Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We're guessing that more than 500 people were attending, boosted by the Ruffner Family Reunion that was going on at the time. The Ruffner's forebears gave the original land for the founding of Luray, an act that is memorialized on a plaque in the plaza.
Monday, June 29, 2009
This section begins with the statement “…Page County’s diversified economy, based on the four ‘legs’ of manufacturing, tourism, retail and agriculture, provides an excellent foundation for growth.” There are two key ironies to beginning this section with a statement like this:
- Elsewhere in the report is a note about the lost jobs in the manufacturing sector; in fact, this labor pool is part of ‘being ready’ for future new business arrivals; and
- This strategic goal merits only a page and a half of the study, and two objectives, compared to the coverage of attracting new businesses and the lamentations about transportation infrastructure.
Addressing the recent – at the time, although they have continued since 2004 – job losses in the manufacturing sector, this plan reports, “…the strength of Page County’s local economy has allowed the County’s agricultural, housing, tourism, and retail sectors to continue to grow…”, partially offsetting the impacts. Then there is the bottom line – the requirement to come to an understanding of the needs of existing businesses.
We spent a three day weekend out at the Hawksbill Cabin last weekend (looking forward to spending the 4th out there, too), and having just read this plan I kept my eyes open for details on some of these issues. Some of the things I heard:
- You know, if they’d open up a commuter rail line from here, people would commute into DC to work.
- A lot of money was spent here to attract the Wrangler plant, but its closure as a manufacturing center left a bad taste in people’s mouths.
- The big company agriculture approach has really taken advantage of the small farmers here. Those people have mortgages to pay.
As a business person, I’ve found that sometimes the highest payback comes from doing just a little more with the investments already made. It’s different from a “good money after bad” concept – if the fundamentals for success are there, sometimes the little extra of a renewed approach, new tools and technology, or simply, new management, are all it takes to break loose profitability. So I guess I would have liked to see more attention paid to this section.
The strategies listed here are good ones, although I wonder if there was ever any follow-up: undertake a survey of local businesses to ascertain needs, problems, and general perceptions of the business climate; and survey supplier locations and products purchased, using the information to ascertain the feasibility of recruiting common suppliers to the region.
This is where I would start – from strengths. The tourism sector, while taking a bit of a shot during the recession, has remained robust. I’ve never seen the parking lot at the Caverns as it has been this summer, and on Friday I saw no less than four camping families arriving with the tell-tale rectangular cylinder of a tent strapped onto the luggage racks. They are coming here for recreation – make sure they have the highest quality experience. Outfitters and groceries are complimentary – make sure these are the best they can be (we have great outfitters, so I mainly am talking about the groceries here!).
Then there is agriculture. Family farms have really suffered and have been in a bad state for decades, but lately there are some new approaches that seem to work – I’ll write about them soon. A county agricultural marketing extension could develop a plan that builds on the sustainability and “buy local” trends that are hot in the big cities right now. Page County is ideally located to serve DC, Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Baltimore, Charleston, WV, and even Philly and Pittsburgh. Targeting grocers like Giant, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Harris Teeter with micro-ag, and seasonally fresh crops, seems to me to be an opportunity.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
By far, the driver of this plan is “business attraction” – five pages out of a total of 25. The discussion begins with the quote, “…one key to a sustained economic future will be Page County’s ability to attract new economic development…,“ before moving into a discussion of how Page competes with other destinations in the state for this kind of investment. The key concept is being ready, focusing on land prices, a resident labor pool, and accessibility via highways and rail.
There is an honest assessment of the probability of success for a plan like this. Apparently Page County has traditionally created marketing plans like this without taking the step to explore what industries are suitable, or where high priority investments should be made. This kind of targeting contributes to a higher probability of success. To do it, the community begins by asking itself questions such as:
· What is our niche?
· What types of businesses do we want to attract?
· What should be our strategic priorities: manufacturing, tourism development and promotion, or retail development?
