Giving thanks for great luck (luck counts too!)

25 November, 2018            Giving thanks for great luck (luck counts too!) 

This picture (of a Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), was 100% luck (11:40) 

I got two pictures of that Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) before it vanished, and that was one of them. That’s luck. It’s really, really good luck, and I got the picture because I was hiking in the woods with my camera on Thanksgiving, but it’s still luck. I took that picture at 11:40 on Thanksgiving. We kept walking, and I took this picture eleven minutes later at 11:51:

Deer 11:51

It’s not an award winning image (I call my favorite shots “magazine covers”) but I’m always happy to see a deer. 

Speaking of non-award winning pictures that I’m still always happy to take, look what was in the dumpster in the parking lot when I threw some trash in. I took this picture seventeen minutes after the deer at 12:09: 

Raccoon 12:09

Obviously the background is not something you’ll see in a nature documentary, but we see them where we see them. I took a 27 second video of it munching away on its Thanksgiving dinner down there. It’s not an attractive background, but you get a good view of what it looks like when a raccoon is eating. He’s drinking the last drops of a venti no whip pumpkin spice three pump latte. I’m kidding. It’s some sort of plastic bottle with who knows what inside. But the raccoon is industrious about getting it out. I have no idea what this animal’s gender is:

Also on Thanksgiving – all the same day – I finally got my first buffleheads of the year. I apologize (yet again) for the inferior quality of this image. But I am fond of buffleheads. More soon, but here’s my first one of the season – a male:

My first bufflehead of 2018 – on Thanksgiving Day

When I began thinking about “luck” as it relates to this post, I was thinking about that cedar waxwing – images like that with me are pure luck. And I’d gotten the bufflehead a few minutes earlier, and the deer and the raccoon in quick succession afterward. But deer and  bufflehead and raccoon (in a dumpster!) photography at Pony Pasture don’t take much luck – you can pretty much just show up and get those pictures.

But at 4:30 Thanksgiving afternoon Evelyn and I fed the dogs and drove out to my brother Kevin’s house in Doswell for our family Thanksgiving. And I was looking at my siblings and my nieces and my in-laws and our friends and all that food and thinking this is lucky. Because I’m from a family of seven, and they’re all excellent human beings, and that is pure luck. I  did nothing to make that happen. I just got lucky. I sure am thankful for it!  

I was lucky when I rode my bike Monday afternoon there were no insects swarming out of this nest. This is the time of year when hornet’s nests become visible – all the leaves are off the trees. They’re also empty or dormant, or they have been so far. I’ve found hornet’s nests in autumn many times. I posted one earlier this year (on Sunday, January 14) and my wise friend Kim taught me these are Bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) nests. And that they’re not “true” hornets – they’re actually yellow jackets. But this is just the nest – about eighty feet in the air and (I presume) unoccupied:

Bald-faced hornet’s nest in West Creek Monday, 11/19/2018

I was planning to fly Tuesday but it didn’t come together. First the Cessna 172 I normally fly was in the shop, so I began preflighting N2551U, a Piper Warrior. It’s very similar to a Cessna 172, but unfortunately this one had another similarity – it went into the shop. So on our third try we pre-flighted a Tecnam P-92 Eaglet. I’ve pre-flighted Cessna 172’s dozens of times so I’m able to do it quickly and efficiently. But I’m slower with the other two. Finally we were ready to fly the Tecnam and we went inside to get a weather briefing. The wind had come up and there were 19 mph gusts. My instructor Ernest decided (wisely) that we should fly another day. So we will. He told me something about his decision that I wouldn’t have thought of. Let’s say we were landing into a 19 mph gust and we’re coasting in about fifteen feet above the runway and the gust stops. We’d drop like a stone. I’d never thought about the problem from the wind stopping – I only thought about the gust itself. Fascinating.

