Saturday, July 23, 2011

UK Trip: Days 8, 9 & 10

 Day 8

I'm going to be a little short here, since I've spent so much time writing about Scotland. We arrive in London early Saturday morning having slept somewhat fitfully on the train. We take the tube from Euston Station to Victoria, where we put our bags in the "Left Luggage". Our plan is to spend the day on a double-decker sight-seeing bus but it soon starts teeming rain. We get soaked at our first stop, Buckingham Palace, where they cancel the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard because of the rain (for a rainy country, England is poorly adapted to rainy days). We do a little more sight-seeing on foot but don't feel like waiting on "queues" in the rain and so after lunch (more pizza!) we go to our hotel to dry off. The hotel is quite civilized - bathrobes, TV in the tub, mini-bar. Ted creates an impressive clothesline web in the bathroom where we dry our wet kayaking gear, which has been stuffed into our bags since the day before.

Fortunately, the rain stops eventually. Ted and I head out to find a few geocaches (challenging, since our GPS receiver is at the bottom of a Scottish loch) and wind up taking a long walk - past the Tower of London, over Tower Bridge, along the South Bank of the Thames, then finally back over London Bridge (which appears to be in good shape) and back to the hotel, stopping along the way for dinner (Italian again, thanks to Ted's limited eating range).

Day 9

Tower of London in the morning. We try twice to go on the Yeoman Warder (beefeater) tour but each time it sprinkles a little just as the tour is getting started and so it gets canceled - again, a poor approach in a rainy climate. We self-tour instead and have a good time. Alas, the line for the crown jewels is quite long so we don't see them. For lunch I force Ted to eat in a sandwich shop (think Panera, but smaller). I simply can't face another pizza meal.

After a brief stop at our hotel, we go to the British Museum. We spent longer than planned at the Tower and so our visit to the museum is brief, focusing on the Roman and Eqyptian galleries - including the Rosetta Stone!

From the museum we walk through Covent Garden to Leicester Square. Along the way I spot the hotel where I stayed when I came to London with my family in the 1970s. It's a cool walk - we're in the high energy part of the city. Our destination is the Leicester Square movie theater, where we have Harry Potter tickets waiting for us (I bought them online in Scotland). We pick up our tickets then head over to the nearby Chinatown for dinner, then back for the movie. After the movie we get a surprise when we go into Haagen Dasz for ice cream. It turns out this is a very fancy sit-down Haagen-Dasz. We walked up to the door where there was a maitre d who asked us "table for two?" I stared blankly at him, having not encountered a sit-down ice cream restaurant since the Jahn's of my youth. Eventually I recovered my wits and responded, and he seated us. The waitress (!) brought us menus, which included a range of exotic ice cream combinations and desserts. We ordered two scoops apiece, which were served in nice, real bowls - quite civilized.

Finally, it was back to the hotel. This was a little bit of an adventure, as the Underground was closing for the night. We got part-way back but had missed the last train on the line we had to connect to and so wound up taking a bus the rest of the way. Our last, long evening in London was a success.

Day 10
Sadly, we headed home. A quick and easy train ride to Heathrow, a last cider at the airport bar (Ted bought), then back to the stifling heat and familiarity of home. It's great to travel; it's great to be home.


UK Trip: Days 5, 6 & 7

Day 5

Today we got to paddle without taking a long drive first. Ele promised us 7 minutes to the put-in (the jetty, that is) and sure enough we were there in exactly that. We did a shuttle, starting on Loch Moidart and ending back at the inn. This was our longest day (about six hours on the water) and had a lot of highlights. First of all, the scenery was striking. Second, we stopped off at the ruins of a 13th century castle, Castle Tioram. Like everything in Scotland, Castle Tioram has a link to Bonnie Prince Charlie, a romantic figure from the 18th century who led the unsuccessful Jacobite Rebellion - an attempt to overthrow the Hanovers and return the more British Stuarts to the throne of England. The rebellion met its end at the Battle of Culloden, the location of which we passed on our taxi ride from the Inverness airport. I reckon Bonnie Prince Charlie, a valiant crusader for a failed cause, occupies a place in Scottish hearts similar to that occupied by the Confederacy among Southern Americans - except his cause was a more noble one of nationalistic pride, not preservation of slavery.

