Archive for April, 2007

BLOG: 50,000 Views Reached

Just a quick note to document when this blog passed 50,000 views (I’m blatently copying Clint’s post from January).

My very first post was March 3, 2006, so it took almost fourteen months to hit this mark.  In January, I was at 20,000, so the last 30,000 views occurred in 2007. 

Sadly, it seems I’ve hit my 50,000 mark under morbid circumstances.  The day after Kurt Vonnegut’s death was reported by news agencies, I had my highest day courtesy of people searching for funeral information.  Less than a week later, that new record high was dwarfed when worse news, news that hit closer to home, broke.

Clint was able to get his second 50,000 views in just four months.  Seeing what promotes my blog’s highest days, I’m not sure I want to follow in his footsteps! 

April 29, 2007 at 5:57 pm 7 comments


After our Devil’s Marbleyard Hike, Mike took us to another unique site– Foamhenge.  It is a full-scale replica of Stonehenge… only made out of styrofoam!  It is right off Route 11, just slightly north of Natural Bridge, Virginia.  A sign at the site compares the construction of the Stonehenge and Foamhenge.  Here is a quick summary:

Stonehenge Foamhenge
Completion Time 1500 Years 6 Weeks
“Stone” Weight 50 Tons 420 Pounds
Labor Estimated 600-1000 Men “4-5 Mexicans and One Crazy Man”

Here are some shots of our visit:

Jimmie approaches Foamhenge

View from Foamhenge with beautiful mountains in the distance

Between this and the makeout couple at the airport, I am definitely seeing alot of unusual sights this week!

April 28, 2007 at 10:45 pm 6 comments

Devil’s Marbleyard

Today Mike E and I took the two dogs up near Natural Bridge to visit Devil’s Marbleyard. 500 million years ago, this particular area was a beach of quartz sand (I’ve read very similiar to the Outer Banks). 250 million years ago, the North American plate collided with Europe and Africa, forming the Appalachian Mountains and forcing this terrain upwards. Today what we have left is an entire side of a mountain (8 acres worth) covered with quartzite boulders of various sizes. Fossils in the boulders still record where ancient worms had made their homes way back when the rock was just soft sand.

The hike to the Marbleyard is very easy– the Belfast Trail gradually ascents 500 feet and is a little more than a mile one way (Appalachian Trail hikers– you can take the same Belfast Trail down from the AT). Climbing on and ascending up the Marbleyard is a different story. Much like Mount Sentinel in Missoula, the perspective is misleading. Just when you think you are close to the top of all the rocks, you’ll discover there is another huge slope of boulders.

Just some of the rocks at Devil’s Marbleyard.

To provide some perspective– people climbing on the rocks and some trees

It is not my favorite hike, but it sure is beautiful. Up on the rocks, we got some great views of the surrounding mountains and valley:

View from Devil’s Marbleyard

Dog Friendly
Today I learned Devil’s Marbleyard is actually dog-friendly. When I was there in 2003, we had a dog named Maggie get stuck and Alex Moskwa and I had to carry her down. Keeping that in mind, I tied Jimmie and Henry to trees near the bottom. My intent was humane– they would get to relax and rest while Mike and I ascended up the tougher terrain. The dogs disagreed with my assessment. They cried non stop and did their best to convince other hikers I was torturing them. I finally turned around and fetched them. It turns out they knew better than I. They were fine. To the right of the boulder field, the Belfast Trail continues the ascent. It was steep, but nothing the dogs could not handle. When I did venture out onto the boulders, both dogs knew their own limitations. Henry stayed on some small rocks and watched, while Jimmie followed me out further.

Henry wisely waits on rocks near the trail.

Jimmie navigating larger rocks

Wildlife and Domestic Life
Jimmie ran into this snake (almost literally!) on the way to the Marbleyard. The snake was beautiful and allowed us to photograph him for some time. Anyone know what kind of snake it is?

The hike was terribly popular today and the parking lot was full. Mike and I had to park down the street next to a pig farm. As we loaded back into the vehicles, one pig took an interest in watching and was apparently not intimidated by the barking dogs. I think he was cuter than the snake. I named him Wilbur.

Wilbur watches us.

More pictures of our Devil’s Marbleyard hike (including more snake pictures and pig pictures) are available on my Flickr site.

Additional Links on Devil’s Marbleyard
Kevin Myatt’s article for the Roanoke Times
Washington and Lee University’s Geology of the Blueridge Mountains

April 28, 2007 at 10:13 pm 9 comments

Leer and Groping in Wichita

Greetings from Wichita Airport.  Larry went to make a bathroom run and I was sitting alone at the gate clunking on the computer.  Suddenly, behind me I heard a distinct sucking sound.  No…it couldn’t be.  Then I heard the sound again…and again…and again.  Finally I mustered up the courage to take a peek over my shoulder.  On the floor directly behind me was a couple making out.  It’s quite the spectacle.  They are facing each other and the guy has his legs wrapped around girl and she has her legs draped over him.  Often their hands can’t be accounted for.  But it is the sounds that are really gross. 