There is a recommendation to take this key step of a market study and consensus building effort to answer these questions. The goal is to identify the industrial sectors and business types that would be most beneficial in the County. A second goal outlined in this area is an analysis of the types of export opportunities that might exist based on proximity to the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal.
The rest of the goals in this section – invest in better communications infrastructure, and the transportation infrastructure issues keeps coming up in various ways – address getting the table stakes together before being dealt in to the big hand. Coming down to earth, there is no assessment of how likely a small county like this, 30,000 or so people, is going to attract the kind of economic development investment needed to do these things, simply the observation that Page County must do them.
These recommendations are alternatively “easy ones” or “throwaways.” I found some interesting references to establishments I haven’t heard of before, that I am going to check out: the “Wrangler Annex” and the County Industrial Development Authority. I’ll look into these and make them the subject of a future post when I return to this topic.
The “attract new business” section closes with a sensible recommendation about supporting the expansion of the county’s tourism and retail base. As I’ve mentioned before, the thoughts on tourism seem the most logical to me, with the river, the mountains, the Park (1,000,000 visitors annually) and Forest nearby, not to mention Luray Caverns (500,000 visitors annually). The county was just awarded the state’s designation as “Cabin Capital of Virginia” highlighting the opportunities for a rustic and outdoors form of recreation.
That seems to be where the most leverage is, at least to me. It’s what brought Mary and me here in the first place. In the absence of the kind of investment study outlined in this report, the critical mass seems to be with tourism and related services and retail.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The Plan describes a "high quality of life" in the county - good land prices and a relatively low cost of living, combined with scenic environment in an area bounded by the National Park, GWNF, and the Guest/Shenandoah River State Park.
There is a reference to the history of closing down the manufacturing centers in the County, well underway in 2003-2004, with a statement that growth in tourism, retail, and services showed promise in continued growth during the previous decade, and with attention, might continue this upward trend going forward. Combined with investment and promotion, further development would be a final segment that might be used to propel the County forward.
Looking at the resources that would provide a foundation for executing the plan, there is an appropriate focus on transportation and utility infrastructure, a brief consideration of what low land prices for zoned commercial and industrial properties might mean to development opportunity, and a reference to the qualifications of the Page County work force.
Taking these in a prioritized order, I would have to rate the transportation issue as one of the most important parts of the strategy. While the intersection of two US highways in Luray might have served as adequate all the way up to the '50's, once the interstate system was built allowing speedy and fast transportation, much of the traffic moved off of the old two lane roads and onto the new four-laners; in Page County's case, that means across the mountain to I-81, or 30 miles north, to I-66.
Effectively, this eliminates most manufacturing from consideration in an economy such as Page County's; reaching into the dark resources of my economics undergrad I seem to recall location theory that suggested proximity to natural resources is one factor, and proximity to market is the other. With the exception of agricultural and food products, we just don't have a driver that justifies manufacturing business location decisions or further development of a larger scale transportation infrastructure.
We could talk about the rail line that goes through town. There is capacity in that system for Page County commerce, as the trains head up to the inland port in Front Royal; analysis of the supply chain would be needed to look at what's downstream and upstream in the system in order to advise what might be appropriately located in the County.
And an interesting exception to the rule for transportation remains. I don't know as much as I would like to about the old Wrangler factory that is now used as a distribution center. That any element of that commerce was retained here is a real credit to community leaders, I hope that is something that can be extended to further benefit the economy in other sectors.
Leaving utilities aside, let's look at what these low commercial and industrial land prices mean. With poor transportation infrastructure and limited access to natural resources, the industrial sector doesn't have a strong justification for locating here. That leaves commercial development...again, that is going to want a reason for locating here to justify investment.
Usually, that would be a natural economic center - think banking in Charlotte (or Richmond), or high tech in Silicon Valley (or the Dulles Corridor), and proximity to a transportation node - most likely an airport in this case. While Luray sports a developing general aviation airport, it isn't adequate for this purpose, since we are close enough to Dulles for it to be the choice.
