27 June 2006

The "What Kind of Coffee Are You?" Quiz

Disclaimer: I didn't study very hard for this quiz. I do not ever drink coffee--can't stand the taste of it, though I enjoy the smell of it (weird, eh?) However, and this is a pretty big "however," I am completely addicted to Diet Pepsi. I've cut back my daily consumption recently, on the advice of some research I've read and my doc's suggestion, but I still can't start my day without it. So, while there might be some tiny bit of truth in this quiz's assessment of me, the caffeine addiction level: totally false. So with these caveats in mind...read on, dear reader, read on:

You Are an Irish Coffee

At your best, you are: wild, spontaneous, and outgoing

At your worst, you are: too extreme and reckless

You drink coffee when: you want to keep drinking booze

Your caffeine addiction level: low

23 June 2006

Words, Words, and More Words

I’ve been asked to comment further on the nature of portmanteau words and to give an example. Thanks for the prompt, Compooper Teacher!

First, a portmanteau word isn’t the same as a synonym, homonym, or contranym. I hope all my readers know what a synonym is, and if you don’t know (warning: here comes the teacher in me), look it up.
Homonyms are words that sound the same, may or may not be spelled differently, and have different meanings, such as wight and white, or the two meanings of bear (the animal, and to carry). Finally, as Compooper Teacher points out, a contranym is a word that carries within itself at least two meanings that can be opposites of one another, for example, (and I quote) “left (remaining) and left (having gone).”

But a portmanteau word isn’t exactly any of those three, though it may make use of those similarities (in the case of synonym and homonym) or differences (in the case of contranym). A portmanteau word is
* generally one word—though it may function as part of a phrase or clause
* a word that is composed of several other words, of any language,
* put together in such a way as to be at least marginally intelligible, though it may take some work, possibly even some research, and as in my case, even the help of others, to understand it,
* and once deciphered, it yields a richer meaning in more economical form than would have resulted if the writer simply used the original, individual words.
This is why critics often speak of “Joycean economy”—he says a great deal in very few words, though those words may be mightily challenging to read.

So, examples. Here are two from Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake:
* "Echoland": This is one of the words Joyce uses when writing about England, and this one word conflates the sense of an echo with the actual name of the nation. In this way, he expresses his condemnation of England as a colonizer of Ireland, a colonizer trying to remake Ireland in its own image, and yet, not a true copy, just as an echo is not a true copy, but a weaker, quieter one. So now instead of reading simply “England, the country that colonized Ireland,” we get a sense also of Joyce’s attitude toward that colonization.
* “The fall of a once wallstrait oldparr"--this phrase from the first page of the novel includes at least four references:
1. At the surface of the action, the fall of a bricklayer, the Finnegan of the title of the novel Finnegans Wake (and the Irish folk song of the same title), who was once alive ("wallstrait") but has fallen off his ladder and died (no fear—Finnegan will be revived at his wake when a mourner spills a little beer on him—“Lots of fun at Finnegans wake!” as the song says);
2. The fall of Adam, because “oldparr” suggests “old father” or father of us all;
3. The Wall Street ("wallstrait") crash of 1929;
4. The declining cultural knowledge of Irish legends, since “parr” is another word for salmon, which was a magical fish, the fish of the wisdom of gods and heroes, in Irish mythology.
So this one seven-word phrase includes two portmanteau words and alludes to four foundational texts: the story of the bricklayer, the fall, the crash, and Irish legend. So we know right away, if we've read the whole page anyway, that we're reading a story of beginnings (and ends that will engender other beginnings), beliefs, and cultural backgrounds.

But portmanteau words aren’t all this dense and difficult—many are fun and enlightening. If you read the Lewis Carroll poem "Jabberwocky," you can find a number of funny and relatively obvious (once you know what you're looking for ;) ) examples of English portmanteau words there:
"chortle," combining the concepts of a chuckle and a snort, hence a whole different sound from either of the originals;
"whiffling," which means something between a sniffle and a whistle;
"slithy," meaning both slimy and writhing;
and "galumphing," a triumphant gallop.
There are others, but these are probably the clearest. Check it out:

So, sorry to have put on my teacher face for so long, but hey, maybe you learned something, and once again, you asked for it! :D

10 Things

Things I've done since my last decade birthday and things I want to do by my next decade birthday. For the sake of reference, I'm now 53-1/2 years old, completed a successful 20-year career as a Navy parachute rigger/line officer in 1994, and now I'm a lecturer in English at a small state university in Florida. That may not sound too exciting, but it's been a pretty wild ride at times.

