I haven’t been blogging or even online much the past week or so and I think I owe those of you who follow me an explanation. In 2005 I took a bad fall at home which eventually led to surgery and a partially successful fusion of my lumbar spine. Post surgery I spent a year in a body brace 23 1/2 hours a day (I could take it off for showers), sleeping in a recliner while undergoing physical therapy three times a week.
The pay off was learning that the fusion healed improperly. My physical limitations and chronic pain meant I had to retire early. That was the worst part of the whole experience for me; going from working 60 to 70 hours a week to staying home and looking for something to do.
The financial hit my family took with my disability pension only amounting to about 33% of what I had been earning was bad enough but the mind numbing boredom was the worst part for me. Looking for something to occupy my time I decided to give photography a try. A web search for information about photography led me to Windows Live Spaces. I met a lot of great people including many photographers, both amateur and pro, who generously shared their expertise and took me under their wings. That’s when I started blogging and I’ve been at it pretty much non-stop ever since.Since Spaces bit the dust and I moved to Blogger and Word Press I’ve met even more wonderful people and that includes all of you..
There is another aspect of my injuries which I have to deal with from time to time. Occasionally bouts of depression set in. This is one of those times.
I lose interest in just about everything. In fact, my cameras haven’t been out of the bag in at least a week and I’ve spent more time staring at the idiot box than online.
My family have always been my rock especially during the periods of irritability and flashes of temper. How they put up with my temper and mood swings is beyond me but they do and I’m blessed to have their support. Most importantly they make sure I take my meds and mostly leave me alone until I snap out of it which is best for everyone concerned.
We’re going home for a visit thee end of next week and I know that will do wonders for me. One of the first things I do when we go home, after unloading the car, is head for the beach I grew up on. The sand between my toes, salt air and gentle hiss as the waves kiss the sand is more therapeutic than all the drugs I’ve been prescribed.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all of you who have sent messages asking if I was okay. I’m not but I am getting there. If nothing else, sitting on the beach next weekend watching sunsets like this will recharge my soul. As always, pictures to follow.
Today started out fine with beautiful weather and low pain levels. Then the madness struck THE BOSS and me simultaneously. We spent the day working on flower beds.
Now we’re both hobbling around moaning and groaning. My back is so bad I can barely walk WITH a cane! THE BOSS even had to help me get dressed when I got out of the shower which was an adventure in itself. We both have a nice dose of sunburn to add to the misery…….but it’s a good kind of pain, well earned and something nice to show for our efforts…..besides my ever growing collection of cuts, scrapes and bruises.
I should call Band-Aid and see if they need a spokesman…..or a crash test dummy. I easily qualify, either way.
Pictures of the project to follow…..when I can shoot again.
Yeah, it’s that bad.
Some of you know that I grew up in Virginia Beach which is bounded on the north by the Chesapeake Bay and the east by the Atlantic Ocean. The laid back community known as Chesapeake Beach, or Chic’s Beach ….. with no K damn it!….. to locals, is the stretch of sand I literally grew up on and is forever imprinted in my soul as home, no matter where I roam.
I, as well as many of my fellow beach rats, spent hours and hours sitting on these boulders staring across the bay while pondering life’s mysteries.
THE BOSS on The Rocks
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel spanning the 20 mile mouth of the bay.
Mom and THE BOSS with the CBBT behind them
……..and The Reward at the End.
This is where I came from. Click here to see where I am now. The Virginia Tourism Corporation’s advertising slogan is Virginia is for Lovers. I sure love it, from the mountains to the sea!
Our youngest is a college student working two jobs to support herself and still keeping her GPA up and boyfriend in line. Right after graduating high school she found an apartment and has been out on her own ever since. We are very proud of her!She lives in town, a few miles from us and we get to see her often which is a great comfort to us.
Another nice thing about her living so close is that when her laptop craps out Daddy is nearby. You see, Daddy has done courses in multimedia programming, desktop publishing, web design and PC repair. I even have a few years experience in IT and was webmaster for a major US Navy command for a couple of years. That’s right…….I is a educated redneck who started building and repairing computers in the early 90s and would still be doing so if it weren’t for the fact that you can buy a new laptop…….with a warranty…..for less than it costs to build a system these days.
Why am I rambling on like this?
Mini Boss lets her friends play with her computer. She has smart friends for the most part. However, even smart people do dumb things sometimes.
The MINI BOSS called last night to announce that her laptop is dead……..kaput…..tits up…..game over…….BUSTED! The system locks up during the boot sequence and a whole stack of error messages pop up!
What to do, what to do?
Bring it here, Baby Girl.
After fooling with it for a couple of hours I finally pulled up my Dell account, prepared to put another dent in my credit limit. Damn, I thought I’d get those people paid off some day! While I was going through all the options for a new Inspiron 1500 series it hit me………A THOUGHT!
Smart people do dumb things sometimes. maybe someone downloaded a virus that got through the security software……..
I saved the machine I was building online, ran a web search for “System Check”, the title on the error message bars, and I discovered that she has a malwarre infection………and the name of the malware is SYSTEM CHECK!!! I even found instructions for fixing the problem and links to download the free software I’d need. WOO-HOO! I’m saving at least $600!
But I still have the new Dell system order saved……..just in case.
This is me, on page 5 of 9 of the instructions (almost 3 hours in) taking a photo of a functioning laptop (my Toshiba satellite) which is staring at a soon to be functional…..I hope……. laptop (Mini Boss’s Dell). I’m bored out of what’s left out of my mind because, while I successfully installed the anti-malware software, the deep scan has been running for 134 minutes and I have to jiggle the mouse every 20 minutes to stop the Dell from hibernating. I’d turn the power saver off but I have to kill the malware before I can change the settings!
At least 512 malware objects have been detected and quarantined……..so far. I can’t wait to click that “REPAIR” button!
