Monday, August 31, 2009

Pentagon Gouge: Saluting Part II

Okay, so let's say, you were walking from a meeting at the Pentagon back to your office in Crystal City. You see approaching you a USAF colonel walking in the opposite direction toward the Pentagon. The colonel has his head down and is thumbing-away texting on his cell phone.

What do you do?

a) About face. Walk slowly the other way (the same direction he is walking) until he overtakes you. That way, the colonel can pass you without having to salute and you won't disturb him.

b) Right face. Walk quickly to the other side of the street. That way, the colonel can continue walking undisturbed and not have to salute you.

c) Clear your throat really loudly "AHEM!" so as to alert the colonel that you are in a head-on situation and he should expect to be saluted in the very near future. Apologize for distracting him as you pass.

d) Screech with terror, "OH MY GOD!!!" and point to nothing in particular behind the colonel. As the startled colonel whirls around to see what ghastly image has frightened you so, walk quickly past him and say, "By your leave, colonel."

e) Maintain course and speed. At an appropriate distance, salute and say, "Good afternoon, Colonel!" After the startled Colonel uses his cell phone to return your salute, go home laughing and write about it on Facebook and on your blog.

Yep, he kept his cell phone in his right hand, swung his right arm up, and touched the tip of his cell phone to the corner of his right eyebrow to salute as if his cell phone were his hand.

That was a first for me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tubing on the Shenandoah River

On Saturday, I organized a flat-water tubing trip on the Shenandoah River for my church. Overall: We had a great time floating down the river and the staff at River Riders were very friendly and easy-going.

We met up at 10 for our 10:30 reservation.

By the time we got done with the orientation and safety brief, got our life preservers, and got on the bus, it was 11:41.

They bring the tubes along in a trailer behind the bus.

Note: It's not advertised on their website, but they DO have double-tubes if you have a small child that you want to ride with you instead of letting them go off on independent ops.

The entry point was hard-pack dirt/mud and rocks. They recommend wearing some sort of water shoes or old sneakers, and I can see why.

As for me, I got to try out my new Keen Newport water-sandals. They were very nice, comfortable, and worked like a champ on the slippery rocks in the water.

YB and me in our double-tube.

It turns out that mesh-bottom in one of the holes of the double-tube was a pretty nice feature. It prevented us from losing a few things like YB's crocs.

Unfortunately, my wife's sunglasses slid off the back of her head and into the water. Plunk! Gone. We spent a while feeling around in the brown water, but weren't able to find them.

Last known photo of my wife's sunglasses.

The boys kept putting on their goggles and looking around underwater trying to find the sunglasses for Mommy.

YB had fun blowing bubbles while he was searching, too.

A couple of people in our group brought footballs along. That was actually a pretty-good idea. We had fun tossing the football back and forth. (See the green football airborne in the image above.)

YB got out of the tube and had fun swimming back and forth to retrieve the football and give it to people. He also took a break to just kick back and float down the river a while.

There were a couple of spots of very light rapids. This short video shows you about as fast as it got.

This orange tube nailed to the tree was the marker telling us where to get out. River Riders runs a bus here every 30 minutes to pick people up. You can either ride the bus back to the beginning and ride the river again, or you can ride the bus back to the River Riders HQ.

The boys looking back the way we came.

Here are a smattering of other notes about our trip:

Timing. River Riders advertises on their website that it takes on average 1.5 hours but anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on the current. According to my GPS, we got in the water at 12:10 and got out of the water at 1:30 p.m.

We were a little frustrated with the efficiency of the River Riders operation and our 10:30 reservation got us in the water at 12:10. By the time we got back to River Riders to eat "lunch" it was 2:55 p.m. Lesson learned: They rent tubes you can put a cooler in to float with you down the river. Next time, bring a cooler with snacks and drinks so you aren't starving for lunch.

Weather. Definitely wear sun screen. When we started it was mostly cloudy, but the clouds burned off and the sun came out during our trek down the river.

Water Temp. The water was very nice - I would guess about 75 degrees based on how it felt compared to Lake Winnipesaukee last week. It seemed like the water was never more than about waist deep. The few times I got out of my tube, I was able to stand up.

Bugs. I was pleasantly surprised that we didn't really have any problem with bugs. We saw a lot of dragon flies while we were on the river, but that was it.

Shop. If you forget anything River Riders probably has it for sale in their shop. They seemed to have just about everything in there, including some cool t-shirts with things like, "Paddle Faster!" and "Dude, Where's My Paddle?"

