Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pohick Bay Sort of Training Paddle

One of my real talents is my ability to drive myself crazy. No matter what I’m doing, I always think I should be doing something else, or should finish up what I’m doing so I can move on to the next thing. I do not by nature live “in the moment”. In that spirit, I awoke Sunday with a conundrum – bicycling or kayaking? I knew that I wanted to get some exercise – I need to keep building my conditioning back up. I really want to become a better cyclist. But, I have a week-long kayak camping trip coming up in September and I really, really, have to get in shape for that. I know that I am capable of feel that whichever I chose, I could make myself miserable for not having chosen the other. But the need to get into kayaking shape won out. Kayaking it was.

Having finished agonizing over my choice of activity, I next moved on to agonizing over location. I wanted to launch somewhere other than my usual Columbia Island location. I thought about Fletcher’s Cove – close to home, free, and a pretty section of the river; however, it would be a lonely solo trip. There was also Pohick Bay farther downriver. A couple of nights earlier, when I had run into some of my Westover friends at Wolf Trap, they had said they were going to do a paddleboarding/kayaking outing down at Pohick Sunday morning and encouraged me to join them. Now, at the time they told me this they were pretty intoxicated and I know that wasted people say a lot of stuff they don’t necessarily mean (or even remember the next day), but there was some possibility they were going to be at Pohick. While I wanted to get in some miles and they were doubtless just going to knock around, at least if they were there it would add some little bit of socialization to my outing. Pohick it was.

The Pohick Bay web site is ambiguous about the park’s opening time. It says the park is open dawn to dusk, but that the gatehouse doesn’t open until 10 AM (which is when the Westover crew planned to get there). I arrived a little before ten to find the place already open – the woman at the gatehouse said they open at 7 AM in the summer, though some of the amenities (like boat rental) don’t open until 10. It’s good to know for future reference that early launching is possible there.

Pohick has a “small craft” launch separate from the main concrete boat ramp, so kayakers, paddleboarders and such don’t have to mix with people launching motorboats off of trailers. Plus, you can drive right up to the launch, which is nice. This was actually another factor in my decision to go to Pohick. I’m just getting back to being able to carry my boat unassisted and so I preferred the short carry at Pohick to the very long carry at Fletcher’s. Unfortunately, unlike many other places, at Pohick “small craft” includes jet skis. I’m never happy about having to share what I think should be strictly a “car-top” (or people-powered boat) launch with people trailering jet skis into the water. Thus, I have to admit to a little schadenfreude at watching a van get stuck and have trouble getting back up off the sand and onto the pavement after dropping off a jet ski. The four young guys who had arrived in the van – Eastern Europeans of some sort, based on the sound of their language – huffed and puffed pushed and pushed and eventually got the thing unstuck. Then they had a similar amount of trouble getting their ancient jet ski started. During this time they were joined by a fifth friend, who arrived in a de-badged VW Passat with Audi wheels. You’re not fooling anyone with that FAuxdi, buddy.

I also saw a guy launch a small rowboat/johnboat with an outboard motor at the small craft launch. Launching a motorized boat there was a new one on me. He too had trouble getting the engine started and so I got another little opportunity to smirk over a power-boater’s troubles. And in yet another first, later on while I was out on the water several people on horseback rode down into the launch area and let their horses cool off a little in the water. Where had they come from?

At the launch I unexpectedly bumped into two kayaking friends, Jack and Marti. Jack was a regular paddler at Georgetown years ago, but for various health and personal reasons has drifted in and out of paddling over the years. Like me, he was there to get out on the water and rebuild from an injury – in his case, shoulder surgery (been there, done that).

Having had my fun watching the bumbling jet skiers, I launched and headed towards the boat rental area – and immediately saw familiar faces. There was Christine, in the water and clinging for dear life to a paddleboard. There was Dee, doing much better on a paddleboard. And Matt M., and some other folks I didn’t know. I had Christine grab the stern of my boat and I towed her back to shore, where she switched to a sit-on-top kayak (a much better idea for her).

I did wind up hanging around with them for a bit, stealing Cyndi’s old trick and literally paddling circles around them as they slowly made their way up into the bay. After a little bit, though, I bid them adieu and set out for my real paddle. I headed back out toward the mouth of the bay. Let me tell you, they’ve been building some pretty impressive houses along that section of the shoreline. Holy cow. I paddled along filled with house envy. In between ogling at houses I kept a lookout for the waterski boat which was plying the same waters. Back and forth, back and forth -  every time they went by I had to deal with their noise and then their wake.

 After a bit I turned back around again towards the launch. By the time I got back the Westover crowd was gone. I had a pretty strong suspicion, which turned out to have been accurate, that they had stopped at a nearby micro-brewery after getting off the water. I thought about checking the place out to see if they were there, but decided instead to head for home. I wound up paddling about 7.5 miles. I really need to get up over 10 miles and feel I could have done so, but I’m still not 100% comfortable paddling solo and so didn’t want to push it. My ten mile paddle will have to wait until I’m on my “home” section of the Potomac, where I’m more comfortable, or to when I’m with someone else, or both.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fourth and Fifth

I have written previously about the morning "coffee clubs" sponsored by BikeArlington. These weekday get-togethers are part of what fosters such an active cyclist community in Arlington. I started attending them during Freezing Saddles 2016. During the wintertime they are attended only by hardcore cyclists, mainly Freezing Saddles participants. Who else is going to get up extra early just to go riding to coffee in the cold, dark pre-dawn hours? But the warm weather is another story - bigger crowds, early sunrises so no need to ride in the dark, languid breakfasts outdoors, and supreme difficulty in tearing oneself away to actually go to work.

This past Tuesday was Independence Day. The coffee clubs are mainly populated with bike commuters, and since most people weren't going to be commuting on the holiday, I wasn't sure if the Tuesday coffee club would even be held. But, I needed a destination for my morning ride and so I pointed my bike towards Crystal City. As it turns out, a nice crowd showed up - about ten people, at peak.

Crystal City Coffee Club Crowd

I don't think anyone was actually on their way to work, though a few of us marveled at how busy our work had been the days before, a Monday stranded between the weekend and the holiday. Some folks were stopping there on their way to do longer rides. Others were like me - just there to socialize and get a bit of a ride in before we started our real plans for the day.

