Monday, January 15, 2018

Communities of Weirdos

I took up most of my outdoor activities for the simple enjoyment of doing them, and I still enjoy doing all of them solo; however, an unexpected benefit over the years has been that I've become part of communities of similarly obsessed people: kayak weirdos, bike weirdos, and so on. If drinking in a beer garden counts as an outdoor activity, then add my friends from Westover ;) I got to appreciate the community aspect of my activities several times this weekend.

Sunday morning was the first Lee District pool kayak rolling session of the year. When the kayakers show up at the pool in January we usually haven't seen each other in a while - group kayaking trips usually taper off after October, and right now the river is too frozen for any paddling at all (I suppose the Bay is still kayakable, but the launches may be iced in). So, the first pool session is something of a reunion of sorts with as time spent floating and catching up as rolling. This year was particularly poignant for me since it was the first time I tried any rolling since my surgery and there were lots of people cheering me on. A similar thing was true for Alison, who was back in the water after shoulder surgery. Of course, Alison's self-professed rustiness was a little different than mine - a past competitor in the Greenland kayaking championships, she was in the pool ticking off one roll variant after another (the Greenland championships include thirty-five different rolling-related moves) with balletic grace. I was thrilled to be able to do three kinds of rolls/braces (at peak I'm good for five - and only on one side).

Hey, I can still do this! (photo courtesy of Tall Tom)

The good news is that I had few problems with anything I did in the pool. My chest was mildly achy when I did chest sculls, but nothing that bothered me afterwards. My only significant concern is that on rolls where I went all the way around (+360 degrees as opposed to +180 followed by -180) I did experience a little lightheadedness (probably from the blood pressure meds I'm on these days). When I do a 360 degree roll I drive myself hard into the water to get upside down and around to the rolling setup position (a little more than the first 180 degrees) since I'm pretty light and have to overcome the buoyancy of the PFD. I hope that if I learn to slow that part down it might reduce the head rush effect I'm feeling.

It was cold enough that my kayak seat froze on the drive home

Monday morning I joined some cycling friends for breakfast at Lazy Mike's in Falls Church. While there's a cyclist breakfast meetup at Mike's every Monday, it being a holiday today's gathering served as a gathering point for a group ride. It was super cold (teens) and so several of us opted not to do the ride (35 miles or so) - but still showed up to socialize over breakfast. And so, a day after socializing with the kayak fanatics rolling in the swimming pool, I found myself having breakfast with 15 or so my favorite cyclist fanatics bundled up to the hilt for winter riding. Chemical hand-warmers. Multiple pairs of socks and gloves. Ski goggles. The other people in the restaurant probably thought, "why don't they just drive like normal people?" just as my neighbor said, "are you crazy?!" when she saw me loading my kayak in similarly cold temperatures yesterday (she assumed I was going paddling outside somewhere). Sorry, but doing crazy stuff is the nature of being part of a community of enthusiasts.

Boomer's selfie - getting ready to ride (I'm fourth from the left)

Chris' selfie during breakfast
As a coda to all of this I'll add that Saturday night we had about a dozen people over to our house for a pot luck dinner followed by what could be described as an elementary school style art session - coloring and painting. These are all friends from our synagogue (the coloring pictures were Jewish-themed), with whom we periodically do a pot-luck/activity dinner like this. Some might consider people from a "faith community" to be weirdos every bit as much as the people kayaking in a pool or biking in the freezing cold. I wouldn't necessarily disagree with them - is following Bronze Age commandments any less odd than trading suggestions on how to avoid "blue tip" (I will not explain what this is - suffice it to say it's a cold weather problem of concern to male cyclists)? The fact is, shared passions and beliefs lead to shared communities, and I'm grateful to be a member of several such communities.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Birthday Paddle

A number of years ago I used to organize a kayak outing the weekend of my birthday (which is also the weekend before Thanksgiving). That's usually just about the tail end of sane kayaking season. At that point it's cold enough that dry suits are needed, but not so cold as to chill you to the bone. Looking back on in the archives of this blog, the trip seems to have fallen by the wayside (or at least wasn't written about) after 2012. Well, I started this year having to revive myself, so I figure why not revive a kayaking ritual as well?

Six paddlers (Al L., Susan G., Jim G., Larry I., Rob P. and I) met at the traditional location, Mason Neck. It wasn't a super-cold day, but high winds were in the forecast, just like 2008's paddle. So, as we have done in the past on windy days, instead of heading out into the river we stayed in the more protected waters of Belmont Bay and the Occoquan River. We kayaked up the river as far as Occoquan Regional Park, where there's a car-top boat landing. All of us except Larry got out and took a break there - Larry preferred to just float around.

