Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Revolutionary City

Our trip to Williamsburg, on the 26th, was punctuated by two items of note and in no particular order are the discovery of a miniature Statue of Liberty in Exmore, VA and the crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel System.

The completion of one of the Seven Structural Engineering Wonders of America in the Twentieth Century was effected in 1964. My first trip across the Bay Bridge and Tunnel System was in 1969 while in VA to visit my brother who was stationed in Norfolk. For those of you unfamiliar with the shortcut from one part of VA to the other, it measures 17.6 miles from shore to shore, consists of 12 miles of trestled roadway, two mile long tunnels, two bridges, four man made island, two miles of causeway and approximately 5 ½ miles of approach road, in total 23 miles. Partway across is the Seagull Fishing Pier where there is a gift shop and restaurant. It’s a good place to stop, take some photos and grab a bite to eat unless you are bothered by bridges and then I recommend you keep going to “get it over with”.

The Statue of Liberty in Exmore, VA is outside the Liberty Tax Service on the Lankford Highway. The 2o foot replica seems to stand by itself along the road because the Tax Service is a good ways back from the road.

We stayed about 2 miles from the Visitor Center, a very short and easy commute back to 1774. And while we were in the past, we took part in a storming of the Governor’s Palace because he had secreted the militia‘s supply of gunpowder from the armory in the dead of night for “safekeeping“. But in truth, we stormed a nearby house where the Governor was visiting due to a medical emergency of a 21st century nature. Someone had fallen on a tour of the Governor’s Palace and ambulance, fire and police personnel we on scene to assist the injured party.

We were witness to coopers, bookbinders, bakers, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, tavern and coffeehouse keepers and even more by association with the people who live that life. The city is in a state of temporal flux. One end of the street fixed in 1760 while the other exists in 1774. Still other places had moved on to the reading of the Declaration of Independence which was met with pride, passion and uncertainty of the future.

Our midday repast was taken at the Chowning Tavern, a sumptuous affair costing more than some colonists would make in 10 years. This extravagance must have placed us in the company of Thomas Jefferson.  The food was excellent and I have to say well worth the 45 minute wait for a table. We opted to share our table with a couple from North Carolina and enjoyed a pleasant exchange of experiences during the meal.

It was an exhausting day and we ended our step into history with a visit to the Court House to hear about the legal system of the day. Our experience was somewhat tarnished by those “characters” who, for whatever reason, did not or would not stay within the time frame they were employed. That being said, I must applaud James Madison for keeping to the times of 1776 in spite of questions from the citizens gathered which would have led him into a debate about future events such as the close friendship between President Washington and Secretary Hamilton or discourse of the notion of a Constitution to act as a governing document. Madison admitted he was toying with the concept but it would never catch on.    

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Most days tend to follow a similar path and by that I mean we get up, have breakfast, do our shift, have lunch, look for horses, have supper and watch TV until bed time. Occasionally, we head to the mainland for supplies of laundry but some days things  occur to make the day a bit more memorable. .

Last weekend we hosted a group of people who arrived well after dark. They set up huge construction area lights run off of a rather loud generator and everyone was scrambling to erect tents and settle the kids for the evening. Someone knocked on our door about 9:15 to complain about the loudness and brilliance of site A21. They were here to enjoy the quiet solitude of the evening, watch some stars and listen to the surf in the distance as it broke against the beach. When we stepped from our trailer, we couldn’t deny both the noise and intensity of the lighting coming from the site in question.

We spoke with the guests, mentioned the complaint and explained how their generator in the middle of the site was extremely loud and suggested they move it closer to the tree line. It was explained to us, in no uncertain terms, how they were hard working folks who lived in the city and had just driven all that way to arrive late. They understood the regulation of quiet time from 10:00PM- 6:00AM, pointing out they still had almost an hour before they needed to shut down the generator. They mentioned they would get the generator out as soon as they got their air mattresses pumped up. Since we could hear their generator from our campsite more than a football field away, we called a Law Enforcement Officer and asked if he could drop by. A few moments later, the generator and lights went out just about the same time the officer rolled up to our site. After explaining what had transpired, he mentioned a 60 db noise rating at 50 feet and would pass on the info to the day shift.

The next morning, around 8:00, an officer pulled up with his noise meter and asked the campers to start the generator. Wouldn’t you know it, it wouldn’t start. Well, by afternoon, the crew flagged us down as we drove by. They had purchased tiki torches to light their site and informed us they wouldn’t need the generator or lights that evening.

I had previously reported the strength of the MD herd and how few members we had come in contact with but I’m happy to report the white pinto with the small black patches,  named Bodacious Bob, has stolen 3 mares. We haven’t seen them yet but I’m sure going to watch for them. And while doing just that, we found another band has moved up from the middle of the island. It’s the beautiful mahogany bay stallion with 4 mares. Last year he had 3 pinto mares but this year he has added another to his family, the palomino and white pinto mare from another band. It’s now clear to me the stallions may fight to keep their ladies but are not always successful in their endeavors. This latest band brings the number of horses seen and photographed on this trip to 27.

Today my friend, Pam, and several members of her kayak group arrived for the weekend. It was fun to see people from home down here and I hope they fall in love with Assateague the way Carl and I have.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Assateague Island National Seashore

Our arrival on Assateague was followed very quickly by bad weather and when I say bad weather, I mean trailer shaking wind, sideways curtains of rain with enough volume to turn the park into a water feature. Our first volunteer shift was spent figuring out which sites could be used and which classified as a diving experience . This also entailed judgment calls on what sites were too wet for tents. I felt for sure the water would disappear quickly but here we are five days later and we still have several extra ponds around with wet weather on the horizon. All this extra rainwater is an added boon to the horses for they must rely on just a  couple of brackish ponds for their year round needs.