Here’s the Piper Warrior I preflighted first:

Piper Warrior I preflighted and almost flew Tuesday

Here’s the Tecnam I’d planned to fly. If it hadn’t been so windy!:

Tecnam P92 Eaglet I’ll get to fly another day

I later learned another fact that I’m sure contributed to Ernest’s not wanting to fly in the Tecnam in the wind. I went home and read up on it and learned it weighs less than half as much as the Cessna. The Cessna’s I’m used to flying weigh 2,550 lb. The Tecnam weighs 1,212. Isn’t that incredible? Just look at those two numbers and think about the way a 19 mph wind gust would affect them. We can fly again next week! 

Meanwhile – if anyone is interested – I use a program called ForeFlight to plan my flights. It’s remarkable – it accounts for everything. Altitude, speed, direction, weather, fuel, wind, runways, it is mind-bogglingly comprehensive. Tuesday we had planned to fly to four new airports to get my Aviation Ambassador passport stamped. We’ll do it another time. But this is the course I’d set up: 

My planned course to get my next four passport stamps















I keep thinking every week is the last week for flowers, but Evelyn keeps getting more from our yard. These nasturtiums are from this week:

Saturday it’ll be December! Look at those flowers!


I hope your Thanksgiving week’s been great, and next week’s even better. And come back next week! All best, 


Posted in Birds, buffleheads, cedar waxwing, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, Raccoons, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

God must love common people…

18 November, 2018        God must love common people…

…because he made so many of them. Or so I’m told. You could say the same thing about common birds – like this robin I saw Friday at Deep Run Park: 

It is always cheerful to see a robin


Speaking of common animals, here’s one we see most days in most places. Or I do anyway:

It’s not as cheerful (for many of us) to see a squirrel. But they’re handsome little creatures


It’s been a tame week. It’s good to get some rest before Thanksgiving! But I didn’t get much in the way of pictures. So, of course, here’s a pair of Red-tails from Monday:

Red-tails are pairing up again now that the youngsters have moved on


I got a pair of pictures of the moon yesterday. Here it is at 3:40 PM, with information from an app called “World Clock”:

Moon 3:40 PM yesterday:


TMI #1





















So here’s the “TMI” (Too Much Information) part. See up there where it says “Altitude 15.01º”? If you’re at the beach looking straight at the horizon, that’s 0.00º. Directly overhead is 90.00º. So that moon was about 15º above the horizon and 70.9% full. It was also “waxing” which means it was growing. I took the next image about seven hours later at 10:30 PM. Here it is, followed by the data:

Moon 10:30 PM yesterday



TMI #2




















My brother Shane is reading E. B. White’s classic Stuart Little to my nephew Wesson; it’s Wesson’s first experience – Shane pointed out – with a book that actually has a protagonist. I guess as opposed to much younger books with contents like “A is for ‘Apple,’ B is for ‘Banana,’ C is for ‘Cat’ and so forth. So I reread Stuart Little this week too so I can have an informed conversation with Wesson about it. I recommend spending a little time reading Stuart Little; you can only feel happy when you do it.

Sorry about the thin content this week! Hopefully I’ll be more productive between now and next Sunday. I know I’ll eat a lot! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and an excellent week,


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“All true living is face to face” – Albert Schweitzer

11 November, 2018            “All true living is face to face.” – Albert Schweitzer

My brother Kevin and my brother Shane’s wife Kristin both finished the Anthem Richmond Marathon half marathon yesterday. Over seven thousand people were in the race. And Kristin and Kevin finished twenty-four seconds apart!! That is astounding – I’m sure they never saw each other the whole race. If you’d like to know which one was twenty-four seconds ahead, you’ll have to step up and do some true living and ask them face to face! Or you can be a computer nerd like me and google it.

