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Updated: 2017-04-29T10:18:39.538-04:00

 



Running Injury Prevention

2016-01-18T15:39:09.700-05:00

About 2 years ago when I started seriously running and training for the Army Ten Miler, I was cautious about not doing too much too soon, exceeding my limits, injuring myself and subsequently derailing my training program.Some browsing around the internet found TONS of articles on injury prevention.  Many of the articles provide very similar advice, and two short articles I will share with you below summarize the two key take-aways that have influenced my training routine:  dynamic stretching before the run and GSM (general strength and mobility) exercises after the run.  This first article explains that static stretching (for example, standing still touching your toes for 30 seconds) does not help you, but dynamic stretching techniques such as the lunge matrix will help you.  I spend 5 minutes before each run doing the lunge matrix or some form of dynamic stretching.  There are videos in this article that show you how to do the lunge matrix.http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/dynamic-stretching-for-runners/This second article drives home that if you have an hour to exercise each day, you are better off doing 5 minutes dynamic stretching, 45 minutes running, and 15 minutes of general strength and mobility (GSM) exercises than you are to just do 60 minutes of running which is more likely to result in injury, after which you'll be spending 0 minutes per day running because of your injury.  If you click on the "GSM" link in the article, it will take you to Coach Jay Johnson's website where he has videos showing how to do an 8-week progression of GSM exercises after your run.http://www.coachjayjohnson.com/2014/04/stop-deceiving-yourself-and-find-15-minutes-a-day-to-devote-to-training/That routine carried me through many miles over many months, and I've added one more element to my routine since then.  The Pentagon Athletic Club gives out a t-shirt for those who log running 1,000 miles.  I began running 20-25 miles per week, and I set a goal of running 1,000 miles in 1 year.Last March, I was just 11 miles from my goal when I went on a trip to San Diego, and I was so excited to complete my goal with a gorgeous run around Mission Bay.  After parking out on Crown Point, doing my warmup, getting my headphones in and my playlist started, I started off on my run.  About 30 seconds out, I suddenly had a sharp pain in my left knee and came to a screeching halt.  I hobbled along for a little bit trying to see if it would work itself out, but no such luck.  I limped back to the car in disappointment.I happened to be at a conference with a bunch of Navy doctors and runners at the time and told them what happened.  When I described my symptoms, they told me about "runners knee" and about the IT band that attaches at your hip, goes down the outside of your thigh, and wraps around under your knee cap.  A personal trainer at the base gym taught me how to use a foam roller before my runs on the outside of my thighs to "roll out my IT bands," and she recommended getting one with a hard-plastic core or even just a piece of PVC pipe.I bought the Foam Rollerpictured above for use at home, and it's been perfect.  When I started traveling for work, I noted that most hotel fitness centers don't have foam rollers, so I bought a compact foam rollerthat fit nicely in my carry-on bag to take with me on travel.It took me a week or so of rest for the pain in my knee to subside and get back into my running routine, but I was able to complete my goal of 1,000 miles in 1 year toward the end of March.  I also completed my goal of running 1,000 miles in 2015 around the middle of December.In summary, as it stands now my injury prevention routine consists of doing the dynamic stretching and rolling out my IT bands on the foam roller before going for my run, and doing some general strength and mobility exercises after my run.[...]



Venting - Pentagon Pet Peeves

2016-01-18T09:28:56.694-05:00

Two things for my readers at the Pentagon.

First, I don't understand the people who go into the restroom to rinse out their leftover lunch dishes and leave scraps of food in the sink.

Shipmate, YOUR MOTHER DOESN'T WORK AT THE PENTAGON!

None of the rest of us want to look at your scraps of food laying in the sink, or watch the water level rising in the sink because it can't drain with your pieces of peas and bacon and pasta clogging the drain.

CLEAN IT UP!

Second, the turnstiles at the 2nd Corridor entrance and at the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC) are designed for TWO-WAY FLOW of people into and out of the building.  You DON'T have to stop and wait for the people going the other direction to stop and let you through.  I have had many experiences where either (a) I had to wait for someone in front of me who was stopped because they thought they couldn't go out while someone was coming in, or (b) I get dirty looks from someone who was going to come in, but then stops to wait because I swipe my badge and start walking out.  They give me a look that calls me a cheater and line-cutter and asks why I didn't wait for my turn to go through the turnstile.

On each side of the turnstile, there is a badge-swiper and a light.  Pay attention to the light on YOUR side.  Swipe your badge, and if the light on YOUR side turns GREEN, WALK THROUGH THE TURNSTILE!  I see a lot of people who don't understand there are TWO signal lights - one for each direction.  Many people focus on the other light across the turnstile and think because it is green, they can go through, then the turnstile jams to a stop and that robotic voice says, "Unauthorized Entry, please exit the turnstile."  Focus on YOUR light on YOUR side.  If it's green, go.  If it's not, swipe your badge again!

Okay, I'm done ranting now.



Happy New Year, It Must Be Time to go to the Gym

2016-01-18T09:30:38.575-05:00

Happy New Year everyone!I'm going to try to write more this year.  I have a handful of topics on mind to write about as we kick off the new year. First, what seems to be the common topic in a significant majority of my Facebook feed and a good portion of the news website these days are all devoted to fitness.One of the reasons I haven't been writing as much is that I've spent a lot of my spare time over the past few years putting more time and effort into exercise.  For the first 19 1/2 years of my career in the Navy, I was in the same cycle of running and fitness.  I've never been a fast runner, and I've always had to work at it to get ready for the semiannual Physical Readiness Test (PRT) or Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA).  Some people are on the 3-miles-per-year running plan.  They show up for the fall PRT and run 1.5 miles, and they show up for the spring PRT and run 1.5 miles, and that's it for them.I wish.I've always had to work at it.I got into this cycle of oh-crud-the-PRT-is-2-months-away run, run, run, run, run, run, PRT, whew!  I would always claim to have the intention of running year-round and breaking the cycle, but inevitably I would finish the PRT run, go get my celebratory carne asada burrito, and say to myself, "Self, you can take a break this week.  Start running again next week."  Four months later, I would come to the realization I was 2 months away from the PRT and start running again.About two years ago now (wow, time flies!), I decided I needed a longer-term goal to shoot for in order to break the cycle, but I didn't think I could ever run anything like a marathon or even a half marathon.  In the fall of 2013 shortly after I returned to the Pentagon, I heard about and saw Facebook posts of people running the Army Ten Miler.  I thought, hey, 10 miles is farther than I've ever run (I once did a 10K), but that's an achievable goal to shoot for.  So I decided to register for the 2014 Army Ten Miler.I'm thankful for the inspiration and example my dad has provided me.  He had taken up running relatively recently and had been running insane numbers of miles and lost an incredible amount of weight.  Just before spring break in 2014, he challenged me to try running 5 miles per day.  I wasn't sure I could do it, but I figured I'd at least give it a try.  If he can do it at his age, why shouldn't I be able to do it at my age?  Much to my surprise, I WAS able to do it.  Eventually, I settled into a weekly running routine.  When the spring PFA came around last April, it was a breeze.  I was actually a little annoyed that the PFA interrupted my regular running schedule getting ready for the Army Ten Miler.In October 2014, my dad flew out from Oregon and we ran the Army Ten Miler together.  It gave me a great sense of accomplishment, and I was glad I got to do it with my dad and with four of my friends from church, too.Since having a long-term goal like that worked out so well for me to keep me running through the year, I signed up for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in April 2015.  That was a BEAUTIFUL run in PERFECT weather.  It was just a little hazardous with all the runners stopping spontaneously along the course to take selfies with their cell phones with the cherry blossoms in the background.Before I ran the Army Ten Miler, I would never have thought a half-marathon was achievable for me.  However, while training for the Army Ten Miler, one of my training runs ended up being 11.5 miles, and I said to myself, "Self, you could easily run another mile and a half and finish a half marathon."  So I signed up for the Marine Corps Historic Half down in Fredericksburg, Virginia in May 2015.My dad and I continue to run a lot and encourage each other through the MapMyFitness website.  He said he wants to do some sort of major run together every year, so this year we ran the Navy Air Force Half Marathon together in September[...]



