One last thing I forgot to mention as a big “pro” on the plus side of our Bike Florida Tour: Oranges.
All the rest stops had them in abundance, and they were cherry red, sweet, and O! so refreshing. So good, in fact, that we stopped at a roadside stand before leaving FL and bought a sack full. Yum.
So we said goodbye to FL and headed to SC. Travel was unremarkable, thank goodness. But I did capture this pic of Angela and their Alto2114 traveling along ahead of us at one point.
So Lynches River Campground was our overnight spot on Thursday, April 4, and that’s the campground that is mostly for tenters, with only 2 serviced RV sites. Mark and Angela got #2 (a pull-through) and we got #1 both with electric and water. The bathhouse was rustic to say the least, but it had exactly two private rooms, each with its own toilet, sink, and shower. For a one-night stayover, it was just perfect. Next stop: Chippokes Plantation Campground near Williamsburg, VA, April 5 and 6.
Chippokes is actually in Surry, VA, and is a re-purposed grand farm and mansion, once an actual plantation. Today, it is quite a fine and spiffy Virginia State Park, with hiking trails, the mansion itself, equestrian trails, electric and water, and nice renovated bathhouses. Loop B has the most modernized and level campsites, where Loop A has older, less flat/improved sites.
We linked up with John and Mary at Chippokes, so we had three side-by-side sites with Mark and Angela. Roomba was in the middle, on site #2.
Mark and Angela’s son, Brent, linked up with them (and us), coming down from New York to see his parents while they were relatively close. He spent some of our arrival/set up day in Williamsburg and he and Mary and John all arrived around 5PM.
We all went out to dinner, hoping to catch the pub in Smithfield, but there was a minimum of an hour’s wait there, so off we went to Smithfield Landing where we had a delightful dinner, and all got to know one another a bit better. The walk through Smithfield from the pub to the Landing and then back to our cars after dinner was fun times together also.
The next day, Mark, Angela, and Brent headed to Jamestown, while Mary, John, Jack, and I headed across the ferry into Williamsburg. But first, we went to the Edwards Ham store and picked up some good old fashioned Virginia Ham products. Yum.
We rode the Pocahontas ferry and saw a smaller ferry passing across the river. It was overcast the day we headed into Billsburg, but it never rained despite the look of the sky.
We had a bit of a drive around the campus, telling J&M tales of our college days, and had a quite nice sandwich from Colonial Williamsburg’s famous Cheese Shop.
That night, we all fixed our own dinners but joined up to eat at our site. We had shared appetizers and a fire to cozy up to as our final night together after our fun travels with Mark and Angela. Brent also was headed back north the next day, while John, Mary, Jack, and I were headed to Janes Island, MD for our next, longest stop of our Spring Trip.
Before everyone broke apart, I set up the timer on my camera to get a group shot. And Riley also had to have some fun before we bundled off to Maryland.
April 29, The Honorable Robert Boyle Legacy Society 25th Anniversary Celebration, Williamsburg, VA
Many years ago, Jack and I, both William and Mary graduates, included our Alma Mater in our estate planning. For that reason, we have become members of the Boyle Society at W&M.
Every year, the group gathers to celebrate achievements made possible through the Boyle Society members’ and other grants and gifts that make receiving (and delivering) a quality education from the College possible. This year’s event was not just a 25th birthday celebration of the society itself, but also the year the group got to see the new Integrated Science Center.
This concept of integrating the disparate science disciplines is quite dramatic, actually, and we learned why during this day-long event. During the kickoff luncheon, a young student, John Marken (2017) talked about his participation in the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition during his sophomore year, 2015. As a principal part of a team of W&M students (about 8 undergraduate and graduate students) developed a project that had real-life application to solve a real-life problem), engineered the project, tested the project, and then presented the project during the competition. Among the competitors were teams from Stanford, MIT, and other engineering US schools, plus international institutions including engineering powerhouses from Japan and Germany — and the W&M team won.
This was one of the first examples of what integrating the sciences could mean to John (a mathematician) as he and the team worked with biologists, engineers, neuroscientists, and technologists — and professors and graduate students in many disciplines — to make an idea into a reality. Since that time, John has continued his good work and will graduate from William and Mary (a liberal arts institution, not an engineering school) this spring and begin to pursue his DOCTORATE at CalTech.
That first iGEM team did not have a “home” on campus, but borrowed space for the project from various departments and labs. Due to help from various individuals and grants, as well as the Boyle Society, the iGEM team has its own permanent place in which to develop students ideas and research projects. William and Mary students will continue to compete internationally in this prestigious problem-solving process.
Listening to this 21-22 year old speak so eloquently about what his W&M education and community has meant to him, and his prospects for the rest of his life made me feel positive about the future of the US for the first time in quite a while. For that I thank you, John Marken.
