Barley Forge Brewing

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Next up on my L.A. brewery expedition was Barley Forge.  This one wasn’t on my radar until one of the two guys I met at Beachwood recommended it.  And… it was mere minutes from my motel after a tiring day.  It’s funny how they refer to themselves as Costa Mesa’s “first production brewery.”  Looking around all of L.A. and Orange County, an overhead observer might conclude that it was one one large concrete tract, occasionally broken up with unsightly brown hills and otherwise decorated with occasional tree planters in the inhabited area.  I guess many many years ago there were little towns, but it all blends together with clogged arteries.  In any case, their move here reflects a growing trend that every community ought to have its own brewery.  For metro cities, a brewery in the next town over doesn’t count.  They’re located in a quaint light industrial area, where only those who go looking will find them.


Barley Forge doesn’t rate on Beer Advocate.  They have only 13 beers and only four have received three or more reviews.  They advertise Belgian, West Coast and German style beers.  I tried four (but technically five).  Left to right we have The Patsy, a Coconut Rye Stout which had been recommended but wasn’t to my taste, The Black Dahlia, a 11% ABV dark Belgian, which surprised with a little spice in a medium body, Future Tripping Double IPA which I would have bet would have been my favorite (and won), and two versions of the Orange Curtain, a orange and grapefruit tasting pale ale, one version straight and the other supplemented with nitrogen (not shown), neither of which worked for me. 


Don’t worry, folks, I drank these from right to left.  You never start with the dark ones if you want to taste the light ones.  The brewery is fairly new and already reaching for a variety of styles and, I’d say, are quickly following through with good substance as well. I was disappointed that their One Louder IPA wasn’t on tap that night.  But, as you can see below, big dreams start small.  Surprisingly, they also have a limited food menu, which I discovered… after dinner.


I didn’t sample the Don Perfecto, but I’m a sucker for robots.  In any case, it’s a great brewery for Costa Mesa.  At roughly one year old, they’re doing well.  We’ll see if their creativity continues to compete with some very tough general area competition.


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Beachwood Brewing (and BBQ)

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Before my visit to L.A., I did my research.  Given the opportunity to visit some West Coast breweries, which should I choose?  Thus, Beer Advocate to the rescue, with related grades for breweries and their beers.  Located somewhat between where I was and where I was going, was Beachwood Brewing, located in a very commercial area of Long Beach.  It rates a very impressive 99%.  Please note the fresh California rain, a rarity in July.


And… this also where I note that I failed to actually take any pictures of the sampled beers.  For one, beer “flights” aren’t necessarily photogenic.  Secondly, I had been at the beach and was thirsty, so it didn’t occur to me until later.  And, thirdly, there was good company at the bar.  Oh, and many options.


This is also a restaurant, and I’m pleased to say that the BBQ, while a pale imitation of southern BBQ, was suitable, and on relative scales, their beer was even better.

The lineup included the LBC IPA (drinkable, but ordinary), Amalgamator American IPA (an improvement – 93 rating), Hop Jitsu American IPA (a step up in the right direction), Hop Ninja Double IPA (yet another step forward – 91 rating), Denver Jackhammer Double IPA (a leap in the right direction) and Beer of the Dragon Double Red Ale (the surprise of the bunch).  The ones listed without ratings are apparently rather new and with limited availability, exactly the type of experience for which a craft beer lover hopes.  All of this means little to non-beer drinkers, but for each of the styles, these were overall an excellent set.  The Red Ale surprised as it had the hops I liked but also balanced with malts.  For a 9.6% ABV drink, it’s surprisingly easy to enjoy.  It’s a good thing I was doing samples, as all of these were 7% and higher.

Behind the bar was this contraption, which they’ve apparently sold to other breweries.  It allows them to individually pressurize kegs remotely.  Patent pending, I’d guess.


