Monday, December 3, 2012

December by the shore

31 Dec.: Thoroughly enjoyable evening with Donna & Greg, Vince & Mary, and Tom & Cheryl.  Mary baked sourdough bread especially for me due to my diet restrictions. Thank you, Mary!

30 Dec., Sunday: Thoroughly enjoyable evening with Greg & Donna, Dick, Clark & Elizabeth after today's drive from Florence, SC to Columbia.

29 Dec.: Checked out of Sands Villas barely on time at 11am and decided to drive rather than walk on the beach.  Seems it was a bad choice as Cynthia had excruciating back pain for several days thereafter.

26 Dec.: Wonderful thunderstorm, with tornado winds (one sighted nearby), propelled the surf high.  Breakfast at IHOP was satisfactory except that Ron almost left without paying the bill.  More copies and conversation at Staples, more holiday cards from WallyWorld plus an electric heater to warm my perpetually phrozen Smooch Smooch.  Although the Christmas cards were ready on Christmas day, no recipients were to be found close by, so the cards were mailed today.  By then it was time for lunch at Ruby Tuesday, and now we are returned "home" deciding to observe the big waves up close while staying dry.  This is going to be a windy expedition.

25 Dec. Merry Christmas!  I was good!  Oh OH HO HO HO!   Lovely Christmas day; we had to rush to breakfast because the Resort Grill stopped serving at nine to preparation their Christmas brunch, stuff we cannot eat.  Ron munched on a piece of bread as we walked onto the beach through an interested crowd of stationary sea gulls.  Wow, did those gulls evidence their interest, practically flying in my face and close enough to be a bit threatening.  Cynthia wanted to feed the birds, but first we walked 50 yards down the beach with bread in pocket.  Then Ron pulled the bread out and gave a sample to Cynthia who instantly attracted a milling "flight" of gulls.  Did you know that gulls can hover like a humming bird?  And they can pick thrown tidbits out of the air like a circus seal.  After walking for 3.5  hours on the beach, correspondence became the event of the day.  Almost all of the letters, cards, E-cards are written and will be in tomorrow's mail along with one gift Cynthia will return.  We lucked out finding a restaurant open this evening "Bistro by the Sea". Cynthia tried the door but thought it was locked;  we called and they had a place for us at the bar.  The bartender was quite a charmer, working as a teller at a bank during the day, bartending at night, plus completing her undergrad studies in business administration.  She takes her GRE in Feb with hopes of becoming a bank branch manager.  The way she managed that bar  by herself she will do well managing people in any field.   The tuna had a coconut sauce that was delicious; baked vegetables were also marvelous, and boiled red potatoes made a delicious Christmas dinner.  Especially after our only other choice was a Thai restaurant or McDonald's. Merry Merry Merry!

Feeding the Flock 

24 Dec, Mon:   I hope I don't get a lump of coal.  I been good.  Lovely two hour walk on the beach followed by dinner at Island Grille; the risotto is something else.  Cynthia ate a filet.  The Candlelight service at Shepherd of the Sea was lovely; the sanctuary was packed.  While it is wonderful to hear the carols, it is hard to sing with an organist who is not so lively.   Santa arrived while we were gone; OH did we have fun.

23 Dec, Sunday was very pleasant; we worshipped at Shepherd of the Sea Lutheran Church, Atlantic Beach,  which happens to be one of  only ten Lutheran churches in NE NC.  The pews were packed on this last Sunday in Advent; if you are Lutheran this is where you attend church.  The pastor had a nice message, the choir was good, and the post worship fellowship was warm and rewarding.  Well, not really rewarding because we cannot eat those sugary foodstuffs that women bring to church gatherings.  After a grilled chicken salad at the condo restaurant we walked the beach for two hours in sunshine followed by dinner at the Island Grille.  The risotto was prepared for us without oil or butter.

22 Dec, Sat: Tomorrow.  I hope the post office is open so that I can get my first two Christmas cards into the mail before Christmas.

Today arrived:  Cynthia pontificates:  The world did not end yesterday.  We woke up at the north pole of NC on the ATL seaboard where the temps dipped to 30 and the wind is 25 MPH.   One of us did not want to walk today.   Reading material over breakfast was the stock market report from Gabelli (30 June 2011) with brilliant insight, "The big decision last quarter was releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in an attempt to ease prices.  This is not sound policy. The global release of 60 million barrels of crude represents  about 1/5 of 1 % of annual demand.  This cannot matter for more than a few days at most.  It didn't.  There is a good chance that the Reserve will now be refilled at higher prices and the US taxpayer is out the difference. Besides, there was no strategic emergency.  We ask again, where are the adults in Washington?  The debt ceiling debate is tragic political theatre. Who are these people who think nothing of playing politics with the integrity of the United States, arguing with each other like children and holding out default as a viable option?  Maybe in a move of solidarity we should all not pay our bills next month."  There is no new age, just the same OLD AGE where politics will never change.  Life continues.  Today someone will exhale their last breath releasing oxygen into the far reaches of the cosmos that will be inhaled as a newborn's first breath.  Amen!   Ron ran off to the library, WallyWorld, and the PO to print and mail Christmas letters before June.   I am too-much-over-excited-with new software: Adobe Acrobat X Professional Creative Suite.   This old mind is studying Acrobat for beginners.

