Don’t fence me in

11 February, 2012        Don’t fence me in

I began this a few days ago – when it was stunning. Today is something other than stunning, it’s drizzly and damp and gray, but the air tastes good. Lots of oxygen. It’s Saturday, also nice.

Today [Tuesday, 7 February, not actually today] is stunning. And I’ve had the opportunity to get on my bike some, thank goodness, although not yet today. My post from Saturday, 4 February (FINALLY got to take a ride) was about getting back on my bike. Which was nice, it was a 45 minute ride, but it was in an office park, which is only a tiny bit better than riding a stationary bike. Tuesday I had some free time and it was clear and 53º so I got to ride in the country. I named the ride “Don’t fence me in” for two reasons:

1. Since I finally got out on a real road ride for the first time since before Christmas and
2. Since I took a really neat picture (neat to me, anyway) of the top of a fencepost.

There’s a link to the ride route here. It shows the roads, the hills, my speed (or lack thereof), my heart rate, calories burned, etc. It’s fun if you like this kind of thing: Don’t fence me in

If you click on that link, you can see a map of the route, it’s really a beautiful ride. It wouldn’t even be a bad car ride on a nice day, if you like it out there in the country.

This is the picture I took:

I just love this picture. I took it way out in Goochland on a bike ride last week.

As I was leaning against that post I took this picture; views like this are one of the reasons I like riding in places that are not office parks:

Better view than an office park. But an office park is better than riding a trainer.

I took both of those pictures with my camera phone, by the way. Those cameras take decent pictures when the light is flawless like that.

A year or so ago my friend Grace, a.k.a. “my blogging muse” told me she was looking at fence pictures. I took a picture of that fence then, only in a more linear fashion. On my ride I’d just stopped to admire the view and I liked the way that post looked. I liked where the old board and the new joined together.

There’s a link to Grace’s blog on the side of my page, but I think it is often overlooked. She’s been blogging a year longer than I have, and she is an excellent writer and a superb photographer. Take a look at her outstanding blog here: Life 2 Seriously

I’ve been dog sitting recently for these two gorgeous little girls; they’ve accompanied me and my pack to the river on a couple of walks. This was from Sunday. Lola is the brown girl with the sensitive eyes. Luna is the colored more like the moon; she is slightly blurry because she never stops moving. And because my shutter speed was a little slow. They are excellent companions at the river. Speaking of never stops moving, look at Luna’s tail. Or should I say at the brown blur where her tail is.

Luna is more lunar colored. Lola is less lunar colored. Both are wonderful.

Blue is the color I notice most at the river, but it’s difficult to look away from a green like this:

How to tell the north side of a tree

We ran into our friends Susan and Steve at the beginning of that walk. Susan is an excellent photographer but when I handed her the camera, I still had the shutter speed set too slow. And this time it was Lola who was moving and Luna stood still. And Turner’s running straight for the camera:

Lola, Luna, Mackey, Roux, Turner, thanks Susan!

I was going to the river with a friend on Monday and he’d heard of Old Gun Road, but never been on it. It was only a few minutes away so we went for a spin. As I understand it – and from the sign on one of these pedestals – it got its name from cannons dumped in the river during the Civil War. If you can’t read that writing, it says “Gun and gun mold recovered by C. Merle Luck from the James River on August 16, 1962, having been put there during Col. Dahlgren’s raid during the Civil War.”

The Old Guns on Old Gun Road (one is an Old Gun Mold)

That’s only ~5 or 10 minutes drive west of Pony Pasture if you want to look at it. It’s right on the side of Old Gun Road.

When my friend and I went to the river, we went to Huguenot Flatwater, a mile or so upstream from Pony Pasture, where we normally go. We were hiking through the woods and smelled an amazing smell for February. We saw these lovely flowers blooming beside the trail:

This Lonicera is highly fragrantissima

My friend Evelyn and I ran across some when we were hiking at the pet cemetery a couple of weeks ago; the smell is amazing. It is entirely surprising to encounter in February. Evelyn said they’re winter honeysuckle, a.k.a. Lonicera fragrantissima. They may or may not be Lonicera, but there is no question they are fragrantissima.

I also got down to the train tracks yesterday [Wednesday] with a buddy. On my blog “dashboard” I can see what drives web traffic to this blog. I’m always surprised how much traffic comes from people looking for train pictures. Often for specific locomotives, these AC44’s and ES44’s. From the front, you can’t tell them apart. Probably not from the back either, but I learned yesterday you can tell by looking at these grills under the radiator. I accidentally got this picture that shows the comparison perfectly. The front locomotive is an AC44CW running “cab forward” and the rear locomotive is an ES44AC running “hood forward.” That way you can have a crew person looking ahead on the tracks and another looking back over the train. Wikipedia has an entry about the ES44 and under “Identifying features” it says: “unlike any previous GE locomotive the grills under the radiator are at two different angles.” You can see that perfectly in this picture, with an otherwise identical locomotive next to it for comparison:

AC44CW in front (left), ES44AC in back (right)

The river was blue and sparkly and lovely again this morning [not today, obviously], and I had my five dog pack with me too. Here is 80% of that pack, plus my shadow, plus of course the sparkly blue river:

Pretty February river with dogs

Addendum: That fence picture inspired this blog post and title. I enjoyed the experience and the picture. Here’s a link to the song, written in 1934 by Cole Porter performed here by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters: Don’t Fence Me In

On to my musings:

= = = = = = = = = = =

I enjoy this second section or addendum to my blog. The slightly different direction. Sometimes it feels I wax a bit too philosophical, but most of the people I spend time with are very philosophical in their way. I usually pre-write this section, but today is slightly more spontaneous. I think about it a lot, mostly when I’m riding or swimming, but haven’t written much until now.

