The da Vinci in D.C.

Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

What a difference a week makes. John and I had an amazing Cherry Blossom-filled visit to the Nation's capital last Saturday. This Saturday we wanted to take Alyssa to see a couple of the sights (and hopefully a small remaining glimpse of the cherry blossoms). There weren't nearly the number of people we had to contend with last weekend this visit, but it was still a holiday weekend in D.C. So there were plenty of people around. We made our way down to the Tidal Basin. It was no longer pink and pretty. In fact, it was barely green. It was amazing how extreme the difference was from last weekend. It just served to reinforce my assertion that it is very tricky to catch those trees in full bloom. And, it made me all the more grateful to have seen them in all their blooming glory. Finally.

We then trekked up toward the Washington Monument and around it. We wondered past the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and on to our final destination: The National Gallery of Art. This week went straight upstairs to see the most impressive piece in the gallery: Ginevra de' Benci. An oil on panel by Leonardo da Vinci. c. 1474/1478. This is the only da Vinci in the Americas. According to the National Gallery of Art's web page, “only ten paintings by Leonardo exist in the world today.” I had no idea.

We were enthralled by the beauty of this painting. It is magnificent. I am thrilled that I was able to see this Masterpiece in person. And, that Alyssa got to experience it also. It was displayed so that both sides (both paintings) could be seen, which was also interesting. I have not seen many (or any) two sided paintings. It was very cool.

Leonardo da Vinci, Wreath of Laurel, Palm, and Juniper with a Scroll inscribed Virtutem Forma Decorat [reverse], c. 1474/1478 (The other side of Ginevra de' Benci)

 

Colorful Surprise

 

There are two times of year that are unavoidably busy for parents: Fall and Spring. It doesn't start off that way, necessarily, unless either one or both parents have a job that has increased demands during those times. However, when kids begin going to school and then eventually begin activities or sports, things get exponentially busier. This past Fall, even as Empty Nesters, we were busy. We were steeped in traveling to both kids college soccer games, especially to our Senior daughter's last Division 1 season games. I had a lot of work with my part time jobs. As a result, we had a Fall that was similar to what we had become used to – a very busy one.

This Spring, on the other hand, has not been what we were used to. We travelled very little. We had hoped that our Empty Nest hobby of cycling along Rail Trails would keep us busy. However, the weather has not been cooperating with us to get out as often as we expected. In a nutshell, we have had some spare time. Things were just starting to get busy again with my part time jobs and a little travel when Spring Break/Holy Week started. Things got slow, but luckily I was able to look forward to Alyssa coming home for a quick visit. It seemed like we hadn't seen her in a really long time. So, we missed her, and she said she was ready to be home, too.

We were also excited to have her home for the weekend, as it gave us a chance to do the big “Reveal.” John had been painting her room, as a surprise. She had picked the color out last summer, but with our hectic Fall, there was no time to actually paint. There was plenty of time this semester to get it done. The good news is that she loves the color (still) and the new look of her room. She is happy to have the vestiges of her youth behind her.

Tonight, since I had been missing Alex a lot and Alyssa was here, I texted him about setting up a Skype call. We were happy to catch him at a good time and had a really nice conversation. I loved that we could see him while talking to him. I think this was our first Skype call with him. It went smoothly. So now we have everything set up for our call to him (and a separate call to my sister) on Easter Sunday when Grandma and Grandpa are here.

 

Rolling Along the Western Maryland Rail Trail

The Stone Bridge on the Western Maryland Rail Trail

 

Another day, another ride. That's how we Empty Nesters roll. Or, at least that's how we roll when we plan a day off to ride another new (to us) rail trail.

Today we took on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The weather was overcast skies with temperatures in the low 70's. We began our ride at eastern end of the trail in Big Pool and headed west. We had read a little about this trail before we started, which helped us plan our day. We decided to break the 22 mile or so trail into two visits. We rode the original part of the trail from Big Pool to Hancock, MD this visit. It was just over 10 miles. This seemed manageable to us given that we had done the 26 mile ride in Virginia yesterday. I should say, it seemed reasonable until we actually remounted our bikes. At that point, anything beyond jumping off immediately seemed unreasonable. But, were pushed through the pain (because that's how hard core we are – ahem.)

