As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Nothing Much"

Conversation quoted by Tam:

"So how's the homework coming?"
"What about the religion test tomorrow?"
"No problem."
"What's it on?"
"Nothing much."
"What does that mean?"
"The Old Testament and the New Testament."

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today was my 62nd birthday. Will blog about it over the weekend, though Tam and Sarah were under the weather and we didn't do anything except get older. And of course, Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary dying today added to the sense of aging. More soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Notes from Underground

Okay, the title is probably more clever than the rest of the post is going to be, since I'm describing one of the older tourist destinations on the East Coast, Luray Caverns. As I noted in yesterday's post, after her descent into an old gold mine in Cripple Creek, Colorado, Sarah could no longer plead claustrophobia on caves, and she herself decided she wanted to see one on this trip to the Valley. And being a well-brainwashed product of advertising campaigns, she decided it had to be Luray Caverns, the most famous of the Eastern Seaboard caves, and one promoted with the ferocity that used to be devoted to "See Rock City" in the American South, except instead of painting barns they just have incessant billboards and TV commercials on kids' channels.

As it happens, neither Tam nor I had been to Luray, so we were fine with that. I grew up in the Ozarks, which like the Shenandoah Valley is full of limestone karst formations and therefore really neat calcite caves with lots of stalactites, stalagmites, and such, but because I had seen plenty as a kid I never got into the ones around here, which tend to be a tad pricey. Then once I had a kid (the obvious reason to go), she long said she didn't want to because it would be too creepy. She no longer thinks so.

I think I've mentioned that Sarah is really fond of her new camera, and that I put an 8 gigabyte memory card in it. (Actually, I see I only mentioned the 4 gigs I put in originally. I bought her 8 gigs on sale at the Harrisonburg Wal-Mart, so she'd have all the memory she could hope to need. For now.)

She took 417 pictures in the cave. Yes, that says 417. I have not edited them all yet, or even looked at them all yet, not to mention the videos and stills I took (a mere 147 for the day, but many of them video, of which probably a bit over 100 were in the cave). So, don't expect a Flickr or YouTube upload imminently: tomorrow's a work and school day. How things have changed since the days of film. Just take everything you see, and cull the duds later.

So the above shot is just a random one, I think one of reflected stalactites in water.

Anyhow, Luray is every bit the touristy place you expect, but it's a great and impressive cave, and worth the visit. Sarah loved it, and so did we.

Earlier in the day we met over breakfast with Moira Gallagher, daughter of Tam's old friends Tom and Cyndi Gallagher (who are also Sarah's godparents). Moira's a senior at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg where we made our base camp for this Valley trip. She hadn't seen Sarah in several years so was of course impressed.

The cave made the return trip a bit more than just a return trip, as coming down via Skyline Drive helped the first day. We try to make a three-day weekend not just two days of travel and one day of visit, but three days of stuff.

Fact I didn't know: there are no bats in Luray. It has no natural openngs to the outside, only the commercial entrance discovered in the 1870s, so there is no natural fauna, there being no food sources or uncontrolled access, though salamanders and other marine life are sometimes found, but not year-round. So it's a batless cave.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trying to Blog More

I'm sorry I've been so bad about blogging lately; in particular I wish I'd done a better job on the Colorado Springs vacation. Now, a month after it began, the memories are fading, and I wish I'd done more than the bullet-point notes I made at the time. That's why I've tried to be more careful here.

Now, let me note that eventually much of the Colorado material will go up on YouTube. The trouble is that since my father-in-law doesn't have broadband, but a dialup connection, YouTube isn't really practical for him, and so I burned him a DVD on the last day of the trip of everything we'd taken. But that video is an hour and 15 minutes long, and since YouTube limits (non-commercial folks who don't have big followings online) to 10 minutes each, I'll have to split it into eight segments, reallocate the audio, etc. That will take time. And I haven't had time.

The YouTube videos plus stills interspersed as slide shows with commentary give you the closest thing to contemporary blogging, since it's what we were saying and thinking at the time rather than now. So it will probably have to be the historical artifact of the trip.

Anyway, I'm trying to blog the Labor Day weekend while it's fresh and get back to doing more frequent blogging here. Once I started the work blog I gave less time here.

Quiet Day, With Ducks

Photo at left by Sarah.
A quiet second day of the three days in the Valley. We all slept late. We went to the local visitor's center to gather brochures, and it's collocated with a little (one room basically) Valley Turnpike Museum, but I'm an old Shenandoah Valley addict and enjoyed that. Then a good country buffet lunch at Rowe's Country Buffet between here and Mount Crawford, VA, and an offshoot of the long-established Mrs. Rowe's restaurant in Staunton. After that we headed to the small town of Dayton, a nice old valley town where there are many buggy-driving Old Order Mennonites. Though both the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society in Dayton (where I've done a lot of genealogical reserch on two lines that came through Rockingham County, one German and one Scotch-Irish), and the Dayton Farmer's Market, a favorite of Tam's, we checked out an old mill (also closed Sunday) but did stop at a playground near the Historical Society where Sarah used to play when smaller and when I'd be in the library. She remembered it, and fed the dugs in the nearby stream, and took pictures, including the duck one above.

Because the video I took there isn't clear enough to show Sarah's face, I'm posting a video of it here:

We stopped at Wal-Mart to get swim goggles (yesterday we bought a swim suit because we'd left without them) but the outdoor pool would prove too cold for Sarah. But we'd done our best to remedy the situation. A brief stop at Jess' Lunch, the local dive/greasy spoon for our collection. Now I'm blogging and Sarah and Tam are watching a DVD of a Beethoven movie (the Saint Bernard, not the Composer). More later if there is more.

Tomorrow, en route home, we plan to do Luray Caverns. The Valley is full of caves, of which Luray is probably by far the most famous, but until fairly recently Sarah has said she'd find caves too spooky, and since they tend to be pricey we've held off. But during the Colorado trip she managed to convince us to take her on a tour of the Mollie Kathleen Mine in Cripple Creek, which is 1000 feet underground, has narrow tunnels and a cramped elevator: by comparison a cave should be roomy. So now that she's ready for claustrophobic underground adventures, we're going to do Luray.

Labor Day Weekend

More on this image of the deer and the video below tomorrow.

Okay, here's more: for Labor Day, we're in the Shenandoah Valley, staying in Harrisonburg, but we came down via Skyline Drive. Sarah's still enjoying her new camera, so she was thrilled to get the still (through the car window) closeup of a deer. The video is mine. Anyway, more later today.

It was a good day but exhausted everyone. It's now Sunday morning, or rather midmorning, as we've all slept in. I hope we don't lose too much of the day. More later.