Blue Ridge Parkway – August 13, 2018

It was a pretty day for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all the rain we’ve had this summer has kept the mountains lush and green.

Starting at Milepost 0 at the north end of the Parkway, here are a few of our pictures from the day.

MP 10.7:  Looking west from the BRP to the Shenandoah Valley at Raven’s Roost overlook.


East view & billowing clouds to the west:


At MP 34.4, we stopped to check out a reconstruction of an old logging railroad and to walk up a short trail to Wigwam Falls:



After walking back down the trail, we continued driving south, stopping at various overlooks along the way.  This is the view at MP 49.3:


We drove through the Bluff Mountain Tunnel at MP 53.1,


and stopped at Otter Creek Flats at MP 58.2.

The water was incredibly clear and full of tiny fish….



Wayne enjoyed photographing the changing patterns in the water.


Just further south, we stopped again at Otter Lake (MP 63.1), which features a small dam and spillway.


Our next stop was at the James River Visitor Center (MP 63.6).  We made our way down a short trail to the pedestrian bridge that’s built under the regular bridge that crosses the James.  At just 650 feet above sea level, this is the lowest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Such pretty views, both upstream and down!



Dozens and dozens of swallows nest under the bridge, and it’s not uncommon to see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the James River.


After getting back on the Parkway and crossing the James River, we turned onto Rt. 501 towards Lynchburg, VA to start the drive home.  The clouds we’d watched all day were becoming more ominous, and radar confirmed that strong storms were moving into the area.


Just south of Lovingston on Rt. 29–when we couldn’t see the road or mountains ahead due to heavy rain to our north–we decided to stop and wait it out.  Fortunately, we were able to avoid the worst of the storm, and there was just light rain on the rest of the drive home.



We always enjoy our visits to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we’re thankful that we could take/make the time for one more little adventure before the start of the school year!

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Tennessee – June 2018

We had the opportunity to make another trip to TN in the middle of June, so back down the road we went!



There were air quality alerts and messy skies just before Knoxville, and some traffic slow-downs there and closer to Nashville.  Definitely a long day of driving!


Even though the main reason for the trip was to visit with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, we always enjoy exploring the area when we’re down there.  On Saturday, we drove to Lebanon where we checked out some houses (just for possible future reference), and went to a most amazing fabric store.

I didn’t take any pictures inside, but I highly recommend Lebanon Vacuum and Sewing if you’re ever in the area!  They have the most beautiful and extensive selection of fabrics I’ve EVER seen, with SO many colors and designs, and all arranged perfectly.  I could have spent a literal fortune in there as I “oooohed” and “ahhhhed” over so many different bolts of material.  I showed great restraint, however, and “just” spent $50, but as I told the owner (fabulous people there, too!) that maybe in a few years I’ll apply to work there part time.  😉

As we drove back through the Hermitage area, we discovered a park that had a unique sundial made from aircraft wings:


It was incredibly hot and humid, but it wasn’t too bad in the shade when we got to another park that’s near the dam on Percy Priest Lake.  Wayne used the zoom to get a picture of Papa Turney’s BBQ on the other side of the lake.


He also zoomed in on Nashville Shores.  It was no surprise that their water park was doing a booming business!

People on our side of the lake were finding other ways to keep cool:


Obligatory “selfie” (in the shade!) at Percy Priest.

We hadn’t originally planned to go all the way into Nashville on this trip, but we decided to drive down early on Sunday.  It was another beastly hot day, especially at the Riverfront Park along the Cumberland.


The “Batman” building and Nissan Stadium:


Blessing the Cumberland River:


And then it was on to Broadway!  Even on a Sunday morning it was a busy, vibrant place, with music and refreshingly cool air spilling out of every open doorway!


Definitely a blend of traditional and modern in this fascinating city….



While some people like the adventure of “Peddle Taverns,” we opted to sit inside where it was cool(er)!


Music.  So much music! (I did a nice recording of the harmonica player that I planned to post, but I think I accidentally deleted it.)


After the hustle and bustle of Nashville, we had a quiet lunch at Papa Turney’s.





As always, it’s hard to leave Tennessee, but we’re thankful that we got to spend some time with our special people there…..

We left on Monday morning, and just 20 miles into the trip on I-40 East, we ran into standstill traffic.  (I watched a praying mantis make its way from the grass to the side of the road.  I pointed out several different types of weeds and flowers growing in the median, and if there had been roses, I could have stopped to smell them because we WERE stopped….) According to the Waze app on my phone, the traffic jam was due to both an accident and construction, so we literally crawled along for well over an hour, with no exits and no options….


Losing so much time here just seemed to skew the rest of the drive home.  What should have taken us just under 9 hours took closer to 11!

We made the best of it, though–taking turns driving and taking pictures–and we were fortunate to miss getting caught in the worst of the late afternoon thunderstorms that popped up along I-81 in southwest Virginia.






