Catch-up and Other Stuff


On April 24, I started this post, but never finished. The purpose was mainly to catch up and let y’all know I’d be leaving for my solo adventure on Saturday. As in LAST Saturday, April 29. But then I had the busiest work week ever, leading up to the trip, and never got around to finishing the post. So here it is…

Holy cow. How did it get to be so close to the end of April already?!? So much for me trying to get all of the 2016 vacation catalogued before my 2017 adventure begins.

It has almost been a month since my last post. On one hand, it feels uneventful. On the other hand, a lot has gone on.

Let’s see, there was the visit to my friend Tracey’s farm, which provided a chance for three friends to catch-up with each other AND an opportunity to meet, feed, and love-on four three-week-old baby goats.

That was followed by another brief trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, . where my employer’s headquarters is located. I got to enjoy some face-to-face time with existing co-workers and meet a few new ones.

There were a few weekends of yard work, each followed by five to six days of very sore and achy muscles.

We even managed to squeeze-in a motorcycle ride on Easter Sunday!

When I was blogging regularly, I could look back at a variety of posts as a reminder of what happened, when. I’ve lost that. Now, I have to rely on things like Instagram and Facebook. Of the two, I prefer Instagram. Its only downfall being that images are not dated. I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I love being able to keep up with friends and loved ones. I hate that there’s so much negativity. I’m torn between wanting to pull the plug on my Facebook account and maybe whittling down my list of “friends” to people I care about, with whom I share at least some sort of valid connection. There are many folks on that list who I rarely, if ever interact with. I suspect many of them probably have just unfollowed me (elected NOT to see any of my posts, often the last step before actually removing oneself from a friend list and/or severing the cord of friendship).

In other news, I learned a fun new word — pareidolia — after receiving an email from Ry (from Two Wheels to There) containing a link to a web page with a funny collection of images. In that case, the word refers to seeing faces in everyday objects, but it’s apparently an all-encompassing term to describe a “psychological phenomenon” wherein one perceives familiar patterns, like faces, where none exists. The image shared below is one of my favorites among a nice collection that made me laugh out loud on more than a few occasions.


There are lots of great pics on that page. You should check it out.

Finally, I am excited to say that I’ll be leaving on Saturday for my Big 50 Adventure. I figured I deserved to celebrate making it to my fiftieth birthday, and a solo adventure seemed like a great idea.

I’ve told y’all before that Hubby and I enjoy riding together, but we have different riding styles. He likes to cover long distances in short periods of time and I like to meander, stop often, and look at stuff. Oh, and take pictures, too.

Periodic solo trips are good for the soul. I’m not planning ahead either. All I know is that my first stop will be Monterey, Virginia (there’s a new LOVEwork there). I’ll plan the route as I go.

For those who are interested, there’ll be a Spotwalla Tracker Map. That’s how Hubby can keep an eye on me.

A New First

IMG_0205I think Spring weather may actually be here to stay now. It was here in February, which was just weird. Early-March was pretty mild, too. Many of the flowers and trees bloomed early, and then it got cold. Freezing cold. So now lots of the flowering plants are coated in blooms that look half-dead. That means actual Spring days like yesterday won’t appear as bright and cheerful as they should.

Oh well. Even if the days are not visually appealing, I’ll take the Spring temperatures. Yesterday, the highest reading I saw on my thermometer was 78.8 F (26 C). There were lots of clouds in the sky, but they held their moisture, so we had a dry, warm day for riding. There was no chill in the air at all. It actually felt a little weird at first, feeling warm wind through the mesh of my jacket.

Hubby planned a circuitous route for us to get a late lunch at our favorite fast-foodish burger joint in Front Royal, Spelunkers. Part of that route involved the northernmost third of Skyline Drive, from the Thornton Gap entrance on US 211 to the start/end of the road in Front Royal. So we got to twist the throttles a bit further than we should have and enjoy our favorite local twisties as we climbed Thornton Gap.

