Reformation Day Paddle

Paddling toward Hwy 41-A

NB – photo/caption alignment is unreliable in this version of WordPress editor.

Last Saturday, 31 October 2020, I paddled my new-to-me Long Haul Mark I kayak for the first time. I put in at Estill Springs City Park – an easily accessible primitive launch site – dirt, no real ramp, park where you can. Before leaving the house, I’d already planned to put in and paddle to the right – toward the populated by lake houses banks of Tims Ford Lake and as far as the Loop. I thought the water levels at the lake would be winter-pool low, so didn’t think I’d get far if I paddled up toward the dam at Woods Reservoir.

When I got to the put in, the water level looked sufficiently high to paddle in either direction, but I carried on with my planned route. There was a headwind to paddle against in the direction I chose, but I hoped that would have the wind at my back on my return trip.

Problems

Before getting to the water, I had to solve two new problems. The Long Haul Comfort Seat in the Mark I tends to flip forward – a circumstance that cannot but cause problems when the paddler enters the cockpit. I fixed that by using a small bungie cord. See the photo, below.

This short bungie keeps the seatback from flipping forward

The second problem, and one I should have considered more fully when assembling the kayak Friday, was that I needed to move the rudder pedal assembly forward from where I originally pinned it into place in the middle of the bow keelson’s track. Mark Eckhart, in his instructional video for the MK I assembly, recommends attaching the rudder pedal assembly before the forward frame half is inserted into the hullskin. The reason for this, as I learned, is that the attachment track and the pins that secure the assembly to the track are most easily accessible while the frame half is outside the skin.

Saturday morning, before loading the kayak onto the car, I decided to move the assembly closer to Rib No. 3 because at 5’9-5’10”, my legs might not reach much further forward while underway. Thought it was better to reach the pedals even if slightly uncomfortable than to not reach them at all while on the water.

I almost didn’t get the assembly reattached. I sweated and prayed a good deal but my efforts were ultimately successful. I then adjusted the number of chainlinks for the rudder cables at the carabiner on each rudder pedal. Less annoyingly difficult than what went before.

An older problem long since solved is getting a heavy, wood-framed folding kayak onto a car’s roof rack. Ralph Hoehn suggested this to me years ago. Open the car’s front door, lift the bow end of the kayak and set it on the top of the open door. Then lift the stern end onto the car’s rear crossbar. Then the bow end onto the front crossbar. Make adjustments, secure the kayak, go. Here’s an illustration – bow end on front door, stern end on back crossbar:

Door loading/unloading trick

Immediately after I got underway, I felt the tension in the left rudder pedal give way with a sound that seemed to indicate something’d broken. I got out of the kayak at shoreline and, negotiating the spraydeck’s opening with arms, head, shoulders while using my teeth as a third hand, I counted out the cable links and re-fastened the chain to the left pedal’s carabiner. Nothing had broken, I’d just failed to make secure the connection before I left the house. Thought I had, but was mistaken. Getting that corrected was more difficult than solving my rudder assembly placement earlier in the day.

Paddling Impressions

In an online forum, I noted that I felt weak or out of shape when it came to paddling this kayak for the first time. In the last ten years or so, I haven’t paddled regularly. When my son got old enough to miss me when I was gone all day, I started cycling instead.

Part of the problem was I used an unfamiliar paddle for the first time Saturday, too. I bought a 240 cm Werner Camano paddle from Ebay early last month knowing I’d be getting Mark I.

That’s my Ebay 240 cm Werner Camano paddle

As I think back about it, I would have been better off using my old Eric Renshaw Greenland paddle or even my heavy Aqua-Bound paddle. 240 centimeters is too long for this solo kayak. 230 or 225 would be better for me. The Werner’s a nice paddle. Lightweight, strong. It’ll work for my RZ-96 or even my old Grumman canoe.

Rail bridge foreground and bridge at 41-A

It took me a while to feel like I was equal to paddling, controlling the Mark I. The kayak is 15′ 10″ in length and 28″ wide. The manufacturer’s website says the kayak weighs 69#, but I think that’s without rudder/pedals and the seat. It’s pretty heavy.

