July 31, 2008

Making Hay

As we walked across the pedestrian bridge at the James River Water Gap, we met a couple who told us to notice the farmers making hay on the other side of the river. Indeed, it was interesting to watch. One machine cuts the hay and lays it in long curving rows. Then a second machine drives over the rows and gathers the hay and forms round bales.

And as you can see, the sun shines...

See the illustrated description at KidsFarm.com

July 30, 2008

The James River Water Gap

You could easily drive right by the James River Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 63.6) thinking it was just another overlook. But don't miss it - the view of the James is lovely!

James River Geology tells us that the James starts where the Cowpasture River meets the Jackson River. Long ago it cut its way through the Blue Ridge. Eventually it flows past Richmond and winds up at Jamestown.

Otter Creek

pondThis is the pond behind a dam on Otter Creek (also seen in the video below).

It's not far from the James River water gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a very pleasant area, scenic and peaceful.

We considered stopping for lunch at the nearby restaurant but the menu was limited to just sandwiches, so I drove on to Country Cookin' in Lexington where they have a buffet. The main dishes are not great there but you can get your entire day's requirement of vegetables (5) in one meal, and I really wanted some veggies.

Glimpse of Otter Creek

Click the arrow on the video for a brief look at Otter Creek and a small dam. This view is visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

July 29, 2008

Around the Lake

Before we left Peaks of Otter, we walked around Abbott Lake. It's not very far, just over a mile. And the weather was perfect!

July 28, 2008

Sharp Top and Flat Top

Can you tell which of these mountains is Sharp Top and which is Flat Top?

Peaks of Otter, Virginia

A Garden Bridge

It's easy to forget that the Blue Ridge Parkway had landscape designers, but at Peaks of Otter Lodge it is apparent. The walkways curve gently and there are some classic garden features like a Japanese bridge. Frank likes these graceful bridges and loves the ones that you see in Monet's paintings.

bridge and trees

Lodging from Long Ago

Near the dam at Abbott Lake is this cabin that was the 1830's version of the Peaks of Otter Lodge. A National Park Service sign identifies it as:

Polly Woods' Ordinary
Built in the early 1800's, this simple mountain cabin was operated as an inn, or "ordinary", from about 1830 until about 1850. Here the widowed Polly Woods catered to the "ordinary" needs of the weary mountain traveler -- a hot meal, a comfortable bed, and a place to stable his horse. Originally located 150 yards to the west, the building was moved to its present site in 1964.

July 27, 2008

A Straight Rail Fence

This is one of the fences at Peaks of Otter Lodge. I know (from my site statistics) that many folks are interested in building split rail fences. See CedarSplitRails.com for illustrations showing how to build a fence like this.

Frank at the lake, Peaks of Otter

Abbott Lake is a wonderfully peaceful place at dusk. We were glad to be spending a night there.

However, before you rush to reserve a room at Peaks of Otter Lodge, let me warn you: There is no phone, TV, radio, or internet in the regular guest rooms. We did not even get a cell phone signal!

Within walking distance is a restaurant and gift shop building which has a lounge with a TV and phone, so you are not totally without communications.

Our room was comfortable so I can recommend it as long as the lack of internet access doesn't send you into withdrawal. (To me, not having television is a pleasant change.)

The restaurant has a nice view of the lake. I was disappointed in the food because my prime rib came saturated in black pepper. Since I am allergic to pepper and it was cooked in it, I had to return it. I had turkey instead, which was the real thing (not deli turkey) although it was a bit saltier than I like. The service was a little slow but the staff was friendly.

Not a Deer Lawn Ornament

This is a real deer at Peaks of Otter Lodge. She is not far from some folks who were sitting in lawn chairs, but she didn't get any closer.
hotel with deer on lawnIt is illegal to feed the deer but not everyone knows that, and some deer beg for food by approaching the lodge and looking expectantly. I watched her look up at a balcony until someone tossed something down at her... it reminded me of folks at a Zydeco show begging for Mardi Gras beads.

The deer only let you walk up to about 25 or 30 feet of them; then they saunter off. I used a zoom for the photo below.

July 26, 2008

The View from a Room at Peaks of Otter Lodge

I stepped out the back door of our room to show you what you see from the lodge at Peaks of Otter.

The Sounds of Abbott Lake

Evening falls at Abbott Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia. Listen for the birds and frogs. Watch for Sharp Top Mountain, one of the "peaks" at Peaks of Otter.

July 25, 2008

The Blue Ridge Parkway

We entered the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roanoke. It's convenient from I-81 but not the most scenic way to start off a ride on the Parkway. Roanoke's urban sprawl approaches the Parkway, and portions of the parkway near Roanoke look rather suburban. It wasn't always like this.

But as we drove to higher elevations, the Parkway took on the look that I loved as a child, natural and beautiful.
Frank asked how is the Parkway different from Skyline Drive. I thought of three things:
  1. The Parkway has no admission charge.
  2. There are wooden guardrails along the road instead of stone walls.
  3. It is not in a national park, although much of it is inside national forest boundaries.

July 24, 2008

Evening at Abbott Lake

lake at night
As Seen from Peaks of Otter Lodge, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia.

July 23, 2008

Railroad Bridge over the New River

After reuniting Frank's grandsons with their mother at the Radford exit, we decided to drive through the town. "Anything you want to see?" Frank asked.

I didn't know what was there to see although I recalled that there was a river. "If you see a Civil War Trails marker, pull off!" was my response.

trail and signWithin a few minutes we saw the familiar sign with an arrow indicating there was a Civil War Marker down the road to the left. We followed it to a large riverfront park called Bisset Park. The marker turned out to be at the left (western) end of the park, past a picnic shelter.
Attack on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad.