I mentioned that I was thinking of biking to Wolf Trap the following night and got good advice on the best route to take. When I revealed that I was actually planning to drive from Frederick (where I'd be for work), park my car in Vienna and ride just the last few miles so I could avoid the after-show traffic jam, FFG Dave (center in the picture above) dubbed that approach the "bike dinghy" - moor the yacht in the harbor, then use the dinghy to get to shore.

I followed through and indeed bike dinghy-ied. I parked right by the town green in Vienna and walked over to Whole Foods for a quick snack and to use their bathroom to change from work to cycling clothes (BTW, the slice of pizza I had there was SO BAD that I am taking a mulligan on my monthly pizza ration). When I took my bike out of the car I discovered that somehow my rear view mirror had cracked - maybe I banging it with the tailgate. I don't much believe in superstition and I'm pretty sure I'm already in the midst of a string of bad luck - so maybe breaking the mirror will flip the bit and give me seven years of *good* luck.

The ride to Wolf Trap was easy. I still carry with me the paranoia of the unsafe New York City of my youth (the era of movies like Death Wish and The Taking of Pelham 123) and so I took note that the section of the W&OD I was riding was isolated and unlit - was going to be creepy later. As a a result, true to form, throughout the show I had a background process of worrying running in my brain out of concern for what the ride home was going to be like.

Other than building a reserve of paranoia, I made it to Wolf Trap with no issues and a ranger pointed me to the bike rack. A woman seated on the bench adjacent to the rack expressed that she was impressed that I had ridden - which I ate up. I hiked up the hill to where I had managed to wangle an invitation to a tent hosted by Devil's Backbone Brewery - free beer! I had a tasty double IPA, but in terms of food restricted myself to vegetables to make up for having indulged in pizza back in Vienna (have I mentioned how bad that pizza was?). At DBB tent I bumped into Rob K, who I had met at Neil's party, phenomenal singer Mary El, who has performed with me in Magnolia Blue , and - as I was leaving - the drummer from Magnolia Blue, plus I met up there with Bill Y who at the last minute had stepped up to use my second ticket (after Shawn C. got stuck in Charlottesville and couldn't make it to Wolf Trap in time).

As showtime approached I wandered through the gates. Over the course of the evening I ran into Neil (from Magnolia Blue), Lexi, Bob A., Jeff McL., Dee, Rick & Cheryl, the woman with the dreads who always wears a fedora (she's part of the Magnolia Blue crowd), Jennifer M. (another member of that crowd - I've met her but remember her name only because of Facebook) and more. Running into so many people was a neat vibe - like being at a big party.

The show was great: Hot Tuna, The Wood Brothers, Tedeschi-Trucks Band - but this blog isn't about music so I won't dwell on that aspect of things. I will, however mention that TTB was playing with a substitute keyboard player because their regular guy had just had emergency heart surgery! A familiar story. Maybe schlepping all those heavy Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3 keyboards back in the day strained our hearts. 
Tedeschi-Trucks Band
I cut out a little early. Counterproductive - I had arranged the perfect way to get through the post-show crowds, then I left early to avoid them anyway because I was concerned about riding my bike on the roads with all the people pouring out of the show. Speaking of pouring, it rained pretty hard during parts of the evening. Fortunately, I had pavilion seats so I had stayed nice and dry. It was still drizzling when I hit the road - but I had brought my rain jacket so I was fine, except for getting my butt wet on the soaked bike seat.
Passing The Barns

The ride back turned out to be straightforward - no need to have worried. I took Beulah Road all the way down into Vienna in order to avoid the creepy, dark trail. Tossed the bike into the back of the car, and off I went! It's good to know how easy it is to get to Wolf Trap by bike, and so next time I'll be more at ease with the ride (particularly if I go with others).


Oh, and for no reason at all, here's a picture I took on Sunday to show off my new Ironheart Foundation jersey. I don't usually wear cute little jerseys when I ride, but I decided to buy this one to support Ironheart, an organization that supports athletes with cardiac diseases (ahem).

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Certain of One Thing

I paddled out of Riley's Lock with Tall Tom today. I was running two GPS's - my Apple Watch and my venerable Garmin, the former of which is proving to be unreliable on the water and the latter of which is long known to give unreliable distance readings. Here's the tally of the distance of our paddle:

1. The Apple Watch went completely dark at some point during the trip. I was able to reboot it when we got back. At the end of the trip it read 2.1 miles.

2. When synched to Strava online the data from the watch still read 2.1 miles, but when I exported a .gpx file and then re-imported it (conceptually this should yield an identical result), Strava indicated a distance of 4.2 miles - but it still had only part of the track.

3. The Garmin's display read 8.74 miles.

4. I connected the Garmin to the computer, downloaded the track to Garmin Mapsource, exported a .gpx and then imported it into Strava. That showed the whole track, and read 8.3 miles. This is close to what Tom's GPS read, and I believe it is correct.

One thing I know for certain, it was a beautiful day for a paddle.

At the entrance to Seneca Creek (Riley's Lock)

I arrived early. I usually get a slow start in the morning, eating breakfast , reading the paper, stretching and such until I realize I should have left five minutes ago at which point I rush around getting ready. Since my planned departure time always contains sufficient slack I almost always still arrive on time, but even with lots of lead time I always wind up stressing myself out getting out the door. I have vowed to change that and today I left home with plenty of time - I actually arrived before Tom, who is usually early.

I unloaded my kayak, disturbing two buzzards who had been snacking on a catfish carcass by the boat ramp. As I got geared up a whole gaggle of cyclists drove in, apparently meeting for a group road ride. Have I mentioned that cyclists bug me? [See Note 1] They all had their super-expensive road bikes and of course were duded up in little cycling outfits. Worst of all, these guys were about my age but still had way too much of a "bro" attitude, ragging on each other and exuding way too much machismo. I resisted the urge to whack them with my paddle, for which I deserve some sort of medal.

Next, Mike A., Randi, Rob St.L., and Heather (kayakers) rolled in. They were there to do some sort of rough water training and were headed downriver - towards the falls (it's been nice knowing you!).

Tom and I headed upriver. As already mentioned, we covered a little over eight miles (I think), my longest paddle since my return to the water. Our trip included a stop to scope out one of the campsites along the C&O Canal. The campsites are labelled "Hiker / Biker" sites and are clearly intended for users of the C&O towpath (hikers and bikers, that is), but we wanted to see whether they could be accessed from the water. This one was - assuming one doesn't mind scrambling up the poison ivy-covered bank.