Low prices on zoned developable land means there is little demand, further reinforcing the transportation issues and reminding us of the limitation of the utilities infrastructure issues (power and communications infrastructure, specifically) as well. Although I still have not read the business plan and strategy about the data center I keep hearing about, my own opinion is that that will never achieve great success until these other factors are addressed.
The work force is the last factor I'll look at today. The Lord Fairfax extension in Page County seems to be a high point in this area, and I think the promotion that it continues to receive is welcome and a true benefit. With the departure of the manufacturing sector, we have what is known as "structural unemployment" meaning well experienced and qualified folks - but no place for them to apply their skills. Recognizing this, a good investment is to help the people affected to learn new skills so they will be prepared for the opportunities that are available to them, and that is the role I understand that Lord Fairfax fills today.
So, with these thoughts about the infrastucture and basic economic resources behind us, next post will move into discussion of a couple of the economic goals outlined in the 2004 plan. I'd emphasize at this point that I don't mean to convey criticism of what's happening, just that now that we have been going to the Hawksbill Cabin for two years I am finally getting around to an understanding of the County. I find myself a stakeholder there, and I am interested in understanding the situation so that I can better find a way to make my own contribution to making positive changes.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
One of the most striking facts in that article was the report that in the region that includes Page, Shenandoah, Rappahannock, and part of Rockingham County, 4,000 jobs had been identified as "lost" since September 2008. Beyond the statement that in essence said that people affected by the economy should work on education and gaining skills for future work, the article reported that there is no plan for a meeting in Page County - with a double-digit unemployment rate, among the highest in the state.
I decided to do a bit more research on the question and did some preliminary searching, finding a 2004 document called "Page County Strategic Economic Development Plan" - I'll report some of the findings over a couple of ensuing blog posts, keeping in mind that this document is more than five years old, and the data is likely to be older than that.
The Plan was developed by MarshWitt Associates, based in Roanoke, and funded by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. It starts with a section called "An Economic Vision for Page County" as follows:
"Page County's sustainable high quality of life is the result of a diversified economy based on tourism, industrial development, agriculture, and retail and service industries. Existing jobs are being retained, and new high quality jobs are being created in the County. Job growth is the result of the County's educational system and workforce training partnerships that ensure the available of a trained labor force and the County's investment in water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure that has been planned to accommodate existing and future economic development needs."
Leaving aside for a moment that fact that much of this vision statement appears to be obselete, the report is organized around two key elements in addition to the vision statement: guiding principles and an action plan. I'll write more in tomorrow's post, but before I list the guiding principles, I note that the executive summary recommends that the County be proactive in these matters, reviewing the plan and updating it based on changing conditions and priorities.
The report lists six economic development "levers" or economic system components:
- Business attraction
- Existing business retention/growth
- Community infrastructure
- Education and workforce development
- Government economic development programs and services
Tomorrow's post will take a quick look the guiding principles, again circa 2004, followed by a post that summarizes the strategy and goals for each of these components. Next steps will be to research the execution of these plans and see if there are conclusions about what should and can be done at this point.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Not long after, their friend joined them. He talked about the motorcycle ride up US 211 to the Park, saying that the road was wet, so he took some extra time to get there. The other two had stayed in the Park overnight, so they hadn't encountered the morning conditions.
Their breakfast conversation continued, and Mary and I couldn't help but overhear their discussion of the safety classes that they had taken since they began riding. The newest of them had been riding his Harley for just about five years. All of the talk was sprinkled over with technical references to safe riding and care on roads like the 211 route up from Sperryville and Skyline Drive itself - in the end, they postponed their ride due to the weather conditions.
