August 6, 2019 [LINK / comment]
Summertime travel highlights
Summer is not over yet, but with the fall semester and school rapidly approaching, it might as well be. I had hoped to travel to South Dakota this summer, but scheduling conflicts (and my own indecisiveness) prevented that from taking place. As with my previous travel-related blog post (May 16), most of what follows are mere short-distance excursions, with the notable exception of Virginia Beach.
On June 2 (a Sunday), Jacqueline and I went on a casual drive to Goshen Pass for a picnic. We drove past Augusta Springs on Route 254 but didn't stop there. We did make a brief pause at the old bridge over the Maury River in the town of Goshen, and a bit later an unscheduled brief walk across a suspension foot bridge that I had never seen before. Apparently it's a favorite fun spot for local folks. Just a few miles after that we arrived at our destination, and I was surprised that relatively few people were there, given the beautiful weather. I was afraid that all the picnic tables might be taken already, but there were plenty available.
Maury River at Goshen Pass (June 2)
As noted in my July 9 birding blog post, I made several trips to the Hearthstone Lake (in northern Augusta County) area this summer, as part of a bird breeding survey. After one such outing on June 17 (solo) I stopped afterward in the nearby village of Stokesville, which was largely destroyed by a flood in 1949. For years I had been trying to capture a suitable photograph of the iconic bridge there, and at last I found the perfect vantage point to do so: along the river underneath it!
Stokesville bridge (June 17)
Exactly one week later (June 23), I was joined by three Augusta Bird Club members on another visit there, during which we saw the construction activity at the Hearthstone Dam. (It was a Saturday, so no workers were there.) I look forward to seeing the lake itself once the construction has been completed, hopefully this fall.
Hearthstone Dam construction (June 23)
Early on July 13 Jacqueline and I drove to Virginia Beach, as mentioned in my recent birding blog post (Aug. 2). After a five-plus hour drive, we arrived in the early afternoon, and had a picnic at First Landing State Park, where we made further plans. It turns out that there is excllent access to the beach there, so we only spent a short time driving through the high-rise seafront district of Virginia Beach, stopping to buy souvenirs and that's about it. Our previous visit to Virginia Beach was in November 2014, but I never wrote a blog post per se about it; you can see several photos at my Chronological (2014) photo gallery page.
The boardwalk between the visitors center and the beach at First Landing State Park. (July 13)
In the evening we had a great dinner at Croakers Neighborhood Grill (near Pleasure House Point Natural Area; see below), after which I watched the Nationals-Phillies game on TV at the Red Roof Inn. On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at Waffle House and then went to the Pleasure House Point Natural Area, which features sandy trails and lots of Loblolly Pine trees that surround a picturesque pond. (It was there that I saw a Blue Grosbeak and some Brown-headed Nuthatches.) We then headed to First Landing State Park, at which point Jacqueline went straight to the beach while I went birding along the inland swamp trail for a couple hours. I joined her about 11:00, and we stayed until about 12:30, soaking up the sun and taking a few more bird photos. It was just wonderful. Finally, we drove straight home to Staunton.
In the early morning light, a pond at Pleasure House Point Natural Area reflects trees like a mirror. (July 14)
Our Nation's Capital
As recounted in a recent baseball blog post (July 29), I went up to Washington D.C. to see a Nationals baseball game on July 28, along with Matthew Poteat and his son Julian. We parked on the south side of the new soccer stadium (Audi Field) that was completed just over a year ago. It is located about two blocks southwest of Nationals Park, and looks very impressive. It is certainly a big improvement over RFK Stadium, where D.C. United played until the end of the 2018 season.
The northwest corner of Audi Field in Washington, home of the D.C. United soccer team.
The above photos, along with many others, can be seen on my Chronological (2019) photo gallery page.
June 11, 2019 [LINK / comment]
A history of rock music, Part II: from H to N
Over the last two months since I left off at "G" (Grateful Dead), I have continued my alphabetically-ordered musical odyssey almost every Wednesday night at the Queen City Brewing open mic events. (My review of Part I: from A to G was on April 17.) Playing in public with greater regularity, I am getting better responses from the audience.
H is for Hootie & the Blowfish: On April 17, open mic host Fritz Horisk instituted a new arrangement such that performers who arrive early get to play more songs than those who arrive later -- such as me, in this case. (Domestic chores often detain me.) That meant that I only got to do three of the four songs I had planned, but as you will see, that worked out for the best. Two of the songs were "first-timers" for me, but I did well enough and got good applause. I didn't use the harmonica on any of them, which is rare for me. HOOTIE!
- * Hold My Hand
- Only Want To Be With You
- * Time
* : first time in public
(This notation applies throughout this post.)
I is for Imagine Dragons: One week later (April 24) I was in a quandary, since the only suitable group I know that starts with "I" is Imagine Dragons, and I only know one song by them. (I ruled out INXS as way too loud for an acoustic instrument.) So, I began by playing the "left-over" song that I was unable to play the week before. That still left two slots open, and I was prepared to resort to one of my own modest musical creations (using the logic that I start with "I"), but that proved unnecessary because of the tight scheduling that night. With a full slate of performers, I only got to do two songs. Just as well. Both were OK, but I felt a bit uncomfortable doing "Radioactive." (Those are some thought-provoking lyrics, by the way: "This is it, the Apocalypse.")
