Rolling Thunder 2013

Bamboo Tiger Cage

Every Memorial Day thousands of veterans descend on Washington, DC with a presence that can be felt. Literally. If you can’t feel the pressure coming off an endless stream of Harley’s parading down Independence Avenue, then I doubt you can feel much at all.

Rolling Thunder, named after bombing campaign Operation Rolling Thunder in North Vietnam,  started in 1988 as a demonstration to draw attention to POWs and MIAs that were feared to have been left behind during the Vietnam War. Although Rolling Thunder continues to champion it’s original cause, it has become an event and organization that celebrates the sacrifice of veterans and sponsors military families and individuals in need. I, personally, think it’s a great event because every year it gives so many warriors the opportunity to commune and reunite.

So every year I feel there is no better place for a skinny, white guy in shorts to take his camera and 14 speed bicycle.  I know I should try to fit in a little better, so next year I’ve got a little studded, leather number picked out.

Wishing all our veterans and active duty a great weekend! Thank you for your service and love for our country!

Breaking In, Breaking In, and Locking Up

The Crisis


Time: 12:00 Midnight

“They forgot to turn the ice machine off again,” said Brandy.

“Call the owner,” I responded.

A couple of weeks ago during our first night in the new place, we thought we had made a critical mistake. Starting at 11:00 pm and ending just after 7:00 am the next morning, the ice machine belonging to the downstairs restaurant had whistled, whined, and wailed on fifteen minute intervals throughout the night. The next day after an email, some phone calls, and a talk with our downstairs neighbors, we settled on a solution. The ice machine would be run after sleeping hours and before business hours. Why before business hours? It turns out customers don’t enjoy the rapturous noises of uneven water pressure either.

The Solution

“Hi Ms. R.  Yeah, someone forgot to turn the ice machine off in your restaurant. I think I can get in if that’s okay? So, have your permission. Okay. We’ll handle it.”

When you are in the physical security field, at some point you learn about locks. You’re taught this primarily not because you need to know what kind of locks to use in certain situations, but because the people you work for will at regular intervals lock themselves out of places unintentionally. Being the only guy in the building who has training, you are expected to be able to pick a master lock off the boss’s gym bag (hammer, lock-pick, pair of scissors) as well as crack a 500 lbs safe with a state of the art, digital, spin dial lock (drill, thermal lance, 20 story drop).

Breaking In

“We’ll start at the back door. Nothing like having the added pressure of picking a lock in my pajamas on a main road,” said me as we closed our apartment door and rounded the corner of the restaurant.

“I’ll hold the flashlight,” said Brandy.

12:10 am

Me: “I picked it!….the wrong way. Crap, I wish I had a plug spinner!”

Five More Minutes

Me: “Okay. I think I’ve got it. Hold on. Okay.”

I pull the door. “What the…?? I know I heard the bolt slide. Let me turn the plug back.”

The plug doesn’t turn. “Aaahh!….. To the front door.”

8 Seconds Later

Brandy: “I think a car is come…”

Jason: “I’m in, let’s turn it off that scream machine!”


The Crisis, An Encore

As we enter the restaurant, we walk to the back and quickly find the circuit breaker, turn off the ice machine, and realize that the back door has two more locks on the inside than is apparent from the outside. It turns out I don’t own a lock-pick for large, steel, sliding bolts.

“Alright. Looks like we’re done. I’ll turn out the lights if you want to go back up,” said I as the realization hit that I would now have to pick the lock shut.

“I might be a minute.”

45 Seconds Later

“We’re locked out,” said Brandy as I try to pick the lock shut.


“Yeah, it seems our new apartment locks behind you when you leave.”


Breaking In, An Encore

If there are two weaknesses I have when it comes to picking locks they are:

  1. Turning the plug the wrong way
  2. Opening really crappy, almost-about-to-fall-off-the-door, locks

The latter weakness was making itself quite apparent as I continued to work on the lock to my own residence. After five minutes of struggle, it occurs to me. We’ve yet to lock the windows for the night.


“Don’t try to climb up there in your PJ’s. Let’s get the ladder around back,” said Brandy as I readied my spider monkey abilities.


