Friday, October 22, 2010

Pentagon Gouge: Navy Working Uniform (NWU)

Like me, some of you have been in the National Capitol Region (NCR) for a while and not allowed to wear the new Navy Working Uniform (NWU).  As I prepare to execute my next set of PCS orders, I have found it necessary to embark on the quest for my own set of NWUs.

It has NOT been a smooth or easy process.

In the interest of helping you, my shipmates out, please allow me to offer the following recommendations for making your NWU purchase easier than mine.

Step 1)  Realize that the NWUs come in a completely new and different sizing system.
    Since the Navy uniform shop is INconveniently located in the bowels of the Navy Annex, I really didn't want to go out of my way to make the pilgrimage to the uniform shop only to find they didn't have what I needed.  So I had this bright idea to order my NWUs online.  The Navy Uniform website is actually a pretty good site.
    Unfortunately, I got to the website and discovered that you can't just order a size large blouse or type in the waist-size and inseam for my trousers.  Each have TWO sizes on their label, like "L/R," "M/L," or "L/L."  Huh?
    Okay, note to self:  For the initial purchase of my NWUs, I should probably actually GO to the uniform shop and try them on.
    But wait!  Don't leave the website yet!

Step 2)  Go ahead and order the name strips, rank insignia, warfare pin, and U.S. Navy strip from the website.
    They get it done pretty quick and ship it to your home.  The name strips take a few days to do, but it'll help make things go smoother when you already have them in hand.  The other stuff could wait, but you never know if they'll be out of your particular rank or warfare pin when you arrive at the uniform shop.

Step 3)  Look up the business hours of the uniform shop before you make the pilgrimage to the uniform shop.
    Did I mention how inconveniently located the uniform shop is in the basement of the Navy Annex?
    Here's what you DON'T want to happen.  You DON'T want to leave work "early" at 1600 in order to make a run to the uniform shop "on the way" home, battle for parking near the Navy Annex, hike to up the hill to the security entrance, and descend to the depths of the building... down the stairs... past the NFCU...  past the mini mart... around the corner... past the gym... alllllll they way down the hallway... and there it is.

The CLOSED sign.

    Yyyyyyyyeah, they closed at 1600.

    I imagine my face was probably red and smoke billowed from my ears (flashback to those jalepeno chips at the NEX in Pearl Harbor) as I walked all the way back up the hallway... past the gym... around the corner... past the mini mart... past the NFCU... up the stairs...  back through security... and back down the hill to where I parked my car again.

Step 4) Okay, wait, rewind.  Backup to Step 2 above.  
    Note to self:  The NWU requires TWO name-tapes per uniform.  One goes on the blouse.  One goes on the back of the trousers.  On your second trip to the uniform shop (because they were closed the first time you tried), if you go with just two name-tapes in-hand hoping to outfit yourself with two sets of NWUs, then you'll be disappointed. 
    So much for saving yourself some effort by ordering them online before going to the uniform shop.

Step 5) Get all this done so that your new NWUs are ready for pickup BEFORE you detach from your current duty station and turn in your Pentagon badge.  It just makes it easier for getting into the Navy Annex to go back to the uniform shop.  That being said, I'm happy to report that it was not difficult to get a visitor badge at the security shack.  It just would have been quicker and easier if I had done it before turning in my Pentagon badge.

Disclaimer:  Please don't take my gripes about the location of the Navy Annex uniform shop the wrong way.  I do not mean any of this to reflect negatively upon the uniform shop or staff.  It's an excellent, well-stocked uniform shop, and the staff there are extraordinarily helpful.

I just wish the location of the uniform shop was a little more convenient for quicker access.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bike Log: C&O Canal Tow Path

This post is time-late. I started to write it and had troubles getting Blogger to upload photos, and I didn't get around to finish it until now.

My life has been pretty busy lately and I obviously haven't had much time for blogging. I'm in the midst of going through a series of fairly intense Navy schools. I was fortunate enough to have a week off between schools though, and I put the time to good use getting several errands run and projects done around the house.

On the Thursday of my week off (just after Labor Day), my friend Bob and I went for a 20 mile bike ride on the C&O Canal Tow Path, and it was awesome.

You may recall last year, Bob and I rode our bikes 13 miles from Point of Rocks, MD down to White's Ferry. This time, we started from the same spot under the Rt. 15 bridge at Point of Rocks, but we rode 10 miles upstream toward Harpers Ferry. Then we turned around and came back with a stop in Brunswick, MD for an awesome lunch at El Sloppy Tacos.

Starting off under the Rt. 15 bridge
at Point of Rocks, MD

On the C&O Canal Tow Path

Lock 29 and the Lock House

We passed Locks 28, 29, and 30 along the way. It was interesting to see signs at various places showing how high previous floods had risen. One flood, I think it was in 1996, brought the water level of the Potomac River up to the second floor of that lock house above.

We passed the remnants of the Catoctin Aqueduct.

This beautiful stone arch structure was originally built in 1832-1834 and was one of 11 stone aqueducts along the C&O Canal (such as the very nicely restored Monocacy River Aqueduct).
It collapsed back in 1973, but they salvaged the old stones from the Catoctin Creek and are raising funds to rebuild it to look exactly like it was with the original stones. If you want to sponsor one of the stones, then you can visit their adopt-a-stone website.

Of course, I had to stop and take pictures of flowers here and there. This was my favorite flower photo of the day. I am having trouble identifying the flower in my book though. Anybody able to help name this one? 
Update 10/21/2010: According to the Virginia Tech weed identification guide, this is a Wingstem flower (verbesina alternifolia). 

We turned around when we got 10 miles from Point of Rocks. It just happened to be exactly where the Appalachian Trail joins the C&O Canal Tow Path just shy of Harpers Ferry, WV.

On our way back, we stopped at El Sloppy Taco in Brunswick, MD. On a previous trip through town, my friend Bob had noticed this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint and immediately thought of me. Not sure why he would think of me, but... Anyway, it had pretty good reviews on Yelp. Being the Mexican food addict connoisseur that I am, I must say that was a darn good tinga poblano burrito.

A glimpse of the Point of Rocks Bridge over the Potomac River on our way back.

Trip Stats
20.1 miles
Moving Time 2 hrs 35 min
Stopped Time 30 min 52 sec
Moving Average 7.8 mph

I turned off the GPS while we were eating lunch in Brunswick. Unfortunately, that broke my Garmin Connect download into two separate trips. This is my primary gripe against Garmin Connect: It won't let you edit the data to combine two data sets into one trip or to delete data off the end of a trip when I forget to stop and turn off the GPS. Oh well.

So this was the first part going up until lunch...

...and this was the second part from lunch back to Point of Rocks.

Overall, it was another awesome day out riding. As we prepare for the moving truck to come and yet another PCS move takes us away from NoVA, I will miss the awesome hiking, biking, and kayaking we've been able to enjoy here.