It can be a dangerous stretch of road, as evidenced by the warning signs specifically addressed to motorcyclists at the top and bottom of the mountain that say “High Crash Area.” There’s a 35 MPH speed limit, too. But that’s because of the descending radius turns that catch many riders off-guard. We’re used to the turns, though, so didn’t think twice about having some twisty fun before hitting Skyline Drive.

Line of vehicles waiting to enter the park.

Our enjoyment didn’t go unnoticed. One man was so impressed, he decided that I deserved a performance award in recognition. In truth, he said we both should have been similarly recognized. I was the one in the rear, though. So I’m the one who got to sit on the side of the road, admiring that line of vehicles, while the man from the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Department recorded and then presented me with physical proof of my not-so-prestigious award.

He was nice, though, and used the lowest speed he’d recorded. And that’s a good thing, because Virginia has some hefty fines for speeding. Exceed the posted speed limit by 20 mph or exceed 80 mph no matter the posted limit, and that’s considered reckless driving. That’s a criminal misdemeanor. You could be sentenced to as much as a year in jail, have your driver’s license suspended for six months, get assessed up to $2500 in fines, and have a criminal record that could follow you around for the rest of your life. Also, the points stay on your driving record for 11 years, and we all know what that does to insurance premiums.

I really need to keep that law in mind. I don’t feel bad, though, because I know I was riding cautiously and well within my comfort zone. Plus, I’ve been riding for a lot of years and that was my very first “award.”

It didn’t spoil the mood even a little bit. It really was lovely. People were out in droves enjoying the many attractions Shenandoah National Park has to offer, such as the scenic views, hiking, cycling, waterfalls, bird-watching, etc. The parking lots near the most-popular trailheads were literally overflowing. There were lots of motorcyclists and bicyclists out, too.

A large portion of the northern section of the drive appears to have been recently repaved, too. Another plus.

We topped the day off with a fabulous lunch at Spelunkers in Front Royal.

Yes, it was as fabulous as it looks.
Yes, it was as fabulous as it looks.

It was a co-worker of Mike’s who clued us in on the deliciousness at Spelunkers.

The burgers are always fresh and perfectly cooked, as are the fries. They’re so good, we’ve never eaten anything else. The Philly cheesesteak is supposed to be their signature sandwich. Sadly, we’ve never have room for ice cream. That’s a “first” I can happily look forward to.

All in all, it was a lovely day.

Quest for LOVE Update

You know it’s hard to keep track of how many LOVEworks there are to visit when even the Virginia travel folks can’t pin down the exact number!

In this blog post from February, the travel folks said “more than 65.” That’s technically true, but the number is now higher than 70! I’ve physically visited and captured pics of at least 50 LOVEworks.

The two latest I saw are here…

Mineral, Virginia
Mineral, Virginia


Lake Anna
Lake Anna

It’s really hard to keep track of how many I have yet to see. Why? They keep adding more!

I’m in the process of planning (sorta) a May getaway. So I figured I’d make a list of sculptures I need to visit. There are 22! Even I was surprised at how many are on that list.

Some of them are really far away, or at least hard to get to, like the one new one near Chincoteage on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That would either involve another trek through Maryland or a journey to Norfolk/Virginia Beach then across the bay bridge tunnel. The one in Gate City, in the far southwestern tip of Virginia, is reported to have reappeared, too.

I might see some on my upcoming adventure. Then again, I might not. This is another of those trips where the plan is NOT to plan. I’ll just head out with my maps and a general idea of direction and/or destination. I may end up on the Gulf Coast. Or I might have so much fun in the mountains that I’ll end up staying there.

It’s fun for now trying to imagine where my bike might take me.

It’s not the destination that matters.

Fall in Virginia

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Not even I can say for sure whether it’s my favorite, because I really like Spring, too.

I’ve been busy with my new job. All is going well, but meeting and getting accustomed to new co-workers and learning new stuff is mentally exhausting. By the time evening rolls around during the week — my days have been FLYing! — I’m mentally spent.

