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Archive for June, 2013

A good roll. That’s what you need to be a whitewater kayaker.

If you can’t ‘combat’ roll your kayak upright after flipping in the raging river (and you most definitely will flip), there is little chance for long-term kayaking fun. You will forever fear flipping rather than savor the karma of kayaking. No roll means expertise in ‘wet exiting’ and flailing for shore. Provided you survive the river’s tendency to smash you into boulders, pulling the kayak out of the river to drain multiple times a day is no picnic.

Learn to roll. If you learn nothing else, learn that.

So began a week-long course designed to train beginners in the art of kayaking.

After you’re geared up (kayak, paddle, life jacket, spraydeck and a helmet) and learn a few basic strokes, you begin your quest for the perfect roll. Everyday, over and over you try. You perfect one aspect only to unlearn another. You get three things right, only to miss the next one. Again and again it goes. Sometimes you make it, but mostly you don’t. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

But let’s digress.

The day before I ever thought of rolling, I flew into the Arcata/Eureka Airport (Northern California) and met my friend who had suggested sometime in the distant past that we take a kayaking class. Of course. Eureka welcomed us with a frigid and foggy 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Somehow, I had pictured heat and sunshine. I hadn’t even packed a jacket.

The weekly class can take up to 14 guests. We met two others at the airport and hopped into the waiting SUV for our 2-1/2 hour drive to Forks of Salmon, where the owners, instructors and cooks of the Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School awaited.

The trip went by quickly, and along the way we gained 50 degrees in temperature. This was more like it. As we wound down the driveway towards the lodge, one of nature’s best tableaus greeted us.

The school is next to the Salmon River, surrounded by a forest and blackberry vines. There is a lodge with a common room and a few guest rooms; five or so cabins spotted throughout the grounds; a garage for storing the kayaks, for a workshop and for the merchandise store; other garages and sheds for this and that; a private ‘cottage’ overlooking the river; and two small lakes for practicing in your kayak.

The owners, Peter and Kristy Sturges, greeted us, introduced the staff (more about the instructors and cooks later) and showed us to our new homes for the upcoming week. My abode, the Manzanita Cabin, was a short walk from the main lodge. Later I would meet my roommate as he arrived after a drive from Seattle.

After you’ve settled in to your cabin, the frogs are the first thing you notice. Croaking. Incessantly. The first thing you do is attack the blackberry bushes nearby. The second thing you do is to see how many frogs you can scare back into the ponds.

After dinner and a good night’s rest, we woke up Sunday morning fresh and ready for kayaking.

To be continued…

(Note: This is Part 1 of a series of posts.)

Lodge

Lodge

Manzanita Cabin and my home for a week

Manzanita Cabin and my home for a week

Hint: Those are kayaks

Hint: Those are kayaks

Pond #1 *

Pond #1 *

Pond #2

Pond #2

Be quiet #

Be quiet #

Geared up

Geared up

Ready to go! #

Ready to go! #

Pond time *

Pond time *

Paddling #

Paddling #

Time to roll #

Time to roll #

A good roll #

A good roll #

* These photos courtesy of Peter Sturges

# These photos courtesy of Maura Shea.

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So. It’s done. 31 days as a vegetarian. I did not turn green. No plants sprouted from my head.

May Goal: Go vegetarian for 31 days. No meat. No eggs. No fish. No joke.

Result: Success.

I didn’t quite do it over 31 consecutive days. There were two ‘meat mishaps’ – if you will – but I did do two extra days as penance. I’ll explain.

Why did I do it?

Living in the USA, I have that luxury (#firstworldproblems). I know a few people who are vegetarian and even some vegans. I’ve had to organize workshops or conferences with food options that accommodate all preferences. I’ve traveled with (or overheard) people as they tried to navigate the cultural resistance or lack of comprehension with the not eating of meat. I was curious what it would be like. Simple as that.

What did I learn?

