The last time Wayne and I went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was Christmas Day 2013! We were long, long overdue for a return visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed the 5 HOURS that we spent there THIS time looking at all of the paintings, sculptures, and artwork of every kind.
Here are some pictures of our favorites from this trip:
I love, love, love Art Nouveau….
Before today, I didn’t know that most “Tiffany Lamps” were designed by a woman, Clara Driscoll (1861-1944). Peacock Lamp & Cobweb Lamp above.
Pottery is one of the oldest art forms…. Fascinating to see the work by various ancient cultures.
Of course this is just a small sampling of VMFA’s collection and if you ever have the opportunity to go, DO! It’s most definitely worth a trip. 🙂
Wayne and I had the great pleasure of attending “Cowfest 7”–an annual invitation-only music event at beautiful Alder Creek Farm. We’ve been invited to camp there a few times, and while we’ve attended other Cowfests, this was the first year we were able take our trailer. With all sincerity, I can say that this weekend ranks up there in the top 10 best experiences I’ve had–EVER!
Our little Clipper was decked out with a new tire cover I’d made for the weekend, and we arrived at the farm on late Friday afternoon. Our host had a spot for us near the house that offered a 30-amp electrical connection (perfect!), and as other trailers, coaches, vans, and tents got set up, a community of campers and music lovers was formed.
That evening we turned on our lights, and put out our welcome mat. It was so much fun to meet new people, and to reconnect with old friends!
FOOD is certainly one of the highlights of the weekend! Campers brought items to cook and items to share, and the grills were loaded with mega-burgers, brats, and even filet mignon!
Music, of course, is central to this event, and the pickin’ that night was superb!
When we finally went back to our trailer–a little after 2 AM!–I sat outside for a while, simply marveling at how NICE it was to be around such fun, loving, and like-minded souls.
Saturday morning promised to be another picture-perfect August day, and by early afternoon our little camping community had grown even more.
The outdoor brick oven was cranked up, and “Team Dannette” got to work, ultimately making about a bazillion pizzas during this event! Kudos and blessings to them, as well as to Mark and the others who kept us all so well fed.
Other visitors–just there for the main event, Cowfest 7–started arriving when the gates opened at 4:00 pm.
It should be noted that Alder Creek Farm is a private performance and event venue east of Charlottesville, VA. It’s not a campground and it’s not a business: our hosts simply enjoy offering family-friendly events on their beautiful land where their friends and guests can enjoy music, food, and fellowship. So thankful that we’re counted among their friends! 🙂
The first two groups at Cowfest 7 played music for children, and then The BLNDERS took the stage a little after 6 PM.
A Charlottesville-based group, The BLNDRS had just finished a tour that included coastal North Carolina.
“Coincidentally,” two members of The BLNDRS (Nate and Ben) went to the school where I teach. More coincidentally, when they were performing on Ocracoke Island in NC a few days before Cowfest, my vacationing co-worker (their music teacher and mentor!) came to their show! And even more coincidentally, the band members know Wayne’s sons, one of whom had seen them the previous night when they played at Pro Re Nata. “Coincidences,” maybe, but small world-isms, for sure. 🙂 If you get a chance to see this group, do! Seriously!
As the 3/4 moon climbed higher in the sky, The Cows started rocking Alder Creek Farm. (I’m not sure if they were the inspiration for the name Cowfest or not, but maybe!)
In previous years we’ve had to leave about halfway during their 2nd set to start the drive home, but this time (since we were camping) we were able to stay until the end! T’was amazing. MOOOOOOO! 🙂
After Cowfest 7 finally wound down (despite calls to “PLAY ALL NIGHT! PLAY ALL NIGHT!”), the stalwart camping crew reconvened in the Sugar Shack for another jam session–that started around 2 AM!
At one point, Wayne and Nick (from the local Stones tribute band, Cherry Red) did a number together:
One of the highlights for me during these ever-changing jam sessions was when Wayne was singing with local singer/songwriter, Susan Munson, while Nick (on Wayne’s guitar) and Ben played. So many musical styles, backgrounds, and generations, all coming together to make some sweet music. Beautiful.
