An Alternative Trip to Vinton

There were good veggies and safety at the Vinton Farmer’s Market.
Susan buying some veggies from the Hispanic farmer.

A walk on the Tinker Creek Greenway in Vinton this morning (after escaping Roanoke City Market’s sparse use of face masks, even among the farmers) was fruitful. There was a lot going on with the foliage and it was quite pretty, especially with the rain falling lightly and almost constantly.

My pal Susan and I had met at the Market so I could score

Tinker Creek offered this interesting view: a piece of sheet hanging from a tree and creating an interesting reflection.

some apples (they’re $1.29 a pound, compared to $2.69 a pound at Ikenberry Orchard in Botetourt County … and they’re just as good, if not better). I make butternut squash soup this time of the year and that requires tart, fresh apples. But City Market felt dangerous, like a Trump rally, so we left.

In Vinton, we went to the farmer’s market, which was lightly attended, but the farmer wore his mask and we felt much more protected, so we spent a good bit of money that Roanoke City Market could have had.

Here’s some of what we found in Vinton.

Trash in the trees reflected in Tinker Creek.
These little flowers look like Jack in the pulpit, but I’m not sure if they are.
A fishing float in the tree looks like a flower.
I’m not sure this is a daisy, but it’s close enough.
I have no idea–none at all–what this is. Looks like a bunch of baking potatoes.
Morning glory is every bit of that.

A Rescue on the Mountain (Sort Of)

Here’s that special view of the Roanoke Valley from the mountain.

My good friend Susan hiked up Mill Mountain yesterday afternoon where she struck up a conversation with a photographer. One thing led to another and before she knew it, the sun was going down and she was pretty much stuck. So she called me.

When I got to the top of the mountain, I noticed the star was red/white/blue, which is rare. It was honoring the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. and I felt compelled to get some photos. Here are what Susan and I shot.

Another view from the top.
There were a lot of people, but few masks, on the mountain.
This is Susan’s panoramic shot of me on the left and the city.
Susan with her hiking poles.
Me, my mask and my star.

Wonder Why Vets Are Dumping Trump?

I swiped the following off something called “Old Trav” on Facebook and it looks pretty dang legit to me. It doesn’t include the latest incident of Trump calling wounded and killed soldiers “losers.”

