Sunday, February 14, 2016

That's Amouri!

It's three miles due east along the bike trail from my house to work. But as I have mentioned before, there exist these weekday morning cyclist coffee clubs and a few of the members of my Freezing Saddles team made plans to meet at the Thursday Vienna coffee club at around 7 AM. So, to show team spirit and get a little workout in besides I hopped on my bike at dawn and set out in the 20 degree air at dawn to ride eight miles west - the wrong direction, that is - to have coffee with a group of people whom I had never before met but who are my virtual team mates. Yes, that made good sense.
At Caffe Amouri

I must recommend Caffe Amouri in Vienna for their hazelnut scones and big mugs of dark roast coffee. Yum! Plus, it was good to meet Mike, Mike, Rob, Elizabeth and Chris, and Vincent, as well as the other cyclists who were there. We sat for about 40 minutes and then headed back east. I managed to keep up with the "real" riders through Vienna but I fell to the back of the pack - but not too far behind - once they hit the more open section of the trail. I pedaled hard to keep up (my legs felt it for two days afterwards) but they lost me on the long hill climb up over I66. Thanks to fortuitous timing of a traffic light I caught the group again in Falls Church and rode with them again for the last little bit before we reached Madison Manor.

I hadn't come prepared to bike all the way to work. Instead, at Mad Manor I got off the trail and  biked home, where I took a very quick shower, dressed for work, grabbed by laptop and stuff and (horrors!) drove to work. The best part was that I got to brag to people at a meeting later that morning, including one guy who is a serious cyclist but who retreats to an indoor trainer in the winter (wimp!) about my crazy stunt.

I'm not sure I'll do this again until the weather gets warmer, but it's a good distance for a morning workout - will be nice in springtime.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Marshall Hall Paddle

It was something of a revelation to be reminded how great kayaking can be. My recent paddling experiences have been sporadic and not entirely positive. I didn't paddle at all in January (except for the pool). In December I went on an unnervingly foggy paddle followed by an uncomfortably windy paddle. November was Chickahominy, which I only semi-participated in (and I paddled but didn't camp), and a paddle where my hands got so cold I had to turn back early. It's been one semi-bummer outing after another.

But today was glorious. Five of us (and Tall Tom, Tim, Don, Linda and I) launched out of Marshall Hall in Maryland. It was in the 30's - chilly, but not outrageous. The river was calm and the winds were light. Linda had organized the trip with Don as the leader. I had never met Don before, but I knew that he's one of the nutcase badasses who participates in events like the Florida Water Tribe Challenge, which requires a week of paddling day and night (he said he sleeps every other night), not to mention a 40 mile portage, to paddle all around Florida. So, when Don asked, "is this going to be as fast or slow day?" I knew that what he was really asking was "how much do I have to handicap myself so as not to be completely bored out of my skull paddling with y'all?" He wound up paddling his kayak with a canoe paddle, which I guess made it sufficiently hard to be interesting (or at least bearable).

At the mill

We first paddled across the river and up Dogue Creek to George Washington's grist mill and distillery, a recently restored part of the Mt. Vernon estate (and not continuous with the main property anymore). The place was closed (alas, no whiskey tasting) but we got out and walked around anyway. There were some picnic tables there and so we stopped for an early lunch. Linda always brings food - today it was curried chicken sandwiched. I contributed molasses cookies left over from the shiva minyan. I discovered that three day old molasses cookies,when stored at freezing temperatures in a kayak hatch, get quite hard, They were hard to chew until you worked them a little bit. Oops, They still tasted good.

Lunch break

After lunch we hopped back into our boats to continue on. We had to walk our boats out from shore to get into them, meaning that our boots got filled with water. Cold water. Remarkably, I had been able to keep my hands warm by using both gloves and pogies (and a separate, dry pair of gloves on lad) but the cold water started to make my feet feel cold, which got worse as the afternoon wore on.
Chunky water

We paddled back out into the river and down around the bottom of Ft. Belvoir. The water in this area was incredibly chunky, clogged with sticks, branched, logs, trash and various other flotsam, all washed into the river by melting snow from a recent heavy snowstorm. We came around into Pohick Bay and headed towards the beach at Pohick Bay Regional Park where we would take another break. When we landed at Pohick the sun was out and it had become quite a lovely day. I was plenty warm except for my feet, which had gotten progressively colder since we left the distillery and were now tingly cold. I walked up to the men's room and was happily surprised to find it open. I was doubly happy when I realized it was heated. I wasn't going to spend our whole break in the men's room, but it was nice to linger in there for a minute or two to soak up some warmth. I was feeling pretty good all over, except for my feet, which were still freezing. Then it dawned on me. Not only was the bathroom heated, but the sinks had hot water. I pulled off my boots and filled them with hot water from the sink. After letting them sit for a few minutes I dumped them out and slipped my feet into the now toasty warm boots. Ahhhhhh.

Warm feet are happy feet
From there the trip back was uneventful. Due east across the Potomac, then up the Maryland shoreline back to Marshall Hall. We loaded up, said our goodbyes, and went on our way. On the trip home I feasted on my remaining hot tea and leftover snacks - and a Frappucino I had in the car.

About 13 miles, which is pretty good for an off-season, out of shape paddle.