Shane and Kristin and Wesson and Teagan and Tara stayed at Kevin and Jenny’s house in Doswell, but they came to town and had pizza with Evelyn and me and Mackey and Turner and our friend Ariel and her dog Yuki. Who you  may recognize as the handsome white German Shepherd who goes to Pony Pasture with us on Sunday mornings. It was hard to wrangle those seven people and four dogs to get a picture, but here’s one attempt:

Yuki on the left, then Shane, Kristin with Teagan on her lap, Ariel with wings spread, Evie, Wesson, me, Turner, Mackey – but no Tara! oops! Later. 


That picture is of most of the humans and dogs that were here yesterday evening. Shane set the camera up with the timer to get all of us at once. Wesson (on my lap) pressed the timer button and sprinted back just before shutter clicked. He’s the quickest and the most nimble and he threaded his way through the dog and furniture maze in the nick of time. Just like his mom Kristin and his uncle Kevin, that guy is fast

I recently finished a book called The Library Book by Susan Orlean. At one point she’s speaking with a librarian and he says  “Well, my hero is Albert Schweitzer. He said, ‘All true living takes place face to face.’” That line really jumped out at me. Even more when Shane and Kristin and their family and our friend Ariel and all those dogs were here yesterday – face to face! 

A friend just posted a perceptive (IMO) observation on her instagram page. It had a pretty picture with it, but not as pretty as this one. I’m going to post the picture (taken at 11:00 this morning at Pony Pasture) and use her quote for the caption: 

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Van Gogh


 We hiked nearly four miles this morning. It was so beautiful and cool and fresh, none of us wanted to stop. We crossed Charlie’s Bridge at one point; I asked the dogs to stop for a minute so I could take this picture: 

Mackey, Turner and Yuki on Charlie’s Bridge


Mackey knew Charlie but I don’t think the other two ever met him. Charlie was a serious dog guy and that scene would have made him real, real happy. Fortunately I’m also a serious dog guy and that scene makes me real, real happy!

The place my love of nature most often helps me find beauty is hawk hunting on my travels around the Richmond area. A Red-shouldered hawk nests near the place I work in Glen Allen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I don’t get this bird (or its mate) every week, but it’s generally a reliable bird. I apologize that this picture has a little smudge in it. I got a crisper picture of this same bird (or its mate) Monday morning but it’s sitting on a building and not a branch. I shoot tons of raptor pictures on man-made structures, but give me a perch in a tree any day:

Wednesday morning Red-shouldered hawk in Glen Allen

  That (Wednesday) was a three-hawk day. I took the preceding picture at 9:00 AM. I left Glen Allen a few minutes later and was driving east on Patterson Avenue near St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 10627 Patterson. There is also a moderately reliable Red-tail that perches above the swamp across the street. I pull into St. Bart’s parking lot, walk to the edge of Patterson Avenue and photograph the bird perched on a snag just over the guardrail: 

Red-tailed hawk beside Patterson Avenue (same morning)


Wednesday was a good day for hawks. I went home after photographing this Red-tail and did a bunch of work at home. Later in the day – still Wednesday – I looked across the street at the powerline near Freeman High School and saw this male Red-tail keeping his eye on the area: 

Male Red-tail on the power line tower at Freeman High School


I took a “pano” at the river this morning. I haven’t had a ton of success getting these to work in the blog, but let me give it another whirl here: 

Pony Pasture Panorama – this morning around 11:00:


I voted Tuesday; I hope you also made it to the polls. 

Before I forget – one more picture from yesterday’s small collection. Tara was hidden in the last picture; Shane’s holding her here: 

Tara got left out of the first picture – here she is! In Shane’s lap! 


Evelyn still has our plants flowering – in November! I took this picture on Election Day. It’s a Pineapple Sage: 

Pineapple sage blooming in our yard on Election Day, 2018:


I hear a lot – a whole lot – about how spectacular the leaves are in Shenandoah and on Skyline Drive. It’s all true – I’ve seen them every year since I was around thirteen. But remember my friend’s quote from Van Gogh that I used with the river picture up there? I’m going to use it twice this post – it’s the caption for this picture too. I took it at 6:45 Wednesday morning on my way to work: 

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Van Gogh


Speaking of truly loving nature. I ran into a post on a sled dog facebook page this week. I understood the sentiment well: 


That is a good, good, good idea to remember. For snow, but for a lot of other things you might choose to not find joy in. 