This overheard conversation was one of the first things that came to mind when I read about the high-speed chase and motorcycle crash with injuries that occurred outside of the Park the other day (link here: http://www.whsv.com/news/headlines/48770112.html) - there were several other memories as well:
- There is a flashing sign on the Sperryville side of US 211 just inside the Park boundary, that alerts riders of a high crash area for the next three miles
- Being passed on the single lane downhill of US 33 headed into Elkton by three riders driving in excess of 80mph
- Taking my family members up to the Park one day and encountering no less than 7 emergency vehicles near the top of the Thoroughfare Gap, where they were attending to 2 down riders - on the uphill side, no less
- Following the AT on certain trails in the Park, only to find there is no solace from the sound of motorcycles touring the area (http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2008/09/ivy-creek-easy-day-hike.html and http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/04/marys-rock-not-so-easy-day-hike.html)
It seems the riders fall into at least two groups: careful and safe riders on an outing, enjoying time outdoors; and joyriders going after the thrill of the machine's performance.
The first group, while they are the source of a lot of traffic noise in the Park, are safe operators and are pretty considerate of other motorists. They also make frequent stops to check their gear and machines. They take extra time to make sure everyone gets to the next destination safely. At area businesses - the wineries, restaurants, and shops in Luray, Sperryville and New Market - their big parties are a welcome site, making the days revenue goal in a down economic time.
The other riders are most frequently seen as single riders, although sometimes there are small groups. From what I've seen, they appear to be novice riders that tend to overestimate their own skill, and they are probably are the majority of the motorcycle accidents along the Park entries and exits (they rarely ride Skyline Drive from what I have seen, 35 mph and entry fees keeping them away), and their riding approach endangers everyone else on the road. Their groups tend to spread out due to the varying skill levels, and you can often see two or three of them pulled off on the side of the road waiting for stragglers.
I can see where it is a thrill to take those machines out, but I think back to that conversation we overheard at the restaurant that morning, where the riders were deciding whether to take their own high-performance machines out and decided on safety first. And now we have this latest incident, where a trooper was injured and the motorcyclist took off and ran from the scene. I guess the rider had been seen earlier in the day speeding along at 120mph, and when the trooper came after him, he ran. Not only that, when the bike went down, he overestimated his skills again, and ran off on foot before he was inevitably caught.
I'm coming around to the thought that maybe our local law enforcement team should spend a few months this summer enforcing the speed limits on US 211 and 33 within the Park boundary - setting a "no tolerance" rule on the speed limit, as they currently have with seat belt enforcement.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The backhoe had been extracted by this morning; unfortunately I missed that part of the action. I would guess they pulled it out with one of the larger vehicles, but there is a cantilever crane at the site and they may have been able to pull it out that way.
The incident reminded me that I haven’t posted on the Arlington construction in a while. This project got started in January 2008 at about the same time I started my current job. We watched the demolition and site prep from our windows. Currently, as seen in the accompanying photo, the building has risen out of the hole, the parking decks are completed below ground, and the mezzanine and retail levels are a work in progress.
As a side note, the majority of the “Arlington Rap” video I posted last week and have linked to here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T1RMuoQnKo was filmed within 2 blocks of this construction site.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I can't cover them today, but posting them for a moment so I'll remember to come back to them:
- a regional economic task force met recently in Luray to discuss unemployment in Page County. The article left me with an impression that nothing was decided, except to make an endorsement of the Lord Fairfax Community College.
- a petition regarding the Econonomic Development Authority's pursuit of "Project Clover" - the purchase of farm land for future development. The EDA Chairman is quoted as not understanding the issue in a photo caption; most of the chatter I have heard on this issue involves the multiple of assessed value (nearly 3x) that was paid for the land.
- an announcement that Tractor Supply Company (TSC) is coming to Luray. I've driven past the stores in Leesburg and H-burg, but never been to one...it seems to be across the spectrum from the Lowe's offering, but I want to know more about the chain.
I'll see what I can find out about these over the next week.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Also, the caption on the accompanying photo (I’ve lost the link to its source, but everything in today’s post came via a Google search on “Cantor + Presgraves”) should read, “Former Page County Sheriff Daniel W. Presgraves talks with Virginia's 7th District Congressman Eric Cantor during a local Republican rally in August 2003.”