On the way back we were paddling into the wind, and when we came out of the river into Belmont Bay it began to be pretty hard work - some whitecaps, and waves rolling over the deck. We knew we had a section ahead of us where the wind was going to be abeam, which makes it tough to control the kayaks. Rob had the idea that rather than paddle straight back we should do a "dog leg" - turn starboard into the wind then ride downwind on a final leg. Three of us (Rob, Susan and I) tried that approach. It didn't really work out that well - the upwind leg took us into an area of hydrilla (water plant) and the combination of the thick plant growth and the wind made for some really difficult paddling. Al, on the other hand, just let the wind push him across the river, winding up far to the left of the launch, which required him to do a final leg back along the shoreline to the launch once he got across the bay. The remaining two paddlers toughed out the direct route. And you know what? We all got back to the launch at about the same time.

All of us were, of course, bundled up in dry suits. Susan was in addition wearing a neoprene hood, which is a good idea, but opened her up to teasing from Jim about how she looked like Snoopy in his World War I Flying Ace getup. "Have you spotted the Red Baron?", he kept asking. After the paddle, through the wonders of the Internet, he bought and sent her a set of aviator goggles - she was gracious enough to send us a picture of herself in fully Snoopy regalia

Where's the Red Baron?

After the paddle we went over to Fairwinds Brewery - which was hopping (no pun intended) - where we had beer and food. Being a brewery, Fairwinds doesn't have a kitchen, but there was a food truck outside. I got an outstanding banh mi sandwich and a stout (eschewing my typical IPA). I was good in terms of my eating and did not even taste the duck fat french fries, but I understand they were out of this world. Bela joined us there, late in the game due to traffic. After everyone else headed out I hung out just with Bela for a while, which was nice.

A successful outing and a nice part of my birthday celebration. The paddle was only about eight miles, but the wind made it feel longer.

My birthday celebration also included:
- Shawn Colvin concert at the Birchmere with Valerie
- Family dinner
- Going to see Dead and Company with Valerie (and, apparently, my third cousin whom I had never met before - but that's a story for another time) at the Verizon Center
- Buying a new suit
- Some cool presents (bike computer, new electric drill, etc.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Movie at Sarah Bee's

Veteran's Day weekend initially shaped up to be a pretty bad one. I had been planning to go on the Chesapeake Paddler's Association Chickahominy trip but, truth be told, I had a mixture of eager anticipation and dread about the trip. Anticipation becuase it's always a big crowd and therefore a good time; dread because it's always cold, and I don't like cold. This year was promising an extra-freezing experience, with lows in the 20's. I had reserved an electric site and so I figured I could tough out the nights with the aid of an electric blanket, but I really wasn't looking forward to being cold all weekend. The forecast was unpleasant enough that a hardier camper than I had arranged to stay at Cat's vacant apartment in Richmond on Friday to avoid the coldest night and had gotten a few others, including me, invited as well. As an aside, Cat's condo is in a building that was originally built as a synagogue, and so I had my jokes at the ready. "Well, this isn't the first time I'll be sleeping in synagogue - but usually it's during the sermon."

Anyway, I woke up Friday feeling like I was coming down with something. I'm more than a little paranoid about getting sick. I haven't been sick since my surgery, and the fact that they gave me a pneumonia shot (normally recommended only for those 65 and older) makes me feel that getting sick is a bad idea. Truth be told, I wasn't really feeling very social either - which I recognize as being part of the persistent poor mental state I've been keeping myself in lately (based on my non-stop obsessing over my health). So, I cancelled out of the trip. Missing trips is also not good for my mental state - when I miss a trip I usually spend the whole time grousing about how I should be on the trip. Still, it was for the best.

Unfortunately, all of my friend's other paddling partners for Friday cancelled on her too (Cat slept in, Rob was late getting down that way) and she wound up frsutrated at not being able to paddle. She emailed that I should have given her more notice because she left early in the morning expecting to paddle with me. Like I wasn't already feeling bad for missing out on a long-planned trip and needed guilt from her. In case I hadn't gotten the message, she emailed me again later in the day to once again chide me for not having given her enough notice when I cancelled.