I hope you find joy in pictures of my cat Dash, or at least can tolerate them. It’s hard not to take pictures of him sometimes. Here he was Thursday evening. When he’s not eating he wants either the fire or somebody’s lap. There were no laps available at this time: 

When there are no laps immediately available:


I haven’t mentioned flying and my passport this week but I got three new stamps, bringing my total to ten. Only 56 left! That is a lot of stamps. One of the airports we flew to this week was KGVE in Gordonsville. This is a classic old country airport: 

Hangar at KGVE, Gordonsville Municipal Airport 


Every airport has a “Welcome to Virginia” sign:

“Welcome to Virginia” – it greets you wherever you land


I’m getting carried away! Let me close it up. On the Virginia Aviation Ambassadors program web site, there’s a list of places you can find stamps if the airport is unattended. A lot of these small airport don’t have full-time staff, so the stamp is in a mailbox. Here’s the stamp inside at KLKU Louisa County airport: 

Stamp inside at Louisa (KLKU):


Self serve stamp in mailbox plus two spare pencils and a spider egg case

Come back next week! Enjoy yourself! All best,


Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, richmond marathon, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two words about politics: I vote

4 November, 2018            Two words about politics: I vote

If you think our country’s doing well, vote to keep it this way. If you think our country needs change, vote to make it. But don’t be passive. Vote. 

Mackey. Turner and Yuki on the banks of the James River this morning:


Monday morning I saw an unprecedented (for me) three different varieties of hawks in less than an hour. Red-tails (you may be aware) are the raptor I photograph most. I got one of those but I’ll spare you. In second place is Red-shouldered hawks; I got a nice one Monday morning. But at the same time I was photographing the orange striped breast of the Red-shoulder, I rotated my gaze about 180º to the left and saw the white striped breast of what I thought for an instant was a Red-tail. They’re common. But as I looked more carefully I saw the distinctive long tail of a bird hunting accipiter. This was an immature  Cooper’s Hawk

Immature Cooper’s Hawk


I’d planned to fly Tuesday but the plane was having work done and it wasn’t ready. I was bummed that I couldn’t fly but I got to see the engine of a Cessna for the first time – incredible. I took my first flight over a year ago, I’ve flown nearly seventy hours, and never seen an engine! I got to spend a lot of time looking and learning Tuesday though. Here it is with the cover off. They ran it with the cover off too; it is really loud. When you’re flying, you always have your headset on so you don’t even hear it. Quite loud: 

Cessna 172 with the engine cover off


Speaking of flying – I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned – but the FAA is making it more difficult for me to get a license than I’m willing to do. But I can fly as many hours as I want with an instructor, and all the ones I’ve had (three) have been excellent. Flying with an instructor only costs about 35% more than renting the plane solo, so it’s not a huge deal. I’m going to keep flying for a while. 

I don’t have any flying pictures from this week – Tuesday was my only scheduled day. I’ll add a leftover from last week a minute or two after we’d taken off from Ocracoke: 

Climbing out over Ocracoke on a pretty day


The Virginia Department of Aviation (DOAV) has a program called the Virginia Aviation Ambassadors Program. We have 66 airports in Virginia (including Dulles, etc) and each airport has a stamp. When you begin the program, you get a passport. I started on October 4, 2018 at (of course) Hanover County Municipal Airport (KOFP). Here’s my passport: 

My Virginia Aviation Ambassador Program passport









I’ve landed at and gotten stamps from seven of Virginia’s 66 airports. It’ll take me a while to finish the remaining 59. You’re allowed to drive to airports and get a stamp if flying is not a good choice for you; I may not fly to Dulles. Or Reagan. We’ll see. Here is the inside of my passport showing my stamps from Tangier (KTGI) on October 23 and Blacksburg (KBCB) on October 13:

Two of the seven stamps I’ve accumulated so far








As I mentioned earlier, I’ve flown nearly seventy hours and have around 120 takeoffs and landings. I’m competent at both. I’m improving on my navigation skills with every flight. Communicating on the radio with Air Traffic Control is the most difficult for me, but I’m slowly picking it up. All of my current hours are in a Cessna 172. When I get up to 100 hours – in December or January, depending on the weather – I’ll probably start learning to fly a Tecnam P92 Eaglet. After I’ve gained proficiency with that plane – maybe after 25 hours or so – I’ll see about flying a twin-engined Tecnam P2006T. But that will all happen in 2019. For the rest of 2018 I’m going to fly a little less but work on getting more stamps in my passport. 

This is our proposed path for our next flight – next time the weather’s clear enough to fly for a few hours and my instructor and I and a plane are all available at once. As I said, I currently have seven stamps in my passport. This flight will add five more.  We start in Hanover (KOFP) then fly to Orange County (KOMH) then an 8 mile hop to Gordonsville (KGVE). Another quick hop to Louisa (KLKU) then down to Chesterfield (KFCI). Then to Petersburg (KPTB) then home. Our literal plan is for me to do all of the takeoffs, landings, flying, navigation and radios. I’m not making this up – my instructor is going to sit on the taxiway with the plane while I run in, get a stamp and come back out. Fun!: 

5 stamp flight plan
























Meanwhile – flowers. Maybe a few more this week – we all hope – but outdoor flowers will be finished for 2018 soon. A pair of Evelyn’s incomparable nasturtiums and a pair of the Y’s breathtaking roses – enjoy! 

Evelyn’s wonderful nasturtiums (1)



Evelyn’s wonderful nasturtiums (2)


The YMCA’s incomparable roses (1)


The YMCA’s incomparable roses (2)



























VOTE! And come back next week! 

All best, 


Posted in accipiters, Birds, Cessna 172, Cooper's Hawk, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Out to lunch” or “god spelled backwards”

28 October, 2018            “Out to lunch” or “god spelled backwards”

On final approach at runway 06 at W95 (Ocracoke Island Airport)


Pano of Tangier Island airport (KTGI) on Tuesday


I’m working on some cross country flying plus navigation and this has been a lovely week. I took the top picture when we were on our fifteen mile final approach to Ocracoke Island airport, known to the FAA as “W95.” We were close at that point, maybe a mile away, 300 feet off the ground and going around 65 knots (75 mph). We walked about ten minutes to Howard’s Pub and I had crab cakes for lunch. For the second time this week! The first time I had crabcakes for lunch was Tuesday; we went back to Tangier and had lunch at Lorraine’s. I’m a native Marylander, so if someone asked me which I liked better – North Carolina (Ocracoke) or Virginia (Tangier) crabcakes I’d say “Maryland.” But they we both fresh and outstanding and I’d eat either of them again in a minute.

I  had my “big pack” at Pony Pasture this morning, Mackey and Turner and Yuki and Lola and Luna. It was Sunday and I looked at them and they looked like a little congregation and I thought “god spelled backwards!” – here they are:  

‘god’ spelled backwards:


There was a frost this week, but Ev’s nasturtiums must have mistaken it for fertilizer – they’re still going full strength. Orange was Dad’s favorite color (and the color of the collar Ev got for Mackey). Yellow was Mom’s favorite color (and the color of the collar Ev got for Turner). Ev also planted some yellow nasturtiums and some orange nasturtiums and several with this delightful blend of the two: 

Cheerful yellow and orange nasturtiums in mid-October


The same time I was out looking at the nasturtiums – before I brought my camera out – I looked up and there were three Red-tails circling over our house! I’ve never seen three red-tails at once before (except for babies on a nest) in my life! I went in and got my camera but only in time to get this sub par image of two of them:

Two of the three Red-tails circling above my driveway Monday morning:


I haven’t gotten a train picture I’ve enjoyed recently, but my buddy Clark and I were down at Brown’s Island Wednesday and there was a long CSX coal train parked on the southern track. You can’t see all of them on this image but there were four locomotives on this train. You need a lot of power (four locomotives) to pull the weight of all that coal, but you really need the power to stop all that weight when you’re coming down a mountain. Always impressive:

“Front four” on a long coal train Wednesday


In other flying adventures this week – or, more precisely, combined with the adventure I had Tuesday – there was a fully functioning and restored Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at Hanover airport! I took this picture with my phone:

Boeing (yes, that Boeing) B-17 Flying Fortress at Hanover airport this week. It flew in and flew out!


I took this picture Thursday morning before I preflighted the plane:

The smell of alcohol


See those puddles underneath? I was under there checking the gas (one of the fuel tanks is on the bottom) and I smelled alcohol. The plane had frost on it overnight – which adds too much weight – so they spray rubbing alcohol on it to melt the frost. Who even knew? Do you ever see on the news during real cold weather at a big airport, they spray the wings with vapor? That’s alcohol, but that’s for giant passenger planes. We spray the same thing, only out of the same thing you use to maybe spray weed killer on dandelions. Holds a gallon or two. Crazy stuff you learn. 

Hopefully blog followers are not tired of pictures of our worried, anxious, fearful, insecure cat Dash:

I took one of these on Monday and one yesterday. He alternates between this and eating and the litterbox. His days are uncomplicated:

Worry #1:


Worry #2:
















I was flipping through pictures on my phone and just as I saw the picture of Dash I saw another image. I work with a guy who has extreme anxiety problems secondary to a severe traumatic brain injury he survived many years ago. He has this reminder over his desk:

I don’t know what thought Dash chooses. But it’s totally the right choice.

Take it from Dash and choose the right thought this week. And come back next week! All best,


Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, outer banks, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A tale of two rivers

21 October, 2018            A tale of two rivers

James River at Pony Pasture in Richmond this morning. I hope you got outdoors!




Turner, Yuki and Mackey suggesting I do less photography and more hiking

No deer or buffleheads yet but I believe they’ll appear soon, as Hemingway put it, “gradually then suddenly.” There were lots of deer tracks on the riverbank this morning; there have been few before now. I also believe the buffleheads arrive on the first frost. I think that’s past but I didn’t see any buffleheads today. Probably next week.

Ernest (my flying instructor) and I took another long cross country this week – we flew to Blue Ridge Regional Airport (KMTV) in Martinsville, VA. While we were there we had lunch at Simply Suzanne’s Cafe (right in the airport) which was worth the trip by itself. The desserts looked spectacular but the lunch was so generous and delicious I was afraid we’d gain too much weight to take off! I took this pano at the airport:

Blue Ridge Regional Airport on a wonderful October day


I wish I’d taken more time and gotten a better picture of this gorgeous Pitts Special Biplane but this is pretty neat. I even got to talk to the pilot but we were just about to take off so our conversation was brief. Check this out:

Pitts high performance biplane. Gorgeous.


I got a million hawk pictures this week, although all Red-tails again and no Red-shoulders. I hear a Red-shoulder in western Henrico many mornings and often glimpse it in the shade but I haven’t gotten any pictures of it recently. Here’s a Red-tail:

Red-tail at Freeman HS


The “two rivers” I referred to in the title were the James River (top picture) and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Page County, where Kevin and I have a little piece of property we inherited from our Mom. There was a property owner’s meeting this weekend so I headed up there with Mackey and Turner. I spent part of the morning at the meeting then hiked with the dogs. Here they are near the river:

Mackey and Turner barely visible on the edge of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River yesterday


Looking back in this blog, I see I wrote a very similar entry a year ago. You can take a look at Shenandoah Gap. I posted it on October 22, 2017 – a year ago tomorrow. That blog post (if you’re interested) mentions Dad and me being pallbearers at an old friend’s funeral up there many years ago. I couldn’t find her tombstone last year, but I located it this year on the way home. And it had the date she died, so I found it in my journal – it was from June of 1999. Here’s an excerpt from my journal entry. Possibly in a future blog post I’ll elaborate on some or all of these stories. For now, just read and use your imagination:

“…[her] casket was open when I got there, and it was weird to see her lying there. Dad commented it was the longest he’d ever seen her with her mouth closed.