Community

2015-11-28T17:52:17.898-05:00

We're trailblazing into new territory here.

I've reached a stage in my career where I can just stay in one place and probably never have to move again (knock on wood).  There are many desk-jobs around the DC area for post-command guys, and not enough inventory of post-command guys to fill the jobs, so the detailer is happy to keep me in the DC area and just rotate me from one desk job to another for as long as I'm willing to stay in the Navy.  I'm thankful that we can let our boys finish middle school and high school in the same school district and not have to move again, and it's a good school district, too.

Staying here this long has resulted in some new experiences for us.

For one, we've finally lived in one place long enough that we ran out of a Costco-sized bottle of ketchup.  Seriously.  All our previous duty stations, we've had to PCS (move) before we finished off the Costco bottle of ketchup, so we end up throwing it away and buying a new bottle when we do our initial Costco food run at our new duty station.  We just thought that was so bizarre that we emptied a bottle and had to go buy another one.

It's also come to our attention that our previous PCS moves every couple of years have helped us to clean out our closets and take a truckload or two of stuff to Goodwill.

I've written a couple of times before about achieving "regular" status (part I and part II).  Usually about the time a barber or a waiter or a sales clerk begins to recognize us and remember us and our "usual" order, it's time for us to move again.  Well, we've now been here long enough to go one step beyond "regular" status at our local favorite businesses.  I'm now beginning to feel like more of a long-term member of our community.

This is our third time being stationed in the DC area and living out in Loudoun County.  We feel a sense of belonging and are well connected in our church and other extra-curricular activities.  When I go out running, there are several spots around my regular running routes that I think to myself, "Hey, that's the Smith's street," as we've come to know more and more families in our community - our sons' friends from school, friends from cub scouts, friends from church, Navy friends.  I see a couple of guys I know out mowing their lawn during my Saturday long runs.  When I started training for my first half-marathon, I liked that I was able to make an unannounced stop at a friend's house several miles out to refill my water bottles along the way. 

It gives me some comfort when a friend tells me, "Hey I saw [your son] out riding his bike on [street name] on Friday."  I like that we've been here long enough and we know enough people that chances are we're going to see someone we know, and they see and recognize our kids out and about, too.  I like when I run into families at the grocery store and remember their kids from cub scout camp or from being a chaperon for the school orchestra field trip.

Last week I was honored to be the guest speaker at a local high school National Honor Society induction ceremony.  As I was shaking the hands and congratulating each of the students walking across the stage, it surprised me that I knew multiple students.  At the reception in the cafeteria after the ceremony, I enjoyed talking with several parents that I knew and thinking about how at least one of the students I've known for 10 years.

It's nice to be a part of our community.  This is a new experience that I suspect is uncommon in most military families.



What happened to Dell?

2015-11-27T09:00:41.536-05:00

We've owned a few Dell laptops over the years.  My first laptop was a Dell, and I've always held a high regard for Dell customer service from that first experience with them over a decade ago.

So what happened?

I suspect Dell just got too big and outsourced their customer service.

It was time for me to upgrade and get a new laptop, and I was pleased with the Consumer Reports ratings and with the specs and prices on the Dell website.  My wife placed an order for a new laptop for my birthday two weeks before my birthday.  It wasn't anything fancy or customized.  It was a standard configuration laptop listed for sale on the Dell website.  The delivery date was estimated to be September 25th. 

Two weeks later, we're a little surprised we haven't seen any email or notification from Dell.  No shipping notification.  No order status update. 

Late on the evening of September 25th, my wife called Dell and asked for a status update.  The representative on the phone was a little incredulous and said, "The estimated delivery date is September 25th, that's today."  Yes.  That's the point.  It's way past sunset and there aren't any delivery trucks on the street.  Did it even ship yet?  The customer service rep on the phone was totally useless.  She couldn't even tell us if the laptop had shipped or how soon it was estimated to ship.  She just kept insisting that the estimated delivery date was September 25th so we should just be patient and wait and see if it shows up.

Two WEEKS later, the Dell website STILL said the estimated delivery date was September 25th.  My wife called Dell customer service again, and my jaw hit the floor when the rep did the same as the previous rep and just read the status off the screen, "the estimated delivery date is September 25th."  NO SH&T SHERLOCK!  WE CAN READ THAT ON THE WEBSITE!  THAT WAS TWO WEEKS AGO! 

Am I being unreasonable to think that if the estimated delivery date has come and gone by more than a week that the company should update the orders status and revise the estimated delivery date???

ANOTHER TWO WEEKS go by.  On October 25th, the Dell website STILL said the estimated delivery date was September 25th.  My wife called Dell customer service again, and the rep proceeded to tell her that one of the components on the computer that I ordered (the Solid State drive) was backordered with no estimated delivery date, and she told us that Dell would have to cancel our order and order something different for us.  My wife handed the phone to me.  The rep tried to sell me on a couple of other laptop models that were not as capable as the one that I ordered.  So I just cancelled the order all together.

After consulting the Consumer Reports ratings again and looking at the customer reviews and prices on a few websites, I placed an order on the Best Buy website for a Toshiba laptop that was very similar to the laptop I had ordered from Dell.  It shipped the next day.  I had it 3 days later.  It works great.

Well done Best Buy.  Sadly, Dell has lost my business.



Overheard in the Shower

2015-02-16T07:31:00.335-05:00

I've been going to the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC) gym almost every weekday for the past year and a half.  It would be interesting if I had the data to plot a histogram of topics I've overheard in the men's locker room showers.  If I were playing Family Feud and had to guess what the top topics were, then my guesses would be:

1.  How far did you run today?
2.  Where did you run today?
3.  How hot or cold was it outside today?
4.  What muscle group did you work on today?
5.  Military career milestones - are you screened for command / when are you going to command?
6.  Orders - as in, when are you going to Permanent Change of Station (PCS)?  Where are you PCSing to?

I suspect that would cover about 80 to 90% of the conversations I hear in the gym and in the locker room.  Once in a while, you'll hear two friends talking about their kids or families. 

This week I heard an outlier for the histogram...

Two guys in the shower were talking about the musical Annie.

Then one of them spontaneously burst out singing one of the songs from Annie.

In the shower.

In the men's locker room.

In the Pentagon.

Surrounded by a bunch of other naked men.

Odd. 

Felt like I had stepped into another dimension.  Is the TARDIS around the corner?

What's the craziest thing you've overheard in the locker room?



