Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lake Anna Family Campout

About once per year I convince the family to go camping. That’s long enough for them to forget the details of the last trip, and so they agree. Actually, Ted would camp every weekend, particularly if he got to drive to the campground. It’s Valerie and David who need convincing – anyplace without WiFi or A/C is indistinguishable from Guantanamo Bay in their eyes. This year we headed for Lake Anna State Park. The park added camping just a few years ago, and it’s quite nice campground – large sites, clean bathhouses, lots of trees. As a compromise we booked in a camper cabin rather than a tent site. That way Valerie would have a somewhat real bed and a ceiling fan.

The ride down was a challenge. We hit enormous traffic. The drive, which is under 100 miles, took over four hours. I was coming down with a cold and started to get really tired in the stop-and-go traffic. Valerie took over driving and I promptly fell asleep for the rest of the ride down I95 – good thing, actually, since I think it helped my energy level for the rest of the weekend. Checking in was easy; dinner was a feast of hot dogs and chips. Ted and I took a walk in the dark down to the lake – really pretty. Friday night I slept like a log. Valerie, deprived of her Tempurpedic mattress and air conditioning, tossed and turned.

Saturday AM I got up somewhat early, despite my cold, and hit the lake for about an hour of paddling. I came back to the campsite to – surprisingly – find everyone awake and waiting for breakfast (most of our supplies were in the car, with me). Teddy cooked pancakes “Scout Style”. I think these were, in fact, “Ted Style”, meaning that rather than make normal size pancakes he made the huge, pan-sized pancakes. I think he likes the novelty of making such huge pancakes, but in fact it’s hard to get them fully and evenly cooked. Still, who can complain about his eagerness to cook breakfast? I drew cleanup duty, which included scrubbing the “Ted Style” mess out of the pan and prep dishes. We spent the rest of the day at the lake. Having grown up going to ocean beaches, I still maintain that lake beaches aren’t “real” beaches, but over time I have grown to appreciate the relaxation of not having to worry about the kids, because there are no waves, no sea creatures and no undertow. In the late afternoon we headed back to the campsite. D & V hung out while Ted and I nabbed a couple of geocaches located a short walk from the campground. We also kept passing by a site near ours that was stuffed with 20-somethings having a grand old time (not too wild) on a group campout. I told Ted, “this could be you and your friends in a couple of years.” He likes envisioning that sort of thing – his grown-up future. Saturday night we had an enormous campfire, again courtesy of Ted. S’mores were made, of course.

Sunday morning I got up even earlier, so I could get my morning paddle in without keeping the rest of the family waiting. Another nice hour-long paddle, plus some bracing practice. This time I was back just as everyone was waking up – well, Valerie claimed never to have fallen asleep the whole night, but in fact she must have dozed off for at least a few minutes since she was just waking up when I got back to the cabin. Then we packed up and hit the road – with Ted behind the wheel on the twisty roads leading back to I95. I thought he id OK, except for drifting off the road here and there, but by the time we pulled into the Thornburg McDonalds, Valerie was at her wits end. That was the end of Ted’s driving for the day.

Was it a successful trip? By our family’s standards, I’d say so. Yeah, there was some friction here and there, but overall we had a good time, particularly when we were down at the lake. Now I’ve got to wait a year for them to forget so I can suggest it again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Après moi, le déluge

It seems like virtually every Summer evening in the Washington area has the same forecast - warm and humid with a chance of thunderstorms. As a result, we spend a lot of time before launching debating the wisdom of going out and, these days, checking the latest forecast on someone's iPhone. This past Thursday was no exception. In fact, as we arrived at the marina it was thundering, but the storm soon passed and the iPhone indicated that the system was moving out of our area. So, we launched as usual. The paddle up the river was beautiful and as is so often the case, we congratulated ourselves on making the right decision and having a splendid evening rather than running from the specter of showers. Then it start raining.

A few sprinkles at first, coming, of course when we had already paddled quite a ways up from Columbia Island. Sprinkles soon turned into a downpour and our group took shelter under Key Bridge waiting for it to pass. Which it didn't. "It's only rain," we figured, and so pressed on, heading back down the river between Roosevelt Island and Virginia. The rain was drenching, but it was kind of fun, to tell you the truth. Then the lightening started.

I hate lightning when I'm out on the water. I was immediately reminded of the warning I had read on my Blackberry the previous weekend as I was anxiously checking the weather while stuck in a tent in the middle of an open field during a thunderstorm. "Remember," it said, "lightning is one of nature's most serious killers. Seek shelter immediately." Well, shelter was a few miles back down the river, so we pressed on. We took another break under Memorial Bridge, hoping the storm would blow by. It didn't. So, with lightning getting ever closer, we pressed on. When I began to see the bolts hitting DC not far off to our left, I shifted into an overdrive I didn't know I had. Boy, I wish I had had my GPS with me to log my speed, because I think I was paddling pretty fast. We all paddled pretty hard back to the marina, then quickly loaded our boats in the slightly slackening rain.

So, what comes next? Seeking shelter, perhaps? No way! Not when there's a whole potluck to be consumed. The storm seemed to be starting to move away, so we all gathered under the canopy at the marina's by-now closed snack bar (yes, under a big metal frame) to shoot the breeze and eat. I did have some visions of headlines in my head: "local kayakers electrocuted at marina", but as I said, the storm seemed to be moving away, so I took the chance. A glass of wine, some excellent cheese, and a little while later, all was well. The lightning flashes were off in the distance, the sangiovese was delicious, and a good time was being had by all. Perhaps the close call we had just had made things even a little tastier, a little more alive.

The forecast for this coming Thursday? Warm and humid with a chance of thunderstorms. We'll see what happens ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wooden Boat Wooden Boat Wooden Boat

It's here. I picked it up in Connecticut. It paddles beautifully. More later.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Over the river, not through the woods

Decided to check out the new bike path over the Wilson Bridge today. It rocks! They were even nice enough to build in some overlooks where you can pull out of the main bike path and look out over the river through built-in binoculars.

I started at Gravely Point and headed down the river to Alexandria. When I get to Old Town I'm never sure if I'm still on the bike path or not, but it doesn't matter. I just keep heading South. This time I would up on a block I hadn't been before, where I went through this weird little tunnel that took me back to Washington St and the entrance to the bridge path.

It's interesting - the Virginia side of the bike path is at the South end of Old Town, which is a very nice, colonial era town. The path entrance is itself, however unremarkable. The Maryland side of the bridge, on the other hand, is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but has this beautiful landscaping. That seems backwards to me, but maybe they just had more room to work with on the Maryland side.

Anyhoo, once on the MD side I rode down the crushed shell bike path to National Harbor I spent some time looking out over the river. It being early Sunday morning, nothing was open. Like a rule-following fool, I walked my bike through the deserted National Harbor area because the sign said to. A couple of other cyclists rode past me while I was doing this. As far as I can tell they weren't ticketed or arrested. Anarchists. Hoodlums.