Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Round Gerrish Island

Vacation, that's a sweet word, it rings in my ears like a beautiful wind chime, or thousands of tiny little bells ringing in unison, choreographed like the finest Broadway Show....I'm going off now, on vacation that is. Steph and I planned to have the week of the Memorial Day Holiday off together to play and relax a bit. Deciding when to take "time off" is never easy, you have to think about the weather, where to go, what to do...tough decisions to make.

Our vacation actually started last Friday the 22nd of May. We set off around noon time for a long bike ride. Steph made the call on our route and it was really nice, although a bit busy with traffic and a nasty detour around the bridge being repaired at Odiorne Point State Park, where your turned inland at Wallis Sands Beach from Rt 1A along coastal NH. I really enjoy this ride, it has to be some of the most scenic terrain along the Seacoast, after all it is all NH has! I think we ended up with 39 miles round trip from home, give or take a mile or two, probably take, since I can't exactly remember. At one point, along the nasty detour, Steph got a little upset with a car that passed us fast and close, she set off on a full on sprint chasing them down to yell...I yelled at her (not in a mean way, just to have her let it roll), "hey, Hey, HEY, it is not going to do you any good, let it go..." she caught up at the intersection, but they slipped through the stop sign with barely a stop. When I reached her, she knew it wasn't worth it. I think it is just unnecessary to pass cyclists as fast and close as some drivers do, have some respect people! As a cyclist, I try when ever possible to obey all traffic laws to "set a good example" and I have seen plenty (as a driver) who don't do the same and many that do. As a cyclist, I believe there is a time and a place for evasion of laws...such as, clearly no one around or coming in either direction, roll through the stop, as a cyclist in busy downtown car and bike traffic, stop at traffic lights, play safe and show respect, driving behind cyclists, pass with care and consideration. This world would be a great place if we all showed some care and respect...That could be a long discussion!

We had more time off to plan, and honestly as it is right, now as I type this BLOG, I will probably not take this week off again. Living here, in southern Maine, with the unofficial "start of summer" that Memorial Day Weekend brings, you loose a couple of days, because everyone else is heading out to play and traveling on the roads also, so we hung low on Saturday. I worked our bike fleet through the Buddha shop to ensure we would have no mechanical issues on our planned trip to Kingdom Trails in Northeastern Vermont, East Burke, VT to be exact. More on this coming soon in a separate post. I don't know why I haven't learned the "don't trust the weather forecast" lesson at this stage of life, but it wasn't what was it was supposed to be over the weekend, at least on Sunday. We planned a Kayak adventure to Brave Boat Harbor. You access this amazing area from Chauncey Creek at the sharp turn as you are headed to Sea Point Beach. This is also protected land under the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It is a really special spot for us for a couple of reasons, you'll see one coming up. It is always SO nice getting back in the kayak at the start of the season. Being on the water brings my mind great peace and provides a sense of calm.

Steph as we start heading "up the creek", with paddles!

Proposition Point! (where I popped the question in 2004)

This is such a nice paddle, very sheltered in the worst weather and winds. We've been here a bunch of times. As we were snaking our way up, winding through the turns, we noticed a lot of paddlers coming our way, 14 to be exact. A big group of folks who were going around Gerrish Island. They were "all decked out" with dry suits and VHF radios, all using mostly fiberglass boats. It sort of made me feel like an amateur....No dry suit or VHF radio for this kid! I would not say we lack experience and plus we exercise good judgment. Steph asked one of them how it was out there and he said the water was fairly flat and it was nice, low winds. We decided we would head out of the mouth of the harbor and check out the conditions on the ocean. I've certainly seen it much worse and we've headed out into the open ocean and been quickly turned around by big waves and unsettling conditions. The traverse from Brave Boat to Fort Foster on the Maine side of Portsmouth Harbor is about three miles, with three distinct points of land I use as land marks. We've done this trip a few times and I have soloed it a few times myself. As we head out, it is calm, and the waves, however little they were, are easy to predict and navigate. There is a lack of pictures on this first section, as we discuss our chances for survival if we roll and have to provide each other a rescue. In 49 degree water, it is not long before you'll die and the initial shock of entering cold water like this would make it difficult in many ways. We stay close to one another to increase reaction time and preparedness. We discuss our group rescue procedures as we paddle leisurely, yet very much on guard, at least I can say I was tense and on edge during this time. We always stay close to shore and honestly, we are so close to the car from anywhere along this section of coastline, that I would be not afraid to wash up on some one's beach front home and ask to seek refuge to retrieve that car if it came down to it.
We took a break two thirds through the Ocean paddle for some snacks on a nice rocky beach.

On the rocky beach, cheese and crackers, a chocolate snacks, YUM!

It wasn't long after our break we were paddling along the relatively protected shore along Fort Foster in Kittery. I took a few nice photos here, even though the weather was not the best, sprinkling rain at times, it was still beautiful and fun to be in our boats.

Whaleback Lighthouse at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor.

The Isles of Shoals barely visible through the fog about six or seven miles away.

We made the corner, headed up the Maine side of Portsmouth Harbor towards the lower part of Chauncey Creek, the tide was ebbing, but had not dropped enough to deny us entry, a lot of people were enjoying the food at the Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier, a couple of them waved to us as we paddled by.

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier seen ahead of me and to the left.

We made the end of the creek and tried paddling under the road through the tunnel, the water draining the upper part of the creek was to strong. Steph snaped a couple pictures of my lame attempt.

Tough work in a fast ebbing tide!

