PetWill Radio

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My summer vacation 2013

Since I haven't posted to this site since May, you may have thought I wasn't doing anything.  I was - burying a few more pets, working hard and riding.  Finally July arrived, along with my working summer vacation. 
Friday July 5:  up at 3:30 a.m. to get on the road just after 4:15 a.m.. We let fawn and Tobie out but gratefully didn't have to worry about getting everyone else fed and taken care of. Stacy (our pet sitter) was expected to arrive in a couple of hours.
 Fortunately, the drive was essentially uneventful. As expected the traffic was light. The only accident was on southbound I-95. We stopped about every other rest stop to stretch our legs and let Sassy and Leiden out for a sniff and a pee. I found a helpful iPhone app that was able to tell us when a stop was coming up so we really didn't have to guess. I will report that South Carolina is pretty lax on the stops, instead forcing you off at an exit to patronize a local business and their facilities.

About half way we started musing about the possibility of places we could stop to spend the night if we were so inclined on future trips. We've just about decided that a fifteen hour drive in one swoop is more than we are willing to do. But, we are usually traveling with one or more dogs so we need a pet friendly place. Joe, is very particular about where we stay and is not excited about a roadside dive on the side of I-95. Unfortunately, bed as breakfasts that take dogs and are right where you want them to be are few and far between.

We finally arrived in Sperryville at 7:15 p.m., just in time for a well deserved cocktail, dinner and a comfortable bed. Thank you for the safe arrival.

Saturday July 6: we were oddly up very early, partly because the sun comes up right through the windows facing our bed. Partly because we are way too used to getting up early every single day.

Anne fixed a great country breakfast and we were off to the barn. She rode Takota and I rode Romeo for the first time. I've resisted riding him for a few years because he is taller than I am interested in, about 16.3. Sierra was always plenty big for me and my favorite mount was Spirit, a comfortable 14.3. But now that Sierra is gone, I thought I'd give Romeo a try. He was surprisingly good and extremely comfortable. He felt familiar even, with his broad chest, barrel belly and big stride. We had a very nice ride minus the scary runaway Mylar balloons that were hung up in some bushes.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing , watching movies and hanging out with Anne and Dennis. A very nice day overall. We are happy to be here in our future community.

Mom arrived late afternoon and we had a lovely evening enjoying each others company. She spent the previous night with Karen on her way down from Huntingdon, PA.  We had the chance to go to Roy's Farm Store and visit Shane at the Headmasters Pub, where he moonlights for extra spending money. 

Sunday July 7: today is work day. We got to the property about 9 am, later than we wanted but still plenty of time for us to get the entire 800 feet of our fence painted. We were also pleased to see that our farmer was good for his word and had cleared the tree line along the road. It still needs to be smoothed and seeded.

We used an asphalt based stain that was very very messy. Joe ruined his boots, socks, shorts and tee shirt. All but the boots went into the trash. Fortunately, I fared better and get to keep my clothes. A little worse for the wear, but salvageable.

We were very surprised what we were able to get done. We had planned on two days but after the first day's experience didn't  relish the idea of getting that dirty two days in a row. Cleaning your skin with diesel fuel can't be good on a regular basis either.

Monday July 8:  today is Joe's birthday. We don't have a lot planned because we are now a day ahead of schedule. Still we went to the property to do some fence maintenance, catch up with our farmer and chat with our neighbors.

We did venture into Culpeper for lunch at Frost Cafe and a visit to Martin's Grocery. I've volunteered to cook on Tuesday night when new neighbors Sam and Elizabeth Fox are coming over.

We got back to Hazel River Farm early enough that I thought I would take my new favorite mount, Romeo for a little trail ride. He had been so good on our previous ride that I didn't expect any trouble. I was wrong. Not sure what was bothering him but we headed out just fine until we crossed the creek onto a neighbor's property where he promptly became a jerk and tried to rear to get me off. Not sure if it was the bugs, they were really bad, or the fact that he was alone. I am not brave enough to fight with a 1200 pound horse I don't know very well when we are off his home property and in an area where I am not easily visible to anyone who might be concerned about me. I got off, walked him for a while, then got back on. Same result, a temper tantrum. He was quiet while I was leading him but every time I got back on he pitched a fit.  I tried twice to get back on before I gave up and walked him,home - straight to the round pen where I gave him the opportunity to reconsider his position. I was able to get back on and end on a good note. He may no longer be my first choice.  Anne may have to get spirit back after all. He's her one horse I really do like that is on loan to a friend as a companion horse.