As it was just a couple of days before the Solstice, we were back in familiar territory before dark.  It was a crazy, crazy long drive this time, but I still smiled as we talked about our family, the music we’d listened to in a variety of bars on Broadway, and everything else we’d seen and done during the long weekend in Tennessee.



“I see the moon and the moon sees me
And the moon sees the one that I long to see
So God bless the moon and God bless me
And God bless the one that I long to see.”

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Day Trip to Sherando Lake – May 20, 2018

After days and days (and DAYS!) of rain, we were greeted by bright sunshine on Sunday morning.  Wayne talked about going fishing, but mainly he just wanted to be near water.  Sounded like a great reason to go over the mountain to Sherando Lake!

Everything was so GREEN!

We set up our chairs in the shade under a tree near the lake and just enjoyed all of the sights and sounds….







All the rain made this little creek a river!

When we finally left the lake (after dozing in our chairs!), we drove through the campground.  Sure wish our little trailer had been there this afternoon!



Both times that we’ve camped here, we’ve been in B loop.  🙂



Finally it was time to head home, but as we started back down our side of the mountain, we had to stop to take a picture of the beautiful Rockfish Valley.

What a nice, relaxing afternoon….. 🙂

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James River State Park – April 8, 2018

It was Winter (again) on Saturday, April 7th….

Blessed with Spring (again) on Sunday, April 8th, we decided to visit one of our favorite places: James River State Park.  Sometimes we just need to be at one of Virginia’s beautiful state parks….


We stopped by the visitor’s center, and I again affirmed this message:

Driving down towards the small, man-made Green Hill Pond near the center, we saw this beautiful Bluebird….


As many times as we’ve come to this park, we’d never seen this pond before.

It was about 50 degrees, but the breeze whispered a reminder that we could have Winter again…soon….

Chickadees were actively participating in “call and response” songs around the pond.


We next drove through the campground, recalling the time we TRIED to camp here a couple of years ago:

We do hope to camp here at some point, but the cabins are also really nice, too.



Truly a beautiful day to be near the James River….  And with 1500 acres, there’s a lot of diverse scenery in the park.



It’s a 7-mile drive from the park to Rt. 60, and we stopped frequently as we were leaving to take pictures.



When we reached Rt. 60, we turned west towards Amherst which took us across the James River.  Downstream and upstream views:


We then traveled north a short distance on Rt. 29 to get on Rt. 151.  The mountain views are spectacular along this road!




Rt. 151 crosses Brent’s Mountain.  Whenever anyone questions why Nelson County schools are so often closed during inclement weather, this is one reason why:



It’s funny–our Blue Ridge Mountains look blue all through the year, but when you zoom in at this time of year, the lack of leaves makes everything a brownish-gray….



The last time we drove through the Greenwood area, blossoms were just starting to come out on the trees at Chiles Peach Orchard.  We wondered if they would be in full bloom by now, given our winter-spring-winter-spring weather, but indeed they were!  What a beautiful end to a beautiful day!





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Finding Mollie

I woke up on Sunday morning, March 11, 2018, with the feeling that I needed to go to Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton to try to find the grave of Mary E. “Mollie” Hicks Livick.  Being about 95% sure that I’d located the grave of Mary “Polly” Anderson Fox a few days before, I next wanted to find the grave of her granddaughter, Mollie.

From her page on, I knew that Mary E. Livick was buried in “Section 10” of Thornrose cemetery.  Before leaving home, I looked for–but didn’t find–a map of the cemetery on the Thornrose website.  I suppose I was naive, but I just assumed that each section of the cemetery would be clearly marked, as they are in other large cemeteries.

As we passed through the gates of this beautiful, historic cemetery, I saw no maps.  Not good…  And as I started up the hill on the main road, I didn’t see a single sign to indicate the sections of the cemetery.  REALLY not good….

How on earth could I find her if I didn’t know which section was which?  All I had to go on was one picture of her grave marker that someone had posted on her findagrave page.

From the picture, I knew she was close to a road, and there were large trees across the road behind her grave.  But given the size of the cemetery–and the number of roads and trees–I wasn’t sure that the picture would be of much help!

What happened next was (for lack of a better word) “interesting….”

I continued to drive up the hill on the main road of the cemetery, and then impulsively took the first road to the right.  When I got to the next intersection, I pulled over to the side, got out, crossed the road, and walked into the section of graves in front of me.  After quickly checking the names on the stones, I looked over, and about 15 feet from where I was standing I saw a marker with the name “Livick” on it!  It was the grave marker for Mollie’s brother-in-law.   And just a couple of stones away, there was the grave of Mary E. Livick!

I was surprised and yet strangely not surprised; as I told Wayne, she must have “called” to me.  Honestly, that’s the best explanation I can offer, and I’ve had similar things happen before when I’ve been researching.  But with no map, no signs, and with just one picture to guide me, I had found the grave I was looking for–literally, in minutes!–in a 50-acre cemetery that contains approximately 25,000 graves!