Note 1: Actually, just about everyone bugs me.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Returning to the Scene of the Stupidity

The beginning of the denouement of my heart story was when the doctor called me late one Thursday afternoon and recommended that I cease all exercise immediately and get to a cardiologist ASAP. While I do not know the exact genesis of this call, my best guess is that, two weeks after I asked her about a worrisome sounding comment (which she had previously overlooked) in the radiologist's report from my CT scan, she finally conferred with him and had an "oh, sh*t!" moment about my condition. As has already been documented here, the doctor reached me as I was preparing to get on the trail at Little Bennett Regional Park for a mountain bike ride. I decided that since the doctor had taken weeks to decide that I had an urgent heart problem, a couple more hours wasn't going to make a real difference - so, ill-advised or not, I went ahead with my bike ride (albeit, a foreshortened version at a really, really slow and cautious pace).
On the trail

Last night I made a happy return visit to Little Bennett, this time without the shadow of imminent heart attack (well, with less of a shadow) and had a very, very fun time bombing (by my standards) through the woods - fording streams, doing some single-track, but mostly riding the fire roads (or whatever you call the double track roads through such a park).
I tried to ride through a stream on the way in but slipped and got totally soaked. I walked it on the way back and got only a little wet.

I have to admit, MTB'ing brings a smile to my face in a way that road biking never does. I guess I just like being out in the woods more than being on roads.

SteveO's Most Awesome Baseball Ride

Two weekends ago I did a walk/jog workout Saturday morning and then played a music gig Saturday night, including schlepping all my gear (upwards of 75 pounds worth). I was so achy and worn out by the end of the evening that I had trouble sleeping. On Sunday I was a mess.So, this weekend, knowing that my Saturday was going to be about the same as the one previous (workout then music gig), I cancelled my Sunday plans and decided in advance I would take it easy.

And then SteveO tempted me with his Nats bike ride. I've been eager to get out and do some club rides. This one sounded extra fun - baseball themed, ending up at Nationals Stadium for a game (using a block of tickets secured by SteveO, who is a season ticket holder). The ride wound up being more miles than I anticipated, but it was loads of fun!

We met up for pre-ride breakfast at Best Buns in Shirlington, where the group was joined by "wheels&Wings", who had just flown into National Airport and was biking home, as well as LeprosyStudyGroup (I'm using forum names here), who would be joining us for the ride but not the game. Wheels&Wings left us when we headed out after breakfast, and along the way we were joined by kwarkentian.

The ride wound up being about 20 miles through DC. SteveO had done an excellent job in planning out a route that took us to a number of spots with baseball-related significance. We visited the site of Griffith Stadium (the old Washington Senators stadium), as well as the original stadium which predated Griffith. We rode past the house where Walter Johnson (probably the most famous Senators player) lived at the time he got married, and past the spot where the ball was found when Mickey Mantle (go Yankees!) hit an amazingly long home run out of Griffith Park - one of several 500+ ft homers he hit in his career. Along the way I got a chance to see some of the revitalized neighborhoods around the U St. corridor. Those neighborhoods are a far cry from the hellholes they were when we moved here in the 80's , though they're not 100% gentrified - we did get yelled at by a smelly drunk (and probably homeless) guy for blocking the sidewalk at one of our stops.

The group at the bike valet
Finally, we headed for our destination, where I discovered that Nationals Stadium has awesome bike valet parking. Let me tell you, bike is the way to go to get to the park! Upon entering the stadium we headed straight for the Devil's Backbone beer stand. Having just ridden 24 miles, I probably shouldn't have had a beer, but I did. Along with lots of water for hydration!
What's baseball without beer in the hot sun?

Valerie and her friend Laura joined us at the game, bringing our total to 16 people. I set out in search of (at least somewhat) heart-healthy food. I finally found what I was looking for at the kosher stand wayyy on the other side of the stadium - falafel with lots of veggies.

Unfortunately, the game wasn't a great one for our team. The Reds pulled ahead by five in the first inning and then scored again in the second. After that it was a strong defensive game, but the Nats were never able to overcome the initial deficit.

Valerie, Laura and I headed out after the seventh inning. All the riding, sun and beer had taken its toll on me and I decided I'd take the Metro home. Unfortunately, the flow of people out of the stadium made me realize that there was no way I was going to make it onto the Green line with my bike. So, Valerie and Laura headed for the Metro stop and I rode a couple of miles to L'Enfant Plaza where, away from the baseball crowds, I was easily able to get on an Orange line train which took me home.

A super-fun ride and a happy return to group rides.

Strava is here:

Friday, June 23, 2017

More Returning to Normal

We always meet at the same place. As usual, I arrived to find Stephanie already there waiting for me. She was young, much younger than I am, a petite triathlete, her corn silk hair tied back in a braid. She approached me and without saying a word lifted up my shirt, ...

... attached the EKG electrodes and said, "OK, after I take your blood pressure you can go warm up on the treadmill."

Ha! Fooled you, didn't I?

Yes, I'm still in cardiac rehab with the other old fogies, being supervised by a staff of Millenials: nurses and exercise physiologists. It's like getting a little taste of the nursing home experience while I'm still only in my 50's!

The good news is that I'm also getting back into more of my regular activities.

To HDCC on two wheels!
Last Wednesday I made it to the Wednesday "Hump Day Coffee Club" on two wheels. I had started making it there a few weeks earlier using Valerie's trike; this was the first time I was cleared to do it on a big boy bike. In the picture above you can even see a little bit of my bike peeking in behind Steve Claeys (red handlebars on the right).

First time in a kayak
 The following day I made it to the Thursday night Pirates of Georgetown paddle for the first time since my surgery. I had gotten Teddy and David to help load my boat, and I was very nervous about my ability to paddle, since it's such a core and upper body activity. I took it really slowly - and fortunately, a new paddler joined us. He was really slow, slower than my slow paddling, so I wasn't slowing the group down. Kayaking felt great. I didn't feel bad afterwards, but apparently I was pretty tired. So tired that I must not have been thinking straight: when I unloaded my gear I apparently forgot to close the rear hatch of my car - I found it still open the next morning when I went out to get the newspaper. Fortunately, the car was backed into the driveway and still had the kayak on top, so the half-way open hatch (as far as it would go with the kayak still on top of the car) wasn't too evident from the street.
Larry, Tom and me at the end of the first outing
This past Tuesday I went out again, this time just with Tall Tom. I paddled faster and felt fine - though we did do a slightly shorter outing. We went up Roosevelt Island channel to the tip of the Island then back down and through the Boundary Channel back to the marina. That's about 1/2 mile shorter than the five miles I had done on Thursday. As always, the Boundary Channel was intriguing with its combination of urban blight and natural beauty. There were ospreys fishing back there that night. Meanwhile, Tom was plucking floating trash, including plastic containers, out of the water.