The funeral was kind of draggy and dull and meaningless; I should have gotten up there and told some really good stories about her. Like bringing that frozen kitten back to life, or making elderberry wine, or only being able to walk for thirteen steps, or making butter that tasted like onions. Her casket was heavy.”

I’m fortunate to cross paths with fascinating people more often than seems statistically probable. But she always stands out in my memory. She is unusual on a much different level than I normally encounter. I learned a lot from her.

I took this picture yesterday with my phone. To paraphrase Mark Twain regarding burial sites, “very few of the living complain, and none of the others.” My old friend MV says when you’re on long road trips, cemeteries are the best place to walk dogs. This one certainly is:

Dead people couldn’t care less where they are. But for living people, this place is awesome.


Man that trip brought back some good, fun stories from my youth. And young adulthood. I’ll jot some down and insert one or two on this blog but not this week. I ate a lot of watercress out of the creek (not the river), just like when we were growing up.

Here’s Mackey and Turner on the edge of a field at the edge of our property. One of my brothers or sisters will have to weigh in on this; we called it either “Comer’s field” or “Austin’s field.” It had an old stone house foundation in it and Dad and I used to hunt crows from there when I was growing up. Hunt for crows is more precise; we went through the motions but never saw any. We wore camouflage or blaze orange, depending on the time of year. We had little folding camouflaged stools. Dad had a Remington 870 12 gauge and I had a Harrington and Richardson single shot 20 gauge. We had wooden crow calls and we used them enthusiastically but I don’t think the crows heard us. It was so, so, so much fun. I’m always startled looking back and finding out just how much my Dad knew about so many odd things. He’d never hunted in his life before he took us hunting.

M&T near a field where Dad & I hunted. The stone foundation was at the edge of the woods just above Mackey’s back

Once years ago an introverted college buddy of mine named Nate spent the day with my Mom and Dad and me at the Maple Festival in Highland County, VA. It was a long and excellent day and at the end we got in our car and headed back to Richmond and Mom and Dad headed back to Bridgewater. As soon as we got in Nate said “I think your Dad just started reading the entire internet for the second time.” That was one of the things about Dad – he could hold up his end of an interesting conversation about anything. I never knew how he learned all this stuff. This was way before there was an internet. He read and read and read and read some more. Any subject. Never seemed to forget a thing. Anyway.

Here’s a kookaburra and a koala bear his dad brought back from the Pacific when he was in the Navy. Dad’s father was born in 1896:

A koala (L) and a kookaburra my Dad’s dad brought back from Australia in the 1930’s


A moon shot then I’m out of here – I need to start doing these things during the week! All best,


Oops – changed my mind – I stumbled across a shaded but not horrible picture of a bluebird I saw at Deep Run Friday: 

Uncharacteristically reclusive Bluebird at Deep Run Friday:

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Fun, James River, Peppermint bark, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Shenandoah River, Shenandoah Valey, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The struggle (the flying lesson struggle) is real

14 October, 2018            The struggle (the flying lesson struggle) is real

Wesson and me early yesterday afternoon at KBCB. Photo credit to my brother Shane. Thanks Wesson and Shane and Ernest!


I’m kidding, of course, about the “struggle” part – flying is a blast, 100% of the time.

My brother Shane took that top picture with me holding his son – my incomparable nephew – Wesson. Shane also took all pictures of the plane in flight. Plus hosted Ernest and me on short notice! 

