Guardsman avoids traffic by rowing to work

  • Published
  • By Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking
  • National Guard Bureau Public Affairs
Living and working in the nation's capital for most people means having to battle some of the worst road congestion anywhere in the United States.

However, one ingenious Air National Guard member, who lives on Bolling Air Force Base in southeast Washington, D.C., and works in Arlington, Va., uses the waters of the Potomac River to his advantage.

Instead of getting in his car and driving across one of several bridges that span the wide river, Chief Master Sgt. David Power, a pararescue and combat control functional manager for the ANG, plunges his yellow plastic sea kayak into eastern shore waters of the Potomac.

He then paddles north of the towering Washington Memorial and beaches his craft on the other side of the river, where he finishes his commute by walking the kayak equipped with wheels and other gear on a nearby bike trail.

"It normally takes me about one hour and 10 minutes to do the entire route. It's about two and a half miles across the Potomac and then a 20-minute walk to the office in Crystal City," Power said. "It's a great commute and it's a great physical workout at the same time."

While other commuters are stuck in traffic or are crammed into subway cars like sardines, Power gets to savor the beautiful skyline of the nation's capital while waves gently wash over his bobbing craft. He rows to work on an almost daily basis in the spring and summer.

"You get to see all of the monuments in Washington, D.C. It's quite a sight," Power said. "I think about all the traffic that's backed up on the bridges every morning and I laugh about I'm not there stuck on the clogged roads."

Power appreciates the peace and solitude of paddling back and forth across the Potomac River every day. He and two nine-person teams from the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York ANG were deployed to the World Trade Center site on Sept. 12 and credited with saving the life of a young woman. She was one of only a handful of survivors who were saved in the days following the collapse of the two buildings.

In the days following that rescue, the pararescuemen also carried out the bodies of slain firefighters and law enforcement personnel, who were killed while trying to evacuate the buildings prior to their collapse.

It was an emotional mission for these ANG members, who are trained to work in extremely adverse conditions. "We were just a small number of guys working with thousands of other doing the same thing they were," Power said.

After that experience in New York, Powers said the daily kayak trips back and forth across the historic Potomac River provided him with time to reflect.

"I really enjoy doing it. It keeps me sane and keeps my head clear," he said.

Although his total commuting time on the kayak can add up to more than two hours and 20 minutes, Power said that by combining both his commuting time and physical fitness regimen, he believes he actually saves time.

Instead of being stuck in traffic on the "Beltway" and then having to go to a gym to work out, Power said he can "kill two birds with one stone."

Obviously, his family, which includes wife Jennifer and his three sons, Dalton, Collin and Nolan, approve of his voyages on the Potomac. As a birthday present, they recently purchased the hard plastic, yellow sea kayak. He used a more unwieldy inflatable boat to get back and forth during the previous four summers.

Despite the cleverness of his commuting efforts, Power said he still receives quips from passers-by when they see him walking his "kayak on wheels" along the Mount Vernon bicycle trail or while dutifully locking it up alongside a bike rack outside of Jefferson Plaza One, where he works.

"You wouldn't believe the looks I get from people," he said.

But as the summer rolls on, Power keeps paddling despite the jokes and hopes that a thunderstorm or high wind gusts do not blow up while he is under way.

"I haven't flipped the kayak yet," Power said.