- * Let Her Cry (Hootie & the Blowfish)
- * Radioactive (Imagine Dragons)
J is for Joe Walsh: The very next week (May 1) I signed up in advance to make sure I got to do four songs. I paid tribute to the bad boy classic rocker who took the Eagles to new heights in the late 1970s. All four songs were "first-timers" for me, and I rose to the occasion by nailing them with technical accuracy and passion. I recently changed the way I playe "Rocky Mountain Way," and it sounded great with the harmonica filling in for the lead guitar. One guy wondered how I was ever going to get through the complex "Life's Been Good," and he was impressed that I pulled it off. That was a good night!
- * Rocky Mountain Way ( # )
- * Walk Away ( # )
- * Life's Been Good
- * Life Of Illusion
# : with harmonica
* : first time in public
(These notations apply throughout this post.)
K is for Kansas: I missed the next week mainly because I was exhausted from a busy day of chores, and it was just as well, because I really needed to polish the four songs by Kansas, which is very challenging material. They were one of the leading examples of "progressive rock" in the 1970s, along with Yes, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, and Rush. By May 15 I was ready, and I played my heart out. The first and third songs were relatively easy and familiar to most of the folks in the audience, but the second and fourth songs were musically complex and apparently new to almost everyone there. I got polite applause, but I was a little disappointed I didn't make a bigger impact.
- * Reason To Be ( # )
- * Incomudro - Hymn to the Atman
- Dust In The Wind ( # )
- * Angels Have Fallen ( # )
L is for Led Zeppelin: And speaking of "challenging material," I had a plate full on May 22, when I decided to tackle one of the best rock groups of all time. I began by noting that my previous week's set (Kansas) kind of went over like a lead balloon, a humorous segue into Led Zeppelin. I started with the mellow "Going to California," and then switched gears with a wailing harmonica on "When the Levee Breaks." Damn, that sounded good! I learned both of those songs relatively recently. The third and fourth songs were ones I have played many times, and they happen to occur in sequence on side one of Led Zeppelin IV! (Indeed, all four songs were from that album.) For "Stairway To Heaven" the harmonica did the flute notes in the introduction, and the lead guitar in the grand finale. It was one of the biggest risks I had ever taken, and this time at least I really pulled it off. Some parts weren't quite as "clean" as I would like, but the audience reaction was fantastic.
- * Going to California
- * When the Levee Breaks ( # )
- * The Battle of Evermore
- * Stairway To Heaven ( # )
There was a nice-sized crowd at the Queen City Brewing open mic event on May 22, soon after I had finished playing four Led Zeppelin songs. That's Jacqueline standing next to the barrel.
M is for Moody Blues: May 29 went a little easier for me, since I had done all four songs in public before, so it wasn't as hard to prepare. I was poised, and everything sounded fine. I use the harmonica for the flute solo in "Nights In White Satin," and even though it wasn't perfect, it was a vast improvement over the first time I played that song at open mic a couple years earlier. Once again, I got some very warm compliments from the audience and other musicians. In the days that followed, I learned to play another Moody Blues song: "Question," which has some very fast strumming (necessitating a light pick) and striking chord progressions. I look forward to playing that at open mic after I finish my alphabetical sequence.
- The Story In Your Eyes
- Tuesday Afternoon ( # )
- The Voice ( # )
- Nights In White Satin ( # )
N is for Neil Young: Likewise, June 5 was a relatively easy night for me, since I had done three of the four songs in public before. In contrast to the rock songs in which my use of the harmonica is rather unorthdox, for Neil Young songs, it is strictly conventional. "Harvest Moon" could have been a little clearner, but it was OK. I prefaced "After the Gold Rush" with an observation that Neil Young has a dual performing character: sometimes he is a sentimental romantic, and sometimes he is a stridently protesting prophet of doom. The last verse of that song involves a spaceship taking refugees away from an ecologically ruined Earth. As the finale, I really got carried away with the the harmonica on "My My, Hey Hey." Once again, folks really enjoyed it.
- Heart Of Gold ( # )
- Harvest Moon ( # )
- * After the Gold Rush ( # )
- My My, Hey Hey ( # )
I am now officially half-way through the alphabet, slightly over, in fact. At my next musical outing (this Wednesday?), I will be on the letter "O," and anyone who knows me very well knows which group's songs I will play!
Staunton Jams 2019
On May 18, Jacqueline and I went downtown to enjoy the last set of the first "Staunton Jams" street concert of the 2019 season. I greeted lots of people I know from church, from music circles, etc. The local rock group Sun Dried Possums was playing, but the amplifiers were too loud, so we retreated a half block away and enjoyed fine malt beverages at Shenandoah Brewing. (I played two solo shows there last year.) Hopefully I can get another gig there before long...
The "Staunton Jams" event on Beverley Street, May 18.