Sunday, July 31, 2016

Maine Trip: Cycling

Cycling was one of the things that we were really looking forward to on our trip. We had read about the carriage roads in Acadia National Park and, truth be told, half the reason we chose to drive rather than fly the 700+ miles to Maine was so we could bring our bikes - in particular, Valeries' recumbent trike, which is something you can't easily find as a rental. So, on our first full day in Maine we decided to hit the Eagle Lake trail, which had been recommended to us as being both pretty and fairly flat. We drove into the park just after breakfast (the parking lots fill quickly in summer) and headed for the trail head.

Recumbent trikes are pretty unusual, so when we crossed from the parking lot to the trail head we were surprised to spot a park bike volunteer on a Catrike recumbent trike very similar to Valerie's. This turned out to be Greenburg the bike volunteer. Remember Arnold Horshak from Welcome Back Kotter? Well picture him in his late 60's, bearded, and turned into a Maine outdoorsy type, and you'll be in the right ballpark for Greenburg the bike volunteer. 

We spoke for quite a while with Greenburg, who, it turns out, is originally from Brooklyn (Sheepshead Bay HS alum), is a paddler, cyclist, and is one of Maine's three Jews (kidding! - there are at least four). I assume that being a park bike guy is his retirement gig. He said that he too only recently started riding a recumbent - I assume because he could no longer ride a regular bike with his bony, aging tuchas

Oh, I'm a little ambivalent about Greenburg the bike volunteer. On the one hand, he was very helpful and friendly enough. But there was something a little condescending about him. Perhaps it was the way he sized us up as soon as we came into view and recommended that we start on the scenic east side of the lake, in case we didn't make it all the way around. Certainly, he rubbed me the wrong way when we were talking kayaking. When I told him I normally paddled a Tempest, his response was, "oh, that's a cute boat." 

Anyway, after a bit we said our farewells to Greenburg the bike volunteer and headed out, taking his suggestion and heading around the east side of the lake. The views were quite lovely. The ride was a slow climb, moderately undulating as you might expect in a natural setting. At one point Valerie took a break while I explored a side trail up to Bubble Pond - she was happy to have a break, finding riding on gravel a little tougher than the same distance on the road. As we came around the bottom of the lake and started up the west side it turned into a steady climb. We took some breaks, as did a lot of other riders. All that climbing did yield a nice reward at the end - a long, fast, downhill cruise to the finish.  
Eagle Lake

When we got back the start Greenburg the bike volunteer was still there. We thought it would be fun to get a picture of Valerie and Greenburg standing next to the two recumbents, but when Valerie went to get off her bike her right shoe wouldn't unclip - she was stuck to the bike! We fiddled with it with the tools we had with us, but we couldn't get the darn shoe off the pedal! This no doubt further lowered Greenburg the bike volunteer's opinion of us as cyclists (though at least we *had* confounded his expectations and had made it all the way around the lake), and because Valerie couldn't get up the two of them wound up posing seated on their bikes. It turned out that one of the screws holding Valerie's cleat had come out (probably while we were walking around at one of our stops). Back at the car, where I had a real screwdriver, I was able to pop the shoe off the bike and the next day we got a replacement screw at a bike shop in town.
Valerie and Greenburg the bike volunteer

After our ride we had lunch at Jordan Pond house. It was a very nice lunch, but something didn't agree with me. We headed back to the room and I rested for a while until my stomach felt better. By this point Valerie was napping and so I decided to head back to the park for more riding. It was my intention to do the longest, most climbing carriage trail route, called "Around Mountain". Unfortunately, I still wasn't feeling 100% and in addition, not long into my ride storms started to move in - I started to hear thunder. So, I cut my ride short. I think I did about four miles, which did include 300 ft. of climbing out of Around Mountain's total 560 ft. climb, so I got some elevation in.

A good day of riding!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Maine Trip: Paddling

Our Maine vacation wasn't planned as a paddling trip, but it was pretty well assumed that in a week of being around water I was going to sneak in some kayaking. I hadn't brought a boat along and so was at the mercy of rentals.

