Day -220- Greetings from Lake Wedowee

IMAG0674It’s been a tough week, not everything went the way we planned and we ended up with five days off.  That’s not unheard of, but it throws a wrench in the travel plans, it’s not like we have a home to go home to.  So Thursday night, late, I started making some inquiries…here’s my budget for three nights, is your house available?  I heard back from Julie right away, and boy am I glad I did.

I never realized the things I’m missing living on the road in 280 square feet until I moved in to Julie’s house on the lake for a few days.  These are the things I have appreciated the most, in no particular order:

I can go to another room, by myself, if I want

There is a toaster

There is a table to set and have a meal at

There is a bathtub that can be filled with water and sat in

There is a refrigerator that has separate shelves so I don’t have to take everything out of to find something

There is a built-in stereo system that pipes music through the whole house

There is power in every outlet all the time, not just when the generator is running

There is more than one toilet

There is a couch to sit on, and lay on, and nap on

There is a washing machine that I can do laundry, one load at a time

The bed has two sides to it, I can get out on the side instead of over the end and lastly, The view is incredible….oh, wait, I have that one covered almost everywhere I go

I love our life and all the diversity that is in it, but to sit quietly with a book and a beer looking at the lake for a few days was just exactly what I needed to regroup, rethink, replan the rest of the summer.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but I can guarantee, I will think of it again.


Day -217 – National Parks, once again

IMAG0665New River Gorge National River is a National Park, who knew?  I found it by accident on my map as we looked for something to kill time with in West Virginia.  The bridge and the whitewater rafting is what attracts most to the area.

The bridge is impressive, built of steel in the late 1970’s, it is taller than the Eiffel Tower plus two Statues of Liberty.  Viewing it from the river side is particularly impressive.  The area played an important role in the industrial revolution, it hauled coal on the railways from the mines tunneled in to the mountain there.  People came from all over for the jobs that were available in the area.

The Park Service has taken ownership of 70,000 acres, but for once, they haven’t shrunk the value of the area.  I am not one to criticize the National Park Service, I love the properties they have preserved for the future.  What they have done differently with this one is to continue to allow use of the river for commercial purposes and there is even hunting on NPS land.  That makes great sense to me.

Josh and I got our Junior Ranger badges too, not sure how many that is now, but it sure is fun.  The last project in the JR handbook at New River Gorge was talking to a Park Ranger.  Ranger Billy was at the front desk of the Visitor Center, so he was our guinea pig today.  My first question…”what is the most asked question at this National Park?”  he smiled and said, “Where’s the bathroom?”  Apparently that is the most asked question at every National Park.  We had a great conversation, someday, maybe when I grow up, I will get to be a park ranger.

Day -215 – Maps

IMAG0637Maps have always been one of my favorite things, whether coloring in a map for school; drawing a map for directions (a side note here, if I drew it, don’t trust it); following a map, whatever the reason to have a map, it must be a good one.  Our first order of business was sleuthing through a local cemetery to find some relatives.  We thought we had some good information, turns out, it wasn’t that good.  We could have used a map.    The cemetery was in Sunbury, PA, originally founded in the early 1700’s.  Most of the headstones were worn by the weather, so impossible to read.  It is always interesting for those of us who grew up in the west to come east where everything is older.  Our states and landscapes had been viewed by just a few when whole generations were being buried in the east.  We were successful in only finding a single headstone that was on our list, and that was with the help of the internet.  Amazing how a new technology can link us to something almost 300 years old.

By the time we had stopped exploring the plots, we had come upon dinner time.  A local suggested the Hotel Edison.  Right there in Sunbury is a shrine to Thomas Edison, the first commercial building in which he wired his new-fangled light bulbs in 1877.  There were many other items in the hotel that he had invented, it was quite the history lesson.  It wasn’t quite dark, so we added a “speed tour” to our list of topics for the day.  The Rand-McNally map has three items listed in pink in our area today (we assume these are places of interest), so we set out to see the pink dots around Sunbury.  First stop, Fort Augusta.  An outpost of the British to protect the colonies during the French-Indian war…yes, that is before the American Revolution.  They’ve built a small scale version of the Fort on the property where the original Fort stood.  Next, the Jacob Priestly House, across the river from Fort Augusta, this is the home of a leading nineteenth century scientist.  The man who discovered oxygen and many other things, including the concept of photosynthesis.  It is said that Priestly’s thought process was so out of wack and controversial, that he was run out of England.  Last pink spot for the day was the Susquehanna University campus, a quaint little campus near the Susquehanna River that was founded in the mid 1800’s.  Beautiful place, but with tuition and room and board at over $50K a year, I doubt I will know anyone who attends.

I really enjoy speed touring, it is a combination of sleuthing, speeding and hanging out with the people I enjoy the most.  We may not get the full experience, but it is always a good time.