A word to the wise: NEVER, EVER ,EVER, EVER click a pop up that says ‘”Your computer may be at risk! Click here for a free System Check.” System Check is malware and it will screw your registry up worse that a soup sammich!
Lately I’ve been on the sick, lame and lazy list as we called it when I was in the service. Okay, I’ve just been plain lazy and haven’t been out with the cameras much. However, while backing up all my files, cleaning up the hard drive on the laptop and transferring all the photos over to my dedicated portable hard drive I decided to go through some of my better shots from 2011 and share them with those of you who haven’t already seen them.
Buddy LOVES snow!
The view from the top of Big Walker Mountain late on a winter afternoon.
Did I mention that Buddy LOVES snow?
Even though we had snow on the ground Frankie’s daffodils were gorgeous.
Milder spring temperatures meant Buddy could hang his head out the window and take full advantage of the wonderful smells passing by.
The apple and dogwood blossoms were a welcome change from winter’s ice and snow.
May brought our baby girl’s 19th birthday. Where do the years go?
Of course, EVERYBODY got a piece of birthday cake.
June brought a trip back home to Virginia Beach to visit Mom. This is the stretch of beach, known to locals as Chic’s Beach, where I grew up and spent a good portion of my life when I wasn’t deployed by the US Air Force. Even though I love living in the Blue Ridge Mountains I have to go back to the beach at least once or twice a year to recharge my soul.
Now you also know one of my secrets; I usually shoot with two cameras and I shoot a LOT! Thank God for digital cameras or I’d be sticking up gas stations to pay for enough film and processing to feed my shutterbug!
Buddy taking his first dip in the Chesapeake Bay. Since we adopted him up here in the mountains we’re pretty sure he’d never seen this much water before but he’s a Labrador Retriever and followed me right in as soon as he figured out the foot high waves wouldn’t hurt him..
What can I say?
These folks will sell explosives to anybody…..even me!
We saw our first white tail fawn while out for a ride one warm July evening.
A couple of weeks later this guy stepped out of the tree line right behind the house.
He brought the family along with him.
August also brought the annual re-enactment of the Civil War Battle of Saltville, Virginia. THE BOSS (my wife, Frankie) has been a Civil War buff since participating in re-enactments while she attended East Tennessee State University so we gathered up her sister and her husband, piled in Godzilla and headed down to Saltville for the action. Catching the muzzle flash of a musket firing was a real accomplishment considering she had just appropriated one of my DSLRs. You may have noticed the NRV Girl (New River Valley Girl) copyright,
“You’re not getting it back, either! Just be glad that long lens of yours is too heavy for me to handle!”
September was when we rescued Molly from the shelter in a neighboring county, just a couple of hours before she was to be put down..
Buddy quickly got over his jealousy for the most part and they are now the best of friends…….and partners in crime.
Autumn here in Southwest Virginia can be spectacular if the weather conditions have been just right and this year they were perfect!
One good reason for not carving your Jack-O-Lanterns is they last longer and make great autumn decorations…….unless you happen to mention to the teenaged kid who lives in this house that they also make great targets for that new rifle he just bought. This idea is so popular that I sometimes half expect to have to chop my way through pumpkin vines to get to the target line at the county range.
That big guy is back in our yard and he is BIG! Folks say that darker winter coat is an indication of the winter to come while the redder the spring coat is will tell you how hot the summer will be. I’ve seen the deer a lot darker than this in years past and hope we’ll have a mild winter.
Well, that;s it for this year. Time to give the cameras a good cleaning and get ready for what the new year brings. From me and mine to you and yours we hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Y’all play nice now………Bubba Claus is watchin’! Scary, ain’t it?
Lesson learned: Hex tubing is white; CPVC is yellow.
The outside diameter of 1/2” Hex tubing, for example, is smaller than that of 1/2” CPVC. Maybe that’s why they’re different colors. No wonder the repair kept blowing out as soon as I turned the water back on! The white tubing I was using is not supposed to work with the yellow fittings I was using!
I thought I had forgotten how to use primer and glue to make a watertight joint. I also thought it might have been caused by my inability to display a proper plumber’s butt crack because I was wearing bib overalls.
Many thanks to my brother in law, Fish Hook, for setting me straight and helping me make the repair for the 6th, and final time. Thanks also to my darling daughter, Laura, for spending the afternoon handing Daddy tools, helping me cut and glue water line, fetching tools I threw across the yard when the repair blew out……again, making numerous trips to Lowe’s for more parts when the repair blew out……again and being there in case I got my crippled old butt stuck under the house and needed help ……….rescue squad………. fire department……… tow truck to drag me out from under the house……….etc.
Did I mention the leak was in the hot water line coming out of the water heater and turning off the main water supply didn’t make the water stop draining out of the tank until it was empty…….and it emptied itself in the exact spot I had to occupy while wresting pipe?
Did I mention that I had turned the power to the water heater off when I first heard the leak to prevent burning the coils out as the tank emptied so the water leaking all over me was no longer warm?
You know, it’s amazing how dirty you can get laying in a puddle of COLD water all afternoon! The water heater should be full by now. I sure hope the water gets warm soon!
Anywho, our annual “Cold weather’s here, time for a plumbing leak!” episode is over and it’s time to move on to other mischief!
I received this in an e-mail and just had to share it with y’all, the folks I consider my online family. Even though it’s intended for an American audience and y’all are scattered across the globe I think the message still applies.
We have enjoyed the redneck jokes for years. It’s time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God. If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I’d choose a half dozen or so rednecks to back me up. Tire irons, squirrel guns and grit — that’s what rednecks are made of . If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck friends. Y’all know who ya are.
You might be a redneck if: It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, ‘One nation, under God..’
You might be a redneck if: You’ve never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.
You might be a redneck if: You still say ‘ Christmas’ instead of ‘Winter Festival.’