Anne surprised Joe with KFC chicken, a forbidden diet treat he has been resisting for a long time. That and some pie and he had a very happy birthday.

Tuesday July 9:  this was the day we planned to ride the motorcycle. We hauled it all the way up here so we were hoping for at least one day to ride. It was overcast as we started out. It could possibly rain us out. Joe is not crazy about riding in the rain but we decided to take our chances.

First point of interest was the road up to Old Rag, a local mountain and tourist destination located within the Shenandoah National Park system. We didn't realize you couldn't drive to the top so we made it to the lower parking lot and turned around. It was a beautiful drive out that way. I had actually been on the same road at least once before when I was looking at property.

Our our way back to 231 to head toward Madison we had the pleasure of seeing a pretty good sized bear. This is the first we've seen up here although the locals tell us they see them all the time. He was taking a walk down a driveway but high tailed it when he saw us. Too quick to even think about getting a picture. 

Once in Madison we had breakfast at the mountaineer cafe, its only guests. Joe was happy they had chipped beef gravy, one of his favorites. Then a quick stop at the local chamber of commerce and visitor center to get a map of the county and get some helpful hints.

We headed toward Graves Mountain and Syria, two places we have never been. We took route 600 for what seemed like a long way continuously climbing while the road became more narrow, almost like we were on someone's driveway. Joe was getting aggravated because he knew I didn't have a clue where we were or where the road was going to end up. Just as he threatened to turn around we had the decision made for us. We had reached the end of the road and we were at what we believe was the white canyon portion of the National Park.

We headed back down the mountain coasting most of the way until we came to Etlan road where we turned left to head back in the direction of Sperryville. What a gorgeous drive through there. Virginia has had a lot of rain and everything is very very green and lush. We did pass the ducard winery, an adventure for another day.

Since I was still in exploration mode I had Joe make a right into Hawlin, knowing it would drop us off on 522. We planned to go all the way back into Sperryville to speak to the postmaster about getting an address. This was to no avail because apparently the post office doesn't assign addresses, counties do. Something to work on tomorrow while Joe is digging our driveway.

I spent the afternoon making two kinds of lasagna - meat and veggie - for our evening guests. I finished in enough time to join Anne and friends at her aquatics class. Nice group of people, all ladies except for one - Anne's across the street neighbor, roger. Anne gives a nice workout.  The pool was beautiful and the weather perfect, if not a little humid. There was lots of joking and storytelling during our one hour class. Clearly all these people enjoy each other's company. This area has some of the nicest people. One lady actually invited me to stay with her if I tire of the hospitality offered by my sister.

We ended up inviting Roger to dinner as well. The dinner party was very cordial and we all had a good time, plenty to eat and to drink. No one died from my cooking.

I woke up sometime during the night and realized I had a tick in my ear.  After that sleep eluded me because I couldn't shake the itchy feeling of bugs all over me.

Wednesday July 10:  up early to get to the property to meet the rental company delivering our bobcat. We passed Elizabeth Fox walking her dogs, gus and remy, on the way in and I decided to join her despite the drizzling rain. Well it soon became more than a drizzle but we were not deterred. We got in a least a couple of miles. Joe did come to rescue us at one point but the damage was done and we were almost back to Elizabeth's. She offered a towel and a cup of coffee, both graciously accepted.

I let Joe get started without me. No biggie since he isn't going to let me drive the bobcat anyway. My job is to finish putting two screws in each board because the nails we used didn't hold very well and the boards are pulling away from the posts in some places.  If I get done in time then I can get out that horrible asphalt stain and touch up the screw holes and some places we missed. Yippee!  So happy I wore the shirt I ruined on Sunday. I wore black pants this time to keep it off my legs and at least on black it won't show.