Food. The Front Porch Cafe offered friendly service and pretty decent food, but had a little trouble keeping up with the demand. There wasn't a wait to place your order, but there was a bit of a wait for your food to come out of the kitchen from being cooked.

Today at church, I got a lot of positive feedback on the trip. Everyone seemed to have a good time and said they want to go again. I look forward to organizing a trip like this again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pentagon Gouge: Uniform Shop has moved

Heads-up for those of you reading this in the Pentagon:

The uniform shop that USED to be located on the 4th deck, 2nd corridor (4C251) has moved. The new location is 5E1085 (basically, it's directly above the Metro entrance on the 5th deck).

Do yourself a favor, just go like you are going to the Metro entrance, then go upstairs (or up the elevator) from there in the 10th corridor. I discovered the hard way it is foolish and futile to try the rat-in-the-maze method to figure out a quicker way to get to the new location from the old location. No matter how promising any of those corridors look, you're gonna hit a dead end and have to turn around and go back.

I'm sure we ALL know the easiest way to get to the Metro entrance from wherever you are in the Pentagon, so I'm tellin' ya - just go there and then go upstairs from there.

Update July 2013:  I'm back at the Pentagon now, and they've finished all the construction / remodeling, so it's pretty easy to get around.  You can come at the uniform shop from just about any direction now.

The good news, the new shop seems bigger to me. It's hard for them to offer a complete selection of uniforms for the USN, USMC, USA, and USAF all in one place, so they don't tend to have a LOT of inventory of any given item. Still, I was able to walk in and find a new khaki shirt in my size pretty quick.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Paddle Log #11: Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Post-Facto Comments on Paddle Log Format: (written after I composed the Paddle Log post below)

Bear with me. I'm still trying out different ideas. I used some feedback I received via email along with another website I found to improve upon what data to include in my paddle log.

However (comma) I'm not sure I like the overall format. I look at what I have written below and it seems dry to me - not very readable. When I look back at previous posts like the one about the Jack's Boathouse trip, I think it read more like I was telling a story. Maybe the better way to do this is to write the storyline blog post, and then include a standardized set of data and statistics at the end. What do you think?

Here's the post for today...

Paddle Around Looooooooong Island on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Quick Summary: AWESOME, quiet paddle on a calm, mostly cloudy day. Second longest distance I've paddled in one day, but the longest I've done (8 miles on Goose Creek) was paddling with a current helping me along.

Southwestern point of Long Island, 1.0 miles into the trip.

Date: Saturday, 22 August 2009
Launch Site: Private beach access at Jonathan's Landing on Long Island
Time In:
10:30 a.m.
Time Out: 12:30 p.m.
Elapsed: 2 hours
Pull-out Site: same as launch site

6.6 miles
Paddling Odometer: 24.5 miles (since I started keeping track for this kayak).

GPS screenshot upon arrival back at the beach

Weather Forecast: 50% chance of showers, thunderstorms expected in the afternoon (I was trying to get one last paddle in before the thunderstorms and before we head back to Virginia). It was mostly cloudy and lightly raining when I got underway. As I rounded the southern tip of the island (1.5 miles in), the sun broke through the clouds. It was partly cloudy / intermittent shade as I paddled up the eastern side of the island.
Sea State:
Nil for the first 4.5 miles, 1 for the last 1.5 miles (wave chop due to wind picking up from the South)
Winds: 0 for the first 4.5 miles, South 5-10 kts for the last 1.5 miles
Air Temp: ~75F (high today was 81F)
Water Temp: ~77F (last reported temp on 4 days ago) I stepped into the lake as I was launching the boat and as my brain registered the temperature around my feet, I said to myself, "Self, ooooooh, thaaaaat's niiiiiiice." :-)
Tides & Currents: None
Traffic: Very little for the first 4 miles. The closer I got to the Multonborough Neck Road bridge by Trexler's Marina, the more pleasure craft / power boats (and hence wakes) I encountered.