Otherwise, the visit was notable for two other guys, one from Utah and one from Lilburn, GA, another suburb of Atlanta.  Both were in town on business and were no strangers to craft beer.  We made plans to meet later in the week at another brewery, which is another post!  I managed to bring home a bottle of their Hopernicus IPA, as yet untasted (and unrated).  Given the opportunity and even with other breweries to try, I’d revisit Beachwood happily.  They have other less hoppy beers left untried.

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An Afternoon at Venice Beach

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Given a part of a day in the Greater L.A. area… what to do, what to do?  Studio tours, Griffith Observatory, La Brea Tar Pits, Getty Museum, Walk of Fame, Museum of Jurassic Technology…  Well, I wanted to put a toe in the Pacific.  So, then… which beach?  When I later told another employee where I went, he called it an “Old School beach.”  In other words, exactly what I was looking for. 

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84o, no particular breeze, “high” humidity in the 50% range.  Perfect.  So, if viewing from the ocean, there’s the beach, a biking path, and a Boardwalk lined with shops and barkers, we’ll politely call them.  Oh, and hordes of people from all walks of life.  The beach… may as well be play sand.  There were surfboarders and a lot of people lying around and talking like beach people do.  No Frisbees or footballs in evidence.  In any case, here’s a beefcake shot for the ladies out there or fans of Baywatch.

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The lifeguard shacks are placed about every 100 yards along the beach.  Moving inland, there’s a couple hundred yards of beach, then the path.  These are used by bicyclists, skateboarders, roller bladers, roller skaters, Razor scooters, and wheelchairs even.  There’s a steady flow.  And why not?  It’s flat, and there’s plenty to look at… including frequent curves in the path.



This wasn’t the first person I saw looking at a phone while on a bike.  You might think she was texting, but I’m pretty sure she was taking a selfie.  California ought to pass a law about that…


Along the main walkway, we have stores for about everything.  If you click on the pictures to expand them, you might be further amused.  There’s everything from T-shirts to vape shops to T-shirts to vape shops… yeah.

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They also have a freak show.  And people were lining up, so it must be really freaky.

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Why?  Because there’s plenty to see just walking around.

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That guy just wouldn’t cut the “I’ll kill you if you look at me” crowd back East.  There’s just all sorts, from race, gender, and individualized styling choices.  Unlike, say, in an Atlanta mall or a park, though, they don’t stick to like kinds.  It’s kind of neat that way.

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There’s also people selling stuff or some form of self-expression.  This guy keeps a fair beat and otherwise makes a noise through the tube.  What he has going for him is the whole “blocking of the walking path to gain attention” thing.  His tip basket was fuller than most.

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The guy below…well, pretty good, actually, as beachside artists go.  There were definitely some who were far worse.


This guy… I’m not sure what he was about.  He got his pet out of the car, startled some people walking by, let a boy pose with Sally, we’ll call her, then stepped over to buy some lunch.  Go figure.  Just another day at Venice Beach.

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Further on down, we have a guy playing guitar on skates, with a battery powered amp on his back, looking for poses and tips.  Check out those wheels.

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The beach has areas designated for other activities as well, including basketball courts, paddle tennis (?) courts, volleyball, and a skating/skateboarder complex.  If you just want to groove, you don’t necessarily have to have skates.

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Oh, and there’s Muscle Beach.  The only iron in evidence was iron oxide, however.

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As might be gathered by the sky in the picture above, I happened to visit the area during a surprise Monsoon.  The 0.36” of rain the prior day exceeded the State record  for a July rainfall going all the way back to 1886.  Other parts of L.A. suffered flash floods while I was there.  Why?  Because it’s all concrete or packed sand which may as well be concrete.  If it rains and you’re standing next to a drain, watch out.  In any case, I never made it to their pier, instead quickly venturing to the faux Venice canals, which the original designer of the beach intended for the area.  They’re only a a couple blocks off the Boardwalk, which is no big deal unless, of course, you’re walking in the rain with a camera (how was I to know a bank of dark clouds only dropped a freaking quarter inch of rain?  In Atlanta, the same clouds would have dropped an inch before starting to really rain.  The houses and canals are actually pretty dang cool.  And photogenic.   There’s only four rows of canals, which are connected by a loop.  I saw… half of one of them.