21 Dec.: Tomorrow.  The OLD FOLKS vignette has been fun, but it is time to quit before it becomes overused. Cool night for good sleeping.  Even so we slept in.  Windy today with rough surf - pretty awesome.  We walked with the wind on the beach for an hour to Fort Macon and enjoyed the educational displays about barrier islands & natural communities thereon.  Return trip on roadway successfully kept sand out of our eyes.  The other bird we see most frequently on the beach is the willett.

20 Dec.:  58 degrees or lower overnight.  Marvelously cool sleeping.  Breakfast, rest, walk, rest, dinner anticipated ... OLD FOLKS.  Wait a minute, during our Beach walk this noon time, a pod of six or eight dolphins 50 yards offshore kept pace with us as we walked.  It was quite fascinating to see them intermittently surfacing.  One "dancing" dolphin stood on tail for a couple of seconds.  Excitements for folks of all ages.  Sunset was blue for our walk to dinner; Amy at the Island Grille made sure our portion of sea trout was adequate (Thanks).

19 Dec.:  Last night with windows wide open, we were cool enough most of the night, and Cynthia rested quite well without much stomach or back pain..  Today was primarily uneventful (OLD FOLKS). We walked the beach for a couple of hours and again to dinner.  The portion of sea trout this evening was disappointingly small, an unbelievable contrast to yesterday.

18 Dec.:  We slept well last night although the timeshare apartment is too warm for us.  NOW that is a real indicator that this blog is written by old folks for old folks !!  Let's not even suggest that the egg white veggie omelets are a highlight of the day and that we are excited by anticipation of another 5pm fish dinner at our favorite, familiar Island Grille.  Highlights for OLD FOLKS.  Our two hour walk on the beach is a bit beyond old folks.  Cynthia provided punctuation to dinner (sea trout) by blacking out momentarily.  ER was quick to see us and ran a dozen tests immediately, cardiac, brain, blood, urine.  The reason she has had a tummy ache for two weeks is a bladder infection, so Cipro was prescribed, and my honey is feeling much better.  No telling what caused the momentary blackout, but her blood pressure was extremely high upon arrival at the hospital, and her monitor showed signs of pvc's.  Excitements for OLD FOLKS.

 17 Dec.:  See entry above.  OLD FOLKS.  Wahoo.

16 Dec., Sunday:  All of our favorite restaurants were closed, so we enjoyed satisfying salads at Ruby Tuesday followed by the excitement of re-provisioning at Wally World.  OLD FOLKS. 

15 Dec., Sat: Packed!  We are off to Atlantic Beach, NC for two weeks.  We will be in Columbia, SC for New Year's Eve with the gang! After driving, we thoroughly enjoyed our walk on the beach to the Island Grille at 5pm for a Rockfish dinner.

A commentary by Cynthia about hysteria in the news and 'net over Photons, Mayan calendar, and the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, etc.:

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself, " said Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently.  Yes, we need to have clean air and be concerned about our ecology, calling attention to the sinkhole in LA and other environmental ills, but hysterical, feverish fear accomplishes nothing.  The internet and press are not helpful but misleading to people given to believing everything in print. Local political environmental organizations are places to invest energy to make changes and be part of the solution.  

Go after Hollywood, too. How many children have to die, not because of guns, for there are knives, not because of knives, because drugs and exposure to violence destroy young minds?   This morning's question, "Why?" about yet another senseless school massacre, begs an answer, "Why indeed!"  Look for answers in violent movies and vicious television shows cited by young killers who admit to playing out what they see on screen.  Look for answers in parents who allow young children and teen-agers to be exposed to atrocities.  Look for answers in those of us who support Hollywood and its ilk.  The answer is to turn off the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and spend time with your kids.  

14 Dec. Fri:   12 hours of marvelous sleep,  computer stuffs and off to the Hilton Garden Inn for breakfast before the AM "beach-beat.'  Despite the low 50 degree temps,  the bright warm sunshine made for a very warm pleasant walk sans jackets and gloves.  At the Quality Inn we climbed to street level to continue the walk to the Wright Brothers Memorial site of the first flight. The Visitors Center has the history of aviation through portrait paintings of personages prominent in aeronautics.  Cynthia enjoyed the glimpse into aviation in 2050 when flights will be available on demand; pilotless FEDEX and UPS,  flights that are not constrained by weather, etc.  No mention of what airport security will be like in 2050!   The stories of a couple of passionate young women aviators caught my attention as I read about the early deaths from accidents in air shows.   The ranger suggested we not try to take the three different ferries back to Atlantic Beach, NC tomorrow because of shallow water, high wind, favoritism given to locals and truckers so tourists come last.  We will instead drive the five hours back to our lodging at that beach for the next two weeks.

Two little stops to make before dinner tonight; we turned toward Virginia Dare Trail to go to Harris Teeter's to return frozen cherries that had pits left in them - but the blinding sun in the west prevented us from seeing the store immediately to our right on Virginia Dare Trail; 2.2 miles later we figured out we missed it and to heck with going back so we headed onto the recycling at Nags Head Municipal Park and thought we missed it, too.  We had not!  Whew.  Arrival was three minutes before Owen's Restaurant on Beach Road opened.  This was our  last night where we have dined every evening since our arrival.  They really feed us good food!!! It is delicious, plentiful portions, cooked to our severe dietary restrictions.  The Christmas decorations are the special attraction: the windows are lit with festive candles; they and the doors are draped with fir garlands, beads, balls;  Christmas trees grace every room including La Femme Toilette.