After paddling past the rail and highway bridges at 41-A, I found the robotic, ab-crunching torso rotation reliant paddling style that has always got me out and back again even when feeling so worn out that paddling felt like a clumsy, tedious slog.

I do lift weights most days a gym, but the artificial practice of strength training with machines and free weights is crap compared to using my muscles to do real work in the real world. Paddling versus weights – paddling’s better. So’s cycling.

The Long Haul I don’t paddle as fast as I did my old E-68. It’s more immediately stable than the E-68. Because I wasn’t totally comfortable with my connection to the kayak at the rudder pedals or with my knees against the gunwales and also because I wasn’t comfortable with my new paddle, I didn’t try to lean the kayak or do any braces. Maybe next time with a shorter paddle.

All in all, counting breaks for bladder relief (out of sight of any lakehouse residents) and a lunch stop, I was probably on the lake for about four hours. My paddling experience was pretty awful due to being out of shape and out of practice.

Shallow grove

I saw a grove of trees standing in shallow water with oddly shaped trunks. I saw some great blue herons, other birds I couldn’t identify, some turtles. Mossy rocks.

I paddled out to the Loop, then explored a backwater accessed through a tunnel under the highway that leads to Loop Drive, I think it’s called. I passed numerous palatial lake houses. One of them reminded me of the Apple Barn restaurant and shops in Sevierville. On the way back to the put in, I saw a bald eagle. The picture didn’t turn out very well. The bird looked alert and oriented, a beautiful creature.

Estill Springs City Park put in

By the time I got back to Estill Springs City Park I was glad to see the car again. Got some dirt or sand on my back deck – no idea how that happened.

Dirt? No idea how it got there
Inexpertly tied painter knots

5 Years a Cyclist

Back in the summer of 2015, I was averaging about a hundred miles a week and I was still the slowest guy in the bike club on group rides, no matter what bike I rode.  Later in the season, just before Fall, I started getting sick. Like a knucklehead, I googled my symptoms and came up with viral spinal meningitis.  My doctor’s nurse practitioner diagnosed instead seasonal allergic rhinitis.  I still think I was probably right, but whatever the problem was, I got over it.  Still, the pounding heart thing while riding abrupt and steep (for me) hills niggled at the back of my mind.  In 2016, about a year later, painful irregular heartbeats occurring at least once a day prompted a lot of diagnostic procedures by a good cardiologist in a neighboring county.  Turns out at some time or other, I’d had a heart attack but damage was not too bad and my arteries were clear.

Anyway, after Fall of 2015, I quit riding for a while and then started again riding only for fun.  I think this year my longest ride’s been about 22-24 miles.

This year, I’ve got a new solo kayak, have taken my son paddling a couple of times, have started working out at a local gymnasium, and continue to ride most weekdays from work at lunch with a few after work and weekend rides.  My son still doesn’t enjoy riding for exercise – mostly, he wants to ride to a destination for nerf-gun war or in hopes of finding a disc some cannabis use disordered frisbee-golfer has lost.

Here’re a couple of photos from 2016 – the cotton field picture is from a lunch ride while I was working in a rural Southern Middle Tennessee county; the dredge photo’s taken beside a small, decorative lake that’s got clogged up with mud and lily pads.

Cotton Pickin Supernova

Supernova Dredge Phot

 

Thoughts on Meaninglessness and Belonging

Last Wednesday evening, I skipped a congregational meeting during which we’d planned to continue reading and discussing the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes.  Prior to joining (several years ago) the congregation of which I am now a member, I routinely skipped congregational meetings and almost never attended those scheduled midweek because I had a strong sense my contributions in terms of presence and participation were meaningless.  In turn, I experienced no learning from them save a growing dissatisfaction and unease when present with that group of people in its various activities.

Experience (although I don’t consciously seek “religious experience”) in the congregation of which I am currently part is vastly different from what I knew previously as a member of that other local church.  The congregation’s meetings serve as frameworks within which learning occurs as scriptures of Old and New Testaments are discussed, as opposed to a framework for upholding social and denominational norms..  Even in this setting, though, sometimes I observe a tendency toward groupthink – probably an unavoidable sociological condition.  I bridle against it because I am incapable of conforming my mind, nay, my self, to group norms that do not seem reasonable to me.  I cannot or will not color within lines that I haven’t drawn, myself, that don’t make sense to me, or weren’t drawn by an authority I recognize as greater than myself – the hand of God. 