Blog Celebrity and Defunct Blog Rolls

2015-02-11T09:41:24.186-05:00

It doesn't happen often, but I am occasionally surprised to meet a stranger who says, "Hey, I read your blog!"  I recently had a fellow Navy officer come to my office for a meeting, and he recognized one of the framed pictures over my desk that was also posted on my blog.  He told me when he received orders to PCS to the Pentagon, one of the Navy officers in his new office sent him an email with a link to my "Pentagon Gouge."  Wow!  I'm honored to be included in the unofficial Pentagon welcome aboard packet, and glad to know some have found the information I've shared here to be useful. 

That gave me a nudge that I should get back in the habit of sharing things on my blog that may be of use to folks working in the Pentagon or the National Capital Region in general.

To that end, please tell me (comment or email), how do you keep up on your blog reading?  For me, I used to have a long list of blogs I read on Google Reader.  I was out at sea when Google Reader went away, and I just never recovered or reconstituted any means of keeping up to date on all the blogs I used to read.  How do you do it?  I know I keep up to date on a lot of things via Facebook.  Maybe I should change this into a Facebook page.  What do you think?



C&O Canal Bike Ride - Paw Paw to Little Orleans

2014-09-28T21:28:12.279-04:00

This weekend I went for an excellent bike ride on the C&O Canal tow path from Paw Paw down to Little Orleans and back.  The weather was excellent - mid 60s and sunny.  Most of the path was under the shade of trees.  It was just under a 2 hour drive from Ashburn out to Paw Paw, WV.  We stopped there at the Liberty Gas station just before the bridge over the Potomac River to use the facilities and get a few bottles of water.  Then we headed across the bridge to park at the camping area parking lot just south of the Paw Paw Tunnel.The Paw Paw Tunnel was simply amazing.  Digging this tunnel saved them from having to follow 5 miles of winding turns on the Potomac River.  The tunnel was finished in 1850, and I am in awe of the guys who dug this 3,100 foot tunnel with the technology they had back then.  They hand-laid brick through the entire tunnel.  The canal through the tunnel is still full of water, and there is a narrow walkway on the side where the donkeys used to walk, pulling the barges alongside them. The trail is a little bumpy and had puddles in spots.  Plus it was absolutely pitch black in the middle of the tunnel and the headlight on my bike didn't reach very far in front of us, so we walked our bikes through the tunnel.There are disks like this that mark every 100 feet along the inside of the tunnel.  This was the last marker at the north end of the tunnel marking 3,116.67 feet.After coming out of the tunnel, the canal and tow path go down a gully with pretty steep walls on either side and down a rapid series of 3 locks to get down to the level of the river again.  Most of the path along the river was a very gradual slope and not at all difficult to ride in the "uphill" direction.  The only time on this ride I felt was a little strenuous was when we had to ride back up this gully along the rapid series of locks leading to the tunnel.The path out here was a little bumpier than the previous sections I've ridden closer to DC, and there were much fewer people along the trail, too.  Oh, and there was ZERO cell phone coverage for our entire ride.  Yes, yes, that can be a good thing, but if you want to be able to give your family an update where you are or what time you'll be home, don't plan on using your cell phone to do it.  Better bring a courier pigeon or light a fire to send a smoke signal.The scenery along this portion of the C&O Canal tow path was similar to the other sections I've ridden.  We saw deer, turtles, toads, ducks, geese, butterflies, along with the remnants of the canal locks.  Out here there are only the stone foundations of the lock houses unlike closer in where you can see the lock houses between Point of Rocks and DC.We stopped in Little Orleans, MD for lunch.  There is one place in town - Bill's Place.  It's a restaurant, wait... no... it's THE restaurant, the General Store, the city hall, the mayor's office, the post office, the chamber of commerce, the arcade, and the only place of just about any type of business for miles around.  It was originally built alongside the C&O Canal in the 1800's and had a crane for loading and unloading materials from the barges on the canal.  I love finding local, unique, hole-in-the-wall type places like this to eat and experience the local flavors and atmosphere.  I asked the guy behind the counter what on the menu was a local favorite.  He laughed and said, "EVERYTHING on the menu is a local favorite on account of this being the ONLY place in town or for MILES around!"  We enjoyed our lunch there and then headed back up the trail to Paw Paw.All in all, we rode about 31 miles with only about 150 feet of elevation gain.  It took us 2 hour 30 minutes to ride from Paw Paw down to Little Orleans.  Riding back from lunch only to[...]



Paddle Log #37: Cow Island and Ragged Island

2014-09-08T19:31:00.137-04:00

This is the first summer I've been able to use the Paddle Maps that were published by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT).  They made this nice booklet of waterproof maps with instructions how to find and where to paddle to five different LRCT properties around Lake Winnipesaukee.I headed over to Harilla's Landing on the east side of Long Island.  I put-in there, paddled over to the gap between Little Bear Island and Cow Island, paddled around Cow Island and Ragged Island, and back to Harilla's Landing again.A note about parking:  If you try to go to Harilla's on a weekend during the summer, there will be MANY cars parked along both sides of the roadway leading to Harilla's.  I think it's mostly people who have put their boats in at Harilla's to drive over to Little Bear or Cow Island.  There are a bunch of Cow Island mailboxes along the road there.  So you may have to drop your boat off and drive a quarter to a half mile up Long Island Road to find a place to park and walk back down to your kayak.  I went on a weekday, so there were only about a dozen cars or so.Time stamp leaving Harilla's LandingIt was overcast and lightly raining off and on, so I put my Kokotat kayaking jacket and pants to use.  They're just a shell to keep water off.  Temps were in the mid 70s, so I didn't need anything else for warmth.  Water temp was 73F, which sounds warm but felt a little chilly.I took this picture on the northeast side of Cow Island after paddling through the gap between Little Bear and Cow Islands.  Off in the distance, those hills are all in the Castle in the Clouds property, which is also managed by LRCT.  The left-most peak which is just slightly to the left of my bow is Mount Roberts that my eldest son and I climbed on Monday.  Someday I'm going to climb all of the peaks in the Castle in the Clouds area.  I'll try to knock out one or two per summer.Around each of the islands, there are several small inlets like this where the water is still and decorated with lilies and other flowers, and the air seems alive with dragonflies and birds chirping in the trees.I continue to be amazed at the divine perfection and symmetry in these white lily flowers. I love the way this family decorated their boat dock to make the end pilings look like the lake buoys.  Our family loves to take our boat over to a certain cove on the north western side of Cow Island, anchor out, have picnics, and go swimming.  This was the first time I've seen the eastern side of Cow Island, and I was surprised how many more houses there are on that side.  I would have thought people would want to build their houses on the west side in order to have shade from the bright morning sun and in order to be able to enjoy the spectacular sunsets over Lake Winnipesaukee.  I'm curious why there are so many more houses on the east side of Cow Island.As I rounded the southern end of Cow Island, the broad area of Lake Winnipesaukee opened before me and I had this wonderful view of Rattlesnake Island (on the left) and the Belknap peaks (on the right).I wrote a previous post about visiting Ragged Island with my boys.  There's an excellent multi-stage geocache on that island - one of my favorites, actually.  I didn't actually get out on Ragged Island this time around, but for those of you who are considering a trip to Ragged Island using the LRCT paddle map, I hope this post provides you some idea what to expect on the water.  You can click on the link to the previous post to see what it's like actually walking around Ragged Island.The LRCT Paddle Map was very useful to me.  Yes, they are waterproof.  Yes, I put mine in a waterproof map case anyway to try and protect it from getting torn or wrinkled or otherwise damaged.  I found it pr[...]



