Archive for November, 2007

Starved Rock State Park

Last week, I was able to sneak in an afternoon visit to Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park.  I visited three of their overlooks – Starved Rock, Lover’s Leap and Eagle Cliff.  All were amazing, especially with the vivid fall colors.

Illinois River and Lover’s Leap from Starved Rock

View from Lover’s Leap Trail

Changing Leaves and Evergreens from Eagle Cliff 

Most impressive though was the very intricate “trail” system they had.  It was almost all wooden walkways, stairs and elaborate decking.  The fact they built all that is amazing enough, but the fact that they can maintain it all and keep the park completely FREE is incredible.  Kudos to you, State of Illinois. 

Lover’s Leap Trail

Decking on the way to Lover’s Leap

Elaborate decking at Eagle Cliff

The Lover’s Leap “Trail” winds around a rock.

More pictures of my visit to Starved Rock State Park can be found on my Flickr site.

November 19, 2007 at 12:09 am 3 comments

Most Famous Hikers in the World

On our way back to the car after our Barney’s Wall hike, young Penn declared us to be the most famous hikers in the world.  He quickly made a correction to his claim.

“Actually, we’re the third most famous hikers in the world!” he said.

“Who are the other two?” I asked.

“Man vs. Wild and Survivorman.”

World’s Most Famous Hikers – Bear Grylls, Les Stroud… Vicky & Penn?!? 

Although it is flattering to be put in the same category as Bear Grylls and Les Stroud, I think Penn greatly overestimates the popularity of this blog.  🙂

Oh and in case you are wondering who edges who out on the fame scale, I did ask Penn, “Who’s more famous, you or me?”

“Uh…I think me,” he said.

November 18, 2007 at 11:43 pm 8 comments

Milk and Cookies at Barney’s Wall

Today was a day with simple pleasures!  I took five-year old Penn out for a brief hike.  We drove 5.5 miles on the bouncy, muddy VA-714 to get to the Nature Conservancy Trailhead.  From there, we had an easy gradual downhill hike to the Barney’s Wall overlook. 

Penn was quickly enamoured with the view.  “Out of all our adventures, this is the bestest one ever!” he declared.  And so all the surrounding wildlife would know as well, Penn screamed “This is the best one!” to the valley.

Penn at the bestest view

Penn specifically requested to carry the backpack, so *he* packed in 2 plastic cups, a bottle of milk and 12 Double Stuf Oreo cookies.  When we arrived at the view, we sat down on the rocks and enjoyed some milk and cookies.  I poured the milk and as we both grabbed our first cookies, Penn suggested we do a toast.

“Okay,” I said.

Penn held up his cookie, “To our bestest adventure!”

Here here.  We tapped our cookies and the dunking began.

Milk and Cookies at an Overlook

Penn and a Double Stuf Oreo

Wonderful weather.  The great outdoors.  A splendid view.  Milk and cookies.

Life doesn’t get much better.

November 18, 2007 at 11:15 pm 6 comments

links for 2007-11-18

November 18, 2007 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

What Goes Around Comes Around

A few years ago, Sean started replying to certain queries by getting a whimsical look on his face and saying:

“If only… there was this network of computers… where I could go to my computer…type in the question…find out the answer.”

I’ve heard renditions of this line come from many of our friends and I have poached the line myself on numerous occassions.  One such opportunity presented itself at Stacy’s reception!  I don’t remember the specifics, but groomsman Matt said something and I went with the, “If only there was this tool…” reply.

Well it didn’t take long for Matt to adopt the concept for his own comedy.  When they brought out our salads, I promptly dropped a piece of dressing soaked lettuce (This is particular frustrating because I rarely ever put dressing on salads!) on my dress.

“Oh no!!!!” I exclaimed.

Matt’s eyes twinkled.

“If only…. there was this thin piece of cloth…that you could lay on your lap… and prevent stuff like that.”

After that I made sure to use a napkin.  🙂

November 17, 2007 at 11:53 am 5 comments

Geocaching: 15th State

With a cache in Ottawa, Illinois, I have now found a geocache in 15 U.S. states.  This cache was pretty darn easy.  It was on the way to Starved Rock State Park right along the Illinois River.  It didn’t take me long, which was good news.  That allowed me just enough daylight to do some hiking in the park.

I learned a little bit about geocaching vocabulary this trip!  At one point during our on-site visit, we had to solicit the aid of an I.T. employee.  After his work was done, the fellow stuck around a while to talk about Harry Potter.  Sadly, his audience was not ideal for the subject matter.  Neither ZJ or I had read any of the books, so we could not articulate knowledgeably on the subject.  BUT, that didn’t stop this guy from forging ahead with the conversation!

Did you ever see that Simpsons episode where Bart takes Santa’s Little Helper to dog training school?  Near the end, Bart is talking to Santa’s Little Helper and they show the conversation from the dog’s perspective.  Everything is gibberish and then suddenly a discernible word– “SIT”. 

That’s what the Harry Potter conversation was like with me and the I.T. guy.  He yammered on and none of it was making much sense to me until this familiar word hit my ear:


“What did you say?” I asked.

“Muggle,”  he said and went on to explain what it meant.

“Weird,” I said, “There is a geocaching term called muggle.”

The I.T. guy looked at me for a second and continued on with his thought.  I suspect “geocaching” was just as confusing to him as his musings were to me.

It turns out, the two words ARE related.  From the geocaching glossary:


A non-geocacher. Based on “Muggle” from the Harry Potter series, which is a nonmagical person. Usually this term is used after a non geocacher looks puzzled at a geocacher making circles with their GPS receiver, or when a non-geocacher accidentally finds a cache. Geomuggles are mostly harmless.

I never questioned where the word came from.  It’s pretty neat to stumble upon its etymology.