Before I begin the summary of the Harper’s article, I did a quick check on “watchdog.net” about Presgraves’ contributions to Cantor. I found that he gave a total of $3,600 to Cantor’s cause between 2002 and 2006. The Harper’s article mentions these contributions as well as those of fellow indictee Chester William Fannon III, who subsequently pled guilty to “making nearly $9,000 in illegal conduit political contributions,” and is subject to a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100K fine. According to the Harper's article, Fannon gave Cantor a total of $500 during 2006 and 2007.
In the DNR’s (and Page News & Courier's) earliest reporting, the list of Presgraves’s charges included the following: diverting $39K from the US Customs Service and $47K from PayTel to an escrow account, and making small deposits totaling $100K in a structuring scheme between 2001 and 2004. Note that these are charges, alledged crimes, yet to be tried.
However, these activities overlap with the Cantor contributions, and the saying “Politics makes strange bedfellows” comes to mind. I am not saying that at the start of all of this the Congressman would know whether he has a problem here, but it seems prudent now that the case is well underway to make sure those records are scrubbed before the trial. There is inevitable scrutiny ahead.
The Harper’s article is entitled “Congressman Cantor and Cockfighting.” Here is an extended quote, the link follows:
The Middleburg man first hauled into federal court the same day as former Page County Sheriff Daniel W. “Danny” Presgraves has pleaded guilty to making illegal political contributions in relation to cockfighting. Chester William Fannon III, 47 at the time of his October arrest, entered into a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville on Monday, according to online court records. The one-time president of the Virginia Gamefowl Breeders Association Inc. pleaded guilty to making nearly $9,000 in illegal conduit political contributions, the plea agreement says. That charge carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine…
According to the indictment against him, Fannon had links to the Little Boxwood cockpit near Stanley in Page County. It says Fannon wrote checks to presidential and congressional candidates, and would then get reimbursement from the cockfighting association, in violation of federal law. Corporations are not permitted to donate to federal campaigns.
Both Presgraves and Fannon appear to be fans of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. The former has made five contributions totaling about $3,500 to Cantor since 2002. The latter gave Cantor checks for $500 in 2006 and 2007. In April, after Cantor was interviewed on CBS, Fannon wrote this note on the congressman’s website:
‘Great interview! I am glad that you made it clear that you don’t want the President himself to fail but only his policys. [sic] Please keep supporting rural values, animal agriculture and the second amendment. The H.S.U.S. is a serious threat to the above mentioned organizations and we need your help.
‘The H.S.U.S. is the Humane Society of the United States, which has been leading an effort to ban cockfighting; and as a Humane Society blogger noted last October, Cantor was one of the very few House members who voted against the felony animal fighting bill.’”
The truth will out. You can find the Harper’s article at http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/06/hbc-90005080.
The most recent news is that the former sheriff has added a new attorney to his expanding defense team, and, quoting H-burg's DNR newspaper, "This attorney brings some star power." He is former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, who has been a candidate for governor, running against Tim Kaine in 2005. Kilgore is a partner at Williams Mullen, the same firm as Presgraves' previous lead attorney, David Barger, who left the law firm in May.
It is newsworthy that a politician with Kilgore's reputation would represent someone charged in such a high profile case. I'll refrain from speculating on what this signifies, in favor of thinking that it is nothing more than taking advantage of a challenging, high-profile case to rebuild his law career.
Duly noted, however, is all the rumor and innuendo on the internets. For previous reports about this, click on the "Sherrif Presgraves" label below.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
It was a rare weekend not heading out to the Hawksbill Cabin, with me just getting back from being on business in San Antonio, and Mary headed up to NJ to visit some cousins preparing to relocate to Germany. Besides getting nine holes of golf in, and catching up on some reading (I’m currently reading Michael Perry’s Coop), I’ve been spending some quality time with Sofie and Gracie.
The girls were recently groomed. Because of the trauma bath time imparts, I haven’t given Gracie a bath in more than five years. We have a service that comes around twice a year in a converted RV, called “Bubble Buddies,” that actually specializes in older dogs, like our two. Gracie, the Border Collie, is 14 and a half; Sofie, the Chow mix we found as a stray in the DuPont Circle area of DC, is older than that. In fact, it has been about 13 years since Sofie joined our pack.
