Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mystery Melon

When I planted cucumbers, only one came up, so when I found a similar looking volunteer sprouting in the compost I transplanted the little guy in there with what I thought was his big brother. However, the volunteer has now begun bearing fruit and they are most certainly not cucumbers. They look like some kind of melon - almost watermelon-ish. Anyone have any ideas?


The weather is fine outside, so Kristal picked up this small table at Target so we can sit in the yard for the odd meal or afternoon beverage. I think she had intended for us to mainly use it in the back yard, but there is too much shade, and we are not shy people. So we sit out on the front lawn dining on clams and corn. Or in this case enjoying a frozen strawberry daiquiri! Good times!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Camping at Loft Mountain

The situation was so dire I was threatening to make us camp out in the back yard.

Normally by the time June rolls around Kristal and I have already taken at least one foolhardy camping trip. Just because the sun is shining on Friday afternoon doesn't mean that the water is warm or that the weekend won't be drenched in rain. But we both grew up with camping and its a therapeutic exercise of getting away from the stresses of everyday life. Life is far from everyday for us at the moment with our wedding day racing closer, so we just hadn't found the time to haul the tent out of the shed and take a trip. This weekend looked like it would also be consumed with wedding preparations, but at the last moment we got an invitation from Melissa and Joel to camp in Shenandoah, and we both thought it would be a great idea.

We set out on Saturday morning, stopping for lunch in Waynesboro. The town is tiny and we almost thought we wouldn't find a place to eat when we came upon and book and soup shop. Yes, you read that correctly! Someone had turned this gabled house into a bookshop that also served soups, salads and sandwiches. Kristal got the ham and brie ciabatta and I opted for a bean salad and they were both delicious and reasonable. We decided that we would move to Waynesboro, and soon had everything planned except for what we'd do for money...

Sadly leaving our imaginary future hometown we were soon on Skyline Drive winding our way towards the campsite. On our arrival we miraculously met up with Melissa and Joel without the aid of cell phones. We decided to ease ourselves in gently to the hiking and chose to stroll the Frazier Discovery Trail that gives some impressive views of the Shenandoah Valley to the North-West. The hills were a slight shock to the system but when we returned to the campsite we still had a couple hours until dinner, so we hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail as it sweeps around the campground. We found we had acclimatised quickly, which is to say we had learned to take more frequent rest breaks! While taking a quick breather I discovered that a tick was burrowing into my leg. Ticks are notorious for carried Limes Disease, so it is important to pull them out promptly, ensuring the the whole head comes out too. I admit I was a little scared when I first spotted it but the fear was soon replaced by the thrill of getting my first ever tick.

This time when we got back to camp we had definitely generated an appetite and so gorged on snacks while I got a fire going. We had to wait for the blaze to die down to some hot embers so we broke out the travel scrabble. I'm going to shamelessly brag here for a second, because I spent my childhood being the youngest in my family and thus roundly thrashed by ruthless and uber-literate relatives whenever we played scrabble. I had hoped that my years away from home would have leveled the playing field, but alas I was made fun of for taking too long on my turn and ended up making some hasty word choices that let to an all too familiar downfall. You can imagine my excitement then to actually win a game of scrabble, against worthy opponents, without even having to persuade them that any made-up words were British variations.Thankfully the fire was now ready for cooking so there could be no rematch to knock me off my pedestal (although I did have a few disastrous rounds of Hearts after dinner). We got to cooking meat and marshmallows and ate until we felt we had negated the days exercise. The sun began to set so us boys went off to point our SLRs at the sunset.

I had a fitful night's sleep, desperately wishing I could doze off long enough to dream about my pillowtop mattress back home. At around five in the morning I gave up and went for a dawn stroll around the campsite. Venus shone brightly as the sky began to light up and I tried to pick out birdsongs I recognized in the morning chorus. I ran into several rabbits and three deer hanging out at the dumpsters. I returned to the tent and got in a couple hours of good sleep to prepare for the hard day's hiking ahead. After a light breakfast we hiked down to Doyles River Falls. There had been a lot of rain during the week so an impressive amount of water was coming over them. We climbed around for a while finding good angles to take a photograph from, before tackling the grueling slog back up the hill. We estimated an elevation change of about 700-800 feet which translated to an average grade of about 10%. We then regretted having done our estimation. It turned out to go a lot quicker than we expected, as we'd spent a lot of time on the way down admiring the views, inspecting the insect life and carefully threading our way down slippery section which we traversed with far more confidence on the uphill return. We got back to the car in good time and went in search of a cheeseburger. Then it was time to head back to town. After a couple hours in the car, the toll on the legs became apparent as we groaned in agony trying to get out the door. Still, it was well worth it (especially as it was such a cheap deal) and I hope to make it back to the park for some more challenging hikes. Maybe someone will even get me to do an overnighter one of these days!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Ms McKelvey at the table

Ms McKelvey at the table, originally uploaded by evens.john.

My cousin and her lover are in a band who are just starting to break into the gigging scene. Being the good cousin that I am I try to show up and support them from time to time. One of the main advantages is that we discover new bars and pubs in Richmond that we might otherwise never had heard of. First was Northside Grille which has become something of a regular haunt for us. Then it was Side Pocket, a pool hall not two minutes drive from where I work, but hidden behind a Holiday Inn so you'd never know it was there. Pitchers of Bud were $7 and we played three or four games of pool (at a very slow pace because we're out of practice) for about eleven bucks. You can't really beat that for a cheap night out.
The rules of American 8-ball (so called because there are 15 balls on the table) a similar to those of UK pub pool that I grew up on, except you never get two shots. Like pub pool, there are several situations where no-one is exactly sure what the rule is, and in the interests of having fun it's usually better to do whatever makes the game most exciting/last longer.
It was a Saturday night and we easily got a table at around 8.30, so I'm thinking we might be spending a little time at the Side Pocket in the near future...