We’ve been spending our Saturdays helping my MIL consolidate her belongings in preparation for her impending move into a lovely apartment facility in Perry Hall, Maryland (just northeast of Baltimore). Luckily Mike’s siblings and in-laws have been pitching-in, too.

There’s plenty of stuff I need to do around our house, but I decided to put it off in favor of enjoying the lovely Fall scenery in Virginia.

Maple Tree


Random Pretty Spot
Random Pretty Spot

I like exploring back roads far more than Hubby does. My bike is much smaller and better-suited for the dirt-and-gravel roads sometimes encountered in this region. My bike probably weighs about half as much as his does, the weight is more-evenly distributed (lower), and it has a skinnier profile, so it’s easy for me to stop and park in the grass along a road without having to worry about hindering traffic and/or getting sideswiped.

It really has been lovely. I thought y’all might enjoy some of the images I captured over the last few weeks.

Pretty Old Cabin




Fun Reflection


Interesting Patterns in Nature

How cool is that lichen-covered boulder? It was about the size of a rectangular bale of hay, only it wasn’t rectangular. Oh, it was in a creek, too.



Old Barns


Unusual Fungus


One of My Favorite “New” Roads


Look Closely to See the Abandoned Chimney

This is not the first abandoned chimney I’ve seen, with no trace of its former building in view. I’d love to know the story of that place. It would be a lovely spot for a tiny cabin.

A Peaceful Valley


Longhorns and Old Farmhouse


How cool is that old fence?




Silo “In the Weeds”


Pretty Road


Pretty View from the Pretty Road


Stopped to See Old Farmhouse and Ruins


Old Farmhouse




Farm with View of Old Rag Mountain


Slightly Closer Look at Old Rag Mountain


Lichen-Spotted Shed Roof near Syria, Virginia


Nice View Near Syria, Virginia


Somewhere near Ruth or Lydia, Virginia (I think)




Skyline Drive (a week ago)


Along Skyline Drive


Skyline Drive (a week ago)

I hope you’ve all been able to enjoy Fall, too. Today is the day the clocks “fall back,” so it’ll be getting dark here in a couple of hours. I need to get back to catching up on my chores.

Thanks for stopping by.

Oh, wait. One more thing. This post was written entirely on my new MacBook Air — work-issued — which I am still getting used to. The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll be an Apple convert.

Fall Color Found

treeFall is my favorite time of year. I love the cool, crisp air, but I especially love seeing all of the colorful leaves.

This year, either I am too anxious to see color and it seems like it’s taking FOREVER, or the change is a bit later than usual. I think it’s the latter, but it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I finally got to see some amazing color on Friday, but I had to work for it.

After being laid off from my job without warning (don’t worry, that’s old news), I suddenly felt like I had lots of free time on my hands. That’s not entirely true, because I had to find a new job, and that takes a lot of work. But working to find a new job didn’t prevent me from daydreaming about taking a motorcycle ride through the mountains. And since I typically work for contract research organizations, and there are several of those in North Carolina, I came up with a plot to schedule things carefully and line-up a bunch of interviews next week in NC.

Sounds like a great plan, right? I thought so. But then I was offered a job with a company in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I start on Monday. That’s tomorrow.

It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, even if it does mean I can’t go to North Carolina. So I planned a trip to West Virginia instead. I was going to go on Thursday and spend the night on the road, but the areas I wanted to see were forecasting rain, which would have been miserable, so I went on Friday. Just for the day.

The drive into Dolly Sods on FR75.

I revisited the Dolly Sods, a place Hubby and I had gone to by car from the WV Place in 2010. The Dolly Sods is a wilderness area that sits at an elevation of about 4,000 feet atop the Allegheny Plateau. It is one of many areas of interest in the Monongahela National Forest. The Dolly Sods is significant because of its elevation and what that means to the flora and fauna.

Much of West Virginia is pretty mountainous, but the mountains aren’t very high (the highest peak is only 4,863 feet). It’s been said that many areas of the Dolly Sods are like high-alpine regions in Canada. The snowshoe hare can even be found there.