This all sounds grandiose, doesn’t it?  Nevertheless, it’s my honest evaluation. 

Think of a graph depicting multiple bell-shaped curves radially extending from a central point (think of an X or an asterisk drawn with squiggles) – on any of these bells (which may represent interests, enthusiasms, intelligence, aptitudes, personality styles, and so forth) most people fall between the lines which are defined by one standard deviation above and below the mean.  I would guess that most people can be “found” only on one or two of the radial arms.  I can be “found” well beyond the mean on most of the arms that serve to capture data pertaining to whatever it is that I am.  On some of those graph arms, I’m almost the only data point I can perceive.  All this to explain why I am incapable of conforming mind and self to group norms – while rules of ordinary decency and courtesy do apply to me, as do those laws that protect the rights of individuals from one another individually or in aggregate – most human-derived and agreed upon strictures and systems of meaning mean not much at all to me.  I don’t see the value in them nor can I affirm the ‘truth’ of the perceptions they for some serve to enshrine.

I think this is simply basic, rational understanding.  In other places, possibly even in a post here, I’ve remarked that the road to self-understanding is a dead end street because insight (about one’s self, others, circumstance, etc.)  does not always or even often provide of itself the power to alter or better what is understood of the self.

In practical terms, what this means for me is that I experience frustration when my insights and, to use a hackneyed term, the ‘box’s’ inability to contain my thought and those of my thoughts, themselves, are not understood (agreement is unimportant or without valued meaning – to me).  I feel this most intensely when that occurs while interacting with people who matter to me – like the people who are part of my congregation or the family of my birth.

A related problem I experience is when I join groups that form around shared interests in activities, such as kayaking or cycling.  What I find is that, while interested in, engaged in, and engaged in thought about the activity and things related to it, such as gear and conditions of use, other people are not interested in the same way that I am interested.  While in one sense, I have something in common with other club members, in practical terms, I really do not have much at all in common with them. 

In conjunction with (or it may arise from the foregoing) a social awkwardness you’d have to be me to understand, this makes any kind of participation in group activities potentially unpleasant for me.  Oddly enough, I haven’t experienced this unpleasantness in relation to my current congregation.  But I did experience it last Wednesday, the evening I skipped the usual congregational meeting for scriptural and theological reflection in favor of a cycling club activity.

That cycling club activity was a local Ride of Silence – a slow four mile or so ride through town on busy streets with police escort.  I wore normal street clothes because it was only a slow, four-mile ride, and showed up early.  That’s one way to manage social awkwardness – show up early and strike up conversation with one or two people I already know.  Also, being late means finding a place to park and possible difficulty hearing what’s going on.  I said hello to one guy I know slightly and he completely ignored my greeting – jackass? didn’t hear? preoccupied?  Who knows.  I didn’t really know anyone else and my attempts to converse all proved abortive.  I felt unpleasantly like the only one of my kind in the group, even though there were several club members present I genuinely like.

Most of the other riders wore what cyclists call their “kits” – matching lycra shorts and jerseys, etc.  Some, to be sure, rode from their homes, however distant, to the assembly point.  I wore the same pair of baggy shorts I wore the day I bought the Miyata 610 in Louisville two or three years ago, and a faded red Dickies t-shirt.  No sense in wearing Lycra and chamois for a four-mile ride – if my nads are so diseased as to go numb on a short, easy bike ride, there’s something bad wrong with them.   

The ride leader gave a short talk about Ride of Silence, the police sergeant’s SUV rolled out ahead of us and police on 29’ers brought up the rear.  I thought it was cool that the police chief, himself, rode along. 

I rode the Jamis Supernova, a cyclocross bike with heavy, slow commuter tires, because the tube I’d patched for the Miyata’s front tire didn’t hold air.  Mercifully, for me, the ride of silence is silent, so no conversation is expected or wanted.  Some of the guys on racing bikes in full kit ahead of me pointed (as is courteous to do on group rides) at gravel and road surface irregularities.  On a cyclocross bike equipped with Continental Tour Ride tires, I several times caught myself thinking, “That $#!+’z not a hazard for me.”  But I likewise pointed out the hazards for those behind.

