Sunday, July 14, 2019

Kids, Mountain Bikes, and Ice Cream

NEMBA runs a series of kids rides throughout the summer and I figured Bug would enjoy getting out on the trail with some other kids and some knowledgable adults. At first she was a little apprehensive, but the prospect of ice cream won her over.
This particular ride was at Great Brook Farm where they have an ice cream shop where they make ice cream from the dairy cows raised on the farm. It is a really cool place. We have done several walks on the trails there. This was our first time riding at the park.
When we first arrived at the parking lot, it looked like chaos. Tons of families were milling about and kids were riding all over the place. Then one of the leaders came over and clued us in to the plan. Given the number of children and adults involved, it was extremely well organized. After gathering everyone together into one mass, they explained the ride structure and how to pick your group. Then they split into a number of groups.
Bug and I choose a nice middle of the road group. Bug was a little nervous because the ride leaders want all of the kids to ride as a group with the parents trailing behind, but she quickly got into the groove. The pace was nice and the terrain was middle of the road. There were some roots and loose gravel, but nothing too big. It turned out to be a good way to suss out where the group was in terms of skills and comfort.
An hour into the ride, about the halfway mark, the leaders decided to split the group again. One group  would do some easier trails at a slower pace. The other would do some more advanced stuff.
Bug decided to stick with the more advanced group and it was a good choice. We did some real single track stuff. It was definitely beginner trails with small roots and obstacles, but it was real riding. The kids all did a really great job.
There were two challenging parts of the ride:

  • A long, narrow bridge with a turn in the middle--the leaders had adults stand along the bridge to help the kids navigate and prevent any falls. Bug crushed it.
  • A steep, rocky decline with a sharp turn through a narrow gap in the trees. Most of the kids walked the part with the turn and trees. I rode it and totally understood why the kids walked it...
After the ride was over we all got ice cream. We also learned that if you do three kids rides, you get a free t-shirt. Bug is definitely looking to grab a new shirt!
After the ride I asked if she liked it. She said it was a little scary, but fun. She was proud of herself for learning to go over roots and trying some of the trickier terrain.
These are the moments that make parenting worth it.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

When the Helmet is a Good Idea

It was a beautiful day for a paddle and a perfect location.

The Westport boat ramp can be a bit of a PITA with the having to pay money and move cars into the overflow lot because kayaks don't need trailers, but it is the best point of entry for one of the most dynamic paddling locations in MA.

If you can catch it at the right time, the mouth of the Westport is a great place to play in standing waves and currents. Heading south from the mouth, you can find some great off shore rock features to play in and a little farther down you can find some great surf.

Anticipating a day of full contact playing, I launched wearing my helmet. I didn't want to be the only one left hanging on the sidelines when it got fun.

The currents at the mouth of the river were strong, but not at peak. The wind was blowing with the current, so it was flat. A few of the group tried to find something to play in to little avail. I decided to save my energy for more fun features further south.

The first feature we came to is known as the elevator. It is two rocks positioned roughly parallel to the coast and each other. The shorter of the two rocks is on the ocean side and the gap is just wide enough for two kayaks to fit through in a pinch.

Conditions around the feature were pretty calm, but there was enough action to play. We darted through the two different passages. We took turns holding our kayaks in positions near the rocks without crashing. It was a good time.

We moved on to a smaller rock formation that also offered some easy playing. Nothing that pushed the edge of the box, but enough to get a little adrenaline surge.

Just before lunch we found a nice off shore break for some surfing fun. Most of the group caught some nice rides.

I, on the other hand, was having a hard time finding my groove. I was either out of position, too late to get up to speed, too fast to get up to speed, or my stroke was uneven and I'd get turned before catching the line. It was frustrating. On the plus side, the Aries will surf on almost anything so the few little waves I did catch gave me nice rides.

By lunch, my helmet was starting to hurt my head. I was glad to swap it out for a regular hat for a little while.

When packing up from lunch for the return trip, I considered the tame conditions we had encountered in the morning and how comfortable I felt in my hat. I packed the helmet in the back hatch. I did consider stowing it in my cockpit just in case, but in the end I figured the chances of wanting access to the helmet were not worth the annoyance of having it bouncing around my feet.

After lunch we headed back over to the offshore break for some more surfing. The waves had moved a little closer to the rocks, but I found my surf mojo and caught a few nice rides. I just made sure to stay clear of the rocks.

From the surf, we returned to the smaller of the rock formations. The tide was lower, so it was more fun. I was bummed that I didn't have my helmet... There were some runs I decided against trying. However, I did take a few chances. It was hard to pass up.

We then returned to the elevator. It was here that I really missed my helmet. The feature had more power than was prudent to risk without head gear. I was the guy stuck on the sidelines watching others play. It was fun to watch, but I'm not really a spectator.

Gary gave us a master class in rough water boat handling. He parked himself in the center of the elevator and just bobbed up and down as the water tried to smash him into a big rock. It was a beautiful display of well placed draw strokes and hip control.

Getting back into the river was more challenging that anticipated. We expected that the current would be running up river, but instead it was still dumping water into the ocean. The water trying to force its way out of the river against the water trying to fill the river up created some nice swells and some tricky vortexes.

It was a fun challenge to slip in close to the knubble and make a tight shore hugging turn to stay out of the craziest parts of the confluence and boat traffic. Fortunately, the Aries was more than up to the challenge. I few well timed leans and hip bumps mixed with quick paddle strokes and the Aries can dance.

I had a long, great day, on the water. There was a plenty of play opportunities - but next time I'll make sure my helmet is not hiding in a hatch....