Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Bring Your Camera

April 18, 2012

“Come with me to deliver this load of mulch,” Bruce said last night after supper.

I never know what our trips will bring. He doesn’t usually ask me along; so I know when he does invite me, there’s something he wants me to see.

“Bring your camera,” he added as I walked toward the front door.

The dump truck is an International road tractor. You need a ladder to climb up into the thing, but once there, you survey the world on your side from a high vantage point.  Bruce started the engine and pulled out of the driveway.  We bumped along Rt. 250 toward the foot of Afton Mountain. At Rockfish Gap Country Store, we took a left onto Old Turnpike Road. It’s a gravel road I’ve never traveled. On our right was an old factory with abandoned cinderblock buildings, peeling tin roofed structures, loading docks with bay doors rusted shut, old equipment smothered under weeds and vines, and off in the distance stood a tall, brick smoke stack.

Bruce stopped the truck next to the Realtor’s For Sale sign. “I wonder what this used to be,” he said.

“I don’t know, but it sure is a mess,” I answered.

He’s been looking for a little piece of land to move his mulch business to. He needs a place where a tractor trailer can get off the main road easily, turn around, and dump the load.

“I’d love to have it if the price was right,” he said.

“Oooh no,” I said. “There’s too much to clean up here and you don’t know what that factory made. It may be one of those situations where the EPA has to get involved, asbestos clean up, lead based paint, underground oil and gas tanks. Can you imagine what a mess that would be? How much money you’d have pour into it? And that would be after you bought the property.  You can just put this idea right out of your head,”  I stated with crossed arms.  My tone must have sounded firm enough, because he pulled back out onto the road mumbling something about “just a thought.”

The road was narrow and the truck is big and wide. I was glad not to have met any cars coming. They would have had to back up, or pull over if they’d met us.  The Blue Ridge mountains rose to our right. We were so close to the foot of the range that we could see individual trees where the slope graduated upward. Spring hay in the pastureland between us and the mountain waved under the breeze. A fence stretched along the roadside with rails arranged like clasped gray fingers. The sun had dipped below the mountain and the warm spring air had begun to cool.

I lifted my camera when I saw three deer standing in the field adjacent to the truck, but the side mirror obstructed my shot and I put the camera back in my lap.  “If you wanted me to take pictures,” I said, “we should have come back later in the car.”

“Keep your britches on,” Bruce said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

We traveled for another two or three miles before making a sharp left and climbing a steep driveway. The road surface was littered with large loose gravel and good sized pieces of crystal quartz. I could hear them hit the bank as the truck rolled over them and they shot out from under the tires. The driveway was rutted from rain and we bounced from side to side in the truck seat. I hoped this realignment of my brain was worth it.

At the crest of the hill, spread out before us, was the acreage of our destination, a flat, terrace of spring green dotted with hot pink and white azalea bushes under weeping willow trees. The view of the mountains was crisp and clean. My intake of breath was audible. Bruce looked over at me and smiled. He pulled up beside an old weathered gray barn with a rusted tin roof. It leaned back against a tree, tired from years of holding farm equipment and bales of hay.

The farm house was circa 1920, a non-descript two story brown dwelling with square white pillars holding up the porch roof. I was not impressed with it.  What caught my eye was the small rock house to its right. It was quaint and old, probably dating back before the Civil War. The mortar around the rock was rough placed and the craftsman had taken something like a stick and traced a line in the mortar around each stone.  We have many rock walls, pillars and buildings in Albemarle County, but I had never seen one made like this. The roofline had been changed at one time to add height to the cottage, and the structure had a later addition, crafted by a different rock mason. The lines were missing. The two windows facing us were stained glass. The door was a wide paneled mahogany with a white porcelain knob.    “It’s beautiful,” I said.

“Thought you’d like it,” Bruce said as he tipped the dump body and unloaded the mulch.

The owners of the property had been spreading the last load of mulch Bruce had brought and came over to the truck to hand him a check. Bruce is not shy.  “She’d like to see the rock cottage,” Bruce said motioning to me with his thumb.

“Sure, come on in,” the woman said. “I’d love to show it to you.  As much work as I did to the place, I like to brag about it.”

And it was lovely, with its original hardwood floors, exposed beam ceilings, stone fireplace and walnut mantle. She had sanded the wood to its original burnished finish and was in the process of taking the layers of paint off the inside rock surface of one wall. A huge high four poster bed sat in a corner of the front room near the fireplace.  I had my camera in my hand as I walked through the cottage admiring the renovations that brought the original look back to the building. I didn’t take any photographs though.