When the ride was over, I pedaled right up to my car, loaded up the bike, and left immediately.  Back home, it felt good to sit on the livingroom couch with my wife and son.  In the warm embrace of my family, I felt wanted, accepted, understood – that I belonged.  Later, I sent an email to my friend, our congregation’s pastor: 

Hi Doros,
I guess I’m just not bikey enough; won’t skip another meeting for a cycling activity.  During the entire ride, I found myself thinking, "I could have been discussing Scripture with my favorite people."  The Ride of Silence had no emotional or spiritual impact on me and only served to remind me how little I have in common with most people, even cycling enthusiasts.
Cheers,
Chris

Returning to practical matters, how does one cope with one’s own awkwardness, being out of step with and occasionally feeling unpleasantly alone in when in the company of numerous others he might reasonably expect to have something in common?  A constellation of maladaptive strategies fueled by feelings of grief and anger are available to the sufferer, but I’d like to list here a few methods that have worked for me and enabled me to function in a world largely constructed by and for the masses:

  • I acknowledge my feelings identifying and categorizing them without feeling ashamed of having them, then make a conscious decision not to let them curdle my spirit and mind.  This is something that’s only occurred to me here in the past several months.  Difficult it is in the moment and when experiencing unpleasant emotion to become aware that the choice is one’s own whether to become overwhelmed by feelings of shame, anger, grief or to function in a way that does no harm to self or others and does not preclude positive interactions with others of the group at some future time.  There’s no sense in self-crippling by allowing oneself to become embittered and twisted.
  • Related to the foregoing is making a decision not to say anything unkind to others when experiencing unpleasant feelings.  In Alcoholic Anonymous the cliché This Too Shall Pass is used to remind the recovering alcohlic that the irritant of the moment or the difficult circumstance inhabited will change in time and with patience may be got through without resorting to use of drink. 
  • Complete the mission, accomplish the goal, carry out the task – if there’s no harm in it.  For instance, last Wednesday, although I felt like, “What the hell am I doing here?” the condition was one that could be got through by simply participating in the activity in which I’d come to participate and then leaving when it was over, as opposed to hitting the “Screw This” button and bugging out early.  I mean, really, unpleasant feelings are simply feelings and part of the human task is learning to master one’s feelings.
  • Think about the feelings – dissect them – their utility, what causes them, what they signify.  By intellectualizing one’s feelings, one can become attenuated from them and this can be a useful to prevent acting impulsively according to their dictates.  I don’t usually enjoy experiencing emotion, but it sometimes does serve to inform me that there is some problem in my circumstance that requires my attention.  Sometimes I experience pleasant emotions, such as those I experienced while I was sitting on the couch with my family after I got home last Wednesday, or those I experience when applying my mind to and discussing scripture and theology.
  • Don’t look down on those who are different – in their own ways, they may be well beyond the mean in ways you are not.  Take other people seriously and respect their mastery of or competence in what matters to them.  Ask intelligent questions and learn from people who are different.  Wish them well and try to take pleasure in their successes.
  • Recognize that most people experience in some instances something like the unpleasantness you’re experiencing.  Like you, they may be wondering, “What the hell am I doing here?
  • If circumstances warrant aborting the planned activity, feel free to leave.  Try to do it without making some kind of unkind, conclusive statement that may serve as a barrier to you in some unforeseen way, later on.  Leave quietly and draw as little attention to yourself as possible.  Unwanted attention is worse than that unpleasant aloneness you’re leaving behind when you leave the situation.
  • Remember what Christ said about casting pearls before swine – you don’t have to and should not share your insights, perceptions, values, thoughts, and self with those who are incapable of understanding or who are malicious twits who should simply be completely avoided.
  • Invest your time, effort, thought, love in people who matter to you.  Just one friend, even if he or she does not completely understand you, may provide an oasis of peace in what often seems a hostile universe.  Love your family, cultivate friends if there’re people with whom communication and understanding is possible.
  • The apostle, Paul, enjoined his readers somewhere the letter he wrote to the church at Rome, “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  That’s good advice.
  • Prioritize, although sometimes this takes trial and error (as I learned last Wednesday night), and participate in or expend effort in or for what matters to you to the degree that it makes sense to you.
  • Never stop learning

Barber Appointment

Next week’s December.  I called my barber yesterday and made an appointment for a haircut that includes beard-reduction.  I’ll be glad to get back home and shave it off, completely.