This thing bothers my scar
I've even picked up the accordion. Believe it or not, I think I found that more challenging than kayaking or cycling. The darn thing is heavy, takes a lot of arm power, and the bellows rubs against my scar. But I will persevere on all fronts, because doing these things sure feels good!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Back to Coffee Club!

The local cycling community has early morning "coffee clubs" every day of the week - opportunities for bike commuters to meet up and socialize before work. I like to join the Wednesday Hump Day Coffee Club down at Best Buns in Shirlington. It's a good group of people, the location works, and the baked goods are awesome.

As you might expect, I haven't been able to attend coffee club since my surgery. I did drive down once in April, after I got the OK to drive, but that didn't feel quite right. This week I was finally well enough to make it there by bike! Since I'm still under sternal precautions I'm still riding Valerie's recumbent trike rather than my regular bike, but that doesn't matter - I made it there and back by pedal power!


Check out how far I had my shirt unzipped - showing off my "zipper" scar. I look like a refugee from the disco era.

Riding back home. "Zipper" still evident.

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

So, I've been going to rehab for about four weeks. Since I'm a musician, I like to say I'm "in rehab", since it has that rock-and-roll substance abuse ring to it (heck, Amy Winehouse got a whole song out of the topic). The truth is much less cool - I'm in cardiac rehab. S

Actually, maybe the rock-and-roller analogy is appropriate: cardiac rehab is where the Woodstock generation is hanging out these days. Most of my fellow rehabbers are in the 70+ age group. Do the math - these are the twenty-somethings of the Summer of Love, now in their last (or perhaps penultimate) chapter. About half of the folks tote around oxygen bottles from machine to machine. Many are a little hard of hearing, and a few are a little mentally fahrblunget.

And then there's the "youngster" of the bunch. The active fifty-something guy who rides his bike to rehab. Who smiles politely every time they give him literature encouraging him to take up exercising, then throws the stuff away - because OF COURSE he's going to take up exercising. RESUME exercising, that is. Who is already walking and experimenting with a little running, biking, doing some gentle yoga, and even doing a modicum of strength training (abs and squats).

Starting rehab was something I really looked forward to in the days following my surgery - a milestone which meant I was ready to start on the path back to normalcy. However, it's been a little bit of a disappointment, since it's clear that rehab is designed for the elderly and sedentary. I grit my teeth and put up with the rehab protocol, which mandates a very gentle progression of exercise. In the fourth week they finally ratcheted things up to the point where some of the exercises raise my heart rate. I mean, it's not like they can't see that the exercises have been too low intensity for me - they watch the readout from the heart rate monitor I wear the whole time I'm there. Well, I guess protocols is protocols. I keep plugging away, and the fact that I'm exercising and my heart activity looks normal is giving me confidence to gently ramp things up in my own exercising.

Plus they have free coffee (though it's decaf).

Friday, May 12, 2017


I have been doing a lot of walking on the local trails as part of my recovery from surgery and have been seeing a surprising amount of wildlife for urban parkland! 

Two pictures of what I'm pretty sure was the same deer. I took the first photo one on my way out and the second one at about the same place 45 minutes later on my way back - that deer was in no hurry. 

Two different foxes on two different days (one was healthy-looking with fluffy fur, the other was favoring a paw and didn't look too healthy). All along the W&OD Trail in Dominion Hills and Bluemont Park.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

An Ill-Advised Bike Ride

I probably shouldn't write this post, because as soon as V reads it she will come downstairs and whack me in the head with a 2x4, and right now I'm not able to outrun her.

I will not bore readers with the details of my recent health issues. The short summary is that since last August I had been having symptoms while exercising, which turned out to be caused by blockages in my coronary arteries. By the time the cause was identified my arteries were really, really blocked - it was serious enough that they scheduled my surgery for the next morning, bumping someone else off the surgical calendar because of the urgency of my surgery. The conditions were there for me to have a fatal heart attack and I'm lucky that it didn't end that way. So are you, because you would have been deprived of my deeply entertaining blog posts forever.

For most of the seven months it took to figure the issue out the doctors were pursuing both pulmonary (breathing) and cardiac (heart-related) causes. A cardiac stress test in 2015 (I actually had brief episodes of symptoms in 2014 and 2015, but they subsided on their own) revealed nothing out of the ordinary, and I'm a pretty healthy guy, so my doctor leaned more towards pulmonary - asthma, or something like it. The problem is, all the asthma and lung function tests kept coming back normal. Finally, I convinced the doctor to send me for a CT scan of my lungs (I was concerned about lung cancer, since that's what killed both my dad and my grandfather). My lungs were normal, but the CT did reveal calcification of the coronary arteries. This was a very significant finding, but was written up in a very ambiguous way by the radiologist who read the CT and consequently went unnoticed by the other doctors. Fortunately, I read the report on my doctor's patient portal and we brought the calcification to the attention of my primary care doctor, who said she'd talk to the radiologist about it.

At this point, two weeks elapsed without my hearing from my doctor until she called me late one afternoon. Just the fact that the doctor called me herself rather than have a minion convey the message got me concerned - it meant something serious was going on. This was confirmed when she advised me to Immediately Cease All Exercise and Go See A Cardiologist. Needless to say, this kind of freaked me out.

The part of the story which hasn't been told until now is that when she called me I had just finished changing into cycling clothes and was about ready to walk out of my office and go bike riding. I have an awful commute, which I mitigate by exercising after work, letting rush hour pass by before I take on the 50 mile drive home. Well, there I was, ready to go cycling - excited, in fact, because this was going to be my first time mountain biking in a long time. And so I was faced with a dilemma: I was all set to go biking, I needed to do something to kill time before heading home, but I was now under orders to not exercise.

In retrospect, I could have found other ways to kill time. I could have watched Netflix at my desk. I could have put in extra time working. I could have gone outlet shopping in Clarksburg. I could have had a long, leisurely dinner. Probably the least advisable course of action was to say to myself, "Hey, if the doctor waited two weeks to call me, then it can't be all that urgent - I can wait two hours to put her advice into effect," and do my ride in Little Bennett Regional Park as planned. Oh, and it was a really pretty evening.