Anyway, we paddle out of Loch Moidart, past castle Tioram, around Eilan Shona, up around Smirisary and Rubha Gheed a Leighe, into the sound of Arisaig,
ending at Glenuig. The sea life was awesome as always: blue starfish, herons, cormorants, seals, and sea otter. We also caught a glimpse of porpoises, pronounced in Scotland as "poor-poises". This was also our roughest day. A number of people got a little freaked (though being British, they didn't much show it) and Sue was having a little trouble with boat control. No capsizes, though. Lunch was the "Crofter's Piece" - a selection of cheeses, a roll (everyone said that the cheeses should properly be eaten with oatcakes), salad, and shortbread biscuits. True to his green leanings, Steve packs everything in reusable containers. Ele, surprised at the poshness of the lunch, exclaimed "ooh, there's even a wee serviette!", something we Americans would call a "small napkin".

We paddled near here.

In the evening, it was back the bar. I have mentioned that Steve, the owner of the Glenuig Inn, likes to share his opinions on a variety of subjects. Tonight he told us the rationale behind his selection of spirits for the bar. He focuses on unfiltered whiskies. It seems that most distilleries cold filter their whisky, primarily because Americans, who put ice in their whisky (Philistines!) don't like seeing their drinks turn cloudy. However, cold filtering, while it solves the cloudiness problem, removes long-chain molecules which give the whisky its depth of flavour. So, Steve has sought out a number of unfiltered whiskies. At the bar he gave us some to sample, and in addition some Scotch vodka and Scotch gin. The vodka was quite drinkable. I don't like gin, but I must admit this stuff had a nice aroma. I was also partial to the organic Bruichladdich whisky, less so the Caol Ila which is Ele's preference. Oh, I should mention that part of the inn was burned during the Jacobite Rebellion - another connection to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

I had my one meat dinner of the week: Moroccan lamb stew, made from some poor local lamb. Teddy, near starvation, agrees to try (and likes!) tomato basil soup (pronounced tomahto bahsil), which he has with white rice. 

After dinner we perused the ample collection of local outdoor and kayaking magazines, made a little use of the Wifi, then headed to bed.

Day 6

Our last full day of paddling. A relatively short drive to Arasaig. We stopped in town both to drop Sue off (she was a little achy and decided to stay on land) and to go to the convenience store where Teddy was able to buy some ramen and "crisps" (potato chips) to ward off starvation. This made him happy. The waters around Arasaig are known for skerries: "A skerry is a small rocky island, usually defined to be too small for habitation. It may simply be a rocky reef." The skerries are home to zillions of harbor and grey seals. If you take a look at the pictures linked below you'll see that we were in the near constant presence of lots of seals. Thanks to Ele, we also got to try pepper dulse, an edible seaweed and see sea anemone, Sea urchin and starfish Starfish. We had good weather all day except for a little rain at the very end - our only rain of the kayaking portion of our trip.  As on the previous several days, we had great views out to Skye. Lunch was the Crofter's Piece again - more cheese.

We were kayaking near here.

This was our last night of the trip and so we toasted the trip at the bar. Ted had his by now habitual pint of cider. Dinner was, as usual, at the inn. Teddy had the tomahto bahsil soup once again, but was happier because he had been able to eat lunch (one of his ramen cups, made with some of our tea-time hot water).

Day 7

A short paddle today, putting in at the jetty just up from the inn and paddling out to an island in Loch Ailort. The island had some ruins which are said to the the remains of a Pictish (Iron Age people) fort - but some say it's just volcanic rock. AS we did our morning load-out Ted suggested that we leave some of the group "kit" (such as the tea equipment) behind since we'd only be out for a couple of hours. The group emitted a collective gasp at the notion of skipping tea. Sure enough, even though it made us late in getting on the road we stopped to have tea.

We were back at the Glenuig Inn in time for lunch, so I had my Crofter's Piece (more cheese!) at a table rather than on a rock. From somewhere Ali produced a package of oatcakes, which all assembled agreed greatly improved the enjoyment of the cheeses.

Then it was back into the van one last time for the ride back to Inverness. We said our goodbyes at the Inverness Railway station "car park". Ted and I had a few hours before our sleeper train to London left so we dropped our backs in a locker at the "Left Luggage" and went into town.

Ted chose our restaurant for dinner - an Italian place where he could recharge his depleted calories with pizza and "chips" (fries) - though he had convinced the inn to serve him tomahto-bahsil soup for breakfast! Then we stopped in at the McDonald's for coffee and Wifi. Finally we returned to the station to find - HOLY CRAP! - the Left Luggage room had closed for the night. It hadn't occurred to me that such a place would close up, though indeed they did have hours posted. My mind immediately began to race with thoughts of having to book lodgings and alternative transportation back to London. Fortunately, we found a station employee who was willing to fetch the key and open the room so we could fetch our bags. Whew! We were quite happy to get on the train and settle into our wee berth.


