Famine to feast

19 May, 2019            Famine to feast

Red-shouldered hawk perched on a bird feeder (not even kidding)

I went from not having enough (IMO) to blog about last week to almost having too much this week. Which is always fun. In last week’s blog post (Friday on my mind) [I wrote that I’d “seen few raptors of any kind recently” – not even an indistinct or fleeting or blurry Red-tail or Red-shoulder or Bald eagle – I can usually count on at least a few. I published that post at 7:40 Sunday evening. I was standing in a friend’s kitchen eighteen hours later when that Red-shouldered hawk swooped in and landed on the ground five feet from their deck. I took this picture with my phone when it first landed:

Hawk on ground in ivy near center of picture – look closely

A minute or two later it hopped up and perched on that bird feeder, looking for a meal. A lot of small animals like to eat spilled bird seed. And hawks like to eat those small animals. There’s a whole bunch of food chain links happening there.

In front of our house Evelyn has our first nasturtiums of 2019 blooming. Evelyn plants a lot of orange nasturtiums since orange was my dad’s favorite color. She plants a lot of yellow ones too – my mom’s favorite color – but these were the first to catch my eye (and my lens) in 2019:

Evelyn’s “Big Mike” nasturtium – no filter, no retouching, nothing – it just looks that way. Incredible. And it just woke up! 

Speaking of orange and yellow, it’s startling to post this picture today, May 19, 2019 – the first 90º day of the year – of a fire in the woodstove! On Monday! I took that picture at 8:50 PM Monday (5/12) because our heat came on because it was so cold. Less than seven days later our air conditioning is on because it’s so warm. Dash less than a week ago:

Dash admiring “Big Mike” nasturtium colored May 13 fire

I saved up enough money to take a few more flying lessons, so I got back in the air Tuesday a few minutes before 5:00 PM. I hope to fly some new planes, but to reacquaint myself I’m getting back in a Tecnam P92 Eaglet. They’re basic, no frills, easy to fly and inexpensive. And in terms of fun for the dollar, they’re hard to beat. We flew from the same airport I’ve always flown from Hanover County Airport (KOFP). Here’s the plane I flew Tuesday:

Pixar rendering of Tecnam P92 Eaglet and breathtaking sky

My brother Shane said it looked like a Pixar plane and sky. He has a point. He also has a three year old son, so he probably sees more Pixar-scapes than I do, but I’ve seen plenty and he’s right. My instructor Joel and I flew to Tappahannock-Essex County Airport (KXSA) and I got a stamp for my Virginia Aviation Ambassador Program passport! I think (I think) there are roughly 65 airports on the passport program. I’ve “gotten” around 35 or so of them. I’ll be more precise. I’m going to keep getting new ones for the next month or six weeks. We only stopped for a minute; I regret not taking a better picture than this:

Tappahannock – Essex County Airport

Some of you may have read posts in earlier years (or not) when I’ve written about an event I’ve done to remember my dad every spring since he died in late 2012. You can read a post I wrote about him (partly about him) just after he died: Good man. One of the things that good man loved from the time he was a good boy growing up in Arlington, VA in the 1930’s and 1940’s was recreational shooting. He was on the rifle team at his high school, Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA. I was surprised to learn (I learn an incredible amount researching for this blog) that their rifle team is still active! I may see if there’s a way I can attend a match some time. Wow. Anyway, I digress. Dad loved to tell a story when we were growing up. He lived 1.5 miles from school (he didn’t say that, I just googled it). He would ride his bike to school for rifle team practice with his .22 bolt action rifle across the handlebars. As he told the story – though he may have concocted this to teach a safety rule – a policeman stopped him once. He said “Son, is that rifle safe?” And dad – as he tells the story – said “Yes sir, I have the bolt for it right here, I took it out of the gun.” And the policeman said “Good work young man. Be careful when you’re riding.”

A public indoor shooting range (Colonial Shooting Academy) opened just a few miles from my house right around the time dad died. So every Spring when the weather turns pleasant, I ride my bike there and shoot for half an hour or so, an event I refer to as the “Big Mike Biathlon.” Here’s a blog post I wrote about it in 2017: Big Mike Biathlon

This was my bike parked outside Colonial Shooting Academy Thursday afternoon:

My bike at the range Thursday

Inside the range:

Looking downrange. I use paper plates for targets – cheap and easy to hit

The Big Mike Biathlon got even better last year – I love it when you “can’t make this stuff up” – when I saw a nearby diner with a special new sandwich on the menu. Here’s the menu item:

Big Mike’s BLT – an actual menu item!