Joe did a great job grading the drive even though he said the bobcat was pretty beat up and vey loose. Nice to have a husband with so many talents. Our stone was expected at 2 pm. By 2:20 I decided to head to the Boston general store because we were starving. I passed Forrest Freeman with our load of stone on my way out.

I had a nice conversation with Sashi, the store's proprietor who was also kind enough to make me a from scratch tuna salad sandwich. She took pity on me because she is also a vegetarian. Turns out she knows my nephew Shane. Says she gives him a hard time. Her sister is educated as a physical therapist but is not licensed in Virginia. Looks like we might be getting to know her better. I have some ideas I want to share with her about increasing customer traffic to the store. They have a perfect location but not a lot of imagination about what could be done with the store. Not trying to butt in but I can't resist a marketing opportunity... If the only cleaned the place up a bit, added some checked table cloths and brought in some local canned and baked goods, well...that's what I would do, for starters. 

The driveway looks great. This is just the entrance and 75 feet. In October, our goal. Is to build and paint another 500 feet of driveway fence in preparation for planting our trees in the spring 2014. Everything we are trying to accomplish right now has to be done in the three weeks a year we are coming up here.

One thing we did learn while here is we cannot get a physical street address until we have a residential structure on the property. In addition, a lot of people around here have private lane signs. Nor sure what you have to do to get one of those, either.

Here's the current plan:
October 2013:  install 500 feet of driveway fence. Add additional driveway footage with gravel. Employ stone mason to build authentic Virginia stone fence/entrance feature.  Get estimates from builders on constructing the shells for our horse barn and equipment barn. Also get estimate on shell for four car garage with apartment. Compare and determine what, if anything, we can start building in 2014. We are hoping to pay for improvements as we go for as long as we can without using up all of our savings.

April 2014:  paint driveway fence. Install red sugar maples across the street side of the property. Install oak trees down the driveway. Figure out how to keep them watered until they take root and can survive. One idea is to employ nephew Shane to put a water container on his truck and go out a few times a week. He loves living plants and will probably be our best choice. Alternative is it install our well and electric an run irrigation. - sounds complicated.

Back in Florida, we are trying to start a bunch of oak trees in pots for future transplantation. My goal is to bring 100 trees with us. We've got 17 started and as long as they do well, this might be a plan. There are some doubting Thomas' who do not think this is possible - Caren Stauffer.

July 2014: since it can be very hot and humid here in summer it is harder to come up with outside projects. We may have to reserve July as fence painting time. Get estimates on installing well and electric. Get estimate on digging a pond. We met a man this trip who can help. Not sure if our property is suited for a pond. We have a running creek at the back. We also have a spot that looks great for a pond.  We will see because I would love to have a pond.

October 2014:  construct barn shells. I'm pretty sure we won't be building our garage apartment until April 2016 but I did promise joe we would compare the prices.

All of 2015:  work on building and painting pasture fences. If horse barn shell is built, begin finish work like installing siding, windows, stalls, wash rack, driveway, etc. we could probably start camping out there if we were really serious. Might be fun bathing on the wash rack. Lol.

Right now our property is inhabited by 15 black angus cows. Although we love the ag exemption, we don't love cow poop. We are hoping to convince our farmer to grow hay at some point in the future. This trip I managed to step in poop up to my ankles, not once but twice. Brilliant!

All of 2016 and 2017: build and finish garage and apartment. My future office is also in this structure so I guess technically, once this is done, joe could relocate and I could begin working remotely. Hoyt & Bryan is working with Nora Bergman, a professional development coach to help us make that transition as smoothly as possible.

I have also been working with a home designer, mary Tracy, who is a friend of a friend. She helped us design our Tennessee barn with living quarters before we scrapped the whole Tennessee idea and sold our property.  She is currently helping us with our Virginia designs so that the barn, garage and house are all coordinated. I have spent a ton of time on pinterest gathering thousands of ideas. Mary says at some point I am going to have to choose and limit some of my choices. Why?  Haha.