Why are troops turning away from Trump?
Maybe because …
• ⁠In May 2020, the White House ended National Guard deployments one day before they could claim benefits
• ⁠The Trump admin seized 5 million masks intended for VA hospitals. Kushner distributes these masks to private entities for a fee, who then sells the masks to the government
• ⁠Trump fired the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he warned superiors that COVID19 was spreading among his crew. The virus subsequently spread amongst the crew.
• ⁠After Iran’s retaliatory strike, 109 US troops suffered brain injuries. Trump dismissed these as “headaches”
• ⁠On July 20, 2017, in room 2E924 of the Pentagon, Trump told a room full of Generals, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies”
• ⁠Pardoned multiple war criminals, which stomped on long standing military values, discipline, and command. Trump has no military experience (May and November, 2019)
• ⁠Trump mocked Lt. Col. Vindman for his rank and uniform. He threatened said purple heart officer, resulting in the Army providing him protection
• ⁠Trump’s Chief of Staff worked—in secret—to deny comprehensive health coverage to Vietnam Vets who suffered from Agent Orange.
• ⁠There is a facility in Tijuana for US veterans that Trump deported. Wounded war vet, Sen Duckworth (D) marked Veterans Day 2019 by visiting this facility
• ⁠Russia took control of the main U.S. military facility in Syria abandoned on Trump’s orders. Russia now owns the airstrip we built
• ⁠On Oct 7, 2019, Trump abruptly withdrew support from America’s allies in Syria after a phone call with Turkey’s president (Erdogan). Turkey subsequently bombed US Special Forces.
• ⁠Trump sent thousands of American troops to defend the oil assets of the country that perpetrated 9/11
• ⁠In Sept 2019, he made an Air Force cargo crew, flying from the U.S. to Kuwait stop in Scotland (where there’s no U.S. base) to refuel at a commercial airport (where it costs more), so they could stay overnight at a Trump property (which isn’t close to the airport). Trump’s golf courses are losing money, so he’s forcing the military to pay for 5-star nights there.
• ⁠In Sept, 2019, Pentagon pulled funds for military schools, military housing funds, and daycare to pay for Trump’s border wall
• ⁠In Aug, 2019, emails revealed that three of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago pals, who are now running Veterans Affairs, are rampant with meddling. “They had no experience in veterans affairs (none of them even served in the military) nor underwent any kind of approval process to serve as de facto managers. Yet, with Trump’s approval, they directed actions and criticized operations without any oversight. They wasted valuable staff time in hundreds of pages of communications and meetings, emails show. Emails reveal disdainful attitudes within the department to the trio’s meddling.”
• ⁠Veterans graves will be “dug up” for the border wall, after Trump instructed aides to seize private property. Trump told officials he would pardon them if they break the law by illegally seizing property
• ⁠Children of deployed US troops are no longer guaranteed citizenship. This includes US troops posted abroad for years at a time (August 28, 2019)
• ⁠On Aug 2, 2019, Trump requisitioned military retirement funds towards border wall
• ⁠On July 31, 2019, Trump ordered the Navy rescind medals to prosecutors who were prosecuted war criminals
• ⁠Trump denied a U.S. Marine of 6 years entry into the United States for his citizenship interview (Reported July 17, 2019)
• ⁠Trump made the U.S. Navy Blue Angels violate ethics rules by having them fly at his July 4th political campaign event (July 4, 2019)
• ⁠Trump demanded US military chiefs stand next to him at 4th of July parade (reported July 2, 2019)
• ⁠In June, 2019, Trump sent troops to the border to paint the fence for a better “aesthetic appearance”
• ⁠Trump used his D-Day interview at a cemetery commemorating fallen US soldiers to attack a Vietnam veteran (June 6, 2019)
• ⁠Trump started his D-Day commemoration speech by attacking a private citizen (Bette Midler, of all people) (reported on June 4th, 2019)
• ⁠Trump made his 2nd wife, Marla Maples, sign a prenup that would have cut off all child support if Tiffany joined the military (reported June 4th, 2019)
• ⁠On May 27, 2019, Trump turned away US military from his Memorial Day speech because they were from the destroyer USS John S. McCain
• ⁠Trump ordered the USS John McCain out of sight during his visit to Japan (May 15, 2019). The ship’s name was subsequently covered. (May 27, 2019)
• ⁠Trump purged 200,000 vets’ healthcare applications (due to known administrative errors within VA’s enrollment system) (reported on May 13, 2019)
• ⁠Trump deported a spouse of fallen Army soldier killed in Afghanistan, leaving their daughter parentless (April 16, 2019)
• ⁠On March 20, 2019, Trump complained that a deceased war hero didn’t thank him for his funeral
