Category Archives: Adventure

Change of Plans

A little over a month ago, we took a trip with our aunt and uncle.  We all like to get outside and kayak, hike, swim, etc, so this was going to be a great trip doing a little of all of that.

Dam at Stonewall Jackson Lake
Dam at Stonewall Jackson Lake

The plan was to head to Stonewall Jackson Resort in Roanoke West Virginia (not Roanoke, East Virginia) Friday morning, where we would rent a pontoon boat and tube/swim/boat on Stonewall Jackson Lake.  The next day, we planned to drive to the Eastern Panhandle of WV where we would spend all day tubing down the South Branch of the Potomac River.

Does anything ever go as planned?


Carp at Stonewall Jackson Lake
Carp at Stonewall Jackson Lake

Well, we did leave Charleston on Friday morning, but it was raining as we pulled out.  Still, we drove to Stonewall Resort, about 2 hours away.  Just as we pulled into the resort, the clouds parted, the sun came out and our day was saved!  Stonewall Jackson Lake, we discovered, has a carp population, to say the least.  So, we watched the carp a little and headed out on the boat.  It was an absolutely great time and we trolled around the lake taking time to swim here and there.  The water was nice and we just had a wonderful time.

Trust us...we have a map
Trust us…we have a map

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We returned the boat and decided to use the bicycle rental pass we got for staying at the resort.  The lady at the counter warned us of a coming storm and that we simply had to be back by 8pm.  She was certain that at exactly 8pm we would be under fire, so to speak.  We looked that the radar and sort of figured she was crazy.  Sure a storm was coming but it was a ways off.

It fits...I guess
It fits…I guess
I love this pic!
I love this pic!
And this one too!
And this one too!

So we rode our bikes and had a lot of fun.  We decided Abigail was not quite ready to drive a car as she was a bit wild.  Poor Emily got the only non-mountain bike so she worked hard on the hills.  She chose the bike though so…

And this one too!
And this one too!

Anyhow, our time was up so we returned the bikes.  At 8:03 pm, I’ll be darned if the storm didn’t drop!  We sat in the library at the resort and played cards while the storm raged a bit.  The outdoor wedding on the patio below the library was sort of…ruined I guess.  It was impressive and the rain was substantial.

Planning for the next day!
Planning for the next day!

With as much rain as we got and with the forecast for Saturday to be full or rain, we sort of figured that the plan to tube the Potomac was out of the question as it would be raging.  We worked out plan b which ended up being a blast…stay tuned…

A Hugh Jass Truck

So, our anniversary was last week and it is bound to be one of the more memorable ones we’ve ever had.  We didn’t tour an exotic foreign country or watch the sunset from a hot air balloon while eating wine and cheese.  We didn’t even go fishing with a 6-pack of beer.  Let me back up and tell you the whole story…

Preparing for departure
Preparing for departure

My parents have lived in Tionesta, PA for 42 years, 41 of which were in the same house where my brother and I were raised.  In the last year, they decided it was time to move to WV to be nearer to us so they bought a house here and listed their house there.  About 6 weeks ago, their house there went into contract and they were given a closing date range of July 23-August 3.  Mom checked around for moving companies and settled on one based in FL.  They took her deposit and scheduled their move for July 23…our anniversary.  That’s perfect…we could enjoy our anniversary and help them after as the movers unloaded the truck the next day.

On July 20th, the closing date was set…July 23rd.  That date was tight for the move but the lawyer was leaving the next day for vacation…it was pretty much set in stone.  Mom called the movers and confirmed that they would be there on July 23rd.  They promised they would but did not have a time set.  She called daily in the week leading up asking for the time.  As late as the evening of the 22nd, they promised they were coming on the 23rd but didn’t know when.

Hugh Jass Truck
It was a big truck…compare it to my Honda Pilot which is not a small suv

As you might have guessed, the 23rd rolled around and the movers didn’t show.  They did call at 8:30 am telling my parents they weren’t coming after all.  To be clear, the night before, they confirmed they were coming; the day of the move, they told her they didn’t service their area.  This is after taking their deposit and promising repeatedly that they were on track to move them.