The horses are busy grazing on the new greenery as quick as it sprouts. We have only identified 13 individuals up close with another 7 from a distance. This is a very small sampling of the herd which numbers 92, 68 mares and 24 stallions. I asked the rangers if it was a particularly tough winter to have the herd number so low. Although the winter was about average, they did mention several of the older animals had succumbed. Life is certainly hard for the barrier island inhabitants.

Last night we were witness to a failed takeover. A new white stallion with small black and brown markings appeared, a horse I haven’t seen in three years of observation, tried for over a half hour to round up the 4 chestnut mares that call our campground home. The resident stallion, also a chestnut, wasn’t having any of it. They chased each other back and forth while the mares tried their best to stay out of the way. Eventually the lead mare chased the other three out of the park while the boys continued to “discuss” the situation. It grew too dark for us to see the results and had to wait until this morning to find out who won. Much as I would have liked to see the new stallion takeover, the chestnut stallion was with his mares grazing in the marsh and the interloper was no where to be seen.

I’ll be looking for him to appear once more and try again.

Found Her !

The highlight of last year’s month long visit was finding the 5 month old filly everyone was talking about. We first heard about the December baby when we checked in at the Ranger Station. A December birth is unusual in the horse world and almost unheard of within the Maryland herd.

It took us several days to find her but our persistence was rewarded. She had what I considered to be an unusual color pattern, a brown and white pinto with brown, black and white mane and tail. She had a very distinctive tiny brown spot within a large white patch on her left side. Her other distinctive mark was a white and black splotch on her forehead. Thinking no one would notice her gone, I wanted to scoop her up and stuff her in our truck. She was a real cutie and I wondered how much her appearance would change in a year’s time. I was pretty confident we would recognize her in years to come. I have since found out her coloring isn’t that unusual but her markings are unique.

So, it’s next year already and we’ve been here just over a week. We found the band with her sire, the strong and well built pinto stallion with the map of GA on his left side grazing in the marsh between the Ranger Station and the bridge. Surprise! We not only found my little filly but also a second yearling filly born over Memorial Day weekend last year. We were delighted to find both foals born last year were in the same band.

My filly has grown significantly but still has those two distinguishing features and I still very much want to put her in the truck and take her home however it would no longer be an easy fit.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

One More Of The Bucket List

I get to cross one more thing of my Bucket List this weekend. I’ve always wanted to be in Washington, DC for the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms.

Our side trip found us at Cherry Hills RV Park just outside of DC where we were educated on which bus and Metro would get us into the city on the following day. And oh what a day it was! We exited the Metro at L’Enfant Plaza and walked about ½ mile to the Tidal Basin where we discovered a vibrant blue sky, bright sunshine, 70 degree temps and a crowd of more than 500,000 people all wanting to get the best angle or the best view on their cameras, cell phones and tablets. There was even a couple of people from MacGilvery Films with an Imax camera on this huge tripod. Every step I took around the Tidal Basin involved waiting for a chance to take a photo, watching out for people who were taking a photo or making sure we weren’t walking into someone’s shot.  

However difficult our 3 mile meander was, the brilliance and multitude of those blossoms more than made up for it. The original cherry trees were a gift from Tokyo City in 1912. Over the years, mature trees have provided additional root stock and now April is the place to be for all things cherry in the nation’s capitol.

It’s of interest to mention a few years back Tokyo cherry trees experienced some kind of blight and began to die off. In the spirit of keeping the original strain alive and international cooperation, Washington sent a number of cuttings back to the country of their birth. It’s also interesting to note how pale these blossoms are when compared to other varieties of cherry trees. So when you look at a post card or someone else’s photos, remember my photo above and how someone “pushed” the colors in Photo Shop.

I just realized the Bucket List is longer now than it was one year ago.

Note to Self: April in VA is still too early for the kinds of  outside places we might enjoy.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Massanutten Resort

Week of April 4 - 11, 2015

I’m happy to report our travel to VA was uneventful. After have gallery duty at Artistic Roots in Plymouth, NH on the 4th, Carl and I hit the road and drove to our overnight stop just the other side of Hartford, CT at a Wal-Mart . There are, after all , a few we haven’t visited  yet.

 On Easter Sunday , we took great pleasure with the beautiful day and arrived at our timeshare on VA before dark. The check in process was a bit hectic since this resort had over 2,000 units but all things considered, we were in our unit and unpacking by 7:00. A hastily ordered pizza arrived by 8:15 and we were happy campers.

Our one good day, Monday, was spent finding our way around the resort, affecting repairs to the camper since it became all too apparent on the way down our camper’s slide out wouldn’t. Before we left NH Carl thought the motor was the problem but it turned out to be a bent metal tube in the sliding mechanism. We found a fabrication shop to cut off the bent part and drill new holes for the bolts. $5.00 later and we were back in business. Lunch was at Golden Coral which is an awesome place if you have will power. You can also go way overboard. We were strong!

Tuesday and Thursday were very windy and it rained a good part of both days so we chose Wednesday to find something to do. I had quite a list of places to check out so we began with number one, the 3 Brothers Brewery which was closed and wouldn‘t be open until Saturday. Our next stop was the Lavender Farm where the lavender didn’t bloom until June. Stop number three consisted of the Cross Bones Winery and although their showroom was open, the vines were still very much dormant. We did do a wine tasting and came away with another bottle of wine I will want to save because I won’t get another bottle any time soon. Then it was off to Luray Caverns which is probably the 2nd best known underground adventure after Carlsbad Caverns.

And each day I would check the “Bloom Watch” website for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC to find out how close we were to peak viewing. All indications were pointing to April 11-14. It was looking favorable for us to take a side trip on our way to Assateague Island National Seashore. Since our plans are always fluid, we chose to leave Massanutten Resort a day early.