This was a great start to the kayaking season and had me dreaming of Allagash waters, go figure? Soon, soon, I know that is what I keep telling myself...I will be back in the Allagash soon...We tracked the circumnavigation of the Island to check the mileage and have the GPS track as well. We wish our friends Jason and Diane could have joined us, maybe at some point this summer? Here is a link to our day on the water. It was 8 miles and took us about 3 1/2 hours. A great day with my wife enjoying our life here in Southern Maine.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fitness Test!

Looking back to last year's BLOG entry dated 4/30/09, I was complaining about hurting after a test of endurance on the local club road ride. Well, I broke free from the work chains early and headed down to Euro Auto last night for some measure of this years effort so far on the bike. I had a great ride in the end, but from the beginning I was on guard. Again, like last year, this was a big group for me, as I usually ride alone or with only a few people at the most, and most of the time, the riders I ride with are very predictable and I know their moves. On this night, there were 24 riders, a lot of them I had not seen before. I was chatting with a friend before we rode away, when I saw the group leaving I abruptly ended the conversation. Heading for a safe spot, I find myself near the top 10 or so in the group. I know the course like the back of my hand and I knew that the first couple, three miles would be pretty tame, since it's fairly busy with traffic. Making our first turn on to quieter roads, I set off for the front five or six, as the group assembles behind. A few riders start a quick attack and set the pace on fire. The five or so at the front took long pulls, and it was soon my turn, on the front, working, pulling the group with great confidence and attention....This was pretty fun! After my session, I pulled off left and about 10 or so riders passed me, looking over my right shoulder, I saw a hole between the lead group and the chase group and managed to pull back in there. Grimaced faces were on some of those in the chaser group. Keeping on track in the lead group to the first traffic intersection, we all assemble and regroup continuing on rural roads.

The pace was fast, but the riders civil, and I stayed away from "that guy" on the tri bike, that for some reason, does not like me? You see a few years ago, I was really focused on doing town line sprints, going off the front of this, at the time, tight nit group for my own personal reasons. Always playing safe and keeping clear, so as not to cause a crash with the group, well I must have offended this guy and we exchanged words, he nearly ran me off the road one time as well! So, I took a break from this group ride, it seemed he was hassling me every time I rode, saying I was not "working" for everyone. (I mumble in my head as I type this, The jackass is riding a tri bike on a roadie ride and half the time is two bike lengths out front of everybody...creating a carrot on a stick situation for the rest of the group). Anyway, I don't know why someone would be so offended by a town line sprint, so I just smile and said hello, be civil and ride my ride, protect numero uno and most of all, have fun.

We hit the "highway" they call it, Route 101 in Hampton which drops you right into Hampton Beach, NH. That is usually when all hell breaks loose, everyone is sprinting for the front, usually in a brutal head wind. I rush into this section staying on the sixth or seventh wheel when two pace lines start and I'm on the inside of one, leading the way. I break for the front of everyone and get exhausted quickly, battling strong riders and in your face wind! I eventually end up near the back as we cruise into the square for the usual break spot before the race up the coast of NH. Part of my thinking at this stage is, keeping fuel on the fire for the final leg. We stop at the square, I chow down a bar and power gel and finish one of two bottles of fluid. As the group rides off, it was sort of bad timing for some...we get caught in a bit of car traffic, which ends up letting us go. So from the start, I am chasing 15 or so at the front and the pace is fast! After a couple of miles, I end up with a good draft, a risky (to me, not the group) move around a pedestrian crossing barrier, and catch onto a hole with about six riders on the front. I see people ahead getting ready to get into the oncoming Peleton, and I recognize a couple of them, Tom, a good friend, is riding his freshly tuned bicycle (Bicycle Buddha) and I as he drops off from his pull I say, "nice bike sissy boy", he laughs and a continues his slide back. I end up on my turn just before we near the Route 111/ 1A junction. A quick short climb leading into some fast corners, this is the most scenic section of coastline around, it's a beautiful night, but I can't pay any attention to that, my heart is pounding, my defenses are up, and my cadence is revolving quickly. I maintain in the top six or seven and contemplate the upcoming townline. There is no way I determine, as I ask my self for more...The paceline is working, my computer reads 30 MPH, my lungs are ever expanding and my heart is pounding. This is all good, after all as the title reads, this is a fitness test, and all the pain is weakness leaving my body, so I have been told...

As we near the Rye Beach Club I am off the back on the main group, riders are behind me, they were shelled a little quicker than I. I assemble with Kevin who works at Euro Auto and is a super strong rider, we automatically know to work together to make an attempt at the tail end, we ride hard, short pulls for each, and the group keeps slipping away, finally I give in and wave Kevin away as he still chases. I figure, I've handed in my test and have passed by self grading!
A few friends who were off the back in the B group fall in behind and we chat on a leisurely approach back to the shop, good conversation with good people.

Two cool things, 1- "that guy" who I mentioned doesn't like me, he ends up in the main group everytime, I'll be the first one to give credit when due...

2- Three riders on the group have patronized the Buddha, and I saw first hand my work in action, the riders were riding strong and bikes ticking like clocks...At one point, I saw Tom put the hammer down full sprint mode and shoot off the front like a rocket! That was really hands keeping him on the bike and riding fast!

I thinking that I need to get to this ride on as much as possible to keep the high speed, group ride skills in check. I also look very much forward to the next couple of months training for the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in August. I am on the official list, and have listed my "Team" as TPR (Team Pete Roux) for this ride. If the strength I build between now and then only helps a little, I will dig into the basket of pain we all have suffered with his death...The healing continues!

Over and Out...