So, I get a call around 9:30 am on the 23rd with the bad news.  Of course, the closing still needed to happen but they had no movers.  I said I could drive up and return in a rented truck and let my Mom drive my car back.  It was certainly not ideal, but was workable.  My parents called around local rental truck places and even called the state-wide dispatcher in Pittsburgh for one company.  Basically, all companies reported that there were no trucks available in the state (or at least the western part of the state) until August.

So, I called around Charleston and found a 26′ Ryder truck here.  My father-in-law, a real trooper volunteered to ride with me.  So, I rented a Hugh Jass truck (say it out loud) and headed 350 miles north to PA….at noon…on my wedding anniversary.  My wife is a real trooper also of course as she is the one who suggested renting a truck here and driving it up empty.  This truck rode like…well, a truck.  It had air brakes so made all of the cool big truck sounds and I bounced around the captain’s chair that was on air shocks itself.  It was not a comfortable ride.

Unloaded...and worn out
Unloaded…and worn out

Anyhow, I got within probably 6 miles of my parents’ (former) house when I saw a sign for the upcoming bridge…clearance was 13’3″.  I remembered that my truck had a clearance of 13’6″.  I stopped 20 feet from the entrance to the bridge and it was clear I couldn’t make it through.  This bridge has a blind curve leading up to it and is on a narrow state road so there was very little space to turn around.  (Check out the first pic at this site. I was coming in through the forest at the left.)  Luckily, another driver went and blocked traffic while I performed a 27 point turn to head back the other direction.  All told, I probably had to add 45 or so miles to my trip to back track to a route I could successfully navigate.

Finally, we made it to my parents’ house where they had a small crew of dedicated and awesome people to load up their stuff (which fortunately they had already boxed up).  We finished up the next day with the help of some young men from a local group and were on our way back to their new home in Charleston.  Fortunately, the new owners were very understanding and even came to help move boxes and stuff.

Emily’s family came to help us unload on the WV side and we had the truck unloaded in no time!  We were exhausted but everyone was safe and my parents are now in their new home in WV.  I drove 735 miles round-trip and loaded and unloaded that truck (with others of course) in a 36 hour period.  I am not sure I want to name the company but if you get ready to move, holler at me and I will tell you one company to avoid!

Run for it!

My, my, it’s been awhile since we last talked!  Lots of things have been going down around here lately and it’s time for us to catch up!

About 10 days ago, Abigail and I ran in our first 5k race.  She’s run a good bit before as a member of her middle school’s cross-country team.  For middle school, cross-country races are a little less than 3k so 5k was a bit of a stretch from her previous experience, but we were excited to run.  Well, we were excited to run until the morning of the race.  This race was on a Saturday and we had to be there a bit before 9am…her enthusiasm waned with my “wake up holler” at 7am.

Ready to run!

Anyhow, we got to the track.  Being an old hand at running races, Abigail sort of played it cool waiting for the race to start.  I was pretty wound up as I haven’t ever run in a race of any sort before!  I wasn’t sure if I would embarrass my self or, in my excitement, expend all of my energy up front…would my nerves get to me?  Gosh, am I an adult or not?  I should be able to be calm about this but it just wasn’t happening on race day.

We walked a quick lap around the track to warm up our legs a little before the race.  We have been training together and I have typically run faster and farther than Abigail so we decided that if I was feeling it, we would not  try to run together…I could go ahead of her if I could.

So we lined up, jittery and excited and waited for the gun.  I was surprised but they actually used a starter gun rather than a whistle or horn or something.  That was really cool!  My first race and I got a starter gun!  With the shot, we took off and I was feeling good.  I ditched Abigail after a quarter mile or so (don’t judge me) and kept on plowing.  Abigail and I talked about how she runs cross-country.  She sees a person ahead of her…decides to catch and pass them and then looks for the next person.  It’s run one pass at a time.  I decided to do the same.  It was a good strategy as I found plenty of people around me that I could pass.