I REALLY, REALLY wish I’d gotten video clips of ALL of the groups and ALL of the jams, but here’s just a little bit of the magic from Saturday night:
It was late when we made our way back to the Clipper from the Sugar Shack, but the music was still happening! How late was it? Check my Fitbit’s sleep stats. 😉
The next morning as we were sitting out on our “porch” drinking coffee, I could see that one musician (who later said he was playing until the sun rose!) was still asleep. 😉
At one point I quipped that I wondered if our hosts would notice if we just never left; I wanted to bottle the whole experience to save and to savor; it was truly that special….
But soon everyone was packing up and heading home, with new friends made and good memories lovingly tucked into their hearts. I would catch myself smiling at random times, thinking of one thing or another from our visit to Alder Creek Farm. (And I’m STILL smiling! 🙂 )
Once we had the Clipper safely back in our driveway and (most) everything put away and cleaned up, we relaxed for a while and then started wondering what to do about dinner. Decision made, we headed to one of our favorite local restaurants, Fardowners.
As we pulled into the parking lot, who should we see but “Team Dannette”–the fabulous, all day/all night pizza makers extraordinaire from Cowfest! There had actually been many legitimate coincidences and synchronicities over the past couple of days, but this one made my jaw drop! They’d rolled on up to a campground in this neck of the woods when they left Alder Creek Farm and they’d also decided that Fardowners would be a good choice for dinner. Loved seeing them again! 🙂
I’m not sure how many more weekend camping trips we’ll be able to do before winter (especially since it’s back to school time for us!), but this one was absolutely magical. Our sincere thanks, again, to Constance and Jay, and to everyone who helped to make this such a wonderful, memorable weekend!
Until next time,
Sharon & Wayne
P.S. – Special thanks, too, to my friend and co-worker for feeding the ferals, and to our friend and pet sitter who kept this old guy fed and medicated so we could get out again for a couple of days!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We love Virginia’s state parks! While this one doesn’t have a campground, we first enjoyed the visitor’s center before walking on a trail that offered access to the York River.
When we walked back up from the river, we saw a couple of young Bluebirds. One was wearing a yellow band on his leg, and an adult we saw a little later had multiple bands.
Our next stop was the Croaker Landing Pier. Wayne has fond memories of fishing there several years ago with some of his friends.
The late afternoon sun made bright reflections in the water, and everything was bathed in a warm, gentle light.
It was such a beautiful, peaceful place and I was surprised that the only one fishing was a Great Blue Heron. (We also saw Bald Eagles, but they were too far away to photograph.)
After leaving the York River, it was time for dinner. We drove towards Williamsburg to the amazing Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant. I jokingly said it was kind of ironic to have your Fitbit congratulate you on achieving your daily # of steps goal when you’re waddling back to your table with a full plate of food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. 😉 And yes, it was absolutely delicious!
We made a couple of stops after leaving the restaurant, but returning to the campground that night should have been simple. I’d checked a map earlier in the day, plus I have a GPS in the car as well as various apps (Waze, Google Maps, etc.) on my phone.
In my defense, I thought I knew where I was going….
And it was really, really dark.
So while I was wearing my “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” shirt (from James River State Park), apparently sometimes those who wander DO get lost. Oh well, we eventually found our way back….
The next morning was clear and sunny, with wonderfully mild temperatures for early August. Perfect day for a beach trip!
One of the places we like to eat when we’re in Virginia Beach is Nick’s on Laskin Road near the oceanfront. We arrived just before noon, and they were still serving breakfast–yay! When we were there for breakfast last December, Wayne ordered Soft-Shell Crab Benedict. This time he got Lobster Benedict, which was superb.
After a wonderful meal, we drove up the beach to 64th Street. Although it looks like you’re entering a neighborhood, the road winds back through the woods to one of our favorite places, First Landing State Park.
The first bird we saw along the Cape Henry Trail was an Osprey.
There were actually a LOT of Ospreys!
We also saw an Egret…
….and the biggest surprise of all was seeing an Ibis in this section of the park!
I saw an Ibis when we visited Florida in 2016, but I had NO idea they could also be found in coastal Virginia!
