Of Photographs and Stories

I felt that I had to bike today because I had not gotten out for my regular exercise in over a week.  The temperatures had been in the “dangerous” range, and it was dropping to more comfortable levels today.  I left home very early, and was surprised by the large number of cars in the parking lot at Pennyfield Lock at that time on a weekday.  The sun was still rising as I set out.  I saw a large number of bicyclists at the lock house for Pennyfield Lock as I approached the towpath.  It was obvious that they had spent the night there as a part of the Canal Quarters program.  I then turned on to the towpath headed for Washington, DC.

The level of water in the river is low right now.  It has not rained for a few days.  Work at different sections of the canal where there were detours – the waste weirs near Great Falls, and mileposts 7 and 9, are being rebuilt – was already underway for the day.  I even had to navigate my way around a truck bringing in material to a construction site.  I can see that the work at the different sites is coming along.  I believe there is a long term plan to re-water the entire stretch of canal starting at Violette’s lock.  The current work could be a part of that long term effort.  Wonder if I will survive long enough to see the end result!

Pretty soon after I got on the trail I realized that I had not taken my camera.  I had been thinking primarily about the exercise aspect of the ride and had forgotten.  But it did not bother me.  However, a few miles into the ride, my thoughts drifted towards the thinking process behind taking pictures.  (It was that kind of a morning!) To me, it is not necessarily just about taking a picture that looks good, but it is more about capturing a story.  Sometimes, a single picture can tell a story.  But, these days, I also like to add pictures to a story that is being told with words to give it more character.  This is something that did not do in the past.  In spite of the fact that I did not have my camera with me, I did get to a point during this ride when I felt the need to stop and take a picture with my smartphone to somehow capture how it felt at that time during the ride.  That would be the story.  The first time I had this feeling I did not stop because I was focused on the exercise aspect of the ride.  But a few hundred feet later, I came to another point where I could not resist the temptation to take a picture.  Here it is.IMG_20180907_083242125When I reached Fletcher’s Cove, I got on to the Capital Crescent Trail headed in the direction of Washington, DC.  The ride on this trail is smoother than on the towpath since it is paved. As I approached DC, I began to feel a rhythm of the wheel that was unusual.   There was a bouncy feeling, and very little noise associated with it.  When I got to the end of the ride at the far end of the Georgetown Waterfront, I decided to check out the tire and realized that there was a bump in one small section. Oh, oh!  It looked like the tire was about to blow out, and I was about 20 miles from home.  I had been barreling down the towpath over pieces of gravel on my way out  (remember, this particular ride was about the exercise, and not necessarily sightseeing – each ride has a different feel to it!).  I had to either find a local bike shop to replace the tire, or bike more carefully on my way back.  I decided to risk it and bike back, but only after releasing some air from the tire to reduce the pressure.  I did manage to make it back to Pennyfield lock in good shape and in good time.

I found a few pawpaw fruit on the ground during this ride.  Perhaps it is time to return to the section of the trail that had an abundance of these fruits last year.

The rhythm of life goes on.

The Rhythm of the Wheels

“The beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain”
Sonny and Cher

Strictly speaking there is no rhythm generated by the turning of a wheel – by something that is circular that simply goes round and round.  But a rhythm can indeed be established by some process related to the turning of the wheel.  Thus it is with riding a bicycle, where the wheels contribute to rhythms that are established in other ways – whether it is from the sounds of some intermittent but regular contact between the wheel and something on the bike itself,  or because of something getting stuck in the treads of wheel itself making contact with the ground; or whether the rhythm is in the movement of the legs, the movement that causes the wheels to rotate.  Some of these rhythms can become addictive, like a drug, and the feeling that takes over can overcome all other feelings, especially when you are in the groove.  The rhythm overcomes any feeling of tiredness that may exist, and can indeed make what you are doing at that moment feel somewhat effortless.  Perhaps biking is addictive, and what one is experiencing is a high – when one feels the rhythm of the wheels.

You might be able to sense from what I wrote that I am back to a regular biking routine.  Consider that I had only started biking once again recently just to get some practice for the long rides that I have done with friends the last couple of years.  Now that I have started biking again, I have the urge to go on and on.  Yes, the feeling of a need to bike may also be a sign of an oncoming addiction.

