* PACK MY BAG: Henry Green (1905-1973), whose novels include "Living," "Loving" and the great "Party Going," in a memorable way caught the essence of connection between devoted readers and a writer. A narrative, if it flows, can become "a long intimacy between strangers," one that deepens with each page turned, with each emotion conveyed. It is a phrase, set down by a river-wanderer who spent time when young angling along the banks near his home in England, that you would be hard-pressed to improve upon in describing what it feels like when paddling fast on whitewater.
It is all there -- intimacy, fear, intensity, strangeness, happiness -- when you kayak down the Potomac River's Great Falls, past the two rock ledges and into the eddy above a section called the Streamers, a waterfall with a narrow entryway and plummeting drop, located next to a sieve you likely would not get out of. It also is all there, no matter how many times you have run it, when you glide down the technical and majestic Upper Youghiogheny River in Western Maryland.
In the warm months, the river often is crowded (at times you bump into other hulls in the eddies), but no matter how many boaters scuttle around and no matter the six-hour round-trip drive from Washington, once you are in the best parts -- Triple Drop, National Falls, Meat Cleaver and Powerful Popper, to name a few -- you instantly remember, regardless of how long you have been away, that this is a place to treasure.
And that is what the Upper Yough Rock, a weekend-long party and fundraiser benefiting the nonprofit American Whitewater, is about. It starts on Friday with a kids race in a mellow section of the river and culminates on Saturday with a special dam release from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 25th annual Upper Yough Race -- described as "the oldest whitewater extreme race in the world," one featuring some of the finest paddlers -- and a barn party with live music not far from the river takeout in Friendsville, Md.
You can paddle hard all day, camp nearby for a small fee ($2.50, which goes to AW), kick back and relax. Non-boaters should feel at home, too. You can hike up and hang out on the rocks lining the best rapids and watch the extreme racers pass. For more information, visit www.americanwhitewater.org.
* ONE MORE TIME: "Off Road to Athens," a documentary by Arlington filmmaker Jason Berry that traces the mud-spattered journeys of eight Olympic mountain-biking hopefuls, sold out the last time it played locally, at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse in early June. Not a problem. The film will return for an "encore presentation" on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Bethesda Row Cinema. The film features a soundtrack by Washington area composer Haik Naltchayan. For more information and to view the movie trailer, visit www.offroadtoathens.com. . . .
Lance Armstrong, headed into the last stretch of his epic cycling career, is a compelling figure but at times a hard man to know, especially by those who thought they were close to him. Daniel Coyle's recently published "Lance Armstrong's War," extravagantly subtitled "One Man's Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal, and a Few Other Rivals on the Road to the Tour de France," evokes the conflicts as well as Armstrong's greatness on the bike as he heads to his sixth consecutive win in last year's tour. It is well written and well worth checking out.
-- John Mullen