Trip 1: Long Pond, Acadia
As soon as we got to Bar Harbor I started jonesing to go kayaking. So much water, so much beauty! We were staying at a lovely B&B right on Frenchman Bay and got to see groups of paddlers passing by. When we went into town I inquired at one of the tour companies, but they offered only doubles, and I just didn't want to pay someone a bunch of money so I could do some wimpy paddle stuck in a double with a know-nothing stranger. Instead I went for the only solo rental I could find - a recreational kayak (rec boat) on Long Pond. Again, this wasn't perfect, but at least it got me out on the water, and it got me out on the water solo.
In my groovy rec boat

The kayak rental shop is at the far north end of the pond, and is actually across the road from the lakefront. Interestingly, for solo rentals they don't give you a cart; they just have you sling the boat over your shoulder and carry it yourself down to the launch. That's not a big deal for me, but I'm surprised renters don't get squashed from time to time. Why did the paddler cross the road? To get from the rental shop to the launch.
View from the Long Pond launch

I launched into the lake and headed south. The land alongside the north end of the lake is mostly privately owned and I got to see a variety of houses, from small cabins to pretty fancy places. My original intention was to paddle the length of the lake (about 8 miles round trip), but there was a breeze up and I was a little concerned about working my way back 4 miles into the wind in a rec boat, so I altered my plans. I paddled about 3 miles down the lake, crossed and then worked my way up around the broad part of the lake, exploring the shoreline. At one point another paddler passed going in the other direction. We chatted for a minute and he asked where I was visiting from (he's a local). When I told him DC, he asked if I was from the Virginia side. I said yes, and he followed up with a question about Tim Kaine, who had just been nominated as Hillary Clinton's running mate. This crazy election is not far from anyone's mind right now, even when kayaking in Acadia!

I guess that I paddled about 5 3/4 miles all told. Not bad for a rec boat paddle, and filled with beautiful Acadia scenery

Trip 2: Rockport to Camden
Up in Acadia I couldn't find a way to rent a decent kayak. Down in Camden, I showed up at Maine Sport Outfitters, plunked down a credit card and out the door I went with a 17 foot sea kayak, a paddle and a PFD. As far as they knew or cared, I was going to paddle out into the open ocean and head for Portugal.

When I went in to reserve the rental the day before the trip the young woman behind the counter suggested a Rockport to Camden "port to port" paddle, about 5 miles. She did point out that if I did this paddle I'd need to arrange for someone to shuttle me back. When I said that it sounded like something I could do round trip she looked at me like I was some kind of extreme paddler. Likewise, when Valerie and I went out on a schooner sail that evening, the captain, who paddle boards the "port to port" trip one way, was surprised that I would consider doing the round trip. I guess that outside of the paddling nut community, ten miles is a long trip.

Thursday morning, after a lovely breakfast at the inn (yogurt parfait and blueberry pancakes) I picked up the boat and headed to Rockport. As I was getting ready to launch a Maine Sport tour group showed up. I was a lot faster getting onto the water than they were and so we weren't paddling anywhere near each other.

I launched and did some boat sightseeing as I paddled through the harbor - a lot of lovely, classic sailboats. Rockpart, like Camden, is a pretty natural harbor framed by mountains. I looked around and enjoyed the scenery as a paddled. Out of the harbor I rounded Beachamp Point and turned north. I've got to admit I almost stopped at that point - while the water was quite calm there was a line with some breaking waves. I'm something of a wimp when paddling by myself and so thought about whether it was too risky to paddle through these breakers. After watching for a bit I realized that there were gaps in the breaking waves. I set a path through one of the gaps, and everything was fine. I continued north, generally following the shoreline. As I paddled, the scenery reminded me a bit of Scotland: "skerries" (big boulders) sticking out of the water, waves lapping the shoreline. Unlike Scotland, though, there shoreline was lined with some serious houses.
Scenery just outside Rockport harbor

