Skyline Blue

DSC_9114copyAWSHIn May friends biked the 650 miles of the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Front Royal, VA, to Cherokee, NC, and I got to go along. It’s an amazing stretch of road, ranging in elevation from about 560 feet at the northern end of the Skyline Drive in Virginia to 6,053 feet near Richland Balsam, NC. Little traffic before Memorial Day. Virtually no potholes. Consistently stunning views of mountains in all directions. Overlooks, tunnels and turnouts. Your federal tax dollars at work. There were eight people and eight bikes and all the gear jammed into the big blue heavily bumper-stickered Sprinter van borrowed from another friend’s indie rock superstar nephew, Chadwick Stokes (of Dispatch and State Radio) and his band. Along the way there was a 13-mile climb and a 10-mile descent and lots of other ups and downs. Top, sunset near Big Meadows Lodge, VA. Below, the road and views from it as it winds over the ridges. And flame azaleas and a note stuck along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Click here for a slideshow from the trip.










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Posted in Bicycling, Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive

Florida Keys


In the Florida Keys, especially for someone coming from the frozen north, the color is blue: warm blue ocean water running to emerald blue-green, setting off white beaches and a big unobstructed sky that highlights the clouds and the expanse of sea on the Atlantic and Gulf shores.

It’s a unique and beautiful place, but to an outsider on a short visit, it seems a shame that Theodore Roosevelt didn’t set it aside as a national park or a national monument when he did the same for the Grand Canyon in 1908.

There’s not much land in this stretch of islands that runs about 125 miles from just south of Miami to Key West at its southern tip, the southernmost point in the continental U.S., 90 miles from Cuba. Much of it within a stone’s throw of the constant traffic on U.S. Route 1 is covered with hotels, condos, strip malls, shell shops, sandal outlets, marinas, and housing developments that were created by dredging up the bottom to make house lots and canals where wetlands once were. Key West, the most intensively populated place, is one of the most attractive because so much of the old architecture has been preserved.

The national, state and municipal parks and wildlife refuges are beautiful and have saved some of the Keys for public use in something close to their natural state. Tourists come from around the world. Freshwater comes from the mainland via a 130-mile-long water main. Sewage treatment is a big issue because nutrients from even treated sewage degrade the quality of the surrounding water. Residents and government are working to build treatment plants with deep wells to dispose of treated effluent and they are attempting to protect the Key deer and the coral reefs, but they have a lot to do.

For a slide show, from Key West and the Ernest Hemingway House to kayaking, CLICK HERE.

Information on environmental challenges in the Keys is HERE.


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Posted in Florida Keys, ocean, water

iPhone Moon

IMG_1425copy_2WSHFull moon, Main Street, Montpelier, VT. iPhone 4s.

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Posted in Montpelier, Night, small towns

Thailand in Vermont

DSC_8259copySHSo it’s April in Vermont and there’s still snow. Business as usual, except if you come from Ubon, Thailand, in which case it’s cause for curiosity and celebration. Perhaps followed by a large cremee, maple or otherwise. Part of a cultural tour of the Northeast arranged by Montpelier’s Linda Wheatley.

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Posted in Snow, Thailand, Vermont

Canada’s National Gallery


If you find yourself in Ottawa, go to the National Gallery of Canada. It’s downtown, in between the By Ward Market district,  the Parliament and the Chateau Laurier, not to far from the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River. Not only is the art collection stunning, but so is the building. Southern light streams into it, changing constantly, and putting you in the mood to appreciate art. Especially when it’s 9 below zero F outside. These were all taken with an iPhone 4s.


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Posted in Canada, iPhone, Ottawa

SuperTour x 2

2015 SuperTour FS Sprint, Craftsbury VT Outdoor Center

The USSA SuperTour and the Dartmouth Winter Carnival brought high-level cross-country ski racing back to Craftsbury Outdoor Center over the weekend. Top, Johnson’s Jennie Bender leads a freestyle (skate) sprint heat Friday. Below, the women’s 10-k started in falling snow on Sunday; Hans Halvorsen of Williams College in the freestyle (skate) sprint Friday; volunteer Carol Van Dyke trying to stay warm; Rebecca Rorabaugh of Alaska Pacific University after winning the 10-k; a Dartmouth skier with the traditional Dartmouth Winter Carnival look. Click here for a full gallery.

