Product Testing

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I was convinced I was born to row because I made it through a Learn to Row class without falling in the water.  Let me take another moment to brag–I made it through the entire two weeks of classes without falling in.

Fortunately, one of the requirements for the class was to get back into the boat from the water.  This is fortunate in that, having not fallen in, I didn’t get to learn this on my own.

Getting back into a sculling shell from the water is no easy task.  You have to get your body up onto the boat while holding the oars into position so the boat doesn’t tip back over again.  It took me several tries and I was badly bruised by the time I made it back into the boat.

Since then, I’ve been feeling like I was never going to fall in.  I’ve been rowing twice a week and I’ve managed to catch myself every time I started to tip.  Then, the other morning when it was about 54 degrees out, I did my usual route around a section of the river that is mostly still within sight of the rowing center.

When I got to the downstream end of my rowing route, as usual, I stopped rowing to drift by part of Maclellan Island and see what birds were out.  Just then, four Great Blue Heron came swooping overhead.  I turned to see where they were headed and the next thing I knew, my head was completely underwater.  I didn’t feel the boat tip at all; I was just suddenly submerged.

Fortunately, the river was still toasty warm.  But, I had a moment of panic.  Once I got my mind around the fact that I was, in fact, in the water, I realized several things:

  1. One oar had come out of the oarlock and was floating away from me and the boat
  2. The boat was completely upside down
  3. My iPhone was strapped to the boat in a waterproof case and cute little lifejacket
  4. I had lights suction cupped to the boat since it was dark when I’d started rowing–they were now completely submerged.

Accepting that there was nothing to do but get the boat back together and myself back in it, I swam after the lose oar, pleased to find that it does, as advertised, float.  I got the boat righted and was equally pleased to discover that my lights were not only still attached, but also still it.

I got the oar back in the oarlock and managed to get myself back into the boat in one smooth try like I’d been tipping sculling boats for years.  And, the moment of pure delight came when I confirmed that my iPhone had floated and remained dry inside its case.

For once, all products performed as expected!

The only down side was riding my bike home in 54 degree weather soaking wet.

Learning to Row

I took the Learn to Row class offered by the Lookout Rowing Club here in Chattanooga back in July, but rowing a sculling shell and cameras don’t mix well.

At long last, I got my husband out to the rowing center to help do some shooting.  In these shots, I am demonstrating some of the basic skills we learned in the class:  carrying the boat by yourself, getting into the boat without falling in, getting off the dock without falling in, and rowing without falling in.

Note the “without falling in.”  That is an important qualifier.  A sculling shell is a long and narrow boat; the fact that it doesn’t roll all the time is a denial of physics (and the result of long oars that float on the water’s surface).

In fact, during the first class in which we got into boats and pushed off the dock, I was the only person in my class who didn’t end up in the water, including the instructor.  This is such a remarkable fact that I have to think that perhaps I was born to be a rower.  After all, I once scraped my face eating a breakfast bar; the odds that I would be the only one to make it through the class without falling in at some point are pretty astronomical.

I did not fare so well on learning how to carry the boat.  In fact, I found that to be the most challenging part of the class.  It was also something I was determined to master because I knew I was going to be coming out to row by myself early in the morning and there was no way I was going to ask anyone for help.

First, I tried carrying the boat on my shoulder instead of my head.  I thought this would be more stable and give me better control over the boat.  It did.  However, I couldn’t see one entire side and I kept running into things like railings, buildings, other boats, and occasionally other people.

I eventually found carrying the boat on my head gave me much better visibility and the only time I ran into things was trying to put the boat back onto the racks.  I eventually learned to carry the boat in and out of the boathouse on my hip, place it on the slings out front, and then put it on my head to walk to the dock.  So far, I haven’t broken anything.

