I Need to Get out More Often

Saturday I went with my friend Teresa to the Farmers Market in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had been there before with my brother Skip and loved it. It is in such a beautiful location and offers everything you would want in a farmers market and more. William and Mary College surrounds the area and there are many other fine shops and restaurants within walking distance. As usual I bought some baked goods but Teresa went for scented soaps and shampoo. If we had brought a cooler we could have taken home some shrimp or crab dip. There was live music and as always people bring their dogs to the market. The dogs are pampered with quite a few of the vendors providing free food and water for the dogs. The most popular vendors are of course the fresh produce vendors. This is not a small farmers market and there was every type of fruit or vegetable you could possibly want.

We later strolled around the area, taking in the campus of William & Mary as well as the Barnes & Noble bookstore. For lunch we ate at a Philly Cheesesteak place where I ordered chili and hot dogs with French fries. The waiter warned us that the chili was very spicy and it was, although it was delicious and not painfully hot. The staff were extremely friendly and I am anxious to return and try out their Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

After a delicious lunch, we decided to head down Colonial Parkway to Yorktown. The parkway is a very pleasant, scenic route that will take you to either Yorktown or Jamestown. We stopped in at the Yorktown Battlefield site and did a short walking tour of the battlefield. You could take a whole day there but it was hot and Teresa wanted to go to the York River beach that a friend had told her about. Yorktown is a pleasant little community on the York River at the foot of the Coleman Bridge. The George P. Coleman Bridge is a 3,750-foot-long double-swing-span bridge located in Yorktown, Virginia, and the bridge crosses the York River. There are quite a number of shops in Yorktown and several excellent restaurants. The beach itself is gorgeous but the swimming area is not very large. The Beach Delly looked wonderful but we had just eaten. Maybe we will be back before summer is over and give it a try. After walking around the riverfront for a while we decided to call it a day and headed back home. It was a great day, and that is why I need to get out more often.


Revisiting old places

Ever since I read an article in the local online paper about the best times to visit some of the attractions in our area, I have been taking their advice and visiting them. Last week Teresa, Kirk and I visited the Norfolk Zoo. It had been a long time since my last visit there and I was surprised by the great improvement in the facility since my last visit years ago. Yesterday I visited the Mariners Museum in Newport News, another attraction I had not visited in over 20 years.

I was stunned by how much the museum had grown since my last visit. I did not even recognize the place. It has been designated by Congress as the National Maritime Museum and is the largest maritime museum in North America. It is located on a beautiful piece of land with bike trails and a nature trail. Today its main attraction is the Union ironclad USS Monitor. An entire section is dedicated to the history of the USS Monitor, including its battle with the CSS Virginia (Merrimack). The original turret is preserved in a huge tank of water and there are many artifacts from the recovery of the Monitor on display. Outside is a full scale reproduction of the Monitor which is great for giving you a realistic idea of what the ship was like in real life.

Inside there are recreations of the crews quarters, a full scale reproduction of the turret with cannons, as well as a recreation of the CSS Virginia. I could have spent hours in the Monitor section alone, but since I only had two and a half hours till closing I had to skip a few things. The Age of Discovery and the Nelson Touch sections of the museum were also fascinating, with many artifacts on display. I was particularly intrigued by the Defending the Seas section of the museum. There was a full size recreation of a WWII carrier flight ready room which eerily made you feel like you were actually there being briefed for a mission. There was also a recreation, with real instruments, of the con of a WWII submarine. Again, it made you feel like you were really there in the middle of a world war.

But my two favorites of the museum were the Great Hall of Steam and the International Small Craft Center. Words fail me in adequately describing just how fantastic both of those exhibits are so I will post a couple of links to video I took of my visit to them. I do know that I will be back again real soon to take a more leisurely tour of this amazing place. If you live in this area, I highly recommend a visit to the Mariners Museum. My next stop will be to the Virginia Marine Science Museum. I cannot wait to see what surprises are in store for me there. That is all.

Back from Hawaii

Just a short post to say that we are back from our vacation on the Big Island, Hawaii. Hawaii is more beautiful than anything I have ever seen and even more beautiful than I expected. I am in the process of developing over 300 photos and 15 videos that I shot while there.

I found it amazing how much the climate, geography, and flora change from one region of the island to the other. From rain forest to cattle country to hot, dry land, the landscape was constantly changing. The water of the Pacific ocean was so warm and clear compared to the Atlantic. There was not a place on the island that was not beautiful in it’s own way. I found it impossible to take a bad photo on the island.

The people of the island were among the friendliest I have ever met. No one seemed to be in a hurry and they were always outgoing and eager to share their love of the island with you. The two B&B’s we stayed at were beautiful. Our hosts were friendly and gracious and the accommodations were comfortable. Even without air-conditioning we were always comfortable. There was none of the oppressive humidity that makes summers here in Virginia miserable sometimes.

Teresa really wants to move to Hawaii and I almost feel the same way. It would be a great place to live out the rest of our days. I will have much more to say about Hawaii in future posts but I will leave you with a couple of photos for now.

pololu valley ocean view

Returned from Gulfport

I have been back from Gulfport, Mississippi for a couple of days now. The week spent in Gulfport was very challenging but I think that we were able to accomplish much while there. We worked on a house owned by Dona and Morris Davis. Previous groups had restored the back half of their house and we worked on the front half. Most of the work involved tearing out drywall, flooring, and ceiling. We also took out a vanity and a toilet in the bathroom. We were trying to prepare the house for the electricians to re-wire the house as well as for insulation to be put in the ceilings and outer walls. Once that is done then the drywall would be replaced and the flooring and ceilings would be done. We did get to frame two closets and install hurricane straps to the rafters and floor to help combat uplift from any future hurricanes. The humidity was extremely high during our stay and the temperatures were in the 80’s for most of the week. I didn’t know if I could do such manual labor for eight hours in such conditions but I did. I guess you never quite know what you are capable of until you try.