Anyway, here, listed in no particular order, are the things I've done since turning 50, and the things I intend to do before turning ... 60 ... yikes!

To do between now and 60:
1. Finish PhD dissertation on James Joyce and Irish folklore
2. Finish reading Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. This is not as easy as it sounds—in this, his last novel, Joyce virtually created his own language made up of words from many languages and often put together into what are called “portmanteau words.” A portmanteau word is one which is a conflation of two or more words—of any languages—that increases the meaning of the resulting word, often exponentially; thus, the word is packed with meanings and hence the name “portmanteau word”—a word like a packed suitcase. In any sentence of Finnegans Wake, the reader might find any number of portmanteau words, along with a rich texture of symbolism and allusion involving a vast range of topics: history, geography, politics, folklore, natural science, and others. In addition, the action is circular, such that the first line begins in mid-sentence and the last line of the book ends in mid-sentence and the two—beginning line and ending line—make up a complete sentence together. Whew! Don’t worry—I’m reading it with a reading group. This is one of those books that should be labeled: “Warning. Don’t try to read this book alone!” So MAYBE I’ll be done by the time I’m 60.
3. Pay for two nieces’ and one nephew’s first years of college
4. Do cycling tours in western Ireland and Alaska, along with some additional travel
5. Organize my office!
6. Continue to update and improve the courses I teach
7. Learn to read Japanese, so I can read the book in which my Japanese colleague in Joyce studies, Masaya Shimokusu, cited my work on James Joyce and Irish folklore
8. Become a better digital photographer and scrapper
9. Bike a section of the Underground Railroad Bike Route (now in development by Adventure Cycling Association: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/undergroundrailroad.cfm
10. Get the Chief to go on a bike tour with me—this will probably be the toughest and will almost certainly require that he have knee surgery first, but hey, no one said all our goals should be easy.

Wow--got a lot to do--I'd better get started.

Done since I turned 50 (a mere three-and-a-half years ago—seems like it was yesterday):
1. Paid for two eldest nephews’ first years of college
2. Wrote three articles to become chapters in dissertation
3. Publications: one online travel review; three articles (on James Joyce: who else?) in print journals; a short article in a book: “Keep Paddling.” The Strong Women's Journal. Ed. Miriam Nelson. New York: Perigee, 2003. 33. (Look it up next time you’re at the library or bookstore!)
4. Presented a paper at James Joyce International Symposium for the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, Dublin, Ireland
5. Presented papers at seven other academic conferences
6. Became Director of Women’s Studies at my university
7. Learned digital scrapping and became a better editor of my digital photos and journaler of my experiences and family stories
8. Survived the trauma of Hurricanes Ivan, Dennis, and to a lesser extent, Katrina
9. Caregiver to my dad in early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease
10. Completed a 4-day bike tour in Maryland, averaging 40 miles/day in dry weather with gale-force winds—no kidding—there were small craft warnings posted for boaters.

Jeez louise, just reading that makes me tired! I feel like I'm due for a break--good thing it's summer!

19 June 2006

What If You’d Never Left Your House Today?

Well, I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but I at least would have been much better off if I’d never left my house today.

It started off like a reasonably good day. I'd planned to take Cocoa for a walk and a short bike ride around the neighborhood (I ride, Cocoa trots and sniffs things), then go to the campus to work out at the gym, then to my office to take care of a few administrative tasks. Then home to do some reading and studying before going to dinner with colleagues/friends.

But as the walk with Cocoa began, things started to go wrong right away. We have to walk through my next-door neighbor’s yard to get to the sandy bayshore point where we take our morning walks. And this morning, just as we were traversing Ms. Next-Door’s yard, her sprinklers came on. Strike One.

Then, as we finished our walk and started our bike ride, the guy who delivers our newspaper—running a couple of hours LATE—came down the road in his truck. Now Cocoa has not the slightest interest in cars (unless he sees someone he knows inside them), but pickup trucks for some reason touch a nerve. He and Mocha, a neighbor dog who often joins us on our walks, started barking and giving chase as soon as the truck turned onto our road. The driver wisely slowed to a stop, I corralled and collared the two dogs, and NewsMan went on his way. While I was waiting for him to finish his deliveries on our dead-end road, turn around, and leave the neighborhood, the trick of trying to keep two excited dogs in check while straddling my bike eventually overwhelmed me. The bike tipped to one side, gave me a good smart smack on the back of my right hand, and then—“Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war”—Coke and Moke were off to stop that sneaky NewsMan from throwing things into our driveways. I rubbed my hand briefly, then pedaled wildly to catch the dogs and avoid any further unpleasantness. NewsMan was incredibly understanding, and was able to exit the area unmolested and leaving both dogs unscathed. But my hand hurt mightily, and my reasonably good morning was quickly going, quite literally, to the dogs. Strike Two.