It was a really nice trip with great ocean scenery - somehow more of an ocean feel than the Chesapeake Bay. After about 90 minutes of paddling the lighthouse on Curtis Island (formerly known as "Negro Island"!), marking the entrance to Camden harbor, came into view. I paddled through the harbor all the way up to Public landing where we had taken a sunset sail the previous evening. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell where the public ramp was. I wanted to take a break before paddling back so I paddled back out to Curtis Island and took a break in a little cove there. I wasn't sure if it was OK to land there and so I just hung out in my boat. As I was about to head out the paddling tour from Rockport came into view, heading to land in the same cove. when I approached I asked the trip leaders (who included the woman from whom I had rented my boat the previous day) about landing there. They said that it was public land and it was fine to land there. So, I extended my break - climbing out onto land and then going to the top of the island to take in the lighthouse and the view.
Curtis Island light

The trip back to Rockport was a little tougher. The wind had picked up and was from the south so I was paddling into it (somehow, you always wind up paddling into the wind, particularly on the way back). The tide also started to come in while I was taking my break, and the tidal range is pretty strong, so I was paddling against the tide tool. The wind made the water a little rougher and so I stuck pretty close to shore. The good news is that the southerly wind was always blowing me towards shore, not out to sea, which was reassuring. I saw a few loons as I paddled back. Loons are usually pretty skittish. when you approach they dive underwater and usually pop back up someplace far away. On this trip one loon let me get close enough to get some pretty good pictures.
Camden Harbor panorama from Curtis Island

When I got back I dragged my boat up the ramp. As I loaded the boat I watched a mother and her young son unload their kayaks and launch. As with the kids I saw in Camden launching for sailing lessons, the water just seems like a natural part of kids' lives in coastal Maine.
A loon!

By the time I got off the water it was about 2 PM and I hadn't eaten lunch. I bought a rice and bean burrito from a food truck and ate it by the water, not wanting to leave the lovely scene of Rockport harbor.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

To the Lizard!

Got up this morning and hopped on my bike to go have my morning coffee at the Green Lizard Cycling and Coffee shop in Herndon. Actually, before I left I had my pre-coffee coffee and stretched. I knew the round trip was 30+ miles, which is a long ride for me, and so I wanted to be stretched and warmed up to ward off any knee problems.

The good news is that it all went without a hitch. I made it to the Green Lizard (coffee! bikes! lizards!) pretty easily. Sat and had coffee and a muffin while I read the paper, then headed home Total distance was 31.6 miles. I had no IT band (knee) issues at all. I was a little wobbly after the ride - I went to the Westover Farmers Market and was staggering around like I was drunk - but no pain.

I saw deer alongside the trail at Vienna, and of course the usual collection of bad behavior, mishaps, and odd things:

- Almost got hit by a car where the trail crosses Great Falls Street. Event though the streets technically have the right of way over the trail at intersectinos (the trail has stop signs), drivers crossing the trail often yield to trail users. I saw a car approaching the trail very slowly and I assumed the driver was stopping. It turns out the driver was just distracted and he kept going as I crossed the intersection. I ducked out of the way off the trail just in time - a near miss.

- Lots of Lycranauts passing where they shouldn't (e.g., on narrow bridges).

- I had to ride off the trail onto the grass to avoid a swarm of kids taking up the whole width of the trail.

- And there were the usual interesting folks - a guy walking backwards, a unicyclist out riding with his family, a guy with long dreadlocks riding along waving his arms in big circles as he rode, almost like he was doing the butterfly stroke, a guy carrying a bicycle on his bike, a guy riding a tiny little bicycle car looking thing (not an ELF, though), and so on.

When I got home I used the Strava FlyBy feature and discovered that I had intersected with a few friends, none of whom I had noticed (all cyclists look alike to me on the trail). One guy from my Freezing Saddles team and I rode so close together for a couple of miles it looks on the FlyBy playback like we're riding together - but in fact neither of us knew the other was there.

I'm proud of myself for knocking off a 30+ mile ride without incident. Next, on to the half century!

I Can't Take Your Call Right Now ...