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not against making out.  But I do believe there is a time and a place.  Call me frigid, but sitting on a dirty airport floor surrounded by weary business travellers doesn’t seem to be the proper locale. 

When Larry returned to the gate, I got to see his face as he turned the corner and saw what was behind me.  Classic!  Some of the other passengers at the gate have had some interesting facial expressions as well.  There is a toddler staring at them at the moment.  Larry and I have subsequently moved to fetch power for our laptops.  Unfortunately…we’re still in the sucking sound range.  Ugh, I just heard a moan too.

Larry talking to me on AOL IM while the couple continues their makeup session behind him

Well one thing is for certain– this is one of the more interesting airport gate experiences I have ever had.

April 26, 2007 at 3:42 pm 6 comments

Mims the Word

My husband excels at making me laugh while I am on the road.  Today he accomplished that with a simple link:,harvilla,76021,22.html

I mentioned that on our Vail trip, Stacy and Kipp were introduced to the simple, but soul-searching, philophy of Mims (“I’m hot cause I’m fly, you ain’t cause you not”). This article does a graphical evaluation of that and other thought-provoking lines from the song.  My favorites:

The article is a couple of months old, but still gold.  Kudos to Rob Harvilla for writing this article and kudos to Sean for forwarding it on and making me laugh so far away from home.

April 25, 2007 at 11:36 pm 4 comments

Lab Visit

Greetings from Kansas on my last night here.  It’s been a very busy trip and even tonight I have little time to write. 

On Monday, Larry and I got to visit a food safety lab.  This particular lab specializes in pathogen testing in food (stuff like Ecoli 0157:H7, Listeria, Salmonella, etc).  With roughly 76 million cases of foodborne illness occuring in the U.S. annually (equaling an estimated 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths), the work they do in the lab is of great value and importance.  The employees there take their duties very seriously.

Larry and I have visited many different types of organizations during our respective careers, but this was the first aseptic environment either of us had been involved in.  Great strides are taken to prevent cross contamination and to protect the integrity of the samples.  Larry and I had to wear special booties over our shoes.  This involved a tricky process where you keep your outside, unprotected foot on one side of a line, meanwhile you put a bootie on the other foot and move that freshly-bootied-foot to the other side of the line.  My attempt was less than successful.  I lost my balance and fell.

That was embarassing, but at least I was able to successfully put on the latex gloves!  Larry struggled with that step! 🙂 

Larry finally got his gloves on.  Great Success!

We also wore hair nets, large lab coats and special additions to the sides of our glasses.  Somehow the look still managed to be flattering on the lab workers.  On me and Larry— not so much.

Lab worker making the look work.

DORKS!  I thi
nk my blink is an especially great accessory to the look.

It is a very good thing Larry and I do not work there.   As the workers moved between different duties, they had to change into fresh lab coats and gloves.  With my struggles with balance and Larry’s with his gloves, we would never get the work done in a timely fashion. 

We both very much enjoyed our visit and were extremely impressed by the expertise, vigilance and dedication of all the lab employees.  It was easy to see they cared about their jobs and that they performed their duties superbly.

April 25, 2007 at 11:13 pm 1 comment

Season Comparison: Kelly’s Knob

I stumbled on another season comparison today (Other comparisons at Something The Thru Hikers Miss).

View from a Sunny Spring Day (2007)

View from a Overcast Summer Day (2003)

April 22, 2007 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

Kelly’s Knob – View of VT From the AT

Tomorrow I fly to Kansas, but today I hiked my mountains.  Lud, Jimmie and Henry and I headed to Kelly’s Knob.  Kelly’s Knob is just 120 yards off the Appalachian Trail on John’s Creek Mountain.  It isn’t the best view on the RATC-maintained trail, but it has a special distinction — you can see the the Virginia Tech campus (and my neighborhood) from the knob.   After the tragedy this week, it seemed the most fitting destination on the entire Appalachian Trail.

Lane Stadium and Cassell Colliseum from Kelly’s Knob

Lud and I took this opportunity to hang a VT flag at the knob.  We chose to wrap it around a tree trunk to help it better survive any wind.  The tree we selected is a blazed tree right next to the connector trail back to the AT.  In a way, it is a blaze back to Blacksburg, a blaze back home.

Blaze back home

We did have one mishap.  Henry was unsupervised long enough to roll in poo.  We don’t know what kind of poo (perhaps I should have paid more attention to the scat display at the Vail Nature Center), but Lud told Sean, “It’s definitely not domestic and if it is, I don’t want to know what it’s from!”