You might be a redneck if: You bow your head when someone prays.
You might be a redneck if: You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem
You might be a redneck if: You treat our armed forces veterans with great respect, and always have.
You might be a redneck if: You’ve never burned an American flag, nor intend to.
You might be a redneck if: You know what you believe and you aren’t afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.
You might be a redneck if: You respect your elders and raised your kids to do the same.
You might be a redneck if: You’d give your last dollar to a friend.
You might be a redneck if: You believe in God & Jesus and believe that others have the right to believe in which ever God they believe in as long as their God does not tell them to kill anyone who does not believe the same as they do!!!!!
Keep the home fires burning, my redneck friends.
Merry Christmas and God bless all y’all!
In the collage above the “doughboy” in the center is my Grandpa Allen. The photo below on the left was taken just before he shipped out for France with the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. When he returned home he helped establish the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars post in his hometown and operated it for the next 4 decades. That’s him in his VFW dress uniform of the right.
The two sailors in the photo below are my mom and dad. They met when they were stationed at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. The photo was taken on their wedding day in Port Deposit, Maryland. When I came along Mom had to take a discharge but my dad stayed in the Navy for another 15 years, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer in 1968 after 26 years of service. Dad passed away on 4 July, 2003 at the age of 79. I guess that was fitting for a man who gave a third of his life serving his country.
Two of Dad’s brothers also retired from the Navy after 20 years each. Uncle Paul is the sailor on the left in the photo below left. Uncle Bob is below right. All three brothers even received permission to serve on the same ship together at one point. This was not the best arrangement because the brothers argued, as brothers do, and they settled those arguments in true sailor style; with their fists.
That’s the three of them on shore leave in the center shot. Shortly after this was taken a fistfight broke out which eventually led to the brothers being thrown out of Naples, Italy. The Navy, in it’s wisdom, responded by keeping Dad on the ship, USS Worcester, a cruiser which was about to return to home port in Norfolk,Virginia. Uncle Bob was sent to the USS Duxbury Bay, a seaplane tender in the Persian Gulf. Uncle Paul soon found himself on the USS Iowa, a battleship providing fire support to UN forces fighting in Korea.
My mom’s brothers both served in the Army, as did practically every male coming of age during the 1950s in America. That’s Uncle Dave beside the helicopter on the left and Uncle Putnam on the right. The photo of Mom was taken just after Boot Camp in 1944.
Mom also had cousins who served in the Army during World War II. Below left is George Currier and right is Herbert Lord. Those of you from Mom’s home state of Massachusetts no doubt recognize George’s family name and, yes, he was one of those Curriers (Currier & Ives).
Of course I served in the US Air Force for 5 years and on active duty in the Air Force Reserves for another 9. Good Lord was I ever young in that shot (19) taken just as I was beginning Missile Combat Crew Upgrade training prior to being assigned to a Titan II ICBM combat crew. For the next 4 years I was one of those guys manning the silos, waiting to fight world War III. During my Reserve service I was a Pararescueman or “PJ”. The sailor on the right is my oldest sisters husband, Terry, just before he retired from the Navy after 20 years service.
The tradition continues. Our youngest daughter, Laura, rose to the rank of Cadet Colonel and Battalion commander during her four years of US Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. She was a Distinguished Expert Marksman with the battalion rifle team and competed twice in the US Army JROTC Nationals. She’s currently in her sophomore year of college.
The sailor on the right is Terry’s son Jeremiah. He is a US Navy Reserve Hospital Corpsman attached to a US Marine Corps Reserve unit in Ohio. On his first summer deployment he and his unit managed to get out of the line if fire in the Republic of Georgia when a shooting was between that country and Russia broke out.
My mother traces her line back to one of the original settlers of the Plymouth (later Massachusetts) Colony. Her genealogy lists one of her ancestors as a passenger on the Mayflower. Her family tree reads like a history of America with famous Americans such as Paul Revere, Samuel Chase, John Adams and John Quincy Adams and many more. There is no doubt that ancestors on Mom’s side of the family fought in every conflict to beset this nation from the very first time a Pilgrim set foot on this land. There are even references in her family history of some who were killed by Indians.
My father’s lineage is tougher to follow as few records beyond family bibles were kept and most of the family history was passed down through stories and anecdotes from generation to generation. What is know is that distant cousins in Clay County, Missouri, the Daltons and the James brothers were guerilla fighters during the American Civil War and later went on to rob banks. My great great grandfather is said to have died of wounds suffered at the battle of Shiloh.
My wife Frankie’s family is also mostly anecdotal or of the family bible variety, when there was one. Her lineage certainly goes back to Ireland as the father’s family name was said to have originally been O’Dill. Her grandfather served in the Spanish American war and remembered seeing Union occupation forces on the streets of our little town during reconstruction after the Civil War. That brother fought against brother in that war is a given in these parts. West Virginia refused to secede with the rest of Virginia and became a separate state when war broke out. This area was a powder keg, deeply divided and before the split, they were all Virginians. The state line is only about 40 miles from where I sit.
Through all the history of this great nation there is one tradition that is embedded in our genetic code:
DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY
They say Virginia is for lovers.
I can’t argue with that.
Our plans to take a ride out to Crockett’s Cove this afternoon got side tracked by a chest cold trying to put Frankie out of action. She stopped on the way home from work and picked a box of Alka-Seltzer Plus®. That, along with my mom’s sure fire cure for what ails you, Lipton® Chicken Noodle Soup , will have her right as rain and back behind the viewfinder in no time.
One of the big attractions in the cove, especially this time of year, is the beautiful scenery. The other big attraction is the herd of whitetail deer that flocks to the open fields at sunset. My brother in law, the world famous Fish Hook, and I have watched scores and scores of deer wander out of the tree lines. One of the drawbacks to shooting in the gloaming is not enough light for decent shots unless you’re using a tripod. Setting one up and waiting for the deer to appear is usually out of the question because of the single narrow road and signs prohibiting stopping in the road. I guess the folks who live out there have had enough trouble getting home in the evenings.
