Friday, June 24, 2016

Dead and Company

Let me start by saying that when I bike ride I am never a MAML. This acronym (pronounced "mammal") stands for "Middle Aged Men in Lycra" and refers to guys who squeeze their paunchy mid-life selves into too-tight bike clothes, with a net visual effect that's both comedic and horrible.

So, I'll also add that I'm not a MAMT. I just made up this acronym and don't have a good pronunciation for it, but it stands for "Middle Aged Men in Tie-dye". Heck, even when I was younger I didn't wear much tie-dye. I always felt inauthentic, like I was impersonating a hippie. The folks who followed the Dead, the white guys in dreadlocks and their barefoot women, the 60's holdover stoners ... they were entitled to wear tie-dye. I did not wish to be an impersonator of a particular lifestyle.

Let me say that last night at Jiffy Lube Live (capacity 25,000) there were roughly 24,999 people who disagreed with me. The place was littered with DC MAMLs, bearded guys who probably live very non-hippie lifestyles. Perhaps they are deep in the bureaucracy by day, working for the Department of the Exterior Interior Fish, Wildlife and Internal Revenue before returning to their McMansions at night. But once in a while they put on their tie-dye shirts and, lo and behold, they're hippies! Except they keep checking their work email.

Anyway, because of mix-ups, last minute illnesses, and the like, I wound up at the Dead and Company show by myself. I almost didn't even go, but I figured the band is fading away (it's down to 50% realy Grateful Dead members) and so I should see it while I can. Plus I had a great ticket for the General Admission pit area right up front. Plus I decided not to get depressed over something which was supposed to be a good time.

Upon getting into the arena in true Deadhead fashion I downed some mushrooms and coke - and by that I mean a surprisingly good portabello burger and a Diet Coke. Properly fed, I wandered into the pit and got way up front. This was pretty cool. It was too tight up there to dance, but not uncomfortably packed. There was a lot of weed being smoked (don't these MAMT bureaucrats care about their clearances???). Most of the crowd around me was MAMTs and their female equivalents. A few Deadhead freaks, including a couple dressed in matching black and white striped pants and black tops. They were both wearing clown noses and had accessorized their hair with Caution tape (he with a headband, she with a hair bow). One very redneck lookin' guy and his two redneck lookin' teenage sons - had they shown up the wrong night for Kenny Chesney? Anyway, a very fun first set.

During intermission I wandered around and remarkably ran into Bill Y., a Westover friend. I tried to find Rick & Cheryl (other Westover folks) but security wasn't letting people into sections unless they had tickets for that section, so I couldn't get to them.

For the second set I hung further back in the pit, where things were more open and there was a lot more dancing going on. I don't do Fitbit, but I bet I got a lot of steps in! After a while I became intrigued by this group of four people in front of me: a guy and three women. The guy and one of the women were, I would guess, in their 40's. The other two women were younger. All four were singing along and dancing and all four had their hands all over each other in a way that was a little beyond friends dancing together. Certainly the guy had his hands all over the women, who didn't seem to mind, and two of the women were pretty intimate with each other. Were they just all incredibly f*cked up? Was it some sort of Deadhead Sister-wives situation? Were they closely bonded because they were all reincarnated from the same animal spirit? I never did manage to figure it out, but I did notice that in her Dead show ecstasy the littlest woman was hugging just about everyone around her. She and I had exchanged a couple of words over the course of the set when we had bumped into each other while dancing or in places where the band hit a high point, but she hadn't included me in her otherwise generous outpouring of hugs. This was no surprise to me, as I know that I send out some sort of megawatt non-verbal "DO NOT TOUCH ME" vibe. I don't do this on purpose, and I don't know exactly how I do it, but I do it.

I resolved that I was going to get a hug from this girl before the end of the show.

Well, that's a lot of build-up for very little climax. We did not lock eyes and fall madly in love. We did not discover that we were long lost brother and sister. I did not knock her wig off and accidentally reveal her to be a cyborg. But at one point in her gyrations she turned around and while she was facing me I did my best impersonation of a"give me a hug" kind of gesture (a language I do not speak fluently) and, lo and behold, she did. Soon after that the (just as interminable as ever!) drum solo started and I wandered away to a different area of the pit. But I came home (a) having experienced a truly excellent Terrapin Station suite, and (b) having successfully impersonated a normal person for just a moment.

The Band: Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, along with Oteil Burbridge on bass and John Mayer in the Jerry Garcia role.

The set list:
Cold Rain and Snow
New Speedway Boogie
El Paso
They Love Each Other
Bird Song
Don't Ease Me In

Lost Sailor>
Saint of Circumstance
Viola Lee Blues
Terrapin Suite>
Drums (w/Oteil joining Mickey and Billy on percussion)>
Dear Prudence>
Scarlet Begonias>
Sunshine Daydream
Black Muddy River

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cannonball Ride

  • Father's Day present #1: Hearing David leave for work at 4 AM
  • Father's Day present #2: Hearing Ted leave for work at 6 AM.
  • Father's Day present #3: A nice bike ride with the NOVA Casual Bike Group (CBG) meetup.

With cycling as with many things I find myself between categories. I'm too slow to ride with "serious" cycling groups, but can do distances longer than the "casual" bike groups. The CBG Beginner rides are about the right pace for me, but too short in distance. Sunday I decided to join the CBG on a Civil War-themed ride. I biked from home to the Shirlington meeting point, turning the official 16 mile official ride into a 26 miler.

The first thing I noticed on my arrival is a lot of straight bar, hybrid bikes and that, refreshingly, not everyone was in twee Lycra outfits. The group turned out to be a mix, from an older couple with electrified bikes (they dropped out partway) to some folks in full fig.