Day -214 – Coal and Beer

IMAG0655Coal is the lifeblood of this Pennsylvania landscape we are in, anthracite coal to be exact.  There were millions of tons of coal buried in slants under the landscape and many worked hard to remove it.  One of the best places to view the process is the Pioneer Tunnel in Ashland, Pennsylvania.  We stopped at the local museum first to look through the exhibits and see what was to be seen.  They do a great job of sharing how the coal is formed and how it is different than other coals.  The fields of coal lay under the mountains in this area in a vertical slant, much of what is extracted is done from underground.

The Pioneer Tunnel piles you in to a Loki and takes you down the tracks, 1800 feet in to the tunnel, the tracks stop.  There are many veins of coal that you pass under in this tunnel that was actively worked until 1931.  There are offshoots that you can walk down to see the chutes that have been dug both high and low from the tunnel to extract the coal.  The process is dirty, dangerous and back breaking.  Over 31,000 men have died in the industry since the process began.  While the press plays up the big explosions and collapses, the majority of men were killed one or two at a time doing industrial work.  Our prayers for all of them.

Not far from Ashland is another Pennsylvania treasure.  The Yuengling brewery, founded locally in 1829, it is the oldest American brewery.  The story starts five generations ago when a German immigrant, D. J. Yuengling came over to the new country.  He wanted to bebuild a brewery to support his family, so he looked for a place with a strong German culture, at that time in Europe, men, women and children in Germany drank beer.  He wanted to replicate that formula so he had built in buyers.  He landed in Pottsville, where the original brewery still stands – well, almost original, as was common in those days, the first one burnt down.  What I loved about the place was the sense of history, the world has not been scrubbed and polished, the doors still swing on pulleys, the basement is still dug out and accessible, there is no security at the door making sure you follow every sign.  It feels small, it feels personal, it was awesome.

The fifth generation still heads and owns the brewery today, there have been five male born descendents that have headed the company…the current one is 71 years old and he has four daughters active in the industry, but no sons.  A change is afoot.  Over the last fifteen years, Yuengling has expanded tremendously from it’s humble origins, there are now two additional breweries that each brew 1.7 million barrels a year, in addition to the original brewery.  Yuengling can be purchased in 18 states and is continuing it’s expansion.  Pretty impressive for a local brewery.

There is one more thing in Pottsville that the locals are proud of, perhaps more than the brewery even.  That is the Pottsville Maroons, a professional football team who won the championship in 1925.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them, they go by the Washington Redskins now.

Day -214 – Eerie place we came across

IMAG0646In 1962, the small town of Centralia, Pennsylvania began to burn.   It still does to this day.  This area of Pennsylvania is known for its’ coal production, and that coal lies under the surface of the ground.  A fire lit to burn garbage, lit the coal on fire, there has been no way to extinguish it.  Some roads have crumbled, but for the most part, the government came in and bought out the residents of the town to relocate them.  Most left gladly, there are still about 10 residents who stayed.  The rest of the town is abandoned.  The homes have been razed, there is a section of highway that has been detoured, but the streets and sidewalks remain, if you hadn’t heard why the town was gone, it would look like an alien plot.

If given the chance, find the highway that has been detoured, it is covered with graffiti and has an otherworldly feel.

(You may recognize a fictionalized part of the story and location from the movie Silent Hill)

Day -212 – Giving 100% for those who show up

100.quoteTough weekend this one, it was a raging success on one hand and a dismal failure on the other.  How do you find the balance between the two?

On the first hand, we had an awesome event, new racers…which translates to new family; new park…which translates to new partners; new spectators…which translates to new fans.  All is good there, it was a small field that took the race course, but, that isn’t new.  We’ve seen small fields before, and because we never give up, they grow.

All the comments we heard were positive, hence, a raging success.

Then there is the other hand, we made a tough decision before the event started to not charge a spectator gate.  That doesn’t happen often, in fact, never, but this was a different situation we are not normally in.

The park is new to the area, it has been 17 years in the making, but it hasn’t officially opened yet, that happens in two weeks.  With that has come some significant opposition to the park, what was once a lawless, riding/dump area, is now a managed recreation area.  No more driving/riding drunk; no more dumping; no more parties, there are now specific hours and an entry fee.  That is not a bad thing.

The 6,000 acres we are using could be beautiful, but the public needs to treat it like the treasure it is.  There seems to be a whole different philosophy about garbage in the coal district than I’m used to, it was disheartening to see whole mountainsides covered in trash…from tires to refrigerators and everything in between.  So, because there is some political turmoil, and we were fielding a small group for the race, we were concerned about the reputation at the park.  I would have hated for anyone to walk away thinking they had been gypped.  I love our style of racing, but we are new to this area, I was worried.  So we did what we could and made the decision to keep it free for spectators, which put us in the hole for the weekend.  That sucks.  Fortunately it isn’t a big hole, we keep our expenses low so we can weather these kinds of storms, but it was disappointing to have an event in the red.  Hence, the dismal failure.