They don’t really get dirty and smelly like younger dogs anymore, so the twice a year schedule works out well for us. They actually seem to like it when the groomer hooks up the leash and leads them into the van – it’s an amazing difference from the “flat Gracie” routine I would experience when I tried to get her into the bathroom. Who knew a dog could actually expand to cover so much square footage, so that she couldn’t fit through a door?
When the groomer leaves, the dogs have been bathed and trimmed, and their nails are clipped. They get a special bandana, and they seem to like the extra attention we give them afterwards.
With Mary out of town, Sofie and Gracie have been hanging close by, mainly snoozing away as dogs at their age do. But at times, I still see glimpses of the old personalities. Sofie is mainly motivated by her tummy (or other bodily functions), so she is up and by my side any time I pass through the kitchen. Gracie has mainly been content to lie on the floor nearby, as she is now while I write this, but when I speak to her I can see the eyes darting around the room in search of a tennis ball or other toy.
Sofie is living proof that treating dogs the way you want them to behave makes them great pets. She’s smart, she has a great vocabulary, and with her, we’ve been through a lot. Almost 10 years ago she blew out a disk in her back, a fatal injury for dogs if they don’t receive medical attention. We got immediate emergency surgery for her (we had pet health insurance that helped). To this day, Mary and I both swear that the vet treating Sofie could operate on us; too, he was so well qualified and had such a great manner with his patients.
When our regular vet first met Sofie, she looked at her teeth and the Chow posture and said, “I like this dog. She has good hybrid vigor.” That inspired us to have Sofie’s DNA checked out: the Chow is definitely there, not just because of the purple tongue, but it gets hazy after that. The most significant other breed represented is Poodle. Who would have guessed?
Beyond the parentage, we get a glimpse of her life before she joined us whenever we meet an “intact” male dog on a walk. Even at the advanced dog age of at least 15 (person) years old, these encounters involve a lot of squealing, spinning around, and boxing the male dog. She seems to know what she is doing, but the male dogs are left puzzled by all this, standing there perplexed, worriedly checking with their masters about whether this (spayed) old lady is going to hurt them or not. She probably had a litter of fuzzy little Chow mix puppies somewhere along the way, and she has probably outlived them.
Sofie has slowed down some, but she is still in great health and full of good spirits. Her sister, Gracie, on the other hand, is not in the best of health. Still, she is doing well, in good spirits, and holding her own for now. Having been diagnosed in January with final stage canine renal failure, she is on a full regimen of prescriptions, and she gets a half liter of subcutaneously administered IV fluids every other day. She has lost most of her hearing, although she can hear a loud whistle, or one of her vocabulary words, when spoken directly to her in a loud voice.
Border Collies are widely considered one of the most intelligent dog breeds, and they were very popular around the time of Gracie’s birth, which was when the movie Babe came out. Our relatives had taken Gracie, but seemed to be finding the four-month old pup to be a whole lot of dog, so we offered to adopt her. Or maybe she adopted us, as I do remember the first weekend we met I spent eight or nine hours learning that border collies (1) love to fetch; (2) have incredible stamina, even at the age of four-months; and (3) upon first meeting a new human, have a wily ability to keep the human busy paying attention to them. Even now, despite her health and age, whenever we have visitors, there is a big production that we call the “Border Collie Parade of Toys. “
A few years ago, there was a story about a German border collie, named Rico, who knew the names of something like 200 dog toys. There is a Wikipedia article about Rico here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rico_(Border_Collie). Rico could retrieve articles he’d never seen before, and that he did not know the name of, using a deductive reasoning approach called “canine fast mapping.” There is a second Wikipedia article about a border collie named Betsy who is said to know 340 words, and I like to think that Gracie has a vocabulary around that size.
Sometime during the first year we had her, we took Gracie out for a ride in the Valley. While Mary and I had a picnic on the lawn at North Mountain Vineyard, we played fetch with Gracie. Later, she napped while we drove with the windows down the Old Valley Pike to Shenandoah Vineyard. There were sheep farms in the area, and the scent of the pastures eventually woke her up, at first just enough to raise her nose to the lowered window to sniff.