The second thing I noticed was that of the twenty people on the ride, about fifteen were women. Was it because it was Father's Day? Do women not celebrate Father's Day? Was it because guys would never sign up for a ride advertised as "Beginner"? Who knows ...

Anyway, we headed out from Shirlington down along Four Mile Run. We connected to the Mt. Vernon trail and followed the river south into Old Town Alexandria. Our first stop was the Freedmen's and Contrabands Cemetery. During the Civil War freed slaves fled across Union lines to seek safety. Unfortunately, they found mostly squalor in refugee camps. The Freedmen's Cemetery was the final resting place of many of these poor folks who wound up in Alexandria, along with Union soldiers from Colored units. After the war the place was neglected and desecrated - a gas station and an office building were built on parts of it, and people mined clay from its western end, disturbing many graves. Only recently was the cemetery restored and, through the use of underground sensing, hundreds of graves were remarked.

Checking Out Freedman's and Contrabands' Cemetary

From there we continued to the Alexandria National Cemetery. Yes, another cemetery to remind us of our mortality on the holiday. This Cemetery was established early in the Civil War, frankly before the government had any idea of just how much burial space they were going to need. The 5 acre cemetery filled up quickly and is today largely unknown.

Alexandria National Cemetery

Our final stop was Fort Ward, which was part of the Union defensive line around Washington. At the outset of the war the Union Army occupied Alexandria and Arlington to provide a buffer around Washington. Ft. Ward was built after the Union defeat at First Manassas, when there was considerable fear that a Confederate attack on Washington was imminent. Today the area is a pretty park.
Group Photo at Ft. Ward

Getting to Ft. Ward involved a significant climb (forts tend to be on the high ground) - which I'm happy to report I made without a problem. As a result, the ride back through Fairlington to Shirlington was mostly a nice downhill run.

I didn't stick around to socialize after the ride; I just grabbed a quick iced latte at Peet's and did one more climb - the five miles back uphill home.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Around and Around

I kayaked from Columbia Island to Fletcher's cove today, and took David's 360 degree camera along to play with. Actually, the whole genesis of the 360 degree camera is kayaking-related:

  • A student at SK102 had just been to the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas and was very jazzed about VR and 360 imaging. He let me play with his Google Cardboard VR thing.
  • After that, I got to thinking how that technology could be used in a long-standing idea I had for navigation training.
  • I mentioned this to David and asked what he knew about these sorts of cameras. He said, "not much."
  • The next day, I watched some YouTube videos and learned a little about how it works. Over the same period David devoured an enormous amount of information online about 360 degree cameras and VR, and had ordered a low end camera to experiment with.
  • One day later, thanks to Amazon Prime fast shipping, we had a 360 degree camera in the house.
Here are some images from this morning's paddle:

Georgetown - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Potomac River just above Georgetown. Can you spot the deer on the riverbank? - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Here are links to view those images via the theta360 site (can go full screen, which doesn't seem to work from the blog):

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pungo Party!

The Wilderness Systems Pungo is an extremely popular recreational kayak. Twelve feet long, wide and stable, and with a big cockpit, it's perfect for many casual kayakers.

Sea kayakers sneer at the Pungo. It is not a "real" kayak, and our impression is that it's mostly paddled by yahoos without any regard for safety who survive their outings only because the Darwin effect isn't 100% reliable.

Last weekend we visited our friends A & S out at Bethany Beach. Imagine my excitement when S suggested that we spend Saturday kayaking in his and his friend Gene's Pungos. S had previously mentioned that he had bought a kayak and liked to paddle around "the pond" which made me expect a couple of hours of putzing around a scummy little pond. Truth be told, I had intentionally *not* brought my kayaking stuff so as not to encourage such an outing.

The three of us launched from the dock at their development (cool!) into what turned out to be a lovely salt pond. Gene and I did wear our PFDs.  S, who had belittled my suggestion of wearing a PFD when I had mentioned it in the past, was true to form and used his PFD to cover his legs against the sun. I had a Chesapeake Paddlers existential crisis moment  - what do you do when your host refuses to wear his PFD?? What is the proper etiquette when you notice your host is paddling with his paddle upside down?

Safety and etiquette notwithstanding, I quickly realized that this was actually going to be something much better than bobbing in a a pond. S is something of an Energizer Bunny in everything he does. When we cross-country ski at White Grass, he wants to be skiing non-stop. He is loathe to, for example, take a break at the lodge and enjoy the delicious White Grass soups (I, on the other hand, consider a break in the lodge a pleasant part of the overall White Grass experience). Kayaking was no exception to his MO. No putzing around for him - he took off, with a real paddling outing in mind.

It turns out that the salt pond onto which we launched is connected via a series of canals to Little Assawoman Bay (yes, there is a Big Assawoman Bay too - does this Bay make by Assawoman look Big?), where we explored the marshy channels. Assawoman is a wildlife refuge and so it's pretty and relatively un-despoiled by development. Poking through the marshes if fun - trying to find channels to get you just a little bit further, backtracking when they don't pan out, trying again.

Finally, after hitting about our hundredth dead end, we decided it was time to turn back. I actually enjoyed the trip back much more than the trip out through the canals. I like having a plan, and so it didn't sit well with me when we were just heading out kayaking with no destination and no idea of how long we were going out for. Once we turned around I had a firm idea of how much paddling we had to do and could relax and enjoy it.

I wasn't running a GPS, but from the map I estimated we covered about seven miles - not bad for any outing, and certainly a mega-trip by Pungo standards. A a good time, despite my boat snobbery and the uncertainty of the trip. And, y'know what - for exploring marshes, the Pungo is a great boat.