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!
Either the 60s are coming back to haunt me or Frankie and I discovered where the magic mushrooms grow.
THE BOSS had the day off and we both needed a breather so we loaded the Big Red Puppy in the truck and went out wanderin’.
Our route over the mountain, unpaved and one lane with rocky outcroppings on one side and a steep drop on the other for most of the 6 mile distance. Frankie got a lesson in white knuckle driving but she also swore that if we met any oncoming traffic we wouldn’t be the ones pulling over!
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia) (above and below).
Big Red Puppy (Buddy)
Even though I didn’t shoot many frames the weather was cooler than it has been and it felt great to just get out and go where ever the road took us!
I made a tactical error last month. Using the sink or swim training method I pulled Godzilla over on a peaceful little country road, climbed out of the driver’s seat, walked around to the other side and told Frankie to slide over because it was time for her to learn to drive the truck. She soon discovered that the big green beast is not only huge, it’s a lot of fun to drive!
I’ve been a walking man ever since.
This means that Buddy and I don’t get to go out and wander the countryside shooting pictures every day. While I miss doing that, only having to fill the bottomless pit of a gas tank a couple times a month instead of four or five is nice. Godzilla is very comfortable and rides beautifully even on unpaved roads but it takes a lot of gas to make 3.5 tons of Detroit iron climb mountain roads!
Today we splurged a little and Frankie learned how much fun it is to go out with no firm destination in mind, get totally lost and find all sorts of interesting things to see while trying to figure out how to get back home again.
We had to leave the house for two hours anyway …….. Buddy had fleas.
After saturating his double coat with flea spray, closing up the house and setting off twice the number of bombs called for on the package we loaded up in the truck and set off for wherever we ended up.
This is a view of the New River near the Byllesby and Buck Dams, two of five on the river operated by the Appalachian Power Hydroelectric. Now that we know camp sites and cabins are available in the area, which is part of New River Trail State Park, we will be back when the weather is a little cooler!
For a while Frankie and I thought we had missed seeing the mountain laurel in bloom but we found ourselves surrounded by blossoms as we followed the road between the two dams. There is also an online magazine called The Mountain Laurel which celebrates the Appalachian culture and heritage.
Wild Sweet Pea also lines the roadside as well as the hiking and horseback riding trails.
Laura wasn’t with us today but you can bet she’ll be visiting the park with her boyfriend John in tow in the very near future. He lives nearby and the way her face lit up when she heard that raspberries are growing wild along the trails was priceless!
I must be settling in to the country way of life. Back home I would be laying on the horn and cussing a blue streak at slow moving traffic hogging the road. Today I just grinned and leaned out the passenger side window to snap a few frames. I even waved at them….using all the fingers…..when they finally reached a place where they could move over and wave us past.
Frankie must be picking up my bad habits. She’s already talking about another photo excursion on her next day off!
P.S. The fleas is D – E – A – D!
P.P.S. That #@%$&!! house fly that was driving me out of what’s left of my mind survived the flea bombs. I’m gonna kill that damned thing if it’s the last thing I do!