Mason Neck is one of my perennial favorites for kayaking. It's a low stress launch - easy carry, plenty of parking, real bathrooms. The scenery is beautiful and varied, and there's always wildlife - eagles in particular. I launched there Saturday with the intention of doing a ten mile paddle out into the river.

There was no disappointment when it came to bird life - ospreys, herons, and probably half a dozen eagles. I got to watch a pair of eagles arguing with an osprey. Good stuff overall.

After a bit of paddling I decided to take a break. I paddled up to the beach and pulled out my phone to see how far I had gone (I was running Strava). Well, at 4.1 miles I was short of my five mile target. I noticed that I had a new voice mail from an area code I didn't recognize - ahh, it was a call back from a kayaking outfitter in Maine I had called about renting during my upcoming trip.

"Hey, this is Dan at Duck Trap Kayak ... let me know how many days you need and do you need a real sea kayak, y'know, a longer boat where you sit in it and don't see your legs, or do you need a recreational kayak, the shorter, wider boats with the bigger opening where when you're sitting in it you can see your legs?" It makes sense for the guy to assume that the random customer doesn't know the difference between a sea kayak and a rec boat, but it was funny hearing this message as I was sitting in my kayak in the middle of a paddle.
Taking a Break

Anyway, not much else to report. I decided to turn back since it was getting quite hot. I swung a little wider out into the river on the way back and stopped to practice a few rolls near some anchored power boaters - two rolls successful, then I blew the third one! - and so my total was about 8.7 miles. Not bad for a hot summer day.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gotta Catch 'Em All!

OK, the title of this entry is a Pokemon reference and the entry is about the Pocomoke, not Pokemon, and so maybe the title isn't 100% appropriate, but the area of the Eastern Shore around Snow Hill does offer a wide collection of outings to "catch".
Patriotic Paddling

The CPA July 4th weekend camping trip to Pocomoke State Park is a long-established annual event, but I've never gone because I've always preferred to spend the holiday with family. With time, though, things change, and this year the family was scattered far and wide - Valerie to NY to visit her mom, David to Pittsburgh, Teddy to Scout Camp with his old troop. Orphaned for the weekend, I joined the CPA trip.

The trip down Friday afternoon was pleasant: not much traffic, a stop for a pretzel at WaWa, good weather. Well, good weather until around the time I got to Snow Hill. It started to thunder and spatter rain about the time I arrived. I got my tent up and we got a pop-up shelter up as well before the heavens really opened up. Suzanne pulled in shortly thereafter and we pitched in to help her get set up quickly. Then it rained and rained. And thundered and thundered. No paddling was going to happen, that's for sure! Since people weren't jazzed about cooking in the rain, some of us headed into the town of Snow Hill for dinner. Needless to say, it stopped raining just about the time we got into town. Plus, the town's two restaurants were packed. So, some folks ordered takeout and we headed back to camp to eat. I skipped the takeout and ate the turkey sandwich I had brought from home.

Setting Out on Saturday
Snow Hill was having it's "First Friday" celebration, which as you might expect in a town with two restaurants and a handful of stores, was pretty small. But we did go and browse in an art gallery (and sampled their wines!) and got a chance to chat with one of the guys from the local kayak/canoe outfitter.
Up the Nassawango River
 Saturday brought better weather. The overall group was large enough (14 people, I think) that we split into different sub-groups for paddling. The trip I went on launched from the campground (that's pretty nice, being able to launch without having to drive anywhere), headed up the Pocomoke, then up the Nassawango River as far as it's navigable. The trip was about 15 miles round trip. Paddling the Nassawango can be a little challenging - it's a narrow, twisty river with some strong currents at the top. Tom B. had brought along his 15 year old grandson, and we were a little concerned about whether he could handle the length and difficulty of the trip - but he did fine!