Last week I decided to try out something a little more challenging.  I rode the towpath from Great Falls to Fletchers cove,

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Picnic tables at Marsden Tract

and took on the slope of the Capital Crescent Trail from Fletchers Cove to Bethesda from then onwards.  The ride on the CCT was a breeze!   I feel like I have not lost the strength and ability to tackle the slopes.  My only adventures that day were on the towpath. The first time was when I was forced off the path into some shrubbery that proved to be quite irritating to the skin (wonder if it was poison ivy). This was because of the approach of a group of heavy-duty work vehicles on the narrow path.  They were probably trying to get to a place to do some repair work on the trail.  Thankfully the itching feeling did not last.  (Perhaps I was experiencing the effect of the rhythm!)  I encountered the same convoy on the trail at an unexpected location on the way back.  It looked to me like a skid-steer loader had gotten partially off the trail and was being pulled back on to it by a heavy-duty excavator. I had to carry my bike off the trail and through the trees to a spot  well below the towpath that was closer to the river, and then take an unmarked detour in order to get by!IMG_20180815_113624614The next time I biked that week, I stuck to the towpath and went all the way up to Whites Ferry from Pennyfield Lock.  The ride was uneventful, except for the fact that I got so irritated by the state of the trail in one section (something that I have complained about in the past) that I even wrote a letter of complaint to the National Park Service.  The letter has probably been ignored, but at least I was able to get it off my chest.

Teresa came biking with me last Monday.  She was doing this for the first time in years. She did feel the aftereffects!

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At the half-way point in the ride with Teresa

The last bike ride to report on was from Whites Ferry heading north.  I was hoping to get to Brunswick, but I had forgotten about the washout of the trail just south of the town.  This happened because of all the rain we have been getting recently.  This one is going to take a while to fix.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeanwhile I intend to continue to ride.  It may be an addiction!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The beat goes on…

A Moment of Determination

I had not been on a bicycle since the accident that happened almost a year ago. The doctor had given me the “all clear” to go back to my regular activities a while back, but I had not done it even though I had decided a long time ago that there was no way other than to get back on the bicycle.  The truth was that I was also missing all the training rides that I had being doing in the years past – on various sections of the C&O Canal towpath, on the Capital Crescent Trail into Bethesda and Silver Spring;  on the Custis, the W&OD, the Mt. Vernon and the Four Mile Run trails in Virginia; and even the ride up Sugarloaf Mountain.  I knew these trails somewhat well by now, and I could even picture some of the specific experiences and  challenges that one came across along the way, whether it was the stop at Fletchers Cove to use the facilities and get a drink of water, crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge, or riding along the river on the Mt. Vernon trail past Gravelly Point and National Airport, or the challenge of one of the slopes on the Custis trail or Sugarloaf mountain.  I needed to do it.

But time passed and it did not happen until now.  You could say that there was a bit of apprehension on my part, not because of the fear of riding a bike per se, but because of a fear of falling off the bike.  It was specifically about the possibility of falling on my separated shoulder once again.  I had a mental picture of how severe the damage could be to a clavicle that was already floating around.  I did actually look for specific protection that could be worn it this regard, but the only solution out there would have made me look and feel like a gladiator with plastic armor-plating on a bicycle.  I could not picture that!  But there were other real excuses.  We were busy with a wedding and with guests who were visiting until now.  Before I knew it, we were half way through the year.

I finally made the move Wednesday morning.  I checked out my biking gear the first time in many months – the shorts, the tops and the gloves.  Things were where I expected them to be.  I checked out the bike, still covered with dirt from last  year, reinflated the tires, grabbed my helmet, and after a test ride around the cul dec sac, loaded it into the back of the car.

Finally at Pennyfield Lock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI decided to ride a distance of about 16+ miles (one way) to Fletchers Cove this day.  I had forgotten how cool it could be under the trees even on a July morning in the middle of summer as you rode against the wind.  I had forgotten the rhythmic sound of the crunching of the tires against the gravel of the trail as one rode on the dirt.  I had forgotten the easy and peaceful nature of an early morning ride.  There was a feeling of serenity, and the mind could wander once again.

I took it easy.  This is the way I usually start a ride, especially after a break from when I have been challenging myself.  But then the Adrenalin kicks  in and, before you know it, your legs are moving to a steady beat and the pace is increasing to another level.  And it is all so effortless at this point.  You are enjoying the ride.

I can still sense some fear in me, a fear of falling off the bike if I got too close to the edge of the trail, but it is no more about the shoulder.  I know I am over it, and it has happened quickly.  The other general fear of wandering across the trail and falling off into the woods or the water will disappear with time, just like it used to in the past.  It is a defense mechanism of the brain that I appreciate.

