Ramble On

Friday, October 30, 2009

Clarendon Construction October 2009

Here with a monthly update on the progress with the two buildings going up near my office.

First, big mixed use building across the street. They've reached the top now, and it looks like this new addition is higher than anything else in the neighborhood. A lot of action going up around the penthouse - there may be more than one of them.
And this shot also shows some of the exterior detailing going on in the lower right.

Then the mid-block building. They are still down in the hole, but yesterday I did see concrete moldings getting moved around so fast progress with floor pouring is going to start happening.

Since these photos were taken two weeks ago, I've noticed that quite a bit more of the exterior moldings have been installed, and they are already working on duct work and interior infrastructure as high as the ninth floor. Yesterday morning they were installing exterior elevators so the could do masonry and detail work - I will try to get a photo of that in the next week or so.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The "New" Overall Run Bridge

Back in April 2008, I posted about the construction of a new span across Overall Run on US 340. The original post is here: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2008/04/bridge-construction.html . I also posted on the new bridge construction that had started at Jeremy’s Run, in Page County at Rileyville. It turned out that these were the two remaining bridges in Virginia that had used the same construction methodology as the bridge that failed in Minneapolis a few years ago, and they became high priorities for replacement.

For two years Mary and I have been passing by the old bridge at Overall Run, which was made into a sort of park – I heard somewhere that there is historical interest, but I am not sure where I heard that or why it would be so – maybe a regular reader could shed some light on this?

The highway bridge is paralleled by a rail span at this point, and Overall Run passes underneath from the east, joining the South Fork of the Shenandoah very close by – the river is visible from the bridge here. (I don't know what the blue tarp is in the picture, but you can see that it is set up right on the river bank there).
The little park features an old millstone and a highway marker that describes Page County and how it was formed. Overall Run marks the boundary of Page and Warren Counties.
Although I haven’t taken this hike, I’ve heard that Overall Run is a good hiking route. It doesn’t begin at the confluence or near this new bridge. I looked at the review on Hiking Upward, which is located here: http://www.hikingupward.com/SNP/OverallRun/ . It looks pretty good, and since it is 8.5 miles long with almost 2,000 feet of altitude gain, I would probably rate this one a moderate hike once I have done it.
Here is a short quote from Hiking Upward:
“ The Overall Run circuit passes one of the largest continuous waterfalls in Virginia. The trails also go through valley streams and meadows, no wonder this loop is another local hiker favorite. With Beecher Ridge having one of the highest concentrations of Black Bears in the park, this is one hike where you may still catch a glimpse of a bear in the wild.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Compton Peak: An Easy SNP Day Hike

Last month, on my vacation in early September, I did this short, 2.4 mile out-and-back of Compton Peak at the recommendation of Ranger Mike at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. This little hike is in the North District of the Park with a trailhead off of Skyline Drive, but I forgot to note the milepost; if I recall correctly, it is near Indian Run Overlook.

This trail includes a short part of the AT, and while I rate it as easy, it does include a climb of more than 800 feet.
At the summit of Compton Peak, there is a crossroads to overlook hikes to the right and left – the one to the right has better views, looking out on the Shenandoah Valley, while the one on the left is a bit overgrown with forest and looks over the Park, and you descend 200 feet to get to it. However, I’ve subsequently learned from neighbor Dan that the one on the left has a significant geological feature that I did not see while I was there.

Frequent Park and Valley visitors will recognize the name Compton – it is the name of a little borough on US 340, and there is a rapids on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River going through here. I was surprised to find there also was a mountain that shared the name.
According to the Heatwole guide (URL is http://ajheatwole.com/guide/log1/log12.htm) the exposed rock on this hike are Catoctin lava, which can be seen throughout the Park.
There are large boulders along the trail, including basalt, and as you approach the summit, the path is covered with the rocks. I was worried in this section for a couple of reasons – it was the beginning of leaves falling so there were slippery places, and in general I am very wary of the potential for snakes resting on sunny rocks in the Park.