The day was not a total loss. Just as she was getting settled down in bed with her book, TV remote, Mini-10 netbook and dual 4 legged self propelled foot warmers she happened to spot one of the “big dawgs” through the bedroom window.
I apologize for the grainy images. The light was fading fast so I didn’t bother with the tripod. I’ve missed catching images of this guy several times because by the time I did get the tripod set up he was either gone or I couldn’t pick him out of the background as the light failed.
The first frame was shot through the window using the window frame to brace my left arm and my left arm to brace the 150-500MM telephoto lens. The last two were shot using the clothesline pole for a brace after I managed to sneak out the back door without A) spooking the buck, B) falling on my face and C) having the dogs bolt past me and scare him off before I could frame a shot. All three were shot from about 75 yards.
Now, to get back to catching up on the backlog of blogs I have waiting for me. Man, I’m tellin’ ya; veg out for a couple of days and it takes forever to get back on track. At least the dreams from the pain meds were entertaining! Somewhere I read an article about dreams usually being in black and white. I don’t know where I read it but I do know for a fact that I dream in color, VIVID color, when deep in the grasp of a prescription narcotics buzz!
THE BOSS (New River Valley Girl) got this shot of Miss Molly “guarding” Daddy’s chair.
While I got this one this morning.
With Molly guarding one end of the house from marauding cats and Buddy guarding the other, the burds can visit the feeders in Burd Town with no fear of getting eaten themselves!
The weather was absolutely magnificent today; crystal clear skies, 75°F, humidity hovering around 40% and only the barest hint of a breeze! This afternoon THE BOSS and I grabbed our cameras and the livestock, piled into Godzilla and headed out to see what we could see. We ended up in and around Rural Retreat, a little town about 10 miles due west.
Of course gas is down to $3.00 a gallon today…..I filled up yesterday at $3.15! Big deal? Well, Godzilla gets around 12 miles per gallon in town, 16 MPG highway and has a 30 gallon tank. Do the math.
The fate of the old railroad depot in Rural Retreat was in doubt because of a dispute over who actually owned it. Thankfully, a non-profit foundation has been established, secured the deed and a drive for funds to restore it is under way. One more piece of history saved from the wrecking ball!
Rural Retreat Lake and Campground is also the site of the annual County Fair and Tractor Pull.
THE BOSS was putting “her new camera” through the paces, the DSLR she commandeered from me, capturing this handsome young man exercising his small horses. The shot above and the next three are Frankie’s hence the NRVGirl (New River Valley Girl) watermark.
You’ll note that the livestock tend to go in opposite directions until they A) decide where the best smelling stuff is or B) dislocate my arms.
Molly on the scent of the small horses’ newly discovered delicacy, grasshoppers. Someone has apparently told Buddy and Molly that grasshoppers taste just like chicken because they sure love hunting and eating them!
In case you’re wondering, the T-shirt bears the US Air Force Pararescue logo. I served as a proud Pararescueman, or PJ, for most of my 9 years of active duty in the USAF Reserves following my tour in ICBMs.
“Come on, Molly; one good tug and we’ll see if the old guy can still swim like he used to!”
I’m really stoked about the frames above and below. Both were featured on the local CBS affiliate this evening! I’m grinning about it and Frankie’s doing the YEE-HAW! dance!
The moon, BOSS, the moon!
We still have a couple of weeks before the fall foliage reaches it’s peak but the varied altitudes here in the Blue Ridge Mountains actually causes prime leaf peeping season to last longer than it does back home on the coast.
At higher elevations the color change occurs earlier than in the lower, protected valleys.
The change is governed not just by temperature but by wind, as well. All around we see trees with red and yellow leaves near the top or on one side and bright green leaves closer to the ground and on the leeward side of the tree.
Hope, y’all don’t get tired of Autumn leaves before I get tired of shooting them. It won’t be long before I’m posting burds and snow!
After a cold, blustery, drizzly start yesterday the sun finally came out in the afternoon and Frankie (aka THE BOSS, Baby Duck, Duck Butt, my darling bride, my better half, Shotgun, she who SHALL be obeyed, Meanness, that wild little woman with the cast iron skillet, bringer of headaches) agreed that a ride in the country with the cameras was a great idea….much better, in fact, than emptying the kitchen cabinets and re-organizing the canned goods as she had planned! Yes, it was my idea and yes, I am a bad influence MWAHAHA! but I digress. We had fun, the livestock enjoyed the ride and the cabinets can always wait for a rainy day.
Old Glory was really whipping in the stiff breeze at Sheetz while I was doing my part to keep OPEC happy, putting $65.00 worth of regular into Godzilla’s
bottomless pit gas tank.
The leaves are changing colors as Autumn sets in. If you’re a follower of this blog be prepared for a lot of leaf peeping shots in the next couple of weeks. Frankie has laid claim to one of my DSLRs and is learning how to use it. Her little point and shoot is great for snapshots and small enough to carry in her purse but “her new” Canon EOS Rebel XS can do so much more, including accepting all of my lenses! Now all I have to do is get her hooked on blogging………..
Naturally, we took the livestock with us. Molly is more laid back when it comes to going for a ride. She usually curls up on the seat or in the cargo area of the truck and catches a few Z’s……when she’s not chewing the corner off the door trim or eating the protective plug for the auxiliary power port in the back seat.
Adult Labs are used by waterfowl hunters because they have a “soft mouth” and don’t damage the birds. Lab puppies can and will chew up everything in sight! At about a year old Molly is still a pup and we’ve got a good 6 months to a year before she stops chewing. That’s why there are rolled up newspapers stashed all over the house; a swat on the nose with one doesn’t really hurt but the noise gets the message across.