Paddle Log #36: Squam Lake NH with LRCT

2014-09-07T20:38:00.627-04:00

Now that we're back from our summer vacation in New Hampshire, I feel safe posting about our activities without broadcasting that our home was vacant.  We had a glorious two weeks up in NH.The first opportunity we had to get out on the water was for the Lakes Region Conservation Trust's (LRCT) guided paddling excursion on Squam Lake.  I was glad the timing worked out for us to go on this one again.  We went on their first guided paddle on Squam Lake back in 2010 (see Paddle Log #20).This time only my elder son opted to go with me.  It was pretty darn cold when we left the house.  The car temperature indicated 50F.  Brrr!  By the time we got in the water it had warmed up to about 60F, and it steadily warmed up to the low 70s while we were out on the water.There were dozens of lily pads and beautiful white lily flowers along the way.  We spotted a couple of water moccasins sunning themselves on the rocks on our way out, and we spotted a few loons along the way, too.One loon dove under the water on our left, and we watched him swim through the crystal clear water under all of our kayaks and pop up over on our right side.  (The picture above is him popping up on our right.)This was our guide, Dave, telling us about one of the LRCT projects going on at Squam Lake. Yes, he's facing backwards and has a wake coming off his bow moving forward.  He's that good.  :-)We took a similar route to our 2010 trip and enjoyed the view of East Rattlesnake and the five-fingers peninsula (above).Trip stats at the end and my son's victory "I-made-it" pose.  4.26 miles, 2 hours 31 minutes elapsed.  Like last time, we stopped for an excellent lunch at Walter's Basin in Holderness, NH on our way back. frameborder="0" height="548" src="http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/569282500" width="465">[...]



DC Car Free Day!

2014-08-31T18:05:19.889-04:00

Hey folks, if you are in the DC area, Car Free Day is Monday, 22 September.  If you go to the website and pledge not to use your car that day, you could win a Kindle Fire or other prizes.  Even if you don't normally use your car to commute to work, you can still pledge to go car free that day.


Also, I know it's been a while since I posted about this before.  I've met a few people recently who were new to the DC area and were not aware of the Guaranteed Ride Home program.

In order to encourage people to use public transit in the DC area, you can register for the Guaranteed Ride Home.  If you have some sort of a family emergency an you need to go home during the middle of the day, they will pay your cab fare to go home up to 4 times per year.

I used it.  It works.  One day, one of my kids was sick at school and needed to be picked up and my wife was out of the area.  I called the Guaranteed Ride Home program and there was a taxi at my doorstep within 10 minutes.  It drove me from Crystal City all the way home to Ashburn and I signed a slip for the $70 cab fare and didn't pay a dime.

It's FREE!  If you live in the DC area and use public transit to get to work, SIGN UP!



Paddle Log #32 and 35 - Keep Loudoun Beautiful Potomac River Cleanup

2014-08-30T22:37:40.585-04:00

It occurs to me that I never posted about last year's Keep Loudoun Beautiful cleanup event on the Potomac River, and here it is time for me to write about this year's cleanup.  So this post is a dual paddle log entry for both excursions.Last year (2013) all geared-up and ready to go Each summer, Keep Loudoun Beautiful hosts a couple of cleanup events on the local waterways.  The great guys at River and Trail Outfitters provide the canoes, paddles, and PFDs, and KLB provides trash bags, recycle bags, and long-arm grabbing tools.2014 Washington Post photo by Lisa BoltonThey always have more people interested than they have boats, so you have to sign up in advance.  They won't even tell you where they're going to get in the water or get out of the water until you are a registered participant.  They don't want a lot of extra people showing up to participate and not have boats for them to use.Safety brief before boarding the bus.Our guide telling us some history of the river and reminding us of some safety rules before heading out. (2013)Although KLB provided pizza at the take-out both years now, it's important to bring some snacks (or lunch) along.  Both times, we've met up at the take-out location at 8:30 a.m., turned in our liability waiver forms, had a safety brief from the River and Trail Outfitter guides, and boarded River and Trail Outfitter buses that take us up stream to the put-in location.  By the time we get up there and get in the water, it's about 10:30 a.m., and both times it has taken about 4 hours to get down to the take-out.  After arriving about 2:30 p.m., there's another 30 minutes or so of work unloading the trash from the canoes into the dumpsters, so it's 3 p.m. by the time you're getting in the car to go home.  It's a beautiful stretch of the Potomac River here in Loudoun County.  Both times, we had beautiful days on the water and saw bald eagles, great blue herons, fish, and dragonflies.My youngest son passing a can back for the recycle bag.Last year, we were picking up every piece of trash we found as soon as we got on the water.  An hour later, we were only 1 mile into our 7 mile journey, and I said, "Alright boys, we're done picking up trash for today.  If we keep this pace, we won't make it home for dinner."  We just paddled onward to the takeout point.This year, the guide said in previous years they get a lot of the trash at the upper stretch of the river, then everyone gets tired and just starts paddling for home.  So this year, he asked us not to pick up trash in the first mile so that we could focus some of our attention on the later miles of the trip.  We did.  It worked out well, but again, there came a point where we said "enough" because our canoes were pretty full and because we needed to paddle onward to the take-out point.2014 Washington Post photo by Lisa Bolton It amazes me how many tires we find in the river.  This year, we set a new KLB record for the number of tires pulled out of the river on a cleanup event - 90 tires!  The bin in the picture above was empty when we started.We pulled 45 bags of recyclable material out of the river this year, plus filled up a 8 cubic yard dumpster with trash. My silly boys describing this foreign concept of "land" after being on the water for so long.Overall, the KLB cleanup events are a great way to get out on the water for the day, experience the beauty of the Potomac River, and provide a service to our community cleaning up the trash and preserving the beauty of the river.  Both years now, I have enjoyed the day with my boys on the river, and I hope we'll be able to do it again next summer, too.If you're interested, please visit the Keep Lou[...]



Shenandoah Nat'l Park Hike - Hawksbill Peak

2014-07-12T13:38:53.617-04:00

I'm slowly working my way through the hikes in this book, Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park, 4th (Best Easy Day Hikes Series).Hawksbill Peak is the highest point in Shenandoah National Park at 4,049 feet, and it's been on my to-do list for a few years now.  It's a fairly short loop hike (a little over 3 miles), totally doable for kids, and has spectacular views at the top.  I organized this as a group event for my church and it turned out really well.Lesson learned the hard way:  There are TWO trail heads from the parking area.  This was supposed to be a counter-clockwise loop that would go up slowly over about two miles, then come down a shorter, steeper route to the parking lot.  Well, I got us on the wrong trail head and ended up going UP the short, steep route to the top, but then we had a nice leisurely hike back to the parking lot following the path clockwise instead.  As a result, here's what our altitude profile looked like:One of my sons went charging up the hill and wasn't phased at all by the steepness.  The other moaned and groaned and I wasn't sure I was going to get him to the top without dragging him, but after a lot of cajoling him and distracting him with conversation we made it to the top.  When we got to the top and he looked out at the view of the Shenandoah Valley, he said, "THAT was worth it!"My boys on top of Hawksbill PeakBlunoz & Sons on top of HawksbillIt was a gorgeous day!  Mid 70s and a light breeze was blowing.  We packed our lunches to bring with us, so we sat and enjoyed lunch there at the top with the splendor of the Shenandoah Valley before us.Most of the trail is under the shade of trees.  (Picture by Jason R.)The trails are well-marked with blazes on the trees.Of course, I had to stop and admire the flowers along the way. frameborder="0" height="548" src="http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/514578332" width="465">[...]