After the luncheon, at which our retiring College President, Taylor Reveley, spoke for (probably) the last time I’ll hear him, the group went to various demonstrations and presentations about the newly-finished Integrated Science Center — new structures joined with older ones to create this percolating environment of thinking and sharing individuals, from professors and department chairs through undergraduate students. It was amazing to see how many undergrads have published scientific papers under their own names about their own projects/research.
We were delighted to discover that we were to hear about the Monarch and Milkweed research that is going on. But first, we received an overview of the concept and the mechanics of the integrated approach to scientific research.
The group heard, auditorium-lecture-style, from several of the department heads, including psychology, neurobiology, and chemistry. But the most interesting (to me) was the information delivered by the field biologist who, with undergraduate and graduate students over the past 6 years, has studied the effects of mercury on birds along the Shenandoah River.
I won’t go into all the details here, but DuPont Chemical once had a plant along the river, and there was a spill. Mercury from that spill many years ago, and the mercury involved in the spill has made tremendous impact on the environment for miles and miles along the river. Insects, fish, birds, frogs, salamanders — you name it, there’s been a problem.
After sampling mercury levels in the wild bird populations for years, and creating real data sets of their findings, the researchers needed to see if they could replicate those findings in the laboratory, to assure everyone involved that it was the mercury and not any other issue or problem that was causing the symptoms among the wild birds. Among the symptoms of mercury poisoning in birds is that those so affected are unable to learn their species songs. They also have low endurance and recovery from stress (a suppressed enzyme or something), low reproductive success, and other issues leading to declining populations.
Anyway, the upshot of this research, currently being replicated in the lab using domesticated Zebra Finches from Australia, is that all the date they collected could finally be turned over to the government and to DuPont, so that measurable “harm” could be judged and recovery from that harm assessed against DuPont.
Imagine being an undergraduate student involved in that research that has had real-time and measurable results.
After a Q&A period, we went off to learn about monarch butterflies and milkweed plants. Anyone who’s been over to my house in the summer, and has wondered why I let these huge milkweed plants grow in my perineal garden, and heard me say, “It’s for the monarchs,” knows this is a subject near to my heart.
We met Harmony Dalgleish, Assistant Professor of Biology, and several of her graduate and undergraduate students, plus one of her colleagues, all involved in the whole monarch and milkweed research. Fifth grade students from the local private school are also involved, propagating various strains of the milkweed plant that had been harvested by Dalgleish’s classes from all over the midwest and eastern US.
And then we went up to the rooftop greenhouse. They have quite a collection of tropical ferns and plants, several of which are carnivorous (insect-eating); plus a module full of succulents and cacti. One of the weirdest was this, whose name I have not the first idea, which apparently opens up those lips to lure insects into the bladder at the front. Creepy thing, about a foot long and about 6 inches wide.
I learned quite a lot I didn’t know about monarchs, which I’ll save for the details below, if you care to read more. But the brand-spanking-new greenhouse on the top of the ISC makes it possible for one of the primary questions they want an answer to.
Knowing that there are many, many folks like me who want to help the monarchs by planting milkweed, and given that the milkweed that grows in Wisconsin is not exactly the same genetic material as that which grows here in VA, does it matter to the monarchs? Is there one strain they like better than another? If I grow Wisconsin milkweed in my VA garden, will that somehow be less attractive to those monarchs that migrate through Virginia?
There are many additional questions they’re trying to answer having to do with the chemistry of the plants and the biology of the insects, and it is all quite fascinating and some of it is way beyond this English major’s ken. But we had a grand time.
There was a cocktail party to end the day, and Jack and I were driving back toward Powhatan State Park by about 5:30, after saying goodbye to good friends and fellow alums also at the event.
We tried to get into Strawberry Street Cafe (Richmond) for dinner, but it was covered up on a Saturday night. So we drove back the Goochland and stopped at a good-looking Mexican restaurant for dinner. Home again, we had a nightcap and listened to the book some more, and hit the hay after a very long day.
What I learned about monarch butterflies and milkweed plants:
Milkweed and Monarchs In 1975, Catalina Trail and Kenneth Brugger located the monarch butterfly overwintering sites high in the Oyamel fir forest of east Michoacan, Mexico. At long last and for the first time, those who celebrated the monarch’s mysterious arrivals and puzzled at their annual disappearances were united and a complete picture of the monarch migration was established. In August of 1976, when the iconic National geographic cover appeared on the doorstep of nature enthusiasts across the world, the monarch entered a new age of popularity an scientific intrigue.
