Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Thus Always to Tyrants

I spent 5 months in Virginia Beach, and I can say with certainty (and as the understatement of the year) that it is NOT my favorite place I've ever lived. I know how toxic a bad attitude can be, so I tried to keep an upbeat mindset while I was there. In keeping with the positive vibes, here's an assortment of some cool or interesting things I saw in the Virginia Beach area, in no particular order.
Poseidon is a centerpiece of the Oceanfront and boardwalk area, and a fairly charismatic one at that. However, I preferred to spend time at the Chesapeake Bay beach rather than on the Atlantic, mostly because of the lack of crowds and ease of parking. At the Aeries Way beach entrance, there's a funny sign regarding cigarette butts.
Over the course of my time in VAB, I made several road trips to Georgia and Tennessee, each totalling over 1,000 miles each time. I think I averaged one major road trip each month, with some "smaller" ones to Blacksburg (only 650 miles). I'm now an official Road Warrior (note: not official), plus my car hit 200,000 miles on my spectacular 1,200 mile 5-state journey in June.
The state seal of Virginia is pretty intense. SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS indeed. (Fun fact: John Wilkes Booth shouted this phrase before fleeing the scene of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. The more you know!)
Virginia Beach is a big military area, to say the least. Home to 6 military bases or JEBs (Joint Expeditionary Bases) and numerous other military-affiliated labs and companies, some days if you make a wrong turn on the beach at First Landing State Park, you might be face-to-face with a battleship or helipcopters practicing official maneuvers.

To move back South, I used ABF's U-pack service to avoid having to drive a moving truck hundred of miles while towing my car. The U-pack is currently sitting in a storage facility somewhere in southern VAB, so time will tell how the contents fared once it gets delivered.

Probably my favorite place to visit in VAB is First Landing State Park. The last time I visited, there had been a lot of rain over the previous week, and basically every mushroom you could ever want to see was out, including this stinkhorn that was attracting flies.

Perhaps as a precursor to Hurricane Matthew or perhaps totally unrelated, the Chesapeake was super choppy and windy on my last day in town. Instead of sunbathing, I had to shield my face from flying sand with sunglasses and a scarf. But the upside to the high tides and rough waters was that there were several horseshoe crab remnants along the beach.
And lastly, my favorite thing about the apartment complex I lived in was all the ducks. There were mosty mallards and muscovies, and one of my favorite little lady muscovies had some ducklings with her as I was moving out.
There ya have it: Virginia Beach.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Star City

Roanoke, Virginia, might not be the first place that springs to mind when you hear the nickname "Star City." But once you visit, and hike to the Star, you'll understand.

I was on my way to Blacksburg and had an afternoon to kill, so I decided to do a little hiking up Mill Mountain. It was chanterelle season, and I spotted some along the way, though they were getting a little crusty. This cluster was very decidedly NOT a troop of chanterelles.
There were also lichens, Rose of Sharon (Rosasharn, for the Steinbeck fans), chicory, and sweeping views from the top.
All in all, an excellent hike and a great way to spend the afternoon.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Richmond: Cooler Than You Think

Okay, I have to admit that going into it, I was under the impression that Richmond, Virginia, was pretty much on par with Richmond, California (i.e., super-high murder rate and generally crappy). I'm not sure how I first came under that impression, but how delightfully wrong I was!
This view from the hotel shows the James River and Belle Isle. I was particularly intrigued by the pedestrian bridge that's hanging under the main bridge, though I didn't get a chance to check it out in person. There appeared to be several breweries across the river as well, but again, being in town on a "business" trip, I wasn't really in control of my agenda.

Just a few blocks from the hotel heading away from the river is the Capitol building. Not much to say about it... it's pretty white, pretty majestic, pretty Capitol-ish.
Richmond is home to VCU, which is making a name for itself as an art school, so there are a lot of murals and artwork around the downtown area. This old building skeleton was home to several cool large-scale pieces.