(And before anyone has the urge to say, “Serves you right for walking your dogs without a leash,” or words to that effect, let me assure you that I live far off the beaten track, where all the neighbors as well as those who frequent the area not only approve of but virtually expect leashless dogs. So there.)

OK, so the chaotic bike ride over, I prepared to head for the campus, thinking that I’d feel better after a workout. But before I left the house, of course I found some ridiculous reason to snap at the Chief, who never knew what hit him (relax—I've already phoned him to apologize). Then, arriving at the university gym, or more accurately, the “Health and Leisure Services Fitness Center,” a name that irritates me all the time but naturally galled me most especially today, I suffered a further injustice. The gym is new this year, so we’re all still getting used to its new policies, though I thought I had it all figured out. But today, when I tried to enter, my faculty ID card was denied—the electronic turnstile failed to open and an obnoxious beep sounded. The TA at the desk told me that if I’m not teaching summer classes, I have to PAY to use the campus gym now, though this was never required for the old gym.

Now, I am a full-time faculty member—instructor of English, director of the Women’s Studies Program, advisor to Women’s Studies minors, and possibly about to become director of another program—all of which is not to blow my own horn but to indicate that I work my patootie off for this university, summer-fall-winter-spring. And now to be told that IF I want to use the gym for the three months of summer term, I have to pay the equivalent of half the annual membership fee charged to emeritus faculty and faculty dependents—well, it’s more than reason can bear. More than my already-bruised sense of justice can bear, anyway, at least today. Strike Three.

So, I’ve already fired off a nasty-gram to the person in charge of the Fitness Center. Well, not too nasty—I want to end up with this person on my side, after all. But I did express my strong disagreement with the policy, and I worked hard to appeal to Ms. Fitness Center’s sense of justice. She may not be able to do anything about the matter, but at least it’s a start. More to come.

Other than the email to Ms. Fitness Center, I’ve decided to let my administrative work ferment for another day. I’m going out for a bike ride to clear my head, calm my nerves, and generally re-center myself.

Anyway, what would be the impact on the world if I’d never left my house today? Probably negligible. But the impact on me would’ve been substantial—except that I’d have never known it. Hmmm, I may have more to say on that topic later—right now, the bike trail is calling me.

17 June 2006

On Wonder: It Is What It Is

A couple of mornings ago, walking with Cocoa on the point, I witnessed a miniature drama at the edge of the bay. It was a brief but wonderful moment—"wonderful" in the original sense of the word—it filled me with wonder. Which then got me thinking about the concept of wonder itself, particularly in connection with nature.

A tiny hermit crab, maybe the size of a large pea, seemed to be trying to hitch a ride on a much larger hermit crab, about as large as a golf ball. But the Big Guy wasn’t having any of it. Little One climbed laboriously up onto Big Guy’s shell then just hung on, breathing heavily, I imagined, with the effort. Then Big Guy took a few steps, noticed something wasn’t right, and reached out a claw and knocked Little One off his back. Little One tucked and rolled, shook himself off, and renewed his assault, climbing once more to that precarious perch on Big Guy’s shell. A few steps, then the avenging claw reached out and shoved him unceremoniously to the sand again. And again—lather, rinse, repeat. On one try, Little One never even made it to the top, but when he was about halfway up, Big Guy simply rolled over, depositing him back on the sand.

Eventually, Little One decided to cut his losses and wandered off in search of another ride, or maybe breakfast. And Big Guy was free to go on his merry way, unaccompanied, a confirmed loner.