• ⁠Between 12/22/2018, and 1/25/2019, Trump refused to sign his party’s funding bill, which shut down the government, forcing the Coast Guard to go without pay, which made service members rely on food pantries. However, his appointees got a $10,000 pay raise
• ⁠He banned service members from serving based on gender identity (1/22/2019)
• ⁠He denied female troops access to birth control to limit sexual activity (on-going. Published Jan 18, 2019)
• ⁠He tried to deport a marine vet who is a U.S.-born citizen (Jan 16, 2019)
• ⁠When a man was caught swindling veterans pensions for high-interest “cash advances,” Trump’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined him $1 (Jan 26, 2019)
• ⁠He called a retired general a ‘dog’ with a ‘big, dumb mouth’ (Jan 1, 2019)
• ⁠He increased privatization of the VA, leading to longer waits and higher taxpayer cost (2018)
• ⁠He finally visited troops 2 years after taking office, but only after 154 vacation days at his properties (Dec 26, 2018)
• ⁠He revealed a covert Seal Team 5 deployment, including names and faces, on Twitter during his visit to Iraq (Dec 26, 2018)
• ⁠Trump lied to deployed troops that he gave them a 10% raise (12/26/2018). He tried giving the military a raise that was lower than the standard living adjustment. Congress told him that idea wasn’t going to work. Then after giving them the raise that Congress made him, he lied about it pretending that it was larger than Obama’s. It wasn’t
• ⁠He fired service members living with HIV just before the 2018 holidays
• ⁠He tried to slash disability and unemployment benefits for Veterans to $0, and eliminate the unemployability extrascheduler rating (Dec 17, 2018)
• ⁠He called troops on Thanksgiving and told them he’s most thankful for himself (Thanksgiving, 2018)
• ⁠He urged Florida to not count deployed military votes (Nov 12, 2018)
• ⁠He canceled an Arlington Cemetery visit on Veterans Day due to light rain (Nov 12, 2018)
• ⁠While in Europe commemorating the end of WWI, he didn’t attend the ceremony at a US cemetery due to the rain — other world leaders went anyway (Nov 10, 2018)
• ⁠He used troops as a political prop by sending them on a phantom mission to the border and made them miss Thanksgiving with their families (Oct-Dec, 2018)
• ⁠He stopped using troops as a political prop immediately after the election. However, the troops remained in muddy camps on the border (Nov 7, 2018)
• ⁠Trump changed the GI Bill through his Forever GI Act, causing the VA to miss veteran benefits, including housing allowances. This caused many vets to run out of food and rent. (reported October 7, 2018)
• ⁠Trump doubled the rejection rate for veterans requesting family deportation protections (July 5, 2018)
• ⁠Trump deported active-duty spouses (11,800 military families face this problem as of April 2018)
• ⁠He forgot a fallen soldier’s name (below) during a call to his pregnant widow, then attacked her the next day (Oct 23-24, 2017)
• ⁠He sent commandos into an ambush due to a lack of intel, and sends contractors to pick them up, resulting in a commando being left behind, tortured, and executed. (Trump approved the mission because Bannon told him Obama didn’t have the guts to do it) (Oct 4, 2017)
• ⁠He blocked a veteran group on Twitter (June 2017)
• ⁠He ordered the discharge of active-duty immigrant troops with good records (2017-present)
• ⁠He deported veterans (2017-present)
• ⁠He said he knows more about ISIS than American generals (Oct 2016)
• ⁠On Oct 3, 2016, Trump said vets get PTSD because they aren’t strong (note: yes, he said it’s ‘because they aren’t strong.’ He didn’t say it’s ‘because they’re weak.’ This distinction is important because of Snopes)
• ⁠Trump accepted a Purple Heart from a fan at one of his rallies and said: “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” (Aug 2, 2016)
• ⁠Trump attacks Gold Star families: Myeshia Johnson (gold star widow), Khan family (gold star parents) etc. (2016-present)
• ⁠Trump sent funds raised from a Jan 2016 veterans benefit to the Donald J Trump Foundation instead of veterans charities (the foundation has since been ordered shut because of fraud) (Jan, 2016)
• ⁠Trump said he has “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military” because he went to a military-style academy (2015 biography)
• ⁠Trump said he doesn’t consider POWs heroes because they were caught. He said he prefers people who were not caught (July 18, 2015)
• ⁠Trump said having unprotected sex was his own personal Vietnam (1998)
• ⁠For a decade, Trump sought to kick veterans off of Fifth Avenue because he found them unsightly nuisances outside of Trump Tower. 1991
• ⁠Trump dodged the draft 5 times by having a doctor diagnose him with bone spurs.
• ⁠No Trump in America has ever served in the military; this spans 5 generations, and every branch of the family tree. In fact, the reason his grandfather immigrated to America was to avoid military service.



