Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing


October 2012

The Virginia Chronicles

From Thursday at noon til Sunday at noon.  In that time, my son and I:  rafted the James, explored the art mural scene in Richmond on bike, climbed at the VCU climbing wall (my first experience), cycled to Jamestown (45 miles), explored Jamestown, cycled back to Richmond, ate at the fabulous 821(twice) AND mamazu’s, prepared a meal for our host family, and ate a meal prepared by our host family.  Oh, and did I mention the hurricane?  Or getting to see, from the window of the gate where I had just landed, Air Force One land and its de-planing passengers?  No?

DISCLAIMER:  This is not another swag post about my kid.  He just happens to have been the coordinator for all we did, and I can’t relate the adventures without telling that.    This trip was to have been a visit with him, and a chance to see where he lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.  If the splendor of Sam comes through, I can’t help that.

Son #2 is the assistant director of the Outdoor Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Back in the day (’78-’82 for me), these outdoor programs had a couple of backpacks to rent, maybe a bike to check out, and one or two trips per semester to a nearby state park.  No more.  Here’s a picture of the Center at VCU:


In the Fall 2012 semester alone, the program has taken 75 trips, has bikes (road and mountain), kayaks, paddle boards, climbing wall, backpacks, wetsuits available to students, conducts a student leadership program, has a staff of 40 students, and has its sights set on VCU Qatar , its sister campus, for a recreational trip during the 2013 school year.

Sam began this job in the fall of 2012, and I’ve been trying to get up to see him since then.  Regular readers of this blog know with my online law school, and my retired Delta-pilot-father, I take advantage of the pass travel with vigor.  When a weekend became available, I leapt at the chance to get this visit in.  With the patience and generosity of my ever-devoted partner/boyfriend to watch my high-maintenance dogs for the weekend, off I went.

When I boarded my flight in Atlanta for Richmond, an announcement was made that due to the arrival of the President in Richmond for a campaign event, there was a possibility that we might be delayed.  We arrived 7 minutes before the arrival of Air Force One, so I was able to see that occur from a great vantage point:

I missed seeing him in a hallway in a casino in Las Vegas in 2008 by seconds, so I was delighted to be seeing him, even at this distance!  Minutes later, I saw my precious boy just past the security point and off to our adventures we went.

First stop:  Sam’s “office”, the Outdoor Adventure Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.  We had time to grab a quick bite at the 821, a funky little cafe 2 blocks from work.

In my defense, we shared this monstrosity

Then it was back to the office to pack up and head out for an afternoon rafting adventure on the James.  The water was way down, which bummed out the kayakers, but suited me fine as Sam and I tackled it R2ing (riverspeak for 2 in a raft).  It was so unusual to be whitewater rafting with a city skyline as the backdrop.  I’ve got no pics, since I don’t have a waterproof case for my phone – Sam took some, and I’ll try to go back and edit after he posts those shots.

After getting the obligatory drenching (he’s still my son, after all) we changed into dry clothes and met up with Sam’s boss, and roommate couple, and dear friends Joey and Lauren for a dinner at mammazu’s, a high-funk, fabulous, Italian eatery.  We feasted upon vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, rockfish, crab, bread, and wine.  The food and the conversation were delightful and memorable.

This is it. Srsly.

Moving into Friday morning, Sam and I hopped the bikes to his local coffee shop where we had our java and java talk, one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.  From there we headed back to the center where we set out for a day of sightseeing Hollywood cemetery and Richmond’s street mural art scene.

One of two US Presidents buried here. Also, one CSA President. You’ll have to Google to find out. Ever the teacher.

Then it was back to the climbing wall where there was a combination climbing contest/halloween party.  You can be sure that the group associated with outdoor adventure is going to come through with the costumes.  I went as a cyclist (which was convenient since that’s what I had on…).


Sam went as a banjo player from Tennessee

I knew it was coming.  A test of the commitment Pledge.  When my kids were little, before they reached adolescence and I lost all credibility with them, I promised that whatever they would let me participate in with them, I would, and the Pledge raised its head again this night.  I had avoided the climbing piece for a long time, not being particularly enamored of heights, and not being overly strong in my upper body, and my weight being up a little because I haven’t been training.  No allowances, however, so up I went.  I at least had on climbing shoes, and of course my own boy at the other end of my harness.  I’m not sure where the fear comes from, because my rational mind was aware that I was secure from falling.  Maybe because I didn’t want to disappoint my son?  Maybe because I didn’t want to wimp out because I wasn’t strong enough to do it?  Ultimately it didn’t matter, because I did make it straight to the top, and what a rush that was!