Life along the canal has not changed.  I have to stop for pictures along the way. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Multiple great blue herons and a kingfisher (can you see it?) at Mather Gorge
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A fourth great blue heron joins the group at Mather Gorge

There are people around on this cool summer morning, especially later in the morning.  I re-familiarize myself with the practice of passing people who are on foot on the trail.  There are many such people.   Recent rains also seem to have done severe damage to the trail.  I take a couple of detours off the trail along the way.

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A black crowned night heron watches me from the other side of the canal

The ride  back to Pennyfield Lock is when the muscles in my thighs begin to feel it.  It is a familiar feeling, but it is not a feeling that you tend to remember the details of once the ride is complete and those sore muscles have recovered.   I ride steadily, without a sense of rush, but by now I am also in the groove once again, and I have to make the conscious effort to slow down, and perhaps even stop once in a while to take a picture or two.  This is all familiar territory for me.

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The tiger swallowtail butterfly on the trail
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Watching me from beside the trail.  They stayed still long enough for me to get the picture and then dove into the water when I started pedaling again

The ride ended successfully.  I am going to try my best to make sure this was not just a one-time effort, a flash in the pan if you will.  I need to do more rides for my sense of balance and sanity.  Perhaps longer group rides are in the cards once again starting next year.

Chasing the Deer

The scene unfolded during our Sunday morning walk along the C&O Canal.

We were headed back from Swains Lock to Pennyfield Lock along the towpath (the trail).  The canal, which happens to have water flowing in it in these parts, was to our right, and to our left was vegetation and a somewhat sharp drop off to the Potomac river.  The only people on the trail in front of us were a middle aged couple who walking towards us from the distance.

We heard a commotion behind us.  After initially ignoring it, I turned back to see that there were two deer running on the towpath in our direction, being followed by two bicyclists.  One of the deer was bigger than then other, probably a parent.  Even though the deer had seen us, they keep coming, veering neither left or right.  They were scared by the cyclists, and also of what lay on both sides of the trail.

We turned to face the deer.  I feared a possible collision and I moved to protect my broken ribs.  The deer finally stopped not too far from us.  The bigger one then jumped into the trees and bushes on its left, towards the river, and the young one followed.  The bicyclists went by.

As the people coming towards us got closer, the bigger deer crashed out of the bushes beside the river and ran across the trail into the canal.  It swam across to the other side of the canal and climbed up the hill beside the canal.  You could barely see it behind the trees. There was no sign of the smaller deer, but we knew that it was still on the other side of the trail, separated from the deer that was probably its parent.

As the folks approaching us went by, the little deer jumped out of the bushes beside the river in front of them.  It saw the people approaching.  It took off in the opposite direction along the trail, heading back towards where it had originally come from, and away from the other deer.  The folks who are now walking behind the sprinting deer are pantomiming and trying signal to the deer to cross the canal to be with the other one.  The deer is in a panic, neither can it understand human communications.  Go back and get your young one, we ourselves say to the bigger deer who is on the other side of the canal.  Of course, we are not speaking the deer’s language.

We did not wait to see how the drama of the lost deer finally played out.  I would not be surprised if the two deer eventually found each other.  While they might be considered creatures without intelligence by some human beings, animals have capabilities that would surprise many of us.  They are not necessarily limited by the kinds of senses that we human beings normally use.  (Check this out!)

The places that we frequent during the weekends allow us to experience things that may be considered out of the ordinary, things that we do not see during the normal course of the day in our usual surroundings.  It may simply be that the turtles are hanging out on the logs, or the great blue heron are fishing, or that the wren is singing on a tree as you pass by.  You just need to keep your senses open and a different world opens up to you. But our experience last Sunday was unique even by those standards.

Fast-Forwarding to Today Temporarily Before Returning Back to My Canadian Adventure

I made it a point to return to the C&O canal for the first time today after the accident in Canada.  The pictures below are perhaps old in the sense that I have posted similar pictures before, but they also represent something new in my recovery process.  I am able to walk decent distances in the park, and I am also able to take pictures! Assuming no setbacks, I intend to slowly but surely try to get back to the stuff I enjoy doing outdoors.  This trip was to Pennyfield Lock.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Evanescent

ev·a·nes·cent [evəˈnes(ə)nt]
adjective

  1. Soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence; quickly fading or disappearing.

In an expanded spirit of the theme, I have picked some pictures that may fit the theme in more ways than one.  These are all old pictures.  The situations that some of them represent can never be repeated.  Some of the others took place just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and this happened by chance, and it may never happen again.  They all have to do with memories.

