Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Firepit, Friends and Firewood Fotos

On Friday evening Emily, Jason and Steve turned up after work to relax around the fire pit and cook on the BBQ. There was only a mild chill to the air with no winds so it was perfect conditions. We spent a lovely lazy evening just eating, drinking, chatting or simply staring into the flames. 
 Kota was prepared for a chilly evening with his new scarf.

Steve did a great job on the grill making sure everything was cooked properly. Jason despite nursing a pretty bad cold knocked up an awesome salad and prepared some chicken. We had some issues trying to see our food in the dark while we were eating but that didn't deter us. Jason had thought ahead and wore a head lantern at which the rest of us sneaked some wistful glances. All was going extremely well until Emily suddenly toppled over in her chair sideways. She was on a bit of a slope and unfortunately had to rescue herself since the rest of us were beside ourselves howling with laughter. She lost her chicken and a fork but resiliently restocked her plate and resumed her position by the fire. Amazingly enough she toppled over again a little later, this time losing her mulled cider and a shoe. Jason went to her aide bent double with mirth but Steve and I were helpless.
 I did make Emily some more cider while Jason snuck in 40 winks trying to battle his cold.
He felt much better the next morning as I cooked eggs and bacon with home fries and toast. Fully fueled we grabbed our cameras and set off to explore Marshall.
We started off walking around by the railway track and photographing the old buildings and construction materials. There were some huge puddles so I got the others to stand in front of one of them.
There are a few abandoned houses in Marshall which I've intentionally avoided until I had company to explore them with.
 This old house was beautiful with some lovely detailing and a decaying charm. The neighbors didn't know its history so I'll have to do some research and find out what happened to it. It's past saving unfortunately, so much of the wood is rotten.
 The next place wasn't as old and didn't have the appeal of the first. It was empty inside with old farm buildings tumbling down at the back, one of which was an old chicken house.
The third house was directly across the street and I'd noticed a few weeks previously that junk from inside had been piled up out front.
  There was an old shack out the back with a water pump inside which worked . Emily and I opened the back door and went inside. The place was filled with junk and was in a terrible state; a dank gloom hung in the air. We walked through and suddenly Emily realized that someone was actually still living here. A coffee pot had its light on and as she backed out I noticed an electric fire was switched on in the lounge area. I quickly looked around just to check that nobody was hurt and helpless then scuttled out the back after the others. We were all a little quiet as we brooded over the fact that we'd seen first hand how some folks in this day and age still lived in such squalid conditions. It was a sad cold truth and I wondered how that person would cope in the winter. I'll keep an eye on the house from now on.
We stopped at the local deli and spotted these canned drinks which were banned from quite a few states because of their claim to be energy drinks. With high caffeine and 12% alcohol, they proved to be lethal in a few cases by over eager school kids. The caffeine has since been removed but we were impressed by their notoriety and bought one each. My orangeade version was delicious but one can was definitely enough.
I had a quick look in the Crime Times to check Emily's mugshot wasn't present.
We went back to Meadow House and soon everyone left as I was driving down to Gordonsville to chop up some wood at Rob's. He'd got a great deal from a friend and we'd both bought about 2 cords for $125 each, a bargain for me as a cord up here is $200 without delivery charges.
Sunday morning Rob and I set to chopping up my pile. He'd dropped a few comments about setting up the log splitter and leaving me with a tank of gas while he watched TV so I was very relieved when he donned his overalls and helped. I'm actually quite capable of doing it all by myself but I have to also remember that I'm a girl and sometimes what I think I can do and what I can actually do are often two very different things. I'm pretty sure I could've coped with this job but it was nice to have the company. Jessie and Jim came down to have a chat and a beer, it was great to see them as it had been a while since we'd met up. Jessie's new 'babies' came up to the fence as well. Sam and Blackie know me now as I always treat them with apples and carrots when I visit.
I'll have to get a better recording of Sam honking as he sounds hilarious when going full throttle. Once the wood was chopped we decided to go for a walk. We headed towards where the chair is on the side of the road. I've always called this my chair and taken a few photos of it perched in the the undergrowth, sometimes in full sun and sometimes in the snow. Somebody had moved it to the side of the road and turned it upside down on top of a mattress. It had been there a few weeks and not been taken away as we'd supposed so I wanted to put it back in its original position.
 It was a lovely day for walking, passing Jim's old truck, fooling with our shadows and stopping by some pretty flowers that someone had planted on the verge.
 This guy was cutting the grass alongside the road and reminded me of the band ZZ Top. He'd even put flame graphics on his mower and was happy to let me take his photo.
 My poor old chair. I did try to right it but it smelled bad and was a bit slimy so I gave up my quest and promptly disowned it.
 Rob of course had to stop at some point for a pose.
Warning, Heidi, a bug picture is further down!
 On the way back we kicked a large pine cone back and forth. It made it back to the house but had lost all of its seeds and was just a husk by the time we finished with it. We had walked about 3 miles and ended up sitting on the porch drinking beer and munching on peanuts waiting for Katie, Rob's daughter to arrive so we could put the cap back on the truck. This was one job which I was very sure that just two of us couldn't manage.
I couldn't identify this on Google but think it's some kind of leaf cricket. It was about 1.5 inches long.
Rob got me to back the tractor up to the trailer with the cap on it and then take it round to the truck and back up to that. I did a fine job of it. Katie turned up and within a few minutes the three of us had the cap back on the truck, all ready for Friday when we fill it up with my wood to bring up to Meadow House. I won't be cold this winter! Yay!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Motorbiking in the Mountains

Friday evening, Rob came up with the motorbike on the back of his truck. We got up early on Saturday and eagerly awaited the arrival of Kim and Scott who we were spending the weekend with. Scott had for a long time wanted to ride through to West Virginia in the mountains taking back roads and no highways. It was going to be a perfect weekend weather wise with sunshine and no rain and the fall foliage was just starting to peak.
We set off on Route 55 and rode towards Strasburg. On the other side we stopped for brunch and wolfed down the best scrapple I'd ever tasted with eggs, sausage, home fries and toast washed down with strong coffee. We chatted to an elderly couple who used to ride a motorbike themselves and the lady showed us an old photo of the two of them by their bike. They were a wonderful couple and it was with sadness that we learned from a waitress that the wife suffered from Alzheimers. So cruel.

Me and Rob reflected in the restaurant window. We carried on riding, loving the absence of traffic although the winds were high. I was wearing my old bike leather jacket from my twenties, very pleased that I could still zip it up and loving its protection from the wind.
We trundled through the countryside enjoying its rustic charm and colors and the occasional comment with each other when we stopped at lights. A frequent sight as we rode through the mountains were wind farms, tall white windmills slowly turning. 
Blackwater Falls State Park was our next stop and we had to traverse along the top of a mountain to get there. The wind was brutal and slowly pierced through our protective jackets and scarves. The bikes skipped a few times with the crosswinds and we were glad to enter the sheltered parkland. Hot chocolate was supped greedily from the refreshment stand and then we walked down to see the falls.
They were spectacular and it was a pleasure not to see the place packed with too many tourists.
I borrowed Rob's hat but it was too big and kept falling forward over my eyes. At least it helped to keep some warmth in my head. Climbing up and down the many steps got the blood moving and we were warmed up by the time we got back to the bikes. And so it was onward again but the cold didn't get to me so much this time.
We hit heavy traffic in Oakland, MD, and took nearly an hour to get through the town because there was an Autumn Glory Festival taking place that weekend. A parade had passed through the town and I got of the bike to pick up some sparkly ribbon to tie on the back.
Some of the local kids who posed for my camera as we passed by.
Even though we caught the tail end of the day's events, we noticed a punkin chunkin contest had taken place and wished we'd been a little earlier for those photos. The temperature was really starting to drop now and we realized that we needed to start looking for a bed for the night. But all local motels were full so we had to ride out further.
We stopped at a gas station where I saw this sticker on the side of a truck.
I chatted with the owner who assured me that the bullet hole was real. His brother had taken a gun off the dashboard, dropped it on to the seat and it had gone off and shot a bullet through the door. Dayum! 
We kept riding down the road searching for the now seemingly elusive warm and cozy bedroom with hot food where we could rest. We finally hit the jackpot and came across a pretty hotel in Grantsville. The Casselman Hotel is owned by a Mennonite family and is on the Old National Road which we were following.
They had only 3 rooms free so we were extremely fortunate and blessed to stay here. We had a lovely meal with very friendly service and our rooms were clean and welcoming. With full bellies and the warmth permeating our insides we felt a heavy tiredness and went to our rooms straight after eating, glad to be horizontal on soft beds with warm heat blasting out. We all slept well.
The next morning we were up early and on the road looking for breakfast. The sun was shining, the wind had dropped a lot and we soon found a Denny's where we fueled our tummies for the day.
Scott and I posed with our choice of chocolate desserts from the menu. We didn't eat them but it was a great photo op since we're bestest chocolate buddies.
Kim and Scott up front. We happily rode through more towns and up more hills then came to a town called Cumberland.

There was thick black smoke billowing above the buildings and thinking there was a fire we drove into town to investigate. I was ecstatic to see an old steam train in the station which was responsible for the smoke and was so excited I could barely wait for Rob to stop the bike before I bolted.
The train was about to embark on a fall foliage trip but we had 30 minutes to take photos and enjoy the sights and sounds of this wonderful old engine. I put together a video here of the train. After the engine had left we strolled through the main street of Cumberland.
 A delightful pastry shop had its windows filled with Halloween cakes, a riot of color. I also spotted some Hawthorn trees which are very common in England and always found in hedgerows. I became quite homesick as I sniffed the foliage and berries. I used to make wine from these berries.
So then it was back on to the bikes again and back up into the mountains along The National Road. The views were spectacular and the foliage vibrant. We passed old barns and abandoned houses and even a convoy of motorbikes who like us were out for a ride.
Over the weekend we also passed many 'attractions', some of which I managed to capture on the camera from my back seat and others which I had to be content with just being lucky enough to see them.
The last 'high' point of the ride was the Town Hill Overlook, known since the 1029's as the Beauty Spot of Maryland.This hotel has been open since then but we think it is now closed, it's up for sale and there were no vehicles parked outside. A shame, I hope it's restored as a popular hotel.
We got back down on to lower ground and headed towards Winchester. Our last stop was Dairy Queen for ice cream and then it was the home stretch along Rte 50, with Kim and Scott heading towards Sterling and us breaking off towards Marshall. We had traveled through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and gone into Pennsylvania, clocking up 351 miles. A fabulous weekend with Kim and I already talking about the next trip...