Slowly, the Border Collie genes took over, and she stood up in the back seat to have a look. When she finally figured out that there were animals over there in the pastures, she let out a long “Aooo-ooo-ooo” and watched the sheep carefully as we drove by.
We’ve had these girls a long time, but it had been a while since I have had to chance to sit with them at home, without the stress (for them) of the drive out to the cabin, and just enjoy them for what they have become as “senior” dogs. I know we may not have much time left with each other, especially compared to the time we’ve had together. But the character of their company is rich with experience and warmth, and there seems to be an innate understanding of all thoughts – verbal and nonverbal – between us as we hang out in the house. And this weekend, that’s been as good a time as I could have asked for.
Post publication clarification, from Mary: "...Thought the blog was good today, but, as I recall, I was also involved in those baths and actually tried to bathe them a few times once you had given up on the process... Also, I'm now trying to get them groomed more often, about quarterly. It's less stressful since the hair doesn't mat so much and it's a less painful process. Sofie also can't groom herself in the rear area any more due to her arthritis so the groomer shaves her back there. No more pantaloons on the Chow-Dalmation-Springer Spaniel-poodle mix."
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Here are a final few photos...the "Pay-Less Liquors" - advertised in the slick hotel room book, the Hemisfare Tower (a landmark any Air Force vet will recall from his "town pass" day), a pre-Columbian artifact (this thing was bigger than me!), The Alamo (above) and a memorial that was near there. I have a few more photos that aren't suitable for publishing - they just don't meet my phone cam quality requirements, or they are too trade show specific...what happened there must stay there, in other words.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I really like this stuff. It was a life saver on late summer hikes a few years ago when Chris and I were prepping for the Half Dome summit. Back then, he used to go down the trail first.
In the late summer, yellow jackets can often be found nesting in the ground or rotting wood near trails. It is not unusual that a first hiker will disturb a nest, and the following hikers walk unsuspectingly right into a cloud of angry insects. This is what tended to happen to me, and that is how I learned about the sting relief meds.
Since the ointment gave Mary instant relief, we decided to take a drive into Luray to see if Howard had any of the stuff sold alone or in small packs, so I could re-equip the first aid kit. He didn’t have the product I needed, but he had something else that is pretty good – Jewell Weed. Turns out Mary has some, but she left it at home.
We talked about how things are going in the store – big news coming at Evergreen Outfitters later this summer – and about the through hikers that are coming into town right now. Howard’s had thru-hiking visitors since late March, and I ran into one fellow, “Old Spice” in the store a few weeks ago.
Old Spice had stopped by to pick up a care package that was being delivered to the store one Saturday, but it hadn’t arrived yet. So he spent part of the day hanging out waiting for it around town, and I think he caught a movie, either Star Trek or Transformers. They kept his pack for him at the store, and the package arrived while he was hanging out. I was sorry I didn’t think fast enough to offer him a ride back up to the trailhead in the park.
Another thru hiker was hanging out in town this Saturday – she made her way around doing some errands. I heard that she was at the library, where she left the pack outside draped with a banner that said “I can’t believe I hiked all the way here from Georgia,” or something like that, as reported by Cindy, Howard’s mother-in-law.
Also in the store were three Dutch guys that were doing the trail, the “Three Stooges.” Here is a link to their blog about the trip http://www.bergopbergaf.nl/– it’s good reading. Howard said they had a good visit.
Back to the sting relief meds. Chris actually kicked up the bees on me twice back in those days, but luckily was right there with the meds both times after I’d gotten stung – this was always happening three or four miles into the hike, so it was a long way and very likely slow going back to the car for something.
These days, I go first on our hikes. Somehow, though, I don’t think it’s just about the bees. I think it’s because the young whipper snappers think I’m slow.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This morning the floor opened at 8:30 and I did the whole day in the booth or meeting our vendors. Of course, I have dutifully taken pictures of the variety of stuff on display. It's hard for me to believe that the government buys all of this stuff! (Note:, the chopper was at a furniture sales booth, it was not for sale.)