In Company With: None. Went solo this time. Passed 3 other kayakers along the way.
I sat in the center seat this time.
- Ocean Kayak - Malibu Two XL (8th use) with Comfort Seat
- Werner Skagit paddle and leash
- Forgot my hat & sunglasses again. Actually, I didn't forget. I left them home because it was mostly cloudy with a light rainfall when I headed out. Wished I had them when the sun came out on the eastern side of the island.
- NRS Men's Boater Gloves prevented me from getting blisters in the crux of my thumbs this time, but I ended up with blisters above the second knuckle of my middle and pinky fingers on my left hand.
- Long sleeve swim shirt, swim trunks.
- Flip flops since I lost my old water shoes on my previous trip.
- Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx
- Garmin Forerunner 405
- Olympus Stylus 1030 SW waterproof, shockproof camera
- BB Storm in floating cell phone dry bag

Route: Counter-clockwise circuit of Long Island starting from Jonathan's Landing (private beach access). I reviewed the route on the local chart and on Google Earth and expected it to be about 6.0 miles.

Southeastern point of Long Island, 1.5 miles into trip

ORM (what could go wrong and what I did to mitigate the risk):
- Getting swamped by a passing power boat, maybe capsizing. Mitigation: Stay close to shore, follow the coastline, wear PFD, turn bow into oncoming wakes.
- Weather turning sour / thunderstorm: Review weather radar immediately prior to departure. Stay close to shore, follow coastline. Every foot of waterfront property on the island has a house and some sort of boat dock. I would seek safe harbor at the nearest dock and call my wife to come get me in the event of a thunderstorm.
- Medical Problem / Physical Exhaustion / or otherwise not capable of completing the route: Carry cell phone in dry-bag. I had a few spots along the route that I could stop and have my wife come get me if I wasn't able to complete the full 6 miles. I decided to go counter-clockwise so that I would start out heading south into the expected wind for the first mile. If at the end of the first mile I wasn't feeling up to it, then I could turn around and go with the expected winds back to home. If I decided to continue, the expected winds would help me travel northbound on the east side of the island.


No wind, water was flat, and very little boat traffic for the first 4.0 miles, resulting in an avg speed was about 3.5 mph. As I got closer to the Long Island bridge and Trexler's Marina, the boat traffic picked up and I had a lot of wakes to cross that slowed me down. Then as I rounded the northern tip of the island and turned south, the winds and the seas picked up from the south. The last 1.5 miles I paddled into the wind, but I really enjoyed the sound of the wave slap and sloshing against the hull and the small amount of spray coming over the bow.

Tried taking some video by setting the camera on the main deck in front of me with the front seat folded down, but the bow was too high and blocked the view. All you can see in the video is the sky over the bow bobbing back and forth. Next time need to prop it up on top of something.

Self portrait by Trexler's Marina and
the Multonborough Neck Road bridge,
4.5 miles into the trip.

Marine/wildlife sightings or encounters:

I paddled by a flock of the brown-headed birds like I saw on Newfound Lake. I have determined they are American common mergansers (Mergus merganser americanus).

(Click to enlarge - 10MB file)

Closeup - note the "mane" on the backs of their heads.

Shoulda Coulda Woulda:
- Brought water. It might be okay for a short paddle to go without water, but since I was planning on a longer paddling trip, I really should have taken some water with me.
- Brought hat and sunglasses. I intentionally left them behind because it was mostly cloudy and raining when I left, with rain in the forecast.
- Put sunscreen on my legs (or brought some with me). I put some on my face before I left as a precaution, but that was it.
- Brought a strap to secure kayak to the caddy. The weight of the kayak isn't enough to keep the kayak on the caddy. If the wheels encounter any resistance, then the caddy comes to a stop and the kayak just slides right off the top of the caddy. I ended up just dragging the kayak up the sand to the boardwalk and then putting the kayak on the caddy to wheel back to the condo.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hiking Bear Island

My eldest son (ES) and I have spent two days this week hiking Bear Island on Lake Winnipesaukee in search of the three geocaches on the island. Both hikes were very enjoyable and premium quality time with ES.

Tuesday, we drove the boat across the lake and tied up to the St. John's Church dock on the southern end of the island.

My son has a lot better eyesight than I do. He was able to read the sign in the picture above and tell me this was the dock for St. John's.

After we disembarked, he read the sign and asked me what "non-denominational" meant. This started our dialogue for the remainder of the day hiking around the island. I love these opportunities when we get to talk like this. We talked about what denominations are in order to understand what "non-denominational" meant. Then we talked about how some denominations are organized and follow a state or national or international council or group of leaders or the Pope. Then we talked about the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. It was a great conversation.

First glimpse of St. John's church through the trees.