Pre-race selfie!
Pre-race selfie!

I won’t recount every step but I had a good race and finished in 27:30 which was pretty cool.  Overall, I finished in 17th place out of 115 or so racers.  That was really cool for my ego (which typically needs no encouragement).  I started walking back through the course and found Abigail and finished the rest of the race with her trying to encourage her to keep pushing.  It was a great time as far as I am concerned.

After the race, I am pretty well hooked.  We had been training for a few weeks before the race and now are running a 5k three times per week around the local track.  After some discussion, we have identified a few problems with Abigail’s breathing strategy.  By fixing that, she is running much stronger now so we are getting ready for our next race in a few weeks!  It’s a really cool opportunity to be able to run with Abigail and to have a really awesome thing about which we can talk and plan.  We have just decided to run for it!


Last weekend, Emily and I had the opportunity to see John Mellencamp in concert.  Like about everyone who grew up in the 80s, we really enjoy his music and had great memories of the “glory days” in school when his music meant so much to us.

We stopped and actually had good BBQ...a rarity outside the South
We stopped and actually had good BBQ…a rarity outside the South

We did a ricochet trip to Charlotte, NC…we basically drove in, heard the concert, spent the night and returned the next morning.  Maybe it was a bit like our care-free time of growing up…or more likely my cheapskate kicking in so we didn’t have to pay for another night at a hotel.

A pig...eating pig
A pig…eating pig

Anyhow, the concert was in a mid-sized arena…maybe 5-6k people attended.  At first, we were the youngest people there which sort of surprised me.   Soon enough though we were in a sea of people of all ages.  Mellencamp is 63 and has been playing for a long time so I guess his music has appeal across many years though I am sure his most famous period was when I was a teenager.

Ready for the concert
Ready for the concert

John puts on a good old-fashioned rock-and-roll show.  It’s not full of flames and lights and dancing all over stage, but it’s loud enough and his songs are just plain awesome!  He mostly played his famous songs, Jack and Diane, Hurts So Good, Small Town, and Authority Song.  Emily, not being a true fan apparently, had never heard of his absolute best song, Rain on the Scarecrow.  I know it is probably not as well known as many of his others so I was surprised (and nearly brought to tears…except I don’t cry), when he fired up that song during the concert!  It was fantastic!

With my sweetie...
With my sweetie…

On stage with him, he had a fantastic violinist and another musician who played “everything else” including piano, accordion and harmonica.  It was sort of classic Mellencamp sounds but I guess I never really thought about what went into his music.  I loved it!

Mellencamp stage
Mellencamp stage

Unlike many current musicians, John Mellencamp sounded great live and pretty much exactly like he does on his produced versions (geez…I struggled with what to say there…cassettes, LPs, mp3s…he’s been around for it all!)  I was a little surprised when he lit up a cigarette on stage, but I guess that’s an 80s throwback thing too maybe.

I almost forgot…the concert  was opened by Carlene Carter which seemed like a huge surprise as she is most definitely in the  style of her mother and grandmother…i.e. older style country.  I really enjoyed her songs and singing as well, but it was a surprise.  We later found out that she and John and working together on a project so it did make sense…her opening was a nice bonus!

Friends, if you are a child of the 80s and get the opportunity to hear John Mellencamp, buy some tickets and enjoy an fun evening!  Sing as loud as you can and take your kids so they can be thoroughly embarrassed…but show them how rock and roll was meant to be done!

A Christmas to Remember

Christmas is such a nice time of year.  Like most people who celebrate Christmas, we enjoy the time with family, the great food, and the fun we share exchanging gifts, baking cookies and listening to holiday music.  It’s always a special time and a real joy for me.