Buddy, on the other hand, loves riding with his head out the window, ears, lips and tongue flapping in the breeze. He’s about 3 years old and pretty much matured. After eating 2 power cords within a week of our adopting him, both of which were plugged into the wall outlets at the time, he got over his chewing spell. He still does his best to become invisible when Molly screws up and one of us reaches for a nose whacker.
We spotted a small herd of these funny looking deer (gazelles?) just down the road from Frankie’s alma mater, Fort Chiswell High School.
Actually, there’s an exotic animal zoo on the other side of the hill from where I shot these. Oh, and the camera is level in both of these shots. I told you there was a hill!
As I was trying to frame a shot of wildflowers along Frankie’s side of the road I realized there was something moving behind the flowers. (She was driving and I was on the passenger side using a 500MM zoom lens aiming through her open window.)
I handed her the camera and she found this spike whitetail deer (a yearling buck with very short antlers) hiding in the weeds. At first we thought he had been injured but when we turned around and came back to this spot a few minutes later he was gone.
The gravel road leading through the woods made for a smooth ride while the surrounding ridges blocked a good deal of that stiff breeze I mentioned. It was still chilly enough that we needed the heater, especially with my window down so that I could shoot pictures and the back windows partially down so the dawgs could give their sniffers a workout.
One of the last things one would expect to find way back in the woods along a gravel road is a stately old mansion. This is the Major Graham Mansion which is reputed to be haunted and is currently open to pre-Halloween tours.
Just down the road from the mansion is this abandoned house which causes a chill to run down our spines each time we pass it. No, we didn’t get out for a closer look. To coin a phrase, I ain’t afraid of no ghosts. However, they’re probably bullet proof so I’m not pushing my luck!
A Hedge Apple (Maclura pomifera) on the side of the road. I had no idea what they were but Frankie did. A small deciduous shrub also known as Osage-orange, Horse-apple, Bois D’Arc, or Bodark and native to parts of Texas the plant is commonly used as a windbreak in prairie states. The fruit is also used as an insect repellant and, now that we know, will be getting a test run in our house next year because they are said to be very effective at repelling fleas.
These were also tons of baseball size walnuts scattered everywhere long the side of the road. The abundance of walnuts, acorns and other natural signs we’ve observed recently have us convinced that we’re in for another hard winter. I guess it’s a good thing we stocked up on ice melter when it went on sale this past spring.
Cattails (Typha) in a creek bed just down the road from where that spike had been hiding. We used to whack each other with these things when I was a kid and catch hell when we came home and had puffs of white fuzz (the seeds inside the brown cover) all over our clothes and hair.
Yep, that’s why these are called the Blue Ridge Mountains but it will only be a week or two until they’re a riot of color. I can hardly wait! Of course, not too long after the color fades and those ridges will be white and I hardly wait for that, either! The kid next door knows my back and legs are all screwed up and he has already volunteered to shovel our walk and parking area when he does his!
A few random shots from our trip home to Virginia Beach last week.
“The Rocks” at the western end of Chesapeake Beach (Chic’s Beach to locals), in the northwestern corner of Virginia Beach. I grew up on this stretch of sand and spent a good part of my teen age years sitting on those rocks staring out across the Chesapeake Bay trying to figure out life’s mysteries. No trip home is complete without a return to this site no matter what the weather or time of year. In the distance is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, spanning the 20 mile mouth of the bay.
Now, a few burds I managed to shoot while once again sitting on those rocks:
US Navy SH-60 Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopter. The special paint job is in honor of 100 years of Navy aviation. The first flight from a US Navy ship, the USS Birmingham riding at anchor in Hampton Roads, was made by Eugene Ely just a few miles east of Chesapeake Beach on 14 November 1910. Hampton Roads was also the site of the first battle between ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, during the American Civil War.
The first landing on a Navy ship, USS Pennsylvania, was also made by Ely in San Francisco harbor on 18 January 1911 and the navy purchased it’s first airplane the following month, establishing the first Navy flight training facility at Coronado, California..
Some of my family and friends enjoying life at chic’s Beach over the years.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to view the slide show. When I was Googling Chic’s Beach for links as I wrote this I was pretty stoked when it appeared 6th in the results. I made it a couple of years ago so some of you have already seen it. The little kids in the black and white shot are me and my oldest sister with our dad and one of his friends at Chic’s Beach in 1958. I literally grew up on that beach!
In another frame you’ll see a couple standing under a canopy on the beach. That’s my mom and dad, shot in the late 70s. The solitary girl looking out to sea in another frame is our youngest daughter, Laura. I took that shot 50 years after the shot of me, Dad and Crazy Horse (my sister) was made. There is another frame of two women, my mom and my wife, Frankie (aka THE BOSS) walking towards the setting sun taken this past June.
Hope you enjoyed the nickel tour.
Did you ever have one of those days that just seems to blur on into the next day and the next and ……well you know. I’ve been dealing with a case of writer’s block recently and it just keeps going on and on.
The trip home was okay but sort of a bust. I cooked for Mom a couple of times and she enjoyed that. We gave her a couple of nice American History books and she enjoyed those as well, after giving us a minor chewing out for spending the money on her.
Then the old best laid plans deal kicked in.
I have given this sea gull instructions to keep a close eye on you.
It was overcast or raining for just about the entire week we were there. I didn’t mind the bad weather for the first day or so because my back gave me fits after the 6 hour drive and I was stoned out of my gourd on pain killers..
One afternoon the sun came out just long enough for me to load the dogs in the truck and drive to the beach. We made it about 100 yards from the parking lot when a near miss by a huge bolt of lightning sent us scrambling for cover. That was the extent of our time on the beach.