Model of the Kitty Hawk at Kill Devils Hill, NC

Replica of the Kitty Hawk

13 Dec., Thurs: Not many places on this island serve breakfast apart from fast food stuffs.  It is off season and so is fruit.  Since Tuesday morning we have driven to the Hilton Garden Inn for a great breakfast - all you can eat for $10.95 including fresh fruit.  The wind was much kinder to Cynthia as we trekked 4 miles RT to the Sea Shore Resort and inquired inside about a room since it has a marvelous oceanfront view; the rate is excellent: $75.00 a night.  But the real reason for stopping was  La FemmeToilette.

12 Dec., Wed:   19 months.  Another anniversary!  Brrr, it is cold and windy.  Dressed for an hour walk,  Cynthia wore Montbell down pants under jeans, a sweater, hooded sweatshirt, Montbell down under jacket, a down outer jacket and a wind-rain resistant hooded parka with three pairs of gloves.  Actually, she waddled for an hour.    Fascinating to see two guys surfing with kites and ski boards (this apparatus costs about 2K - very pricey).  A coast guard plane flew overhead checking the coast line.

SuperWindy View from Our Balcony

View from FourthFloor Balcony

11 Dec., Tues:  The drive to the Hilton Garden Inn was the perfect choice.  They DO have stuff we can eat including fresh fruit.   A Nor'easter hit the OBX!  Temp was a brrrisk 52 by dinner this evening.   It was a good day to stay cuddled up with our computers.

10 Dec:  Gorgeous day!  The waitress at the Ship's Wheel recommended Grits Grill for breakfast.  Forgeddaboudit.  Five miles RT in two hours; we felt great upon completion.  70 degrees today.  Notice the big fish the seagull caught that he cannot quite get out of the water (at his feet).  Yes, Virginia, the seagulls are real and so is the fish!

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Sea Gull 
Ron the Beachcomber
9 Dec:  Beach walk to breakfast at the Ship's Wheel.

8 Dec.:  Santa at Sands Villa, walking the sandy beach, driving to the Outer Banks, NC past cotton ready to be picked... Dinner at Owen's Restaurant, gorgeous sunset..

Feel like picking cotton?  

Sunset at Kill Devil Hills, NC

Santa came to Sands Villa

Quiet Beach Walk

Sands Villa Condos Beach View

7 Dec.:  It takes a different set of muscles trudging through deeply rutted sand dunes for  2 hours a day as opposed to trekking over rocks and roots in the mountains?  Just ask Cynthia.   Today's  beach walk to Fort Macon was pleasant; but half way back a light rain fell and we succumbed to yellow-blazing.  Wet puppies by the time we reached the condo, a cup of hot chili at the restaurant seemed better than a hot shower.  Ron enjoyed a phone call from Kat while she ate the soup and salad.  Kat was married last May!  Congratulations and best wishes on  their new home in Oregon.  With sore feet and light rain we drove instead of walked the beach to the Island Grille for dinner.

6 Dec.: Cynthia is finally "slept out" and awakened fully refreshed; I awakened after several cups of coffee and still crave "something to eat", but the doctor will weigh me in January, so it is time to tighten the belt. I suspect that I weigh 183 pounds instead of 176. The weather is cooler and windy, so for once we did not awaken "too hot" at any time overnight. Breakfast at the Resort Grill is so very convenient; the owners & staff report an enjoyable trip to NYC although they all now need sleep. The following summarizes our year to date:
We've had a marvelous year of hiking nearly every day throughout much of the spring, summer, and fall. Cynthia's physical condition and stamina is much improved and her chronic lumbar residual pain is much lessened (from a horseback riding accident 12 years ago).   It would have been lovely to continue hiking, but Reynaud's disease in her hands is not a good thing in cold weather.)
Our plan is to walk on the beach daily throughout December and drive to Texas starting December 28th. We've seen MUCH more wildlife on the beach: dolphins, seagulls, sanderlings, anhingas, sand crabs, ghost crabs who eat the sand crabs and much more activity: wave, wind, kites, and sand; Waaaay too many people, especially on the weekends; and interesting historical displays and presentations at Fort Macon about birds. Check out Dr. Coous, ornithologist and M.D. at Fort Macon.
It will be of interest to relocate Saturday to Kill Devil Hill, further east and north. Today (the 6th) was chilly and windy. Cynthia experienced painful Reynaud's symptoms after dinner. Wikipedia says that Reynaud's is exacerbated by vasoconstrictors, like caffeine and red wine, two of Cynthia's favorites. Dare I break the news to her?
Wrapping up our experiences is easy. We loved our daily hikes; we feel a terrific sense of accomplishment and satisfaction; we love our improved physical condition and are amazed that hiking can cure back pain. Recipients of our trail magic and beneficiaries of our trail maintenance have provided us many attaboys and a warm glow from their appreciation; we wish them all well, successful hikes and a long and enjoyable life.
I thank God daily for my beloved Cynthia and for whatever still works on this aging body. Best wishes to you all.
Love from Shakedown Cruise.

 Bird Hatching - Hardest Work of His Life

Almost There!  Mama where are you?

