Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Dismal Swamp was dismal

The Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail ride - Part 2.

Beautiful day. Not too warm. Not too breezy. Blue skies. Perfect day for another ride down the Canal trail with BS. This time we put the bikes in the back of his pick-up, which makes me go all like "Yay, I don't have to drive!" Then I went "Rats, I forgot my camera again", which made BS go all like "Tough, we're too far gone." Of course, that was just BS from BS. We were only 1/2 mile from the house. Snerk. But that means that any pictures I have in this post were taken by the nice internet people that post all those good pictures.

Back to the tale. He had some difficulties with his bike chain at the beginning of the ride, then, just shy of the 5 mile marker, it broke. Busted. Useless. Or so he claimed. It could have been a carefully crafted ruse, you know. Hmmmm. Naw, not him. He was looking forward to the ride, or so he said. So I rode the 5 (well, almost) miles back to the truck while he walked his bike to the nearest cross street going back out to Highway 17. He got to the turn off just as I turned off the highway. Couldn't have timed that better if we tried.

We still had plenty of beautiful day left, so, since BS had never continued on down 17 to Elizabeth City NC, the "Harbor of Hospitality", we kept going south into the great state of North Carolina. Elizabeth City is a very pretty river town, and the waterfront area is picturesque and quiet.

You can even watch a 24 hour time-lapse live feed from the 'harbor cam'. Cool.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More simple pleasures

Sitting on the sofa with BS watching the Virginia Tech game, both of us with margaritas in hand and laptops on lap. Ah, the unexpected benefits of having my own live-in bartender. Trouble is, we lost. I think that calls for more margaritas.... hic.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bucket List #...I forget what number I'm on

I don't ever want to forget about simple pleasures. Sometimes we do. We get so caught up in wanting exotic adventures or excitement or thrills that the simple pleasures are pushed aside. This evening BS and I picked up some food and went to my mother's place to settle in with some dinner and a movie in the DVD player (BTW, Robert DiNiro is faaaabulous in this one). Nothing like snuggling up at Mommy's house after a long day at work with a little ice cream. Of course, then you have to go out into the cold and drive home, but what the heck.

She lives in a 10th story apartment at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay with practically a 180 degree view of the bay. The sights are spectacular...

And with that prime location, she also gets to see the fleet coming & going. What a sight that must be. I've never been there when they were in sight. Rats.

Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center

Speaking of Navy ships, I forgot to mention that after my Dismal Swamp ride on Monday, Dad took me to the Navy base to see all the ships - destroyers, guided missile carriers, supply ships, and told me fun stuff about them all, along with stories of his time in the Navy. I love stories. I was bummed to learn that there are no more battleships in service - the kind you see in WWII movies. We have one here in Norfolk, the USS Wisconsin. It is free and open to the public, so come on down and see her. And check out the video of her arriving at her new home here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Training - Great Dismal Swamp Canal Ride

See that big ol' patch of green in Chesapeake, straddlin' the Nawth Carolina line, with the great big lake in the middle. That thar is the Great Dismal Swamp, one of the East Coast's natural treasures.

Here is some more information about the Swamp, and yet more, and some interesting history with the George Washington connection. Now look at the black line running along the east border of the Swamp...

That is the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, the oldest manmade canal in the United States that is still in use. It is part of the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, which extends from Norfolk, VA to Key West, FL. A better history of the canal is here, including its rich history during the Civil war as a supply route and part of the Underground Railroad. The Atlantic Intercostal Waterway Ass'n has this information on their website: According to the Chesapeake Conventions & Tourism bureau, Edgar Allen Poe reportedly wrote parts of his famous poem "The Raven" while traveling the canal and overnighting on its banks. Novelists Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also are said to have based some of their literary characters on slaves they witnessed participating in the canal's construction.

Now that lake in the middle, Lake Drummond , is another interesting part of the Swamp. It is Virginia's largest natural lake, although you must be thinking, "What? Natural lake? Surely you jest. It is too round, too perfect to be a natural lake." Au contraire, mes amis, it is indeed a natural lake, and a blackwater lake at that.

Although the claim to fame of being Virginia's largest natural lake is something of a "so what?", seeing as how there are only 2 natural lakes in the state. Mind you, we have lots of very fine lakes, suitable for boating, fishing, and all other manner of fun pursuits, but they are all manmade, created by damming up the rivers, like this one (Smith Mountain Lake).

But I digress.

Paralleling the canal is Highway 17 from Virginia into North Carolina. The 2-lane road was quickly becoming inadequate for the amount of traffic it was carrying, so, as is the way of city planners everywhere, they built - a bypass. However, unlike the way of city planners everywhere, they decided to do something nice with the old road. It is now a bike path/trail extending 8.2 miles along the canal, and on Monday morning, it became the next step of my training. Best. ride. ever!! It is the original 2-lane road, well maintained, shaded, quiet, pastoral, bucolic, and full of critters. I was looking over toward the water when one of these decided to run in front of my bike to get to the canal. I never knew woodchucks & groundhogs were the same beast. Almost plowed over the buggar, which would then have made me fall and go boom and get big boo-boos.

photo from the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game

My dad met me there for some bike coaching. Although Pop originally told me it was 7 miles long. Huh, liar. While we were riding, he was beside me hollering training instructions at me. Do I remember all of them? Naw. After 10 minutes or so, it all started sounding like the teacher in Charlie Brown. "Wah wah wah wah wah." I'll have to get him to e-mail me the handbook.