The pictures below were taken in 2005 and 2006 respectively.  One had to be there at the right time of the year, at the right moment in time of the day, and on a day with the right conditions, to be able to see these.  The conditions along the C&O canal where these pictures were taken have also changed since the time I took them, so that these conditions may never be duplicated.  It was an evanescent moment in time that one could have said was a figment of my imagination if I did not have the pictures to show.100b1052100_3112The following picture is from 2009.  It was humid on that particular morning, and this caused the mist to rise from the railing on the bridge at Broad Run Trunk on the towpath.  I had never seen this before, and perhaps I will never see it again.  I just happened to be there at the right time.IMG_0616And then there is this series of pictures taken in 2009 of the train that appears out of the mist on a cool morning and then quickly vanishes from sight, as if it had never been there in the first place.  Nobody else was there to see it.  It was like that tree falling in the woods.  It was an evanescent experience that is only remembered today because of the pictures.IMG_0640IMG_0642IMG_0644IMG_0645The following picture is from 2005.   The broken-down building below used to be the Pennyfield Inn, and it used to be next to Pennyfield Lock. The building was built in 1879 and was finally demolished in 2009.  It is now replaced with an open space that feels like it has always been there.   (The building actually has an historical context in that President Grover Cleveland used to stay here during his fishing expeditions to this area.) The Pennyfield Inn is now just a memory.  It existed for only a fleeting moment in time in the grand scale of history, and now has disappeared. 100_0919This picture from 2005 illustrates the evanescence of the life experience.  One of the kids in this picture has just finished high school, the second is in college, and we just celebrated the college graduation of the third.   The circumstances of the old picture below are now but a distant memory.100_0344Here are other submissions to the challenge.

 

In The Still of The Day

I was driving on the road from the parking lot at Pennyfield Lock.  I was driving quite slowly.  It was not just the numerous potholes in the road that were slowing me down.  It was very quiet and relaxing out there and I was in no hurry.  Besides, there was an older gentleman walking briskly in the middle of the road in front of me with headphones covering his ears.

I had observed this older gentleman on the trail at Pennyfield lock a few minutes earlier where I had stopped to check out the fall colors.  The colors in our neighborhoods (except for that red maple that we planted behind our house) seemed to be somewhat muted this year relative to other years, but things seemed to be getting better a the tail end of the falling of the leaves.  I drove to the parks in spite of a weather prediction (that turned out to be accurate) that the sky would become cloudier as the morning passed by and that there was a chance of some rain.

In any case, the gentleman was walking with a purpose.  He looked like he did this kind of stuff regularly.  He was proceeding quite briskly in his yellow coveralls.  He had a backpack and I saw a camera hanging from a strap attached to it.  I did not see his water supply, but I am sure he was carrying some.  He had his music.

As the car got closer to this gentleman, I began to wonder if he realized that I was there.  The combination of the headphones he was wearing and fact that I was driving  a Prius that was in its quiet super-efficient mode because of my speed, could have made me difficult to notice. Since he was in the middle of the road,  I decided to drift off to the side of the road and get closer to him at a slower pace.  I was not about to honk the horn.

I got a response from him.  He shifted the position of his head as if to acknowledge me, and I was not sure if he was irritated by my approach.  All of a sudden he started crossing the road in front of me, to the side I was trying to pass him on.  I had not wanted him to change his position on the road just for me, but I figured out that this was what he was doing.  I reacted by turning the wheel so that the car moved back towards the middle of the road.

The guys raised his hands and signaled, it seemed somewhat aggressively, for me to stop.  As I halted the car, he broke off a stick from a fallen branch beside the road and walked with it across the road right in front of me. Soon he was pushing something that was on the road off of it.  I then saw it.  It was a small turtle and it looked very familiar!  After he had moved the turtle, he signaled for me to proceed. My mind quickly rewound to the incident many years ago when I had also moved a turtle off  a road. That incident had  motivated me to start writing about random stuff, and in some way led to the existence of this blog!  It felt, in a very irrational way, that there was some kind of connection being made across the different times of my life.  Weird!

As I eventually passed the gentleman in my car, I told him that he had done a very nice thing.  He was wearing his headphones, but he nodded to acknowledge me, and continued with his brisk walk.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.  I need to get out today to find out if I will find better conditions for fall photography.  It actually looks much nicer in some spots than I expected, but I also need better lighting to try to bring it all out.