We walked back to the parking area and drove to another section of First Landing State Park that’s bordered by the Chesapeake Bay.
Love the images of the pelicans with a Navy ship as a backdrop!
We stayed in the water for close to an hour at First Landing, then drove to the south end of Virginia Beach near Rudee Inlet. We were ready to enjoy a little early evening ocean time. It was so, so pretty!
It was fun to watch the surfers, and Wayne got a couple of good rides body surfing. This was a super nice way to end our day trip to the beach!
On the way back to Williamsburg, we passed the Captain George’s restaurant in VA Beach. Nope, not happening two nights in a row! 😉
We took I-664 North out of VA Beach. The bridge/tunnel on this route is usually less congested than the one at Hampton Roads, plus after so many visits to the James River in various locations, it’s always fun to see where it ends. 🙂
Back at our campsite, Wayne put up our blue LED string lights and started a fire while I took a shower at the bathhouse. We had a simple (unconventional) dinner of quesadillas with avocado, yogurt, and beer.
And then S’Mores happened. 🙂
The campfire started out really smoky because we inadvertently used some damp wood left by a previous camper. It was SO smoky at first I was concerned that it might set off the smoke detector in the trailer! We kept the door shut even after it was burning well, and later–when the fire was almost down to embers–Wayne doused it with water to make sure that it was completely out.
Well. Guess what started shrieking a little after 5 AM? Yep, the smoke detector! I jumped out of bed and unscrewed it from the ceiling–and it immediately went silent. After a quick scan inside the trailer, I grabbed a flashlight and went outside. Nothing. No smoke from our campfire or anyone else’s. I checked the propane tank (which hadn’t been turned on), the vent for the fridge (fine), the water heater (which hadn’t been turned on, either), the electric cord from the pedestal, looked under the trailer, walked out in the road so I could see the top of the roof and A/C–and everything was fine. WTH?!
When I came inside (rechecking everything, and looking and sniffing everywhere), I put the still-quiet smoke detector back on the ceiling. I still have NO idea what triggered it, but that was a totally adrenaline-producing wake-up call! At least we had the option to go back to sleep for a while! (My Fitbit documented this event, too–ha.)
The drive home on Sunday should have taken just under two hours; always a little slower than normal when we’re towing the trailer. Due to an accident between Williamsburg and Richmond, however, it took over three hours….
Finally we saw our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and soon we were safely home. We’re so thankful we had the opportunity to go on another wonderful adventure before school starts!
Until next time,
Sharon & Wayne
P.S. – Kian, our 17-year old Siamese, was very happy to see us! We have a wonderful pet sitter, but given Kian’s age and various health issues we don’t like to leave this sweet old boy for too many days at a time. 🙂
We weren’t able to get camping reservations for the weekend, so on Friday, July 26th we decided to do a day trip through the Shenandoah Valley. After crossing Afton Mountain, we drove north on Rt. 340.
One of our first stops was at the North 340 Campground. While it’s not somewhere that we’d be likely to camp, it certainly seems like a popular place. We saw lots of trailers and RVs with out-of-state license plates, so it’s probably a good “home base” from which to explore all that this part of Virginia has to offer.
North of Elkton, VA, we turned right on Grove Hill River Road (Rt. 650) to access the south fork of the Shenandoah River. The river seemed a little low, but Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were happily “puddling” in the mud along its banks.
The Shenandoah Valley saw intense fighting during the American Civil War. These two informational markers are near the river on Grove Hill River Road:
Downstream view of the Shenandoah River:
We continued traveling north, occasionally catching glimpses of the Shenandoah River which winds its way through the Valley.
Aside from the amazing scenery, the big draw in this part of the Shenandoah Valley is Luray Caverns, the “largest and most popular” caverns in the eastern United States:
Near Luray, we turned east on Rt. 211, and this took us by Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. While again not somewhere we’d be likely to camp, we could certainly understand how vacationers with young children might really enjoy this!
After a quick tour of the campground, we continued to follow Rt. 211 up to the top of the mountain. We entered Shenandoah National Park via “The Skyline Drive” at the Thornton Gap entrance.