I will give you a chance to guess which option I took. As a hint, here's a link to my Strava track. I will say in my defense that I rode exceptionally slowly - no bombing down the single track, just a short, gentle ride through the woods at a pace no more taxing than a brisk walk. I've got to say, I had forgotten how much I enjoy mountain biking. Riding a bike through the woods is a very cool combination of, well, riding a bike and being in the woods. It's like a faster and more exciting version of hiking. I had a big grin on my face the whole way and thought to myself that if I did keel over, I would die happy.

Biking Little Bennett Regional Park w/ a bad ticker
The happy ending is that I did not die. I returned home and did indeed put the "No Exercise" prohibition into place. Four days later I wound up in the hospital, on a trajectory that shortly took me to surgery. Right now I'm not allowed to pick up anything weighing over ten pounds (and contrary to what you might take away from this blog entry, I actually am a compliant patient - if I know I'm sick) and so I can't even pick up any of my bikes off the rack. But I'm counting the days until I can!

A few days later (that's decaf, BTW)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"... and you biked here"

Regular readers are aware that I recently underwent some rather serious surgery, recovery from which is keeping me sidelined from any exercise more strenuous than walking. Thus, I don't have a lot of material to write about right now. However, to keep my avid readers from going through complete withdrawal, I figured I would document some little tidbits and older stories.

The main symptom which I had been experiencing was that I would get out of breath and feel some tightness in my chest when I exercised. Back in August the shortness of breath was severe enough that I absolutely couldn't run, but I somewhat chalked that up to the awful August weather that we experience in DC. Over the course of the fall and winter, my symptoms improved but never fully went away.

Anyway, my favorite episode in the long sleuthing process towards a diagnosis was when I went for a CT scan of my chest in early February. The weather that day was wintry but not extreme, maybe mid-thirties in temperature. Very comfortable cycling weather if you dress right. Rather than deal with the mess and expense of parking at the hospital, I decided to bike the mile and a half or so there.

I walk into the CT scan room. The technician is looking down at his clipboard. "So," he says, "your diagnosis is dyspnea* on exertion." He looked up at me and took in the fact that I was standing there holding my bike helmet and jacket, paused and said, "... and you biked here." I've got to hand it to him - I biked to most of my medical appointments and he was the only person to notice the dissonance between my symptoms and my behavior. 

I grinned. "Yeah, it's slowing me down but it's not stopping me."

To his credit, he didn't roll his eyes at me or chastise me. Actually, he started talking about how he really should exercise more - I guess being confronted with my perseverance made him feel guilty.

Not only was this the most amusing of my visits to the hospital, it was actually the one that revealed a key clue towards my ultimate diagnosis. 

*Shortness of breath

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It turns out there's at least one cyclist who doesn't suck!

In the cycling world there's something called the Velominati rules. This set of rules for cyclists started out tongue-in-cheek but over time has been taken way too literally by cyclists. I previously slipped in a quick bitch about these rules here. Kudos to Peter Flax for writing an article-length rebuttal.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Covered Bridges Ride in Thurmont

Desdemona* is the reason my job exists. Well, not Des in particular, but people of her ilk. She's a super-smart, highly accomplished Ph.D. who directs millions of dollars in medical research, but clearly, sometimes organizing isn't her strong suit.** I emailed her shortly after I started working in Frederick (where she lives) last November, and apparently she wrote a response at the time but somehow it never got sent and it took her until February to realize that something was amiss.

When we finally did get in touch we decided to go for a bike ride after work. She arrived slightly late and we set off. She's done a lot of riding in the area and I assumed she had a particular route mapped out in her mind, but it turned out we were doing some degree of wandering.

It was quite a nice ride. We first headed south, hit our first covered bridge and the "bike barn", then made a major northward trek though farms on Old Frederick Road. There are a lot of cyclists in this area and so most motorists were very considerate - just an occasional few honked or gunned their engines at us (mostly when we were riding 2 abreast, taking up some of the road). It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm February day (borderline shorts weather) and I had a great time cruising along taking in the scenery. We took a quick stop at a second covered bridge, then headed on. As we turned west onto Rocky Ridge Road I mentioned that our daylight was fading and that we should probably think of heading back.
First Covered Bridge

Well, first we missed a turn Des had wanted to make, and apparently she's vehemently opposed to ever backtracking, so we continued onward. The good news is that we wound up intersecting with the road we had started out on and we started to head back south on that road. It was dusk at this point. Fortunately I had front and rear light with me. Des, who is, again, a highly intelligent scientist, apparently hadn't thought about the fact that this might be one of those days when the sun sets and so hadn't brought any lights.

When had about four miles to go Des decided to turn right at an intersection to avoid having to climb the big hill up Hessong Bridge Road. This added another 2-3 miles to the ride. It did take us over to Cunnigham Falls Park and Catoctin Furnace, but really these were the only unpleasurable miles of the trip, seeing as how we were riding in the dark down a commercial street alongside a major highway. I'm not sure that this was a better choice than the hill would have been.

We finally escaped exurban sprawl with our eastward turn onto Blacks Mill Road. The rest of the ride was exhilarating if a little unnerving. Quite dark, few cars, no illumination but my headlight. Fun riding, but (since I can always think of the worst) the whole way back I was picturing hitting some unseen pothole and pitching out over the handlebars.

Fortunately we made it back without incident. This was a really nice ride, and I smiled all the way back to Arlington.

total Miles: 20

*Not her real name. She's one of those people who is prickly about Internet privacy.

**I will say in her defense that she does manage to organize a rather large and complex annual kayaking event.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Doughnut Ride

I don’t participate in a lot of organized bike rides because most of them are too darn long and fast. Plus, if you want to know a secret, I’m not that jazzed about riding for the sake of riding. However, I do like the “social” rides, which are more about fun than miles. Last weekend I went on a Doughnut Ride, organized as part of Freezing Saddles.

