Virginia Beach – November 2019

As much as we love our mountains, it’s nice to be just a few hour’s drive away from the ocean. While I-64 is the fastest way to get to there, we usually opt to do a slower and more scenic drive on Rt. 5 once we’re east of Richmond.

Our first stop was at Lawrence Lewis, Jr. Park near Charles City on the James River. We’ve seen Bald Eagles here many times, and although we didn’t see them on this visit, it was still a beautiful day to be by the river.

Once we reached the Jamestown area, we waited for the ferry that would take us across to Surry County.

Just south of the busy and vibrant Virginia Beach oceanfront and the Sandbridge community is one of our favorite natural areas: Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Back Bay is on one side of the parking lot…

…and a short walk in the other direction leads to spectacular ocean views.

LOL–you can hear me “shushing” Wayne who was doing his “bird calling” whistle. 😉

We drove north to VA Beach, checked into our hotel, and then went to our favorite seafood restaurant!

The sunrise the next morning was stunning. Despite the chilly temperatures, we enjoyed being out on the balcony.

After checking out of the hotel and getting breakfast at Nick’s on Laskin Road, we got on I-64 West, went through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and then took Rt. 17 North. This allowed us to cross the York River and visit a new-to-us place, Gloucester Point Beach Park.

To our absolute surprise and delight, we arrived just in time to see dolphins swimming downriver towards the Chesapeake Bay!

I only managed to get a very short video, but it was so cool to see them!

There were also pelicans and two Great Blue Herons at Gloucester Point Beach Park.

The George Coleman Memorial Bridge that we crossed is quite unusual. While we’ve crossed many draw bridges in our travels, I’d never heard of a “swing bridge” before, much less a double swing bridge. Apparently this is one of the largest bridges of its kind in the world!

Video by YouTube user FOTO-UNO
Photo Credit:

On our meandering trek home, we crossed the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers near West Point, VA, stopped by Lawrence Lewis Jr. Park again on Rt. 5, and then we crossed the James River on Rt. 106 near Hopewell, VA.

We hopped on I-64 West for the final leg of the trip, thankful for all we’d seen and done in just over 24 hours. We love to travel, but it’s always nice when our beautiful mountains welcome us home. 🙂

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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A Day in the Mountains – October 27, 2019

I woke up to torrential rain and thought we might be spending the day at home. Skies cleared quickly, however, and the beautiful fall colors and warm temperatures got us in the car and out on the roads for another wonderful day trip!

Plank Road, Albemarle County
Rt. 29 South, Nelson County
Rt. 56 North
Rt. 56 North
Pedestrian Bridge at Crabtree Falls
Lower Falls @ Crabtree Falls
Lower Falls @ Crabtree Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway
Sherando Lake
Sherando Lake
Sherando Lake
Enjoying the day at beautiful Sherando Lake
Humpback Rocks viewed from west, near Lyndhurst, VA
Zoomed in view of Humpback Rocks

I’m so glad we were able to get out and enjoy a picture-perfect October day!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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All in One Day: October 19, 2019

With a free weekend and no option to go camping (all campgrounds I’d checked within a 60-mile radius were full!) we decided to do a meandering day trip–but where to go? We finally decided to go to the Shenandoah Valley. I wanted to take one of my sewing machines to an authorized Brother repair shop in Dayton, VA, and right before we left the house, I remembered that it was Homecoming at my college. Even though I hadn’t registered for the event, we decided to go to Bridgewater, too.

First stop, as it is every morning, was at my school to feed the feral kitties. After attending to their needs, I spotted a hawk, and we spent the next 15 minutes or so watching some strange interactions between the hawk (a young Cooper’s?) and several crows.

They flew around, landed, squawked and flapped their wings at each other, and flew again. Soon other crows joined in, too. I have no idea what this was all about, but it was interesting to watch!

On the drive up to Bridgewater, I told Wayne a story about one of my art professors. In October 2003–nearly 25 years after I’d graduated from college!–I wrote a letter to “Prof. Kline,” asking about a sculpture process I wanted to try with my students. To my complete surprise, he and his wife showed up in my classroom a couple of weeks later to personally deliver a book on sculpture methods! Special people, both of them!

The last time I really visited the Bridgewater College campus was in March 2011 when Wayne and I took two wildlife management classes there that were hosted by the Wildlife Center of Virginia. This time I was basically crashing my 40th college class reunion. 😉

Almost immediately I saw some classmates; folks I hadn’t seen since graduation–or at least not since I’d attended our 10 year reunion!

It was such a pleasure to see my art professor’s wife at Homecoming, especially since I’d just been thinking about her! I told her how much their visit in 2003 had meant to me. I knew that Prof. Kline had passed away, but what I didn’t know until later was that October 19th was the anniversary of his death. I’m so glad I was able to share a good and happy memory with her on what had to be a tough day for her….

I was curious to see how the art studios had changed, so that was our next stop on campus. Wow, how many time did I go down these stairs in the 4 years I was at Bridgewater?

To my complete surprise, pottery and ceramics is now a “thing” at Bridgewater! When I was a student, this was our drawing and painting studio.

We also visited the theater; so many memories of being on stage and back stage there with the other “Pinion Players” and members of Alpha Psi Omega. 🙂

One of these days I’ll have to start scanning my slides from these times….

