Nelson County Ride

It was a day that required breaking mental schemes. Ride a 49.5 mile auto scenic route through the Blue Ridge Mountains on a bike? Sure, why not. Violate a long held rule prohibiting cycling when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Well, it's not going to be 40 degrees until after noon at lower elevations and we're climbing to over 3000 feet, so we must! Sure, why not. So, the day began at the Devil's Backbone Brewery parking lot in Nellysford. Sunlight, no wind to speak of and the long climb up Wintergreen Mountain to the Parkway pushed the cold out of our awareness. Reaching Reed's Gap in a little over an hour had us psyched for the tough climb was behind us and the 15 or so miles of climbing to Montebello we knew from last year has gentler grades and even some down hill runs. The first long down hill we encountered on the Parkway was face numbing but a stop to view Bald Mountain seven or eight miles in the distance reminded us there would be plenty of opportunity to warm up.

At lunchtime, we stopped at the Twenty Minute Overlook where we met two couples; Tar Heel fans headed to DB Brewery for lunch and to assuage the pain from their team's loss to the Hokies last night. I told them my daughter was happy about the outcome, but David kept his allegiance a secret! The rest of the ride on the Parkway went quickly; beautiful ridge-line views on a bright, sunny afternoon. The turn onto Rt. 56 and its immediate climb found David talking about beer. After a quick stop at the Montebello store, we headed down the mountain toward Massies Mill. It was chilly. I swear I could feel shards of frozen sweat pressing against my thighs when I began to pedal again after the descent. ;-) Upon regrouping, Gary continued the tradition of pedaling in the lead so David and I can draft off him for the six or seven miles to Rt. 151; thanks Gary we needed that break!

Mentally, once we reach the intersection at Rt. 151, the ride is a piece of cake! It is still over 10 miles back to the start but all the major climbs and more than three quarters of the ride are in memory. So we pedal forth and soon the mountain top above Nellysford is under foot and we are coasting ( David in the lead speeding) back to the DB Brewery parking lot. Great ride today. We even did it a bit faster than last year. TOF Brothers picture after the ride, an Eight Point IPA pale ale, and an hour by the fire shows we are no worse for the ride. Will we drive or ride the Nelson County Scenic Auto Route next year? We'll keep you posted but if Gary has any say, we'll.....

Every boy needs his growler! Happy Birthday Gary!!


A weekend with Henry

Henry visited this weekend; our gift to the Alexander's on their anniversary! It was a beautiful weekend to be outside and a visit to the Layman Family Farm in Moneta began our adventure. What a great place to visit with kids. The giant corn maze is the main attraction for older kids, teens and adults. But for younger kids, there is cow train and hay ride, animals to see, a huge jumping bag to bounce on, slides to scoot down, swings to ride, corn cob guns to shoot, pumpkin patches to play in, and snacks to eat!

Outdoor activities continued back in Lynchburg with Scuut rides in the neighborhood, a visit to the Linkhorne playground and a visit to the tunnel on Blackwater Creek. Henry is a great age; it's fun to hear him jabber constantly about his world, real or imagined. It's fun to ask him a question like, "Do you want some candy?" and have him yell "NO" before he realizes what he said! It is amazing how much he has grown. Grampa's old body is sorer after a weekend with Henry than after a 40 mile bike ride! It will not be long until picking up Henry and carrying him around is a past activity for Grandma and Grandpa! Henry, you are just a great kid and we love having you visit us!
Grandma and Grandpa


South River Ride

A TOF Brothers tradition evolved this year as we rode the South River Ride again in preparation for the Nelson County Scenic Route (a 50 mile loop of mountain scenery designed for auto driving). The ride begins in Buena Vista and follows Route 60 east to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Continuing north on the Parkway to Whetstone Ridge provides great training for mountain climbing as the first twenty miles are mostly uphill. The rest of the 43 mile ride includes a brake gripping drop from Montebello to Vesuvius and then a fine roll back to Buena Vista along the South River. Great ride today; we ARE ready for the Nelson!


Birthday Trip

Concurrent Andy Warhol exhibits at the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn Museums in DC hatched the idea for a trip to celebrate my birthday! So last Friday, Gretchen and I headed to Manassas because we wanted to explore the quaint downtown we had seen several times on rail trips when the train stopped at the AMTRAK station. The "Fall Gallery Walk" was scheduled for Friday evening. After dinner at the Philadelphia Tavern, we walked around Old Town visiting about 10 galleries and stores hosting local artists. It was a pleasant evening but Gretchen and I had similar impressions. We both felt the crowd and the quality of the art work both fell short of what we find at Lynchburg's First Friday's.

First stop Saturday was the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Air and Space Museum at Dulles. The Center is named after a Turkish immigrant who became a pioneer in the aircraft leasing business and subsequently donated 66 million dollars to establish the museum! I am so glad he did because the Center is an amazing place; the scale of the exhibits is mind boggling. Small balloon baskets hang above large fighter planes. Tiny planes that set speed records during the twentieth century sit next to a Boeing passenger jet. It is neat to walk down an aisle and see the rapid development of engines in bi-planes of the early 1900s, or the evolution of fighter planes during WW II. Oh, there is a space shuttle in residence too! The adjacent picture reminded us of JabberJaws, the laser we borrowed from the Yates each year during sailcamp so Kelley and Katie would each have a boat to sail. We left the Museum and headed to a nearby Trader Joe's (for coffee beans) and on to the Metro stop at Vienna.