Conservation efforts Though the monarch’s overwintering sites received much attention from 1976 onward, the ties did not receive official government protection until 1986, when by presidential decree, efforts to reduce illegal logging at or near overwintering sites were increased. Much damage, unfortunately, had already been done. By the time the reserve core zone was expanded to 13,552 hectares (33,488 acres) in 2000, approximately 44% of ideal forest in the original reserve had been damaged or destroyed.
Often referred to as the “canary in the cornfield,” the monarch has become the poster critter of a wider movement to save a variety of declining pollinator species. Many ecologists fear losing such a powerful “mascot” would be a tremendous blow to the growing appreciation and concern for pollinator conservation. Monarch/milkweed research has brought together scientists from a divers array of STEM fields and specializations whose work is supported by awareness raised by the monarch butterfly.
Long before its international debut in the National Geographic, the monarch was a cultural icon and nature ambassador. Rich with the symbolism of rebirth, celebrated as souls of loved ones returning to their native homes, monarchs have inspired countless people to connect with their communities and their spirituality, and have served to spark a profound wonder for the natural world. The conservation of the monarch is far more than the preservation of a biological phenomenon or of a pollinator species; it is the conservation of rich cultural history and a symbol for a hopeful future.
Since 1995 when genetically modified crops resilient or immune to the effects of powerful pesticides and herbicides entered the market, milkweed, especially A. syriaca (common milkweed) has undergone significant decline. In combination with more efficient farming techniques that allow for the more frequent cutting of crops and for a reduction in borders between fields, common and other milkweed species have had fewer and fewer opportunities in the past few decades to establish a healthy population able to support monarch progeny.
In 2015, Lincoln Brower, along with many others, signed a petition to place the monarch butterfly on the Endangered Species List. Though the petition has generated a great deal of public and private support for the monarch, both in terms of publicity and funding, many have questioned the monarch’s inclusion on the list. Some argue that the extinction of the migration would occur far before that of the species and would not necessarily preclude their demise. Researchers like Lincoln Brewer are careful to point out the importance of the migration in maintaining a sustainable, wild monarch population.
The politics of monarch conservation are complicated, as the crucial phases of the monarch’s migration occur across three nations and many states. Cooperation and communication between the governments of Canada, Mexico and the US are essential for maintaining effective conservation efforts. The monarch milkweed dilemma provides a unique opportunity for international collaboration in environmental conservation, a crucial development considering the continual pressure from increasing global environmental challenges.
Monarch Migration Monarch butterfiles migrate northward to follow the growth and bloom of their only larval food source, a genus of plants referred to as milkweed. Among this genus is A. syriaca, or common milkweed. This species is common to the east coast, and can be found as far west as Kansas and Oklahoma, making it accessible to the wide swath of monarchs participating in the central migration. Common milkweed provides the most important food source for the final generation of monarchs preparing to return to Mexico for their overwintering habitat. In midwestern states, where agricultural practices dictate heavy use of herbicides, the common milkweed has suffered a severe decline, and so, thus, have the monarchs.
Every spring millions of monarch butterflies begin their move northward from southern Mexico to the northernmost states in the US and to Canada: 3,000 miles of travel is supported by three generations of butterflies.
1) Those that leave Mexico will mate, lay eggs, and die during spring around the gulf coast and southern midwest states of the US. Those progeny travel north.
2) From the spring breeding activities, this generation of butterflies find food and mates during the summer months along a large section of the US including Virginia and north, the midwest, and into Canada to the northernmost range of the genus of milkweed they depend upon for their young, where they mate, lay eggs, and die.
3) That final group, which emerges from chrysalises has the longest life span in that they take the final few warm months of the year to leave the region of their inception and return to their overwintering grounds. There they rest and stay warm on the trunks and among the canopy of Oyamel Firs before they begin their spring migration to the general area of Dixie in the US, making this last generation’s life span about 9 months – approximately 6 or 7 months longer than any of the other generations involved in this annual migration (which is conducted via sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic field).
Researchers have discovered a permanent, non-migratory population of monarchs in Florida, where they are able to survive year-round in a climate that fosters plenty of healthy milkweed. Without the aspect of migration, however, this population is threatened with a more limited gene pool in comparison to the migrating populations, and has a higher incidence of parasite infestation (www.monarchparasites.org) Of special concern is the rapid spread of a protozoan parasite that damages monarchs during pupation.
On the west coast, the monarch population engages in a smaller-scale migration to overwintering sites along the cost. Like their counterparts in Mexico, many of these sites have been plagued by habitat loss and human disturbance. Similar to the Florida population these monarchs have been shown to be susceptible to higher rates of parasite infection than those of the Mexican migratory group.
Okay. I believe I have recovered enough from yesterday to actually offer a summary here.