Paddle Log #34 - Potomac River from Point of Rocks to Monocacy

2014-08-30T21:55:21.163-04:00

After waiting so long to get out on the water for the first time this season, I managed to get out on the water TWO weekends in a row!  Cha-ching!  Cha-ching!Saturday morning, my friend Bill called up and asked what I was doing that day and if I wanted to go kayaking.  Heck ya!  We got a bit of a late start since we didn't leave until after lunch, but it was really nice out.Point of Rocks boat ramp with the bridge in the backgroundWe dropped our boats off at Point of Rocks (on the Maryland side of the Potomac River where Route 15 crosses the river), went and dropped one car off at Monocacy, and went back to get in the water.  It was a spectacular, gorgeous, sunny but not too hot day outside.  The boat ramp at Point of Rocks was fairly busy and the parking lot pretty full, but there were some open spots.  Let the watergun battles begin! Bill and his two kids and me and my boys brought our water guns along this time.  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my waterproof camera, so there aren't many action shots to share.  I just have the pictures I took when I felt brave enough to take my cell phone out of its waterproof case.His first time paddling solo!  I love how this picture turned out.This was my 10-year old son's first time out solo in a kayak instead of riding tandem with me, and he did a great job.  Most of the day, he was way out in front of us and I was having to paddle pretty hard to keep up with him.  Family SelfieMy 13-year old son has outgrown his Perception Acadia Scout, which is a kayak designed for small children, so his younger brother used the Scout while he tried a loaner Old Town Loon to see how he liked it.  He seemed to handle it pretty well, although he's not sure he likes how open the cockpit was.Air temp was low 80s and water temp was a glorious 79.9F.  Without paddling, the water moved us downstream at about 2 mph (for reference, this was a a gage height of 2.0 feet and a flow rate of 4,600 cfs at the Point of Rocks USGS station).  It's about 6 miles from Point of Rocks to Monocacy, so it would take about 3 hours if you just drifted and didn't do any paddling.The water was never much deeper than about 5 feet using my paddle as a probe.  At one spot, we stopped to stretch our legs and play in the water a little bit where the water was about 2 feet deep and clear enough we could see the bottom.As usual on the Potomac, we saw bald eagles, great blue herons, butterflies, dragonflies, and fish, but without my waterproof camera, there's no way I'd be quick enough to pull my cell phone camera out to take a picture of any of them.For the last couple of miles, the boys were tired, so I hooked up a double-tow line and I did all the paddling pulling the two of them behind me.  I gave them each a waterproof pad of paper and a pen.  In the past, they've used them for drawing pictures, but this time they each wrote a story.  My older son's story was a very long epic about his younger brother that made his brother mad.  My younger son's story was along the lines of, "Fred the fish was a a fish who hated kittens.  One day he woke up and discovered he was a kitten, so he killed himself.  The End."  Isn't that sweet?  :-$  Where does he get this stuff???BlissIt's hard to see where the Monocacy River joins the Potomac River from upstream.  In the picture above, the Monocacy River entrance is right smack in the middle of the picture.  As you approach it, the tall stacks of the power plant downstream on the Maryland side of the Potomac become visible.  If you see those smoke stacks, you need to be working your way over toward [...]



Paddle Log #33: Potomac River from White's Ford to Goose Creek

2014-08-30T21:55:09.064-04:00

Catching up...After a long, cold, snowy winter, the weather finally turned around, but I wasn't able to get out on the water until the end of June. It wasn't for a lack of trying, mind you. There have been three aborted attempts before this.First, for Spring Break, we went down to Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was a wonderful vacation, but I wasn't able to get out on the water. I had reservations for a guided paddling excursion in the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge, but that day there were very high winds and some significant chop on the water. The tour guide company cancelled the trip due to hazardous weather conditions.Next, I was scheduled to do the Keep Loudoun Beautiful cleanup event on Goose Creek in May, but the crazy heavy rains we had the week before resulted in some local flooding and hazardous conditions on the creek, so the cleanup event got cancelled.Then, I was scheduled to go with the Monocacy Canoe Club on a trip down Antietam Creek, but there were severe thunderstorms and rain forecast for that day, so we cancelled.Plus, it seems like just about every Saturday we have SOMETHING going on, and Sunday we're normally pretty busy with church stuff.Finally, this weekend we had the rare confluence of both an open schedule on Saturday combined with favorable weather reports, so we finally made it out onto the water. * * * * * * * * * * *I was excited to see in the local news that the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) opened a new park with water access for canoes and kayaks at White's Ford.  Because it's a new park and new access point to the river, I wanted to provide some details of the logistics here for others who may be looking to try it.DIRECTIONS!  Now, I didn't realize when I was on the White's Ford Park page, if you click on "hours and directions" it gives you directions how to find it.  I just plugged the address (43646 Hibler Rd, Leesburg, VA 20176) into my GPS and followed the navigation system, but it turns out that isn't the best way to get there.  My GPS had me go north of Leesburg on Rt. 15 and turn off on Rt. 661, which resulted in about 3 miles of bumpy dirt and gravel roads.  Fast forward to the END of the day when I was leaving White's Ford, there is a big sign at the park exit that tells you a better way to get back to Rt. 15.For those of you looking to go to White's Ford, stay on Rt. 15 north until just before Lucketts, then turn right on Spinks Ferry Road.  That will keep you on pavement and get you much closer to the park.  You'll turn right on Limestone School Road and left on Hibler.   Facilities:There is enough parking for about a dozen or so cars.  There is no boat ramp.  There is no restroom or water or other facilities.  There are nice new wood steps and a wood ADA ramp from the parking lot down to the river.White's Ford ParkingSteps from the parking area down toward the water.The rail is there to slide your kayak down. The steps don't go all the way to the water though.For reference, here's how close the water is to the path at a Point of Rocks USGS gage height of 2.35 feet.Trip Planning:I foolishly thought I was going to park here, get on the river and paddle upstream aways, then come back and get out at the same spot.Not so much. Note this is a ford.  In other words, the water is shallow enough for General Lee and his army to walk across the river here.  So it's shallow, but must still accommodate the much larger volume of water in the deeper parts of the river, so here in the shallow part of the river, the water has to go faster to keep up with the overall flow of the river.   As I arrived there on the riv[...]