Neat video about the birds at Fort Macon
5 Dec.: Another marvelous night's sleep despite awakening too hot a time or two. Ventilation in this unit is not nearly as good as last year's 4th floor unit. This one has no sliding glass door into the bedroom. After our IHOP breakfast, timeshare representative Deanna of Deanna Hull Realty was unapologetic for not returning calls, saying that her office was closed. So why didn't her answering machine message say that the office was closed? The Smooches enjoyed another pleasant but slightly cooler walk on the beach for an hour to Fort Macon, NC State Park and an hour return after we both watched the entire documentary video. Five dolphins again amused us from 50 yards away and seemed to head directly towards us as I talked to them. After a satisfying computerizing during the afternoon, we enjoyed a sunset walk on the beach to the Island Grille and an encrusted flounder filet for dinner - very tasty.

View above Fort Macon to Ocean

A Dolphin Pod

Ahh! Amen!
4 Dec.: Another nice night of sleep again with too warm episodes. Today's big surprise is that the Resort Grill is closed to allow the staff a visit to NYC. We had to drive instead to IHOP but received excellent omelets and coffee there. Another hour walk on the beach to Fort Macon; this time Ron slipped in to the auditorium and watched part of a documentary with re-enactment of the roles Fort Macon has played over its 190-year history. Inside the Fort, we visited an officer's and enlisted casement room with exhibits and read up on the "hot shot" furnace. Eight dolphin were leisurely patrolling the shoreline as we perambulated similarly. Ron updated the Bankston web site to include DNA pages. Island Grille served us flounder again and promised to prepare fat-free potato with tomorrow's dinner.

3 Dec.:  Wonderfully long night's sleep. Another omelet breakfast, another walk on the beach all the way to the fort and around the grounds today, 2+ hours total.  Cynthia's foot is a bit better.  Indexing of Vol. 6 is finished (for now), DropBox updated, e-mails sent w/ attachment, so tomorrow I can move on to something else for a project. Our evening meal was much more satisfactory since the Island Grille did indeed have fresh catch today: flounder. I'm so excited to think that tomorrow I can organize ALL previous jump drives onto the NEW 32 Gig miniature Jump Drive (that cost only $20 !!)

2 Dec., Sunday: Sleep is wonderful stuff, and we seemed to get enough. Breakfast ditto. The Resort Grill was open with Santa Claus (the robot) greeting us automatically in the entryway.  Obviously the same management is still working there, and our egg white veggie omelets were as good as ever. We decided to walk two hours on the beach since Cynthia's foot is in pain, metatarsal something with a tight knot in the middle.  After garnering supplies from the nearest WallyWorld, we had time for a couple of hours work on the computers before walking on the beach to the Island Grille and a big disappointment: no fish. We settled for a filet, but I refused to eat much and upset my better half way out of proportion (in my opinion).


Cargo Ship

Searching for Bikini Clad Girlies?

Sun, Sand, Surfin' Sailing!

1 Dec.: The Hilton Garden Inn omelet chef did a nice job for us, and we were well-fed, happy and driving by 10:30.  Cynthia drove for the first leg so that I could work on the computer index for Vol. 6 of the Colonial Records.  We switched in North Carolina so that I could drive on the lessor roads to Atlantic Beach and the Sands Villa timeshare.  It was a major surprise that Randy is no longer manager there.  It was a substantial disappointment to find that our apartment is on the first floor with a VERY disappointing ocean glimpse.  The walk on the beach to the Island Grille for a delicious dinner cured those disappointments.  We enjoy a long night's sleep with the bedroom window open for cooling but were still over-heated at times.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November Tales & Trails MD/VA

30 Nov.:  Packed up early and ready to roll by 2pm !  Thank goodness that the hotel staff allowed us a late check out.  Well, I did get up early at 5am and felt certain that we'd be ready to roll just after breakfast.  When beloved Smooch Smooch awoke early, about 7:30 am, we decided to breakfast before check out.  After breakfast final stage packing dragged on and on forever.  Regardless, we proceeded back to Rockfish Gap for a half hour hike, but Cynthia was very much under-rested and over-tired.  We took to the interstates, I-64 east to Richmond, beltway 288 around to I-95 south and the Hilton Garden Inn in Colonial Heights, VA.

29 Nov. 6.6 miles RT in four hours - Smith's Roach Gap NOBO to High Top Gap - 3587 foot elevation.  It was a gorgeous day; two deer in the AM and two in the PM - one at Dundo Campground was scurrying away.

28 Nov.: After our usual breakfast at Weasie's, we waited until 1pm to ferry our three hiker buddies to Rockfish Gap.  It was time well spent since two other interesting hikers joined the group after their night at the Days Inn.  Fun, fun, fun, most of these hikers had met Bluegrass and Achilles way back in Maine.  It was quite a delightful sight to see our eight southbounders hiking en mass from Rockfish Gap. Blueberry's pack was atrociously heavy, but he was exulting with anticipation of the feast planned for the evening meal. Smooch Smooch and I did not get to our trail head until three PM and barely exited Skyline Drive before 5pm, when the park rangers lock the gates for the night. Our short day was 3.2 miles round trip from Powell Gap.

Amazing Eight 

Blueberry, I need the names of all eight in the picture above, and we hope that you can send us a less-blurry picture.