I will say this about the bike community – they’re much better about organizing events around food (and drink) than the paddling community. Despite the oft-quoted (and stupid, IMHO) slogan of “we paddle to eat”, in fact, most of my kayaking meals are at the level of canned tuna eaten sitting on a driftwood log on a muddy beach. I guess the water vs. land thing is the root of it - it’s easy to organize bike rides around restaurants. In contrast, many of my kayak trips start and end at desolate boat ramps miles from any food except for maybe a creepy general store staffed by an extra from Deliverance, and there aren’t many brew pubs to visit in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

The ride started in Bethesda, so I had to do a pre-ride ride. I rode into Rosslyn on the Custis, then over into Georgetown. As I passed the former Jack’s Boathouse I felt melancholia for paddling days gone by. I stopped to use a Porta-potty by Potomac Boat Club and let me say: I have camped at some nasty campgrounds and visited many a neglected boat ramp – but never have I seen a Porta-john like that. ‘Nuff said.  As I climbed the continuous uphill grade of the CCT at Jesse speed (that means slowly) a couple of people I recognized whizzed by me. On my “To Do” list – get faster! As I got into Bethesda a woman, seeing my Freezing Saddles hang-tag, called out to me and we rode the last couple of blocks to the meeting place together. 

At the Start

The group met at 202 Donuts in Bethesda. In the online discussion before the ride people realized that with six stops this trip was going to offer the opportunity to eat more donuts than anyone (except maybe Homer Simpson) was going to be able to handle, so we agreed to share. At Bethesda I got a taste of someone’s basic vanilla frosted donut, and it was generally agreed that this was a pretty poor product, to the extent that there was debate over whether it was better or worse than packaged donuts.

The group next headed into Georgetown - right back where I had come from. The Cap Crescent Trail is straight downhill in this direction – a pleasure! We stopped at District Doughnut at Cady's Alley, where I got a maple pecan doughnut and a cup of coffee. This was a distinct improvement over 202, but still nothing to write home about.
At District

Next we crossed Key Bridge and took a rather circuitous and confused route (including some backtracking) down to Sugar Shack on Columbia Pike in Arlington. This place, in my opinion, offered the best doughnut of the day. I bought a blueberry cake donut and went beyond taking a taste - I ate half of it. I texted home at that point and Valerie asked me to pick up a doughnut for her, which I did. I had been peeling off layers as I rode and was low on storage space – I wound up carrying the doughnuts in one of my water bottle cages.

The group was continuing on to additional stops as Astro in DC and then two more stops in Maryland, but I was out of time and close to home, so I said goodbye to the group and headed home.

Calories consumed might have exceed calories burned, but it was fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Successful Frederick Ride

I've got a problem right now in that my home and my office are separated by fifty traffic-clogged miles of highway. Fortunately I don't have to go to my office every day, but on the days when I do I try to avoid coming home during rush hour, because it adds half an hour and a lot of stress to the ride. Some days I've just worked late. Others I've run on the track at Ft. Detrick (I find running on a track really boring). Unfortunately we're not allowed to use the gym on post (I even tried to scam my way in once - to no avail).

One idea with which I've been experimenting is bike riding - however my initial experiments weren't too successful. Actually, my first ride (in the morning, before work) wasn't bad. I started right near Ft. Detrick and rode out from there, past the EPA Superfund site of Area B and up toward Gambrills State Park. I had mapped out a loop ride. The problem is that I was riding my junker bike and the route turned out to be longer and much more vertical than I expected. After five miles of non-stop climbing I turned around at the wonderfully named Akers Acres and zipped back down. Still, the ride has potential. I will try it again with a better bike and with more time.

My second ride was in the morning as well and I didn't actually get much riding in. The route turned out to be further off the beaten track than I expected, and so I lost fifteen minutes getting there. Then, I had planned to park at a nature preserve but it turned out the parking lot was gated and locked. This led to more wasted time as I drove around looking for a place to park. I wound up parking in front of a church on Main Street in the small town of Jefferson, MD (Maryland apparently doesn't have any "local sons" to be proud of and so names their towns after ours). Once again I had a loop ride planned out but being short on time and parked in a different place than planned (plus it started drizlling) I just wound up doing a short out-and-back ride. Pretty scenery, though - I could see going back there.

Crossing a stream on ride #2

The days are starting to get a little bit longer, which means that if I shift my hours early and leave at 4 PM (which would have been unthinkable at my previous job but is perfectly normal at my new job) I can get some riding time in after work. I mapped out another loop, this one from the Urbana, MD Park-and-Ride lot. The beauty of this location is that, unlike the other two, it's on the way home - when I get to Urbana I've already knocekd off the first 15 minutes or so of my drive home.

I figured that I had about one hour of riding time before the end of civil twilight (that's the time after sunset when it's still light enough to do activities without artificial light). Again, I had mapped out a loop to do. I really need to get some way to do turn-by-turn directions, via a phone app or via a bike GPS. My method for now is to create the route on Google Maps but mostly use a hand-written cue sheet ("go 2 miles then turn right onto Dr. Perry Road") for directions, occasionally checking my position on the phone against the route on Google maps. 

I parked the car and hopped onto my bike. As expected, the first little bit, on a fairly busy road, was a little nerve-wracking. Mindful of a recent bicycle fatality just a few miles away I had my high visibility jacket and blinkie lights on. After a mile or so I turned onto a smaller road and from there on out traffic wasn't much of an issue. I rode down Roderick Road until it dead-ended at a creek. From there I took Peters Road and Thurston Road, which follow the creek.This part got pretty rural feeling - the road was even gravel for a bit in the back part of the ride. I got to enjoy a pretty sunset as I rode past farms and countryside.

I rode past a field with six grazing deer. All six took notice of me, following me with their heads as I rode past.   

At this point the light was starting to fade a little bit and I stopped to switch on an additional blinkie and switched my headlight from blinking to steady on. A left turn took me onto Dr. Perry Road, where I came across some magnificent homes and then a golf course. This was not exactly the rustic back country, but was still quite pleasant. 

From there I turned north onto Dixon Road, which began my return to the parking lot. I was starting to get a little nervous at this point about the fading light, but figured I still would just about make it. Dixon is another nice quiet country road and includes a bridge over another creek. Dixon runs back into Thurston, and from there it was a quick jaunt back to the parking lot - and I made it before the light was completely gone. 

Just about ten miles, with some gravel roads and some nice but not crazy hills. This route is definitely a keeper!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Freezing Saddles Once Again

For the second year in a row I've signed up for Freezing Saddles, BikeArlington's friendly competition to encourage people to ride through the winter. As I've noted, it's mostly a light-hearted way to socialize with fellow cyclists, though some people take it very seriously.