Then it was home to a feast prepared by the lovely Lauren, and fashion modeling by darling Mercks.

Saturday morning saw us up early, gearing up with the 10 students who joined in for the bike ride to Chickahominy Riverfront park, near Jamestown, VA.  We had a slight mechanical situation along the way…

freaky tire tumor

…but resolved that and then headed into historic Jamestown for a very quick tour.

Sam and Pocahontas
Captain Smith. He was too high for me to be obscene with…sorry to disappoint.

After a campground cookout, we hit the tent for a night of sleep hearing Sandy’s first rainfall on the nylon.  After a campground breakfast of bacon and eggs, we set out back for Richmond, pinched between the system coming from the southwest and Sandy bearing down from the southeast.  We made it back to Richmond without getting too wet, and were glad to get off the bikes and head to Little Mexico for a little cerveza and chips before dinner.

Back home, after the lovely meal Lauren made for us, Sam and I pitched in and made salad, vegetable soup, and cornbread for our family dinner.

Then, just like that, it was Monday, and time to head back home.  Out of Richmond.  In the middle of Sandy the hurricane.  Usually there are 10 or so flights between Richmond and Atlanta; on this day, at least 6 of them were cancelled.  All the remaining were oversold.  When this happens, there’s nothing to do but try or wait it out.  We opted to try, and through some series of fortunate events, I made it to Atlanta, then on home to Nashville.

So, 96 hours with Sammy, and as always, I’m richer for it.

Thanks for reading!


So I’ve been out of town for several days, and my darling daughter came into town from Knoxville to watch my canines while I’m gone.

If you don’t have a person in your close circle who is an art major, you have missed one of the joys of life.  I did not know about this until I had one myself.

What follows is what greeted me upon my return home. My girl gave me a little heads-up that she had “left a few things for me”.  Indeed.

This is the bathroom.

Those little stickies on the mirror are communications she left for me.  Beside admonishing me to Clean My (makeup) Brushes, she left a 3-page instruction manual, complete with samples and drawings on how I should be wearing my makeup.

Note:  While I like to think of myself as hip and cutting-edge, in the eyes of my children I am still Mom.  I have Mom clothes and listen to Mom music and wear Mom makeup.  Instead of making me defensive, nothing could please me anymore than to been seen that way by these 4 people.  I will take the eyerolls and glances between them and the good-natured teasing any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Here’s a closeup of some of the detail:

Second note:  I am fortunate that this girl is not only an art major but a professional performer as well, and knows a lot about these things she’s advised me about.  One of the things she has taught me to appreciate is strolling through a makeup department or makeup store while she gets me up-to-date on the latest trend or product.  As an animal -rights advocate, she knows which brands use animal testing and which do not.  She knows what performers use what brands, and what techniques to use to create a certain look.  This is so far out of my own wheelhouse it magnifies the experience exponentially.

She had told me that one of the things she had left for me was kind of a surprise gift.  I live in a very interesting 75-year-old home and I winced when she said it was a rather permanent addition to the house, but when I finally discovered it, I could not have been more pleased.

This is becoming a signature piece for her.  Here’s a print she did recently – it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s about 2’ x 3’.  I want to have a fabric print made of it.  She does occasionally put her pieces up for sale, so contact me if you’re interested.  (ooops – I’ll come back and add the photo – I don’t have it downloaded yet).



I’ve blogged about her before here, along with my other honeys, (and here and here is some of their work) and they all accept it with good grace.  Everyone is madly in love with their children, as am I; madly, hopelessly, irretrievably, unconditionally in love with them.  I am profoundly and humbly grateful to them and for them.  They have become spectacular adult human beings, and when they metaphorically allow me to crawl into their cribs with them and hold them close, I want to freeze the universe and preserve the moment.

Thank you sweet girl for your help with the pooches…I love your beautiful self.

Thanks for reading!

Albuquerque, Part 2

Well, that took longer than I thought!

To continue, I’ve been in New Mexico with mom and dad for a few days.  They are motorhome caravanners, Airstream to be specific, and have been on a southwest caravan for a couple of months.  They began in Moab, Utah (after having done the Lewis and Clark caravan the 2 months before that) and are concluding on Sunday.  I flew to Albuquerque last Saturday to join them for a few days.