It starts out "On May 10, 1864, the day after defeating Confederate forces in the bloody battle of Cloyd's Mountain, Union Gen. George Crook's Army of the Kanawha attacked and burned this railroad bridge over the New River. During the Civil War, the railroad was a major strategic resource, allowing the rapid massing of troops and the long-distance delivery of food and munitions. U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's plans for a Union offensive on all fronts in 1864 led to the destruction of this important 780-foot bridge."

To summarize the rest, the Federals did not destroy the stone piers because they lacked explosives. Within a month the bridge was rebuilt, only to be attacked again the following April, just three days before Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

I walked beyond the marker to a place where I could see the river, and there I saw the current railroad bridge and the piers of the previous one.

Informative Article: Geology and the Civil War: Union Raiders
Maps: The Riverway (PDF) (Waterfront Path)
GIS map of Radford, VA

The New River at Radford

New River in VirginiaApparently rafting and tubing are popular summer activities in Radford, VA. 

Unlike the rivers I'm used to in most parts of Virginia, the New River flows northwestward. It winds up at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, where it joins the Kanawha, which eventually joins the Ohio River. (We saw those places on a Civil War field trip in 2006.)

July 22, 2008

An Update

First, thanks for the comments on the photos. I'll go back to posting pictures after this brief update on Frank's visit to the doctor yesterday.

It was a stressful morning. We got up at 7 AM to get ready, but at 8:30 we got a call from Dr. Richman's office saying that their electricity was down so they had to postpone his appointment until another day. An hour later they called to say that the power was back on and Frank could still come in at 10. Unfortunately, this was impossible because it's a one-hour drive and that only gave us 30 minutes. At first they told me that we'd have to schedule for another day, but I put Frank on the phone and they agreed to see him at 11:45.

We had the appointment. I went with him to lend support and make sure he didn't miss hearing anything. (Frank cannot hear high tones including certain letter sounds like S so sometimes he can only guess at what someone says.)

PC can be a serious condition, even post-surgery in many cases. A PSA test every four months tracks his condition. Unfortunately, his PSA continues to rise so the doctor scheduled some tests for next week. If they don't show anything, we wait another four months.

Group Photo

Justin, Kate, Austin, Frank

July 21, 2008

They Missed their Mom!

We met Kate at the Radford exit off I-81. Originally we planned to meet at Fancy Gap, which is near the North Carolina state line. But it took us a lot longer to make the trip than Google maps predicted, plus we got on the road a little late because we had to take Ben to the kennel and stop at the bank, and we had to make some extra pit stops for our smallest person. 

By the time we left Natural Bridge, Kate was already waiting in Fancy Gap. I talked to her via cell phone and she decided to drive closer to where we were.  When our mile markers got close together, we decided on the Radford exit. The boys were really excited to see their mother, and she was all smiles!

They headed back toward South Carolina and we made a brief tour of Radford. I had made reservations to stay at the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway so we did not have to hurry home. 

Lunch with Kong and Elvis

Elvis and Austin
On our way to take the boys to their mom, we stopped for lunch near Natural Bridge (Virginia). We've been to the Pink Cadillac Diner before and I knew the food is okay and the atmosphere is amusing. In fact, I remember when the diner was located near Lynn's house in Greenville, but it's been south of Lexington for years now.

Out front we were greeted by a King Kong statue. A pickup truck in the parking lot had what appeared to be a dinosaur in the back, probably belonging to nearby Dinosaur Kingdom. Inside the decor is a nostalgic tribute to old movies, rock and roll, and comics.

The boys decided to order the Elvis Burger. I asked them what they know about Elvis and they said "Not much." Then 9-year old Justin lowered his voice and said, "Thank ya... thank ya very much!"

Holding On

The boys tried the resort's climbing wall. The handholds were a bit too far apart for a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old but they gave it a good try.

July 20, 2008

Tubing at Bryce

Even Frank and I made a couple of trips down the tubing runs. It's fun when the tube spins around and bumps the sides -- and all you can do it hold on!

July 19, 2008

Ready for Mountain Tubing

Austin Leads the Way Up the Slope

Trampoline Plus

We took Frank's grandsons down to Bryce Mountain's core area, which is down the hill from our house. Here you see Austin (right) and Justin (below) on the bungee ride. After being weighed and harnessed, they bounced on a trampoline and were assisted by the bungee device so that they could jump really high.

July 18, 2008

Tennis, Sort of

We took the boys to one of the old tennis courts. The resort has new courts also, next to this one near the Old Pro Shop. But the old one does not require reservations.

Who Let that Dog on the Bed?

Austin, Justin, and Scamp

July 17, 2008

The Boys are Back in So. Carolina

We returned Frank's grandsons to their mom yesterday. I still have a bunch of pictures of their visit to post so expect to see a few more before I go on to our next adventure.

They really missed their mother. They spent a week with their grandmother Alice before visiting us so they were away from home for a long time.

Fun Center

We took the boys to the Stoney Creek Roller Rink and Fun Center in Woodstock. Austin roller-skated a bit while Justin tried some video games. Then both boys played games and eventually tried laser tag. Justin beat Frank at air hockey.

Admission to the fun center was cheap (July special) but the video games each cost 50 cents or so and the other activities are more.

Simulated Roller Coaster Ride

July 16, 2008

July 15, 2008

Boys Walking Scamp and Ben

Yesterday at Sunset

Here we are on the deck yesterday evening. That's Justin in the red shirt and Austin in the blue one.

Tomorrow they head back to South Carolina.

July 14, 2008

Allison and her Nephews

Allison came up to spend a little time with Austin and Justin. 

Silly Faces

Justin and Austin are visiting. Last night we took them to dinner at the Seven Bends Restaurant in Woodstock. When they started making faces, someone said "Too bad you don't have your camera." But I had Frank's little Casio camera in my purse.