27 Nov.:  A rainy day and a planned zero so that Cynthia can take the car in for servicing.  Ron gets to stay at the hotel missing his honey and spending several hours reorganizing.  Blueberry and his buddies had hiked all the way to the hotel last night, and he was in a world of hurt with four massive blisters from his new hiking boots.  His two buddies were merely a bit foot-sore from their thirty-mile day.  Cynthia and I took those three to the Mill Street Grill for dinner.  At some overlook in the Park, they saw a whole family of bear coming up the hill towards them.  After dinner, Blueberry and I to Walmart to find something to soothe his feet, and we ran into another three hikers, one of whom was Elvis.  They were also staying at the Comfort Inn, so I treated them to pizza and Ben & Jerrys.  Part of the beauty of trail magic is the surprise factor.

26 Nov.:  The plan for today calls for a 3.3 mile hike times 2, so we would like to get out of Weasie's by 9:30 to arrive at Simmons Gap by 10:30 in order to hike at 1.5 mph and still exit the park before the staff locks the gates at 5pm. Despite good intentions, we arrived at trail head at 12:07, the crack of noon.  Despite the late start, we finished early, another marvelous hike.  As we drove back along Skyline Drive, we slowed first for four deer and second for three scruffy hikers including our new friend Blueberry.  What fun !!  The hikers were delighted to hear that we had left a bag of trail magic near Jarman's Gap hanging from a tree beside the trail.  Unfortunately we misrepresented the distance to the magic as about a mile when it was actually somewhat more than two miles.  The deer were very curious and not particularly afraid, but the young 2-point buck that we saw this morning was even less afraid and merely walked nervously along the wide, grassy road shoulder as we idled alongside.  Cynthia took a couple of good pictures which will no doubt be posted soon.  Our hike was a gentle uphill followed by a gentle downhill.  It was surprisingly easy for us and quick: 6.6 miles in 3.5 hours averaging 1.9 miles per hour.  Whoopie, more new records, and a successfully earlycompletion.  Two more through hikers surprised us on the trail; I had no trail magic to share so handed them each a caramel and a couple of jelly beans.  Early this morning the missing checkbook came out of hiding.  It wasn't lost after all, and my memory of "going through everything" seems to date from August, especially since the checkbook was in plain sight in one of the boxes I usually check first.  All's well that ends well.

25 Nov., Sunday:  Good grief, is it Sunday already?  When did that happen?  Cynthia had to show me her cell phone before I would believe her.  We wanted to get in another 1.9 mile (times 2) hike and agreed that an earlier start would be good.  It was.  The day started nearly as cold as yesterday but with much less wind, and the temperature climbed nicely throughout the afternoon.  Since I delayed a bit too long doing trail maintenance, Cynthia followed suit, and our elapsed time was much slower than yesterday.  The highlight of the day was again meeting Blueberry and three of his buddies - twice, once just before we turned around at Simmons Gap and the second time at the top of the next hill.  Cynthia was delighted that she is feeling so healthy and strong.  Me too.  Our time today was a little slower at 2.25 hours.

24 Nov.: Where does the time go?  In exactly one week we check in to the condo at Atlantic Beach, NC.  I have the car ENTIRELY unloaded to better hunt for my missing checkbook.  I've been hunting for my checkbook for a couple of weeks now, and this morning, as I hauled another armload of things into the Comfort Inn from the car at 6am, another early bird chirped, "So are you a hiker?"  One look at his beard and attire led to to reply, "You look like a thru-hiker."  He is the nicest guy, Blueberry, on the longest warm-up hike ever: His Appalachian hike will ACTUALLY start when he gets to Key West.  His warm-up started at Katahdin several months ago. (He was distracted by the beauty of the Green Mountains to do a "few" extra miles on the Long Trail.)  His girl friend (?) hiked with him from Harper's Ferry and was getting off trail to return to classes in Kansas.  They had hitchhiked from the Trail at U.S. Highway 33, and getting back to continue his hike promised to be a huge obstacle, especially since he wanted to rejoin three or four "trail mates" also thru-hiking this late in the year !!  No problem; Cynthia and I have hiked to within 20 miles of that location, so I immediately offered him breakfast at Weasie's and a ride.  He was delighted to accept the ride.  (Imagine, a hiker who passed up a free breakfast; it must be love.)  His story is amazing, but you'll have to read it on his journal (opening soon at a TrailJournal near you.)  We dropped him near the shelter, and Cynthia and I started north from the Ivy Creek Overlook.  IT WAS COLD, Brrrh.  Poor little Cynthia immediately reiterated (unnecessarily) that she HATES to be cold.  "Yes Dear, do you want to go back to the hotel."  NO.  OK, have a couple of jelly beans.  The first .4 mile uphill in the wind was indeed rather brutal, but once the trail wound around to the other side of the hill and downhill, sheltered from the wind, the day became quite pleasant although still very, very chilly, close to freezing.  We traversed our chosen 1.9 miles in record time and returned promptly, apparently totaling 3.8 miles in 1.75 hours = 2.3 mph - Whoopie, a record.  Cynthia seems to have a better driving style than mine; close to the road we saw another three deer with huge, tall white flags for tails.
Ivy Creek Overlook

