2014 Adventure Roundup

Each of these adventures should have gotten its own post. Due to, well, life, you’ll get the ten-peso telegram versions. For that I am sorry, but as Grandfather used to say, “Life is not fair.” And as I used to say, “Here we go.”

Goodbye Freddie. Halló Gunnar.

Shortly after moving to northern Virginia I bought an vintage/antique/old/beater road bike off Craigslist. It was a Raleigh Grand Prix in red, and it was too tall for me. At any rate, my feet could reach the pedals and the price was right, so Freddie became my trusty mechanical steed.

It was a sultry July evening, and I was making good time riding home from work along the Potomac Yard bike trail. The path is interrupted at intervals by entrances to the shopping center parking lots, and as I approached the last crosswalk, I noticed a taxi cab was stopped at the stop sign. I proceeded through the crosswalk. While I was in the crosswalk, the cab accelerated without checking for occupants and hit me, knocking Freddie out from underneath me. I tumbled into the street.

The asphalt gashed up my wrist pretty good, and I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. A quick body check revealed no broken bones, so I got up and dragged Freddie to the curb. The frame and rear rack were bent from the force of the collision, and the taxi’s front license plate was woven into the spokes of the rear wheel. A few witnesses came over and wrapped up my bloody wrist and called the police. I exchanged information with the taxi driver, and the police gave Freddie and I a ride home.

Totally not my fault, by the way. Officially.

As I mentioned before, Freddie’s old. Older than I am. That means he’s made of steel, and theoretically I could try to bend him back into shape. Instead, I took the opportunity to buy a new bike. As in, a new new bike. Not a new used bike.

I went with a Dawes SST in black. It’s a track bike, largely used for training, but it’s well-suited to my commute. His name is Gunnar. Gunnar Stahl.

Fourth of July

This year we celebrated Independence Day at A Capitol Fourth, the PBS concert event held on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. If you’re ever thinking of going, don’t. We spent pretty much all day waiting in the sun. The concert was okay, but probably not worth the dehydration, exposure, and bouts of boredom. The worst part was that the concert shell entirely blocked the fireworks. Entirely. Do yourself a favor and just watch the fireworks from one of the thousand awesome places to watch them in the area.

Mount Vernon

When we committed to bike commuting, Rachel and I set a goal to ride to Mount Vernon by the end of the summer. That’s 25 miles round trip—no small feat for Rachel. It would arguably be the pinnacle of her athletic achievement.

The appointed day came, and the ride was a blast. Lots of fun. And Rachel was a champ. If you’ve ever made the trip, the majority of the trail is fairly level, following the Potomac. The last three miles or so is the “mount” part of Mount Vernon; it’s wooded and hilly. Rachel was busting up hills like Rocky up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What a gal!

Mount Vernon itself was a great experience. One thing about living in the west is that you don’t have as many opportunities to interact with History as you might in the east. Mount Vernon is one of those opportunities. George Washington was a singular man. I teared up as I read the scripture inscribed on his tomb:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. St. John XI.25.26

We had a sunset-lined ride home.

The Camaro

We sold the Camaro. It was a bittersweet parting. One the one hand, it was fun to drive along the George Washington Memorial Parkway with the top down. On the other hand, it wasn’t fun to parallel park or to replace the convertible top. We certainly don’t need two cars at the moment, and maintaining the Camaro was becoming a problem.

Washington Area Frisbee Club

One of the highlights of the year was joining an ultimate team in the Washington Area Frisbee Club. My team didn’t do as well as expected. We were continually plagued with injuries and absenteeism. Still, it was a lot of fun to get out playing again. I met some great people and got some good exercise. Unfortunately, all of the games were held in Maryland this year—so, about an hour’s drive out. For that reason I don’t think I’ll play in this league in the spring. Maybe I’ll look for a league a bit closer to home.

Luray Caverns

The Shenandoah Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the country. Living in Alexandria, it’s the perfect day trip. A month or two ago, Rachel and I drove out there again to visit Luray Caverns.

If you’ve seen one cave, you’ve seen them all. Right? Wrong. In 2012 we visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; that’s what I had in mind descending into Luray. Luray was a totally different experience. Carlsbad is huge. Luray is not huge. It’s an intimate cave system. The ceilings are close and the paths are narrow. I liked that. It felt more cave-like.

Luray is home to a variety of formations, and I took particular pleasure in their turn-of-the-century names: Ghost of Pluto, Skeleton Gorge, Saracen’s Tent, Dream Lake, Fish Market, Indian Princess. I can’t say which formation was my favorite. Picking a favorite formation is like picking a favorite firework: every new vista is your new favorite, over and over again, until finally you give up and just admire them all as one great whole.

At the end of the cave tour we were treated to a song played on the Luray organ. The organ is connected to the stalactites in the chamber; the music you hear is created by the cave resonating. A cave is not a particularly beautiful sounding instrument, but the echo of its subdued notes creates a uniquely phantasmic, subterranean sound.  I was pleasantly surprised at the programmed song, A Mighty Fortress is our God. It’s a fitting selection; a cave is a natural fortress.

Those are the more notable adventures as of late. They were buried among hundreds of micro-adventures.

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