As far as the geologic features at the second overlook, I am going to quote directly from the Heatwole guide:

“…it's rather rough and rocky, and the last part of it is quite steep. If you skip it you can shorten the hike by 0.4 mile, and reduce the total climb by 230 feet. But I recommend that you go anyway, to see a fine example of columnar jointing. (This particular rock raised my interest in geology from near zero to the threshold of enthusiasm. Maybe it will do the same for you.)
"Follow the blue blazes downhill to a boulder that rises ten or fifteen feet directly in front of you. Climb to the top. There's a view directly ahead, out into the Piedmont. The Blue Ridge goes to the right, with a good stretch of Skyline Drive, including Jenkins Gap Overlook, in view. Straight out from this rock, The Peak rises beyond the near ridge. At the right of your view are the two summits of Mount Marshall.

"The blue blazes continue down the left side of the rock you're standing on, but I consider that route a little dangerous. To be cautious, climb down the rock the way you climbed up, and then go around it. You'll promptly pick up the blue blazes again. Follow them for about 50 yards, steeply downhill, to the base of the cliff. Then look up. The lava cracked into these prismatic columns when it cooled, some 800 million years ago. The thrusting force that formed these mountains tilted the columns to their present angle. During subsequent erosion, the downhill side of the cliff crumbled away, so that you now look up at the lower ends of the giant prisms.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tech-watch geek: Those GPS Trek-tools

This post is not exactly about a tech watch, but I’m categorizing it with that label, since it is about similar gear.

Yesterday my buddy Chris told me he was looking into a "Spot" GPS tool yesterday – these are the devices that can journalize your location on a map, and also send out a 9-1-1 call if you run into an emergency. Coincidentally, I came across this interesting news story about using the locators on Sunday.

“FRESNO, Calif. - Last month two men and their teenage sons tackled one of the world's most unforgiving summertime hikes: the Grand Canyon's parched and searing Royal Arch Loop. Along with bedrolls and freeze-dried food, the inexperienced backpackers carried a personal locator beacon — just in case.

In the span of three days, the group pushed the panic button three times, mobilizing helicopters for dangerous, lifesaving rescues inside the steep canyon walls.

What was that emergency? The water they had found to quench their thirst "tasted salty."
If they had not been toting the device that works like “Onstar” hikers, "we would have never attempted this hike," one of them said after the third rescue crew forced them to board their chopper. It's a growing problem facing the men and women who risk their lives when they believe others are in danger of losing theirs.”

By the way, from the NPS Grand Canyon website, here are the warnings about the Royal Arch Loop trail: “…The Royal Arch Loop is appropriate for experienced canyon hikers only, walkers who have paid their dues and acquired the appropriate wilderness skills, whose experience allows proper rigging of rappel anchors, and who can easily and safely rope down vertical cliffs. For such people the Royal Arch Loop offers a top drawer canyon adventure, replete with more natural beauty than humans can absorb. For those lacking the required skill and judgment this hike offers about a million ways to get into serious trouble in a remote part of the Grand Canyon.”

I’ve actually been thinking about these products to add to my gear while I continue exploring the hikes of Shenandoah National Park. I’ve enjoyed posting hike reviews on the Hawksbill Cabin site and have even considered compiling them into some sort of a guide, recognizing that they need a bit of technical enhancement information that gear like this could provide.

In my research I checked the Outside magazine gear guide to see if any of these accessories were reviewed or recommended there – none were. Chris had read a number of reviews, most of which indicated that there was trouble with the devices – not in the emergency call mode, but because the map tracking element failed to transmit – something you wouldn’t find out about until you returned from your adventure. Imagine returning from your once in a lifetime trip (one that you were well prepared for, not like our hikers above) only to find the GPS marker from where you saw the grizzly on Denali hadn’t been recorded, or your swordfish mark off Saipan was not to be found?