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This year (actually just a few weeks ago), my parents have bought a house nearby and came to their new place (into which they have not yet really moved).  My elderly aunt and uncle and my brother and sister-in-law came and stayed with my parents in their new house.  My gang hung around the new place too and it was setting up to be a really fun time.  My brother and I planned to do a few projects to “tighten up” the new place and then just goof around for fun.

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The house had been empty for a good period of time so there are always kinks that need to be worked out.  The kitchen and bathrooms were remodeled and had never been used so we figured there might be a few little things as is common with new construction.  Little did we know…

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As people started using the plumbing, we discovered that the shower drain leaked, the installers had cracked the tub spigot, the door was not sealed in and the water control valve was not installed correctly.  My brother and I set about remedying all of those issues by basically yanking out all of the things and re-installing the tub/shower correctly.  Meanwhile, we found that the wax ring on one of the toilets was leaking.  It turns out that the plumbers had not tightened the hold-down bolts at all…it’s a wonder the toilet didn’t just topple over when used.

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Meanwhile, my Mom was cooking in the kitchen and ran some peels down the disposal.  I think there was a drainage problem beforehand with a clogged pipe, but the peels made it very apparent and stopped up the kitchen drain completely.  We had a snake and ran a good bit into the drain to clear it but it was a job for a plumber…after-hours on a weekend.  The guy came out and was great and ran 50 feet of snake into the drain and made it better but definitely not clear.  He’s coming back to finish later this week when regular rates apply.  Hopefully that will be a simple fix!

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My aunt became very ill during the shower fix and we were concerned that she was in very bad shape during all of this…it came to the point where we called an ambulance to take her to the ER.  Since my brother and I had the shower apart, Emily volunteered to go along to the hospital with my aunt and uncle.  About 5 hours later, we found she had both kidney and gall stones and all was basically ok (the wonders of medicine!)

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Around 8 or 9 that evening, when everything seemed to be winding down and it seemed like nothing else could go wrong…you guessed it…more went wrong!  The hot water heater started leaking water pretty badly…it turns out there was a faulty pressure relief valve that didn’t really need any pressure before it decided to relieve itself.  No hardware stores were open when we figured out what was going on so I got a new one the next morning.  We were back in business in 20 minutes or so and everyone could get hot showers!

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As bad as all of this sounds, for some reason, it just wasn’t a stressful weekend for me.  LOTS of stuff went wrong, but it all had fairly clear solutions.  I knew everything was going to be ok and that I’d have a good story to tell.  I doubt it is necessary to document this entire weekend here as I doubt I’ll ever forget it, but just in case, this was definitely a Christmas unlike any other!

Ice and the beard

Ok, so it’s a stupid title.  I got nothing…

So, last weekend, we decided to take a quick trip to PA to visit my family since we were not going to travel over the Thanksgiving rush.  We all had Monday off so we decided to leave WV Saturday morning pretty early so we could get to my parents’ house around lunch time.

We were making good time until right around Pittsburgh where it started raining…no worries, right?  People drive in rain.  It wasn’t 2 minutes after we hit rain when traffic came to a complete halt on the interstate.  We sat for only a few minutes and then started easing forward.  We stopped again on a long bridge where we could see the traffic ahead.  As we sat watching the wreck clean-up, vehicles around us started sliding down the slope of the bridge….from a stand-still they were just sliding!  The rain was actually ice and it was really bad!

That dumptruck was sliding sideways
Those dumptrucks were sliding sideways

We took it easy after passing the 6 vehicle wreck for a few miles until we came upon another stand-still.  When it was all said and done, we ended up sitting in the second mess for over 2 hours.  Salt trucks were trying to get by to treat the roads but were sliding sideways as well.  It was fairly terrifying as semis were jack-knifed around us and all sorts of people were helplessly sliding…again, from a stand-still.

We checked online maps and there were 8 closures between where we were and where we were trying to get.  Since we were still sitting on the interstate around the time we planned to get to my parents’ house, we decided to call it a day.  We finally got moving again and took the next exit to find a hotel.

