something like this: Friday row a Quad with three people I've never rowed a Quad with before. Plus I would be in the bow seat and responsible for steering. This was to be a practice to get ready for a Sunday row/race. Saturday regular practice from 700 to 900 and then row with our adult rowing camp members from 930 to 1130. Row to Occoquan Forest picnic, demonstrate rowing and take interested residents for a row and then row back to boathouse. Start at 230 and return around 530. On Sunday race the Quad a distance of about 9 miles starting at 800. Finally host our final Learn to Row Day for my club from 100 to 300. Definitely a full weekend of rowing, which wasn't sitting too well with Ann. How did it turn out? Friday's practice in the Quad was cancelled due to heavy rain and high water levels on the Occoquan. The Saturday rows were held although there was much debris out on the water. As part of the final row with the adult camp rowers, which we call Raw Knucks, we held a mini regatta for them. Technically I didn't row but coxed one of the boats. My boat finished third on points out of a total of five boats. Not bad considering we had only one experienced rower in the boat while the others had at least two experienced rowers and others had even more. Everyone seemed happy with the regatta and about sixteen of them will join the club. So good for them and good for the club. The row to Occoquan Forest was cancelled due to the amount of debris in the water. We can't afford to damage any boats by hitting large logs floating on the reservoir. The same thing for the Sunday morning row/race. Too much debris and too much risk to the boats. These boats are fiberglass and thin fiberglass at that as they try to make them as light as possible and therefore easily damage and expensive to repair. Our final Learn to Row Day was held, but frankly I forgot about it (I hadn't plan to attend originally due to all the other rowing scheduled for the weekend) and didn't go. Apparently it was well attend with 43 people showing up. The main focus was for attracting rowers for the high school rowing camp we run in the summer, but some adults showed up as well. We'll see if any join up. So not so much rowing as planned.

Since I didn't row Sunday morning, I did go for a bike ride on the W&OD Trail. The weather this weekend was unbelievably nice and Sunday the best. Sunny and warm - perfect. I did the ride from Rt 28 out to Leesburg and back - 20 miles total. The trail was not very crowded, which was a bit of a surprise given how nice a day it was. The ride felt really good. Good speed throughout although I still suck at climbs. Hopefully that will come. I did the ride and was back at home by 1130. Just in time to shower and then run out for groceries and pick up some lunch (Italian Sub). The rest of the day was spent just lounging around out on the deck reading or napping. It doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Wedding - Part II

When I left off in my last post, all the girls were out getting pedicures and the guys were headed out to lunch. As evidence to the first part, here Ann is getting her pedicure. It's a tough life.
The finace took the guys (myself, The Son and The Son-In-Law) into Norwalk where we had lunch at the Gingerman. Its claim to fame is having 52 beers on tap and a bottle selection of another 152 beers. The food is typically what you'd find in such an establishment, but it was good and there was a lot of it. I couldn't finish my burger and The Son had trouble finishing his club sandwich, which was the biggest club sandwich I had ever seen. Of course our inability to finish our lunches could have been in part due to our late breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. After lunch we had some time to chill back at the hotel before heading off to the church for the rehearsal. The church in Westport was beautilful and had this great pipe organ up in the balcony area. It sounded as good as it looks. Appearing in the foreground is Daughter#1's friend from college, Kim and Daughter#2.

The woman who handled events at the church and was very nice and funny and keep everyone loose explained how everything would work the next day and we did a walk through twice. We left feeling we had things down and we all left and headed off to the Rehearsal dinner hosted by the Fiance's parents. The dinner was at the Red barn Restaurant inWestport. We had drinks and appetizers out on the patio. Everyone agreed that the appetizers were to die for particularly the clams casino. Dinner was delayed a bit as we waited for my Dad and sister to drive down from Hartford. They got lost and were running really late so we decided to go in and start dinner without them. We did have some small children and they weren't going to last all night so it was the right thing to do. They finally made it and not too late to eat with the rest of us. The food was awesome and the company even better. I'd definitely like to return to the Red Barn one day. here's a picture of the kids table. Kids being a relative term. From the left, two of the fiance's friends from college who were groomsmen, Daughter#2, the Fiance, The Son In Law, The Son and Kim. The table Ann and I were at is behind the kids table.

After dinner, Daughter#1 and The Fiance handed out gifts to the wedding party. Here they are with The Fiance's nieces, who acted as the ring bearer and flower girls. They were so good and did an excellent job at the wedding. Really darling girls.

After dinner and desert, it was back to the hotel and crashed (dinner included lots of wine).
Saturday dawned and the weather gods smiled on us and delivered a gorgeous days. Lots of sun and blue skies with a few billowing shining white clouds thrown in. The Son was picked up by the Fiance and taken to the Fiance's parents home to get ready with the rest of the groomsmen. The Son In Law and I headed to Daughter#1's apartment to be with the bride and two of the bridesmaids. We made a stop on the way to pick up wine and beer for an after party and some light refreshments for the bride and bridemaids. We just hung out and enjoyed some liquid refreshments while the girls got made up by a make-up artist. She did a great job and was very cute to boot. Finally tit was showtime and we all got into a limo for the ride to the church. The limo company provided champagne for the ride which was nice. From left to right: Daughter#1 (aka The Bride), myself, Daughter#2 and Ann.

The wedding itself was perfect and went off without a hitch. I did mange to step on The bride's train after dropping her off at the altar, but I didn't trip and she didn't tear anything so catastrophe averted. It actually seem to go pretty fats and before we all knew it, Daughter31 was married and the ceremony finished and we were heading out of the church for pictures. Across from the church was a grassy area that provided the backdrop for some of the wedding party pictures. From left to right: The Fiance/New Son In Law's two sisters, The Bride/Daughter#1, Matron of Honor/Daughter#2 and Kim/College Friend.
The Bride and groom and the rest of the wedding party.

After pictures, the bride and groom headed to the beach for more pictures while the rest of us headed to the reception at the Saugatuck Rowing Club. Located on the Saugatuck River, the club provided the perfect backdrop for the reception. Daughter#1 had researched the tides so as to have the reception at high tide. But the club was beautiful, the food great, the guests even better and the wine and beer were pretty good as well. The dancing was about what you expect from a wedding. it was fun none the less. All in all it was a picture perfect wedding. I tell people that the two best parties I've been to were the weddings/receptions of the two daughters and I speak the truth. A last picture of the Father/Daughter dance. Say it with me: Awwwwwww!