The air show we were looking forward to was rained out. This is about the best shot I managed to get when the Blue Angels were practicing the day before the start of the weekend long performance. That patch of blue sky, top right, was about the only clear spot we saw the entire week we were in Virginia Beach and it only lasted for a few minutes.
Just in case you think you can get away from that first sea gull’s steely gaze I know where I can find more……lots more……and they’ll work for stale french fries.
We decided to try a different route for the return trip. While it was nice to see different scenery this route was 40 miles longer. That said, we’ll most likely use this route from now on because it only involved about 20 miles of Interstate and I hate the Interstates with a passion.
The new route should also provide some great photo opportunities……as long as we don’t find ourselves stuck in a 30 minute traffic backup due to road construction.
Did I mention that we spent that 30 minutes INSIDE a rain cloud? The cloud deck was around 1,500 feet and, according to the roadside sign where we sat waiting just before Lovers Leap, our elevation was 3,000 feet. (The sign was the only thing I could see besides the brake lights on the tractor trailer in front of us.)
As a former manager in a major heavy truck repair facility I am all too aware of just how many trucks on our nation’s highways are literally falling apart. I spent the entire 30 minutes praying that truck didn’t suffer a brake failure because we were sitting on a pretty serious grade and I have no desire to have “Squished by a damned semi!” engraved on my headstone.
Gulls weren’t the only burds I found at home. This egret was hanging out in the top of a tree when I took a ride to First Landing State Park one afternoon.
I shot these from the driver’s seat of the truck using a 500MM zoom lens because I didn’t feel like dealing with wiping the drizzle that was falling off the lens every other frame.
It wasn’t until I got back home and started going through the photos that I spotted this guy sitting on a branch at the top of that dead tree.
I think it’s an osprey but I could be wrong. He must have landed there while I was concentrating on the egret because he wasn’t there when I shot the first frame.
Oh, yes…….the sun finally did come out on our way home…….when we were about 15 miles from home. At least we got to see some of the fall colors which are just beginning to burst across the mountainsides.
Frankie has this weekend off and we’ve already planned a day trip to capture as much of it as we can. I think she’s been nipped by the shutter bug because she’s already claimed one of my DSLRs as hers and decided that I’m going to teach her how to shoot it. This should be a lot of fun!
Oh, wait……..that means I’ll have even more photos to sort and edit…..along with the 1,500 or so I managed to shoot back home in spite of the weather. I may never finish!
At least the writer’s block seems to be easing up a little.
Preparations are under way for our trip home to celebrate Mom’s 88th birthday.This means the sorting, packing, re-sorting, re-packing, re-re-sorting…..well you get the idea….. is underway and I’ll be out in the backyard cursing at the trees any minute now.
This is good practice for the trip home because it’s a proven fact that the idiot per mile population on Virginia’s highways increases exponentially as you travel east until you get to the gridlock that is Hampton Roads, road rage capitol of the known world. Add to that the stress from having to keep a sharp eye out for speed traps and it’s little wonder my blood pressure spikes every time I have to make the trip.
If there is one thing the USAF taught me that stuck it’s how to pack. I can usually get my bags packed (duffle, camera bags and computer bag) in 10 minutes but Frankie, Queen of the Pack Rats, always has a terrible time cramming everything into and on top of the truck. If we had a tractor trailer she would find a way to overload it! I’m always amazed that a fidget (Female mIDGET) always needs a suitcase that’s at least twice the size of everything I carry, combined.
Once Frankie finishes overloading Godzilla I have to wait until she falls asleep before going out and unloading enough
junk crap trash “good stuff” to allow room for me to drive the truck and use the rear view mirrors. When she wakes up she always tries to stuff the excess back into the truck until I get that look in my eye and start searching for matches. Then she squirrels it away until her next attempt at setting a Guinness Book world record for most junk hauled across Virginia in a passenger vehicle.
Internet access at Mom’s involves a trip to McDonald’s to use their free Wi-Fi access because Mom views computers as one of the greatest evils ever visited upon mankind. My Internet Service Provider does not offer dial up access and the cost of a wireless plan would put a dent in my camera gear budget and that ain’t happening! I do have a 3G cell phone but I’m an old geezer and only use my cell for phone. I dropped the data plan after realizing that I only used it for about an hour total during the 3 month mandatory prescription period when I first got the phone. I figured the extra $49 a month would be better spent on that huge lens I wanted……and I did!
Anyhoo, I’ll be off line for most of the next week. When I get back I should have loads of pictures to share. On the other hand I may make the papers if I succumb to temptation and open fire on the idiots in a Virginia Beach traffic jam. At least tourist season is over so I’ll only have to deal with local idiots wandering around lost and not the summer time imported variety (mostly from Ohio, New Jersey and Quebec), as well.
See you when we get back….. unless I’m incarcerated or involuntarily committed!
P.S. If you happen to find yourself on a Virginia highway anywhere between Mount Rogers and the Atlantic Ocean during the next week you may want to re-consider your trip. That large green object with a dog head hanging out each side rapidly growing larger in your rear view mirrors will be Godzilla moving at a high rate of speed in and easterly direction tomorrow and westerly a week from tomorrow. I’m not braking for anything! You have been warned.
(Re-posted from today’s Blogger page. I know, I know…..I’m just lazy!)
I haven’t spent nearly enough time with the cameras or writing lately so when THE BOSS pointed out the harvest moon just rising at the end of the ridge I grabbed the camera with the big lens mounted and stepped out the front door. All of these were shot hand held with my Sigma 150 – 500MM optically stabilized lens.
I really need to practice using the big lens because it’s heavy at 4 lbs. and next Monday we’re going home for a week to help Mom celebrate her 88th birthday. I know I’ll be shooting a lot on the beach as well as around the city, both in the urban and rural areas. To top the week off we’re going to the Air Show at Naval Air Station Oceana next weekend before piling in Godzilla and returning to God’s Country. I’m gonna need to build up my forearms so I don’t pass out from exertion right in the middle of shooting a low level pass!