The Rails and Big Pool in the Background
 

It was a lovely ride from the beginning. The first thing I noticed were the railroad tracks right next to the start of the trail. I love that! There was also a body of water, Big Pool, that I could see beyond the tracks. It was so nice. There was also a pretty stone bridge over the trail a few yards into the ride (photograph at top of post). It was so quiet and peaceful. The only other folks we saw initially were several older couples. We passed a working farm or two but not really any housing developments. It was woodsy and scenic until we got close to Rte. 70. The trail runs parallel with that busy highway for a good part of the trail. We decided that the road noise was a little annoying, but the beauty of the views opposite the highway completely outweighed the highway noise.

View of C & O Canal Towpath from Western Maryland Rail Trail
 

The trail was very flat, wide, and paved, which was good, I guess. It was strange to me to have such a flat, straight trail, but John loved it. It was getting increasingly more windy as we rode back to Big Pool. This made our return trip noteworthy (tougher) in that we had to fight that headwind. But, we got back to the car not much worse for the wear. All in all a good day and a good ride.

Western Maryland Rail Trail at Hancock, MD

 

Terrific Views Abound On Our W&OD Trail Ride

The Washington & Old Dominion Rail Trail Trailhead at Purcellville, Virginia
(Taken by John with his good camera)
The W&OD Trial (Photo Taken By Me)
We were so excited to get back to our Empty Nest hobby of cycling rail trails today. We planned to ride on a new (to us) rail trail in Virginia. The weather was beautiful again, high 70's to low 80's. It was perfect weather for a bike ride. We rode on the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Rail Trail. It's a very long trail that runs about 45 miles in length. We knew we weren't going to be able to ride the whole length of the trail, so we decided it might be more interesting if we started at the western most end, which is in Purcellville, Virginia. We set out around noon. The trail is paved and very well-maintained. The surrounding farms were so beautiful. We saw horses and cows and a huge bull with horns. There were some houses visible from the trail, but there were so many nice wooded areas with many streams running near the trail that the houses didn't detract from the nice ride.

Trail View – Farmland

At one point, about 6 miles into our ride, we were greeted by at least seven groups of walkers, joggers, and riders who were going in the opposite direction cautioning us about a raccoon in the middle of the trail. So, I finally asked a gal if the raccoon was mean. She said, “Yeah, kind of!” So that was exciting… We didn't actually see the raccoon because it had gone into the wooded area off the trail, which was just as well. On our return trip, an animal control vehicle was on the trail, the raccoon had been caught just as I rode up, so I asked to take a peak at the troublemaker. He wasn't having a fit in the cage, but he was probably rabid. So, I'm really glad we never had to meet it face to face.

Old Farm Along Trail

This was a long ride for us very early in the season, and we were both getting exhausted by the last 5 miles. We ended up doing 26 miles total. We were thrilled that we made it. We had both run out of water and were very hungry by the end of it. Fortunately, we had a cooler full of ice cold water bottles in the car. Overall, we had a great time. The trail was scenic and had no major hills that we couldn't handle. I think we will probably ride this trail again, and perhaps start from somewhere closer to the the Arlington, Virginia side of the trail.

Beautiful Stone Bridge Along Trail (Raccoon Removed from This Area)

 

Cheery Cherry Blossoms in D.C.

Cherry Blossom Tree, Potomac River 4/14 (Taken with my iPhone 4S)

 

We had a delightful day in D.C. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival was in full swing. I have never made into D.C. to see the lovely trees before during their peak bloom. They have always seemed to be very difficult to catch in peak bloom. It also has seemed that they like to peak mid-week. Then, a huge storm or two will come into the area and they are ruined. So, we were very excited to have the requisite perfect timing. The weather was sunny and mid to high 70's today.

Jefferson Memorial with Cherry Blossoms

 

I think it's the National Park Service usually handles crowd estimates for events in the District. But, I'm pretty sure there were at least a million people milling around and trying to capture The Perfect Photo of the blossoms, or of the blossoms framing a monument, or of the blossoms framing a loved one (with or without a monument in the background). My original estimate was a lot higher, but probably too unrealistic to share. It was a really nice day. We had a lot of fun. The most difficult part was that we had a long, long walk to find a restaurant for lunch. We were trying to get as far away from the huge crowds as possible. So we walked. And walked. And, eventually found fewer people (relatively speaking) and plenty of restaurant choices.

Weeping Cherry Tree, Potomac River side

 

Thanks to my friends Pat and Terri for reinforcing my need to see this wonderful event. And, extra thanks to Pat for equally emphatically urging us to take the Metro in and get off at Arlington National Cemetery to walk across the bridge. We avoided a couple hundred thousand people by coming in from Virginia and getting off the train before the Smithsonian stop.