My teachers have come at me from every angle over the years, beginning of course with Mom and Dad, two of the world’s great teachers. A primary lesson they instilled – though they never put it this way – was that teachers are not always found in schools. Perhaps more precisely, you are always learning, although you are not always in a classroom. Maybe that’s a wordy way of saying “keep an open mind.” I feel very young, but I could easily be a grandfather now. Wow! Keeping an open mind is flexibility, and inflexibility is the surest marker of old age. Physical and intellectual inflexibility.

I’ve got a friend at the Y named Jim. He was born in northern Maine in 1920. To save you the math, Jim’s 91, and as intellectually flexible as anyone you’ll ever meet. We were having a heated discussion at the Y a year or so ago not long after Gabby Giffords was shot. Jim took vehement issue with President Obama’s flying out there and making a speech about it, said it was political grandstanding, he could have delegated that duty, etc. I took vehement issue with Jim’s perspective, and offered reasons why I thought it was Obama’s duty. And Jim thought about it for a few moments and changed his mind and discussed with me some reasons why that may be a good perspective. Political points do not interest me here – Jim’s open-mindedness and flexibility and willingness to entertain the perspective of a person half his age interest me. That’s the fountain of youth. Plus he skis, he exercises, he’s bilingual, he’ll talk with anyone, he’s exactly how I want to be if I have the great good fortune to still be on this side of the grass when I’m 91 years old.

When Jim and I were having this discussion, we were in the shower at the Y. It was packed, I think there were six of us there. Later that day I spoke with another friend of mine from the Y, Kay, and told her about my experience. She knows both of us. I told her we were having this discussion while wearing nothing but “a smile and a pair of flip-flops,” and that in my quarter of a century or so as a member of the Tuckahoe Y, I’d had many discussions like that. She said I should write a book with that as the title. But I never have a pen and a paper! Perhaps that makes the discussions more memorable.

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Trains. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Don’t fence me in

  1. Clare M says:

    Wow Jay! Bee-yoo-tee-ful pictures and a FABULOUS post! I’m glad you got out on your bike! Luna and Lola certainly are cuties, bet they loved going to the river! I don’t know how you andle all those silly pups!

  2. Hi Clare!
    Great to hear from you. I really enjoyed this post, I’m glad you did too. And I’m REALLY glad I got out on my bike. Luna and Lola are lovebugs, they’ve been to the river before but never on a full big walk with my pack. Or not recently, anyway. They’re easy to handle because they’re so sweet and well behaved! Have a great day,



  3. Mike McLaughlin says:

    Jay, that’s a great blog! I love the pictures of the dogs by the river.
    We used to walk Tara by the river behind the college, but she was never off the leash. I wish she could have been. Love, Mom

  4. Thanks Mom!
    I’m glad you enjoyed it! You’ll notice I don’t have Lola and Luna off the leash, even though they’re great girls. Turner and Mackey and Roux have been down there so many times, they know right where they’re going. Plus they all live in the same house, so they think like a pack, so they stay together like a pack. That’s a lot harder with one dog. Thanks for the note! Have a great day,



  5. Patti says:

    Absolutely love that! “Nothing but a Smile and a Pair of Flip Flops” is an excellent title, sure to grab your attention!

    • Hi Patti!
      Great to hear from you. The “Smile and a Pair of Flip Flops” was perfect. Amazing number of fascinating conversations happen that way. Once I saw a guy in there – true story – wearing nothing but a smile and a pair of flip flops – and drinking a cup of coffee. Very 21st century. That’s a little bit more multi-tasking than I personally feel is necessary, but to each his own. Have a great day,


  6. Evelyn says:

    I agree with Patti about that title. Nice post; the train photo is another winner in that series. And you know I like the new/old board combo on the fence. Glad you got to ride – it looks beautiful out there. I hope I’m right about the honeysuckle and also hope that Betsy lets you know if I’m not! Keep on blogging. xo

    • Yes, I am very happy with that title. It’s very obvious but great. I’ll have to think of some better use for it. Glad you enjoy the post, and especially that train picture. It was a lucky shot but it came out well and answered a question that’s been nagging me, even though perhaps it should not have. The new/old board combo just came together; it was really neat. It was a great day for a ride! Betsy, please chime in if that flower is something other than winter honeysuckle. Have a great day,


  7. Grace says:

    Hey- thanks so much for the shout-out! As always, a great blog post. I don’t think I ever get bored of river and dog pictures. We live in a pretty great world. PS: that might be the best fence photo I have ever seen just because it’s from an atypical perspective. You rock!

    • Hi Grace!
      Glad you enjoyed the post. It was a fun one to write, especially since I was able to get out for a nice bike ride. River and dog pictures, if you’re into that kind of thing, almost never look bad. Happy healthy dogs and a clean and vigorous river are easy to photograph. We are quite fortunate. Regarding the fence photo, it was just one of those shots. You could never (perhaps I should say _I_ could never) plan a shot like that. They just appear or they don’t. I’d stopped because I wanted a picture of that pond and there was that fence. Where I first stopped, there were either 2 old or 2 new boards coming together, but I could see a few posts down that an old and a new one came together in one post. It was obvious that would make a neat picture. I just didn’t expect it to be so crisp with my phone-camera but as I said in the post, those things just like light, and there was plenty of that. Great to hear from you, thanks for the feedback and have a great day,


      PS I hope your training for the Shamrock is going well!

  8. Grace says:

    Yes, training is going very well. Just did an 18 miler with my mom on Sunday. Also updated my blog. Your fence picture makes a second cyber appearance. 🙂 Thanks again!

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