We turned south, and within a few minutes we were driving through Mary’s Rock tunnel:
Earlier in the afternoon–somewhere near Elkton–we’d passed an antique car that was heading south. I’d commented at the time that it looked “original,” and I wondered if it had been owned by the same person since the 1930s.
Well, imagine our surprise when we saw this car (a 1939 Chevrolet) on the Skyline Drive–hours and miles later! We stopped, and Wayne asked the older gentleman who was driving it if it would be okay to take some pictures:
I’ve always referred to little coincidences such as this as “cosmic mile markers;” I feel they let me know that where I am is where I need to be. So after taking some pictures and talking with the owner (who was not the original owner 😉 ), we continued our slow drive south, stopping at various overlooks that offered views to the east or to the west.
When we got to Big Meadows at Mile Post 51.2, we drove through the campground where there were enormous motorhomes, travel trailers, and vans, in addition to tents of every size and description. Even though there are no electric or water hookups available at Big Meadows, this large, popular mountaintop campground was completely full.
Further south (Mile Post 79.5), we also drove through Loft Mountain campground. As it was getting late, the only picture we took was of the spectacular early evening view of the Shenandoah Valley from the amphitheater.
We stopped again at the Moormans River Overlook, which is above the Sugar Hollow Reservoir.
And our final stop was at McCormick Gap, which is the last overlook on the southern end of the Skyline Drive. (For interactive maps showing all of the overlooks in Shenandoah National Park, you can click here.)
I was somewhat surprised by the number of people we saw at the McCormick Gap overlook. While there were a few out-of-state license plates on the cars, most of the people were probably locals who’d driven up the mountain from the Rockfish Gap entrance just for the purpose of relaxing and watching the sun set over the Shenandoah Valley. Beautiful….
It was nearly dark by the time we left the park and headed for home. We’d driven over 70 miles of the scenic 105-mile roadway, and had been on the mountain for close to 5 hours. It was time very well spent. 🙂
A couple of days later, we followed up this trip with a visit to Sherando Lake. When we’d camped at Sherando in June, we didn’t have a chance to go to the lake, so we made up for this on Sunday afternoon, July 28th. 🙂
It was another beautiful, blue-skied day, and we enjoyed the 25-mile drive over the mountain to the lake.
Wayne got right in the cool, mountain lake.
I’d planned to swim, but once I had my chair set up in the shade–and with the gentle breeze blowing–I decided I was happy right where I was!
Before leaving Sherando, we drove through the campground, wishing, wishing, wishing that we were returning to our sweet little trailer instead of starting the trek back over the mountain! 😉
Driving back towards the interstate on Mt. Torrey Road (Rt. 664), we noticed that Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway is easily visible from its west side, just as it is from its east side. Wayne was able to zoom in to show hikers at the summit! I haven’t made the climb up Humpback for years–and doubt that I will again–but the views are incredible from the top….
So even though we weren’t able to go camping this weekend, we’re thankful that we were able to continue to enjoy our summer break with these lovely day trips!
On the morning of Friday, July 19, we headed out for another 2-night camping trip, this time to Pocahontas State Park.
This was our most distant trip to date with our new-to-us trailer, and one that involved mainly interstate travel. Even though my gas mileage tanks when towing, the Kia handled the drive well, with no sign of overheating (even with the A/C on full force).
The campground was easy to find, and we arrived right around noon. (By keeping my target speed to about 63 mph, it took us just under 2 hours.)
We’d reserved a “non-specific” site, and when we checked in we asked the woman at the visitor’s center to suggest sites that were mostly shaded. She gave us a map and said that our best bet would be in the first section, campsites 1-65. The ones marked with white circles were all of the non-specific sites from which we could choose.
After riding through the campground a couple of times, we selected site #60. It seemed to have a good amount of shade, and it was also close to the bathhouse. While the driveway sloped upwards, by backing the trailer in as far as we could, we were able to get everything level.
Why was our main priority shade? Because it was hot! Crazy hot….
We were a sweaty mess by the time we had everything set up!
We sat out under the awning while we waited for the A/C in the trailer to start cooling it down.
And it just kept getting hotter….