DC Gouge: Antietam Luminaries

2013-12-04T09:35:02.053-05:00

Hey folks, Once a year in December, the National Park Service puts luminaries out across the Antietam National Battlefield - one luminary for each of the 23,000 soldiers killed at the battle. You stay in your car and just drive the tour route through the battlefield. It's happening this Saturday, 7 December. You can find out more information at the National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/anti/planyourvisit/luminary.htm



Cold Weather Gear

2013-11-29T17:53:35.446-05:00

Happy Black Friday everyone!Since it's shopping season and since it's 28 degrees outside and there's ice forming on the pond behind our house, I'll tell you about the cold weather gear I used for the past two years driving in and out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.Granted, being on the bridge of a submarine presents a unique set of circumstances - namely being stationary and exposed to the elements for several hours.  Someone on the bridge of some other type of surface ship would presumably be able to step inside the pilot house to get shelter from the wind, rain, and snow.  Other people who brave the cold for recreational activities like skiing tend to be physically active and generate extra body heat in the process, and they can always take a break and step inside the ski lodge for some coffee or hot cocoa.  When you sit or stand in one place on top of the submarine, you aren't doing any exertion to generate body heat, and there's no place to go for shelter.Before going into the gear I've been using, I should offer a disclaimer on uniform regulations.  There are some differing opinions from one boat to the next, or rather from one CO and COB to the next, on what is allowed to be worn by personnel topside when getting the boat underway and returning to port.  During my JO tour on USS PROVIDENCE operating out of Groton, Connecticut, we absolutely needed good cold weather gear topside and on the bridge, and the Navy didn't sell uniform components that would adequately protect us.  The philosophy on the boat was go buy yourself some good cold weather gear (more specifically - to protect your hands and face) and as long as it's solid black or navy blue, nobody would have a problem with it not being an official part of "the uniform."  That philosophy made sense to me and has stuck with me ever since, much to the chagrin of some of my later COBs who were more insistent on not allowing guys topside to wear anything that wasn't 100% in compliance with the uniform regs.  (Sorry, COBs, no offense intended!)HeadsokSoon after I reported aboard USS PROVIDENCE, one of the other JOs told me to go to the mall and find the kiosk where they sell headsokz.  It was absolutely essential being on an SSN operating out of Groton.  We drove in and out frequently enough that I had many opportunities either as a topside supervisor or as an OOD on the bridge to put it to use.  It was money very well spent.  Even during my department head tour out of SAN DIEGO, I was very glad I had my headsok and gloves from my JO tour in my locker for port calls in Bangor and Esquimalt and an unexpected surfacing near the Aleutian Islands.  As an XO, I used it supervising linehandlers topside getting the ship underway.  As a CO, I've used it every underway and return to port in Bangor.  Even returning to port in June last year, it was 50 degrees, howling wind and hailing as we drove down the Hood Canal.GogglesInitially I used ski goggles, but most ski goggles have some sort of shading like sunglasses to protect from the glare off the snow.  It's almost always overcast in the Pacific Northwest and there's no blanket of snow on the water to reflect the ambient light under the overcast.  I found that I needed something to shield my eyes from the wind, rain, hail, and snow, but I didn't like the light loss with the ski goggles.  I wanted clear lenses.  I tried a few models of ski goggles with clear lenses, but I just didn't like any of them.Then it occurred to me... I said to myself, "Self, you probably need to check a store that sells motorcycle[...]



Mass Transit Benefits go DOWN in January

2013-11-29T11:22:04.720-05:00

Heads-Up!

One of the nice things about working for the federal government in the DC area is they pay you to use mass transit, and they automatically deposit it to your Metro SmarTrip Card each month.


If you're using the National Capital Region (NCR) Mass Transit Benefit Program (MTBP), then plan to pay more money out of your pocket since the benefits go DOWN in January.

One of my coworkers received this email warning from MTBP.  I'm not sure why I didn't receive it since I normally get the MTBP announcement emails, but here it is:

NOTICE: The maximum monthly statutory limit for transit benefits is set to decrease from $245 to $130 in 2014

Attention MTBP participants,

WHAT?
In January 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R.8) temporarily raised the transit benefit statutory limit to $245 per month. This new amount was not intended to be permanent and expires at the end of 2013.

Unless a new statutory limit is approved by Congress, the statutory limit will decrease to $130 per month starting January 1, 2014. Source: IRS Revenue Procedures (rp-13-35)

Congress may still act to extend the limit above $130, but at this time agencies must proceed with what the law states as the maximum tax exempt mass transit subsidy limit. Any updates will be posted at the MTBP website ( http://www.whs.mil/MTBP/ )



Ahh, Autumn... and Beer

2013-11-29T12:37:44.269-05:00

Updated 29 Nov 2013I'm so glad to be back on the East Coast an changing seasons.  My favorite season is autumn.  I love the crispness in the air, the trees changing color, and all the awesome butternut squash dishes at local restaurants.  I also love the ales of the season, and being close to Wegman's!Back in Silverdale, if I wanted to try an assortment of new pumpkin ales, I would have to buy a six-pack of each.  Some were pretty nasty, and I poured out several bottles.Here at Wegman's (awesomest grocery store on the planet!), you can mix-and-match your own six packs, and they have quite a wide variety of pumpkin ales to try.Of course, if you happen to be in the Northern Virginia area, then I HIGHLY recommend going to Sweetwater Tavern both for their extraordinarily good food AND for their AWESOME pumpkin ale in the fall.  Take a growler to go!  To help out those of you who AREN'T so conveniently located next to Sweetwater Tavern or a Wegman's, and in order to prevent you from having to buy whole six-packs of what might later get poured down the sink, here's my votes for the pumpkin ales on a thumbs-up / meh-so-so / thumbs-down rating scale.  I still have three more in the fridge to try, so I'll come back and add them to the list later, but for those of you who may be headed to the store soon and are looking for recommendations, here's what I've tried so far (listed in order from good to not-so-good):New Holland Brewery's Ichabod - Two Thumbs-UP, still my favorite pumpkin ale.  Strong, bold and balanced flavor.  No weird initial or aftertastes.  I anxiously await its arrival on the shelves at Wegman's.  Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - Thumb$ Up.  Quality and taste were very good - on-par with my favorite Ichabod listed above, but pricey.  It's very good if you don't mind spending the money on 4 bottles instead of a six-pack.Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP.  Sam Adams never disappoints with their seasonal ales.  Good flavor, not too strong, very enjoyable.  Red Hook Pumpkin Porter - Thumbs-UP.  Very tasty.  Didn't taste very much like pumpkin, but I still enjoyed it.  I'd buy it again.Devil's Backbone Ichabod - Thumbs-UP.  Like the Red Hook, it didn't have a strong pumpkin flavor, but it was still very enjoyable.  I'd buy it again.Traveler Jack-O Shandy - Thumbs-UP.  Added 13 Oct 2013, I liked this one a lot.  It was light and crisp, with a good balance between the lemon peel and pumpkin flavors.  There weren't any strong perfumy or heavy-spice flavors.  There weren't any detectable hops flavors either.  I bought this one as a mixed-up six-pack from Wegmans, but I enjoyed it enough that I went back and bought another full six-pack of this.Saranac Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP.  Flavor was good, although it did leave a slight after-taste.  I wouldn't turn away a bottle if offered, but if going to buy a six-pack for home, I'd look for one of the others listed above. Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP.  Added 13 Oct 2013.  The flavor in this one was pretty strong.  If you're not a pumpkin ale fan, then I would steer clear of this one.  It wasn't overpoweringly perfumy or spice-flavored, so I actually enjoyed it and finished the bottle.  Not much hops either.  Like the Saranac above, I wouldn't turn away a bottle if offered, and if you're picking out a mixed-up six-pack at someplace like Wegman's, then I'd include this in your sampler six pack.  Given how strong [...]



DC Events and Pentagon Gouge Update

2013-09-13T22:37:41.731-04:00


Here are a few upcoming events for the National Capital Region and some gouge on the uniform shop and ITT down below:

9/14 - Saturday (tomorrow!) - Dulles Day Plane Pull.  This is a FREE event and has lots of planes and helicopters on display, and you can watch the teams competing to pull a jumbo jet across the tarmac.  I first took my kids when they were like 5 and 3 years old, and we had a great time.  This year there's going to be a Sea Harrier doing a vertical landing and take-off - click the link for the map and the schedule.