Saturday afternoon's event was a group effort to install a Hullavator on Suzanne's brand-spanking-new Toyota RAV 4. This turned out to be a comedy of errors, but we were ultimately successful. First we had to hit the brand new car with a mallet - well, really we were baning on the  cross-bars to slide them to the right. Then Suzanne slide her finger while using a knife to open a bag of screws. Fortunately, our crack medical team (Leigh is an EMT and Tom R. is a dentist) jumped in and got her fixed up. I took the role of engineering management and directed the folks doing the install since (a) I can actually read and understand installation directions, and (b) I've done a Hullavator install before.
The Hullavator Installation Team

And it Works!

Saturday night we went back into Snow Hill for dinner - this was a pre-planned event - and then went to the town's fireworks display. While you would expect fireworks to be on the 4th, not the 2nd, a number of the Eastern Shore towns have fireworks and they seem to coordinate so they're spread out over the weekend.
Snow Hill Dinner: Mike & Linda, Mike and Debi, Rich & Sue. Tom R., Sophie and Bela in the background.

Snow Hill Dinner: Leigh & Bela, Jesse, Suzanne 

Sunday morning - guess what - more rain. Gina, who had been camping at Assateague, stopped by. Apparently Suzanne and Gina had talked about scouting some launches over on the Chesapeake Bay - only about 20 minutes away. Since it was kind of yucky weather for paddling, the three of us wound up going out and scouting three launches. First, through the nearly derelict town of Stockton, we checkout out George's Island Landing (which is not on an island, in case you were wondering). Nice facility - plenty of parking, ramp and beach, Porta-Potty, even signs with suggestions for trips. We had thought that if we found a good put-in we might launch and paddle a bit but the weather on the Bay side was terrible - windy, cold, rainy. We were all wishing we had warmer clothes. Instead of launching we continued on to another similar launch just a bit north. Along the way we tried to explore the E. A. Vaughn wilderness area, which on the map listed camping, but were unsuccessful at finding a decent road in and certainly didn't see any camping - in fact, the place was marked with "no camping" signs.
Seen While Exploring

The third landing we explored was pretty dicey. Down a long, muddy dirt road - we got Suzanne's new car splattered with mud in a big way. The side of the road plastered with "No Trespassing for ANY REASON" signs. Finally the road ended right at the water - no developed facility at all, just a road to the water. And more No Trespassing signs. We turned around and left.

Suzanne, Gina and I drove back to Snow Hill looking for lunch, but both restaurants were closed (Sunday of July 4th weekend!). Outside of town the pizza place, Chinese restaurant and McDonald's were open, but the first two of these looked pretty dicey (Rich S. later reported the the Chinese restaurant is, in fact, good) and the third was unappealing. By this time the weather was clearing so we drove to Byrd Park, ate the food we had brought with us then launched our kayaks for a short paddle around the the local part of the Pocomoke River, including going past "Goat Island" which does indeed have goats, though they're not feral.
The Pocomoke River near Snow Hill

Goat Island Resident

Sunday evening was a group potluck. By that point the group had evolved somewhat: Mike and Debi had gone home to New Jersey, and Mike and Linda had left as well, Gina had gone home and Linda (a different Linda) had arrived. I wasn't completely happy with how my dish came out, but all told it was a good and festive meal!

Monday's weather was good and so Suzanne, Tom R., Sophie and I returned to George's Island. We didn't want too long a trip since we all had lots of driving ahead of us, and so we chose to do about a 6 mile circumnavigation of an island. This turned out to be a highlight of the weekend - fun, bouncy water on the exposed side of the island, and flat, calm water on the inside. Pretty scenery. Lots of wildlife, including pelicans, cormorants, horseshoe crabs and dolphins. Dolphins!
Getting Ready to Launch

Salt Marsh

The trip was over just at the right time, which seemed far too soon. We all packed up and headed home. I made a bee-line for the Bay Bridge, wanting to get across before traffic got to bad. Instead of stopping for lunch I just scrounged leftover food out of my groceries and cooler as I drove. As it turns out, I think the rain had driven people home early, since there was little traffic getting over the Bay Bridge.

Well, I didn't "catch 'em all", but I did get to do a selection of old favorites and one new trip. And that's good enough!

Not Really About Me