UK Trip: Days 3 & 4

Day 3

This was our first full day of paddling. The day started with breakfast, both cold (cereals, yoghurt and prunes, of course toast) and hot (black pudding, ham, poached egg and sausage or haddock). We then all loaded into the van for about an hour’s drive to a put-in, including getting mildly lost along the way. Apparently GPS is unknown in the Highlands; the guides did everything the old fashioned way, with big fold-out maps and educated guesses.

Our paddle was, like the day before, on Loch Sunart, but much closer to the mouth of the loch – hence the long drive. We spent about five hours on the water, circumnavigating the Isle of Oronsay. Boy, it was gorgeous. Both green and rocky. Surprisingly clear water. And lots of sea life: seals, sea otters, terns, golden herons. While we were closer to the open sea, it was still a pretty calm environment, except when the wind kicked up at the end.

We were paddling somewhere around here.

Every day our lunch was provided by the inn. Today we had a choice of ham and cheese or “egg mayonnaise”. Well, ham and cheese was out of the question for me. The egg mayonnaise on white bread, gloopy enough at breakfast time, was totally unappealing to me after it had spent half a day in the hatch. Fortunately we traveled with a wide array of snack food and so I had plenty eat – dried fruit, nuts, chocolate bars and some novel (to me) UK foods: Tunnock’s biscuits, and "flapjack". Lunch, of course, concluded with tea and biscuits. I should mention that it wasn’t strictly tea, as every day we also had the choice of French press coffee (they call this type of pot a cafetiere, probably to avoid saying the word “French”, much as in America for a while we ate Freedom Fries) – apparently even the British are giving in to coffee culture.

I have no idea of the distances we paddled on any of the days, but this was one of the longer trips and it was good to get back to the inn and wash up. As always, the group met at the bar, where Ted’s drinking education continued. This evening he had a sweet hard cider which became his drink for the rest of the trip. I decided it was time to dip into the whisky myself and, after getting recommendations from the experienced crew, selected a Macallan 10 year. Good, with a splash of water.Not too "peaty".

Dinner for me was "veg flan” (known to Americans as vegetable quiche) with assorted veg, potato, green beans, salad. Ted had his third burger in three dinners. Having had a longer day on the water, folks turned in a little earlier, in fact just as it was getting dark (that’s a joke – it gets dark at 11).

Day 4
Let me start by quoting the "trip dossier": "Further west lies Ardnamurchan Point - this is one area that we will not sea kayak to as it is the most challenging section of the whole trail, and is for experts only!" So, where did we paddle today? Why, Arnamurchan Point, of course. The forecast called for unusually calm conditions and so the guides asked us if we'd like to take a chance and drive out to the point and see if it was paddle-able. Of course we all said yes! So, into the van we went for another long drive. When we got to the point conditions did indeed look good, however the only launching point was a jetty which appeared to be on someone's property. No one answered the door and so we were a little flummoxed about launching there.

Let me digress here for a second - "jetty" is another Britishism for what we would call a ramp or more generically a put-in. Scottish jetties are distinctive in that they are built with rough conditions and extreme tides in mind: long concrete ramps extending way out into the water so as to be usable under all tidal conditions. For me, the word has a nostalgic ring, as it hearkens back to the British Ant and Bee books I read as a child, one of which involved a trip down a jetty. For some reason I remember reading this word, which was not in our Brooklyn vernacular and seemed quite exotic.

Anyway, having failed to secure permission to launch we decided to drive up the road to the lighthouse. At worst, we'd take in the view. At best, someone might be able to vector us to another, um, jetty. The good news is we accomplished both - someone at the lighthouse knew the owner of the jetty-side house and was able to phone him and get permission for us to use his put-in.

Arnamurchan Point is the westernmost point on the British mainland, and is quite ruggedly beautiful. We had putzed away a bunch of time at the lighthouse and I think the guides were a little worried about conditions taking a turn for the worse and so we had a fairly short day of paddling but Ele, as always, had a good eye for the local sealife, pointing out anemones on the skerries (big rock outcroppings), cormorants and gannett birds.