On this day, as I was rowing, my port oar popped out of the oarlock.  I was pretty proud that I managed to get the oar back into the oarlock without tipping the boat.  This is no easy feat–the oars are like training wheels and keeping both of them on the water evenly keeps the boat from rolling over.  For some reason, my husband didn’t shoot my amazing dexterity.  Maybe he was waiting for the moment when I would fall in?

Last Chance

Now that we’ve passed the autumnal equinox, all the signs that summer is over have become more prevalent.  Of course, there are the birds, having shed their breeding colors and stopped their incessant singing.  But, there are many other signs.

For one, the nights are cool and crisp, the air taking on a taste (or is it a touch?) that snaps as I move through it.  And the nights come faster, the sun setting earlier each night, while the mornings drag along, the sun too sleepy to rise.

Leaves have started blowing along the paths in the park, crunching underfoot and crackling against concrete as they dance in the breeze.  The leaves that remain on the trees have shifted from deep green to something a women’s clothing catalog might call chartreuse.

As I walk Tisen longer and longer before dawn, Venus continues to shine brilliantly as if it’s late at night.  Combined with the waxing moon, I find myself confused as to whether I’m getting up or going to bed.  With the morning temperatures calling for a fleece, I’m tempted to go to bed.

 

The pots of summer flowers on neighbors’ balconies have disappeared and been replaced with mums in fall colors.  Some even have pumpkins and halloween decorations displayed.  The stores have already stocked halloween candy (betting on compulsive sugar-eaters like me buying early and eating what they buy and having to replenish before trick or treat).

Yet, there are still persistent remnants of summer.  The Tennessee River remains the temperature of a warm bath (how I know that is a subject for another blog post).  The late afternoon temperatures still reach the mid to high 80’s.  And, on weekends, local families still gather on the sledding hill.

Just over a year ago, I did a post called Southern Sledding.  This was the most fascinating tradition to me.  It struck me as odd that up North, it had never occurred to us to sled on grass.  We waited around for 10 months out of the year day dreaming about when we could go sledding again, hoping against hope that we’d get enough snow over Christmas vacation (which never happened).  And then hoping for enough snow to close the schools so we could go sledding instead of going to school (which rarely happened).  Perhaps we liked the idea of sledding more than the reality of sledding and that’s what kept us from thinking of sledding in warmer weather on the grass?

Whatever the reason, the sledding hill seems to be more crowded now as if everyone who never got around to grass sledding during the summer is trying to get it in before the weather changes.

This is one tradition I have yet to try.  I keep waiting for someone to offer a class on proper technique.  I guess I, too, will have to try to get it in before the rains start.  Perhaps I will take a lesson from one of my subjects and wear a helmet.

Taking Lessons

As I rode my bike home from my first day of Learn to Row, it occurred to me I’ve been taking lessons my whole life.  I began to compile a list of all the classes, workshops, lessons I’ve taken.

First, there was ballet.  This always shocks people for two reasons.  First, I am approximately 2x the size of the average ballerina in all directions.  Second, I am incredibly clumsy.  Although, I did have a guy tell me I was graceful once.  When I protested that I’m always falling, he said, “Yes, but you fall gracefully.”  Maybe I learned something.

There were summer swimming lessons, which were re-taken as an adult when I wanted to learn how to swim freestyle efficiently.  There were ice skating lessons which were also repeated in adulthood until I realized 30 is not the right time in life to learn how to jump on ice (after partially tearing an MCL in my knee).

There were gymnastics lessons.  I was exceptionally good at the uneven parallel bars for my age.  Perhaps it was because I was the only one who could reach them?

I took piano lessons and learned how to play “Happiness Is” from some Charlie Brown musical I’d never head of.  It still gets stuck in my head from time to time.  I had slightly better results when I switched to the clarinet, but having no sense of time was a problem.

I settled on horseback riding and for 4 years was pretty much dedicated to nothing but horses, paying for them, and school.  By my senior year of high school, I realized I had to choose between having a horse and going to college–my minimum wage jobs weren’t going to pay for both.  That’s about the time I managed to come up with the money for a package of skiing lessons.