Maybe it’s a gene pool thing, heading out unprepared like this, trusting in one’s own resourcefulness to stay safe, but it’s just common sense to realize that these devices aren’t going to replace good preparation for a rigorous hike. That’s coming from someone who won’t even do Old Rag without a shakedown hike to prepare – and it is patrolled by qualified volunteers (see http://oldragpatrolsbyrsl-blook.blogspot.com/ for more information about what these folks do). It can't be underestimated, how important it is to know your own limits and limitations.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Foliage Walk

Mary and I managed to get out for a short walk around the neighborhood this weekend. We walked about two miles, roughly following one of our old dog walking circuits, taking in the fall foliage - just peaking here in town. During the day on Saturday and Sunday there was a chorus of leaf blowers.

The Rosemont neighborhood of Alexandria was developed starting around 1920 as a streetcar neighborhood, an early commuter suburb of Washington, DC. So a couple of the streets have median strips which is actually where the old tracks and stations were. Nearby local industry included a rail yard, and railway workers (or managers and executives as you climb the hill) lived in many of the houses here.
The George Washington Masonic Memorial is one of our landmarks as well, shown in the photo here, up on "Shooters Hill."

Today we are privileged to have a few 70-year old oaks left that were originally planted as the neighborhood was being built. There is also one majestic elm in the neighborhood that dates to that time, although I don't have a photo of it. I will be sure to get one over the course of the next year, as it is stressed like all the trees, and there just aren't many elms like it around - not just in Alexandria, but in the country as a whole.

In addition to the trees, we walked by a couple of "famous" houses. This first one, the colonial, was used as a location in "West Wing" a few times - I believe it was where the Alan Alda character lived. It's funny, the exterior probably never had more than a few seconds of air time, but they filmed here at least twice and the production activity lasted two days both times.

This second house, the picturesque and charming little bungalow, was featured in a book called "Bungalow Nation" a few years back. (The book image will take you to an Amazon link.) While I didn't pose this one to capture all the fall foliage that surrounds it this week, you can see from the cover what it might look like.

We also walked by the little townhouse where we lived before we moved into our current gabled bungalow. I didn't get a photo, but we both agreed that it was a good place, and was a place where we wouldn't mind living again if we downsized from the current house.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beer Anxiety

We are having a few friends over tonight. In addition to a spread of ribs and sides, I need to buy beer, and I am planning to have two cases there...When it comes to beer there really isn't much that scares me. Oh sure, I've had some unpleasant experiences.

Once in Paris, I got hold of some year old bocks that were deep in the bar's cooler. Those gave me some miserable hiccups that lasted all night. I can hardly remember where else I might have gone in Paris after those. We started in the Latin Quarter and there was a taxi ride or two and I remember a disco. And I remember we had to wake the doorman up to get back into the hotel. So much for that adventure.
Another time, I had a Moretti with lunch. I only had one. But I failed to note that it was 18 proof, meaning 9 percent alcohol. Needless to say, I thought I was a lightweight back at the office when I couldn't concentrate the rest of the afternoon! But that was when I decided no beer at lunch anymore.
Oh, and then there is the story of how we talked our German bartender Nada into adding Pilsner Urquel to go with the smoked beer she traditionally served. That's a long tale, and since it occurred during Reagan's reelection campaign and I wouldn't be able to resist political commentary, I'll save it for later.

I would like to buy one of those mini-kegs but I would only do it if I can find a German beer. I am thinking, Bitburger or Tucher or something like that. Just can't do the Heinecken thing, although I am glad they are carrying on the concept.

My usual beer store in Alexandria is the Total Beverage, you can get just about anything there, but traffic to it is bad and would add about 45 minutes of unpleasantness to what is already a very challenging task. I decided to go to Shoppers instead, they share distributors and they have one of those big frigerated rooms for all the beers.

