Friday, October 30, 2009

A quick Florida trip

I did an overnight business trip to Florida this week. I cleverly arranged my first day's meeting so that I found myself free and at Indialantic Beach at about 4 PM on Weds. I started my beach visit by indulging in an ice cream from Coldstone, both because ice cream at the beach just feels right and because it assuaged my guilt at leaving my car in their parking lot. I then took off my tie, rolled up my pants, and switched from shoes to Keen sandals. While I'm sure I was quite the sartorial oddity I didn't care - it made me beach ready and away I went. I spent quite a while strolling the beach (even picking up two geocache finds along the way). Boy, it felt good - the sun, the waves, the sounds. Finally, as the sun started to get low I headed back to the car. I would have liked to have stayed through twilight (a pretty time at the beach) but I knew I had an hour's drive back to Orlando and I didn't want to be doing it too late.

The next morning I figured I needed to work off my food excesses of the day before which included, in addition to the ice cream, a pastrami sandwich and a black & white cookie. I mapped out a 5K loop starting at my hotel and as soon as it got light out the door I went into - wham! - the unexpected heat and humidity of an unseasonably hot Orlando October morning. Man, it was like August in DC. I was huffing and puffing after about a quarter mile because of the heat, but then I started to acclimate and I completed my loop - up Research Parkway then through the UCF campus, finally returning along Alafaya Trail. I'm sure I was quite a sight as I staggered, dripping with sweat, into the hotel breakfast room and started downing diluted orange juice.

Having made a spectacle of myself in two Florida cities in two days, I returned home. Oh, and along the way I got to see an incredibly cool technology briefing facility and tour a high tech mobile command center.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Foliage on the Occoquan


It's become a tradition - every year my friend Tall Tom and I do a leaf-peeping kayaking trip on the Occoquan Reservoir, launching out of Fountainhead Regional Park. This year we were joined by my friend David. David and Tom had never met before - they are from different aspects of my life, but they're both paddlers. Valerie always tells me to stay safe while paddling, and in this case I was in good hands, accompanied as I was by a Red Cross safety professional and an attorney.

We all got there early and launched at about 9:45 AM, after bumping into Tom's and my friend Kingsley, who was not there to kayak but just to schmooze with another group of paddlers. As we launched, David commented that he was surprised there wasn't more wind, given that a front had just passed through. This is something you never want to say while kayaking and indeed, as soon as we cleared the shelter of the marina cove, we were justly punished with a significant headwind.

We pushed upriver for about an hour, taking in the gorgeous foliage along with the abundant birdlife (eagles, ospreys, herons, kingfishers, geese, and more). On the way back we stopped to poke into a cove David knew about, which was a really nice little detour. I get so caught up in covering distances that sometimes I forget the pleasures of exploring the little coves and creeks - which is part of what drew me to kayaking in the first place.

Upon landing we chatted with some guys who had some interesting boats - hand-built wooden canoe, and a Folbot folding kayak. Tom and I bumped into another Chesapeake Paddlers Association guy - it was a popular day for foliage, I guess. Then, we were on our way - me back to the family, David to do some work, and Tom to do household chores.

More photos here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maybe the River was Haunted

One of our last Thursday night trips of the regular kayaking season (not counting Ice Pirates). As we headed up the river from Columbia Island we found ourselves being carried along by a mysterious wave. I kept looking over at people kayaking to my right and seeing that they were riding this wave - it looked like they were surfing the Potomac. After a minute or so I realized it was carrying me too. Our whole group got swept along for quite a while, making it to Memorial Bridge in record time, beofre the wave finally started to outrun us. There were a couple of confused moments as the wave train went by us, pushing kayaks this way and that as it did. The tail end of the wave kept sucking us along almost all the way to Roosevelt Island.

I have no idea what caused this mini tsunami. It wasn't a boat wake, and the wind was calm. WEll, it was the week before Halloween ... maybe the river was haunted.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gym -- arrgh

I went to the gym today after a long, long absence. I like going to the company gym at a technology firm. There are plenty of other scrawny-lookin' folks there and I never have to feel embarrassed about the not-so-heavy weights I use.

Now to see which aches more tonight, my teeth (I started the day at the dentist) or my muscles.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Ten Miler of One


Sunday morning I got a particularly early start, as I wanted to get a decent paddle in and still spend Sunday afternoon doing some family things. It was just getting light as I headed down the GW Parkway. Taking my eyes off the road for way too long, I marveled for about the zillionth time at the beauty of the monuments.

I got to Columbia Island about 6:45 AM. I had deliberately taken a route unaffected by the road closures associated with the Army Ten Miler, which was being run that day. The Pentagon is just across a narrow channel from the marina and as I unloaded in the distance I could see and hear the hustle and bustle associated with the race. Unbeknownst to me, at the same time I was pulling into the marina my friend Cyndi was arriving on the other side of the Boundary Channel to check in at the race.

In my rush to get out the door I had forgotten my watch, but I knew what time it was when I set out as I could hear church bells chiming 7 AM as I passed under the humpback bridge on my way out of the marina. I headed upriver. I paddled into a light but noticeable breeze as I headed up the river. For the first time this season I felt a little chilly. Along with the beginnings of autumn color in the leaves, the weather was a harbinger of the cooler weather to come. Before you know it, it will be dry suit season. I sighed at the thought of it, but what can you do? A police boat was patrolling under Memorial Bridge, again associated with the Army Ten Miler, I guess. They didn’t take much notice of me.

Since I had gotten an early start I decided to go for a longer trip than usual and continued all the way up to Fletcher’s Boathouse, where I took out for a break. I retrieved my ThermosTM from the day hatch and enjoyed a cup of coffee by the riverbank. I had Fletcher’s just about to myself; it was a peaceful moment as I drank in the coffee’s warmth.

Heading back down the river, I really benefited from moving with, rather than against, the wind and current. As I got past Georgetown I realized I could see part of the Ten Miler course. I watched the runners as I continued down the river. I got another time check as some bells chimed 9 AM. About this time I noticed the wind suddenly kick up and along with it, the river. Since the wind was coming from behind me this gave me yet more of a speed boost, which I appreciated as I was starting to get a little tired. The tide was high enough to make the Boundary Channel navigable, however I chose to stick to the river so I could keep riding the wind and the small swells. Back at the marina, I could hear the excited voice of the race announcer over at the Pentagon, though I couldn't hear what he was saying. By that time, I imagined, runners were finishing the race.

The route I took on my drive home includes a section of road which looks down onto the Pentagon parking lot. Taking my eyes off the road for way too long, I was astounded at the size of the crowd at the race. The huge parking lot was jam-packed with thousand upon thousands of runners. As if that wasn't enough, I spotted a bald eagle circling over the Pentagon. Wow.

Anyway, I hadn’t brought my GPS with me, so when I went home I used the distance measuring tool of Google Maps to estimate the distance I paddled. It came out to almost exactly ten miles. In the midst of a much larger race, I guess I was a 10 Miler of One.