Me as the screen and window go up: “I’m glad I got some experience doing this with dad.”
Me Quieter: “…except this time I don’t have to look for a shotgun barrel on the other side of the window.”

Brandy: “You what?”

Me: “I’m in!”


Locking Up

As the clock passed a quarter till one, reverse picking the restaurant lock was proving to be a challenge, especially since I had to stop every time a car, taxi, bicyclist, or wandering drunk passed.

Me: “There has got to be another way.”

Brandy: “Can’t we just get some string and tape, tie it around the inside thumb bolt, and pull from the outside.”

Me: “No we couldn’t…yeah, yeah we could.”

It’s wonderful to have someone around who’s a small part gypsy.

Seven Minutes, 2 pieces of dental floss, and 5 pieces of tape later. . .

*Click Click*

Us: “Yeah!”

Me: “High Five! We’re dangerous!”


1:00 am Back in Bed

Me: “If it happens again, we could do it 10 minutes, tops.”

Brandy: “It better not take us that long!”

Goal #1: Complete, Really (and Lovely Merchandise)

Pecan and Nut Cracker

We closed on our condo and walked away with a pen, some paperwork, and a box of girl scout cookies. Yeah! Cookies!

Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and encouragement every time we hit a road block the last six months and thanks to all those who helped us move for the past few weeks.  We are now started to get nestled into our new apartment above a great restaurant.  The smells of the restaurant plus the smells of Brandy cooking equals a big win for me and the combination tends to squelch any lingering odors that might or might not be my responsibility.

Pecan Cracker

In other news, we are selling lots of crap highly useful merchandise. If anyone is interested just let me know. If you are not interested, you might still have a good time reading the descriptions.

Random Stuff:

  • Pecan and Nut Cracker: Bust’n Nuts and Taking Names!
  • Mikasa Cameo Platinum Salt Pepper Shake, Shake, Shake, Shakers!
  • Two Cursed Champagne Glasses: Destroy Your Enemies
  • Casserole Dish: Because You Know You Like Casserole
  • 3 White Ceramic Canisters of Wonder
  • Cupcake Carrier: Stuff Your Muffins In It

Furniture (not as entertaining but we’re getting rid of it also)


[Funny Moment] Brandy just pointed out that the title of the article might lead to some raised eyebrows as I had neglected to put “ly” on the end of the word “Lovely” above.[/Funny Moment]

One Day Unaided Hike / Georgetown to Harpers Ferry

Arizona Avenue Bridge

Pushing myself physically has always appealed to me ever since my early twenties. My college minister convinced me to start running which led to two marathons several years later. Some friends persuaded me to try hiking. The hike they persuaded me to do consisted of pushing through the entire Smokey Mountain National Park in 4 days. I lost 15 lbs….from 123 lbs. While at a coworkers house someone was telling me about drown proofing, so 5 minutes later I was restrained with duct tape and being pushed into a swimming pool.

A few weeks ago while browsing the internet, I read about the One Day Hike (ODH). The ODH is a 62 mile hike from Georgetown, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV following the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. I took notice and quickly decided to register only to find the event was sold out. At first I was disappointed but then thought, “Why do I need to pay someone $50 to hike something that is always there.”

On Monday I noticed that Wednesday’s weather looked great, I asked a coworker, Neil, to join me and after 3 hours sleep on Tuesday night we started down the trail at 3:15am Wednesday morning.


None…well very little and mostly not on my part. Since we solidified our plans on Tuesday morning, my wife went shopping and prepared me some food while I was at work. While at work I tracked down everyone who had done long distance marches or intense treks. Here is the incredibly useful advice they gave me.

  1. Take 4 to 7 pairs of socks. If your socks get wet, you will get blisters. If you get blisters, you will get blisters on top of blisters.
  2. Pack a pain killer. You will have pain. Kill it.
  3. Wear anything to prevent chafing. Bicycle shorts, polyester, baby powder, etc…
  4. Eat bananas. It helps with #2.
  5. Bring moleskin for your blisters that you will have.

With my hyper metabolism food is one thing that I cannot risk underestimating, so besides a two liter water bladder, most of the weight I carried was solid nourishment. Brandy cooked up some great bean burritos, breakfast burritos, and banana nut bread.  These items where supplemented with a range of other goodies.