...I'm back now. Not too much agonizing. I did, however, buy 8 six packs, shown in the photo. I have a Helles Lager, a blonde bock and Shiners, an assortment of ales including some seasonal ones.

And oh yeah, there will likely be leftovers. But that's part of the plan. Just don't tell Mary.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Top Dawg

Since Gracie passed away last month, we have been a little worried about Sofie. We've always thought she was older than Gracie, maybe by a year or two. (And we've always hypothesized that she might have had a litter of puppies before we got her, but we don't know that for sure.)

For the first week or so after Gracie died, Sofie didn't want to go too far on her walks. In fact, Mary told me she would dig in before losing sight of the house, constantly looking back for something. This could have been the new routine, walking without the other dog, but Sofie also has a little arthritis in her paws that probably make walking painful.

We've had another recent change in her routines as well - Mary took a new job downtown and isn't here for a mid-day break. So we have hired a walker.

At first, Sofie wasn't very responsive to this; it took a while. She might not leave the deck in the back when our walker was here, for example. It just took her some time to get used to the change.

This week the walker left a note. He said that now Sofie will go down into the yard when he asks her too, or that she will come with him for a short walk. She also now greets him at the door.

That's a relief. We know she grieved for a while too after Gracie, but like we are, she's coming around.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Buy one or two to beautify your home..."

It’s funny that our last two home improvement purchases have been made in pairs – one by me, and one by Mary. I’d like to start out talking about mine.

Here they are, carefully positioned on the couch. I bought these two, hologram-certified, Coleman camo thermal pillows to use around the Hawksbill Cabin during the winter for warmth. Apparently the foam filling is designed to retain body heat and they are useful in hunting blinds, ice fishing camps, and the like. I’ll mainly use them sitting in my folding chair out on the brick terrace on cold mornings and evenings. But they do fit right in with the living room color scheme, don’t they?

The second purchase was these two bar stools that Mary found at an antique store in Alexandria. They fit the era of our other furnishings, although they are later in the Mid-Century time frame. We replaced two cheap stools that we had gotten at Wal-Mart with these. They are quite a bit more comfortable even though they are an inch or two lower than the others.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Byrne's two-wheeled assault

My coffee stop in the morning is actually a book store chain. Recently I noticed David Byrne's new book, "Bicycle Diaries" on the new releases table - the image here will link you to the Amazon page. I'd heard about this book and enjoyed leafing through the pages - and it's on my reading list.

Mary and I have known about Byrne's passion for bike riding since the 2004 show we took in at the Birchmere here in Alexandria. She was coming out of the restroom when David arrived from biking to the show - the doorman wasn't letting him in because of how he was dressed and because of his general appearance, clearly in "warm down" mode. Here's a quote from the journal entry about that show, and a link to the post: "...I ride my bike to the venue in Alexandria...it's a nice ride along the river, leading past the Ronald Reagan Airport and then out to tree-lined residential neighborhoods..." http://journal.davidbyrne.com/2004/06/6104_washington.html

Bike rides are a common thread in David's blog so I am not surprised that he had accumulated enough material there to be the foundation of a book. It turns out that bike riding is also his primary mode of transportation in Manhattan, where he lives - he's been a rider for 30 years. He has a number of recent projects centered on the theme, including those new bike racks in NYC.

I also caught a couple of book reviews in Outside magazine and National Geographic Adventure magazine this month, following the release. Besides the typical interviews about the book and bike riding experiences, there is some insight into how Byrne thinks about the cities he has been to as a bike riding experience, and for general "bikability:"

  • Classic urban centers: New York and San Francisco
  • Emerging, few bike paths but good possibilities: Rochester and Pittsburgh
  • Chaotic, challenging old world cities: Rome and London
  • Memorable, great rides where least expected: Detroit and Istanbul

I'm looking forward to picking up the book for a read soon. I have a couple on the list ahead of it just yet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Return to Blackrock

I mentioned in some previous posts that our intention on Saturday was to do a relatively aggressive hike on Saturday, taking in Jones Run Falls (42') and the Doyles River Falls (28' and 63') in the Southern District of Shenandoah National Park. With the foreboding forecast - depending on what source you consulted, the temperatures might fall to near freezing, with accompanying precip - Chris and I decided to change our plans rather than taking in a four-hour plus 7 mile hike.