My earnest hope is that after a month of feeding daily on the remnants of Halloween candy, I won’t have developed so much chin-flab I no longer have a discernible jaw-line.  I did throw away about a pound of small Whoppers packages instead of eating them, though. It rained hard October 31, so we had only four Trick-or-Treaters.

Unavoidable and irksome busyness has kept me from riding my accustomed 80 to 100 miles a week, and that’s also contributed to my middle-aged fat.  Cosmetic surgery’s out of the question because we’ve got a couple of upcoming expenses.

On account of all that, this next month will have to be Disciplined December.

Two Years on Two Wheels

August two years ago, I bought my first bicycle as an adult after talking with my neighbor, Charles, about bikes.  Got a new Trek Navigator 1 the best uses of which I outgrew pretty quickly.  Still, considering the bikes I was riding when I was nine or ten, the Trek was a technological marvel.  Lately, I’ve been riding the Miyata a lot more than the Razesa.  I like its large frame better, as well as randonneur (probably misspelled) handlebars and placement of the brake levers.  The bike’s a horse – huge, sturdy, heavy.  Almost a year ago last Saturday, 31 August ‘13, I rode to Lynchburg with my friend, Adrian, and his oldest son, Tim, in preparation for the Elk River Century.  Saturday morning, I just rode out to the Lynchburg Lookout Tower, climbed up it, rode over to a friend’s house, then over to my mom’s house for coffee.  My Iphone’s Cyclemeter app failed miserably – it clocked my time but only registered 1.76 miles of my route in my friend’s neighborhood.  The app seems to have recovered and worked fine Monday evening.

Here are a few photographs from Saturday.  I’ve been wanting to get a picture of that church-sign for almost 20 years, and finally did get one; helped that it was near my ride’s goal.  If you’re going to name a church, you better name it good (and hold your mouth right while you’re doing it)…

Head-of-Hurricane-MiyataMiyata-Lookout-SignTower-Stairs

Lynchburg-Lookout-Tower

Left-from-TowerRight-from-Tower

Miyata-From-Above

Monkeying Around

Yesterday, 2/9/13, I took my first real bike ride since getting sick over the Christmas holiday. Just monkeying around, I rode out to the local airport exploring all the side streets thereabouts, thence unto a community college. I’d wanted to ride to a fire watch-tower overlooking a neighboring county, but found I was hungry by the time I got to the college and had not had the foresight to bring anything to eat. I rode around the college, took a short break off the bike on campus, and rode back toward town on a different highway. Just under 23 miles by the time I got back to the house; my legs were getting tired and I was pedaling more slowly that last couple of miles which means I’m out of shape.

I think the temperature was around 43 to 45 degrees, Fahrenheit, and I wore a cheap pair of cycling tights, a non-matching (material and style) New Balance inclement weather running ¾ zip top, polypropylene long underwear, warm socks, cycling shoes, and summer gloves. I was comfortable – neither too hot nor too cold.

Cyclemeter (http://www.abvio.com/cyclemeter/) on the Iphone tracked my route. This app measures time, ascent, descent, fastest and slowest speeds, GPS maps the route, and reports calories consumed. Additionally, the app allows one to save different bicycles and wheel measurements, as well as routes. My “Monkeying Around” route varies in distance from 3.5 to 22.98 miles, so the “leaderboard” feature was of no real use on yesterday’s ride.

Aviation-Test-Center

I took a few photos of my bike while at the airport. There’s a World War II era hangar on the grounds that houses a Korean War era jet fighter or trainer. I propped my bike up outside and snapped a couple of pictures. A final picture of the view from where I sat during my few minutes’ break at the college.