With the blanket on, I figured I could keep about half of the crap out of the water if I was careful – that was a success. But, there were still 20 pounds of that stuff in the pool – too much for Dude to take care of all by himself. So I got some of the other pool cleaning tools out and set to work.
But the good news is the second batch of chlorine shock has really cleared the water. It wasn’t quite warm enough for a swim, but the pool’s ready.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
So the last of these boring entries for the day. The place I had lunch, at dusk...a boat where there was a small party having dinner on one of the "Rio Taxis" (I like 'em but gawd I hope my group doesn't try to organize one of these)...and the approach to my hotel, which fortunately was visible from my seat in a restaurant, since I could not resist the margueritas.
Monday, June 8, 2009
We made our stop in Luray, but the two vendors we wanted to see weren’t there – there is a fellow that sells Page Valley honey and Mary wanted to get a few jars for hostess gifts, and there is a lady who makes wonderful beeswax hand soap that is scented with lavender that we really enjoy. With these two absent, we browsed the other booths, where Mary found some local jams to substitute for the honey, and from the same vendor, a nice bunch of asparagus which I grilled with corn and NY strips for dinner.
Then it was on to H-burg. I mentioned that Jesse, our general contractor, was out a couple of weeks back – we have a slate of small projects for him, including installing some folding doors on the hallway closet (we currently have curtains hanging there) and a new door on the master bedroom.
The bigger part of this group of projects is laying a new floor in the hallway, about 80 square feet. We were going to put down linoleum tile ourselves, but after shopping the Pergo we decided we liked it better. We’ve chosen a light colored Beech Block pattern, and we went down to Home Depot to buy what we needed. These photos are of the linoleum we were considering.
It turns out that a little more planning is due – there are several kinds of trim packages, including quarter rounds, leveling elements, etc., that need to be purchased at the same time to complete the installation. Because Pergo is a “floating floor” it is not mounted flush to the walls, as you do with linoleum. There is a quarter inch gap between the floors and walls, and this is typically filled with a silicon caulk-like project and covered over with the trim.
So we left without a purchase, just slightly better educated. We will work with Jesse to make the purchasing arrangements for the flooring, and he’s going to go ahead and start on the closet doors within the next couple of weeks.
Friday, June 5, 2009
He's a humorist and essayist, and these two books were a great read. The first is about his time as a volunteer first responder in New Auburn, WI; the second is his experience fixing his vintage International Harvester pick-up and other events during a year in the life.
I enjoyed these enough that I checked out his blog, thus the addition to the blogroll, and I am also following him on Facebook.
Finally, after a few preliminaries on Sunday morning, the last day of my vacation, I persuaded Mary and Barbara to go on a canoe float. The three of us once canoed from Elkton to Shenandoah on a spring weekend after staying at a PATC cabin down there, so I knew they were up for it and would enjoy it as I would. We also brought Barb’s 13 year old border collie Willie with us, and he rode in the canoe with them.
We went with Downriver Canoe Company (http://www.downriver.com/) in Bentonville for this one – we organized the trip in a car shuttle sort of way, so that Barbara could leave directly from the put-in at Compton Rapids. Here are three views from that area, where Downriver has a little campground. Then we all drove in one car up to the outfitter site – downriver has quite a few of these vans and there are always trailers loaded and ready to go with boats and canoes.
M and B paired up, with Willie, in a canoe – shown here as they set off. I followed in a kayak.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Our first stop after lunch was to take the short walk on the Storybook Trail to the Page Valley overlook. This is a great view from 1600 feet up or so across the valley to the ridge of Shenandoah National Park.
Finally, up in Toms Creek, we visited North Mountain Vineyard. It had turned out to be a very nice spring day despite the continued threat of thunderstorms, which is just the way it is in Northern Virginia this time of year. We sat out on the deck and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and the cheese plate, watching people come and go.