After stopping by to visit Howard at Evergreen Outfitters in Luray we headed down to Rockfish Gap in Waynesboro to make our way to the trailhead. I picked up a new pair of Vasques from Howard, shown in the picture of me here at the Blackrock summit. We did make a stop at the outfitters at Rockfish Gap, too, enjoying a leisurely and thorough browse of their exhaustive store, but making no purchases - this time.

Then it was up into the Park for our short hike to Blackrock Summit - this route is only a mile roundtrip, so I didn't even bring a pack, only a small bottle of water. Chris went in full gear, as can be seen in the photo of him in the rock gap. He was disappointed to find that the scale of this passage was exactly human, somehow he had gotten the impression that this was a giant rock formation from my previous photos.

We spent a lot of time just below the summit scrambling on the quartzite formations, and then we climbed to the top and hung out for a while. We were finally interrupted by the storm warning on his Suunto, as the barometric pressure dropped sharply and clouds started moving in, shown in a couple of these photos.

We quickly got off the mountain, returning to the parking area via the AT. It started raining by the time we reached the car. We stopped by the Loft Mountain Wayside for some chili before making our way home.

As shown in the photos I posted yesterday and in this blog post here: http://oldragpatrolsbyrsl-blook.blogspot.com/2009/10/wilderness-weekend-sun-10182009.html, the rain that started on Saturday night eventually turned to a pretty, light and envigorating snowfall.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Side Trip to Crisman Hollow

However you spell it, taking the drive over Massanutten Mountain and turning off onto Crisman Hollow road is a nice adventure. With the wintry morning on Sunday, would-be visitors to Skyline Drive were turned away, and a few of them ended up on foilage tours here in the George Washington National Forest.

Since Mary didn't come out this weekend, due to a couple of work deadlines she was working on, Chris joined me. We had originally intended to do a longer hike in the South District of SNP - an 8-mile, 3-waterfall hike that combined Jones Run and Doyles River, but with the constant threat of rain or worse we ended up bagging that plan, opting for a shorter route I will post later.

On both mornings we headed over to New Market's Southern Kitchen for breakfast. On Sunday, we detoured back to the Hawksbill Cabin, driving via Edinburg and Fort Valley, crossing back over Massanutten through Crisman Hollow and New Market Gap.

One of my favorite stops in there is Passage Creek, which is how the stream that drains the north half of the mountain is known. I've posted some photos of this stream before - it is a Virginia stocked trout stream from October 15 to March 15. Here are a few more, including one of Chris perched up on a rock.

We expected a bit more water in the stream due to the steady rain that had fallen, but there wasn't much to speak of. However, the stream had enough of a flow to produce a happy little burble in the area we visited.

Winter Blast

In the mid-Atlantic area, we were treated to some harsh, early winter weather over the weekend. Temperatures in the 30's and 40's were common, accompanied by a low pressure system that dumped a lot of rain.

Out in our little neck of the woods, awakening Sunday morning for a drive to the Southern Kitchen in New Market (post tomorrow), we saw snow coating the trees and rocks of the higher elevations in Shenandoah National Park. Here are a few photos I took on Sunday morning looking up to the heights, all in the vicinity of Hawksbill and Stonyman mountains.

After breakfast, we took a circuitous route back to the Hawksbill Cabin via Edinburg and Crissman Hollow. The Massanutten Mountain is about 1,000 feet shorter on average than the two peaks across the Valley, but a light snow had fallen there as well. It seemed that the snow line was at the very top over there, however.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Letter to the USDA regarding Page County's Project Clover

This week was the deadline for public comment on a prospective USDA loan to fund a large land purchase in Page County. Here is the letter I wrote; I would like to see industrial development but I disagree with the purchase that is currently being considered.