Our other excitement for the day was Teddy's capsize - the only one of the trip. He was trying out edging technique and pushed a little too far - and over he went! The water in Scotland is pretty chilly (quoted in the dossier as mid fifties but I'd guess actually sixty-ish degrees) but fortunately Ted never feels cold. Also, we have practiced rescues plenty of times and so with Ali's help he was quickly back in his boat and fully recovered. The only real loss is that somehow in the process of falling out he had ripped open the day hatch and lost some of the contents - including his GPS receiver. Lunch, packed by the Ben View Hotel staff, was a nice brie and raspberry sandwich. I'm beginning to get a bettter understanding of Wallace and Gromit: the Brits do love their cheese (and their toast)!

Ted's capsize also leads me to point out an interesting difference between US and UK paddlers: they accept a lot more risk in terms of water temps. The guides were dressed in sailing pants, tucked into tall wellies (rubber boots), with a "cagoule" (paddling jacket) on top. This gear keeps you nice and dry if you launch from a jetty and things go as planned but fails if you capsizeas it does nothing to keep you warm or dry if you wind up in the water. In fact, I'd say the wellies are something of a liability in the water. I can't image a US group going out dressed this way in cool water - maybe it's just American risk aversion. For my part, I wore thin neoprene pants, shirt and socks all week.

We were paddling somewhere around here, with lovely views out to the Isles of Eigg, Muck and Skye.

The end of the day brought another long drive, this time to the Glenuig Inn, located directly on Loch Ailort. The inn had a modern feel to it and our room, unlike the other places, was quite spacious. It turns out the owner, Steve, had recently done a major green renovation of the place. Steve, we learned over the course of our stay, was always quite eager to discourse on his green innovations - as well a any number of other topics. Interestingly, I learned after the fact that Steve's renovation of the inn is quite controversial. If you look on TripAdvisor you'll see that certain people hate him for having ruined a local hangout by having turned it into a sterile place aimed at eco-tourists and serving nothing in the bar but foofie organic whiskies and ales but no lagers (the horror!). Other reviewers think he's created a pretty cool place. Since I arrived with no preconceptions of what a Scottish local inn should be like (and since I'm one of those eco-tourists) I put myself in the second camp.

Dinner for me was a nice spicy bean curry. Ted was beginning to go a little nuts since there was nothing for him to eat outside of breakfast and the nearest store is 20 miles away. After dinner, a little Wifi time and then off to bed.


UK Trip: Days 0, 1 & 2

We arrive in Inverness to find everyone in a bit of a tizzy. Inverness is playing host to the Scottish Open golf tournament, except for the past two days it has been pouring rain and the golf has been canceled. This seems to affect everyone. Even our taxi driver was supposed to have been marshaling at the tourney but instead found himself behind the wheel like a regular work day. Mrs. McRae, at whose B&B we stayed, reported in her Scottish  brogue that there'd even been a thunderrrrstorrrrm, with forrrrrked  lightening. As a DC area resident I thought nothing of this until I learned that thunderstorms are rare in the cool, high latitudes of the Scottish Highlands.

After hearing The McRae's rather long list of rules (don't bump your suitcase up the stairs; no carryout food on the premises; don't leave the bathroom light on all night the way those Portugese people did the other week as the fan noise bothers the other guests, you must pay cash as  credit card machine is broken, ...) Ted and I headed out into town  through lingering rain showers in search of dinner. Ted is an excellent traveling companion but an extremely picky eater, which can complicate the process of finding food on trips. In this case he was willing to go to a pub (one recommended by our taxi driver) because the menu included burgers. I had fish and chips washed down with a pint. Our first pub dinner was nice enough but the real fun began after dinner when we took a stroll through town. I should mention here that Ted is a big fan of Celtic music (I like it  too) and so our ears perked up at the sound of bagpipes. The source was a street performer and we hustled over and listened to a tune before noticing  another band up the street. We scurried over to hear them. And then we noticed dancers. Then a teen bagpipe band. Then little girls doing Highland dancers (with bagpipe accompaniment - no prerecorded music here!). Then a Celtic folk band.  Then an excellent young band made up of accordion, fiddle, pipes, and drum. And a whole pipe and drum corps in full Highland regalia. Mind you, these were just the street performers. There was music spilling out of the clubs as well: more folk music emanating from a coffeehouse, and a rock band with horns playing classic rock standards (they did a pretty mean  version of Tequila) at a bar. The whole shebang culminated with a march up to the grounds of Inverness Castle where all of the street performers we'd seen performed individually and together as the sun began to  set (at 11 PM - love those Northern latitude summers) over the River Ness. If this is what Saturday nights are like in Scotland, Ted was ready to tear up his Virginia college applications in favor of University of Edinburgh. Alas, we learned that this was not a typical Inverness Saturday night; rather, it was a special to-do arranged for the golf tournament. But no matter: we were all the happier to have stumbled into just the right night to be there. Finally, having been on the go for about 36 hours (DC to London to Inverness plus our evening out) we returned to White Lodge and crashed.