End result - I rode 16.4 miles and felt pretty damn good at the end. Whoo-hoo!! Going again next Monday, and BS is coming along as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Remember my little friend at work, the Kid, that I have taken to Blacksburg a couple of times because he loves the Hokies and partially for whom I am doing all this training in order to take him on a 60 mile bike ride at the end of May because we were inspired by Team Hoyt, assuming we can modify a bike stroller for him and that I can get into shape? (Run-on sentence alert) Well, when the Hokies are playing and the game is televised, I will often go to work and wheel him down to the break room so we can watch the game on TV. It is the only time he gets to see the games. The Kid loves to do this. He gets to hear an occasional 'colorful metaphor' and do some burping and farting, as is only proper when watching football.
Only thing missing is chips & beer &, well, if I had any balls I would scratch them, too. Tonight's game was at Boston College, and BS came along as well.

This is us watching the game. The TV is mounted high up on the wall, so it looks like we are madly cheering the peeling paint. That's BS on the left and the Kid on the right. I dragged in one of our stretchers to make myself a comfy easy chair. A good time was had by all. Of course, it would have been a better time - IF WE HAD WON - but we played like pussies for much of the game.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Humbling (but not unsurprising) Lesson

I saw this coming, I really did. Basically, from Friday through this evening, whilst sailing the high seas, my training went down the toilet. In addition to my lack of physical activity since Friday, there is the gluttonous factor to consider.

(Artwork: Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Vices - Gluttony)

So when I got home this evening, I had fine intentions to go outside to ride. Got sidetracked, though, by a meaningful conversation with BS. By the time that was done, it was too dark to go outside. So I got on the stationary bike, raised the seat a little, and upped the resistance a bit. To prevent NumbButt Syndrome, I put a little pillow on the seat. Needless to say, I won't be using that wee pillow as a... well... pillow any more, if you know what I mean.

A half an hour. 30 stinkin' minutes. That's all I lasted. Dammit, it's my own fault, I know, but dammit. Did some pushups and took a shower. Now I am disgusted with myself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cruising is HARD WORK!

And we are still recovering.

Repeating our previous year's early arrival at the cruise terminal - in order to get on the ship early and take full advantage of the lunch buffet - we found the boarding process had ground to a screeching halt. Seems that the ship had just returned that morning from a 6-day Bermuda cruise, and for some reason, the elevators and escalators in the terminal "weren't working", whatever that means. What it meant was that the departing passengers were agonizingly slow getting off, so we were stuck in the terminal.

Last year, by noon or so, we were on the boat and enjoying the bounty of culinary delights that await around every corner of the Lido Deck. Not so this time. We didn't get to the first round of overindulgence until about 2:30.

(Next morning's breakfast - all those plates belong to the tiny little niece. She had to be removed from the ship with a crane)

After that, until we pulled away, there was plenty of time to look at the harbor...

(The USS Wisconsin)

...and explore the ship...

(Would anyone really want to drink a cocktail made with soy milk?)

(The tiny room I shared with my friend)

...and the cruise that was supposed to depart at 4:30 didn't pull away from port until almost 6:00. Here are some scenes of our departure from the harbor:

(The Lido Deck, site of pools, bars, and FOOD!)

This is the trademark 'whale tail' of Carnival Lines. It has a railing about 4 feet up that we all climb up on every year. Best views on the whole ship, and I have pictures of us all up there, but our faces are all clearly visible, so I must refrain:

But here are all my traveling companions - their best sides anyway. From left - friend, friend, friend, niece, brother, BS:

Once the boat did start to move, the mood suddenly lightened, and the music playing on the Lido Deck inspired quite a few folks to burst into spontaneous dancing:

Then BS espied an old school chum from kindergarten all the way through high school. It was really quite a touching reunion:

As we left port, we saw some stuff that we don't see often. Views of the city from quite different vantage points:

(The world headquarters of PETA, which, even though some people insist it stands for 'People Eating Tasty Animals', really stands for 'People Embarrassing the Tidewater Area'. One of our greatest sources of pride.

Look at all those trains at the Lambert's Point coal piers. In 1930, the port of Hampton Roads became the largest point of coal shipping in the world. In September, 2005, Norfolk Southern reported that it had loaded "the billionth ton of coal at Lamberts Point's Pier 6, the largest coal-transloading terminal in the Northern Hemisphere.")

And let's not forget the largest Naval installation in the world, protecting your freedom 24 hours a day.

The crown jewel of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group

This is Fort Wool, sitting out there right in the middle of the harbor. It was very active during the Civil War:

A little later, we were treated to a breathtaking sunset:

Each evening, our cabin steward made us little towel critters. Seems none of our companions had such thoughtful cabin stewards. Nyah.

The water is VERY blue out at sea:

It was a rougher sea this year, and that, coupled with our full & taut bellies, made for some queasiness now and then.

I won a trophy at one of the trivia contests. It was a game of advertising slogans. The fact that I knew them all could be a sad commentary of my life, but it is really a game that I constantly play with BS, my sister, and my nephew - movie lines, slogans & jingles. No, really.

As for all the fun that we had on the ship...
What happens on the Fun Ship stays on the Fun Ship!

Next time, I think I would like to go on a cruise that, you know, like, actually goes somewhere.