Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sean Castleberry @ Marty's Grill

Quick blog shout out to Sean Castleberry, who entertained us at Marty's grill on Saturday night. We dig your groove. Gonjoe, loved the poetry and harp. Thaks guys.

Suntrust Richmond Marathon

The Richmond Marathon course takes the runners past the end of our road. They have covered approximately 14.5 miles as they cross 28th Street. We are encircled by the course making it hard to drive anywhere without having one's route blocked by a stream of athletes! I knew of a couple of people who were taking part, so I decided to go out to watch the runners cruise by. When I got to the course, a few pros were coming through shepherded by police motorcycle escorts. The flow of bodies gradually thickened, although by this point in the race the field was already stretched out. I spent about two hours walking between mile markers 14 and 15, stopping to take a few photos and offer encouragement, with pounding feet relentlessly jogging past me. At first it was inspiring to see so many people of different sizes and ages running together. At the tail end of the field it was a little depressing to see people struggling having only just reached the halfway point. However, by the time I turned for home the trickle had all but stopped completely and ahead of schedule for the cutoff time, so all the runners I saw were still in contention for a finisher's medal.
Having competed in a 10K run, where the entire route is lined with spectators, it was interesting to see the marathon pass through a residential neighborhood and still see long stretches without any supporters. It is surprising how encouraging it can be to have a complete stranger cheer you on! I spent a good amount of time on the hill up to the Lee Bridge offering my support to tired legs as they slogged up the grade. Hopefully it did some good.
As for the photos, I was hoping to get a shot somewhere that would capture the sheer volume of people, but nothing quite came out the way I had envisioned. I stood on a trashcan to try and get some altitude! By the time I walked up the the bridge the main field had already crossed, otherwise I would've climb up on a handily place police car to capture the scene... The fall colors helped give the pictures a little more interest. I never did see anyone I recognized!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Wine tours

Sometimes it pains me to blog about the fun things I do. After finding a hidden gem, it seems a shame to tell everybody. I comfort myself in knowing that the readership of this blog is very small!

I can't go within 50 miles of Charlottesville without doing a winetasting at one of the many Virginian wineries in the area. Luckily, a live 60 miles away, so I'm not there every day! The tours are so cheap, usually $5 to taste the vineyard's line of current varieties. This time I went by my usual method: used Google maps to find the winery closest to our primary destination and take our chances. This time, Chance was on our side and we ended up at the Winery open by Dave Mathews in 2000. The barn which houses the tasting room is spectacular. There was nothing I didn't love about the structure, but my favorite detail was that the floors were made with oak that used to be huge cider tanks at the Bulmer's brewery.

We didn't find any spectacular wines, but we had a lot of fun.


I'm sure there's not a single angle of Monticello that hasn't been photographed, so here's my picture-postcard view that I could've probably found in 0.47 seconds on Google. Apparently no-one can remember if I'd been to Thomas Jefferson's hilltop home before, but I can safely say that if I had visited, I was too young at the time to recall many details.

The thing about an iconic location such as Monticello is that you think you already know all. The columns, the contraptions, the collections; the self-taught scientist, architect and politician. All true, but none a reason not to set foot on the property in person and discover the history for oneself.

On the day we visited some of the house normally on the tour was closed for restoration, so we got half price tickets. I'm not much for guided tours so this suited me fine. We had about an hour before our scheduled tour time to wander the grounds. Most surprising was the variety of produce still being grown in the vegetable garden at this time of year. The garden in set on a 100 yard long terrace on the South hillside, with panoramic views of the plain below.

We also took the opportunity to explore the 'Dependancies', the sunken wings off of the main house which housed some of the industries on which the house and estate depended. I envy the beer cellar!

The house tour itself was brief but ultimately exceeded expectations. We had a Middle-Eastern party with our tour group and one a few members spoke good enough English to murmur translations to their compatriots. I found the process almost as interesting as the tour itself. The guide spoke in elevated prose mired with the witticisms one would expect of a Jefferson devotee, so one can only imagine the messages received after translation! We learned from the tour that Jefferson worked ridiculously hard in all aspects of life, and so perhaps deserves the status a American demi-god, especially as he worked the hardest on discerning the properties of his nascent nation, both in investigating the natural world that existed there and inventing the social world that came to exist.

As usual, a fuller pictorial account is available on my Flickr page. Enjoy