Saturday began with our introduction to the UK style of breakfast. I refer to "UK style" because apparently there's fierce and conflicting nationalistic pride at play in naming this meal. When on Day 3 our Scottish guide ordered a "full English  breakfast" from our Scottish innkeeper he got an animated (though tongue in cheek) talking to for not having referred to it as a "Highland  breakfast". My old boss, who hailed from Derry, used to call this same meal an "Irish breakfast." I’m betting that In Cardiff they call it a “Welsh breakfast”. Anyway, breakfast always includes a cold component consisting of cereal, yoghurt (sic - the English don't know how to spell in their own language) and fruit. Then there's the hot breakfast, with choices ranging from the delicious (Scottish salmon and eggs) to a dish so disgusting I can't believe so many countries are eager to lay claim to it. Yes, I refer here to the full Scottish/English/Irish/Welsh/Isle of Man breakfast, which comprises poached egg, sausage, ham and black pudding/blood sausage. And toast. Always lots of toast with everything. Mrs. McRae also served us some potato scones, which were more like the love child of Pupusas and potato latkes than any sort of scone I'd ever seen.

After breakfast we bid the McRaes goodbye (Mrs. McRae kept watch to make sure I didn't bump my suitcase down the stairs) and after a "wee" stop at McDonalds to use their Wifi we met up with the group at the Inverness railway station as planned. The group turned out to be small: two guides and six of us "on holiday." Other than we two Americans, the group was evenly divided between Scots and Brits. Our two guides were Ele, a 20-something British woman living in Scotland and Ali, a 24 year old Scottish guy. They arrived in a van towing a trailer of Easky 17 kayaks, a small but generally insignificant step down in my mind from the promised Capellas. The other group members included Alex, a  British professor of Scottish literature at Edinburgh, Annette, a  Scottish nurse practitioner, Kath, a Scot who was some sort of public  policy type, and Sue, an Englishwoman whose profession I didn't get -  she may have been retired.    Years of watching Monty Python and Harry Potter movies have given me the ability to understand much of British English, save for the real Britishisms (e.g., being "knackered" at the end of the day or calling cookies biscuits) but the Scots were another story. I'm sure that by the end of the trip the Scots all thought I was hard of  hearing or daft given how many times I asked them to repeat themselves  or just stared blankly when they asked me a question. Someone once said we are "two people divided by a common language" (this is one of those quotes variously attributed to Winston Churchill, Osar Wilde, and Shaw).  How right he was.

Inverness is pretty far up in the Scottish Highlands, but it was still a ways from there to the west coast lochs. It doesn't look far on the map, but the roads in rural Scotland aren't exactly superhighways. In fact, a lot of the distance we covered was on single lane roads and by that I don't mean single lane each way, I mean single lane. The roads are one lane with little bump outs big enough for one car every 10th of a mile or so (a.k.a. every 0.16 km). When two cars come towards each other one pulls into a bump out and lets the other go by. Since the roads are also winding and hilly sight distances are limited leading to frequent abrupt stops to avoid head-on collisions. There’s even the occasional need for one of the cars to back up down the road a piece if the cars don’t see each other until they’re past the bump-outs. When you're traveling in a van trailering a bunch of kayaks this gets even more interesting. We made it to our destination after what to me was a hairy ride.

Our paddle on the first day was something of a check-out. The guides started us out just paddling in circles around the put-in on the more protected, inner section of Loch Sunart. Once they had a feel for our abilities we went for more of a real paddle, in fact staying out longer than planned. This first outing introduced us to two other daily features of paddling the lochs: first, the fifteen foot tides, and second, the mandatory daily stop for tea. On this first day the tide was going out while we were on the water. In the time it took us to have our tea and biscuits fifteen feet (5 m) of dry land had appeared between my kayak and the water’s edge! 

After we got off the water we went to our lodging, the Ben View Hotel in Strontian. Since you no doubt already know that this town gave its name to the element Strontium, I will skip that history and go straight to a description of the inn itself. As you might have guessed, the hotel offers a nice view of various “bens”. If you don’t know what a ben is, I’ll explain by saying it’s a “corbett”. Still confused? These are only-in-Scotland terms for “Mountain Peak”. In particular, we had a nice view of Ben Resipole and Ben Garbhein. If I ever come into possession of a mountain in Scotland I'm going to name it Ben Franklin. Or maybe Ben Gurion.