We bought some firewood, and then started driving around the large, beautiful park, just to explore a bit. When we went through the campground loop with sites 66-129, we realized we were probably in the best section, given the temperature. The sites in the other loop may be better for large trailers and RVs (as most of them are level and paved), but there’s a bit less shade. These open sites would be fine in the spring or fall, though, and even with so many campsites (all with water and electric), neither loop seemed overly crowded or the sites too closely spaced.
We got out of the car for a few minutes at Swift Creek. Someday it would be fun to rent a pedal boat or kayaks, but we weren’t too surprised by the lack of people out on the water!
As usual, we’d brought food to cook for dinner, but the thought of getting out our propane stove wasn’t too appealing, and we didn’t want to cook in the trailer, either. Decision made, we went to a Food Lion about 3-4 miles from the campground, bought some food at the deli, and ate dinner in the camper.
One of the many things we enjoy about camping is sitting outside by a campfire until late in the evening, talking and listening to the katydids and other summer bugs. By 9:00 PM, however, the temperature had only dropped to 89 degrees, and the “real feel” temp was still 99!! We’d put up some blue LED rope lights on our awning, but instead of sitting in front of a campfire as we usually do, we opted to sit outside for a little while in front of a fan! Sadly, not quite the same experience….
Of course a little fan was better than NO fan, but soon we went inside where it was cool. By being so close to Richmond, we were pleased to find we could pick up a variety of TV stations with our digital antenna. (We also had pretty decent cell service at the park.)
Saturday it was miserably hot again (another day with “excessive heat” warnings), so we went to the air-conditioned nature center to check out some of the exhibits.
The park has a really nice “discovery room” for kids, which we enjoyed, too!
The exhibit that fascinated me the most was a large, glass-sided honeybee hive. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how it could be a sustainable colony since it was indoors!
When I asked a ranger about it, she explained that while the hive was inside, the bees could actually come and go via a tunnel through the wall to the outside. Well, perfect!
If you look closely at the picture below, you can see two bees returning to the hive through the tunnel.
When we told the ranger about our unusual encounter with the butterfly at James River State Park the previous week, she was able to identify it as a “Red Admiral.” In one of her reference books, it specifically mentioned how this type of butterfly will often visit and land on people, so I guess the Red Admiral is the quintessential “social butterfly”! 😉
Our next stop was the CCC Museum, right across the parking lot from the nature center.
It was really interesting to see that six of Virginia’s state parks were built with the help of the CCC, and that all opened on the same day in 1936! We’ve been to three of these six, and what a treasure they are!
It was tough walking out of the museum into the heat again, but we’d planned ahead and had our bathing suits. With a toddler pool, fountain wet deck, three-foot and five-foot deep pools, two tubular water slides, and an activity pool, there was something for everyone at the Aquatic Recreation Center!
By this time, the temperature was 98 degrees with a “real feel” of 111 (!!!!) so it felt incredibly good to be in the water. Still mindful of the sun, however, we only stayed at the pool for an hour before going back to our campsite.
After changing clothes and hanging up our suits to dry, Wayne went to visit some friends who live near the campground and I took a nap in the air-conditioned trailer. We made another trip to the pool later that evening.
Despite trying to stay hydrated and limiting our time outside, the heat was starting to wear on us. Dinner was sort of a non-event (I microwaved some deli leftovers), and basically we just stayed inside. (This trip wouldn’t have been do-able–at all–for us without the A/C in the trailer!)
With more of the same forecast for Sunday–coupled with the possibility of severe storms that afternoon–we packed up well before the 1:00 PM checkout time.
As we were getting ready to leave, a couple stopped by our site and asked if it would soon be available. They were in the other loop of the campground but hoped to find a shady spot for the rest of their stay. Wayne told them that, yes, we were leaving, and also pointed out our stack of unused firewood that they could have.
In retrospect, perhaps camping during such a heatwave wasn’t the best idea we’ve ever had, but overall, staying at Pocahontas State Park was a positive experience. With hiking trails, fishing lakes, kayaking, and more at this 7900-acre park, we’d love to visit again when we could better enjoy all it has to offer!