Thinking about this little drama reminded me of a Robert Frost poem:


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

Frost is thinking about the question of whether there’s design in nature and, if there is, what its source and purpose are: is there some “design of darkness” meant to “appall”; or are there simply coincidences, and no design at work at all? A third possibility is not explicitly articulated by the poem’s speaker, but implied by the three white “players”: the spider, the moth, and the white flower (heal-all flowers, by the way, are usually blue, and only rarely white). White creatures in nature would be drawn to a white flower for the defense of camouflage, and in this sense, there is some kind of design at work, though it’s not a design of darkness to appall, but the innate will of all creatures to live and protect themselves from harm. That this defense here doesn’t quite work out for the moth, but does for the spider, while the flower behaves as part innocent bystander and part unknowing accomplice, is simply the way things sometimes happen, just as heal-all flowers are sometimes white rather than the customary blue. So the poem suggests that some kind of design does govern in things so small (and therefore in all things), but it's rather inherent design than design imposed from without, from beyond the natural creatures themselves. The spider, moth, and flower live according to their inborn tendencies and their will to thrive and flourish. No other design is necessary.

To put it another way, I offer a poem by Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”:

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

To “behold/Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”—this is often difficult for the close observer of nature, especially if she has strong religious training or poetic tendencies. And of course there’s nothing wrong with observing a spider holding a dead moth, or two hermit crabs on a beach, or a stand of ice-laden trees and making the leap from that observation to philosophical, even mystical, thoughts. But we ought to always remember the primacy of the initial event, that it is what it is—the spider about to consume the moth, the hermit crabs agreeing to disagree, the icy tree waiting for spring—and has its own import to itself and its surroundings, regardless of whatever significance we wish to assign it.

And that brings me back to the idea of wonder in nature. We often find wonder in nature only by finding some extended meaning in it, some proof of our own greatness (or smallness), some evidence of the truth of our cosmologies. But we need to occasionally stop and notice that there is much wonder in the world as it is, without our having to interpret it always as some reflection of ourselves.

13 June 2006


I love keeping scrapbooks, but now I’ve been asked how I got started with it. Hmmm……

My first thought was of my best friend, Ginny, who became a Creative Memories consultant in 1994 and got me started paper-scrapping then. But really it started long before that. I remember that one of my favorite activities when I was a child was to “make books,” as I called it (and no, I don’t mean “making book”—that is, taking bets on horse races, ball games, etc. LOL). I remember a few of the books I made: an album of leaves, including real leaves that I pasted in then wrote about the trees they came from, and I actually appended a Foreword—I’d seen sections in real books called the Foreword and I thought my book on leaves ought to have one, too. What a quirky kid I was! I also made a book about sea creatures in which I sketched (very badly) pictures of the creatures and then identified how they defended or protected themselves. Not sure what got me started on that, but I vividly remember making its pages. I also still have a little photo album I made when I was a Brownie, with my black and white photos from my Kodak Brownie camera—Brownies from a Brownie. LOL It’s just those black-and-whites pasted on black paper pages with my childish handwriting in white pencil. But I’m so glad to still have it.

As I grew up, I continued to scrapbook provisionally. When the Chief and I were in the Navy, I kept every document, every photo, every certificate and citation we got, though many of them are still in folders and only a few have made into actual albums. I have done a nice career/retirement album for each of us, though.

Fast-forward again to 1994, when I retired from the Navy. My CM friend was waiting, with something to do with the time I suddenly had on my hands (though not for long, because I went back to school AND started teaching part-time a few months later). I became a scrapbooking machine, doing maybe a dozen albums in the next several months, but then I became too busy with finishing my MA degree to do much of anything else. My scrapbooks-in-progress languished, and I just did a page here and there or a few when I found time to go to a crop.

Fast-forward again to 2004. I was looking for a way to get my scrapping chops recharged, since I had lots of photos from a trip to Ireland. I picked up a scrapbooking magazine, which had a section on digital, gave some URLs for digi-scrapping sites, and some spectacular examples of digitally scrapped pages, and I felt my motivation rising! I found DSP, located the “free” software that had come with my computer (MS Digital Image Pro—but now I use PSE), signed up for a class, and the rest, as they say, is history.

With digital scrapping, either I’ve come full-circle or maybe I haven’t really moved at all—I’m still “making books”!

03 June 2006

Tour de Chesapeake

Woo-hoo! I’ve survived my four-day bike tour-the Womantours "Terry Tour of Maryland"! And I survived it in grand style—that is, I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to do it again.

Day 1: Arrival, Warmup, Introductions
I arrived at our inn, the Glasgow Inn (built around 1760, and now on the historical register), Cambridge, MD, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, around 1:00 and got checked in; that is, the owner/manager, Martha, showed me my room and the attached, shared bathroom. Not exactly palatial, but quite a large room that seemed like it would be comfy enough for two women to share. And I was there first, so I claimed the larger bed.