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I found two listings for homes on the Canals for sale.  $2.5M and $3.5M.  Other tiny bungalows in the area are generally $1M plus.  An example?  2BR, 1BA, 960sq.ft…. $1.5M.  But it’s an original Craftsman bungalow, and remodeled.  So that’s actually cheap.  Right?

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Among many other things which humored me, this was worth a quick stop in my  hurry to the car… which kept me dry as I settled into the traffic jam of former beach goers.

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I took lots more pictures, and they can be seen at THIS LINK.  Go ahead.  You know you want to.

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My Morning Jacket –The Waterfall

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I really need to control my impulses to buy CDs, especially with this band.  I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed one of their releases since Z, and that was released 10 years ago.  Overall, the band, essentially Jim James, has good vocals, good music, a heavy play of reverb on both guitars and vocals that create their vibe, and a willingness to take chances.  Unfortunately, those chances fail a little too often leaving choice cuts from album to album.

My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall review
This release is more introspective, a calling to nature (amid ample references to rivers) for reflection of spiritual considerations and broken relationships.  It’s not a happy album, and musically, there’s only a few songs that, after digestion, you might want to hear again.  “Believe,” the opener, is one of those, likely to be a big favorite in concert, but… not so much on headphones.  It’s a good song, but one for the show.   There’s a nod to Fleet Foxes pastoral tones and harmonies on the album as well.  The best of these is “Thin Line,” despite the emotional hand wringing, “it’s a thin line between lovin and wasting my time.”   Too often, though, the stretched falsettos, lack of a clearer narrative and awkward phrasings render the songs as (professionally recorded) personal musings, likely only of interest to those in a similar place in life.

“Big Decisions” is the boldest musical statement as far as a heavy beat and electric guitars, though it pales against much of the band’s other work.   “Tropics” features a beautiful acoustic guitar intro, and, as it suggests a drug induced transcendentalism, both music and lyric are likely to be popular in concert.  “Only Memories Remain” is a suitable closer, an ode to trying to leave the baggage behind and finding solace in what you can. 

That said, the Bonus version of the album has two of my favorite tracks, “Hillside Song” and “I Can’t Wait.” 

3 of 5 STARS_thumb

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Orpheus Brewing

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Orpheus Brewing is a newcomer to the Atlanta market at 13 months of operation, and on the strength of their Transmutation of the Souls IPA, I thought it was worth a visit.


Located almost adjacent to Piedmont Park, it’s accessible via the Beltline trail system, but, despite a nice multilevel deck to the rear, it doesn’t really offer a view.  And, on those days when the heat and humidity inside the brewery make it uncomfortable, this sunny gathering area fails to provide much relief or a view.  On other days, it’s probably pretty nice.  But on the day it mattered, environmentally, it was a pretty miserable day for a brewery tour for myself and my friends.


And, here was the lineup for the day:


Let’s see… tart, sour, sour, Saison, DIPA, IPA and a stout.  That’s probablyl not the product mix of the vast majority of breweries, and for chasing the edges of consumer preferences, they should be commended.  But as for my group of 8 adventurers, we’ll look elsewhere.  I’ll say that I do like their DIPA very much and wouldn’t hesitate to order it in a restaurant.  The stout was fine, and the rest was a miss.  And… I’m the one who liked it the most.



The production facility is limited in size and capacity, as expected for a brewery that expects to operate in the 3500 to 6000 barrel/year range.  The tour was fairly limited as a result, but that’s okay.  It was informative both for their origin and (sour) vision.