Gorgeous Sky With Eagle

 

We took a multitude of photos ourselves. Similarly, we also sought the “money shot.” I think we got several great photos. We enjoyed the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial as we meandered along the Tidal Basin. We walked down The National Mall and briefly enjoyed the art in the National Gallery of Art. All in all it was an absolutely splendid day. I hope you enjoy our photos!

FDR Memorial – Quote and Cherry Blossoms

 

RAPHAEL “The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist c. 1507,
The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

 

Date Night and a Battle of the Birds

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Eutaw Street (with the iconic Bromo Seltzer Tower in the background.)

 

I must say, John and I are in prime Empty Nest form. Primo formo. Top of our game. You get the idea. We took advantage of our ability to be foot loose and fancy free and decided at the last minute to go to the Orioles game tonight. The weather was perfect. The sunny and 80 degree day cooled off little by little. The forecast called for scattered showers, but we had only a little drizzle.

I made shrimp and scallops over pasta with our new favorite Victoria Marinara Sauce for dinner. We ate and then John checked out the ticket availability. He looked on StubHub! There were plenty of seats available, which was not surprising for the first night of Spring Break for many area kids. Fortunately for us, someone was dumping their tickets for less than half price. So, we got tickets down the third base line, just past third base in Row 16 super cheap. It was awesome.

 

The game was a lot of fun. John and I shared several memories of the fun times we had bringing the kids to games when they were very little. They were so cute, and they loved the games. They were both a little stunned the first time they heard the Charge! Cheer. They were also taken aback the first time the Orioles scored a run or hit a home run, and Camden Yards exploded with loud music, and fans cheering and dancing. Well, there was some cheering and some dancing tonight, but sadly, no runs for the O's. Or “dem O's,” as some uber local Baltimore fans say. They lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-0. But, we had a great time, despite the result.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

 

Another Potential Loss Stemming From TriColumbia Collapse

Hard Work at the Pool

#HoCoBlogs

There are many unfortunate and some downright sad repercussions resulting from the folding of the Columbia, MD-based Columbia Triathlon Association or TriColumbia, as it was known. One of the lesser known casualties of the demise of TriColumbia, formerly the Mid-Atlantic's premier endurance event production company for the past 30 years, is the potential loss of a program called Learn2Tri, a youth triathlon education program.

This program began in 2011 with a partnership between TriColumbia and the Howard County Public School System, with financial backing from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and McDonald's Family Restaurants of Greater Baltimore, according to the CareFirst website. Other partners included, the Columbia Association, Trek Bicycles, the Howard County Police Department, Pinnacle Health & Wellness, and Lock Laces. The goal of Learn2Tri was to expose Howard County Public Elementary, Middle, and High School students to the life long health benefits of swimming, biking and running, as well as introduce them to the multi-sport event. I have been working on the swim portion of this effort from the beginning. That is, I have been teaching everything from water acclimation to triathlon techniques to students in the program. Probably the most expensive part of the three-part training is the swim training. There are some costs associated with the bike training, but I don't think it is nearly as costly as the swim. In order to teach the swim portion, students take what amounts to a field trip to the pool. The costs of the busses for the students, instructor pay and pool rental was paid for by TriColumbia through presumably donations, grants and partnership seed money. Unfortunately, that funding stream is gone with the collapse of TriColumbia.

So, while many running and triathlon enthusiasts are at least partly mollified by the news that many if not all of TriColumbia's planned races for this season will be picked up and run by another event production outfit (probably World Triathlon Corporation), Learn2Tri is not being picked up by that group.

I don't have the exact numbers of how many students would be impacted by the loss of this program, but there are 12 high schools in the county. We usually have between five and eight schools (and lately almost exclusively high schools) in each the Fall and Spring. Each school brings between 20 to 50 kids (in one group or two) for one day or two depending on their schedules. In my mind, this opportunity is priceless and worth continuing. Swimming, as I've said before, is a life saving, as well as life long skill/sport. It is: a hobby, a sport, a leisurely activity, a form of therapy, or a life saving skill.

We would love to find a new “home sponsor” for this program. Despite TriColumbia's unfortunate situation, they did a lot of wonderful things in and for our community. Their presence will be missed, but hopefully there is another group that would love to help us train the triathletes, or the casual swimmers, bikers and runners, of the future. If you are interested in sponsoring Learn2Tri, donating to Learn2Tri, or just finding out more, please contact me.