October 14, 2009
James H. A. ,
USDA Rural Development Office1934 Deyerle Ave Suite DHarrisonburg, VA 22801

Dear Mr. A.:
I am writing in response to the request for comments advertised in the Harrisonburg Daily News Record on September 16, 2009, regarding the USDA loan request for Project Clover in Page County, Virginia. There are several land use, environmental, alternative locations, and due diligence reasons that this loan should be denied.

Land Use: The location and character of the project is not a use that fits the nature of the agricultural setting where it is now planned. Converting prime farmland to industrial use is in conflict with the mission statement of the USDA, especially when there are alternative sites available for this purpose.

As far as transportation access goes to this site, it has no road frontage to a major highway and is separated from the US interstate highway system by a mountain range. The parcel is accessed by a steep two-lane road that exits off of the US 340 South Business bypass. To the north, US 340 is not expandable to four lanes due to the terrain it passes through; to the south, the road passes through a town before joining US 340 or access to US 211. It is very difficult to see how the transportation of any industrial output from potential industrial operations could be economically transported to market; it is equally doubtful that input/component goods could be delivered economically to this location.

Finally, the needed utilities for development on this scale are not in place, and are not planned to be built in the near future. The neighboring town of Stanley is known to have function and capacity problems with its utilities, especially sewer, and this site’s location within the Shenandoah River watershed make this an even more important consideration.

Environmental: The Project Clover parcel is located in an area identified as Karst geology. To the public’s knowledge, no investigation of this condition has been made to assess potential impact of industrial development and use on this type of geology. At the minimum, an assessment of potential aquifer impacts and future impacts to the Shenandoah watershed should be conducted to determine whether there are existing underground problems, to identify potential undesirable impacts, and mitigating steps that should be taken in case this development is pursued in the end.

Alternative Locations: Within the central part of Page County, there are several other large parcels on the market that offer better access to transportation networks and utility infrastructure, and there are existing industrial/brown field sites that can be reprogrammed for these purposes, likely at a much lower cost and risk than this parcel.

I agree with the insight offered by long-term residents that the selection of a location closer to the town of Luray is more suitable. Utility infrastructure, including water and sewer, are in place and there is access to US Route 211, a four- lane highway that links to Interstate 81. Rail access is available there as well, with an existing spur for potential businesses. This capacity sits unused. Additional land along the Rte 211 corridor is available, and land along the juncture of Rte 211 and Rte 340 is available.

Due Diligence: The petition of nearly 2,000 local citizens and their attendance at so many public hearings on this matter demonstrate that there is a broad consensus disapproving this purchase and the idea of developing this site for this purpose. There is general agreement that something should be done to encourage industrial development, but there is general recognition that this site is not a good choice.

Other than the reasons land use and environmental issues listed above, this concern boils down to financial and fiscal issues: simply that county’s involvement in this loan is not justified due to the lack of a business case, no appraisal of the land’s value to secure the loan, and no alternative sources of funds to repay the loan. By Page County EDAs own assessment, there have only been five or six inquiries about relocating to the County in the last three years, and Page County was not selected in any of those cases. In my opinion, these decisions are driven by basic economics of the location here rather than the lack of developable sites; to purchase this land for future development seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse, especially when no known relocation prospects are currently in the pipeline.

For additional background, I am enclosing a letter to the editor of the Page County News and Courier that was recently published. In this letter, I reviewed and analyzed the County’s strategic plan for development, and found that this rushed decision to purchase Project Clover actually conflicts with the findings and recommendations of that plan.