When we arrived at the knob, Henry’s smelly presence was not embraced by the other hikers.  A few of them actually fled!  As a result, Henry was banned from the rock outcropping.  I tied him up to a tree far away from any people.  Here is a quick shot of outcast Henry.   He was so shunned, even the camera felt it unfit to focus on him (you should be thankful– now you can’t see all detailed stains on his coat).

Can you find the outcast?

On a side note, we encountered two thru-hikers who have already made it this far into Virginia!  Their trailblog is at

We had a beautiful weather and beautiful views.  It was a great hike and I found it to be therapeutic.  Mountains are my favorite Mass. 

More pictures from our Kelly’s Knob hike are available on my Flickr site.

April 22, 2007 at 12:25 am 8 comments

Virginia Tech Massacre: Hate Group Keeps Wounds Fresh

Earlier this week, on a seemingly idle Monday, we got to witness the worst of mankind.  And then through that heartache, we got to see the best of mankind– a teacher sacrificing himself for his students, a strong father recounting his daughter’s memory with love, the prayers and outreach of countless rivals and strangers.  And now, we once again get to see the worst of mankind:

 The Westboro Baptist Church, based out of Topeka Kansas, is planning on picketing Ryan Clark’s funeral tomorrow in Georgia, presumably to show us that “God is punishing America for her sodomite sins…”  Clint alerted me to this disturbing news via a blog post of his.

I have heard many remarkable things about Ryan Clark the last few days.   The item I will remember the most in the coming decades is a snippet someone wrote on one of the memorials on the Virginia Tech Drillfield.  The author talked about how helpful and happy and uplifting Ryan Clark was and then the author said (possibly paraphrased), “I can not think of a better angel than you.”

Ryan Clark, this angel, does NOT deserve what the Westboro Baptist Church intends. is organizing Hokies and Hokie Supporters to “block these monsters” from the funerals of all 32 victims, including Ryan Clark.  If you are interested in participating, they have contact information listed on their site.  It is too late to save the victims from their untimely deaths, but hopefully there is still time to save the dignity of their services.

April 20, 2007 at 8:25 pm 3 comments

Walk on Campus

This evening, Larry, Mike E and I took a somber walk around campus. Below are some pictures from our walk.

Sentiments From Other Schools
I continue to be overwhelmed by the responses we see from around the world. A couple signs on the Drillfield originated from other schools.

NYU Stands With You

From Auburn University

Marquee Messages
In my journals following September 11th, I noted how the local businesses displayed messages in their marquees. This incident provoked a similiar response.

The Lyric, our theatre which originally opened in 1930

The Comfort Inn in Christiansburg quotes Nikki Giovanni

A Child’s Note
People had placed flowers next to the West Ambler Johnston (my dorm of two years) sign.

Flowers at West Ambler Johnston

A child had placed a note there as well. From what I could tell it read:

I [am] sorry for wh[at] haped. I hop there [is no] more bad g[?]eas at VT. I hoap it wilt never haped a gine

At such a young age, this child is already reaching out and communicating his/her personal disappointments and sorrows. If Cho Seung-Hui had mastered similiar skills, perhaps his turmoil would not have reached the point it did.

Child’s Note

Hokie Stone
On the Drillfield in front of Burruss, 32 blocks of Hokie Stones were placed in an arc. Each stone represented a life cut short and each stone had a VT flag and flowers respectfully placed upon it.

One of the memorial Hokie Stones on the Drillfield

Three of the stones with flowers and Burruss in the background

Drillfield Trees
A tree is planted on the Drillfield for each graduating class of Virginia Tech. Today, maroon, orange and/or black ribbons were tied around each tree. This particular tree was near the War Memorial. You can see the VT President Bush and Governor Kaine signed in the background.

Maroon, orange and black ribbons on a Drillfield tree.

Drillfield, War Memorial and Squires
Multiple memorials were present all around campus, particularly the Drillfield and our War Memorial.

Maroon and orange wreath at the War Memorial. You can see visitors to the Drillfield in the background.

A make-shift memorial (the VT was originally crafted by students for the Miami game). In front are white candles for each of the deaths and red candles for each of the injured. In the background, a blooming tree indicates it’s spring (a period typically associated with new life, not what was brought our way).

A Sign Hangs Above Squires Student Center

Signatures and flowers on the Drillfield

A teddy bear on the War Memorial with a shirt that reads, “Somebody in Blacksburg Loves You”

I have a few more pictures of our campus visit on my Flickr site. There are also some wonderful shots by others at the Virginia Tech Shooting Flickr group.

April 19, 2007 at 1:12 am 4 comments

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