Flying was extra  fun yesterday when my instructor Ernest and I took my first long cross-country (“XC”) flight. Our plan was to depart from our “home” airport (KOFP, Hanover County Municipal Airport) and fly down to KBCB (Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport) near my brother Shane’s house. Where my excellent sister-in-law Kristin of course also lives, the mother of my outstanding nephew Wesson and his lovely sister Teagan. I hoped I’d get to see all four of them but it was nap time and I only got to see Wesson and Shane. Wesson skipped his nap so he could come watch Ernest and me land! Wesson was relaxed and easygoing, much more than I am when I skip my nap.

Shane took this picture at 1:10 PM, just seconds before we touched down. My flaps are all the way down (30º) and we’re probably going around 50 knots or 57 mph. Ernest keeps a watchful eye on me but I’ve done over a hundred landings and I’m moderately competent: 

Moments before landing at Blacksburg on Saturday. I’m actually flying! Thanks again for the picture Shane:








90 minutes later, taking off to head home:







Here’s the sign in front of the airport: 

KBCB – Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport


We flew at 8,500’ for most of the flight so I got to take a handful of pictures from the plane. This is Smith Mountain Lake. On my phone’s GPS it says “Huddleston” which I see is east of the lake. The next pictures say “Moneta” which is still east of the lake but closer. Have a look:

Smith Mountain Lake from 8,500 feet (1.6 miles!):


We were only on the ground in Blacksburg for around an hour and a half. Shane and Wesson took Ernest and me out for a sandwich then Shane took all of us on a tour of his fascinating workplace, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Advancing Transportation through Innovation – Shane carrying Wesson


Well, a few more typical (read: predictable) blog post pictures before I sign off. Monday I had a fantastic breakfast before (and after) my early morning work and went straight to the pool and swam a mile. A bicycling friend of mine (Pat) offered to meet me for an early afternoon ride and we rode (possibly ill-advisedly, in hindsight) forty-five miles! It was an outstanding ride though. Monday evening I took Mackey and Turner for a five kilometer walk to finish off my “triathlon.” When Pat and I used to do long rides regularly, we’d ride out to Owens Creek Corner Store [[1534 Owens Creek Rd, Mineral, VA 23117]], so we did that ride. It’s 24 miles out there and 21 miles back. Here’s a picture of the store. It’s not beautiful but they have great stuff like peanuts and m&m’s and Gatorade and water and Mountain Dew and Starbucks Doubleshots, all the hi tech foods you want to help you make that long ride back. The store:

Owens Creek Corner Store, my bike on the right, Pat’s on the left. This place is an oasis on a long ride:


Here’s a picture a bit more beautiful. Evelyn’s loving attention ensures her roses continue to thrive. Check this out – I took this on Wednesday. That’s a rose and that was October 10!:  

Another of Evelyn’s roses. Every time I think they can’t get more beautiful, they get more beautiful.


Obviously I’m not going to let a week go by without a raptor picture. It’s always a prize for me to get a “double” red-tail. This is one of the highest likelihood spots for double Red-tails, the cross on top of Discovery United Methodist Church in the far West End:

Watching like a hawk:


I noted last week that I’d been reading a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by a man named Viktor Frankl. I hadn’t quite finished the book when I put up the blog post. I later read the afterword and the person who wrote it quoted Dr. Frankl saying “I do not forget any good deed done to me, and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.” And I thought what a great motto that makes. Not always achievable, but a worthy goal.

We had our first fire of the season after I came home from my big adventure yesterday, and Dash took immediate advantage. I’ll sign off with a picture of him renewing his acquaintance with the woodstove. I hope you can be this relaxed at some point this week! All best,


Dash is under the spell of the woodstove. Believe me, it’s a powerful spell:


This just in. Dash later found the fire too exhausting, so he had to jump up on “his” chair to recover: 

Dash recovering from the exhausting effort of warming his old bones by the fire:



Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Flowers, Fun, People, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments