Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fourth of July Weekend

After spending a luxuriously lazy day on July 4th, just thoroughly enjoying the 'not being at work and having nothing to do' mood, I suddenly found it was all systems go when Steve called and within a few minutes a BBQ and firework photography evening had been arranged. But there was no panic, I only needed to potter over to the store and buy another steak. I already had salad in the fridge along with potatoes so I quickly knocked up a potato salad and was ready. Then as we were finishing our meal, another friend, Robert, called. He had been wanting to photograph fireworks also but after going down to the Mall and seeing the huge crowds had decided against it and was coming out to Great Meadows with Steve and I .
I couldn't be bothered with the big 50D so just charged up the G15 and grabbing tripod, shutter release, cigars and drinks, we set off on our 5 minute drive. I wasn't completely sure where I would park but after seeing a road closed off with some locals sitting on their vehicles behind the barrier, we decided to join them. We were soon set up and leisurely puffed on our cigars as we relished our situation of not having to deal with vast crowds of bustling people.
Eventually the skies dimmed and the fireflies started twinkling over the fields. and then the first fireworks erupted. I didn't believe they were ours at first, they seemed so far away, but after a few seconds we realized these were the ones and we set to getting our photos. I had to zoom in quite a bit and didn't have my glasses with me so I was a little disappointed at what I was seeing on my monitor, but I carried on clicking away, both Steve and I having to wait a few seconds in between shots for our cameras to process the information. Robert's big DSLR was clicking away like a ticker timer, he must have been getting loads of shots.
And then it was all over. I had to admit being somewhat miffed as I had been expecting a spectacular display after reading that their shells were supposed to be 20% bigger than DC's.  I'm sure if we had been closer they would have impressed us more and at least leaving was stress free. We were in the car and back at Meadow House within 15 minutes and even managed to give Robert a quick drive by of the abandoned houses in Marshall. And when I later processed my photos I was pleasantly surprised to find that with just minimal tweaks I had got some reasonable photos.
The next day I had arranged to meet Janice at the gun shop near Front Royal and Steve was bringing along his Browning rifle to get the scope sight zeroed in. We got to the store expecting an open day with free food and discounted deals but arrived to find the shop closed up and not a soul around. A couple of trucks pulled in and their drivers looked about as though also expecting to have seen some activity. We decided to go to the Apple House and have lunch since they were supposed to have been providing the free food.
Nobody had any knowledge of the open day so we checked out their superb display of hot sauces and ate some of their not so superb food for lunch. Free giveaways attached to the hot sauce bottles seem to be popular and I enjoyed rooting through and finding them all, but didn't buy any. I love the marketing but not a big fan of the product. This was the second time I'd had lunch here and my BLT sandwich could only be described as brittle. My head almost hurt with the noise of my crunches through the very well done bacon and bread. I was almost holding my breath wondering if my poor old gnashers would survive the ordeal but not wanting to admit defeat I soldiered on and swiftly made a surreptitious chopper check after my last mouthful. All present and correct and so I was able to continue with the apple donut. I hadn't been impressed with these on my last visit and so wasn't expecting a gastronomical delight this time. The recipe has been the same since 1963 and I rather think they're using the same ingredients that were bought in bulk back then. They were dry and doughy, tasting so much of cinnamon that I couldn't taste any apple. But my diet coke was nice.
After chatting a while with Janice, we left to go to the gun range. Janice hadn't brought any of her gun arsenal with her so she was shooting at Blandy Arboretum instead with her camera. We drove to Clark Brothers with Steve's humungous gun box just about fitting on my back seat. I felt like an arms dealer driving to a rendezvous. At the range we needed ear and eye protection, so purchased some ear plugs and were allowed to use our sunglasses as eye protection.
There were a few of these targets on the ceiling with the grinning skeleton striking several dapper poses.
I had a good read of this since this was my first time on a shooting range. I was very excited but also a little nervous. Loud booms made me jump every few seconds making me look like a complete novice and it took a good 10 minutes before my body stopped reacting involuntarily. Their was a heavy smell of gunpowder laced with a hint of sulphur that was really nice.
Steve needed to zero in his rifle so pinned up his target and  started adjusting his scope. I stood nearby and soon found myself being pelted by other peoples' casings as they fired their guns. What with the bangs and then chunks of metal flying at me, I ws feeling like a target myself and soon realized the best thing was to sit down to minimize impact.
There were casings everywhere, thousands of them. I picked up Steve's since his were so large, thinking they'd make a nice wind chime for my kitchen window, but soon I was picking up others too. Some army guys next to us collected theirs so they could refill them.
After about 20 minutes or so, an announcement was hailed over the tannoy.  Everybody was to finish firing the shots in their guns and then place their guns down and step back. The red lights changed to green and then we were told we could change their targets if needed and clean up the brass (casings). The range was now cold. and then suddenly with exceptional timing, a deer chose that moment to slowly walk across the back of the range. It was hilarious.
Steve's scope was still inaccurate so he had to continue adjusting his scope and keep  shooting. A couple of guys next to us were Army personnel and one was instructing the other using a couple of Russian and Polish AK-74's. I couldn't believe it when they asked me if I'd like to fire one. I chose the Russian gun and took my aim at Steve's target. He instructed me and told me I had to have the far sight down lower than the nearest one. He told me afterwards that my technique was good, and then Steve let me shoot his Browning. I loved this gun, it felt so powerful.This had a lot more kickback than the AK-74 and there was a considerable difference in the bullet size. but I don't think I could fire it too many times.
Here's some bullet casings I picked up. Steve's is the one the left, the AK-74's next to that, then a 9mm with a 22mm on the right. The shot glass is there to give an idea of their size.
I tried to take a photo down aiming my camera down Steve's scope but couldn't quite line up the target.
Steve's last target. He's finished up with the bull's eye, the scope was finally zeroed in and I'm pretty sure that the hole just lower left of it was mine.I wish I'd gone back and asked to shoot the AK-74 again as the 2 lowest holes were from that gun, so I think I must have been lining up the hairs incorrectly and shooting low.
We'd had fun at the range and I'd love to go back again. It had been a sensory overload with the noise but I'd got used to it, not even flinching anymore with the louder bangs. But shooting guns is expensive so not something I want to jump into with both feet just yet.
On Sunday I had no plans to meet friends and so I pottered about weeding the front of the house and watering my plants. I've got something eating my vegetable leaves but can't see any bugs or slugs. I'd seen a few Japanese beetles but got rid of those with a vinegar and water spray which they hated. I don't want to use chemicals on my food plants so it looks like I won't be getting much of a crop of anything this year apart from hopefully my potatoes and a few tomatoes. Paul had told me my corn won't get fertilized since I've only a few plants but I don't mind. I'll have some autumn decorations at least with the leaves.
I strolled down to the huge brush pile near the pond and rummaged about for some nice sticks. I was going to paint a couple. Kota refused to join me for the walk as it was so hot, can't say I blamed him. Back at the house I emptied a tall glass vase pulling out the branches and gave it a wash.
The soap suds looked interesting as they streamed down inside. I spent an hour of so painting my sticks and then took some photos of them and my patio.And then it was clean up time, finishing with cracking open a bottle of red wine and grilling some salmon, wrapped in local tomatoes, with basil and cilantro from the patio. This weekend had passed way too fast.

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