We went into New Orleans to the French Quarter on Thursday evening and had a lot of fun although the drive by the 9th ward and the abandoned neighborhoods we saw on leaving cast a pall on the festivities. Gulfport and New Orleans suffered unbelievable damage from Hurricane Katrina. You really have to see it with your own eyes to understand the enormity of the destruction. Even though I am glad to be home I am thinking of going down again this April to do some more work. Those areas will be in need of a lot of help for many years to come and I hope to do my share.

Heading down south.

I am leaving early tomorrow morning for Gulfport, Mississippi. I am flying down with three other volunteers from my church. We will be staying in a mission church for a week while we help with the re-construction of houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Gulfport suffered as much damage as New Orleans but has received much less publicity and much less federal aid than New Orleans. Most of the cleanup has been done by the residents and volunteers like us from all over the world. We will be sleeping on the floor of the church with pads and sleeping bags. The church will provide meals and facilities for showering, etc. I am somewhat apprehensive about going as I have not done 8 hours of manual labor since I was in my twenties. I just hope that I will be more of an asset than a hindrance. I don’t know what to expect as far as the damage that still remains from Katrina but I understand it is still pretty extensive. I think I read that the Federal government wants to buy 17,000 of the damaged homes in Gulfport and destroy them in order to build a barrier system to help mitigate damage from future hurricanes. I expect this trip will be a memorable one that I will look back on as one of the best things I have done in my life. Wish us all luck while we are down there.

Back from vacation and back to work

I am back from my trip to Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Forest. I had a pretty good time even though I never had a good nights sleep. Seems I am spoiled in my old age and a tent and a sleeping bag just don’t cut it anymore. But the weather was fine and the scenery was beautiful. We climbed Hawksbill Mountain and Stony Man Mountain as well as hiking numerous trails. Saw the usual deer and chipmunks but no skunks or raccoons. We did have a close encounter with a black bear which I captured on video. Work is still stressful but there is good news to announce. My command may be offering early retirements (VERA) that would allow me to retire either this year or the next with no penalties. I told them I was interested and I am now waiting to see if they actually offer me one. Anyway, here are a couple photos I took with my camcorder and a link to the bear video that I posted to YouTube.
baby chipmunkLittle Doe

Another vacation

I am headed to Shenandoah National Park with my brothers Chris and Jon. We will be camping on Skyline Drive at Lewis Mountain campground. It has been a few years since we last went camping so I am really looking forward to 4 days away from it all. I have charged all the batteries for my camcorder and digital camera and I plan on documenting the trip. I also plan on having fun and letting go a little. Work has been a little hectic lately with me filling in for our IMO who is on two month maternity leave. I hope these 4 days away from it all will help relieve some of the stress. I will be back Sunday and I will be busy processing the videos and photos I will have taken. There is much more going on in my life but that is for a later entry.

Back to work

Well, I am back from Ft. Lauderdale and LandWarNet. I had a good time there and I think I brought back some useful information to share with my fellow workers at TRADOC G-6. The last couple of days I have been busy taming my back yard. We have gotten a lot of rain and the grass and weeds are out of control. I have managed to break the weed whacker twice so I have resorted to my grass hog to chop down the weeds. I will be glad when Fall arrives and I can stop cutting the grass and pulling weeds. I am looking forward to my trip in October to Gulfport Mississippi with my church. I know it will be a lot of hard work and sleeping on a cot or on the floor in a sleeping bag is not going to be easy. But I think the rewards from doing something like this will be beyond measure. I am hoping it will be a trip to remember for a lifetime. I am always plotting my next vacation and I am still thinking of Alaska although I just finished watching a Globe Trekker show about Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. I think if I ever managed to go to the Galapagos Islands that that would be the vacation of a lifetime. It would be like going back into time and the wildlife there is unique and facscinating. But I have to keep in mind that that is not Teresa’s kind of vacation. From my experience with her travel tastes I don’t think the Galapagos Islands would be high on her vacation list. Maybe all she needs is a little convincing, after all I did get her to go to Belize and St. Lucia.

Getting ready to leave town

I will be leaving for the LandWarNet conference in Ft. Lauderdale this coming Sunday. I am looking forward to the trip as it will get me away from the daily grind of work and the hotel I will be staying at is right on the beach. I plan on spending most of my off hours on the beach and swimming in the beautiful waters. My only concern is that Tropical Storm Dean is slowly heading in the general direction of Florida. Dean is expected to become a hurricane in the next few days and it is very possible that Hurricane Dean may chase us all out of Ft. Lauderdale early. Hurricanes have interrupted the LandWarNet conference twice before in recent years. Let’s just hope it is Ft. Lauderdale and not Chesapeake, Virginia that will be visited by Dean. I have a second chance of coming face-to-face with a hurricane in October when I travel to Gulfport, Mississippi with members of my church. We will be staying in a church there while we help with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina. I sure hope there are no hurricanes along the Gulf coast this season. My fingers are crossed…