Travels in 2021 (esp. spring, summer, & fall)
My last blog post about travel was last March, after Jacqueline and I went on a late-winter road trip to New Orleans, so here's big step in getting caught up. The photos shown below are the "best of the best" of 2021, taken from the newly-created 2021-BEST photo gallery page.
While passing through Washington, D.C. in mid-March Jacqueline and I visited the Martin Luther King monument for the first time. It's one of those destinations that keeps getting postponed again and again. Perhaps we were inspired by having seen the church in Montgomery, Alabama where Martin Luther King once preached while on the way back from New Orleans. We also drove to within a few blocks of the U.S. Capitol, where workers were busy moving the razor wire fence a little closer to Capitol Hill. For the first few weeks after the insurrection/riot of January 6, almost a square mile of Our Nation's Capital was blocked to public access, causing big traffic tie-ups. It was a sad and rather disgraceful situation, exposing the shocking fragility of our democratic system. (I'll comment on politics in a separate blog post.)
Later in March we hiked around Ragged Mountain Reservoir near Charlottesville, about seven miles total, I believe. I didn't have a map, and I was going by my memory of the last time we had hiked their, in the late 1990s! Since then they have built a new dam to expand the reservoir so that the growing population of Charlottesville and environs will not go thirsty. We also visited the new shopping center on the south side of the city, and of course got delicious nourishment at Bodo's Bagels.
In April and May I went on the usual birding expeditions, but the only such major event was at the end of April, when I joined a few other Augusta Bird Club members on a field trip to "Warbler Road" along the Blue Ridge about an hour south of Staunton. One highlight of that day was taking a look at the old canal lock under the James River bridge. I had extra time in the early spring since my classes at Blue Ridge Community College had been cut, but I soon got very busy at a new job as a waiter at the Clocktower restaurant in Staunton. In June I made two trips to Washington, D.C., the first being on the 6th with Jacqueline for the Peruvian presidential elections, which were being held at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. It was a bright, sunny day, perfect for picture-taking. (The election results were less than satisfactory, however...) After that we drove into Washington, driving past RFK Stadium, the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and then into Arlington where we spent some time at the U.S. Air Force Memorial. There I photographed one of the many thousands of Periodical Cicadas that we saw buzzing around that day. That happens to be near an Ethiopian restaurant that we were looking for; it was our first time savoring that exotic cuisine in many years!
Later that month (June 16) I went back to Washington to see a game at Nationals Park with my old friend Dave Givens. The Nationals won that day, but just a few weeks later things turned very bad for my favorite team.) On the way back, I visited the tiny town of Washington, Virginia, and went birding in the Shenandoah National Park, where I saw a young Peregrine Falcon that is part of a species restoration project.
On July 6, I joined about 15 of my co-workers at the Clocktower restaurant on a tubing along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, north of Luray. It was the first time I had participated in such an adventure in at least 20 years! The restaurant was closed all day. Many thanks to Clocktower owner Mike Andrae for treating his workers to much-deserved day of fun and relaxation. (Unfortunately, my feet and ankles got badly sunburned that day.) On the way back to Staunton, I saw the Dukes of Hazzard Museum, west of Luray. The very next day I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Reddish Knob, stopping at the scenic Briery Branch Reservoir on the way up the mountain. The views at the top were obscured by clouds and light rain, unfortunately.
For the next several weeks, I didn't "travel" much at all, other than visit various birding locations in and around Augusta County. But on September 17, after taking Jacqueline to Reagan National Aiport (from which she was departing for Peru), I spent some time as a "tourist" in Washington. I saw the Bureau of Engraving & Printing, the Holocaust Museum (which I learned that one needs an advance permit to enter), and the nearby Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial. Then I paid a visit to Huntley Meadows, a large, swampy nature preserve in Fairfax County to do some birding, after which I headed back to Staunton.
After a morning of birding at Montgomery Hall Park in Staunton, I passed by my (former) place of employment at the Clocktower restaurant, on West Beverley Street. As you can see, it is situated in an architectural gem.
Other than a bird outing to Augusta Springs and points west on the first of the month, I didn't do much until late October. Why not? Because my classes at Blue Ridge Community College finally resumed in mid-month! On October 23 Jacqueline and I drove up to the Washington area, stopping at the Thornton River Orchard store (near Sperryville) to buy a huge quantity (a half bushel, I believe) of apples. As we approached the suburbs I noticed many "Help Wanted" signs, especially near food service establishments. One sign near Manassas read "Now Hiring anyone who shows up"! Employers are pretty desperate; "Good help is hard to find these days!" On the way home we stopped at Prince William Forest for the very first time. It is a pleasant location, with much history, but there weren't many birds that day.
On November 12 we went on a brief day trip to Swoope and Buffalo Gap, west of Staunton. It was the only time we really got to enjoy the fall foliage together. On November 20 we drove to Charlottesville, since Jacqueline wanted to buy more apples, etc. at Carter's Mountain Orchard. It was a brisk, windy day, and hence not suitable for birding or other outdoor activity. We had nice views of and of Charlottesville to the northwest and of Ashlawn (historic home of James Monroe) to the east. Later on we drove downtown to see the park where the Robert E. Lee statue used to stand. It was taken down late in the summer, after a prolonged series of court battles, presaging a similar outcome in Richmond. That day happened to coincide with a big University of Virginia football game: the Cavaliers were taking on the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Panthers, so we watched part of the game while enjoying chicken wings and tasty beverages at South Street Brewery. U.Va. ended up losing, but they put up a good fight!
And that covers the highlights of the year, travel-wise, other than our trip to New Orleans. These and many other photographs can be seen on my Chronological (2021) photo gallery page. Enjoy!