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2015 SuperTour FS Sprint, Craftsbury VT Outdoor Center

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Posted in Craftsbury Outdoor Center, cross country ski racing, Vermont

SuperTour @ Craftsbury


Top nordic skiers from around the country raced in the USSA SuperTour on Friday and Sunday at the Craftsbury, VT, Outdoor Center, which has become one of the nation’s top nordic sites over the past few years. Conditions were superb, grooming world class and the competition serious. Top, New Hampshire’s Kris Freeman leads the pack in falling snow in the 30-k classic race Friday. Freeman wears the yellow bib of the overall tour leader. Below, the lineup for the sunny, cold sprint final is reflected in former Vermonter Jennie Bender’s glasses. She now skis for the Bridger Ski Foundation in Montana and won the sprint Sunday. Below, Rebecca Rorabaugh (front) of Alaska Pacific University Nordic leads Emily Dreissigacker of Craftsbury in a sprint heat;  Dakota Blackhorse-Von Jess of Bend OR, in the green  bib of the tour sprint leader, en route to winning the sprint; Zach Caldwell of Caldwell Sports in Putney applies wax and, bottom, Tyler Kornfeld of APU after finishing third in the sprint. Click here for a link to a gallery from both days. Info on the Craftsbury Nordic Center is here.D7K_7728copy_1





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Posted in cross country ski racing, cross-country skiing, Vermont

Winterscape, Winterskate


The blizzard missed central Vermont, but we still have lots of winter going on. Above, wet snow landed in the higher elevations, coating everything, and then a cold snap pasted it in place (Elmore, VT). Below, skating, Curtis Pond, Calais, VT.


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Posted in Vermont, Winter Tagged |

No Credit, Don’t Ask


Moodie’s Used Cars, North Wolcott, VT


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Posted in signs, Vermont, Winter

Bend, OR


People in Bend, Oregon, are pretty insistent about Bend being sunny, as in more than 300 days a year that are either sunny or mostly sunny. I was there last week and there was only one sunny day out of seven (above, at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort). The rest of the time was taken up with rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain in varying amounts, coating the sage and juniper of the high desert. It was November though.

Mt. Bachelor is at the end of a roughly 20-mile road that climbs the long, easy grade from Bend into the mountains. Easy by Vermont standards, but an interesting Oregon folkway is that they do not apply salt to the roads. A good idea, no doubt, but it makes for some cautious and interesting driving, even when the snow is light. Highway crews dump red lava rock on everything that looks like a road, and that helps.

The population of Bend in 1990 was about 20,500. Today it is more than 80,000. As soon as you get out of the relatively small core of the downtown, you can see the explosion of growth on both sides of the Deschutes River: acres and acres of apartment and condo complexes, malls, mini malls, and new houses perched on the hills, all connected by newish roads and a lot of nice roundabouts.  Plus 19 breweries (Count ’em by clicking here.) Bend has grown so fast in the last few decades that it has its own Growth Management Department. And the city council just approved a $28 million sewer expansion.

If you climb the roughly 500 feet to the top of Pilot Butte, you can see not only highways and the roofs of relatively new buildings in all directions, but also the sage, the juniper and the ring of volcanoes and volcanic debris that surround the town. Pilot Butte itself is an extinct volcano, a cinder cone — unlike the Newberry volcano, about 20 miles away, which is considered “potentially active.”

Everybody in Bend is active too. It’s an outdoor town, full of cyclists, runners, snowboarders, skiers, kayakers, climbers. Interesting place. Don’t know whether it’s done growing or not.

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Posted in Bend, Oregon, Skiing Tagged , |