Please consider these factors and deny this loan. Failing that, I ask that you recognize that meaningful public comment requires public access to information, which has been lacking in this case. While non-disclosure agreements are frequently an element of business negotiations, there must be a limit to their purview and application when it comes to committing public funds for a use such as this, and Page County and the EDA have made access to relevant public documents such as the following difficult:

1. Lists and analyses of other sites, evaluation criteria and site evaluations.
2. Documents relied upon to establish a price for the relevant property and comparisons to other potential sites.
3. All purchase documents and amendments.
4. RDA loan application documents
5. The fiscal impact statement and analysis of total project costs over its lifetime, if any.
6. Traffic studies
7. Cultural resource study

This documentation should be made readily available to the concerned citizens of Page County, and once that step has been taken, the RDA 30 day comment period should be reset to begin after the last document is posted.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to your consideration of this loan request. If you would like to discuss the content of this letter further, please contact me by email at jt@.com.


J. Turner

Heritage Festival Wrap Up

Following up on Wednesday's post about the Heritage Festival...

According to the brochure, this year's festival featured:
  • local crafts and homemade goodies
  • antique tractor, steam and gas engine show
  • exhibitions of wheat thrashing, log sawing, large steam engine, corn chopper, corn husker, and feed grinding
  • antique cars
  • blacksmiths
  • spinning wheel
  • white oak baskets
  • garden club
  • cider, apples, and apple butter
  • pottery making
  • Shenandoah National Park history

The antique tractors are always placed right at the entrance to the fairground, so you see them on the way in and out. This year some of the exhibits were rearranged and so there was a continuous driving display on a circuit throughout the grounds - a few of these photos are of tractors taken when they were on the loop.

Two distinctive brands that I always see well represented at this festival are Allis-Chalmers and Deere, so I looked them up on Wikipedia. Here’s a summary of their stories:

Allis-Chalmers first entered the manufacturing business in Milwaukee as E.P. Allis in the 1840s. They made waterwheel, sawmill and grindstones. While originally incorporated in Delaware, the company soon became a major manufacturer of steam engines and industrial equipment in the Milwaukee area after merging with other firms—Fraser & Chalmers were a large steel and mining retort manufacturer. Allis-Chalmers entered into the farm equipment business in 1914 at about the time of WWI, and played a role in WWII with equipment for uranium separation for the Manhattan Project, submarine motors, and steam engines for the Liberty ships.

There was a man in Luray who had a large collection of bright orange A-C tractors that he built up over 30 years of collecting and restoring. Among his prized vehicles was a road grader, one of only six or seven known to have survived. He recently retired from collecting and auctioned off a number of his vehicles, you can now see them all over the Valley as the sudden access via the auction was very popular. So there were a few of them at the fest this year too.

Everybody knows about Deere & Company, brand name John Deere. It is a leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery, a Fortune 500 company, and there are always a number of the distinctive green and yellow tractors on display at the fest. They also make construction equipment, but I didn’t see any at the fest this year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

USA 2 - Costa Rica 2: World Cup Qualifying

My friend Stan and I went to the USA soccer match last night at RFK Stadium. He takes in a few DC United games a year and I have gone with him to a few. Last night was the final game in the qualifying round, USA already had secured a berth in the games next year in South Africa and Costa Rica needed to win in order to secure an automatic bid.

With two unanswered goals in the first half, it looked like the Ticos, as they are called, would do just that. Late in the second half, the US team began to respond. They scored the second goal in "injury time" - after the official 90 minutes have clicked off of the clock.

This was a great time, as all the soccer games I have attended were. Here are views of the 23,000 plus fans in the stadium from our seats amongst all the Costa Rica fans. Then some "Sam's Army" fans dressed up in soccer regala before the game - there was a cold drizzle going so most people waited under cover before taking their seats. Lastly, where there is smoke, there must have been a USA goal - in this case, after the second score.