By Saturday I had decided that whatever I was feeling wasn't anything serious and decided to join in a party/movie showing at Sarah Bee's house (note: "Sarah Bee" is her forum name, not her real name. Though the "bee" thing must be something she uses consistently, since her house has any number of bee-themed accents. Now, when you go to a cycling event you pretty much have to arrive by bicycle. However, Sarah lives near College Park, which is a healthy ride from home: about 16 miles each way. Now, I would have had no problem riding that kind of distance on the way there, but I was a little worried about riding it again going home in the dark after the event. Some folks were convoying from Gravelly Point (closer in in Arlington) but I knew they'd be traveling too fast for me - and that if I did ride with them the ride home would take me back to Gravelly Point, leaving me wit the problem of getting home from there at the end of the night. So, I cheated a little bit. I took Metro to Federal Center and biked from there. Instead of taking the most direct route I detoured to match the route the convoy would be taking and timed it so that (according to my best estimate) I would intersect with them around the Navy Yard Metro stop. This was a chancy approach since if I didn't meet them I would have to find my way to Sarah's solo, which I had a good but not perfect idea of how to do.

I got to Navy Yard and joined the path I expected the convoy to be taking - marveling at the fact that I was biking solo through Southeast DC, which at one time would have been a suicide mission. The convoy must have gotten a later start than I expected, since I was about 3 1/2 miles past Navy Yard when they finally caught me. They caught up with me at a perfect time: the bulk of the ride is on the Anacostia River Trail, which is pretty easy to follow. There's only one part that's a little confusing as there's a discontinuity in the trail and you have to ride through the streets for a few blocks. I was stopped on the street puzzling about whether I had gone the right way or not when suddenly they came into view. I started pedaling and joined the group as it flew by.

And "flew by" it did. If you look at a plot of speed vs. time for the trip you'll see my speed suddenly jump up almost 5 MPH from my meandering solo speed to the bullet train convoy speed. I had to really work to keep up - but the thing is, I did it, which helped me realize that my typically slow riding is at least in part me just not being motivated to push myself. I rode about 12 miles.

At Sarah's
Anyway, Sarah has a cute little house. She had all of us bring our bikes inside, filling both the room normally devoted to bike stuff and another bedroom with bikes. She had worked with SteveO on preparation and had quite a lovely spread, including homemade gingerbread (baked in bee-shaped molds) which smelled delicious, but which which i didn't eat, since I'm trying to stay away from desserts.

Guest and hostess (Sarah is on the right)

The main feature of the evening was watching the cycling movie "Slaying the Badger" about Greg LeMond's entry into the Tour de France and the help (and putative double cross) he received from team captain Bernard Hinault. I enjoyed the movie, though I sensed I would have enjoyed it even more if I had the slightest idea of how bike racing works.

At the end of the party we all stumbled over each other getting our bikes out of the two little bedrooms and then went on our way. I certainly didn't want to try to keep up with the convoy in the dark on twisty, wet leaf covered trails, so I didn't join them. Fortunately, I knew that some people were planning to Metro home so I biked with a few people over to the College Park Metro stop (only a mile and change from Sarah's house). We all rode the Green line together. Jeanne and Bettina continued on Green, while Karen W and I switched to the Orange line. Eventually it was just me left, and I made it home to EFC and did the short ride from the Metro to home without incident.

Waiting for the Metro heading home

Quite an adventure - my first ride on the (relatively new) Anacostia River trail!


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 Rides 5-7

Coffeeneuring Ride #5: FCC on Veterans' Day

  • Where: Java Shack 2507 Franklin Rd, Arlington, VA and Northside Social 3211 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
  • Date: Friday 11/11/17
  • Beverage: Decaf skim latte from Northside, maple muffin from Java Shack. 
  • Total mileage: 9.5 Miles
  • Details: Regular readers know that there are morning coffee meetups around DC pretty much every weekday. I decided to stop by the Friday Coffee Club at Java Shack in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington. It being a holiday, they apparently decided to open later than usual. Another cyclist regular and I got there at 7 to find the door locked. A few minutes later the pastry delivery guy arrived and we followed him inside, where we discovered that they hadn't even started brewing coffee yet - it was going to be a while before we would be served there. The shop owner, feeling bad, gave us each a muffin gratis. We hopped back on our bikes and rode over to Northside Social, which was open as usual. Some of the "cool kids", as my compatriot refers to them, have their own coffee gathering at Northside (these are the elite riders - the folks who pump out 50 miles of hill riding before their 7 AM coffee). There's some sort of bad blood between the guy I was with and someone in the "cool kids", and it was interesting to watch the two of them assiduously ignore each other - not even a "hello" exchanged. Anyway, we were joined by reji, who was heading to Upstate New York for the weekend (not by bicycle). My friend, who was not off from work, went off to his office and I headed home. 
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1269255427