We arose at 6A to be completely ready to ride by 9, when we were to meet Mary and Tom (from Canada) at the upper driveway of the campground, where it intersects the Cap2Cap Trail. There were several things we had to see to beyond biking gear: adjusting everything that helps keep Roomba cool during the sunny day, remembering to get some snacks (we were unsure exactly where/when we’d be fueling this ride along the way), putting on sunscreen and spraying bug dope, filling our water bottles, taking anything that might melt out of the car for the day, assuring the cooler would stay in the shade during the day, final pit stops (amongst a veritable run on the facilities, i.e, 3 toilets and 3 showers, from all the many, many peeps who’d come into the park to camp the night before), etc.
And we had to eat breakfast. Not the greatest time of my day to consume food, but I did anyway, despite it being too early for me to be hungry.
When we finally headed up to our meeting spot we realized that hundreds and hundreds of other people were gathered, parked in the day use areas, to bicycle along the trail. There were club groups, triathlon trainers, Boy Scouts, and various random riders unloading their bikes, taking exercise runs, getting instructions from ride managers and I-don’t-know-what-all. Hundreds.
When Mary and Tom arrived (they had ridden from Jamestown’s “Mile 0” having been dropped off there by Alan), Mary wanted to immerse herself into all that spandex and sprockets to use the facilities. Tom wanted to see our trailer, so we rode him back to show it off.
By the time we returned to the trail, many of the groups had already left, including the Boy Scouts. So we began around 9:15, and the first thing one does headed from here west toward Richmond is climb over the bridge spanning the Chickahominy River. Happily, there is a dedicated bike path for that, too — but it is quite narrow, and another group or two of “rabbits” (fast riders who often race—these appeared to be in training for an event of some sort) came along behind us.
As the day progressed, we experienced fits and starts of rabbits passing in pace lines, or the odd racing bike coming or going, but for the most part, the rest of the individuals and groups we saw along the trail were families and leisure riders like us. The morning was splendid: sunny and cool. The four of us rode a decent but not fast pace through cornfields, oat fields, past homes large and small, and many instances of tunneling through the shady forests along Rt. 5.
Our first mission for the morning was to link up with Michael and Kathryn, who were meeting us along the way, riding (with their bikes in tow) in the van with Alan. Our first break stop was the Charles City Courthouse, where we thought we might link up with them, but when Mary called, Alan was surprised that we had gotten that far so quickly, and suggested we head on along the trail and he’d meet us a bit later.
At the courthouse, there are pretty old buildings, a visitor center, some interpretive signage, and a convenience station. We rested a bit, took advantage of the facilities, and moved on.
Because our second mission for the morning was to assure that Tom would meet Alan and the van in time for Tom to get to the Richmond airport by noon-ish, so he could catch his flight back to Calgary, we increased our pace a little. It was still a cool, easy ride at this point (about 20 or so miles for Mary and Tom, about 13 for Jack and me).
We linked up with Alan, Michael, and Kathryn slightly farther along, at a gravel road. Alan saw us pedaling along, honked, and pulled across the trail (maybe around MP 28 – since the mileposts started where Mary and Tom started, they indicate their total mileage. Subtract 7 miles to get mine and Jack’s totals, where I reference MPs) and onto this road so we could gather up Michael and Kathryn on our journey. This might have been a bit before 10A.
Alan assured Tom we could make it to a nice park about 10-15 miles ahead by or around 11:30, which would be plenty of time for him to get to the airport by noon. So we carried on.
Around MP 32, we ran into another Bike Virginia crowd, headed east, opposite from our direction. We halted to hug necks and have a visit. Rosemary warned us that ahead on our path was a lot of chaff from the storm a couple nights ago, and since it was mostly shady, that some of the footing was hazardous.
As Mary and Jack chatted with Rosemary, Nancy and Lisa (?), Kathryn realized we were still 8 miles from our destination, 4-mile Creek Park. The clock was ticking, so she took off, Tom followed, and I was not too far behind. We kept a pretty steady pace, and shortly, Jack overtook us. Later Kathryn said that Jack “saved her,” because she was wearing out, leading Tom to the park at that pace (she’s had some health issues, otherwise she’d have been easily able to go the distance).
We got there (MP 40) and I recognized the coolers Alan had had in the back of the van (noticed when we stopped to get Michael and Kathryn) arranged on a picnic table. Leave it to me to find food on a bike ride.
Alan rode through with the van, hopped out, and asked us to help ourselves to lunch while he took Tom to the airport. Before they left, there might have been a small amount of Canadian spirits in the glasses they toasted to their friendship.
After a delicious lunch Alan had gathered from The Carrot Tree (including enormous carrot cake muffins), we set off again toward Richmond. It was in the 12:30 range when we began the last 11 miles into the city.
Somewhere around MP 48 or 49, the trail paralleled a very busy road. There was some climbing to be done, and trail use increased along this stretch, so close to the city. We topped a hill and got a nice vista of the Richmond—the city of my ancestors (and living relatives), the Capitol of Virginia.
