Stranded In The Southland

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Climbing with the Dirty Rocksuckers

I just got back from a weekend in Joshua Tree, working on my rock climbing, and hanging out with the Dirty Rocksuckers, a climbing club. I'm still not very good, and, once again, I managed to scrape up my legs pretty well. Still, it was fun, and I got some more experience.

It was so hot that we really didn't get as much climbing as I would've hoped. There were six top ropes slung, but we were all so ennervated by the heat that we didn't climb much past 11AM or so. I totally blew myself out, so that when I tried some more climbs later in the day, I couldn't make it up the onces I'd shinnied right up earlier in the day.

I was sufficiently exhausted from getting packed and then getting up at 5AM that I wasn't very good company and headed straight to my tent after dinner and a couple beers.

The DR (like the Sierra Club) always put on a "happy hour" at dinner time, in which everybody contributes something to the general feasting. I'd brought some homemade (mediocre) chocolate chip cookies; other folks just grabbed something from Trader Joes -- mmmm, hummus -- while some folks set up elaborate portable stoves and made fancy marinated Korean-style ribs. Yow. I didn't need to cook that night!

In the morning, I did a couple more climbs, but I was anxious to get back, as we head to Spain tomorrow, and I needed at least a little decompression time before getting on the plane. Pwhew.

Duck Tour of DC

Last week, I was in DC to see my new nephew get baptized. It was fun to see the family (plus my sister's in-laws, who are good folks), and it is amazing to see little E. Not that he really looks that much different from a few months ago, although I guess he smiles now.

On to the geeky stuff. My sister was worried about keeping us busy, so someone came up with the idea of taking the DC Ducks tour. This is a tour of DC conducted from an amphibious truck developed during WWII, called the DUKW. After a half an hour of driving around, the DUKW drives into the water, and provides an extra half-hour of sailing. Very geeky.

Now, usually, I avoid any sort of tour operation like the plague. It always seems like they make bad jokes, flub the few actual facts they hand out, and dumb down the topic so much that it hurts. I figured that, if nothing else, I'd get a chance to ride around DC in an antique WWII truck that I'd seen often in museums. Not too bad.

I was surprised and delighted to find that the tour was much better than I'd expected. The driver/guide was knowledgeable and not too silly. I'd seen most of DC before, but he still managed to add in some extra info to make it fun to see.

And then we got to the water! It was amazing to see that behemoth just drive right down into the water, and start floating. We probably had a couple feet of freeboard, which made the water a bit closer than I'd expected.

The DUKW had no trouble floating. They run around town in 2WD (although 4WD is available), and just keep on running when they hit the water. All the driver had to do was flick a switch to connect the propeller to the driveshaft. Yow!

I have to admit that we didn't see much on the water, although it was kinda cool to drive under the some of the bridges (especially the dilapidated railway bridge that provides the one link to the south from DC). It was just fun to be on the water. We had a brief moment of doubt, as we trundled our way across a sandbar which was shallow due to a spring (extra low) tide. The old DUKW rumbled, and slowed way down, but eventually motored across.

All in all, a fun trip, and entirely worth the $30, even for a cheapskate like me.