In college, I took a weight lifting class and aerobics–both part of my PE requirement.  When I was a little more settled again, I started with a trainer at the gym.  Then it was nutrition classes.  I even took a cooking class, although it turned out to be a rather alternative cooking class based on the yin and yang of food.  My husband wouldn’t eat anything I prepared from there.

I took a motorcycle class and friends taught me how to water ski, bowl, and play softball.  I took a rock climbing class and eventually took up yoga classes.

Later, Pat tried to teach me to play the drums, then I resorted to learning to play a hand drum.  Still no sense of time.  I switched to trying to learn to speak German instead, but I wasn’t much better at that.

The list goes on and on.

Since coming to Chattanooga, I’ve earned my novice hang gliding pilot rating, started learning how to care for non-releasable birds of prey, gotten some informal lessons on kayaking, and gone to several photography workshops.

Jack of all trades, master of none. As I rode my bike home from my first day of Learn to Row, it occurred to me I’ve been taking lessons my whole life.  I began to compile a list of all the classes, workshops, lessons I’ve taken.

First, there was ballet.  This always shocks people for two reasons.  First, I am approximately 2x the size of the average ballerina in all directions.  Second, I am incredibly clumsy.  Although, I did have a guy tell me I was graceful once.  When I protested that I’m always falling, he said, “Yes, but you fall gracefully.”  Maybe I learned something.

There were summer swimming lessons, which were re-taken as an adult when I wanted to learn how to swim freestyle efficiently.  There were ice skating lessons which were also repeated in adulthood until I realized 30 is not the right time in life to learn how to jump on ice (after partially tearing an MCL in my knee).

There were gymnastics lessons.  I was exceptionally good at the uneven parallel bars for my age.  Perhaps it was because I was the only one who could reach them?

I took piano lessons and learned how to play “Happiness Is” from some Charlie Brown musical I’d never head of.  It still gets stuck in my head from time to time.  I had slightly better results when I switched to the clarinet, but having no sense of time was a problem.

I settled on horseback riding and for 4 years was pretty much dedicated to nothing but horses, paying for them, and school.  By my senior year of high school, I realized I had to choose between having a horse and going to college–my minimum wage jobs weren’t going to pay for both.  That’s about the time I managed to come up with the money for a package of skiing lessons.

In college, I took a weight lifting class and aerobics–both part of my PE requirement.  When I was a little more settled again, I started with a trainer at the gym.  Then it was nutrition classes.  I even took a cooking class, although it turned out to be a rather alternative cooking class based on the yin and yang of food.  My husband wouldn’t eat anything I prepared from there.

I took a motorcycle class and friends taught me how to water ski, bowl, and play softball.  I took a rock climbing class and eventually took up yoga classes.

Later, Pat tried to teach me to play the drums, then I resorted to learning to play a hand drum.  Still no sense of time.  I switched to trying to learn to speak German instead, but I wasn’t much better at that.

The list goes on and on.

Since coming to Chattanooga, I’ve earned my novice hang gliding pilot rating, started learning how to care for non-releasable birds of prey, gotten some informal lessons on kayaking, and gone to several photography workshops.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

When Wrong Goes Right

We have been taking a break from hang gliding for several months now.  It’s one of those things–first we were taking a break so our knees could heal.  Then, Pat started working every weekend getting his new guitar-building business going.  All work and no play was getting old.

Then, when Pat’s family came to town to celebrate Pat’s milestone birthday with us, we managed to talk his sister into going for a tandem flight.

Talking someone else into doing a tandem flight is different from deciding as a couple that it’s something you want to do together.  There is a completely different sense of responsibility–probably heightened by the fact that this was Pat’s baby sister (never mind that she’s now in her 30’s and more than capable of making up her own mind).  While I felt obligated to make her aware that there were risks, I didn’t want to scare her out of it because it’s one of those experiences you keep for a lifetime.