Blunoz self portrait in front of St. John's church

We ate a picnic lunch on the park bench by the church and then found the geocache there. It was a little challenging because there were a couple of decoy hides. Usually a pile of sticks or stones or bark is an obvious indicator of a geocache hide, but in this case there were a couple that of piles like that with nothing hidden underneath. We had to use the hints on the geocache listing to find it.

ES gesturing with feigned surprise,
"I WONDER what could be in heeeeere..."
Actually, there was nothing in there.
This was one of the two decoy hides we found.

Next, we headed off in across the island eastbound to search for the other geocache at this end of the island. The trail was well defined and marked by a yellow splotch of spray paint on the trees.

I have to admit. One of the reasons I pushed to do this hike on this particular day was because I got sun burned the day before out swimming in the lake, so I wanted to stay out of the sun. Hiking on the island was almost entirely under a fairly dense tree cover and made for a nice day's hike in the shade.

Because of the shade, most of the ground was covered with dirt or dry dead leaves or pine needles, so the prevailing color of the landscape was shades of brown. Because of this, the few isolated items we encountered along the way with a splash of color in them really caught my eye.

We passed a grove of birch trees. I love the light green leaves and white tree trunks. It always reminds me of going to the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction, Colorado with my Grandpa (okay, so those are aspen trees, but it's the white tree trunks).

We spotted two of these small (< 1 ft) black snakes with yellow stripes.

We saw some very bright orange fungus.

We found a brilliant blue feather and some antique farm equipment.

We found the second geocache on the abandoned farm without too much trouble. Inside the cache, ES found some Venezuelan money, so that diverted our father-son conversation onto where Venezuela is, who Hugo Chavez is, and the state of relations between the U.S., Venezuela, and Russia.

We hiked back to the boat and headed home for the day so we could go to my wife's aunt and uncle's place and paddle around Newfound Lake that night.

The next day, we decided to return to Bear Island to get the third geocache at the northern end of the island. This time, we tied the boat up at the Bear Island Post Office.

Previously during the week, we had seen the mail boat going back and forth across the lake and pointed it out to the boys. "Look boys, there goes the mail boat." When ES and I arrived at the dock and he saw the post office, he said, "THAT'S why they call it the mail boat!"

ES pointing at the Bear Island Post Office sign.

Are there really that many people on Bear Island?

From the Bear Island Post Office dock, it's only about 1/3 mile walk up a well-defined trail with red trail marks spray-painted on the trees.

ES on the trail.

We passed Lover's Lane along the way (dated 1858).

We saw a ladybug laying her eggs.

I took a picture of what I thought were some pretty flowers, only to find out later these are the dreaded stinging nettles. Luckily, I didn't touch them!

We found the geocache without much difficulty. This one is hidden in the ruins of an old hotel that burned down in 1934.

Inside the geocache, there is a photo of what the hotel used to look like.

Overall, both hikes were a great time for ES and I to have some father-son bonding time and good conversation, and we saw some cool things along the way. We found all three geocaches and did some trading in each. (Aside: If you take something like a toy out of a geocache, then you're supposed to leave something there to replace it. I keep a stash of inexpensive toys in my backpack to trade with in the geocaches when the boys find something they want to keep.)

On the way out there and back, I did some helmsman training with ES and let him start driving the boat. He's a quick learner. I noticed improvement in his driving ability from the first day to the second day.

He'll be ready for that boater's license before I know it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paddle Log #10: Newfound Lake, NH

I have been thinking I would like to keep a Paddle Log, sort of like a SCUBA diver keeps a Dive Log. I'm sure someone has come up with something for sale out there in one of those specialty kayaking stores. Eventually I need to come up with something I carry with me in the car to jot down the basic facts, statistics, and notes so I don't forget them all when I sit down at my computer later, but for now I thought I would use my blog to document my kayaking trips.

Although this is my first official "Paddle Log" entry on my blog, it's the 10th time I've been out kayaking and I've blogged about most of my previous trips. Here's a quick recap of #1 through 9 (linked to my previous blog posts about those trips):

1. Pearl Harbor, HI. First time kayaking since high school. Took ES out on a sit-on-top kayak we rented by the hour from the Rainbow Marina on Pearl Harbor.

2. Chinaman's Hat, HI. Rented a kayak from Go Bananas in Aiea, HI. Paddled out around Chinaman's Hat on the windward side.

3. Waikoloa, Big Island, HI. Rented a glass-bottom kayak from the Marriott and paddled around off the beach with ES to see the fish and turtles through the bottom.