23 Nov.:After all, tomorrow is another day.  Hey, we are there already; today is the tomorrow you read about yesterday.  We look forward to Weasies omelets again this morning preceding another great hike.  The zero yesterday should help our sore knees and flagging energies.  Wish us luck.  Yipee, we parked the car at the crack of noon and commenced today's hike at 12:28.  Following our Thanksgiving indulgence, you'd think that our energies would be high, but today we started steeply uphill immediately and our energies were not THAT high.  We eventually crossed that PUD and hiked a long gentle downhill to a lovely little stream crossing.  As usual, that crossing was followed by another up, but not so bad.  We did enjoy the vistas from the rocks at a promontory and again from the Frazier Discovery Trail junctions 1 & 2.  We were delighted to find ourselves 3.1 miles in at 2:08 after one hour and 40 minutes.  Our return went equally quickly, and we finished at 4:00 on the nose.  6.2 miles in 3.5 hours, our longest hike of this series.  Nice to think that we are rapidly recovering our hiking legs after the 6-weeks layoff to attend an Iowa reunion.  As Cynthia rounded a turn on Skyline Drive, we were delighted that we missed the handsome 6-point buck by 40' as he scamper into the woods from the roadside.

The Balance Pose for Walter

You've seen the picture of the python that swallowed a whole pig?  After spending nearly two hours at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel Thanksgiving buffet, Cynthia and I could share his pain.  The meal was marvelous, and the chef himself told me which items I could eat.  My favorite combination was turkey with brandied sweet potatoes - or the succulent strawberries - or the flank steak.  There was probably less than my allotted 10 grams of fat in all I consumed ... until curiosity about the desserts overcame my scruples and I peaked ... then I helped myself to the tiniest taste of 6 desserts.  OhMyGod, were those smidgens super-saturated with flavor.  Afterward we waddled to the car & into bed to snooze, comatose, for an hour or two.  WOW !!  Life is good.  Thank God.

21 Nov, Wed: We arose late and ate another beautiful breakfast at Weasies before hitting the trail at the crack of noon (actually 12:26).  It had been foggy at the crack of dawn, but by noon was a wonderfully clear day in most directions.  And today was another magnificent day although I did have a moment of trepidation when we discovered that I had left my down jacket in the hotel room, always a bit unnerving in a cold wind in a mountain parking lot.  Brilliant sunshine promised to ameliorate my forgetfulness, and the day was another joy.  We hiked a mile up the campground road and winded ourselves on that steady up.  There were several clear vistas from rock outcroppings as we wound around the campground to within 150' of the campground store, which we had passed on the road an hour earlier.  The Ups and Downs are not the only Pointless things about the AT.  I ranted a few times as I remembered NightTrain and the predicaments we encountered there in 2008.  As we passed between walls of thorns, I marveled at the staggering effort expended there by PATC volunteer(s).  THANKS.  If anything, the PATC trail maintainer used EVEN MORE weed whacker cord on this section.  The trail is marvelously well maintained.  Of course, I still find briers to clip and sticks to throw.  Strange that I haven't done one iota of stream bed maintenance since leaving Vermont.  I lagged behind Cynthia and caught up to her as she wrestled with a wonderful tangle of vines that had succeeded in bringing a tree down across the trail.  My clippers got a workout, I cleared about a cubic yard of vines, but the tree stayed put across the trail, sans vines.  The main "trunk" of the vine was too big for my clippers (2"), and the tree had fallen with a big branch on each side of that vine.  So I had to content myself with improvement instead of completion.  Then it was a long uphill rush to catch Cynthia at the Frazier Discovery Trail junction.  .5 miles back to the Wayside, 3:45 pm, 45 minutes driving to the gate, and the Park Service promises to lock the gate at 5 pm.  We drove out at 4:52 and wondered how they fared, those other people who were still sightseeing as we drove past. We drove straight to Ruby Tuesday's for dinner.  Yummmm, lotsa salad, and now back to work on the computers.

20 Nov.: Another good day.  We started early (1:27), so we had to cut our day a bit short to get out of the park before the 5pm curfew (park service locks the gate).  The grade was gentle and the trail nicely maintained compared to the spring.  I bet that somebody used a mile of weed-whacker cord on the sticker bushes.  Water-bars were recently cleaned and thre was little tree debris on the trail.  Kudos again to the PATC trail maintainers.  The best scenery of the day was on Skyline Drive.  The western vistas were intensified by low riding clouds that covered and colored the valleys while the far mountain skyline rode above the clouds.  The sunset colors waxed to a marvelous intensity as we drove to the the Mill Street Grill for a wonderful walleye dinner.

19 Nov.: 43 degrees seemed unusually cold this morning with the breezy conditions, and after finishing another great egg white veggie omelet at Weasies, I suggested to Cynthia that we could take a zero hiking day if she'd like.  WOW!! She can reply in a hurry when the right question comes by!  So we've had a relaxing day snuggled up with our computers "getting things done."  We are still in Waynesboro, Virginia at the Comfort Inn where Charlotte keeps us entertained by being at the front desk morning, noon and night.  Cynthia is SO EXCITED that the new fanny pack arrived to replace my old one which is super-saturated with "gold-digger repellent."  This morning a woman in Weasie's amusedly announced that "You two are sure in love."  "Didn't you notice that I have been giving you dirty, disgusted looks?", but she was full of amusement as she laughed heartily.