My team (and interloper SteveO) at the kickoff happy hour
Last year I showed up at the opening happy hour knowing only four people: two friends from the kayaking world, and two neighbors. Fast-forward a year and - based on my participation in the morning "coffee clubs" as well as the online forums - there were so many people there I knew that I barely had time to talk with everyone. That was quite nice.

One of the neat things is that in addition to the official scoring (you get points both for the number of days you ride and for mileage), participants are free to create their own prizes. There are prizes for the people who crash the most, for the most rides involving beer, most states ridden in during the competition (I thought I had that one sewn up last year because my travel schedule gave me a chance to ride in nine states, but someone beat me by four!), etc., etc. One of the new ones this year is the "Warming Climate" prize, given to the person who does the most (wintertime!) rides wearing just their bathing suit. Well, winter in DC has its warm breaks, and when the weather hit seventy last Thursday I went out for a bike ride, including around one block (that's the specified minimum distance) in just my quick-dry kayaking shorts (which often double as a bathing suit).

Danger! Possible eye damage!
My work situation has changed since last year. Last year I was biking to work a lot. This year I either work at home or commute to an office way too far away to reach by bicycle. It's going to take more determination to keep riding through the winter this year. But hey, I'm almost a fifth of the way through it already, and so far I've ridden 10 out of 14 days!

How to Have Fun in New Orleans While Avoiding Shellfish, Alcohol, and Jazz Music: Part II

This is Part I of a two part write-up of Valerie & my Christmas week trip to New Orleans

Day 4, The Lost Day:
Let me start this entry with something I forgot to mention in Part I. Valerie and I had both noticed that the guys in Benny Grunch and the Bunch sounded like they were from New York, even though they were New Orleans natives. On my previous trips to coastal Mississippi I had noticed that the natives there don’t have typical Southern accents and when I asked them (“Hey, how come you don’t sound like Foghorn Leghorn?”) they said that the coastal mix of people was different than the south. That turns out to be the case in New Orleans as well. The Ninth Ward accent sounds more like Brooklyn than Biloxi, more like Manhattan than Mobile. I’ve heard the explanation that because both areas developed a similar accent because they had the same mix of working class Irish, Italians, Germans, etc. That sort of thing always intrigues me. More here.

I wanted to start with something positive because this day includes some bad stuff. When we checked in we agreed to go to the “Welcome Breakfast”, even though we knew was it was the timeshare pitch. I inherited a timeshare from my dad and did want to get an update on how timeshare stuff has evolved in recent years, since I had a vague idea that you could now exchange without belonging to one of the exchange companies, etc.  Needless to say, the promised sumptuous breakfast was just barebones steam table eggs, and it took us nearly three hours to get out of the “one hour” breakfast. We walked out having been given an AWESOME OPPORTUNITY to convert our timeshare to a SILVER VIP level points-based membership for a mere twenty-one thousand dollars! Good for that day only!

But enough about that.

Our big destination of the day was the World War II Museum. Why is the World War II Museum in New Orleans, which doesn’t have a particularly strong connection to the war? I don’t know – why is the Holocaust Museum in DC? Anyway, it’s a very cool museum for what it is. The exhibits are very well done and it’s very informative and really personalizes the war. Reading original letters sent home to the parents of casualties was really moving. So why do I say, “cool … for what it is”? Because a more accurate name for the place would be, “The Combat History of World War II Museum.” Yes, I know a war is a war, but the exhibits focused almost exclusively on the pursuit of military campaigns. I think they could broaden the museum – what was it like on the home front? How did we create the massive industrial base to crank out war materiel? What was the impact of having women at work? What was it like to live through the was as a civilian in Europe? What was going on geopolitically? And so on. There was a brief, somewhat whitewashed mention of the Holocaust near the end of main exhibit. The exhibit described how shocked the troops were when they entered the concentration camps and saw what was going on there. That’s probably true for the troops on the ground, but in fact the high command knew quite a bit about the camps by that point.

The museum was really crowded and we had to kind of inch along through it the act of inching our way through it. This made Valerie’s back hurt, so when we were done we sat for a bit before heading to our next stop, the New Orleans Menorah Lighting! You’ve got to hand it to Chabad. They’re everywhere, and unlike many other Orthodox Jewish groups they focus on engagement with the rest of the Jewish community rather than just being insular. They put on a pretty good event. They had food from The Kosher Cajun Restaurant of Metarie, LA (I had kosher jambalaya). Free potato latkes. Booths with Chanukah stuff. Laser light displays. Plus, what they kept proudly describing as “the largest menorah in Louisiana”. I guess the other two are smaller J Good turnout, and kind of fun and novel to be celebrating Chanukah alongside the Mississippi River!

Lighting the "largest menorah in Louisiana"

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, they had Chanukah Mardi Gras beads!  A friend to whom I sent pictures from this event waggishly asked me what body parts you have to show to get Chanukah. I had to wrack my brain for an answer. OK, here it is, but it requires some background. You may have noticed that Orthodox Jews have little fringes hanging from their clothes – like they’re wearing an undershirt with fringes on it, or something. That’s because they’re wearing an undershirt with little fringes on it, in order to fulfil the commandment in Numbers 15:38-39 to, well, wear fringed garmets. These days, most people will call those fringey things “tzitzit”, but the older, more Yiddish-based pronunciation that I grew up with is “tsitsis”. Which leads to the answer to the question: People will offer beads if you, “Show Us Your Tsitsis!” 

Kosher jambalaya, latkes, and beads

OK, that was a long set-up, but in my opinion the punchline was worth it.

Anyway, after the menorah lighting wound down we went into the adjacent outlet mall. There wasn’t much particularly New Orleansy about the place – mostly just the same brands you’d see anywhere else. But they did have an outpost of CafĂ© Le Monde, and so we indulged once again in beignet and coffee. Plus, there was a Mardi Gras party store there where I bought purple top hat which will be perfect for gigs with Magnolia Blue. At the end of the evening we took the streetcar home. Another night of turning in early in New Orleans :)

Day 5: Our own separate ways
On day 5 we decided to split up and each do things our own way. I headed over to the Marigny neighborhood in the French side of town for the Confederacy of Cruisers cruiser bike tour of Creole New Orleans. This was a great tour. Our guide was a woman named Lara, who in addition to being a bike tour guide worked as a bartender, ran some sort of crafts business and also lived in this part of town. She radiated just the right mix of serious history (she knew her stuff) and New Orleans fun. We rode through four neighborhoods: the Marigny, the Treme, the Bywater and the French Quarter, stopping to look at architecture, learn about the effects of Hurricane Katrina, visit African American and general New Orleans history spots, visit the site where the Plessy vs. Ferguson case (which went to the Supreme Court and – in a case of unitended consequences – legalized “Separate But Equal” for decades) got its start. We visited Congo Square, Oh, and at about 11 AM we stopped at a neighborhood bar for drinks. I was reminded that I really like bloody mary’s – this one had a nice spicy kick and came with a very Southern pickled okra and green bean garnish. Track is here.

