Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ich bin ein Fredericksburger

A little less than 150 years ago bullets were flying over the spot where we launched. Union and Confederate forces stood arrayed on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River in what would ultimately be a brutal defeat for Burnside's army at the hands of Robert E. Lee. Today, nary a ghost of that time stirred as Tom and I arrived for our trip up the Rappahannock. A group of us had accepted our friend Paige's invitation to come down his way, spend some time on the water, then check out his new house. Paige frequently makes the trek to DC to kayak with us, and we really owed him a return visit.

Tom and I, carpooling, arrived early, so we spent a little time driving around and checking out historical markers around the town. We headed back to the dock just as the rest of our group arrived - Dave and Cyndi, Nelson (without Caroline, who was sick), Kingsley, and Paige. In not time flat we were zipped up into our cold weather gear and were on the water.

The river had a pretty strong current and the weather was iffy so we decided to head upriver, figuring it was better to do the tough paddling on the way out and coast back. The river is narrow and shallow, but we made it all the way up to the base of the rapids in the center of town. A couple of our group went to play in the rapids a little bit. Paige got out of his boat and body-surfed the lowest rapid a few times. Tom and I, being a little more safety-oriented, beached our boats just downstream and walked up the river to hang with the rest of the gang. Definitely a fun interlude.

On the way back we did have the benefit of the current pushing us along, but we were subjected to crazy, very rapid changes in weather. Sunny. Stinging sleet. Sunny again. So windy that you just stopped paddling and ruddered to keep the boat pointed in the right direction. Cloudy. Rain.

After we got off the water we all headed over to Paige's house, which was just a few minutes' drive from the put-in. It's a beautiful house in an attractive new development. He just bought the place this past year and so it has an, um, open look. That is to say, he has very little furniture outside the bedrooms. First we stood around the kitchen eating snacks and drinking the beer assortment that Dave had so thoughtfully brought. Then we all sprawled out on the carpet in the totally empty family room while we waited for the incredibly slow Frederickburg Dominoes to deliver. Once the pizza arrived we discovered how hungry we were, as we devoured it in what seemed like seconds. Then we made equally short work of the brownies Caroline had thoughtfully sent along with Nelson.

Finally Tom and I said our goodbyes and headed back North, away from the civil war and back to Sunday afternoon chores.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blammin' Valentines Say

I started today with a dilemma - erg or run. I really wanted some time on the rower, because I needed that kind of workout, but with the end of the deep winter chill, the outside beckoned. The answer? My own little biathlon. I did about 2/3 of my normal workout on the erg, then threw on a jacket and did about 2/3 of my normal run. An invigorating and challenging way to start the day.

I was sipping a cup of coffee after cleaning up when Ted comes running in. "A new geocache just got published right near the Wilson Boulevard McDonalds," he shouted, waving a printout. Now, being the first to find a newly placed geocache is something of an honor - sometimes the hider will even put a little prize inside for the finder. Some people are real First-to-Find (FTF) chasers. We tend not to be, since I rarely care to drop everything and run out to a cache. This one, though, was too good to pass up, being less than two miles from home in an area we knew well. The cache had been published earleir that morning (it was about 10:00), and so we figured we still had a chance. We hopped in the car and headed right over.

Well, it turned out to be a tougher find than we expected. As I mentioned, we know the area well - we bike over to the McDonalds all the time. The hider, though, had done a good job and after about 10 minutes we were still stumped. We were about to give up and move on when another pair of cachers showed up, then another one, then another one. We knew all of them and so it became a little search party. In the process we claeaned quite a bit of trash out of the little corner of the urban park in which we were searching. Finally, Ted made the find. We had thought about hitting one more, but realized we had to go home and make sure David was awake, because ...

Next it was time for BLAM, or Blazing Lightly Armed Mensans. BLAM, a monthly Mensa outing to the shooting range at the NRA headquarters, is an invention of the febrile mind of Adam Beslove. The range draws a wide assortment of people, from hunters to Virginia rednecks to people like us - a bunch of gun-totin' engineers, surgeons, executives and such [nb: I am not actually a gun-totin' anything, as I don't own a gun. I just borrow other people's weapons at the range]. Ted, David and I all went. Today, thanks to the generousity of Scott, we shot 9mm to our heart's content.

After that, the day slowed down a little. Right now David is baking a complex triple chocolate ganache cake for Valerie's birthday, which is tomorrow.