Ron's pride & joy, covered with Gold-digger repellent and full of character.

Wee-fee attractant, brand-new, FOUR compartments, but
lacking obvious signs of wear and badly in need of "personalization."

18 Nov, Sun: The hike from Blackrock Mountain Parking to Skyline Drive mile marker 82.2 went by so much easier than expected for 5.6 miles, and it only took us 2 hours and 40 minutes.  The weather was fabulous - a perfectly lovely day with the temps reaching 51 degrees.  Wonderful trail maintenance on this section; many thanks to this PATC trail maintainer who has done yeoman work digging water bars and clearing copious brambles; surprising that the previous three miles maintenance was so lousy.  We finished the hike feeling energetic.  Cynthia thinks the "new" prescription blood pressure meds have been responsible for her sluggish-feeling mornings.  Fortunately a pick-me-up arrived in the form of New Merrill boots in size 7.5 medium; now THIS is my idea of "cute shoes" for my wife (pronounced WeeFee).

17 Nov, Sat: Lake Anna State Park. After dragging ourselves outta bed waaay too early for comfort into the frozen tundra of BRRRginia, scraping ice off of the windshield with an old credit card, bolting down breakfast in record time, we were off for a fun day hiking with brother Dean & family including grand-dogs.  Billy especially enjoyed rolling around in the best newest freshest wet horse droppings to take home pleasant reminders of the day's pleasures. Over lunch we discussed our respective views of the "fiscal cliff."  No surprise that the cliff discussion hit the papers the day after the election - as if it was suddenly a new problem.  Time to send the markets into a skid to create buying opportunities for the capitalists.

Ron, Dean, Janina, Sarah, Benjamin, Billy and Sandy (and the shadow of Cynthia's head)

Dean, Cynthia, Janina, Benjamin, Sarah and the Kids

16 Nov, Fri:  Another lovely cool day for hiking.  I hike with my Montbell down coat tied around my neck when the weather is this nice.  Cynthia felt like going back to bed, so we didn't strive for fast or far, but still covered the 2.6 miles out and back in under three hours.  This year it was VERY cold and windy atop Black Rock, so we didn't scramble up the rocks to the actual summit.  About half-way her energy kicked in again but, we returned via a shorter, better-maintained forest road that leads to the Black Rock Hut and avoided the bramble scramble, downed trees dodg'em that the AT maintainers are neglecting.  On Skyline Drive today, the trees seemed less colorful; winter cannot be far away.  Lunch at Ruby Tuesdays was followed by a shave, haircut and shower (Why me? I  been good!  Besides my family isn't accustomed to seeing me shaved and showered).

15 Nov. Thurs:  We had another good hike of about 5 miles, but poor little Smooch Smooch tried her hand at trail maintenance and wore herself out; we had to take the shorter return route via Skyline Drive (consistantly uphill for 2.2 miles).  Some of the stuff we've moved off the trail is so big that you would not imagine that one person could clear it.  The lever is a mighty tool.  We did see another deer while driving and another thru-hiker; he says there are four more thru-hikers close in front of him.  In 2008 it was already way too cold by this time when we visited Papa Bear & the Preacher Boys near Damascus.

Road walking isn't all bad: here is the view from milepost 88.3

14 Nov. Wed.  BRRR.  What???? 32 degrees outside???   We opted to drive into Staunton to enjoy morning brunch at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel while waiting for the temps to warm up to start today's hike.  The waitresses remembered us.  Imagine that!!!   We took our sweet time eating since it was so cold.  But, by 12:30 the temp in the mountains was still only 34 degrees.  Being inspired to MOVE FAST, we did just that, 2.9 miles to RipRap Trail parking and return (5.8 miles total) in three hours and twenty minutes including potty stops and trail maintenance. Nice to see that the Potomac AT Club has been working on the trail, yet there are a lot of fallen limbs across the trail.  A conspicuous sign warned of a problem bear, but we didn't see him, only two nice-sized deer.   When we finished the hike at four thirty, the temp was 34 degrees.  In celebration of another successful hike, we drove the extra 20 minutes to the Mill Street Grill in Staunton for a well-deserved, delicious dinner.  Good night at 10:30.

Deer Ahead (& GPS says "Appalachian Trail)

RipRap Trailhead

13 Nov. Tues:  Much cooler today.  We hiked Turk Gap to Wildcat Ridge Parking and return; 2.5 hours for 4.8 miles. Since we finished hiking late, we drove to dinner at the Mill Street Grill in Staunton.  We saw a young buck with antlers cross the road today.  After dinner, Ron installed MS Office on the MacBook Air, listed Dale's board games for sale on a new web page, listed TRS-80 computer stuffs free to a good home on another new page, updated the Bankston website with a new page w/ spreadsheet, and continued incremental progress on the index and footnotes for Volume 6 of the Colonial Records of the Swedish Churches.  At 8:45 Ron hustled over to Home Depot and found the perfect Christmas gift for Little Carol Ann to give Auntie Carol.  Sister Carol sent our little imaginary darling, who is now three years old, to visit us, but the little brat fussed so about her chickens so far away in Illinois that we slapped enough postage stamps on her little forehead to get her back to Illinois and her precious ChicKens.  She needs a brother.  We will have to work on that project.  Wild West Honda in Houston has BMW's - a 2013 1200 RT in stock.