The Ben View had a nice traditional inn feel to it. The owner was a very gregarious fellow - and a big Springsteen fan (he told me this since I was an American). After getting cleaned up the group met at the bar where Teddy, having turned eighteen (legal drinking age in the UK) that day, was determined to order a drink. Of course, he has no idea what he likes, but fortunately he was in the company of experts (i.e., Scots) who were all too helpful in suggesting drinks. Even the innkeeper got into the act, pouring Ted little tastes of everything they had on tap. Ted finally ordered a rum & coke, figuring it was sweet and was a logical first step for a habitual Coke drinker.

Scotland Highlights: Days 1&2

Friday, July 1, 2011

Discovering New Places

I've been learning to ride a bike. Not the basic part of moving forward without falling down: I mastered that years ago. Rather, with the winding down of my running career I've been looking to cycling as a new form of exercise and have been trying to do some rides of at least moderate length. I have an unrealistic possible goal of riding the metric version of the Seagull Century (100 km, or about 62 mi) this fall; more realistically, I just want to build up my cycling muscles and, um, seat tolerance.

At 18.5 mi today's ride was not one of my longer ones, however it offered lots of hill practice. I started from home, peddled up Sycamore St./Williamsburg Blvd./Glebe Rd. to Chain Bridge. This part of the ride has lots of fun ups and downs over extended hills. To give you some idea, the GPS shows my speed alternating between speeds as high as 27 MPH as I motored downhill and as low as 8 MPH as I granny-geared my way back uphill. From studying the map I found a little trick detour to bypass the suicidal final plunge down to Chain Bridge. It's not perfect, though, as you have to do a slightly less suicidal climb up the Military Road exit ramp and then to the downhill plunge on a quiet side street.

Once across Chain Bridge (a great view, as always) I headed west on the C&O Canal Tow Path. The tow path is packed dirt and so for someone on a thin-tired bike it's slow going. I didn't realize it during my ride but I actually made it out of DC and into Maryland before I turned around at one of the canal locks. On the way back, out of curiosity I decided to explore a side path off the tow path. Why would there be a paved path into the woods off of a dirt main trail? Well, after exploring it I can't explain why it's there but I can say where it leads. Turns out it goes all the way to a neat concrete platform situated above the bank of the Potomac about midway between Chain Bridge and Little Falls. The platform offers a great view of both the bridge and the falls. Now, I kayaked this section of the river a million times back when the Thursday night group used to launch out of Georgetown. In fact, I'd often spend time hanging out in my kayak right about at this spot waiting for the crazier folks who liked to take their sea kayaks up into the falls. I never, however, noticed this platform from the water. I can't believe it. It must be somewhat camouflaged by the rocks and branches along the shoreline.

I didn't pause long at the platform because I wanted to keep my ride going. So, back on my bike I climbed and I continued down the tow path, switching to the paved Capital Crescent trail where the two paths meet at Fletcher's Cove. The CC takes you right onto Water St. in Georgetown, past the Potomac Boat Club, Washington Canoe Club and Jack's Boathouse. I paused at Jack's and watched someone launch a stand-up paddle board. I thought I might say hi to Paul or Anna if they were there but boathouse wasn't open yet, and so I moved on.

Continuing along Water St. took me to Georgetown Waterfront Park. I've watched this park being built from the vantage point of my kayak but had never visited it on land before. It's very well done, a nice place for folks to stroll and connect to the river. It has some neat old photos and maps of the area etched into stones around the park: one showing the old aqueduct bridge, one showing a 1940s (I'm guessing) view of Georgetown, and a bunch of others. The only thing it's missing is a car-top boat launch. I took a five minute break at the park, breaking out the thermos of coffee and piece of biscotti I had brought along. Then it was back on the bike, up across Georgetown, and over Key Bridge back into Virginia.

The ride out the Custis Trail from Rosslyn to home is at a macro level an uphill battle. The combination of the topography of the land and the need for the bike path to cross over a number of roads makes it a rolling ride. Up, down, up, down. A good workout for sure. The good news is that I think I'm getting better at these sections - in fact, I was feeling strong enough at the end of this roller coaster that I added a little dog-leg to the ride, detouring down a side path into Bluemont Park rather than taking the more direct route to the W&OD trail.

Finally, home at about 10:30 AM, just in time to say goodbye to V as she left to get together with a friend.

Next time I try doing this loop twice. OK, maybe once plus a few more add-on segments. Someday, twice.