As we headed out to the mountain for Pat’s sister’s flight, I had one of my mental glitches that caused me to take us completely the wrong way.

As we drove as fast as was allowed in the wrong direction on a lonely 2-lane highway, we spotted a large dog staggering toward us in the middle of the lane.  We also noticed it had a collar, so we swerved around it and started looking for houses, assuming its home had to be close–it was barely able to walk.

Pat’s sister immediately wanted to stop and pick up the dog.  I think we were all thinking the same thing, but we didn’t want to steal someone’s dog.  As luck would have it, we soon realized we were going the wrong way and needed to turn around.  By this time, we realized there were no houses in the vicinity and there was no way that dog had gotten there on its own.

When we got back to where it was, it had collapsed in the middle of the road.  We blocked traffic with our car, got out Tisen’s water bowl and gave the dog water.  Then, we managed to urge it to get into our van, although Tisen wasn’t so happy about sharing his ride.

Since our safe-harbor dog shelter didn’t open for hours, we went ahead and took Pat’s sister to the flight park.  When we finally got Pat’s sister signed up for her flight, we asked if anyone wanted a dog.  It looked like a poorly bred Mastiff.  Her hips were so bad, she could barely walk.  She was dirty and smelled like she’d been lying in poop.  She had ticks and probably fleas.  We were certain she’d been dumped.  No one was interested.

Pat’s sister took her flight full of joy knowing that the dog was safe. She said the tandem flight was 2nd to rescuing the dog on her list of things that made her trip.  She wasn’t alone in her thinking.

If Daedalus Were a Photographer

We get to sleep in today–we don’t have to be at the mountain launch until 8:30AM.  At 3:17AM, I am awakened by a dog looking intently at me, wagging his tail and a cloud of stench that makes me think he’s had an accident.  I illuminate my iPhone and find he has not had an accident, yet.  I pull on footwear, grab a jacket, and race outside with him.  We make it outside with time to spare, but I’m about to have an accident by the time Tisen’s needs are met.

I spend the next 3 hours nodding off and waking up every 15 minutes.  Tisen snores loudly at my feet.  I finally fall back into a deep sleep about 10 minutes before the alarm goes off.  I lay in bed willing myself to wake up my husband and get out of bed.  Today is a big day–Pat’s first mountain launch.

We make it to the top of the mountain and find a couple of guys from Minnesota have already launched for the first time.  They and the instructor, JC, return about the time we’re done assembling Pat’s glider.  JC goes through the flight plan with Pat again, making sure he knows exactly what he’s supposed to do.

While she launches our Minnesota classmates again, I busy myself getting my equipment ready.  There’s the GoPro helmet cam, my iPhone video camera, and, of course, my DSLR.  I’ve found a spot below the launch ramp to shoot from.  Unfortunately, I’m too close to the ramp with the 100-400mm lens to get the field of view I want.

Since I am also manning the iPhone video camera, I’ve mounted it into a TomTom iPhone mount to make it easier to hold on top of my lens.  Whatever I’m pointing at will also be the subject for the video.  Pat, aka MacGyver, came up with this idea.

I learned several things trying to shoot this launch.  First, don’t be both the still photographer and the videographer at the same time.  I couldn’t pan well while holding the iPhone mount and missed the most interesting parts of the launch with my camera.  Second, the iPhone is a fine way to make a video if your subject is no more than, say, 50 feet away.  After that, Pat was a white dot floating over the trees.  Third, keeping yourself busy with equipment really distracts you from the overwhelming anxiety created by watching your life partner of over 16 years run off the edge of a mountain.  Unfortunately, it also distracts you from fully experiencing the moment.  I felt like I hadn’t seen the launch at all.  The moment my husband stood on top of a mountain with a kite on his back and ran off that mountain like he’d been doing it all his life, in that moment, I was distracted.  I wanted to be inside his head at that moment, but, instead, I was outside, looking through a viewfinder.