My Novembeard offering
My Novembeard offering

It ended up being a pretty fun time despite this appearance of the selfie I took in the car.  We ate a nice meal and watched a movie together.  It’s always fun when we get a chance to hang out in a hotel…without the usual home stuff to do, we get a chance to just goof around together…always a good thing!

So we made it to my home town on Sunday afternoon for a really quick visit so everyone could see my Novembeard crop which is much grayer than it was last time I saw my chin-whiskers…This weekend, it has got to go!

Scout camp…a long time ago!

Way back when, I was in the Boy Scouts.  My Dad was the scoutmaster for a large portion of my scouting career so it was doubly neat to be involved together.  I grew up in the boonies, so scouting type stuff was pretty much what we did anyhow…it was just organized.  We were outdoors all the time.  We hiked and canoed and camped seemingly every weekend.  Many kids growing up before the computer age lived like that I guess and I am fortunate to have been a part of it.

Anyhow, we went to scout camp each summer.  As I got older, the time got to be a lot more fun.   I guess we all got confident and a little cocky.  We went to camp and sort of looked for mischief…good mischief, but mischief none-the-less.

Camp Custaloga Town 1986
Camp Custaloga Town 1986

We went to visit my parents this weekend and my Dad turned up an old camp picture from 1986.  Where I lived, our scout camp was called Custaloga Town Scout Reservation.  I have all sorts of fond memories walking about the woods at the camp, mucking around in the lake and rappelling off the water tower.  I did my mile-swim at camp and had a grand time staying up too late acting stupid.  It’s fun to look at this old pic and see faces of me, my dad and my brother…all when we were a lot younger!

Scouting is stuck in a no-win political mess and has to compete with so many activities that are available for young men.  My kids are not involved in scouts because of all of the other things they are in, so they get a similar experience I hope.  I know they find plenty of time for mischief so that doesn’t worry me…it isn’t Camp Custaloga Town for my kids, but rather band camp now…it’s all good!

The surfer look?

We’ve been back from the beach for a few days, but my head is sort of still halfway between home and the ocean.  I was looking back over the pics I took and there are far too many of the pier.  The other trend I think I found were of the four of us looking like wannabe surfers.

On the beach

On the beach

Really, it is more of a matter of wearing rashguard shirts so we don’t get sunburned, but that’s not too sexy so we will go with the surfer look.

On the beach

Abigail in particular, is the water-dog when it comes to body-surfing.  We had several days of pretty rough waves and she didn’t seem to even notice.  I was getting beat to death, but she kept going out into the surf.  Of course, she, too, was getting beat up, but it just didn’t seem to bother her.  And heck, scars and scabs on my little girl’s knees and feet are kind of cool.

On the beach

On the beach

Well, beach time is over I guess so I will have to get back into real life mode I suppose.  Really though, I suppose I will have enough sand it my delicate parts to be reminded of the beach for some time to come!

Beach 2014

We go to the beach every other year or so and this is our year.  This is weird I know, especially since I never went to the beach as a kid, but it truly doesn’t feel like Summer to me on beach years, until we actually go to the beach.  Of course, this year we have had screwed up weather so it really hasn’t felt like Summer until now anyhow.

Topsail Island 2014
Topsail Island 2014

I am not sure why I need to go to the beach to feel Summery but I am definitely on holiday and enjoying my most favoritest season – Summer!  We have been to Topsail Island, NC the last few beach trips and I think it has become our new favorite place.  When we do the beach, we do the beach and nothing else.  Topsail is mostly houses on the beach and not much touristy stuff to do.  It’s mostly not crowded and suits perfectly my need to lay on the sand in earshot of waves crashing so I can sleep properly.  It’s perfect!

Topsail Island 2014
They were so happy to get here that they actually posed!
Topsail Island 2014
Isaac is always hungry!