I am currently leaning toward a home design that in addition to having a wrap around porch had gazebos on all four corners. It is so cool looking. Joe thinks this is crazy, one is sufficient. We will see who prevails. May depend on cost, ultimately. But, you only build your dream house once. I really want what I want. He has lots if good ideas too. We plan to have a finished basement that will incorporate a bar with all the trimmings such as a pool table, darts, and pin ball machine but also a media room, safe room and wine cellar.

I found some cool designs for saddle bar stools that joe can make. All are made with western saddles but since this is fox hunting country where most people ride English, there may have to be some design modifications, or at least one of each.  Also some great ideas for things made out of horse shoes. Check back at if you want to check out some designs.

Made the mistake of looking at petfinder tonight only to find a husky/lab puppy available for adoption in Arlington, va, just a short two hour drive from sperryville. Only way to contact the rescue was by email and voice message. Hopefully they will call.

Thursday July 11:  nothing really left to do today so we headed off in the direction of the town of luray and home to luray caverns. Decided to eat at uncle bucks diner. Pretty typical diner food but i was excited they had fried green tomatoes on the menu. Not what i expected. They dip and fry them in pancake batter which explains why they were way too sweet.

We have puppies on the brain so we took the long way back to sperryville through front royal and stopped at their local humane society. Just as we pulled into the parking lot the phone rang and it was the lost dog rescue that has "our" puppy. Oddly, they were not going to be able to show her to us because the puppies are "only available for viewing" at events like a petsmart hang out on the sidewalk deal. And, besides they had already promised a few other people they could see her and that wouldn't be fair. To whom?  The puppy who needs a home?  We were willing to drive over and pick her up that day. Oh well, we chalked it up to a message from the universe that she's not really "our" puppy. We wish her well and hope she gets a great home.

Later that day while I was watching some tv, the phone rang and it was another lady from the rescue. A sign, an omen?  She didn't even know about the earlier conversation. At any rate, I had a really nice chat with her but with the same end result. We were not going to be able to see the puppy before Saturday, when we were going to already be back in Florida.

We went back to the property for one last farewell and to make sure our driveway was still there. It was. The bobcat was gone which means it has either been stolen or properly picked up.

Friend, tinker came for dinner. A nice time but we made it an early evening as we plan to leave before 530 am. We would like to be home by dark.

Friday July 12:  best laid plans... Dennis woke us up just after. 4 am and instead of getting right up we lay there for "just a minute" that turned into more than an hour.

So we didn't actually get on the road until almost 630 am, a full hour behind our intended schedule. There was a terrible rain storm last night with reports of up to seven inches of rain. Anne and Dennis's driveway washed out in several places. Every creek and river was full to its upper banks and overflowing in many places. We have had rain off and on all day down I-95. Traffic isn't too bad though.

One small scare in Santee, SC when we stopped to get gas and the truck wouldn't start. Crap!  We really don't want to spend the night on the road. Joe made an emergency call to our mechanic, Jay at Superior Auto. He wasn't sure exactly what it was but while they were talking it occurred to joe this had also happened to his f-250 after he visited the valvoline store in Oviedo and they failed to snap the cover on the air filter.  Sure thing, same problem, again. Joe put the cover on properly and the truck finally started. Now we are afraid to turn it off until we get home. As a result we are taking turns at the rest areas guarding the truck.

I sent a note to the lost dog rescue people to let them know if "our" pup doesn't get adopted this weekend, I'll fly up and get her. That's how much she feels like our dog. I want a husky something and joe wants a lab something, so perfect combo. She looks like a German shepherd. Her mother looks like a wolf. Frankly, I would take her too.

I'm looking forward to getting home. I miss the crew we left there. Reno, Tahoe and heaven. Fawn and Tobie. Shamu and black jack. Shamu has been in the sick bay on the pool porch. I'm sure she's ready to go back to her wild ways.

I hope to spend Saturday hanging out with heaven gaining her trust and getting her to load on the trailer. Watched a few good YouTube videos so I have some ideas. Most of them involve patience. A skill I can definitely use. Wish me luck or I'll be riding from home again on Sunday. Wonder how long my friends will humor me before they just get bored and ride off somewhere else?