Coffeeneuring Ride #6A: Bonus ride (the same day as ride 6 so it doesn't count)

  • Where: Buzz Coffee 818 N. Quincy St., Arlington, VA
  • Date: Friday 11/17/17
  • Beverage: Three shot Americano - two decaf shots, one regular
  • Details: Kayak friend Jim had provided great moral support to me in the period following my surgery, but then sort of disappeared. It turns out he's been dealing with complicated eldercare issues. It was nice to finally have a chance to sit and catch up.
  • Total mileage: 5.7 Miles
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1279021515


Coffeeneuring Ride #6: Accordioneuring/Coffeenuring/CoffeeOutside





Coffeeneuring Ride #7: Sleaze Ride to The Italian Store 
  • Where: The Italian Store, 5837 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA
  • Date: Sunday 11/19/17
  • Beverage: Decaf skim latte
  • Details: Dang. It's the afternoon of the last day of Coffeeneuring and I'm one ride short. And it's a yucky kind of windy. Time for a ride to the closest place to get a decent cup of coffee - The Italian Store at Westover. They actually brew a decent cup there. I averted my eyes to avoid being tempted by the pastries. Cannoli are one of my favorite foods in the whole world, but they're definitely a "no no" these days.
  • Total mileage: 2.3 Miles
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1282636125

Friday, November 17, 2017

Coffeeneuring/Accordioneuring

Someone who saw my Accordioneur patch in a photo in the FB Coffeeneuring group asked whether biking with an accordion was even possible and so I decided to document a combined accordioneuring / coffeeneuring ride.



Here is my full rig. The accordion is in the backback, the french press is in a water bottle cage, and the stove is in the trunk bag. Fingerless gloves are recommended for maximum playing dexterity, though lightweight glove liners can be worn it needed. Many accordionists advise against high visibility clothing since it makes you an easier target, but since there is only infrequently vehicular traffic on the W&OD I figured it was safe to wear the yellow jacket.



Having arrived at my "Coffee Outdoors" location (no coffee shop would allow me in with an accordion), I proceed to heat the water. As an accordionist it is important to handle the flame yourself since your "friends" will tend to light the wrong thing on fire.



Accordionati Rule #8: Bars and accordions shall be carefully matched.



What shall I do while the water is heating? How about a polka?!



Brewing.



What should I do while the coffee is brewing? How about another polka?!



Ahhh, the perfect cup.



Only the best get to wear this patch.



Heading home



Back home and ready for a second cup.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Coffeeneuring 2017 Rides 1-4

Last year I explained that the cycling world has a lot of fun (or gimmicky, depending on your mindset) little challenges, one of which is Coffeeneuring. Promoted by the Chasing Mailboxes cycling blog, is a "relaxed cycling endeavor" requiring you to take seven rides to seven different places to get coffee over the course of about seven weeks. I got jazzed about it last year. Not so much this year. In fact, I thought it was over November 7th, but when I realized the deadline was November 19th, I got a little more motivated and may yet make the seven rides. Here's what I've done so far:

Coffeeneuring Ride #1: Rare Bird, Falls Church
  • Where: Rare Bird Coffee Roasters, 230 W. Broad St., Falls Church, VA
  • Date: Saturday 10/14/17
  • Beverage: Decaf skim latte
  • Details: While the cat is away, the mice will bike rather than drive to the farmers' market. Valerie had things to do so we skipped our usual Saturday morning "date" at the Falls Church Farmer's Market. I was pretty exhausted, having been out late the night before performing with Magnolia Blue at a fund-raiser (I also sat in with the Flying Eyez). It was only when I hopped on my bike to go for a ride I realized how really, really tired I was. Instead of the long ride I had envisioned, I just headed to the farmers' market, then rode the couple of blocks over to Rare Bird. I really could have used some cafffeine, but since my surgery I'm trying to stay clear of that particular demon drug.
  • Total mileage: 3.8 Miles
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1230025760