Korean-War-JetOpen-SkyRazesa-Hangar-2

College-Trees

Cycling Jersey, Hill, Shoes

Castelli-Jersey

Castelli Jersey, new, in bag

Because I liked the idea of zippered rear and three other pockets, as well as having something to wear that doesn’t flap like my overlarge sky-blue and stodgy-looking paddling shirt, last weekend I bought a Castelli bicycling jersey from Sierra Trading Post and it arrived Thursday by least expensive shipping option.  That’s it in the picture above, still in its bag.  I could’ve got it in black and white, and myself tend to like the harlequinesque look, but I preferred the blue.  The jersey isn’t as unflattering on as I thought it would be; I don’t much like the scorpion logo, but do like the little Italian flag on the garment’s right side.  Now the problem is that I can’t wear a cycling jersey without cycling shorts – I’ve placed a Father’s Day request for a pair of them.

Intimidating Hill

Yesterday afternoon I went for a ride and tackled a hill that’s intimidated me since I first rode down it to a small “lake” a few miles from the house.  In the past, I’ve ridden down to the lake, then up and around veering right, then left, up a less steep hill.  Yesterday I rode fast down the zig-zag hill to the lake, then up to my left – and up.  I tried to super inflate my lungs.  In the lowest gear, a sprocket “popped,” then the chain caught a gear and I was able to maintain momentum.  Again a “pop” but the chain caught before I lost momentum, and I kept pedaling.  My thighs hurt on the outsides not far below the hips by the time I’d reached the crest, and I kept going. 

Razesa-Resting

Eventually the road leveled out a bit; I didn’t stop until I got to an industrial building a mile or two further on where I dismounted, drank a little water, and rested for about four minutes.  I snapped a picture of the bicycle, also at rest.  You’ll note, if you look for it, that I’ve clipped the rear light to the rack – the velcro straps included for the purpose of securing the Blackburn Flea lights to seatpost or handlebar are not well-enough made to last more than a few months.  In fact one of them broke the first week I got the lights.  I stopped early yesterday at a computer supply store and bought some Belkin velcro cable-ties, but although they were the correct width and length, they were not suitable for the task.

Cycling Shoes

So far, the very best shoes I’ve found for bicycling are not those specifically manufactured for use while bicycling, but are an old pair of New Balance 806 trail-running shoes I normally use for painting and yard-work.  The soles are stiffer than the New Balance shoes I purchased last year or the year before, but sufficiently flexible that I can feel the pedals through them.  If you’ve got a pair under a bed somewhere, I suggest you get them out and try them.  Here’re a couple of pictures.  My guess is that New Balance no longer makes them like this.  Maybe you can get a pair on Ebay (not my size, those).

NB-806-Heels New-Balance-806

The Busy Wheel Again is Turning

And I have been too busy living my life to write about it, which is a happy circumstance.

Usually in the Fall of the year I find myself busy with:

  1. family activities (√)
  2. deadline work (√)
  3. yard work (√)
  4. reading (√)
  5. some miscellaneous time-consuming recreational activity (√)

Back in August I purchased a couple of bicycles – one for me and one for my wife.  Mine is a low-end Trek Navigator I and my wife’s bike is an Electra Townie with step-through frame.  I’ve had more fun cycling than I’ve had kayaking simply because I can cycle from my driveway whereas I’ve got to load up gear and rack the boat then drive someplace to paddle.  Pedal.  Paddle.  Odd how similar the sounds.  A couple of Sundays I’ve pedaled to worship service – not a long distance, but it feels like a longer way because I’ve got a destination in mind when I set out, as opposed to monkeying around riding through the neighborhoods hereabouts.

Last Saturday, I plug-aerated my lawn after mowing and overseeded with rye-grass for winter.  If the weatherman ever calls for rain again in these parts, I’ll spread some granulated fertilizer on the lawn.  But I’ll try to get my overlaps right to avoid the striping I achieved back in the Spring.

Saturday evening my mom came over to the house and as a family we burned hotdogs and marshmallows over a cheap ceramic “fire-pit” I picked up last year.  We ate dinner in the rebuilt sunroom at the back of the house.

These sorts of activities have taken precedence over writing about them and, although I continue to develop insight and understanding about the order of the universe around me and in which I find myself embedded, there’s just not a lot of time or energy left over to present that material here.

Trek Navigator 1 on a Sunday

My low-end Trek Navigator 1 parked in the congregational meeting place window a few Sundays ago. I've got some lights for it, now.