They had numerous barrels, from a variety of sources.  Some will become a Russian Imperial Stout, but most are for the sour beers.  The small plastic plugs at the top are to allow carbon dioxide to escape, as sours are made with active fermentation.  Without a relief valve, they’d blow.


Overall, Orpheus has a unique place in the local market because they make different products than the others in the area, but as my tastes favor non-sours, I’ll look elsewhere for the perfect Atlanta made beer.

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Tillman Hall

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To defend a racist is itself indefensible, regardless of other merits.  To be baited by memes and "social media" into defending a racist is worse.  And there are enough legitimate points to be made that it's easy to be drawn into them.  And that's just what the masses are excellent at provoking.  Per the old saying, “Don’t wrestle with a pig.  You’ll both get muddy but the pig likes it.” And, as much as you think the other party is the pig, they think the same as you.  

Tillman Hall, as a student at Clemson University in the 1980’s, was simply Tillman Hall.  I never had a class there, rarely set foot inside of it, and had no consideration of it other than it was the postcard building for the campus. It was built in 1893, one of three buildings from the original campus, with a design comparable to buildings at Auburn, Ga Tech and other schools that began in that era.  In my era, it was where girls went for their “MRS degree,” aka the Education building. Hey, it was funny then, and it’s funny now.  Good start, me.  Racism as a topic in the first paragraph and a sexist comment in the second.  How easy it is to offend.


When it comes to other campus building names, I have only vague recollections of prior professors, statesmen or philanthropists who contributed in some way to the school.  Tillman Hall is named after Ben Tillman, a former South Carolina governor.  If I knew that back then, I’d think “Whatever. That makes sense.”  If I learned that as Governor, Tillman supported the founding of Clemson College in recognition of the need for agricultural training in the State, I’d say “Sure. That follows.”   If I knew that this forward thinking Democrat was a, well, let the words provided a week ago by an anonymous vandal speak:

Am I surprised? By the graffiti on a campus building, absolutely.  That he was a violent racist?  Yes.  That he was a racist?  Not so much.  The internet wasn’t around back then, I didn’t recall any mention of Tillman in my South Carolina history classes, and… it was just a name for a campus building.  He could have been one of the first professors.  It didn’t matter.   

That was then; this is now.  In context of the era in which Tillman mattered - post Civil War and into the early 20th century - does it surprise me that a southerner would be a racist?  Not really, but neither would I assume that all southerners were.  Would I be shocked that a racist would rise to be governor of the State?  Nope.  Or that he achieved enough wealth and influence to help launch the school I attended?  No, not surprised.  And, frankly, not interested.   I wasn’t here over a century ago.  It’s wasn’t relevant to me when I was at the school and, perhaps to the point, it hasn't weighed on me until now.   

Earlier this year, the Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to encourage a name change for Tillman Hall, in light of his past.  Here’s a glimpse of why afrom Mr. Tillman:

“We have done our level best to prevent blacks from voting… we have scratched our heads to find out how we can eliminate the last one of them.  We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.”  

Mentioned in the graffiti above, Coker was a black State Senator investigating violence against blacks in 1876, and Tillman seems to have presided over the killing.  Senator Pinckney, just several weeks ago, was killed in Charleston at a church service by a crazed racist.  These acts today revive lingering wounds from any time, any generation, and any degree of offense resulting in demands for "change."     

Is it a big deal to rename a building on a public campus?  Aside from the din from the activists on either side?   South Carolina makes that somewhat problematic in that the State government has to approve a name change.  Tillman Hall’s original name was the Main Building.  That’s kind of pedestrian, and in the mid-1940’s, just one of a number of decades yielding Jim Crow segregationist laws, the SC government voted to change the building's name to honor Tillman as well as a bronze statue on the State Capitol grounds, essentially doubling down on the most distasteful period of history in the State.  For those who recall George Wallace, Tillman never embraced an enlightened viewpoint, as Wallace eventually did, and his governance set in place racist policies for decades that followed. 