As the kids get older, I think that we have found that it is as much fun to watch them at the beach as any other thing.  They like to people watch and body surf and read and all the stuff we do.  It’s just total fun!  It is contagious and we all just relax and kick back.  We are here this year with Emily’s family and it’s a great opportunity to spend time with cousins and stay up late and eat too much rich food.  I used to be able to add “get sunburned” to that list but we have taken that out of the mix…we are very diligent about keeping everyone slathered in sunblock…funny how times change and we get smarter.

Topsail Island 2014
The freckles have appeared!
Topsail Island 2014
Feed us!!!

Anyhow, I love the beach and need to re-charge every couple of years.  And like they say, even a bad day at the beach beats a great day at work!

Lewisburg and stuff

A few weekends ago, Emily and I were without kids so decided to take a trip to Lewisburg, WV.  Lewisburg was voted “America’s Coolest Town” in 2011 so we figured we should check it out.  There is a lot of beauty across WV, but some of the best of it is collected in Greenbrier county and the counties that surround it.  We had a perfect weekend for walking about town and that was exactly our plan.

Lewisburg, WV
Just a shot of Lewisburg, WV

There are numerous small shops in Lewisburg that very clearly cater to tourists, but are still very cool regardless.  In particular, we found a place that was sort of a health-food, earthy, new-age-almost place, called Edith’s Health and Specialty Store.  Normally I don’t care much about that sort of place, but we planned to check out every store in town.  What I especially liked about Edith’s was the bulk food area in the basement.  They had a barrel of the finest dates I have ever eaten.  I know, dates aren’t a thing most people care about, let along spend time writing into a sentence, but these dates were so fresh and wonderful, I can’t wait to go back and get more!  Dates…who knew?!

Emily at lunch - Stella's
Emily at lunch – Stella’s

There were trinket stores and an outfitter and bakeries and antique stores and even a pecan store.  We hit all of the shops and had a really cool time talking about, you know, adult stuff.  The kids would have been crazy, but we had a great time eating dates and talking about…whatever we wanted!  Lewisburg is sort of what small towns used to be I suppose.  From the time before there were big box stores, when people went to the local whatever shop for…whatever.  The downtown was alive with people…likely tourists, but still, people wandering around, chatting and enjoying the weather.  It reminds me somewhat of my hometown before it hit against hard times.

Lost World Caverns
Lost World Caverns
Lost World Caverns
Inside Lost World Caverns

Near Lewisburg, there are a number of other sights…we took a tour of Lost World Caverns.  It was a cave homecoming for Emily as she had gone on a guided tour of the cave when she visited on an elementary school trip when she was a kid.  Since we were adults, we got to do a self-guided tour which was cool.  It’s nice spending extra time staring at any old dang rock we pleased as opposed to speeding through a tour guided by someone else.

Lost World Caverns
Us in Lost World Caverns

I was especially surprised, as Emily is not a wine drinker, that we visited a winery/vineyard and did a wine tasting.  Watts Roost Winery ferments wine onsite, but unfortunately, is closing as soon as they run out of their stock.  I guess the owner prefers sheep farming to wine making so is expanding one business and closing the other.  Too bad, as the wine was pretty good…we bought 10 bottles of various sorts.

Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg, WV
Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg, WV

Back to Lewisburg, we walked around and saw Carnegie Hall, one of four Carnegie Halls in the world.  We didn’t go in, but we did walk the grounds a bit and get to say we licked Carnegie Hall…who else can say that?!

Old Stone Presbyterian ChurchOld Stone Presbyterian Church
Old Stone Presbyterian Church

Across the road from Carnegie Hall is “The Old Stone Presbyterian Church“, an old…stone…church.  What did you expect?  Anyhow, it has an old cemetery attached as well.  It was striking that there were a number of tombstones there that had birthdates before the US of A was the US of A.  It’s hard to even think about that for me for some reason…to wonder what the area was like before the area was a state, let along a country.  It must have been thrilling and terrifying and amazing and terrifying (again).

Old Stone Presbyterian Church
Born before the United States

All-in-all, it was a great trip to see a cool small town.  It was fun to hang with Emily and see some neat things and to sip a little wine, eat some rich food and act like adults!