By this time, Stan and I had moved to an area called "the Beach" - it was very close to a place where we could enjoy Modelo quarts...and italian sausages.
My read of it is that USA goes into the World Cup with the number 1 seed from its qualifying group. There are benefits to this, but I have to find out more about it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Visiting the Page County Heritage Festival

Author's Comment: If you are reaching this page from the Page County Watch Blog, welcome and thanks for reading! This blog provides a weekender's view of Page County living...there are some posts here that fit with the spirit of the Watch blog - click the "Page County Economy" label in the right hand column for those. I've also got a series on "Project Clover" and the potential Fibrowatt plant - both are labels in the right hand column (and below). If you would like to go to the most recent posts, click http://www.hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/ . Also, you might check Keith Stoneberger's lurayva.com blog, which is one of the links on the Watch blog page. Best, Jim

Original Post:
On Sunday we had a wonderful fall day so Mary and I decided to head over to the Page County Heritage Festival. We haven't missed this event since we started coming out to the Hawksbill Cabin - this festival is a celebration of the traditional rural lifestyle that has made up the county since its founding.

The festival is one fundraising activity of the Page County Heritage Association (http://www.pagecountyheritage.com/), which oversees the preservation of Calendine, a local historic residence of William Randolph Barbee - a notable classic sculptor, the Mauck Meeting House , originally Union Church - built of pine logs and chestnut shingles, and the Massanutten School, which dates to the Civil War era.

We divided our time at the fest between searching out lunch and watching the sawmills at work. For lunch, we had carolina-style barbeque pork sandwiches and peach cobbler, finishing it off with some kettle corn. Then we settled in to watch the antique sawmills working on a large oak log, as shown in the highlight photos here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Miller's Head: An Easy SNP Day Hike

Despite the blustery early fall weather (and the promise of a crowd of fall foilage toursits) Mary and I decided to head up into the Park for a little hike. We chose Miller's Head, with its trailhead in the parking lot of the Skyline lodges, as our route. It's in the Easy Day Hikes book, but we didn't realize it until we were on the trail that we had done part of it a couple of times in the past.

We actually walked down to the trailhead from the Skyland dining rooom, adding negligible distance to the hike but retracing the route we took on the weekend we stayed here when we first got to know about Luray. Here's Mary on that portion of the trail (hat, jacket, and hiking pants - all from Evergreen Outfitters. Hi Howard!)

This is a short trail, less than 2 miles found trip, leading along a ridgeline to an observation platform that overlooks Page Valley. Along the way, there are the typical forested jumbles of greenstone, which is usually covered with a patina of green lichen in this part of the Park.
There is also some communications infrastructure along the trail in the early part, just before you reach a little rock terrace that gives a look to the northwest and west down into the Valley, shown in the next two photos. In the first, you can clearly see Lake Arrowhead; the second is more of the view over Luray looking towards the New Market Gap.
From the overlook there is a 180 degree view that spans over to Tanners Ridge and includes Stanley. Since it was a bit cloudy and overcast, we couldn't clearly make out landmarks, but here you can see Ida Loop Road cutting back towards Marksville, it's likely our little house is somewhere in this view.
On the way back to the trailhead, I noticed a little spur to the south, which led once again to a ridge with a view. Only this time, the trees opened up, and you're treated to this perspective of Hawksbill Mountain, the highest peak in the Park (and the one that the Hawksbill Cabin is named after, since it dominates our view as we turn into the neighborhood).
We were surprised during our time in Skyland - we ran into our neighbor, Ranger Sally - giving a presentation in the lodge on black bears. She had an impressive array of artifacts, including a cast of a paw print, some taxidermy items, skull and jawbone mock-ups, and rubber scat. The thing that most grabbed my attention was an ice chest that had been mauled by a determined bear. There were at least 20 people taking in the program, and we joined late and casually.
We also ran into Ranger Sally a short while later, leading another group out on the Millers Head hike. We were on our way back in then, so we just waved at her as we passed by.
All in all, a pleasant hike, not too demanding, with the best part the views of Page Valley.