So, really, where do you find the balance?  How do you maintain the positive attitude when you know you need to fuel the truck to make the next event?  How do you keep getting up in the morning, working hard and making everything work like it should?

I will tell you how we do it…we put a smile on and listen to our family, our race family, that tell us we are doing a good job that they appreciate.  It’s not all of them, nor should it be, but it is enough that say we do good, they make it worthwhile.  I appreciate every attaboy we get, not because I have an ego that needs stroked, but because I know that there aren’t a lot of places our racers can go and be treated well.  I always want them to know they are appreciated and respected here.

I learned a lesson a long time ago that has been worth its’ weight in gold to me.  All you can do is host the event, you can’t make people come.  My goal is to give 100% every time, and here is the reason why… because the people who do show up deserve your very best.  It is not their fault that others didn’t make it.  It’s like the rockstar who is disappointed with the 100 fans in the audience, instead of the thousand he expected.  Every one of them deserve to hear him sing his heart out, they showed up, Always give 100%.


Day -211 – Life is a Highway

joy.quoteThere are some songs that just get stuck in your head, you hear a lyric spoken by someone and it turns in to a melody.  My youngest daughter and I can have whole conversations in song lyrics.  With her it is a bit different though, she’ll actually sing the next line of the song you spoke.

Certain words always conjure songs, if I hear “after midnight”, I automatically think “we’re gonna let it all hang out.”  Sometimes it is just the phrasing that makes the song jump.  Over the years, I have learned more Broadway songs than I ever thought possible, and since Broadway almost always tells a story, I automatically see the scene in front of me.  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” doesn’t bring me Jack Frost nipping at my nose, I think “No room at the Holiday Inn, oh, no……. and it’s beginning to snow.”  And that leads to all sorts of other lyrics, none of which seem related.

I know many parents are lamenting the movie Frozen for all the songs their children sing, I’ve yet to see it, but am looking forward to adding more songs to my repertoire.  Especially if they are the kind that make kids happy.  My kids always repeated their favorite songs, over and over and over again.  Personally I think it is a great memorization tool.

One of my favorite thought provoking songs, comes from Rent.  Do I remember the title?  Never! But the lyric is something I try to think about everyday.  When you are stressed, when you are depressed, remember there are 525,600 minutes in a year, how do you measure a year in your life?  In laughter, in sunsets, in cups of coffee?  In tears, in midnights, in miles?  In journeys to plan? Pick the best measure for you and reflect, I like to measure mine in laughter and love, find some joy today and make every one of those minutes count.

Don’t forget to check out my buddy, Moranton Media – these are his photos!

Day -210 – Social Marketing 101

outloud quoteMy life has become one that is lived online…how weird is that.  For years, I would have been described as an introvert, after all, I am an accountant, a career not really known for its’ extroverts.  Then a big thing happened, I joined the Jaycees around my 28th birthday, as shy and retiring as I may have been then, things changed rapidly.  I still enjoyed being by myself, but, I learned how to get along in a group.  Then another Big thing happened, I met my husband, this was almost 20 years later, but Big Rich – the ultimate extrovert, joined my life.  If ever I was going to shatter my shell, this was the time.

My husband is a big goofball, he laughs easily and finds humor in the silliest of things.  He’s also an intellectual and is a very quick wit, not much escapes his notice.  And because his personality is so big, he lives our life out loud.  Facebook is an important part of our world.  It helps us to keep in touch, to share what we see, heck, I even publish my blog on it.  I’m not sure how we got along without it.

Yesterday I created a couple of “groups” on Facebook, it’s an important thing to do, a place to share information with people that have a common interest with you.  Everyone doesn’t have to be friends, so you eliminate the need for that.  Of course, Facebook doesn’t make it easy – you only get to add 50 people in the beginning and they don’t give you a list of friends, you have to try to remember all their names.  If I slighted anyone, believe me, it was unintentional.  I was down to typing “a” “b” and seeing what names it suggested.

And then there is that weird element that gets factored in….I specifically named it WE Rock “Competitors” and Dirt Riot “Competitors” – so why would people who aren’t “competitors” want to join?  I’m still trying to figure that little piece out.

One of the things I appreciate most about living life online, I get to keep up with everyone else too.  I’ve done the smart thing and eliminated the whiners off my newsfeed.  All that are left are those I care about.  It keeps us in touch when something big happens, and amazingly, there is always something.  So, for you Facebook stalkers who never post anything, please know that the rest of us are interested in you too.  Go ahead, take a chance and life your life out loud, with no apologies


…and don’t forget my friend Joel Moranton…these are his photos