Lesson 1: Starting out you feel more tired than usual. It gets better but never really goes away (granted it was only one month).

Lesson 2: The vegetarian options at most restaurants are at best 10-15% of the whole menu. Aside from salads, this is often in the form of a veggie burger or a sandwich. Food trucks tend to have 4-7 main dish options and almost all trucks have at least 1-2 vegetarian dishes. A slightly better ratio than restaurants.

Lesson 3: I didn’t lose any weight, but I wasn’t trying to either. I ate with my usual voracity. If anything, I ate more just to sample different things.

Lesson 4: People would ask ‘Why are you doing this?’ Then their eyes glaze over and they say ‘Good luck with that.’ There’s a bit of dismissive and condescending attitude out there…

Lesson 5: I won’t stay vegetarian, but I can get on board with eating less meat. I don’t need meat every meal.

Lesson 6: Good vegetarian recipes abound. Yet, there is still something wrong with any dish that has pretensions of meat. I’m looking at you veggie sausages, veggie burger patties, seitan ribs and veggie meatloaf. Don’t do it.

Lesson 7: The only true temptation to slip off the lofty perch of vegetarianism is in a social setting where they keep bringing more and more appetizers to share – all with meat. All scents and enticements. Your only solace is to camp out by the lonely veggie tray and protect the cauliflower and slim carrot sticks from the circling buzzards not content with their meat fix. Outside of that, it’s easy to choose the veggie options from a menu.

Lesson 8: The first day I ate cake during our office’s weekly tea time. There were probably eggs in it. After that I didn’t worry too much about baked goods. I ate cake again. The spirit of the goal was not to eat omelets, balut or other eggs prepared in any multitude of ways. One egg in my cake? I’ll live.

Meat Mishap #1

For lunch around day 10, I ordered the veggie dish from an Ethiopian food truck (Fojol Bros of Benethiopia). When I got back to the office, I discovered they had given me beef! I was hungry, the food trucks were gone by then and I don’t waste food, especially meat. I ate it. End of story.

Meat Mishap #2

During the European Union Embassies’ Open House I went to the Czech Republic Embassy. I purchased the food and beer tasting. Someone handed me a bowl of goulash (guláš). I devoured it. Twenty minutes later I remembered I was trying to be vegetarian. Oh well.

Things I ate

  • Veggie sandwiches (from Sidamo’s, Toscano and Taylor)
  • Pizzas (four cheese and margherita)
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (mostly homemade)
  • Quesadillas (mostly homemade)
  • Veggie chili
  • Veggie red curry
  • Salads (mostly homemade)
  • Veggies over rice Indian style
  • Nut hemp burger, garlic kale, jerk eggplant, spinach sea relish and more (raw food)
  • Hummus with pita chips
  • Veggie ramen/veggie dumplings (Toki Underground) – Pause here and go get you some of this. Do it!
  • Cook at home meals (Thai cuisine)
Khepra's Raw Food

Khepra’s Raw Food

Indian veggies on rice

Indian veggies on rice

Brie and blackberry grilled cheese (I made this!)

Brie and blackberry grilled cheese (I made this!)

Don’t veg out!

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Mucho por Junio: Taco Binge

Since I spent the month of May avoiding meat, which included missing out on Cinco de Mayo tacos, and since there are a bevy of new Mexican restaurants opening on Capitol Hill*, I decided to make my random June goal all about meat. Well, more specifically whatever meat is inside a taco.

June Goal: Try as many different tacos as possible.

This means lots of Taco Tuesdays. Lots of Mexican restaurants. Lots of food trucks. And lots of home cooked tacos.

For the record, I’m not going to eat tacos every day.

Got any must try recommendations?

Let’s get a taco.

*New Capitol Hill Mexican restaurants: Sol Mexican Grill (open), Chupacabra Taqueria (open), District Taco on Penn Ave (open), Impala Cantina y Taqueria (coming soon) and Chicken Tortilla (coming soon).

Taco

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