In sum, he’s not someone I would want associated with Clemson as as he doesn't represent me or the character of the people I studied under or with... or to my knowledge, in the decades since.  Until the past year or so, it seems, Tillman’s sins were irrelevant if not completely absent from the consciousness at large.  But it's clearly there for those who seek it out.  And some have.  

I see two sides to the argument. 

1) Changing tides of morality – should persons be judged in hindsight, outside of the culture of their times, and be held accountable for moral failures?   Maybe it depends?  How immoral was a person?  What scale do we use?  What were the scope of the offenses?  How inflammatory are those offenses in the current culture?     

2) Historical -  Should history be rewritten, generally speaking, by casting from public sight and discourse those who embody traits or activities which are against current societal values?  Should good works or contributions be swept aside in favor of some undefined number of people who are offended by that person?   With the weight of instant mass media and an evolving social narrative, should names and statues suffer the fate of other gods by a just but intolerant nouveaux Taliban?  Should they remain, and teach and offend, or should they be removed and forgotten?  Can a society that is as permissive in pleasures as they are intolerant of offenses be trusted with the tailoring of history for future generations?

My first reaction in the Tillman renaming debate was applause to the response by the Chairman of Clemson’s Board of Directors, David Wilkens, addressing the Faculty Senate’s request thusly:

“Every great institution is built by imperfect craftsmen," he said. "Stone by stone they add to the foundation so that over many, many generations, we get a variety of stones. And so it is with Clemson. Some of our historical stones are rough and even unpleasant to look at. But they are ours and denying them as part of our history does not make them any less so.

“For that reason, we will not change the name of our historical buildings," Wilkins said. "Part of knowledge is to know and understand history so you learn from it. Clemson is a strong, diverse university in which all of us can be proud. That is today's and tomorrow's reality and that is where all our energy is focused."

It’s history.  Get over it!  As Clemson’s TV commercials go, “The Paw says it all.”  Yet, while I think his is response is well reasoned, I haven't been judged or discriminated against.  I can't speak to why people today are offended by remnants of a bygone era.  But I'm beginning to understand, and the graffiti, which stuns me for having happened in an environment like Clemson, makes one reevaluate Wilkins' response... enough to do the research rather than trust, well, the headlines and others' opinions. 

So, I start with an observation.  When it comes to racism, it’s open season on historical personages to find relevance for grievances that people hold today.  Understanding those grievances is difficult objectively looking at modern society and its evolution since Tillman's day.  Still, they exist, and with Tillman, those pointing to public memorials of racists found the jackpot.  Until his history resurfaced, he seemed irrelevant.  Still, it shouldn't be too hard to comprehend how people would be offended when symbols of gross hate or injustice are not only allowed but bestowed a measure of prominence.  Yet, the uptake is slow.  More helpful is an example.  I wouldn’t expect Jews to attend any educational institution named after Hitler (or his generals or other German heroes of the era) or visit a facility prominently featuring his statue.  Got it.  

So, by all means, change the name.  In the context of what has come to light, Tillman is not worth the aggravation.  If defending southern pride means holding to racist views, then count me out.  Recent reports indicate that the Board of Trustees is reconsidering the issue.  With Clemson’s academic rankings and national status on the rise but in the light of national publicity on the issue, they really have no choice.  It’s their job to protect the institution.  And, if they do not, there will be a reckoning as  the social narrative of the 21st century insists that new symbolic gestures displace discredited symbolic gestures.   For now, that seems to define a prominent expectation for measurable societal progress.  And after the symbolic gestures are done, one has to wonder how hearts will actually change.  If they don't, degrees of anarchy will result from either or both sides of righteous intolerance. 

Despite the backdrop of the Civil War, racism is not a Southern issue or even an American issue.  It’s part of the human condition and is observed around the world.  But, for now, I’d rather the battleground move away from Clemson, away from South Carolina and away from the South.  Let California enjoy the attention for a while, or Wisconsin, or…  Maine.  They hate someone there, surely?   