To Paint My Deck, I Found a Jewel

Eve-lynn Deegan up on the roof … with a paint brush.

A delightful young woman named Eve-lynn Deegan painted my porch and chimney this morning and I was simply thrilled with her work.

She was quiet, efficient, neat, and she finished the entire project in less than half a day. Eve-lynn sang the entire time with a lovely voice. Reminded me of my mom when she was working at home.

The color differential was an accident. One I like. (Note her socks, one pink, one green.)

Eve, a graduate of Community High School in downtown Roanoke (a school that caters to artistic and musical teens) wants to build her own house out as far as she can in the woods and mountains of Virginia. She’s learning the trade working with my old friend Roni Sutton, who highly recommended her for my job.

We ran into an initial problem–of my making–when I guessed at the color of the deck and bought what I thought was a match at a big box store. As it turns out, I like the contrast, so we stuck with it and Eve-lynn made it work by painting with such accuracy.

Eve-lynn, by the way, is the spelling of the British pronunciation of Evelyn. I like Eve-lynn. She should go far, fast. I sent her home with a bonus and some tomatoes from my garden.

Eve-lynn edging the deck before painting the flooring.


Lindsay and Pampa Find an Adventure

Lindsay found her buddy lying in the trail.

My good buddy Lindsay McKinnon and and I celebrated September today by hiking the Hollins Trail (from Hollins to Carvins Cove near Roanoke, over the Tinker Mountain hump) and they putting our kayaks in the water and paddling into a stiff wind.

It was exhilarating and fun with one of my favorite people, as well as bats, birds, a turtle, Mr. Smiley and various other creatures. A glorious day ’twas.

Masked pals.
Lindsay found Mr. Smiley in a tree.
That’s Lindsay in the background admiring this beauty of a sailboat.


Peeling Pounds on a Hiking Trail

This large, beautiful butterfly was feasting on a thistle flower.
Thistles are my native plant.

I awoke this morning weighing two pounds more than I ought to, so I determined to take that off by early afternoon. Today, that meant a hike up Hay Rock on the Appalachian Trail. Mission accomplished: down two pounds when I got home.

Hay Rock is a climb up Tinker Mountain from Daleville (just outside Roanoke) and it is about a 3.7 mile walk one way and a lot more if you want to continue on the Appalachian Trail.

Apparently, the old trail has come under some disrepair and a new one has been forged–though I didn’t know it on the way up. I fought through a lot of spider webs and high weeds in stretches that should have been beaten trail. I was getting nervous about ticks.

I’ve seen mushrooms in a lot of places, but halfway up the trunk of a tree?

About 3/4 of the way up to the view of the Roanoke Valley, I got light-headed and because I was by myself, I opted for the better part of valor and turned around without reaching the top. Still, I got a brisk two hours of hiking and dropped the pounds.

And, of course, I saw–and photographed–some pretty nature. Here is what it looked like.

More winged creatures feeding.
I thought I might smoke one of these.
Black-eyed Susans: cool, bright flowers.
Sometimes there is color even when there isn’t.
Off to Hay Rock.
Appalachian Power likes this view of our mountains. I don’t.
I forgot my hiking pole, but it was still on my car when I returned.
Railroad dude in his blue cap.
Railroad dude showing his belly that needs to go away.
An interesting walkway on a low–flood-prone–part of the trail.

Exploring Explore for a Planned Camp

This is a panorama Susan shot at the Niagra Dam station with the Roanoke River’s best rapids flowing below.
Explore has yerts, tents and cabins for rent.
The cabins form a small village.

Over the weekend, my friend Susan and I visited the Explore Park in Roanoke County in order for her to make a reservation for a campsite she wants to visit for her birthday. During her stay, she plans to enjoy the amenities (kayaking the river, hiking the trails, getting in the middle of the zip lines and canopy hikes and even eating dinner at the Brugh Tavern). I’ve been invited to visit her during this time and I suspect I will.

Children of all ages challenge the tree-top courses.

We didn’t expect to spend the day at Explore, but we wound up hiking and touring for several hours, including taking a side tour to the Niagra Dam on the Blue Ridge Park, which is nearby.

Here is a look at some of what we found.

The climbing obstacles are creative.
The kids climb and dodge at the same time.
Susan photographing the smaller kids’ climbing venue.
This abandoned cabin gives a view of a different age.
A small snake left his skin behind at the cabin
The roof has its own ecosystem.
Wind recently damaged the flu at the old grist mill.
Kayakers and tubers enjoy the Roanoke River.
I don’t know if this guy is edible, but mushrooms sure are pretty.
Susan poses at Niagra Dam.
This looks like a time in the distant past at the dam.
Niagra Dam in all its fullness.
The Roanoke River below the dam has some nice rapids.

Highlighting a Warm Visit

Meg (front) and Rachel climbing the rocks at Stiles Falls in Montgomery County.
Margie and “the girls,” as she calls them (Meghann, right; Rachel left).

My Margie’s daughter, Meghann Garmany, and her partner, Rachel Pitkin have been visiting for a couple weeks from New York and I’ve been given the chance to spend time with these delightful women, really for the first time.