Latte at Rare Bird

Coffeeneuring Ride #2: Hump Day Coffee Club 
  • Where: Best Buns, 4010 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA
  • Date: Wednesday 10/18/17
  • Beverage: Mostly decaf with a little regular, bran muffin
  • Details: Is it crazy to take a job based on being able to make it to coffee club? I don't think any of my coffee club friends would think so. For readers who don't know, coffee club is a rotating set of early morning cyclist gatherings - mostly bike commuters on their way to work. I started attending them when I was working in Arlington in 2015 and really missed the camaraderie once my job moved to Frederick. Well, I'm back working in Arlington and I'm back going to coffee club! This was day 3 of my new job and was my first day bike commuting to the job. Wednesday is my favorite coffee club because it's at Best Buns, which has awesome baked goods. I can easily skip the food at the other coffee clubs.
  • Total mileage: 10.3 Miles
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1235969877
Coffee and a muffin at Best Buns

Coffeeneuring Ride #3: Cafe Kindred 
  • Where: Cafe Kindred, 450 N. Washington St., Falls Church, VA
  • Date: Friday 11/3/17
  • Beverage: Decaf skim latte
  • Details: So, this was a productive outing. I biked over to Cassatt's Cafe to meet my friend Larry for lunch. Now that I'm back to being a sleazy contractor I need to look for inroads into new business and I pumped him for leads. Oh, and it was nice to see him, too :) From there I went down to Ballston to pick up an EZPass for my wife (props to her for not being overly car-dependent - she's lived without an EZPass for four years now), scouted some locations for a geocache, then went to Kindred for a latte. Actually, I don't really like the vibe at Kindred - it's one of those places where they seem put upon when they have to rouse themselves to fulfill your order. I was going to head for Rare Bird but then realized I needed to avoid duplicates for Coffeeneuring. So, Kindred it was. This was a fortuitous choice as I ran into a local Realtor who has hired one of my bands for events before. I struck up a conversation with her which almost lead to a gig this coming Tuesday, got her to think about hiring us again for her St. Patrick's Day and certainly refreshed her memory of us. Very productive business development :)
  • Total mileage: 11.9 Miles
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1259679585
Note the Coffeeneuring and Accordioneuring patches on my bike bag


Coffeeneuring Ride #4: The Green Lizard 
  • Where: The Green Lizard Cycling, Coffee and Beer, 718 Lynn St., Herndon, VA 
  • Date: Saturday 11/5/17
  • Beverage: Decaf skim latte
  • Details: An early start to the day. I met my friend Denis and Katie's Cars and Coffee in Great Falls at 7:30 AM. He and I strolled and looked at all the exotic and fancy cars. After we parted ways at around 9, I drove down to the W&OD at Reston and went for a 20 mile ride. As I passed the Gren Lizard on my way back I thought, "I should make a coffeeneuring stop." I was a mile and a half from the end of my ride and to tell you the truth, I could have lived without another cup of coffee. But "Cycling, Coffee, and Beer" with a lizard theme is a hard combo to resist. As I rode up another cyclist asked me about my bike - apparently the Lynskey is something of a cult machine, and he was really digging the titanium frame. Anyway, I sat outside and it turned out to be a very pleasant way to wind down from a fast-paced start to the day.
  • Total mileage: 20.8 Miles
  • Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1261073863
Outside The Green Lizard



Saturday, October 28, 2017

Magothy Meandering

This has been an odd year for exercise, what with my surgery interrupting just about all activity just as springtime was getting going. I haven't been on an organized CPA paddling trip all year, and so when I packed my car and headed for the put-in I had this weird feeling like when you visit the neighborhood where you grew up - I thought, "This is something I used to do." That little bit of dissociation aside, I made it to the put-in with no issues.

This is the first time I've been on a trip with this trip leader and I quickly learned that he has a loose style of trip leading. He let me join last-minue (that's good) but while he announced that he was going to do a pre-trip briefing he never wound up doing one, and we made it only part-way around group introductions before that effort fell apart. So, I got on the water having no idea where we were going or how long we were going to be out for other than the description on Meetup of "over ten miles".

We crossed the Magothy and went up through some pretty light fog over the top of Gibson Island, then poked into various coves and creeks. Since I like to have a plan, the aimlessness of it got a little frustrating for me after a point - every time I thought we were heading back, we instead turned and headed for another creek. Eventually we all made it back just fine.

And as a bonus, there were three, count 'em three, people on the trip who had coronary bypass surgery in 2017. Rich S., in February, me in March, and another guy who had his in April. I held the winning hand in terms of number of bypasses (my four-of-a-kind beat their three-of-a-kind), but the April dude said that almost a quarter of his heart muscle died - so extra kudos to him for being out on the water so soon!

Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/1242534390

Through the fog

Bypass poker winner