Tentacles and a triathlon in Windy Wellington

17 April, 2016 Tentacles and a triathlon in Windy Wellington

This week a friend sent an email called “Almost like Finding Nemo” with a link to an article titled (legitimately) Inky The Octopus Breaks Out Of Aquarium, Makes Way To The Pacific. I clicked on it and saw, to my delight, the dateline was Wellington, New Zealand – where I did a sprint triathlon twenty-five years ago! More about that at the end of this post.

April is always – always – a pretty month in Richmond, nowhere prettier than on the banks of the James River. If you enjoy being outdoors, April is the premier time to be there. This week has been exciting (humor me) because I “got” my first osprey on the south bank of the river. Just over the Willy Bridge, across 150 from Stony Point Fashion Park.  The nest looks quite new and the ospreys inexperienced – I hope they’re successful. They’re in a terrific spot and I’ll be able to check in on them every week. My friend Gilpin got some beautiful pictures of the pair, but this was the best one I was able to come up with:  

Pair of ospreys on a new nest south of the James River.

Pair of ospreys on a spindly new nest south of the James River.

Earlier in the day I visited the CSX tracks near Brown’s Island with one of my buddies. The Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) I’d photographed so easily in 2014 seemed to have vanished. But my friend Kim said (basically) “look behind you!” I took this photograph in the precise spot I photographed them in 2014, just facing the opposite direction. It seems unusual to me that one year they’d build their mud nests on the east side of the bridge and another year return and build them on the west side. But here they are. Or here this one is; there were more:

Cliff swallow watching me watch him.

Cliff swallow watching me watch him.

I’m told there’s an active Red-tail nest in Bryan Park. It looks like a Red-tail nest, but I haven’t seen actual activity on it so far. This is my first ever Red-tail nest, though. I’m just learning to watch. This red tail landed in a tree a few yards away but never went to the nest:

Beautiful Red-tailed hawk perched high in the top of a loblolly pine.

Beautiful Red-tailed hawk perched high in the top of a loblolly pine.

This is the nest. It just looks like a bunch of sticks in a tall pine tree, but that’s what red tail nests look like. I’ll have pictures soon with actual birds on the nest:

That's what a Red-tail nest looks like. If it hadn't been pointed out to me, I'd have probably never seen it.

That’s a Red-tail. If it hadn’t been pointed out to me, I’d have probably never seen it.

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Triathlon in Windy Wellington

In New Zealand, they say “you can tell a person is from Wellington because they always grab their hat when they walk around a corner.” I did a sprint (short) triathlon there in 1991. I don’t recall the wind, but boy do I ever recall the swim in the Cook Strait – I didn’t have a wetsuit and the water was 61º. I was young and foolish. My journal isn’t terrific and neither is my memory but I have some pictures. This was me in New Zealand, getting ready for a low key training ride:

In New Zealand, twenty-five years ago.

In New Zealand, twenty-five years ago.

This is my bike before race day, near the starting line. The race was in Churchill Park,  Seatoun, Wellington, New Zealand. You just know that is some cold water:

My road bike leaning against a post near the swim section. I get cold just looking at it.

My road bike leaning against a post near the swim section. Look at that water. My teeth are chattering while I type. 

This is the finish line. See where it says “Allen & Hanbury’s”? That was a pharmaceutical company, selling an anti-asthma medication called a “becodisk”:  

Race finish line

Race finish line

This was my certificate for finishing the race:

So excellent. A long way to travel for a short race, but what a trip.

So excellent. A long way to travel for a short race, but what a trip.

This is a selfie (from 1991!) when I took a break driving down to the race.

Another lovely day in New Zealand

Another lovely day in New Zealand

In New Zealand, at that time, their equivalent to our interstate highway system was a two lane undivided road. Where the road crossed creeks, there was no overpass or tunnel – you just drove through a couple of inches of  water. And when a farmer was herding sheep – I’m not making this up, I have proof – they herded them right across the interstate:

Early in the "Farm to table" process

First steps in the “Farm to table” process

On February 14 of 1991 I boarded a Qantas 747 bound for Auckland, New Zealand, near the tip of the North Island. I had my bicycle and swim suit and running gear and I was headed for the starting line of my first overseas triathlon.

In the three years since I’d been hit by a car while training for a triathlon, my life had come almost completely apart. I’d lost my marriage and my job and my home, but still had my loving family and my lifelong desire to be outdoors, moving. And I wanted to be really, really far away from Virginia. I saw a race calendar in the back of Triathlete magazine and I saw a sprint – in New Zealand. When I was young I thought China was “the other side of the world” because we really did try to “dig a hole to China” in our neighbor’s backyard. New Zealand  – that is really the other side of the world. New Zealand is so far away that it’s not even the same season there – when it’s winter in Virginia, it’s summer in New Zealand. New Zealand is so far away, it’s a different day. That’s where I wanted to be. Different hemisphere, different season, different day. But still speaking English – perfect.       

It was the trip of a lifetime. Of course I was only twenty-five years old then. I’ve had several other trips of a lifetime since, and I’m looking forward to more. I hope you are too!

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About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Fun, international travel, ospreys, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), triathlons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tentacles and a triathlon in Windy Wellington

  1. J.Mark Wittkofski says:

    You have really been through a lot in your short life! I still cannot believe that you enjoy all that strenuous exercise, but I congratulate none the same for doing it!

    • Hi Mark! Referring to what I do as “strenuous exercise” is overstating the case a bit. I do a lot of exercise but it’s rarely strenuous. I’ve always loved being outdoors and moving. There’s a lot to see! Have a great day,

      Jay

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