Hopping on my cruiser bike
Biking through NOLA

My bike ride finished up at Washington Square, just a block off of Frenchman Street, which is the live music club hub of New Orleans. It was only early afternoon and many of the clubs were still closed, but a few start music at noon and were already on their second musical act of the day. I poked my head into The Spotted Cat, which had been recommended by a guy in my band. Good stride piano player, but he was playing with a washtub bassist and – while perhaps authentically retro – I didn’t really find the thumping pleasing. So, instead I went across the street to Bamboula’s. There, a duo of stride piano and guitar was finishing up, followed by a gypsy jazz trio (two guitars and bass) playing Django Reinhardt tunes. I settled in at the bar to have a beer and listen. I was also pretty hungry at this point and so I ordered a roast beef po’ boy sandwich. It wound up taking half an hour for them to serve me the sandwich, despite many assurances from the bartender that it would be right out. I wound up talking to the manager, who gave me an explanation along the lines of, “we only have one person in the kitchen and he got slammed with a lot of orders at once.” I’m afraid I don’t find these “our service is bad because we’re unprepared to provide good service” kinds of explanations very satisfying. I told her I didn’t think I should have to pay for the sandwich. She said, “you ate it, didn’t you?” To make a long story short, I wound up negotiating a significant discount off the cost of the sandwich but I still think they should have comped it completely. The bartender felt bad and offered to give me drinks for free, but between the bloody mary and the beer I was feeling a buzzed as I wanted to be (lightweight!) and so I declined. BTW, the sandwich wasn’t very good. But the music and the scene were, and so in the big picture, everything was fine.

Jazz at Bamboula's

When I left Bamboula’s I took a slow meander back through the French Quarter. I stopped to listen to some outdoor jazz at the French market and at some restaurants along the way. I browsed some shops along the way, including two that had what would be some excellent stage clothing for Magnolia Blue – but I cheaped out on buying anything. One store had old tuxedo jackets repurposed into funky New Orleans outfits through the addition of feathers, sequins, etc. I may try to do this myself with an old suit jacket. Another had some legitimate stage wear. I wound up having a good conversation about looking right onstage with one of the guys working there, who told me he had just come off the road after many years of touring with (mostly outlaw country) acts. He looked like ZZ Top’s older brother.

On our first day in the French Quarter we had gone into Goorin Hats, which is a chain (I have a cap that I bought at the Goorin store in Nashville), but being a hat guy I was itching to go into the venerable Meyer the Hatter. It’s located near the eastern terminus of the St. Charles street car, so I stopped in on my way to catch the street car back to the hotel. I wound up speaking with Sam Meyer. He told me he’s 90 and is the third generation of Meyer to work in the store (the business dates back to 1894) and I’m happy to report that the fourth and fifth generations are involved, so the store will continue once Sam reaches retirement age J I dropped some “dog whistles” into the conversation to establish that I was Jewish and he wound up telling me about how when he started out he worked for a while in another business where the owners went to synagogue every morning before opening the store. I’m just thinking of the cool strangeness of being observantly Jewish in Louisiana in the 1940’s.

I left Meyer the Hatter empty-handed as well (I didn’t want to have to schlep a hat back from New Orleans) but wound up ordering a hat I had seen there online when I got home. From another store that had a better price (I'm feeling guilty over that one!).

Our main form of transportation

Meanwhile, Valerie went back down to Magazine Street in the Garden District and shopped.

In the evening we decided that rather than go out for a big New Orleans meal we’d go for something local and funky and went to Dat Dog, a gourmet hot dog place. It’s another local hangout with a feel similar to Claire & Don’s Beach Shack in Falls Church. I had the vegetarian spicy chipotle dog. Valerie had something good too. We skipped the alligator sausage. We sat outside in their courtyard, where they were having a trivia night. We didn’t officially participate, but we did pretty well in terms of knowing the answers.

Day 6: The Zoo
On our last day we decided to go the zoo. The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is a pretty cool place. The exhibits are very immersive – they make it feel like you’re walking through the Mayan jungle, or the Louisiana bayou. To their credit, the bayou exhibit doesn’t present the bayou as a pristine wilderness – there are rusting cars, stills, houseboats, and other signs of backwoods Louisiana life.

Lizard Love
A big cutie

We also got to see giraffes. I really like giraffes. I learned on this trip that one of the species of giraffes is known as the Rothschild giraffe, named after Walter Rothschild, the second Baron Rothschild, who was something of an amateur zoologist (he was known for stunts like driving a coach pulled by zebras around London). The Rothschilds were an immensely wealthy banking family in Europe. Walter’s father Nathan was England’s first Jewish peer. It turns out that when it comes to being accepted into British society, money in sufficient quantities overcomes (or at least mutes) anti-Semitism. Actually, even Downton Abbey had a story line dealing with the existence of wealthy Jewish families in Victorian England and the friction with the traditional aristocracy. Lady Rose, a member of the Crowley family, marries the dashing and wealthy (and Jewish) Atticus Aldridge, much to the consternation of both families. Shades of Ivanka!

Valerie and friends

Santa's pirogue, being pulled by alligators

I got a surprise at the zoo when I heard someone calling my name. I spend 2015-2016 running a project which involved our facility in southern Mississippi, and it turned out that the guy calling my name was one of the technicians from the Mississippi office, who was at the zoo with his family for the day. Good guy, able to build some very sophisticated deep-sea electronics. He’s an enormous Southern bubba of a man, so of course his nickname is “Tiny”. Hardworking, easygoing – a good guy. You just probably want to avoid his Facebook page, which is filled with “Southern Pride” and “A Marriage is Between a Man and a Woman” sorts of posts.

I was feeling a little under the weather again, like I was coming down with a cold, so for dinner we went to the Vietnamese restaurant up the block from our hotel and had pho for dinner. Again, not very New Orleans, but not bad (not as good as can be found at The Eden Center).

Then, the following morning we headed home, having had a really good time in a fun city!