Suffice it to say, I may not have much to post now but by the end of the month I should have about a gazillion* frames to process. If my calculations are correct I should go blind just before Halloween.
*That’s gazillion, not to be confused with Brazilian, which frequently confused our last Dufus in Chief who should not be confused with Rick Perry, his successor as governor of Texas, who wants to be the next Dufus in Chief only without the pesky IQ thingamajig.
Say what you may about the current occupant of the Oval Office; even with a do nothing congress he has managed to accomplish one thing:
……and he has proof!
(Actual bin Laden funeral
By the way, while we’re on the topic of Al Qaeda …..and don’t ask me how we got there:
Okay, “Peggy”, the attendant says it’s time to get me in my fancy jammies with the buckles in the back and for one of those itty-bitty cups of the funny orange “Kool-Aid”.
Peggy is not to be trifled with
I’ll see y’all tomorrow unless I manage to chew through the straps again. Y’all might want to lock your doors…..and buy a helmet.
The view from the passenger side window on the way home from town this evening.
Now you now why I let THE BOSS drive Godzilla.
This is the surprise I was talking about in my last post.
We just got home from the Smyth County Animal Shelter where we pulled Buddy’s new companion, Molly. She’s estimated to be a year old, has been spayed and, as far as we can tell, is in excellent health. We don’t know if she’s up to date on all her shots but if her previous owner went to the trouble and expense of having her spayed it stands to reason she’s probably had all vaccinations. Just the same she’ll be paying a visit to our vet.
We decided to adopt for several reasons:
Buddy has severe separation anxiety, even to the point that he whines and howls if I leave him in the house while I mow the yard. We feel that a companion animal may help with this.
Molly was picked up as a stray on 16 August and her days were numbered.
We absolutely love Labs and wish we had room for dozens but we only have room for two.
She’s so beautiful we just had to bring her home!
First order of business when we got home was Frontline Flea Treatment (just in case), fitting Molly with a “halty harness” until Santa Claus arrives in his big brown truck with the new collars and double lead then a big ol’ bowl of kibble which she wolfed down.
Buddy and Molly are still getting acquainted but, after the 30 mile trip home in the back seat with Laura, the sniffing and growling has stopped and the “kissing” has commenced! At least we don’t have to worry about puppies because they’ve both been fixed.
Sorry I haven’t been around to make y’all shake your heads and ask yourselves why I haven’t been institutionalized yet…….and NO, that’s not why I haven’t been online much recently.
THE BOSS has had some medical issues that have been occupying what little is left of my mind. I haven’t even picked up a camera in several days.
She is being treated by several very competent medical professionals is okay, at home and at the moment well sedated. Her preliminary prognoses are very favorable and she’ll get a better handle on her condition tomorrow when she sees one of the specialists she’s been referred to and gets the lab results.
Now, while she’s still unconscious I’ll go check the straps on her straight jacket and the padlocks on the chains. You’d think she’d behave herself, especially after I cut the handle off her broom, effectively grounding her but NO-O-O-O!
Did I mention that the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee are just moving in to combine with a low pressure system that arrived in our area last night? The weather guess says heavy rain, 4 to 8 inches, through Thursday followed by scattered thunderstorms through the weekend. I’ll go absolutely stir crazy! If you already think I’m as screwy as a soup sammich you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
I spoke with my brother again this morning and he says they have Mom’s house buttoned down to ride out Hurricane Irene.
There is one positive aspect of this storm.The torrential rains will aid firefighters who have been battling the Great Dismal Swamp wildfire which was started by a lighting strike two weeks ago. So far it has burned over 5,500 acres. Smoke from the fire has triggered air quality alerts 200 miles away!
Hazardous Weather Outlook
This Afternoon: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. East wind around 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tonight: Tropical storm conditions expected, with hurricane conditions possible. Scattered rain and thunderstorms, then rain likely and possibly a thunderstorm after midnight. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Cloudy, with a low around 76. East wind 11 to 16 mph increasing to between 29 and 39 mph. Winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Saturday: Tropical storm conditions expected, with hurricane conditions possible. Rain and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. High near 80. East wind 45 to 55 mph, with gusts as high as 65 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts in excess of 4 inches possible.
Saturday Night: Hurricane conditions expected. Rain and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Low around 73. North wind 60 to 80 mph decreasing to between 45 and 55 mph. Winds could gust as high as 95 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts in excess of 4 inches possible.
Sunday: Isolated showers before noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 87. Windy, with a west wind between 24 and 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
The latest updates have Irene moving across the Hampton Roads (Tidewater to locals), Virginia area tomorrow afternoon as either a weak category 2 or strong category 1 hurricane.
Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale
Winds & Effects
No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.
Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings.
Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
18 ft. +
Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.
Mom lives just east of Norfolk, in the extreme threat area on the map above.
In addition to sustained hurricane force winds the area is predicted to get 8+ inches of rain with a 4 to 8 foot storm and unusually high lunar tides. I may need to borrow Fish Hook’s boat as well as his utility trailer if I get a call to bring in supplies to repair storm damage.
Now all we can do is wait and pray.
…..for a few words from Mother Nature.
I have more photos to post from the Civil War re-enactment in Saltville this past weekend but they’ll have to go on the back burner for a short while. Mother Nature has decided to remind us that she’s in charge and I have some preparations to make.
First my youngest brother called Tuesday afternoon worried that Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story was under attack because he heard 4 loud booms which shook the house, rattled dishes in the cabinets and set all of the interior doors swinging back and forth. While we didn’t get so much as a jiggle up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains I was online when he called and, just as he was describing what had happened, a news alert about the East Coast earthquake popped up in my inbox. The epicenter was about 150 miles northwest of where he lives and, while they received no damage, it did give folks in that area a scare.