Here’s the sandwich I had Monday. I put keys “for scale,” a favorite teaching method of dad’s:

Half of the aforementioned 830 calories – with keys, for scale. Sorry about the tomatoes Sheila!

The best thing about the addition of a sandwich to the Big Mike Biathlon is Evelyn joins me! There was no food involved in dad’s “biathlon” but he liked to eat almost as much as I do, so I’m sure he’d approve of that addition. Especially since they named a sandwich after him!

I also got to participate again this year in the Autism Society of Central Virginia’s 17th Annual 5K and Family Fun Day. I’ve gone to a lot of them – ten or more, including the first one at Deep Bottom Park (not Deep Run Park) with my old friend Skye. This year it was held for the first time at Stony Point Fashion Park and it was a great course. And the crowds were as always enthusiastic and supportive. Here’s a picture of the three mile marker, and one of my Garmin app moments later at the finish:

Not much longer now

We were fueled with delicious Raise coffee who says that their “mission is to create opportunities for job training, employment, and full participation in community life for youth and young adults with developmental disabilities in and around Hanover County, Virginia. Raise Inc is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization.” The coffee and the service were both outstanding – I’m looking forward to another cup soon!

Raise coffee – excellent coffee and an excellent cause!

Pony Pasture had some activities from the Dominion Energy Riverrock Festival today and I wanted to stay Far From the Madding Crowd so Evelyn and I took Mackey and Turner to Bryan Park – much more peaceful. I was afraid I’d missed the Purple Martins (Progne subis) this year but there was a scrum of them chittering and fluttering around the Purple Martin houses at Bryan Park. They made a “madding crowd” of their own when seven or eight would perch on the houses at once. I didn’t get any great photos, but here’s one with a male in the foreground and a somewhat blurry female behind him. Those houses are constructed and maintained by Richmond’s inimitable Adolph White. If you’re fortunate enough cross paths with him, ask him about Purple Martins, or nearly any other bird in Virginia. It’ll take about thirty seconds for you to think “this guy has to be a teacher” because he is so intelligent and generous with the way he shares his knowledge. Only people who are truly enthusiastic and passionate about their subject convey information as clearly as he does. It will come as no surprise when you read the interview with him and come to the section that says “Occupation: Retired teacher”. Richmond in general and Bryan Park in particular is fortunate to have a guy like Adolph around. Here is the pair I saw today. The wire is to ward off marauding hawks:

Purple Martins, blue sky, Bryan Park

Martins weren’t the only purple thing I photographed at Bryan Park today. Look at this gorgeous clover blossom:

Clover – the essence (there are a lot of essences) of Spring

Anyway, that’s enough for the time being. If anyone is interested – not everyone is – my favorite summertime sporting event begins Tuesday, June 11 – three weeks from this coming Tuesday. It’s called RAAM or Race Across America and it is exactly that – a non-stop bicycle race across North America. On Tuesday morning at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside, CA, individual and team riders will begin heading east. And they won’t stop until they reach the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Annapolis, MD. So if you sleep, somebody else is riding. So they try not to sleep.

In 2014, a guy named Christoph Strasser – who is in this year’s race – made that trip averaging 16.4 mph. For 3,020 miles. Non stop. In my eleven ironman triathlons – I ride the bike 112 miles then stop – I’ve averaged 16.5  mph. Christoph Strasser’s win took him 7:15:56. That’s seven days, fifteen hours, 56 minutes. Mine took me just under seven hours. It’s like he’s not even a human being. But he comes across in interviews as gregarious and outgoing and approachable. I don’t recall what his winning margin was – and I haven’t been able to locate it – but last year he was ahead of the second place finisher by something like two days. Nobody rides like this person. Nobody ever has, to the best of my knowledge. If you enjoy cycling and the outer limits of human ability, it’s worth taking a peek.

Have an excellent week!

All best,


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 Birds, Bryan Park, coffee, disability, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, kofp, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Tecnam and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Famine to feast

  1. 110Mabel says:

    OMG the BMB sounds like a great tradition!❤️

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