Friday, August 27, 2010

Take me Home, Country Roads

Inspired by my mom's geocache find at Virginia Beach, we boys decided to try one in Richmond that had been ranked the most challenging of the state. On the left, Bob is plowing through the underbrush to find an oddly placed cache, and on the right is where another clue led us. To be precise, the next clue was at the bottom of the pit but I didn't feel super-confident about climbing down the ladder (the thing that looks like broken twigs) so we called it a day.

Bob showed us a deserted hydroelectric plant and we had fun exploring it, as well as the surrounding area.

The island that we were on however, did hold a different sort of treasure for me. It had been used 150 years ago during the civil war as a POW camp for the confederacy. Normally, historical trivia like that doesn't mean too much to me, but Dad told me that my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Showalter (my namesake) was taken prisoner for refusing to fight (he was a Mennonite) and could have been among the prisoners on that island. The picture below shows where the prisoners were held; actually, the long shelterhouse wasn't around at that time, but the prisoners were just left out in the open field shown below, exposed to the elements and with almost no food or water. Apparently they couldn't escape because they were so weak and there were constantly armed soldiers positioned over the field. Again, I'm not exactly sure where Daniel was held prisoner, but I had a little conversation with his spirit; I figured it was time to adopt at least one Korean custom (talking with one's ancestors).

For dinner, we went to the pizza place in Richmond again. The same one that showed up in the last blog entry. Actually we didn't. We only went once, but I can't remember which night it was on, so I split the pictures between the two blog entries. In any case, the important part is that I can't lose any of the trademark jump photos.

As you can see from our car display, the temperature had cooled down somewhat from the raging 109 degree heat of the previous days...
Too baked to head back to the beach, we settled instead on the gorgeous (and shady) Blue Ridge Mountains.
Of course, being in the shade alone wasn't quite cool enough, so we ventured out on a hike to find what was described as the tallest falls east of the Mississippi. When we found it, it was majestic indeed (although it was actually spread out over several waterfalls so we couldn't take it all in within a single view. However, it's remote location devoid of busloads of tourists and parking scammers certainly made it more my style than Niagara Falls.

After noticing that there had been so many deaths from people climbing on the rocks that they had put up a scoreboard style counter, we were very careful to stay off of the rocks.
One of the things that has been so fun this summer has been the unlikely merging of two of my passions. The research I'm working on is a blend of mathematics and rural areas, and the latter part has inspired me to renew some of my awareness of a connection with nature. Not that I've ever lost it, and I hope I never do, but there are definitely times in my life where I unfortunately get caught up in the so-called "pressing issues" and overlook the beauty around us.

This hike along the waterfall in particular was a prime example of one of my words, frexline.

It also had its romantic moments!

This next moment was not frexline, but I have felt an ever-deepening bond with my brother-in-law Kiwi.
Speaking of bonding, there was some female bonding going on also over the week. Mom got Heather and Joo colorful matching attire from head to foot.

Of course I had been camping before, probably a hundred times, but never before with something as cool as the Busaru. Bob, with no former mechanical knowledge, took the engine out of a Subaru and installed in the rear of a Volkswagon Bus. He then proceeded to deck the Busaru out with Christmas lights, a reserve battery, a passenger eject button and a host of other little surprises.
Mom was putting in the hands (engine?) of the Busaru as soon as she discovered it had a little stove and that Bob had brought along some coffee.

Kiwi (or his food) had his breakthrough moment when Bob entrusted him with the port-a-pot (otherwise known as a shovel and TP)

That freed him up to carry on with more typical camping activities like scrapbooking in the light of the campfire.

Before we left the next morning, Joo and I took a final walk out to the lookout over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then we said goodbye to my family, goodbye to the month-long road trip, and goodbye to the Busaroo, but not goodbye to the mountains since we have our own little corner of the Appalachian foothills in Athens :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Oasis of Family

Three weeks into the trip, we met up again with my parents just in time to celebrate Mom's birthday at Heather's house.The boys were more and more impressed with Heather's boyfriend Bob. First he had shown them how to sew bananas as a prank and maintain good dental hygiene, and now he showed up in a convertible and gave them rides (although, to be honest, his best vehicle was yet to come; more on that later).

Mom, feeling ornery and spry at being the birthday girl, played on Heather's suriphobia (fear of mice) and got her a stress relieving mouse that she could throw at things. Heather was not amused. But the rest of us were so I suppose it was worth it.

And so, just like at Christmas time, a fun time was had by pretty much everyone! Pretty much.

Fearing that Kiwi was feeling as bad as he looked in the above picture, Mom spared him the cost of an MRI and utilized an alternative medical technique to closely examine his brain.

Whatever she did must have worked, because he sure perked up when we hit the waters of Virginia Beach!
He had been excited to get back to the beach ever since we has spent a week together with my family last summer at the Outer Banks. Of course, as Heraclitus said, things change and this week was not the best time to be roasting in the 110 degree heat. (The newspaper actually said that it was 111 that day- I think the previous record in over 90 years of keeping track of the temperature for that day had been 106). In any case, we actually had more fun taking a stroll through the shady outstretched arms of trees dangling with Spanish moss. It was quite the romantic setting...
Even Gyu found someone to take out for an early dinner...

Mom had the most surprising find of the hike when she did the unthinkable and found a Geocache without a GPS unit!

When afternoon rolled around and the temperature kept rising, we took refuge in the one place we figured we could beat the heat... the aquarium.

But heat must have been written in our destiny for the day, because the aquarium caught on fire while we were there. Which may have been okay if we had been trapped in with the fire (at least we would have had the AC), but we got trapped instead in the crab-infested swamp with the sun burning down on us until the fire marshall had arrived and let us through. We were hoping for a little consolation stuffed stingray or something, but this was apparently not their policy for fires in the aquarium. Unfortunately, it wasn't even a major fire, or the Korean crew could have had their favorite snack- roasted squid.

With the beach condos packed out, we drove inland to stay at a hotel for the night. Gyu and Dad went swimming in the morning and Dad told Gyu to be careful when he set his digital camera down next to the pool. Too tired to explain in English, Gyu shocked Dad by throwing his camera in the pool (it was a special waterproof digital camera). When we arrived and realized the fun we could have with that, we unleashed a whole series of fun photos...

Not content with being photographed merely on land and in water, Gyu had to go for an aerial shot as we were waiting on our pizza in Richmond, VA.

Having the three boys (I'm including Bob as a boy) added some extra flavor to our family dynamics. Bob added a lot of interesting knowledge and explanations about science, history, well everything really. Since he had explored the area extensively during dental school, he was able to take us around to some historical nooks and crannies like this old church... (see? this is what we had before Bob. Where I would say "old church," he would fill in the blanks with lots of juicy details; unfortunately he's probably asleep right now or I would call him- my apologies). Anyway, the old church-

One of the best parts of the trip for me was seeing how Bob and Heather's relationship was maturing. I mean, take the picture below as proof- I don't think Joo and I made it to the ASCS (armpit smell checking stage) until a few months before I proposed.

I'm serious about the relationship development though (well, I was just joking about the armpit thing although on second look, it appears that there very may well be a grain of truth to that...) and it felt like Bob (and the Korean troupe) all belonged naturally as part of our family. Everyone seemed to feel quite comfortable around each other, and we even shared our talents with each other in an impromptu talent show one night at Heather's...

Stay tuned for the coolest vehicle you've ever seen...