I’d originally thought that the picture on her findagrave page was of poor quality, but once I saw the grave marker firsthand, I realized that it was incredibly worn and very difficult to read.

I wondered if it would be possible to do a rubbing on the stone, using thin paper and chalk?  We hadn’t eaten breakfast, so we left the cemetery, got something to eat, and stopped by Walmart to pick up some paper, tape, chalk, and crayons.

When we got back to her grave, I was again amazed at the “luck” of finding her so quickly and so easily in such an enormous cemetery.  If you’ll notice, the back of her grave stone faces the road, and the first Livick stone that I saw has writing on the sides, and not on the back.  There’s no way I could have seen the names from my car when I stopped and walked into the section.

But getting to work, we taped a piece of paper to the stone and I first tried rubbing a wide piece of chalk across it to bring out the letters.  Unfortunately, the whole surface of the stone was so rough that nothing really showed up. We switched to a clean piece of paper and I tried again with a large crayon. Most of the letters were still very indistinct, and the two-line inscription at the bottom was completely illegible.  Would it be possible to use something like Silly Putty to push into each letter? We didn’t try that–and I’d want to make sure that it wouldn’t damage the stone in any way–but I wonder if any other genealogy researchers have made “casts” of old, hard-to-read stones?

I wanted to leave something on her stone as a “memento.”  I didn’t have any rocks with me (and didn’t see any close by), but then I remembered that I had tiny quartz crystal shards in the car.   We usually use these when we’re “blessing” a river, but the concept was sort of the same.  And so as a symbolic gesture of my best wishes and prayers, I left Mary E. “Mollie” Hicks Livick a little sliver of quartz.  Blessings, Mollie.


As we cleaned up, we continued to puzzle over the inscription on the bottom of her stone.  On other grave markers we’ve seen, sometimes the inscriptions are quotes–or lines from poems–and other times they are brief, personal messages.

We talked about unexpectedly finding the grave of a previously unknown great-uncle in a cemetery in Pennsylvania during the summer of 2017.  The inscription on his stone (pictured below) was initially hard to read, too, but once we cleaned it up a bit we could see that it said, “A bud of earth, a blossom in heaven.” (He had died as an infant in 1896.)

Before leaving, I took pictures to show the view from behind, in front of, and to each side of Mollie’s grave:



As we drove through the cemetery on the way out, I continued to take pictures.  Like I said, it’s a big place….



The white sculpture-like stone in the picture above caught my attention, and my first thought (for whatever the reason) was that maybe it was the grave marker for an artist.  Curious, I stopped the car, grabbed my camera, and walked over to check.  No, not an artist, but for a little girl who died as an infant in 1913.  This was the inscription:

Maybe this was the standard thing to put on a baby’s grave in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but it was a bit “coincidental” that we had just been talking about this basic phrase mere moments before I stopped at this one grave on the way out….



When we got home, I started looking at the photographs I’d taken of the grave stone and at the pictures of the rubbings. After using Photoshop to tweak the contrast and make it into a “negative,” I think I can make out the words “and affection” in the top line.  I still can’t tell what the rest of it is.  (If you click this or any other picture, it will enlarge it in a new window.  Just be sure to hit the “back” arrow to return to this page.)

Still marveling that I’d found one grave in a sea of headstones, I went back to findagrave to see just how many people were buried at Thornrose.  Previously I’d just looked on Mollie’s page and not at the cemetery page, and I learned that over 19,000 memorials have been created on findagrave for this one cemetery.  (The higher figure of 25,000 I mentioned earlier came from my communication the next day with the woman who manages the office for Thornrose.  The first documented burial was in 1853, but there were others buried there as early as the late 1840s.)

But on Sunday evening as I looked at pictures on the Thornrose page on findagrave, I was stunned to see a MAP that shows where the sections are!!  What?!  The map I’d hoped to find on the official Thornrose website was right there on the Thornrose findagrave site!

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t have a map before going over on Sunday morning, as it was far more interesting and meaningful to find her grave the way I did. 🙂

There are still many, many things I don’t know about Mollie’s life. I know that she and her sister, Ella, were living with their grandmother, Mary “Polly” Anderson Fox in Nelson County, VA, in 1870, but the next 15 years of her life are a mystery.  I haven’t (yet) been able to find census records, newspaper articles, or any other documents for or about her during this time.

The next thing I know, for sure, is that she was married in Staunton in 1885:

I know she had two daughters with her husband, and she possibly had a daughter in the years before her marriage to Peter Livick.  Details are sketchy about this….

And while I don’t know the cause of her death on Sept. 1, 1889 at the age of 30 years & 7 months, at least I now DO know where she’s buried.  And I hope she is at peace.

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