9/20-9/22 - Friday-Sunday - DC Car Free DayS!  So, it used to be DC Car Free DAY (singular), and everyone who signed up agreed to not use or minimize use of their car.  Now they've expanded it to one weekday and a full weekend.  I'll at least do the Friday, not so sure about the weekend.

10/7 - Monday - Naval District Washington seasonal uniform shift to BLUES.

Navy Uniform Shop.  Speaking of uniforms, I just discovered that the old Navy Annex is GONE, flat, bulldozed, non-existent.  I asked around what happened to the uniform shop.  They've actually put the NAVY uniform shop in a trailer just inside the gate to Henderson Hall, and it's pretty darn convenient.  It used to be you had to fight for parking, walk all the way up to go through security to get into the Navy Annex, then go exploring waaaaaay down into the farthest reaches of the Navy Annex basement to get to the uniform shop.  Now, there's parking right smack in front of this stand-alone trailer, and no security to get through (other than showing your ID at the gate to Henderson Hall).

ITT.  Looking to buy tickets for something?  There are ITT offices at the Marine Corps Exchange, right next to the package store, and there is one at the Washington Navy Yard (WNY) inside where the food court is (across the street / behind Naval Reactors).  There is an Air Force ITT in the Pentagon on the 5th Deck, E-Ring...  It's over amongst all the cool Air Force paintings.  I think that's somewhere in the 9th to 10th corridor area.



Update on Pentagon Tours

2013-09-13T21:54:57.604-04:00

This is an update to my previous post on Pentagon Tours.Most hallways of the Pentagon have some sort of historic or current operations museum-type of exhibit.  Many of the A-ring hallways are museums in and of themselves.  Me being the type of person who likes to read each and every word of every display in a museum, it would take me a loooooooong time to get through all the Pentagon exhibits have to offer.The official Pentagon tours are excellent, but you have to sign up weeks in advance, and they are only offered Monday through Friday.  Given there are about 25,000 people working in the Pentagon, chances are there are a few more people out there like me who want to give a tour to visiting family and friends on a weekend.  If you need to give a tour yourself, you can download a PDF of a self-guided tour from the Pentagon Tours website.However, the official tour route doesn't go to a couple of spots I highly recommend like the Pentagon Building History (2nd corridor, 3rd floor) and the Army's Living History Exhibit (2nd floor, E-Ring between the 6th and 7th corridors).  Because the Metro entrance is closed on the weekends, you have to bring your weekend visitors in through North Parking or through the 2nd Corridor entrance.  As a result, I made my own tour-route, which I will list below for anybody else who is interested.Before I describe the tour route, I want to tell you about two other things I did (and recommend doing) to prepare for a weekend tour.First, go follow one of the official tour groups around on a weekday.  You don't have to sign up or anything - you've got a Pentagon badge, just loiter at the back of the official tour group.  The tour guides have a fairly set script they follow, but they have a LOT of interesting tidbits of information they use to keep people's interest as they walk their route, and they've put a lot of thought and effort into what sequence to cover what.  You will get a lot of useful ideas of things to talk about with your tour group that you wouldn't get from just reading the PDF file Self-Guided Tour brochure. Second, I made a scavenger hunt list of things for the five kids in my tour group to find.  I told them they had to write down the first three digits of the nearest office address (like "3A5xx" for the 3rd floor A ring 5th corridor) for where they found each item, so I knew they really found it and didn't just cross it off the list. Scavenger Hunt ListAside:  The hardest one for my group to find was a red lightning bolt.  If you need help finding anything on the list, send me an email.  There are at least two red lightning bolts, but they're very small and hidden in big paintings.Since the Pentagon Gift Shop is also CLOSED on the weekends, I went to the gift shop ahead of time and got some little things like hats, magnets, stickers, or pins.  When we finished with the D-Day paintings, I had them turn in their scavenger hunt sheets to me, and I gave them an oral quiz on some facts about the Pentagon to see what they had learned.  In return for completing the scavenger hunt and passing "the quiz," I gave them each a "prize" (one of the things I had picked up in the Pentagon gift shop earlier that week).  From there, we headed back to the 2nd corridor entrance to go back out to South Parking.In order to help plan my route and to be able to find specific exhibits quickly, I made my own map of the exhibits in each hallway.  I have NOT finished mapp[...]



Tubing on the Shenandoah River

2013-08-21T22:31:30.228-04:00

Friends at my church asked me to organize another tubing trip on the Shenandoah River like I did back in 2009.  We went with River Riders again in Harpers Ferry.  They were VERY busy, but they have a large staff that has been doing this for a while and somehow manage to get everybody through in a pretty well-orchestrated and efficient manner.  For anyone else trying to organize this as a group activity, River Riders has put together a very useful group-leader packet with all their gouge and recommendations how to make things go smoothly..It was a gorgeous, sunny day.  75F air temp, 77F water temp. I used my last blog post as a guide for what to expect.  This time we brought lunches with us to put in the cooler tubes.  River Riders advertises that they have tubes to rent that will carry a cooler to bring lunch and refreshments with you on the river.  I emailed them a couple of times asking for the size of the cooler, but they didn't respond.  At the River Riders compound, you have to pay for the cooler tube rental, but they didn't have one there to actually SEE how big it was or how many we would need for our small coolers.  So for anybody else heading out to River Riders, here's how big the cooler tubes are:Note, they have a large and a small cooler tube, but both cost the same price to rent.  I recommend chipping in and getting the large tube and sharing. River Riders upgraded their standard tubes.  The new tubes have a built-in cup-holder.  I liked that, although the cup holder wasn't big enough for a Camelbak bottle.In addition to bringing a few footballs and tennis balls to toss back and forth on the water, we also brought along some water cannons.  I told the group if they brought water guns, they had to FLOAT because I didn't want someone dropping their toy plastic water gun in the river, then it sinks and becomes a piece of trash in the river. So we brought a few of the water cannons made out of those foam noodles.  They shoot pretty far, and they float if you drop them.Our trip went a lot quicker this time than it did last time.  Last time, we had a 10:30 reservation, we got on the water at 12:10, got off the water at 1:30, waited for the bus back to River Riders, and got back to River Riders after 2 p.m.  This time, we had the same 10:30 reservation, but we got on the water at 11:30 and got off the water at 12:30.  So the operation at River Riders was a little more efficient and the river was moving a little faster - 1 hour instead of 1 hour 20 minutes. We could have gotten on the water even sooner if I had been on-the-ball about the liability forms.  When I handed them our liability forms, they audited the stack and found several where the second page hadn't been initialed, or a birthdate was missing, or the child hadn't signed (even though the adult had signed).  Next time, I will make more of an effort to get the liability waivers filled out in advance, and I will audit them to make sure EVERY blank is filled in before I try to turn them in. Also, I had two people who emailed me they were coming, but I didn't have a phone number for them, so we waited for them to show up.  Next time, I'm going to make sure I have a phone number for everybody who signed up, so if someone doesn't show, I can call and find out where they are or if they weren't going to make it.   If I had done those two things above, then we would have gotten [...]