12 Nov. Mon: Another day, another hike!  Gorgeous day with the temps hitting 64 degrees.  HIKE: Sawmill Run to Turk Gap about three miles.  Deer.

Turk Gap Overlook

11 Nov. Sun: Another early morning hiking start immediately after breakfast at Weasie's in Waynesboro where they serve mighty good omelets which is a good thing because the noise level is pretty gruesome.  HIKE: Jarman Gap Northbound past Sawmill Run Overlook about 2 tenths of a mile totaling about 4 miles today.  The weather is marvelous.

Ron, the Stream Bed Maintenance Man

10 Nov. Sat.  We parked at Jarman Gap and hiked southbound to yesterday's stopping point while trail maintenance continues.  The Potomac AT Club does a nice job of maintaining the trail in Virginia, but they can always use a couple of helping hands.  We met an interested board member of the club who was out hiking to see work recently completed.  A through hiker named Big Galoot Gave appreciated black licorice jelly beans.  He hiked the AT twenty years ago, started a successful organic farming business, sold it, and now works some and hikes sections on a monthly basis.  Nice to hear from Starfish and Sherpa that they were in Hiawassee with their sights set on Springer Mountain.  They sent a text message to Cynthia that the hurricane dumped so much snow on the Smokies hikers were being lifted out by helicopter; they were forced to hitch a ride around the Smokies with plans to return and conquer once the snow is gone.  Today's  temperature was warm and pleasant.  Cynthia had a lot of back pain through the night.  We wonder if it could be the incline or a computer set up.  She had steroid epidural lumbar injections mid-Sept. but they seem to have stopped working.  Hiking helps keep the joints limbered up.

9 Nov. Fri.  Weakened girlie hiking again from Beagle Gap northbound just past the summit of Little Calf Mountain or about half way to Jarman Gap.  Three hours.  Another girlie in a bikini top was sitting on the wall of an overlook having her picture taken.   Important to drive by ... v e r y V E R Y slowly,  And we've been talking about her probable goose bumps ever since.

8 Nov. Thurs. It is not a good thing to wish for time to get stuff done: Cynthia is still sick with chills abed while Ron works away; he has installed Boot Camp and MS Windows onto his new Mac.  Progress is slow but steady working on the index and footnotes for Vol. 6 of the Gloria Dei records project, The Wrangel Years.  

7 Nov. Wed.  Cynthia is sick:  she thinks America lost the election?  or... she has the flu or a sinus infection...?

6 Nov. Tues.:  We hiked McCormick's Gap over Bear mountain (with its multitude of communications towers) to Beagle Gap and back again in two hours.  Four miles??? A guesstimate.  We are FIT!  Great article with photos:–-beagle-gap-to-rockfish-gap/

5 Nov. Mon:  Soon after breakfast we approached White's Ferry near Poolesville.  We took time for a quick glance at history & photo of the house where Ron, Bill, Pat & Patty, Dave, Greg, George & Dana, Jerry & Marsha, and a few others lived in the 1970s while Ron was commuting weekly into a job with the Nature Conservancy in Arlington, VA.  Instead of crossing immediately, we took another opportunity to hike along the abandoned Chesapeake-Ohio Canal for about two hours, 4.5 miles total.  Then we crossed the placid Potomac wide water on the ferry, marveling at the contrast to the immense cataract of waters plunging over Great Falls.  The canal towpath extends 189 miles from Cumberland, MD to DC.

Peaceful Potomac on White's Ferry

This is where Ron lived with 10 other close friends in Pooleville, MD about 1973.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail near White's Ferry

4 Nov, Sun:  Breakfast at I-Hop, Hiking with Jim and Joni, Chesapeake-Ohio Canal Trails about three hours; rabid aggressive raccoon approached us about 50 yards from Lock 23.  Dinner at Ruby

Tuesday's.  Drove through Jim's Smoky Glen Farms; fabulous rolling hills with 10-16 white tailed deer cavorting hither and yon.
This side chute of the Potomac is usually dry.

Smooch & Smooch Smooch posing on the observation platform overlooking the Great Falls of the Potomac River.  Yes, Dean, we did hike part of the Billy goat Trail.

See Kayaks on Far Side?

Great Falls of the Potomac earned its name today.  Lotsa water.

Lock Keeper's Home.  Beware of neighboring rabid raccoon.  Hurricane Agnes high water mark is near window sill.

3 Nov., Sat:  Jim and Joni treated us to a tour of Annapolis, including dinner at a great seafood restaurant

No, we won't take two steps back for a better picture.

Ron, Joni and Jim

2 Nov. Fri: As we left Philadelphia on alternate routes, we passed immediately by the Morris Arboretum and decided to enjoy a pleasant hour-long hike there.  Ron called the ever-ephemeral Susan G. and THANKED her and Joel for the free admission tickets.

Smooch Smooch Nesting

Morris Arboretum

Morris Log Cabin Retreat House

Listening to the Sounds of the Forest????
It is amusing that we left the Lutheran Seminary in Mt. Airy, PA,  located on Germantown Avenue, and spent the night in Germantown, Maryland near Mount Airy where Jim lives.

1 Nov. Thurs, Worked in the seminary archives; great dinner with Jim Z., John P. and Kim-Eric at Avenida's Restaurant.