The Warhol exhibits were quite different from our knowledge of his works (think Campbell soup cans). In the National Gallery, the exhibit was called Headlines, and it focused on early works where Warhol was reproducing newspaper copy in his paintings adding his own twists. Quite interesting. The Hirshhorn exhibit called Shadows displayed for the first time all 102 paintings of a shadow in his loft that Warhol painted in striking colors with a mop. Displayed on the curved wall of the Hirshhorn (more than half way around the building), it was an impressive hanging of his work.

Saturday was a beautiful day on the Mall and we enjoyed the fall colors as we walked to the Martin Luther King Memorial. It is a dramatic monument opposite the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin. His words etched in stone that inspired so many in his day are strikingly thoughtful and relevant today!

The plan was to end our day in Washington with an early dinner before heading back to our hotel in Manassas. Our chosen restaurant was a highly rated tapas place named Jaleo. To say Jaleo is outstanding is an understatement! The menu is eclectic and we enjoyed every morsel of food and a dram or two of a fine Spanish wine. Gretchen and I reflected on how great it is to be able to enjoy a birthday dinner like this one, how blessed our lives have been, and how long a journey it has been from our roots growing up in Schuylkill Haven!

Itching to use our National Park Senior Pass at least once this year, we decided to return home via Skyline Drive. It was a beautiful day for the drive, but climbing south out of Front Royal, it quickly became apparent that winter had descended on the Blue Ridge. Snow still lined the roadway from last week's early storm and the trees had dropped their leaves. Still, Shenandoah NP is always beautiful and we were surprised and pleased to see that every parking lot was filled with the cars of hikers and cyclists enjoying the outdoors.

Thanks Gretchen for a great birthday celebration!


TOF Brothers Update

We have been riding but the app I was using to write this blog was not in service! Two rides were in Amherst County. The first took us from Elon, around the valley by Father Judd and up over Tobacco Row via Wagon Trail Road. That found us heading back to Elon on Route 130 with pie on our minds. This time Woodruff's Store was open and we ate lunch and even took apple pies home to share! The second ride started off 130 near the Parkway with the first stop at the Ottie Cline Powell memorial. Ottie was a 5 year old boy who wandered away from a school in the Pleasant View valley in the fall of 1891 and disappeared. His body was found in the spring on top of Bluff Mountain, about 10 miles to the west and over 2000 feet above the valley floor!

Continuing the ride from the memorial, we traced a figure eight through Pleasant View north to Route 60 and returning via the Buffalo Springs Turnpike to 130 and our starting point. David was "the man" on a bike this day; he really rode long and strong! Great show Dave!!

Total miles for the two rides was about 75 miles.

Sold on the ride to lunch idea, we began one day at David's house and rode to Altavista. It's a downhill trek to Altavista and that means a slight grade returning, but overall a great rolling ride with little traffic and great rural scenery. The Main Street Cafe is a fine lunch stop. Riding a bike 38 miles on a beautiful fall day; great way to spend a few hours!

Last week's ride started in Fincastle and headed southwest through the valley bordered on the east by Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob; well known territory for all AT hikers in the region. The lolly pop (think Sugar Daddy) was very hilly with a side trip to the famous hiker stop, the Catawba Store. Good training ride for our upcoming Nelson County loop which Gary announced would be the week of November 14th! Total miles 39 (40 on Tom's speedometer)!



Recently, we went to see our new granddaughter in South Carolina. This blog was delayed because the app I was using did not work when iOS5 was introduced. I just found a new app that works with Blogger and the iPAD!  The trip got me thinking about the word family.  It's a word that brings many connotations to mind; perfect TV families of the sixties, Archie and Meathead, mob families focused on crime, tribal families that rule villages and regions, royal families, religious families and the nuclear family with its many variations. But it's the nuclear family with its extensions that most of us experience and cherish; moms, dads, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents and cousins.

The family is were we spend our time and expend our energy.  It's where relations begin, are cultivated and grow.  Marriages are planned and celebrated here. Husbands and wives learn to live and work together as a family. It's where dads learn to provide, moms to nurture and the reverse as well!  It's where children grow with love, learn how to live with others, fail, retry and experience success. It's where they develop physically, cognitively and emotionally. The family transfers values from one generation to the next; moral, spiritual, cultural and political. It's where kids learn about responsibility, about motivation and work ethic and about healthy life styles.

Distance in our mobile society makes it more difficult for family members to gather, but we do; for births and birthdays, anniversaries and marriages, graduations and holidays, reunions and visits and of course funerals. It is always fun to be with family members who have moved to other locations. So it was in August when we gathered in SC for Maggie's birth and later for her homecoming! We look forward to gathering for other special occasions in her life, and in the lives of other members of the Alexander, Arenz, Bender, Bolton, Gorman, Hill, Olmes, Phelps and Morgan families. We are all indeed blessed for the strong, extended family we all foster and enjoy!