From there, it was just a few miles to the final point, although I understand that there is some urban trail-riding designated to get visitors by bike into the heart of the city. We arrived at the part of the trail running along the canal, which is bordered by some very upscale (reclaimed) housing and warehouse areas. Folks living in the “River Lofts” building had individual garden plots along the trail and it was quite lovely.
But we stopped not at the final trail head, which was busy with cars and visitors and bikes and every manner of user and equipment (Great Shiplock Park). We went on, to the actual Trail Terminus, which is a bit farther along the canal, and you ride under the elevated train tracks for a while, past the Holocost Museum, among other destinations.
The terminus itself is under both rail and interstate overpasses, and offers sculptures, a map, seating, the area where canal boats are staged for tours, and a nice place for ducks and geese (there were a lot of droppings all over everything).
Here are some of the scenes down by the canal:
At this point, we decided we felt good enough to ride back to Chickahominy Riverfront Park. Mary and Michael decided to explore further into the city.
Both of us needed water, so Jack and I rode no more than about 2 miles climbing up out of town to a 7-11 store where we shared a Gatorade on site and bought a couple big bottles of water, one to refresh our bike bottles, and one to carry. Heck, it was only another 9 miles to our earlier lunch stop at Four Mile Creek Picnic area, our next goal, and headed on.
By this hour—maybe 2-2:30PM—it was terrifically hot. We were drinking frequently, and there is not a tremendous amount of cover/shade between the city and 4-Mile Creek. When we arrived at the picnic area, there was a Eagle Scout structure with benches and a roof (shade) available and we took it with great thanks to the Scout who built it. Our computers said we were on about mile 60 for the day. We rested a long time at the park, and took advantage of the single port-a-pot within a 20-mile radius. Only about 33 to go, to get to Roomba.
Still, we were feeling pretty fit. Our big leg muscles were only beginning to notice how difficult it was to start up again after stopping.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe we were delirious. But we calculated our position (60 miles for the day) and added the estimated miles back to camp (33-ish) and realized we’d be at 93 miles on the day! Surely we could not stop a mere 7 miles short of 100 on the day, could we?
Jack and I have never ridden “A Century” before. Where Jack has come close on several occasions, I have never tried, nor have I had any ghost of a desire to ride 100 miles in a day.
But heck. Once you’re miserable, sore, tired, and (I have to admit) delirious, there’s a point beyond which you’re not going to get any more miserable, sore, tired or delirious. So we pressed on, imagining we wouldn’t feel too awful as we pedaled past our campsite for another 3.5 miles toward Jamestown, to turn around and go back for the 7 miles that would total 100.
Okay, we were wrong on that imagining. But I digress.
By the time we arrived at our next goal—breaking up a long ride into manageable pieces helps a rider not get overwhelmed—a place where we knew we could fill our water bottles (Charles City Courthouse—about mile 80 on the day) and empty our bladders (a good sign that we were drinking enough water), it was in the 4-5 o’clock range. You might note that we were pedaling much more slowly by this point in our trek, having taken about 2 hours to go ~20 miles (10 miles/hr).
The trail’s shade improved quite a lot between 4-Mile Creek park and the Courthouse. There were some climbs, but another plus was that it was quite level for the majority of the ride along there. And when you enter Charles City County, while there are some significant climbs near the county line, again, there is a lot of shade and a lot of level trail.
We spent quite a long time sitting in the shade there. We both ate a granola bar, and drank a full bicycle bottle of water each while we sat, topping them up again before we left. About 13 miles to the Chicka. Riverfront; about 20 miles required for the 100.
Nothing to do but put one rotation of the pedals after another.
It was terribly hard to cycle past “home.” It was 6:30 by this time, and both of us were rather wobbly on the tires—not so much that we were reckless or in danger. I simply found that I lost concentration pretty easily. We were both talking less and noticing our surroundings less, concentrating on the only things we could still concentrate on: one pedal; another; repeat.
One thing we did notice, however, was a small red vehicle sitting on the grassy verge between the road and the Trail. His direction was opposite the lane closest to the trail, and we could not figure how he got in that position. As we passed, the silly driver appeared to want to get himself out of there, but he had to cross into a deep ditch that the mowers avoided—and with this small car with next to zero clearance!
He got his right front tire into the ditch when a police car that was driving past noticed his odd position and flipped on his lights and pulled over to the opposite side of the road. By then we were out of sight of the situation. We saw another police car headed toward the first as we pedaled on toward Jamestown.
I mention this only to give you the idea of my mental state. Once we got to our turn-around point (we went all the way to MP 3 so we didn’t have to guesstimate half-miles), wanting to see what the outcome of all this fuss and bother along the Trail was one of the primary things that kept me going with only 4 miles to go.