After most of the group had arrived, around 3:30, we had an informal info session, got our cue sheets, and took off on our first ride, a 20-mile warmup, get-acquainted, out-and-back past an old windmill south of Cambridge. The headwind was a killer, and it must have been mainly a crosswind because it didn’t seem to get much better on the way back, until we got back into town and had some buildings to stave it off. I got into a groove with a couple of other women, L. and A., as we took off. We inadvertently dropped A. after maybe 5 or 6 miles, but stayed together other than that. Upon returning, we learned that A.’s water bottle had “exploded” on her, so she’d turned around and taken her dripping self home to dry off. (Fear not, dear reader, after this inauspicious beginning, A. had a lovely time of it.)

The ice cream store that was our turnaround point was closed upon our arrival, but it was cloudy, cool, and windy, so neither of us was really in the mood for ice cream anyway. We took a brief break to look in the windows and double-check our cue sheets, then headed back to the inn.

After showers, we met on the front lawn for a little al fresco happy hour and more extensive informational meeting. The guides, Laurie and Kimberly, handed out our info packets (containing the cue sheets and maps for the tour, brochures about the area, more info and some discounts for Womantours), tour t-shirts, and tour water bottles. (Now I know the price of the tour covers all these little perks, but let me have my little fantasy that we were a bunch of girlfriends bike-touring together and they were just giving us all this stuff.)

We all introduced ourselves, and I learned that many of the riders were from points north—Connecticut mainly, but also New York—with one from Virginia and one from Washington state, plus, of course, the lone Floridian, myself. There were several nurses, one doc, a retired Coast Guard officer, a retired public school teacher, one police officer, one woman self-employed in housing and construction, and a few folks of indeterminate corporate professions. Altogether a happy, friendly group, if not the most homogenous.

After the meeting, we rode the van to dinner at the Suicide Bridge Restaurant. I guess if you’re going someplace like that on a bike tour, it needs to be the first night, to keep people from drowning their sore behinds on the spot and helping the place live up to its name. LOL! Excellent food and service, and Georgena Terry joined us for dinner.

For those not in the know, Georgena Terry is the originator and still owner of Terry Precision Cycling, a bicycle company in upstate NY which builds bicycles exclusively for women. Georgena, trained as an engineer, started building bikes out of her house in the 80s, and now has this huge company that sells not only bikes but also a full range of cycling parts, accessories, and apparel, including the famous Terry saddle, one of the first to offer a strategically placed cutout to keep the—ahem—“privates” comfy while cycling long distances. Georgena walks with crutches, but let her get on a bike and she turns into the Energizer Bunny—she just keeps going and going and going and going and ... well, you get the idea. And with all that, she’s very cool and friendly. Just makes you think, “Well what’s MY problem—whining about my little sore this and my achy that!” Very inspiring!

Day 2: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Old Salty’s Restaurant
Longer ride today—choice of three routes, anywhere from 30 to about 75 miles. My pace group did 41 miles, to Old Salty’s Restaurant for lunch, then rode the sag van back to the inn. I honestly think I’d have done at least 50 miles today, but for that unrelenting, gale-force wind—seriously—there were Small Craft Warnings posted.

We rode first through part of the Blackwater NWR, a large bird sanctuary. At the refuge Visitors’ Center, I got to see a baby osprey in the nest, courtesy of the Osprey Cam whose images were displayed on a monitor at the center. Cute, grey, fluffy little guy, but only visible for a minute or two before Mom (or Dad) got him back under cover. Georgena (who’s on sort of a crusade for the refuge) joined us at the Visitors’ Center and told us that this refuge is threatened by saltwater incursion from one side and human development on the other. We must all write to the U.S. Department of the Interior to urge them to stop the proposed development (already wrote mine!)

Setting off from the Visitors’ Center, we rode with Georgena for quite a while. She pointed out a bald eagles’ nest in the distance, plus we saw plenty of blue herons, egrets, some hawks, red-winged blackbirds, ospreys, and turtles.

The only hill in sight was a bridge at about the 35-mile point, and all of us starving for lunch. After a well-earned lunch at Old Salty’s, my group—four of us by now—boarded the van for the ride back. My ego only hurt for about a nano-second, until I recalled that I’d just cycled 41 miles through what felt like hurricane-force winds.