4. Beaver Creek Dam Reservoir, VA. First time out in the new kayak my LW got me for Father's Day.

5. Goose Creek, VA. Longest trip we've been on so far. Got in about 2 p.m. and got out about 8 miles downstream at about 6 p.m.

6. Beaver Creek Dam Reservoir, VA. Didn't write a blog post about this one. The boys and I went out for about an hour around the reservoir to test some different seat configurations in the boat. (Facebook friends will recall the pictures I posted of the deer along the edge of the reservoir as we paddled by).

7. Jack's Boathouse Sunday Evening Tour, Potomac River, Washington, DC.

8. Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. I took my nephews out for a paddle since they had never been kayaking before. We didn't go far, but just went up and down the shoreline near the condo.

Paddling away from the beach with two of my nephews.

In the marina with my nephews.

9. Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. My brother-in-law and I went for a paddle up the shoreline, 1 mile out and 1 mile back.

Me and Andy out on the lake.

Back at the beach, LW, YB, Grammy, and Aunt Laura were waiting for us.

After we got back to base and Andy got out, I took advantage of the calm and warm water to do some drills. I intentionally dumped myself into the lake three times and practiced getting back up into the boat. I was very pleased with the stability of the kayak and how difficult it was for me to intentionally capsize it. Likewise, once it was capsized, it was very easy for me to flip it back over upright. I also had YB swim up to the boat with me sitting in it, and I was able to pull him up into the boat without any trouble or fear of flipping the boat.

Gun Drills

10. Newfound Lake, NH. We went to visit my wife's aunt and uncle at their newly built house on Newfound Lake. I took my kayak along and had a really nice 2.5 mile paddle around the northern end of the lake.

So let's see... If I were going to make a Paddle Log, what basic information would I want to keep track of from one trip to the next? I'll use this as a sort of template for future Paddle Log entries.

Date: 18 August 2009
Time In: 4:45 p.m.
Time Out: 6:00 p.m.
Elapsed: 1 hour 15 minutes

Mileage: 2.5 miles

Sea State: 0 - 1 (wave chop due to wind)
Winds: South, 10-15 kts
Air Temp: ~87F
Water Temp: ~79F
Current: None

Kit: Ocean Kayak - Malibu Two XL (7th use), same Werner paddle I've been using. Forgot my hat, sunglasses, and gloves, but I was fine in the late afternoon. Long sleeve swim shirt, swim trunks. LAST trip in my old Speedo water shoes LW bought for me at Costco. We arrived home late last night and discovered ONE of the two water shoes still sitting on the rear bumper of the car. The other one fell off somewhere during the 1 hour drive from Hebron, NH back over to Center Harbor, NH.

Configuration: I sat in the center seat this time. Neither of the boys went with me. I was very pleased with how the boat handled with just me in it. It felt very fast and maneuverable.

Heading out solo on Newfound Lake

Route: I started from the shore in front of Aunt Louise & Uncle Don's house and followed the shoreline clockwise around the lake. Uncle Don told me there was a stream inlet at the north end of the lake I could paddle up, so I went to check that out. It was very peaceful and calm up there.

The water was like glass with a perfect reflection of the trees.

I didn't spend long back there before I headed back out onto the lake and headed south along the eastern shoreline, paddling into the wind. My average speed (by GPS) paddling into the wind was 2.7 mph.

It doesn't look that bad in the picture, but I was taking a good amount of wave slap over the bow as I headed south into the wind.

When I had paddled about 1.6 miles, I turned west and paddled across the lake. My aveage speed paddling across the wind was 3.7 mph. After I got to the western shoreline, I turned and paddled north back up to the house again. The max speed I reached paddling with the wind was 4.6 mph.

Heading north along the western shoreline.

Other comments (such as wildlife spotted): I saw three pretty birds near the shore that I had never seen before. They had a body shaped like a duck, the body colors of a seagull (white underneath, grey on top), but a brown head. I couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like they might have had a pointy bill. Not sure what they were. Also spotted a lone bird paddling along similar to a Loon, but it didn't have spots like a loon.

The mystery birds

Oh, it was during this trip that I finally figured out what those elastic straps are for on the sides of my kayak. They're to hold the paddles to the side of the boat when you aren't paddling. I have asked a few people here and there (like at Jack's Boathouse) and nobody knew what they were for, but it finally dawned on me yesterday on Newfound Lake.

Well, there you have it, my first official Paddle Log entry.

What else would you include in a Paddle Log?