Now I’m following the weather updates as Hurricane Irene bears down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Mom lives in Virginia Beach, about 100 miles due north of the Outer Banks (just east of Norfolk on the map below) and tropical storm warnings for her area are already up. The weather guessers are currently forecasting that the storm will strike the Outer Banks as a category 3 storm, track north across Currituck Sound and head back out into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing Virginia Beach as a category 2 hurricane late Saturday.
The governors of Virginia and North Carolina have already declared states of emergency and mandatory evacuation of the Outer Banks were have been ordered. The US Navy and Air Force are taking this storm seriously enough that all ships in Norfolk have been ordered out to sea and aircraft from Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Air Station Oceana are being dispersed to air bases inland.
Mom has lived in her Virginia Beach home for 50 years and has ridden out many a tropical storm, hurricane and winter nor’easter there. As a result she refuses to leave no matter what emergency officials advise and I’m sure she’ll do the same this time.
There is an upside to the hurricane bearing down on the East Coast. The heavy rainfall it brings with it will be a huge help in getting the wildfire that has been burning in the Great Dismal Swamp for the past couple of weeks under control. Mom’s area has been under code orange, red and purple air quality alerts recently because of heavy smoke from the estimated 5,500 acres of peat bog which is smoldering on the Virginia/ North Carolina border.
My younger brothers and a sister still live in Virginia Beach but about the only thing I can count on from them is a call for help once the storm hits……if the land lines or cell towers are still in place. That sounds harsh, I know, but the three of them together have all the common sense God gave a rock and that’s being extremely generous.
This scenario puts me in an odd position. After living in Virginia Beach most of my life I became accustomed to keeping emergency gear ready to load in the car in case we had to evacuate ahead of a hurricane. While Mom was always ready to ride one out Frankie, Laura and I were always ready to “git while the gittin; was good”. Now, living 325 miles west of Virginia Beach and safe from the storm, I’m preparing to do the opposite; load the emergency gear into the truck and head for Virginia Beach once the storm passes! This is where owning a 3.5 ton, 4 wheel drive, gas guzzling monster SUV becomes a blessing.
Now to remove the winter gear from the two 32 gallon totes in the shed and replace it with items more suitable for warm weather, especially extra tarps in case Mom has any roof damage. When Frankie gets home from work I’ll get the young man next door to help load the totes into the truck and then it’s just a matter of waiting for the storm to hit.
Actually, this arrangement may work to our advantage. In the aftermath of a major storm supplies, especially building materials and emergency generators, are hard to come by because home improvement and building supply stores are quickly stripped bare as hundreds of thousands of people try to repair storm damage. There is a Lowe’s Home Improvement store 2 miles from our house and I have to drive right past it to reach the on ramp for Interstate 81. My brother in law lives just down the street from us and I’m sure he’d lend me his utility trailer. Between the trailer and the luggage rack on the roof of the truck I can probably haul enough building materials to repair any damage Mom might sustain.
In case you’re wondering, if I have to head east with a load of gear I have no intention of loading or unloading anything heavy. The last thing I need to do is aggravate my already wrecked back and legs and become another person needing medical attention in a disaster zone. Lowe’s has a crew of men available to load purchases free of charge. Frankie and I have used these guys several times over the years. Once I get to Mom’s my brothers, while not over burdened with common sense, are both large and healthy. Then there are Mom’s neighbors, 2 or whom are Navy SEALs and the man right next door is a building contractor. I think we’ll have the heavy lifting covered.
Well, this isn’t getting the totes packed so I guess I had better get to it. I’ll keep y’all posted and if I do have to go you know I’ll have pictures to post when I get back. I take my cameras everywhere!
Today we took a little road trip to Saltville, Virginia to see a re-enactment of the American Civil War battle fought there in 1864. On October 2, 1864 a raid by a Union Calvary column was repulsed by a patched together unit of Confederate reserves and citizens.
Frankie was a Civil War re-enactor when she was in college so this was the perfect way to spend her day off. We loaded the truck with camp chairs, cooler, cameras and the small red horse (our Fox Red lab, Buddy), picked up Frankie’s sister and her husband and we were off.
The battery in Frankie’s little point and shoot died just as the battle got under way but that was not a problem because I had both of my DSLRs with me. She slid her camera into a pocket, took over one of my cameras and continued snapping away.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here. Between the two of us we managed to shoot 1,659 frames in a little over 3 hours and I have a TON of sorting and editing to do.
The small red horse had fun, as well. It didn’t take him long to discover the pond between the Union and Confederate positions. For a Lab the only thing better than chasing tennis balls is frolicking in the water!
I shot the first and last photos on this page and Frankie shot the rest. The NRVGIRL copyright watermark refers to her heritage, having grown up here in the New River Valley of Southwest Virginia. I think she did am excellent job.
Now to post some of my shots on my Blogger page. If you’d like to take a look just click on this link.
Image via Wikipedia
THE BOSS has been plotting with her sister again. Tomorrow we’re loading up Godzilla, stopping to pick up said sister and her long suffering husband, Fish Hook, and we’re all going to Saltville for the re-enactment of the Battle of Saltville.
I have mixed emotions. Any road trip is a great opportunity for photos. Since the girls will undoubtedly banish me, Fish Hook and the small red horse to the back seat I’ll sit on the left side where I can shoot from the window more easily. My injuries left me with limited range of motion when it comes to turning to the right but I can do left real good!
The article in the local paper said that in addition to the civil war encampment and battle re-enactment they’re going to have a few other events including a skillet toss. Frankie should have little trouble winning that judging by the velocity she employees when whacking me on the headbone with one.
I should have some great photos to post tomorrow……unless I’m in the ER getting a new crop of headbone lumps looked at.