As we were headed back to camp, I was disappointed to note that everything seemed to be resolved when I made it to the spot where I THOUGHT the vehicle had been. But ahead, I saw the flashing red-and-blue lights, and I knew I had misjudged the spot. Yay! Voyeur that I am, I felt it was all worth it to see what had been going on there. As we neared the red car, I could not for the life of me understand how the vehicle got there. If it had run off the road, it had done so very gently, as there were no skid or slide marks anywhere.
I suspect the idiot turned onto the trail instead of the road for whatever reason, and got far enough from one of the “No Motorized Vehicles” signs where side roads and driveways intersect the Trail, that he decided he couldn’t back up all the way to his entry point (without risk of running over a cyclist) and was trying to cross the verge to the road.
By the time we arrived back at that point, the guy and two policemen were on the Trail, and as we slowed to cycle past, I heard one of the officers say, “Okay I’m going to give the instruction again: I want you to take nine steps forward and then . . . ”
At that point, we moved out of earshot, but it was obvious they were giving an inebriation test to the driver. That might explain a lot. Awful glad no one was hurt.
We got back to Roomba around 7:30PM. Lordy what a long day.
It was all we could do to get a shower and eat something before falling into bed. Jack came back from the showers at about 9PM and asked if I had gotten thousands of sunset photos as the sun turned the sky all sorts of shades of red and purple. But no. I had noticed, but just couldn’t possibly be bothered to take even one photo. I know now why folks call it A Century: because it will only happen in my time on this spinning globe once in 100 years.
Cycle Stats June 18, 2016
Ride time: 7:25:43
Stopped time: 3:26:48
Distance 100.94 miles (Jack got 101 and change)
Average speed: 13.59 mph
Fastest speed: 27.14 (Jack got ~29 — inertial is a terrible thing)
Today, Sunday, we slept in, continued drinking a lot of water, ate a late brunch, and lounged around in the screened in porch with fans blowing on us all day. It’s hotter today than yesterday, reaching 88 degrees today. The campground is emptying out of RVs and loud people.
Still feel drained and tired. But hey—we did A Century. One more thing off the bucket list! Right? Am I right?
The storm that threatened the night-before-last came with a vengeance early last night (Friday, June 17). We had been warned, however, so we had “battened-down” the hatches, so when it blew in, nothing blew away. Lots of hard rain on Roomba’s roof, blowing under the awning and into the screened-in porch. But nothing was damaged and everything stayed put.
We had our coffee/tea inside when we roused, but wanted to do some shopping for our departure day dinner. In the overcast and sprinkling sky we headed toward Williamsburg. First stop was Starbucks for breakfast.
We also checked email and other feeds while using their wifi—and the Starbucks is in the same center as the Fresh Market. So the timing was ideal.
The current plan for tonight’s dinner is to join Alan, Mary and others of our Bike Virginia gang for a toddy at A&M’s and then to head out to Nawab’s Indian for dinner. Indian food might not be the best choice for the night before a long ride, but with the intention to get only “American Hot” spices, our hope is that no suffering will be undergone by any of the crowd riding to Richmond tomorrow.
While this evening was originally going to be our seafood cookout day, we re-arranged the menu plans so we could join up with the gang in town. So when we headed over to Fresh Market this morning, Jack and Yowl checked out the fresh salmon and swordfish options. The salmon just looked too good (and it grills up so nicely under Jack’s “baton”) so they settled on a small grilling portion for Sunday night.
We got some additional appetizers, crackers, bread, and other things there, then stopped at a 7-11 for more Gatorade and ice.
With the wind, things back at Roomba had begun to dry off. But when I set myself up in the screened-in porch, it was downright chilly; and every now and then a spit of a shower hit the roof and blew in through the netting. But it was a lovely place to sit and read and occasionally, nap. Yowl and I enjoyed our afternoon in the cool outdoors.
We met up with Alan, Mary and a bunch of new and old friends. Fun evening with Indian cuisine, lots of catching up, discussion of retirement plans and hopes, and the bike ride scheduled for Saturday, when the weather is forecast to be splendid.
After a single malt tasting back at A&M’s, we drove back to Roomba and hit the hay around 10, anticipating an early beginning so we can meet Mary and Tom at the Riverfront Park entry to head to Richmond.
So, I must apologize. Yowl identifies as female. I mis-gendered her yesterday in my post. Today, I return with apologies to Yowl.
Meanwhile, the storm that brewed and stewed last night never came. I don’t think it even rained, although it might have done so, but only a little.
We ran the AC all night on a fairly high temp (around 74 degrees) with the fan going on Auto, so that the white noise of the fan running (instead of stopping and starting) would lull us to sleep. Not that either of us needed much coaxing.