We’ve done some hiking and paddling and the young women are a very real joy, enthusiastic and eager for adventures. They absorb their experiences like a good meal (some of the experiences are a good meal) and remember them.

Both are interesting conversationalists, at least partly because of their careers: Rachel a historian, Meg a New York actor (and bartender). Here are a few photos of them enjoying our mountains and Meghann’s mom.

The age-old question: If you don’t photograph it, does it exist?
The pause that refreshes: Looking at and listening to the stream.
A walk in the water is a special treat.
Half the fun of a hike is being with someone special.
This is a nude of my forest girlfriend, found about halfway up the trail to Stiles Falls. She’s always there for me.
Cozying up on the rocks in mid-stream.
Some of the hike is more of a climb.
Just the three of us (shot by a Navy dude from Norfolk, who was visiting with his family).
This is one of those photos “the girls” can look back upon and feel great.
Thank ya, Jesus!
And thank ya again.
A completely natural Meghann.
Water, water everywhere …
More climbing on the way back.
Another reward, as if the hike weren’t enough. These two eat like linebackers.

Summer Hike: What a Difference a Day Makes

Saturday’s rain created Monday’s mushrooms.

I have joined the official Complain About the Weather Hiking and Cooking Club and today’s topic is summer hiking, when you can go from arctic sailboat gear to nudist beach attire in a single bound.

The sun plays in (on) the weeds.
The creek meanders through Hanging Rock Park.

Saturday, it was flood gear up at Happy Hollow Gardens near Valhala Vinyards and today, it was the sweat-soaked Confederate hills of Hanging Rock where it wasn’t the temperature, it was the humidity to quote Mark Twain (or Shakespeare or the Bible).

This was proper gear Saturday.

My hiking buddy Susan and I braved the torrents of rain and mud to traipse across the normally pristine hills of Happy Hollow Saturday and I did a solo, listening for Rebel yells, at Hanging Rock, where a Civil War battle was fought about 150 years ago and where a bronze Confederate General greets you at the entrance (if the mountain bikes haven’t run over you yet).

I will note for prosperity–or posterior–that Hanging Rock Trail is the most consistently noisy hike in the entire Roanoke Valley, owing to its proximity to I-81, where considerable construction is magnifying the noise.

More mushrooms along the trail.
That’s Susan all covered up behind me on the bridge.
We set up our picnic here.
All set, even with a mask.
Read the shirt.
I’m always on the lookout for a good potty and this is one.
A pair of bridges over the creek at Hanging Rock.
Hanging Rock is named for … well … a hanging rock.
Pampa in dappled light with conflicting color all around, still looks the same.

An Endorsement, but No Wolfman Jack

WFTX, Fox Radio, a setting out of “American Graffiti.”
My buddy Trish White-Boyd and me. Trish is running for Roanoke City Council as an incumbent.

Yesterday, I found myself in something of a quandary, having to visit a place I didn’t want to visit (Fox Radio in Roanoke) in order to record an endorsement of a Roanoke City Council candidate that I support enthusiastically. I got through it.

The station is right out of American Graffiti, a low-power AM outfit sitting deep inside Southeast Roanoke, so hard to find that I was 20 minutes late–and I am rarely late. WFTX, Fox Radio, is a talk station that features Trump supporters (I won’t call it “conservative” because the Trumpers aren’t conservative) yelling at you.

The GM and engineer (a relative of my buddy Bootie Chewning) were welcoming and more than courteous, but I had that taste of Trump in my mouth throughout. It’s like eating a persimmon.

That’s the engineer, the GM (in the window), and me (with the “mask ears”) recording.

I had written what timed out at my house to be a 30-second endorsement, but when I recorded at the station, it came out to a full minute. I had to quickly edit on the spot. I used to record essays regularly for Public Radio, so I had something of a feel for winging it and we got through the season with no blood spilled.

As I was leaving, the GM gave a friendly, “Don’t be a stranger.” I nodded, trying not to think about the damage talk radio has done to my country since Reagan’s judiciary gave it the green light (erasing the Fairness Doctrine) in the 1980s.

Would have been great to have heard Wolfman Jack’s voice at that point.