Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

After a hearty breakfast late Sunday morning cooked by the main man, we headed out to the barn for my tractor driving lesson. I didn't let on but I was extremely nervous about this, having never driven one before and knowing what an important part of Rob's family heritage this vehicle was. I was actually petrified but being me I stuck my chin out and and strode forth.
Rob took control and I felt at ease under his command; he was firm but not intimidating and slowly I found myself relaxing and trusting his teaching skills. We poodled out of the garage and trundled up the drive to the road. We were going onto the road! Yee Ha! In for a penny, in for a pound, and going through the gears we motored at a sedate pace down the hill with Rob perched behind me.
 I was enjoying this and my confidence was growing so much that I started imagining how cool it would be to have a blinged out tractor with a metallic paint job, chromed light rims, diamond and alloy wheels plus a Coach or Guess compartment behind the seat to hold shopping bags. Hmmm.
 Rob and me blasting down the road.
Oh Oh, there's that big scary truck behind me.
We turned around and headed back to the cottage where I had to reverse the tractor back into the garage. I managed that without incident and was extremely stoked that my tractor lesson had gone so well. 
 After mooching around for a bit, we headed into town and Rob took me past the house that a private plane crashed into and obliterated the residence. It was the first time I'd seen crime scene tape in real life. 
I was then very excited when Rob took me to an abandoned mill he'd found previously when out cruising around on his motorbike.Was he a potential urbexer? We arrived at the mill and I was frustrated that I didn't have a tripod with me but Rob mentioned how beautiful the place would be with fall colors so I guessed that a trip later in the year would be an excellent idea.
The footbridge leading inside the mill was definitely hazardous so we had to enter from below.
Inside, it was dry and filled with old machinery, casks, sacking and a few old tools. The floors were treacherous with many holes and wobbly floorboards but I managed to navigate my way across to the stairs and headed upwards, finding more casks and machinery upstairs.
I caught Rob examining some pieces of paper but we couldn't find any business documentation. This page was the only information I could find online about the mill but it looks very much the same as it did in 1936.
We ascertained that as well as a grinding mill, the building probably doubled as a saw mill judging by the wood and machinery on the side of the building. On our way out, we bumped into a guy called Jo who stopped and chatted. He was staying at a local commune and was heading towards another a few miles away.
I loved his old bike which belonged to the commune and was obviously free for all members to use. I'm not sure that I could have completed my previous day's mileage on it, and Rob's also looking pretty sceptical as he ponders over the lack of gears.
 After a long chat with Jo and an exchange of info, we drove back to the cottage passing this tumbling down house perched up on a hill. We pumped up the tires on Rob's mountain bike and had a quick ride up and down the lane. Swapping bikes, I decided to attempt a BMX stunt and was feeling pretty chuffed when I executed a jump over a tree root and landed successfully. Unfortunately, I thought a broadside skid would be pretty cool too but this didn't work as well especially when I locked the front brake instead of the back.
So I ended up with an awesome boo boo on my left leg which bled copiously and a dented ego. Whatever. My English teacher once said, 'you have all your life to grow up.' Not quite sure that I'll ever get there though...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In the Boondocks with a Bicycle

On Saturday morning, I slept in for a bit after Rob left for work but couldn't stay in bed for long as I was so excited about exploring on my bike. I was soon heading out of the door and passed these old vehicles which belong to a neighbor.
Once on the 'main' road I headed towards town loving the absence of other vehicles and people.
 I was abruptly jolted out of my dreamy mood when I saw this truck. It had to be one of the scariest trucks I'd ever seen and brought to mind the movie, Duel, in which a truck stalks Dennis Weaver. I was fascinated by it and had to look it over. I think I would have dropped dead on the spot though if the engine had suddenly fired up.
Getting back on my bike I attempted to reclaim my previous mood and after a couple of bends in the lane was feeling dandy again.
I then saw this chair near the edge of the road. I later noticed that there was an abundance of seats, benches and other posterior props in peoples' yards, evidence that the folks here like to sit and watch the world go by.
 And who can blame them when they have such wonderful scenery such as the view above outside Rob's cottage.
I soon reached Gordonsville and found a very quaint old town that built up on the railway line in the 1840's by being the trade center for the local farms and plantations.
There was also an area of abandoned garden ornaments at the back of a building. They were mostly leaning over, some had broken and nearly all had been outside for some time judging by their weathered appearance. I couldn't find anyone around to ask so another trip to town will be in the future. There were some excellent craft and antique shops also but I refused to venture through any doorways since purchases would have been impossible to get back to the cottage on my bike.
 I crossed the road to the railway track and found some old wooden buildings which had once been a farm service store and an emporium. I walked all around determined to come back and explore inside at a later date. While round the back, I was reading this sign when the telephone started ringing. Bells clattered above my head for about 3 minutes, long enough to freak me out and send me scuttling back to my bike.
I saw these signs all lined up. So all the action is to the left then?
I found an old abandoned vehicle by the roadside, an International Loadster 1700, built in the mid 70's.
 There were plenty of farm animals on my route and I noticed that as well as fragrant honeysuckle draping over gates and flowing over fences, there were wild roses in many of the hedgerows. It really was very pretty. I wanted to take photos of all the flowers I saw but had to limit myself or I'd be spending more time off the bike than on it.
 This beautiful house was on the way back to the cottage. I got back after about 22 miles glad to have escaped the storm that seemed to be threatening with hanging black clouds. Grabbing my book, I plopped onto the hammock and sprawled out to have a doze. Half an hour later heavy raindrops forced me back indoors where I resumed my nap until Rob came home. Then steak on the barbie for dinner, a movie, and then a trip to the shed where we both sat and looked at the tractor while chatting and drinking wine.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Cycling Weekend

Saturday was a wonderful day for a bike ride and although there were a couple of other things I could have gone to, both involved standing around and with my back hurting, I thought a cycle ride would be easier since the weight would be off my lower back. Barb and I need to start training for our 100 mile ride in October so this was an excellent opportunity.
We started off on the W&OD trail in Fairfax and headed towards Arlington. We soon took the Four Mile Run Trail and came across a training ground for American Corps. Stopping to watch a while, we were amazed at how many different things were being done, from vehicle runs, marches, bands, and some awesome drummers who I would've loved to stop and listen to all afternoon.
The drummer dudes with Barb disappearing off into the background.

We then came across a wetland area filled with wild irises, weeds, fish, turtles and huge bullfrogs. We carried on through pretty park areas and alongside a rocky creek. There was a cooling breeze which constantly wafted honeysuckle perfume past our noses and I felt as though I never wanted to stop; I was running on Duracells.
Barb asked me to take a photo of this diner as it has apparently been there forever; well since 1950. It marks the end of the W&OD trail in Arlington and serves some of the best hot dogs around. It also has the Ten Commandments on the side of the building in English and Spanish. Really? 
FYI - Dave Grohl, frontman for the band Foo Fighters, is a DC area native who has recently lived in Alexandria, VA. Weenie Beenie is a song by the Foo Fighters on their first album.
We crossed into Arlington, dodged some traffic and finally got onto the Mt Vernon Trail and back into pretty landscapes again.
I didn't take many photos here as I'd posted a few of this trail back in October 2008
Following the trail to Key Bridge, we crossed into Georgetown and headed up the steep hill to Wisconsin Ave where there were restaurants local to Georgetown University. I had a wonderful egg and sausage sandwich with potatoes cooked in marjoram and parsley washed down with a pint of Guiness. When leaving I was amazed that I didn't feel drowsy and was actually raring to go. 
We took a lazy tour around the campus, watching as students dragged belongings to waiting cars, and we also had a quick nose at a lacrosse game. Afterwards, we headed back to Key Bridge and cycled into Roslyn.

 Over the bridge, a boat shop below was busy renting out kayaks.
 We saw a couple of interesting sights in Roslyn. The first was this church with a gas station underneath.
We also spotted this homeless guy who was singing loudly to something on his laptop with his foot furiously tapping along to the beat, and completely oblivious of spectators such as us. Finding the metro station, we left the bright glare of sunshine and rode the elevator down to the dismal dusty station below.
Waiting on the platform, I quickly snapped this before the train arrived but had to add some color while editing. We emerged back into the sunlight at Falls Church and cycled the last leg back to the car, having covered a respectable 21 miles. We then visited our favorite thrift store and found this rock as Barb parked the car.
I'd love to know how long it had been there.
Sunday was another fabulous day and so the bikes came out again, this time riding out from my place to do a circuit in the Centreville area.
We were going to ride along Rte 7100 but after a mile or so of constant noisy vehicles and sucking in exhaust fumes, I suggested we get off the beaten track. We decided to check all the little side roads on the way back to Centreville and found some wonderfully rural areas.
The noise of traffic died away and all we could hear were birds and insects. I could smell the plants and grasses on the verges and marveled at how quickly we had escaped into tranquility.
This old tractor was down the bottom of a lane and I texted a photo to Rob who told me it was a Farmell H built probably built around 1940 - 1950.
Here's an image of one working.
We puttered up and down the lanes enjoying the solitude when suddenly we stopped in our tracks. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, it was my first ever sighting of a bluebird. It was standing in the road, its blue feathers gleaming. I didn't even bother to reach for my camera despite this being a Kodak moment. For years I'd wanted to see one of these beautiful birds, birds that I'd only read about and seen in fairy stories. I was covered in goosebumps and ecstatic that we'd found a place where bluebirds lived. I shall be back here with my 50D and tripod to get photos in the near future.
Coming back into Centreville, we weaved our way along winding paths through housing communities until we reached..... Dairy Queen! After 15 miles, we felt we deserved a treat and I relished every mouthful of my Reeses Peanut Butter Blizzard.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Hike and A Bike

Last Sunday, I decided to go for a hike and get some exercise so I headed out for a local park that I'd not visited for a year or so. The day was hot and balmy and of course I forgot insect repellent so I made a super human effort not to perspire. Yeah, right!
 The creek was beautiful but very low, the lowest I'd ever seen it and it made me realize how much we needed rain. Thankfully, mosquitoes were scarce but with all the standing water, that would not be the case in a couple of weeks.
 I really liked the symmetry of these plant leaves.
Once again, I was in an area of outstanding beauty and nobody was there to share it. The only other person I came across was this fly fisherman. There were plenty of small fish in the creek but I'd not seen any large ones so I assumed he was just getting some practice in for later in the season. I don't understand how such a heavily populated area of America can not want to escape and enjoy areas of natural beauty especially at the weekends, but I really didn't care; it was wonderful to have it to myself.
 The creek was low along the whole course that I walked but it wasn't preventing wild flowers from growing and blooming. The bluebells were finishing but the floors of the glades were carpeted with wild violets and anemones.
 The path was rocky in places and I came across 2 blue herons wading on the creek's edge. I didn't get photos, I just enjoyed the moment.
 An abandoned water treatment station.
After hiking about 5 miles, I returned to the car grateful that I'd escaped being bitten. Back at the condo, my friend Jeff and I decided to go for a bike ride, so after changing shorts and shoes, I hopped on the bike and we set straight out. Jeff knows a lot of trails around the Centreville area so we decided to opt for the 9 mile ride.
 Jeff is also used to riding in DC and competing with downtown traffic so he had me weaving in and out of cars and twisting around corners to reach pavement ramps more easily. At first I found it a little unnerving, but I was soon laughing and following his lead.
 We both have a fascination for electrical pylons and finding plenty of those, we had to stop a couple of times to take photos. The crackling electricity above our heads was very cool but I wondered about the danger of houses built so close to these. We clipped along at a relatively fast pace and were soon back by our communities but not wanting to stop, we tooled around the area to add another couple of miles on. What a fun workout day.