Stayed asleep until around 7 and arose to have tea and coffee – we started in our “nook” under the Big Front Window, and finished up outside in the breeze in the screen room. Although it was humid, the general feel was grand.
We heard from our fearless leader, Alan, who has been primarily responsible for putting together this informal ride, that due to forecast weather for tomorrow’s trek from Williamsburg all the way to Richmond along the trail, he thought we might postpone until Saturday. Evidently, the forecast for Sat. is much nicer. We have no set plans, so we responded to his email that a postponement would be fine with us.
Around 10 we saw some clouds building up, and thought we might go for a bike ride. The rain came before we had set off, and we debated for some time about whether to head back to bed for a nap or hit the Capital Trail. We decided to ride.
The rain was not heavy or any problem at all – in fact, it felt great, as the temperatures had risen, even though the sun was behind the clouds. We set off toward Jamestown, approximately a 7 mile journey.
It is so totally lovely to be riding along a nicely-groomed, completely paved path. It is truly a touring bicyclist’s fondest dream to have this type of infrastructure. With the sprinkles, very few people were out using the path, so we were able to meander side-by-side for most of the way.
Got to Jamestown (mile zero) and looked at some maps and some historic markers (you might remember that we’d done the whole tourist thing at Jamestown just a month or so ago) and turned around. We had passed a couple of side trails that looked interesting, so we decided to explore the one called the Powhatan Creek Trail, that left the Cap2Cap heading through a cornfield.
It was really a neat trail, entering the woods after the cornfield, and skirting some suburbs and housing developments. We saw numerous deer, some nice cypress swamp, bridged several wetlands, and then got ourselves throughly lost. Our hope that the Powhatan Trail would circuit back to the Cap2Cap was dashed when we ran out of trail during recess at a public elementary school.
Of course, we never retrace our route unless there’s no option, so we pressed onward and found ourselves back at Rt. 5, at the Five Forks intersection (Ironbound and Rt. 5) with no Cap2Cap in sight.
We rode the shoulder westward along Rt. 5 (toward Richmond) until we got to Jamestown High School, which we remembered as an option along the Cap2Cap, and in pretty short order, we found ourselves on familiar ground again. As we paused to assess what the heck we thought we might have done (think a triangle’s hypotenuse), a serious raucous was happening among some blue jays just off the path ahead of us.
I think Jack might have been a bit perturbed as my attention was stolen from his hypothesis about our journey by a Cooper’s hawk emerging from the raucous area, with 4 jays following it, as it carried what I have to assume was a baby jay in its talons, across the trail and across the road. Wow.
From the school, it was just 4.5 miles back to Chickahominy Riverfront Park, and by this time the sun was shining fiercely, and all moisture on the ground was evaporating and rising into the air, which our lungs, preferring oxygen to H2O, didn’t much appreciate. It was most definitely lunch time, so we beat a quick retreat back to Roomba, and spent the afternoon fighting off squirrels and lounging in the screened-in porch.
I have never seen such bold, brazen “wildlife” before. First, one was investigating the handlebar bag on Jack’s bike.
That made Jack remember that he had some energy bars in his kit bag, left inside the car. No problem unless the energy bars include chocolate. So he got up to chase away the intruder, and then went to the car, opened the back gate, and took the energy bars into Roomba to stay cool. Thinking surely the squirrels would not get into our car, he left the gate open to keep the interior of the car a little cooler.
Lo and Behold! A slight rattling noise alerted us, sitting no more than 5 feet away, that the devil in a gray suit was inside the car, escaping with a baggie of trail mix from the FRONT SEAT! Who knows how long it had been rummaging around in there . . .
It decided to have another try, after Jack retrieved our trail mix from its grubby little paws.
You just cannot leave a thing lying around with these obnoxious squirrels as neighbors! I really REALLY want to bring my hawk up here and teach the local tree rats a quick lesson in survival. Of course, I have no doubt that many camping tourists through the years have thought how funny, cute, and special it was to get “up close and personal” with the squirrels by hand-feeding them or leaving bread or peanuts lying around so they’d come closer. I just hope they don’t chew their way through anything on the car or, goddess forbid, on Roomba.
We spent the rest of the afternoon until dinner time with fans blowing on us in the screened room, watching the osprey out over the river, reading our books and snoozing (when we were not chasing squirrels away).
As the day cooled and the campground filled up with weekenders, we began thinking about dinner. After a nice shower, Yowl and I returned to the screen room and electric fans, and we readied for chow by having a chilled, frosty beverage as the Brie warmed and the lamb burgers rested in the spice rub Jack had coated them with, in anticipation of grilling.
All this while a young groundhog visited – the same young groundhog, I’d guess, that Jack saw getting chased by some of these very aggressive squirrels yesterday.