We’ve ridden our motorcycles near the Dolly Sods many, many times, but never ventured into the actual wilderness area because it is known for its rough, dirt and gravel roads. It is a wilderness, after all. Descriptions of the route into The Sods said something to the effect of “the road climbs the Allegheny Front.”

Terrain map showing the Allegheny Front.

In 2010, we entered from the southern end. Yesterday, I entered from the north. The road goes up, and up, and up — five miles from the hard-surface road — before you finally reach the top of the Allegheny Plateau. Hubby’s GPS software plotted a graph showing our elevations at various points on the trip down and back, which clearly shows the extreme elevation change entering and leaving the Dolly Sods.

Hubby's 2010 GPS track of the elevation change.
Hubby’s 2010 GPS track of the elevation change.

In all, it’s just over 18 miles of hard-packed dirt, gravel, and rock (as in boulders embedded in the ground) road. It’s full of some very large potholes, with washboard ruts in many places because it’s a very well-traveled road. The ride up was so bumpy, I bet I stood for about a third of the climb.

It was so worth it, though. Far too many pictures follow as proof.

If you come here mainly to read my words, you may want to stop scrolling now. 🙂

Remember, click on any image for a bigger view.

The forest along FR75 into Dolly Sods.


Northern entrance at the edge of the plateau.


Looking north from just inside the entrance.


Looking west across the plateau.


A riot of color.


I couldn’t get enough of the color.


The blue sky makes a perfect backdrop.


It’s usually windy, hence the one-sided tree.


Looking east from atop Bear Rocks.


I took lots of pictures.


One of the most-photographed rocks.


Looking north and east.


Not a bad spot for my picnic lunch, eh?


I couldn’t have picked a prettier day.


The red bushes are blueberries and/or cranberries.


Very large conglomerate rocks.


Rocks and color.


One-sided tree (from the wind).


I really couldn’t get enough of the reds, greens, and blues interspersed with rocks.


Yes, I realize this is repetitive.


This is one of my favorites, I think.

I DID warn you there were lots of pictures, right? I’m not done sharing yet. LOL.

Seriously, isn’t the color amazing?


See my bike? I bet the place was mobbed on Saturday.


The colors just made me so happy!


Quaking Aspens! In West Virginia!


Yet another color shot.


The clouds were pretty cool, too.


Trail into the forest.


Trees and cotton-top flowers (or something like that).


The scenery was just breathtaking.


More Color


Cotton-top flowers (or something like that).


Beaver Pond


Same pond, slightly different angle.


Looking North


Looking South from the Same Spot


More Color


The reds were really vibrant.


Straight out of the camera.


The yellows were pretty bright, too.


Pretty, right?


Pretty Yellow Tree



It was darn pretty atop that plateau, but it was nice on the way down, too. The next pics were captured along the road at the south end.

Headed down FR19.


Tunnel of Color


Colorful Forest




I love being in the woods.


The tunnel of color continued for miles.


Pretty Foliage


I slid to a halt when I saw that multi-colored tree.


The view as a whole wasn’t bad either.


Looking east from near that multi-colored tree.


And on the tunnel continued…

That’s it for the Dolly Sods pics. But here’s one last capture from not far south along US-220/WV-28…

Champe Rocks, just north of Seneca Rocks.

Even in West Virginia, the color is still spotty at lower elevations. But it’s slowly, but surely, getting more and more colorful closer to home.

Bumbles Bounce!

bumbleIt’s official. A mere eight days after being laid off completely out of the blue — knocked off a cliff, so to speak — I was offered an even cooler job. I start on Monday, October 17.

It’s crazy how things work, no? I was confident I’d find a job relatively quickly, but even I didn’t think I’d bounce back THAT fast. I mean, really. The interview and hiring process usually takes longer than that. And, no, I hadn’t been looking before being laid off.

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I am very excited. So excited, in fact, that I’m going to go out on a limb and say this will be my last employer EVER. I’ll retire from this company.

The last couple of weeks have really been like a roller coaster ride. So I am taking off to find some Fall color today and enjoy my last full day of unemployment.

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