Hiking Supplies

The Hike

Neil and I started from Rosslyn, VA on a rainy Wednesday morning crossing over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. We were to start in darkness and end in the same. The first 10 miles went quickly as did the second. We briefly stopped at Great Falls to take in the scenery and change out our socks.

After mile 20 I started to drag. I was losing energy and by mile 30 my legs were screaming. With my energy sapped, I sat down and tore into the burritos, oranges, and advil. My world changed and I was back to my chipper self. Neil hit his big challenge between miles 30 and 40. For him sleepiness became a problem. During my 5 minute food breaks, he would sleep and occasionally seemed to be sleep walking.

The trek during a weekday is very peaceful. We met very few people on the trail but came across a lot of birds and wildlife. For both of us it was our first time seeing an owl outdoors.

As we neared mile 43, night returned. We ambled on and as Neil ran out of water, I ran out of reserves. At approximately 50 miles we were going to have to make a water and food stop. Pumping water at night along a steep bank proved to be harder than we anticipated. My body was fried. I sat and tried eating for 15 minutes then 20 then 25 but nothing seemed to hit bottom. My muscles were locking up and we were running out of time. At this rate we’d hit 60 miles by 1am, a full hour past our pickup time. I called it.

What I Learned

After getting back home and having a night of wonderful sleep, I looked once again at the ODH website. On the site you see people walking cheerfully in the daylight with few concerns or pains. I groaned from my blisters and muscle pain and asked what was different. The answer: Support Stations.

Neil and I were both carrying twenty pound packs consisting of food, water, auxiliary supplies, and emergency supplies. The ODH event has stocked stations with food, water, and a medical team to treat your blisters. That, my friends, is what a $50 entrance fee gets you!

However if you do want to try this trek unaided or even if you’ve entered the official hike, here are a few things you should definitely do:

  1. Take a friend. This isn’t just for safety concerns but also it’s great to have someone beside you to push you through quitting points. Conversation also speeds up the miles.
  2. Throw some pain killers in the pack. The farthest I’ve ever been on my two feet in one day, before yesterday was 26.2 miles. My body introduced me to a new kind of pain at 30 miles.
  3. It might help to train. 🙂 I didn’t. I had exactly 3 visits to the gym before heading out. It helps to have some muscle behind that drive and determination.

Attempt #2?

The first thought that sprang to mind the next day after waking up from the hike was, “I want to try that again.” I want to do it the same way with no support station, filtering my own water, and carrying my own food. I think it can be done.

Nevertheless, I am happy with the results of this attempt. Neil and I both broke a personal record of 50 miles in a day, experienced some beautiful scenery, and had some great conversations. Not a bad Wednesday.


Side Note: For a first hand account of the sanctioned ODH hike, check out this article from ITS Tactical.

Goal #1: Complete

Real Estate Photoshoot

We sold the condo! After several months of dealing with doors that leak and moldy floors, we have finally listed and sold our condo. Goal #1 is now 90% complete. Closing is April 12th.

Thanks again to Ralph for the great real estate photos. Here’s a sample of his work.

If you are in the DC area, have an interesting shoot, and want someone to do it for free, you can contact Ralph through his website at Generations Family Photo.

Oh yeah, Craig and Gretchen are pretty cool too 🙂 Thanks for the advice guys. (Got Fresh Breath?)

If you’ve got any idea about what our next step should be (because we don’t have a clue), let us know!

How We Roll: Inclement Weather Preparation

In this video I discuss some tips and tricks that Brandy and I have integrated into our emergency preparedness skill set.  I’m eager to hear other ideas on the subject.  Have you set something up you’ve found to be helpful during a disaster situation?

Also, it appears my prediction came true. The grocery store across the street was fully operational and fully stocked Tuesday morning less than 12 hours after the hurricane rolled through. No painted toenails this time!

The websites below have some great ideas on the subject of disaster preparation.


Beware Frankenstorm 2012

Since making this video yesterday, I’m starting to wonder if there will not be a second run on the grocery stores.  Today Brandy and I went to do our normal grocery shopping and everything was very well stocked again.

I have a theory that either Sunday night or sometime Monday, there may be a repeat of what happened in the video as people realize that 1/2 their supplies have dwindled over the weekend.  Should be fun.