Lastly, there was this crazy albino squirrel chilling out in a tree! I've never seen such a thing, but now I can assure you that they do exist. So, positive points for Richmond: walkable (at least in the downtown/financial district), great restaurants, cool artwork, albino squirrels, and immediate proximity to a river. 
Yeah, I'd visit again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cat Motivation

Sometimes we just need a little encouragement.
(And especially encouragement from Shia LaBeouf. Seriously, search for his motivational video and give yourself the kick in the butt you really need.)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Your favorite Virginia college town in the mountains

A.K.A. Blacksburg!

I moved to Virginia Beach in May, which will be the subject of a later post, and after realizing how hellish Memorial Day weekend would be in the area, I opted to take a quick getaway to Blacksburg. It's a groovy little college town situated along the Blue Ridge portion of the Appalachians, and aside from all the awesome hiking within an hour's drive away, it's got a lot of nice things to do in town.

The following sign was a curious one I saw at a rest area en route via I-64 near Waynesboro. Toilets that use mineral oil instead of water and thus have zero effluent discharge?? I had never heard of or seen this before, but the toilet liquid was yellowish, so I would have assumed it was just the area's water, were it not for this sign.

I got to check out the Huckleberry Trail on a bike, which provided a nice ~10 mile ride around the area, and I also enjoyed Heritage Park, which had some sweet wildlife, nice wetlands and streams, nightshade plants, and decrepit old barn buildings.
.. Old barn buildings complete with artsy graffiti, as expected.
Blacksburg also boasts a cute, compact downtown with some good restaurants and a bus system with a great reputation that I sadly didn't get the opportunity to try out. The best part: the students were gone for summer! Hooray for a being a crabby old townie!

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Ode to the University of the South

Sewanee, how lovely thou art!
 Let me count the ways... with your Oxford-esque architecture,

your Shenanigans,

your giant War Memorial Cross,
and even your splash of artsiness,
all roads point to the Domain of the University of the South.

(Of course, it could still be argued that the best thing about Sewanee is its proximity to Chattanooga. Just sayin'.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I Heart New York

... well, not really, but NYC is okay.

I took a little trip to New York over Spring Break (woo!) and actually had a pretty good time. I wasn't really anticipating it to be that fun since I was mostly going for a job interview, but I met up with several friends in the area, did a ton of walking, and rode the Staten Island ferry more times than I'm willing to admit.

I used public transportation for my trip, which included $3 trips to get from Midway airport to my airbnb on Staten Island (bus to subway to free Staten Island ferry to walking 1 mile). It took close to 2 hours to cover that distance, but I have a weird love of public transit, so it was kind of perfect.

I found the subway system fairly easy to use; I'm not really sure why everyone talks about it like it's impossible to navigate, but I guess it could be confusing if you've never had to use a train system before. Other pros: $2.75 per ride, and trains run all night! (What! Not that it matters when you're asleep before midnight on any given night..) The only problem I ran into was that my Metrocard got demagnetized in my wallet, so I had to mail in a claim for the money that was stuck on it. Where are you supposed to keep a Metrocard so that it isn't near credit cards or your cell phone??

One of my friends found that the American Folk Art Museum was having an exhibit on Masonic imagery and symbols, so we ambled through Central Park (first stopping through Belvedere Castle) and made our way to the museum at Lincoln Square. The museum is free with donation-based admission and housed a cozy 3-room personal collection of paintings, sculptures, and clothing items amassed over the years.

The above dimly-lit picture shows all the major symbols of the IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), many of which are common to Masons. It's a huge mess of symbols, including heart-in-the-hand for integrity; skull-and-bones, coffin, and winged-hourglass as reminders of mortality; and a bundle of rods showing strength in numbers. Needless to say, we're pretty much experts now.

And here's the exterior of the lovely Staten Island airbnb house I stayed in. My room was approximately the size of a large walk-in closet: large enough to fit a single mattress, a small set of plastic drawers, and a little space for walking around the mattress. It was $37 a night, but I ended up having the whole house to myself! Not too shabby. I also nearly destroyed my phone during this trip by initiating dreaded Updates, but possibly more on that another time.