After lunch on campus (with several sides of memories!), we drove to the quilt shop in Dayton to drop off the sewing machine. Then we started back south through the Valley on scenic Rt. 42.

We made a side trip to Natural Chimneys in Mt. Solon.

The campground at Natural Chimneys was jam-packed, and most campsites featured amazing Halloween decorations. We thought this one was pretty clever. 🙂

We continued driving south on Rt. 42, treated to beautiful views of the mountains and farmland.

We stopped at Augusta Springs Wetland Park, a place we last visited in August 2017. Pictures (lots of them) from that trip are here. It was definitely a pretty afternoon for a 2/3 of a mile walk on the trail. 🙂

We’d originally thought about going to another favorite place, Goshen Pass, but it was getting a little too late in the day. Instead, we drove back through Staunton, VA and stopped at Thornrose Cemetery so I could say hello to an ancestor I found there in March 2018. (That, my friends, is a story in itself: “Finding Mollie”)

As we finally drove towards home through Waynesboro, we passed Basic City Brewing Co. Wayne said, “Oh, wait–I think ‘Cherry Red’ is playing there tonight.” Continuing to “go with the flow,” we turned around, and yep, our friends were just getting started. This is SUCH a fun group!

So for a couple of people with no firm plans for the day, we’d watched the aerial acrobatics of a hawk and crows; attended a college class reunion; browsed through a really nice quilt shop; visited a geological wonder; done an easy hike through woods and wetlands; walked through one of the nation’s most beautiful cemeteries; and danced to the music of the Rolling Stones at a new brewery. All in one day. Works for us! 🙂

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Swannanoa – October 6, 2019

My cousin, Jude, her son, Shawn, and Wayne and I had the opportunity to visit Swannanoa during an open house on October 6, 2019. I’d last visited this Italian Renaissance Revival marble palace in the early 1980s when Walter and Lao Russell occupied it, and I looked forward to seeing it again.

Built in the early 1900s by James Dooley for his wife, Sally May, it was intended to be their summer home. Their main home, the Romanesque-style mansion, Maymont, is in Richmond, Virginia. While Swannanoa has not been as carefully maintained as Maymont (which was bequeathed to the City of Richmond), one still has to marvel at the skills of the hundreds and hundreds of artisans and craftsmen who created this lavish mountaintop palace….

Details above the front entrance:

Foyer and staircase, with Tiffany window:


Persian Room (Smoking Room)

Dining Room (Ceiling) and Breakfast Room mural:


Upper Hallway:

Stairway to servant’s quarters:

Master bedroom fireplace & west view:

Upper hallway floor detail:

Another look at the beautiful stained glass window:

Music room details:

Shawn and Wayne on the front porch:

Small garden and fountain:

Back of house and roof detail:

Jude, and view of the Rockfish Valley from the formal gardens:

I love Jude’s “Sloth Hiking Team” t-shirt. 🙂

Wayne taking a break on the first level of the terraced garden:

I was so busy making my way up the stairs that I neglected to take a picture of the pergola at the top of the terrace, but this old postcard shows how the gardens looked between 1929-1932:

The water tower was fascinating. It once held 20,000 gallons of water in a tank in the center of the tower.

At some point in time, water flowed from these rocks, down a little stream (which one could cross via a stone bridge), and into a small pond:

We greatly enjoyed our visit to this “hidden gem of bygone opulence” on Afton Mountain.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – September 8, 2019

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:

Indian Art

I love, love, love Art Nouveau….

Dragonfly Table
Detail on a Chair

Before today, I didn’t know that most “Tiffany Lamps” were designed by a woman, Clara Driscoll (1861-1944). Peacock Lamp & Cobweb Lamp above.

Painting, “Born Again” by Sam Gilliam
Quick moment for a “selfie” with Sam Gilliam’s painting behind us.
Richard Estes has always been one of my favorite photo-realist painters.
Discovered some new ones today, too!
“Burger Chef” painting by Ralph Goings
Photo-realistic painting by Robert Bechtel
“Pool” by Robert Cottingham

Pottery is one of the oldest art forms…. Fascinating to see the work by various ancient cultures.

Interior of a Cathedral by DeLorme
Detail – Dog peeing on the wall, and DeLome’s signature – from 1657!!
One of my favorites from last time–painting by Laurent. The detail is amazing.
Close up of “Three Sisters” by Laurent.
This is a small painting–how on earth did the artist paint such detail?!
Peruvian pottery from about 400 BC
Amazing painting of the Rhode Island coastline by Bricher.
Wayne in front of a painting by Stewart
Incredible details, wonderful colors and use of light
Painting by John Singer Sargent, one of Wayne’s favorite painters
Contemporary piece by Tara Donovan. Hmm, what am I looking at?
Louis Comfort Tiffany was a painter before he joined his father’s glass making company!
Massive painting by Weeks. “Hour of Prayer”
Painting by Mary Cassatt
My parents would have loved this painting.
“Winter in the Country” by Durrie
Another HUGE painting, this is “Progress” by Asher Durand
Detail from Durand’s painting
This was a surprise; had no idea that Samuel Morse (developer of Morse Code) was an artist.
Wayne in front of a large outdoor sculpture.
Very different appearance from other angles!

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. 🙂

For more information, visit their website:

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