Which reminds me: as Yowl and I were walking back to the screen tent earlier today, we saw a couple of adult bald eagles harassing an adult osprey carrying a fish. I have to guess that the baldies wanted to poach the fish from the osprey. But the osprey was faster and more agile than the lumbering baldies. The whole group disappeared upriver so I don’t know how the contest turned out.
These guys were hanging out at the Roomba site today, and the final photo is a neat looking river edge around a bend from us. Breezy evening with solar and LED lights in the screen tent. G’night all –
We’ve had some lazy leisure since arriving to our campsite in Virginia Beach on Sunday evening. Our schedule has included linking up with some of Jack’s fraternity and rugby buddies from long ago: Monday night was dinner with Jim and Nell in Norfolk; Tuesday was lunch with Chip and Becky in Williamsburg.
So for most of Monday, we just lazed about. Jack had a nice shady snooze in the gravity chair, Kerry and Gloria took a looping bike ride around the campsites, and I walked down the road and over the dunes via boardwalk to the beach, and took some photos of this and that. One critter of note that I was unable to capture or really to identify is the species of dragonfly that is everywhere. They are huge, appear to be a blue or green, and keep whapping into the screen house, the awning, the car, the camper. They’re simply everywhere. Also I captured by my camera, I saw lots of osprey, one of which dove into the water but came up empty-taloned; a dolphin; a group of pelicans fishing low over the water; and a black snake back at camp, racing under Roomba and into the trees before we could get a camera on it.
Here’s a little gallery of my sightings that I was able to capture.
Jim phoned at about 4PM and shortly thereafter, we headed up the road to a roadhouse/bar on the water that Jim calls his local. They were having a happy hour discount on bad beer and excellent shrimp. Jim said he often takes some advantage of these happy discounts. Jack and I chose some better beer offerings, but the shrimp by the pound were quite good, as were the dipping sauce choices, including straight horseradish that would ream-and-rebush a body’s sinuses if you got too much. We sat on the deck and watched the aircraft carriers come into port (we saw one arrive, but there were 5 due, and we saw all of them docked the next day); and the sun set, and the seagulls head to roost. It was quite a good evening catching up with old friends.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016: The next day, which just happened to be Jack’s 66th birthday, we headed out early, having first taken down the awning, because the winds were scheduled to rise with the temperatures. Our plan with Kerry and Gloria was to meet them at the Jamestown Settlement historic site after our lunch, and then we four would have Jack’s birthday dinner in Williamsburg.
Chip and Becky live in Kingsmill, and we didn’t want to arrive too early, but were unsure how the traffic might be on our route up the shore, and inland, thus the early start. As it happened, we were really too early, so we took a detour to see Jack’s old home in Hampton, plus a few others of his childhood haunts. Everything was quite different, after 25 or so years, as might be imagined.
We then took a quick tour of things that had changed on the William and Mary campus since our last visit to the ‘Burgh, and got to Chip and Becky’s right on time. Had a lovely chin-wag with them for about an hour in their lovely home, then headed over to one of the Kingsmill amenities: The Eagle, a casual restaurant and watering hole on the golf course. Chip treated us to an excellent lunch and we spent another couple of hours eating and telling stories and catching up on everyone these guys know/knew in common. It was an excellent experience, and I had a grand time meeting them both for the first time and getting to know them a little. I look forward to seeing them both again in the future.
Linking up with Kerry and Gloria at Jamestown, we wandered through the outdoor exhibits and, although it was oppressively hot in the sun, the breeze from the river kept up and offered excellent respite whenever we could find a place in the shade to sit for a bit.
After seeing the eagle, we headed back to the ‘Burgh to give Kerry and Glo a car-tour of the W&M Campus before we went to Berret’s Seafood restaurant for an early dinner. We saw some women practicing rugby on one of the athletic fields, and just wondered if we might see an old teammate of mine, who is known to be coaching the W&M Women’s team these days. Sure enough, Beth was there, and we had a nice quick chat before she had to go back to doing what she needed to do to shape up the team for participation in a National Sevens tournament coming up this weekend. It was great to see her again, after all these years! Go W&M Women’s Rugby!
Arriving at Berret’s, we were able to walk in and sit outside. The temps by this time had dropped 10 or more degrees, and again, in the shade with the breeze, we were quite comfortable and ate more than we should have.
Stopped for provisions on the way back, where Gloria bought a little cheesecake for us to enjoy as a birthday treat, and we sat at their campsite, where the breeze had stilled considerably, and I was battling chewing insects (they always like me best), until about 10 when I headed Roomba-ward.
Hoping to get back on the bikes tomorrow if the weather holds, and enjoy our final day at First Landing by seeing more of the sights and maybe the actual ocean.