In part I I told about the Balloon Festival, which continued to be spectacular.  The motorhome was parked in a lot facing the lift0ff field, and every morning at sunrise there were hundreds of hot air balloons in various stages of ascension.  Breathtaking in scope and vision.  Truly.  And because of the nature of the event, one is free to walk among the aircraft, chatting with the pilots and chase crew as they filled and heated the balloons.

It’s the Hendrick’s Gin Balloon!

When I last blogged, we were on our way to the Pueblo Indian Culture Center, where we spent most of the morning learning about the 19 tribes.  It’s a beautiful center with a courtyard for showcasing the native dances, and both an ancient and contemporary museum of history.

From there we tried to find not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 different restaurants for lunch.  We ended up at El Pinto’s restaurant, allegedly a favorite Bushie hangout (I managed to dodge the Republican vibe if that’s true) for their spectacular and spectacularly huge dishes.  We opted for enchiladas, quesadillas, and of course sopapillas with honey.

Then it was time for the caravan to move on, so off to Santa Fe we went.  Dinner the first night was at the Buffalo Thunder casino, along with a $10 credit, after the buffet, mom and dad hit the penny slots!  Wooohooo!!

Gambling away my inheritance, 1¢ at a time.

The next day took us to downtown Santa Fe, where we saw old churches, shops, restaurants, and street vendors.  Then, in a dash, all the way up to Taos, where we went to the Taos Pueblo (no photography) and then to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Then, to cap off a long day, before dinner we scouted out the Kit Carson Memorial Park where we found the grave we were looking for.  That may not sound like everyone’s idea of fun, but when you travel with dad, it’s mandatory.  It’s an historian thing.

Exciting, huh?

It was a quick 5 days, now it’s off to Anaheim with daughter Amy for another adventure.  She and squeeze Curtis are attending the National Recreation and Park Association Conference.  Ames graduates in December with an Outdoor Recreation degree from ETSU, and she’s hoping to make a few job contacts…next post will find me in daughterbliss!

Big shoutout to Glendy for dogsitting while I’m gone:

My human girl is not impressed with my canine girl.

Thanks for reading!

We the People


Albuquerque, part 1

And they are the source of my adventurous spirit.

My parents are on their 4th consecutive month of motor home caravaning of the summer.  They first did the Lewis and Clark caravan for the months of June and July.  To translate from RVspeak:  caravanning is a group of motorhomes, mostly retired folks, who plan and organize trips around the country, anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months.  My parents have done over 35 of these trips over the last 20 years or so, including the Viking caravan up to New Brunswick, the Canadian trips – Polar Bear sightings included, Alaska, the Yucatan, Baja, numerous Civil War trips, and this one, the Southwest Adventure.  Dad serves as the historian on both the Lewis and Clark trips and the Civil War ones too.

Daughter Amy has a conference in California next week, and I’m going to join her for a few days of fun.  In the meantime, Mom and Dad knew the Balloon Festival was coming up and had been asking me to join them, so…

sweet mother

This festival is the premier festival in ballooning.  There are over 500 balloons, thousands of spectators, and is said to be the most photographed event in the world.  It’s a full 8 days, and there are activities all day every day.  The liftoff field is adjacent to the brand spanking new Balloon Museum, to which I willingly devoted 3 hours of my life today.  Did you know that during WWII Japan sent 10,000 balloon bombs toward the US, 1000 of which have been recovered, and some of which may still be in remote areas?

This morning we spent several hours, beginning predawn, watching what is known as a mass ascension.

trying to zoom with camera phone

First was the spectacular sunrise liftoff, then we enjoyed all the different balloons:

They have to call him Aaron, since “Elvis” is copyrighted

Made of awesome.
Wells Fargo

So here’s the deal…the RV is parked in a giant field with several hundred other motor homes (Mom calls it Bonnaroo for retirees), but no hookups – no electricity or water.  This isn’t too big of a problem normally for a self-contained motorhome, but generator curfew is coming up in 15 minutes, and I have a couple of hours of studying to do tonight, off my Mac battery, so I’m going to cut this post into two pieces, because there are so many good pictures I want to add.

Tomorrow is several hours at the Indian Pueblo Culture Center in the morning, then a turquoise museum in the afternoon, then another balloon event in the evening.

So til part 2….thanks for reading!

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