Dinner was at a local place called Snapper’s—referring to the turtle, not the fish. A little disappointing compared to last night’s dinner. Only one waitress for all 18 of us, some orders incorrect, whipped cream on top of N.'s margarita, and uninspired vegetable dishes. But a nice location, overlooking a little inlet and marina. All looking forward to tomorrow’s ride.

Day 3: St. Michael’s
More choices today: take the van over the bridge (scary fast traffic and not much of a bike lane) or ride it. And more mileage choices. My group rode the van over the bridge, then set off for the little town of St. Michael’s. See photo of an interesting angular cupola in St. Michael's. ->
Some miles of rolling country roads, then a long gentle descent on a road that was heavily-trafficked but with a nice, wide, clean bike lane. In St. Michael’s, we had a picnic lunch in a little park by the water (what ISN'T by the water around here?), then time for some shopping! I scored a needlepointed pillow displaying two dog profiles with the legend “SIT,” a dog picture frame, and, at an antique/junk dealer’s shop outside of town, an antique silver candelabra (been wanting one for a while). All happily carried along in the van so I didn’t have to schlep them on my bike.

Next we rode to the Bellevue Ferry, and rode the ferry across a short stretch of water—a finger of the Chesapeake—to the little town of Oxford. Then, there being not many miles remaining before reaching the dreaded scary bridge again, many of us chose to sag from the ferry terminus. (Sag=ride the van, also known in cycling lingo as a sag-wagon.)

Highlights of the day’s ride:
•The towns are very like those of New England in appearance, but the folks are more outgoing and friendly—after all, this IS part of the South. And of course it’s much flatter than New England-nice bonus.
•Saw a couple of neat public sculptures of birds: one eagle landing on a nest and one pelican with a fish in its beak. No photo opp, but they were both very cool to see.
•N. found the hitching post she’d been looking for for her garden! Almost missed it, except that D. spotted it as we were riding by the antique shop. Serendipity! (That was also where I got my candelabra—cheap!)
•Nicest part of the ride, hands-down, was the stretch from St. Michael’s to the ferry. Much less windy than it had been all week, nice, quiet, tree-lined country roads, little traffic, gently descending. Wish that part had lasted longer.

Later, a delicious and well-served dinner—best crab cakes yet, and I had them everywhere we ate. Afterwards, my roommate, G., observed that no one talked much about spouses or kids, though they might’ve been briefly mentioned the first evening. It’s like we all REALLY got away for the week. Interesting!

Day 4: Kayaking and Farewells
Kayaking in the Blackwater NWR today. Some high clouds and that wind again, but a nice dry day, partly sunny.

As a group, we saw three eagles. R. spotted an immature one on a tree on the island, and kindly let me use her binoculars to see his ungainly self—still has to grow into those huge yellow feet. C. saw two mature eagles together—one flying and the other in a tree, not far from the nest. And what a nest! Enormous—it really IS as big as a VW Beetle, just as the outfitter had suggested. There were some new kayakers in the group, and it was great to see them loving the sport so much their first time out.

Back at the inn, we got Womantours jerseys, and some of us bought soap from Kimberly (one of the guides, who makes soap-by-the-slice when she’s not guiding bike tours--I highly recommend you check out these cool, creative, and delicious-smelling handcrafted soaps). Then we had another nice picnic lunch on the front lawn of the inn before doing hugs, good-byes, and going our separate ways. In the afternoon, I went back out to the refuge on my own for a quick 20 miles before heading south. What a great experience!

Lessons learned while on tour:
•I need my handlebars a bit closer to me, and I could use a better saddle.
•My shoulders hurt a lot after about 20 miles—changing the bar, its position, or more time in the saddle may help.
•The Cho-Pat brace rocked! I was able to ride every day without much knee discomfort at all.
•I need to minimize what I carry on the bike. Only need tools, spare tube, tire boot, frame pump, water, snack, sometimes a camera. Still not sure I’ll remove my rear rack though—I like knowing it’s there in case I need it.
•The Eastern Shore of Maryland is lovely. A little economically depressed in spots, but generally not much further developed from how I remember it in my childhood, when we cruised down the DelMarVa peninsula toward summer vacation spots in Virginia Beach.
•I ate mass quantities this week to fuel the engine (me), but it was all pretty good food, and I did not gain an ounce. I also didn’t lose any, but hey, that wasn’t one of my goals here.
•Wanna try clipless pedals…again.
•Wanna go on another Womantours tour! ASAP!