November 15, 2007 at 9:34 pm 6 comments

Sell Out for Sweet Potatoes

Greetings from Ottawa, Illinois.  I’ll be here until Friday morning on business.  The coming weeks promise to be incredibly busy.  Next week is Thanksgiving week where I’m due to go back up to northern Virginia to be with family.  The week after that I’ll be in Wisconsin on business.  The week after that isn’t in stone yet, but it looks like I’ll be in Indiana for business.

That’s a lot of travel

When I was driving the four and a half hour trip to Stacy and Louise’s wedding I thought, “You know what?  Maybe this is the year where I just stay in Blacksburg for Thanksgiving.”  Who could argue with me wanting to stay put for a week? Plus I have gotten to see a lot of my parents this fall with the groomsman dress purchase, the dress fitting and the dress wearing.

I started to pitch the idea to my mother and then I found out we are going to Aunt Maria and Uncle Timmy’s house this year AND Aunt Maria’s sister is coming and bringing her fabulous sweet potatoes with that decadent brown sugar pecan crust.

Suddenly, I was definitely coming home again for Thanksgiving.

I sold out my sanity for sweet potatoes. 

It’s going to be worth it.

November 13, 2007 at 10:42 pm 8 comments

Girlie Stuff on my Groomsman Stint

Katie requested a photo of me in my groomsman dress, so here’s a shot I had taken with her specifically in mind:

Me outside of church

I’m not sure what is going on with my posture in that shot above, but I’m certain my belly dancing teacher would not be pleased.  My mother thinks I’m trying too hard to suck my belly in.  I think it is more likely I’m trying too hard to stick my chest OUT.  🙂

Luckily, Casey and Matt snagged some shots of the dress in motion, which I fancy more!

This is my bridesmaid, Jenn, and me walking her down the aisle.  In the background you can see the Catholic priest who is undoubtedly displeased with our joint departure. 

Me and Jenn from the back.  Like many groomsman, I’m glad I was taller than my bridesmaid. 

Bridesmaid Gemma, me, Groomsman Matt and Bridesmaid Jenn

Booyah!!! There was dancing!  The dress in motion as I dance with CarolynClint is in the background also shooting the spectacle.

And MORE dancing!!!!

Okay not much of the dress in this shot, but I still love it.

The dress was After Six Style #6257 in New Garnet Renaissance Satin. 

I got my hair done at a place called Sophisticuts in Woodbridge, Virginia.  The resilence of that up-do was amazing.  Not only did it survive all that dancing, but that evening when I got home, I fell asleep on the couch for three hours.  I woke up and the hair was still in place!  Their effort took 43 bobby pins and a lot of hair spray.

I wish I could say for Stacy and Louise I did something special with makeup that day, but I didn’t.  It was the same old Revlon Colorstay Active (with SPF 25 protection!), L’Oreal Lineur Intense Liquid Eyeliner and Maybelline Great Lash mascara I typically wear to work.  I would share the brand names of my blush and eye shadow too, but you see, they are so old, the labels wore away long ago.  🙂 

Hahaha, you can put the hiker in a dress, but you can’t squelch the outdoors spirit.  Underneath that beautiful fancy dress… I was wearing camouflage underwear. 

November 13, 2007 at 7:59 pm 14 comments

links for 2007-11-12

November 12, 2007 at 2:20 pm 2 comments

Stacy Wedding Pictures Up

Phew!  Been a whirlwind weekend of wedding-related festivities.  I’ll be driving back home to Blacksburg shortly after I finish this post.  I hope to write more about the wedding later, but for now you can enjoy the photos that have been uploaded to Flickr.

Thursday Night – Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties
As groomsman, I had a choice whether I wanted to party with the men or the ladies.  I went ahead and chose the ladies.  They told me they had cheeseballs in their suite and there was also a couch.  Plus we went dancing.  Oh and one of the bridesmaids brought along a dildo hat which proved to be entertaining and quite a good way to meet strangers.

Friday Night – Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner
Friday is when I discovered the Catholic Church wasn’t thrilled with my groomsman role.  During the rehearsal, the priest kept referring to me as “that one.”  So, for example:

“Okay, we’ll have the best man here, the groomsman here and then… that one.”

Saturday – The Wedding and the Reception!
Kipp really shined this day.  His calm confidence made sure all the duties of the ceremony were taken care of (I think Kipp was the only one who did not panic when we found the chairs we were supposed to place behind the bride and groom were not in the same place as they were during rehearsal).  He did the best rendition of the ever popular Saint Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (“Love is patient, love is kind…”) I have ever heard.  AND his toast was splendid. 

As for “that one”, I led the processional down the aisle, did not forget to bow at the altar and I successfully escorted my bridesmaid out of the church and during introductions at the reception  (“Bridesmaid Jennifer Newell, escorted by Mrs. Victoria Herrala”).  

Oh and as far as where I got dressed.  No portapotty was necessary.  I got ready at my parent’s house!

**Edit** More Pictures
Matt Ciarelli’s Pictures
These pictures are from the other groomsman.  He got some great shots (including me and Carolyn dancing).  Most importantly, he managed to get shots of the bride and groom on their wedding day…. a blaring abscence in my collection.

Casey’s Photos
Casey got a lot of shots of the ceremony.  She snagged me and Jenn walking down the aisle together and got some good shots of me DANCING.

**Edit** Recaps
Carolyn’s Blog Post on the Wedding
Matt’s The Wedding Album: Day One Entry (covers the Bachelor Party)
Matt’s The Wedding Album: Day Two Entry (covers the Rehearsal Dinner)
Matt’s The Wedding Album: The Big Day (covers the wedding)

November 11, 2007 at 1:44 pm 13 comments

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