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Harpoon Brewery

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I hope I don’t become blasé about visiting breweries.  They’re all similar, but in a nation of capitalist tendencies that leads to homogenous supersized sameness from city to city, they’re distinctive.   The craft beer challenge, though, is to make beers similarly distinctive despite a limited number of styles.  In any case, the search remains “on” for the perfect beer… to my tastes.  So, here’s Harpoon, one of the largest craft breweries and the first to obtain a permit to manufacture and sell alcohol in Massachusetts, in 1986.


One of its best features is its tasting room, which is more of a Tasting Hall.


Another great thing about it was this, a fine pretzel.


And, of course, there was the Leviathon IPA, a double IPA that’s very tasty and drinkable despite its potency.


Let’s see… another remarkable thing were these two people, my kids, who make tastings fun. 



And another good thing was the selection.  I hate it when you go to a brewery and they don’t have anything unique to the venue.  Harpoon certainly delivered there.


What I didn’t like was… the rest of the beer, which varied from “meh” to “okay.”  Samplers, reasonably priced, included the “Specialty” – PMC 192 Kolsch, Get Off My Lawn Strong Bitter, Ales for ALS Double IPA, and Mint Cider:


The Ales was only okay, and the rest… well, let’s backtrack to safer territory then, the “Harpoon Sampler” – ubiquitous Harpoon IPA, Harpoon Dark Munich Lager, Take 5 Session IPA and Summer Kolsch.


Lager – good.  The others, okay.  Oh well.  One winner out of the bunch, then, the Leviathan.  They do conduct tours, but they’re popular and “sell out” fast.  This little bit of equipment can be viewed from the tasting area.



To get on that tour, the exterior wait line might suggest how many people might arrive on a given day to take one or at least taste some brews.  We obviously didn’t get the full tour, but at least they’re up front about it on their website.


What’s left then, is to marvel at the size of the place and… wander around the seaport area looking for some good seafood… something that rates higher than “Meh.” 


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SUP Boston

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It’s not a big deal for an old dog to learn a new trick, especially when the pups are learning too.  And so it was that on a balmy day in Boston, we went standup paddle boarding, a sport referred to as SUP.   Only, it wasn’t so balmy.  The high was maybe 73o, for the few moments that the skies parted.  Fortunately, we timed it right.  As did many others for this relatively small recreation oasis for city dwellers.


The floating bridge held the line of people who had already signed their releases and handed over their driver’s licenses.  I guess 73o is a balmy day for Boston, because there were over 100 people making use of the canoes, kayaks, and SUP boards. Or, maybe it was effective subway advertising.


Probably, because I was outside the norm for the age group.  In any case, they size the paddle for you, steady the board for you, let you kneel on it, and… good luck.  “And don’t stand until you’re at least 20’ from the dock.”  That way, you don’t hit your head on it.  Standing up on a paddleboard is an interesting challenge.  First, it’s wider than I expected (but hoped), and, on your knees, is quite manageable.  It’s the whole standing business.  But, others are entering the water behind you (mostly on kayaks), and you must press on, so…


You just do it.  Awkward as heck, even in the relatively calm “channel” where you launch.  And see that little bridge ahead?  By that point, you need to be back on your knees to go under and get to the Charles River.  And stand up again afterwards, with the river current and waves driven by the breeze and passing boats.  No problem, because you’re an expert by then, right?

The truth is, it’s not so hard.  And, after one hour, it’s not entirely comfortable, either, but none of us fell in.



You gradually develop more confidence, but I’ll have greater respect for those who do it in more flowing conditions or in the ocean.  By the time we were done, I wasn’t tired, but I was tired of it.  A stiff headwind is hard to make progress against, and you have to prepared when waves arrive from passing boats.  In other words, it was a nice adventure, but it’s the kayaking life for me.



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