Paddle Log #31 - Cockermouth River with LRCT

2013-08-21T22:32:07.068-04:00

I'm a big fan of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT) in New Hampshire.  They preserve a lot of natural lands around Lake Winnipesaukee and make the property available to the public through walking trails and provide information on kiosks at the trailheads.  They also conduct organized hiking and paddling excursions.  Back in 2010, the boys and I went on the LRCT guided-paddle on Squam Lake (see Paddle Log #20) and had a great time.This summer, our vacation week coincidentally lined up with a LRCT guided paddle on the Cockermouth River and Newfound Lake.  Now, my wife's aunt and uncle live right on Newfound Lake just around the bend from the Cockermouth River, so twice before I've paddled up the river on my own (see Paddle Log #19 and #27).  I enjoyed going this time with a guide who was able to teach me something about the local plants and animals along the river.We met up at the site of an old marina that's been gone for some time.  We had a safety brief and an introduction to the history and ecology of the area here before we got out on the water.Getting underway.  YB decided to stay home for this one, so just ES and I took the Emotion Tandemonium out for her second voyage.There were almost 20 boats in our group.  That's our guide, Rick, on the left.Rick explained the significance of a white oak being here in the wetlands.Rick used his paddle to show how deep and what type of bottom there was, and what that told him about the river.We saw several turtles and lots of small birds along the way.  There was quite a temperature difference between the lake and the river, too.  It was 62.5F on the river, but 74.8F in the lake.ES relaxing.Father & Son photo.Near the end of the trip when the group stopped for lunch on the beach and then planned to go back up the river to the marina, ES and I just paddled around the Paradise Point Nature Preserve back to my wife's aunt and uncle's house.  We went back to get the car a little while later.  Overall, we paddled 3.1 miles in about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  It was a little slow and boring for ES, but I thought it was very informative.  I was glad we went, and I look forward to joining LRCT on future guided excursions when we can make it back up to NH again. frameborder="0" height="548" src="http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/348291721" width="465">[...]



Paddle Log #29 and 30 - Lake Winnipesaukee

2013-08-10T19:35:07.969-04:00

We took a break from unpacking boxes to go enjoy a week in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee and celebrate my wife's grandparents' 75th wedding anniversary. Last summer when we went to the lake, we flew to NH, so we didn't have our kayaks with us.  I ended up borrowing a kayak one day and renting kayaks on two other days.  That got us to thinking maybe we should just buy a kayak to leave at the lake and not have to worry about transporting it. Let me just say, it amazes me the things you can buy on Amazon.com and have delivered just about anywhere...Paddle Log #29 was the maiden voyage of our new Emotion Tandemonium kayak. Last summer, my eldest son and I rented a Tandemonium from Trexler's Marina (see Paddle Log #26) and liked it a lot.  It's very similar to our Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL in that it is a sit-on-top, but it also has cup-holders molded into it.  Just like our Malibu Two XL, it is very stable and nearly impossible to capsize. Time Stamp leaving the beach, YB with me, ES in his own kayak.This is why I like coming to the lake later in the summer.  The water was VERY nice.The boys brought their water cannons and had a blast (or two, or three) duking it out.It started raining, and we headed back to the beach.We were only out for about 30 minutes and paddled a smidge under a mile down the shore and back.Paddle Log #30 was my solo trip around Long Island.  This is the third summer I've done this trek around the island.I love this place.This time, I had the treat of stopping to watch a loon feed her baby chick.  I didn't paddle any closer, and she didn't seem to mind me floating there while she dove down to get something to eat, then came up and fed some to her chick.  I also got to see a flock of about 16 mergansers swimming along the eastern side of the island.I'm normally pretty annoyed by graffiti, but in this case I pretty much agree with the message.  Indeed, although I was disappointed by a couple of rainy days at the lake, I just reminded myself that a rainy day at the lake is MUCH better than a sunny day in the Pentagon.  :-)It was a very calm and easy paddle until I got past the bridge there at Trexler's Marina.  In fact, I paused there at the bridge, got my phone out of my dry bag and emailed my wife to tell her I'd be back in 20 minutes if the boys wanted to get ready to go out in the boat.  Then, all of a sudden, the wind picked up out of the west-northwest.  As I rounded the north end of the island, I was paddling directly into whitecaps and choppy seas.  What should have taken me 20 minutes ended up taking me 40 minutes of very strenuous paddling to get back home.  Time stamp returning to base, note the flag blowing violently in the wind.Even so, it was an awesome paddle - mostly a relaxing, quiet time admiring the beauty of the lake, watching the loon and her chick and the mergansers, and then getting some strenuous exercise at the end.Trip Stats from the GPS frameborder="0" height="548" src="http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/347613676" width="465">[...]



Pentagon Gouge: What's Changed?

2013-08-02T22:16:14.820-04:00

So, as one might expect, things change when you go away from a place for any significant length of time.  I left the five-sided palace of bureaucracy we call the Pentagon back in August 2010, and now I've returned almost exactly 3 years later.As a result, I'm going back through my old Pentagon Gouge posts and updating them where they need to be updated.For the benefit of my readers who may have followed in my footsteps out of the Pentagon to the fleet and may someday return to the Pentagon (CW?), here's a quick snapshot of my first impressions on returning to the building:3rd 2nd Corridor Entrance:  When I left, access from South Parking was via the 3rd Corridor entrance and the 2nd Corridor entrance was closed for renovations.  On one recent particularly hot, muggy afternoon, I walked from Crystal City to the Pentagon and made the mistake of trying to walk to the 3rd Corridor.  Doh.  Closed.  They've swapped.  Now the 3rd Corridor entrance is under renovation and all access on that side of the building is via the schnazzy new glass turnstyles at the 2nd Cooridor entrance.PAC (Pentagon Athelic Center):  The entrance to the PAC has moved and is now part of this rat-maze of temporary walls through construction.  It took me a couple of times bumping into dead-ends by trial and error - trying to get there by a means I considered "logical" when there is no logic to it.  It's actually pretty easy once you figure it out.  On the first floor, just walk all the way to the end of Corridor 7 and you'll see a sign that says "PAC" with an arrow pointing toward the door to Stairway 74.  Take the stairs down one floor to the mezzanine, and continue following the signs to the PAC.  Coming out of the stairs on the mezzanine, it's a right, then a left, then a left, then a right, then a left, then a left, and then you'll see the glass turnstyles to the PAC.  Luckily, there are lots of signs along the way.  You have to swipe your PAC membership card to go through the turnstyles toward the PAC, and you have to swipe your Pentagon badge to come back through from the PAC into the Pentagon.Uniform Shop:  There used to be a rat-maze to get to the uniform shop on the 5th deck above the Metro entrance, and I had advised people to just go to the Metro entrance and then take the stairs up to the 5th deck to find it rather than negotiate the rat maze.  The maze is gone.  The renovations in that section are all done, and you can approach the uniform shop from any direction and not run into dead-ends.MTBP:  This is probably the biggest improvement since I left.  It used to take a LONG time to submit and get approved for your initial National Capital Region (NCR) Mass Transit Benefits, then then once a quarter, you had to go stand in line at designated hallways at certain times to receive your Mass Transit Benefit Program Metro Checks.  Now it's all mostly automated on the web.  My initial sign-up and approval happened really fast - like within a day or two (it used to take WEEKS).  Now, when you sign up on the website, you tell it the serial number of your Metro SmarTrip card and how much your commuting expenses are each month, and they automatically put the money on your SmarTrip card.  I thought it was pretty sweet to see the balance on my SmarTrip card magically go up on August 1st withou[...]