We thanked the owners for the tour and climbed back into the truck. “I could stand there and feel myself transported back in time,” I said to Bruce.

“Why didn’t you take any pictures?” He asked.

“I felt funny taking pictures of the inside of someone’s house with them standing right there,” I said. “Like maybe they’d think I was casing the joint.”

Bruce laughed. “I think you look pretty trustworthy,” he said. “Besides, they have my name, phone number and address. You wouldn’t get very far before you were caught.”

“Oh well,” I said. “I guess I missed out. I’ll just have to keep the pictures I have in my head.”

We left the way we came. As we turned at the bottom of the hill, I pointed and called out, “Wait! Stop! Look at this.”

“Oh yeah, I saw it the last trip,” Bruce said. “I thought you had seen it.”

“No, I missed it. Pull over,” I said. “It’s so sweet. I want to get out and take some pictures.”

He pulled over in front of another stone cottage and let me slide out. He drove the truck down a ways from the cottage and waited for me.

The building looked to be constructed by the latter mason who had added onto the house we’d just come from up on the hill. This rock was smooth on the surface with neat mortared edges. The small entryway was framed by a pillared arch. Two round-top windows on either side of the front door reflected the yard’s white dogwood trees in their dark surface. A rock chimney rose from a roof shingled in weathered gray cedar shakes. A neat stack of firewood sat near the front door. Its small split logs ready to warm the little house.

To the right side of the cottage, a retaining wall made of the same rock rose behind the building with a set of stairs climbing along its side to access an upper level door that lead to a room that had been dug out of the hillside above.  The door mirrored the same rounded arch as the porch and windows.

Bordering the tiny front yard, a rail fence stood next to an old fashioned climbing red rose, its fragrance perfumed the evening air as no hybrid rose could.

I stood staring at the cottage for a long time after I took my photographs. I imagined its interior inhabited by elves or fairies. I smelled the aroma of meat stew simmering over an open flame in the fireplace. I tasted buttery cornbread cooked in an iron skillet. A grandmother rocked in her chair, reading to a child from a storybook written long ago.

“You alright?” Bruce called from the truck.

I put the camera into my pocket and walked down the hill to the dump truck. “I want that little house,” I said.

When we got back to the old factory, Bruce pulled to the side of the road again and stopped. “You want to take some pictures?” he asked.

I looked at him and frowned. “No,” I said. “I thought we decided against this.”

“We?” he asked.

“I’d rather have that cute little rock house back there,” I said smiling, my arms crossed over my chest again.

Bruce crossed his own arms and smiled back at me. “There’s no ‘For Sale’ sign there,” he said.

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Harder than Naming a Baby

March 17, 2012

My decal man finally worked me into his schedule. It’s only been five months since we received the title and registration to the boat in the mail. That’s when it became legal. That’s when we became real owners of the 1971 Larsen Shark.

We’d spent an entire summer attempting to prove ownership; and with the delivery of the envelope from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, we took our two inch thick folder filled with copies of old registration, previous owner’s address, bill of sale, New Jersey DMV forms, online change of ownership forms, certified returned letter to previous owner, official letter from the VDGIF and our temporary registration from Walmart, and put it in a drawer for safe keeping. We really wanted to burn all that paperwork and do a dance around the bonfire, but were just too afraid to chance it. We thought the official letter might be a dream. After all, the lead up had been a nightmare.

“I’ll never buy anything without a title again,” Bruce grumped as he held the new Virginia registration decal and boat number in his hand. “Who would have thought it would be such a pain in the ass to title a boat?”

“She’s all ours now though,” I said.

Earlier that month, with our temporary registration in hand, we put the boat into Assateague Bay for the first time. It was on that trip that we named her.  We toured the five marinas on Chincoteague and paid specific attention to boat monikers.  “Birthday Wishes”, “Reel Time”, “Triple R”, “Miss Daisy May”, “Island Time”, “Dream Baby”, “Crabber One.”

We sat in the truck, the boat resting on the trailer behind us, bright, refurbished and naked other than her New Jersey identification number. We threw out suggestions to each other. Bruce liked “A Fish Tale”, “Southern Comfort”, and “Crack of Dawn” (which I did not find funny). I punched his shoulder and made my own suggestions, “Dream Boat”, “Hook Line and Sinker”, “Irish Wake”, and I liked the ones named after women.

Most of the boats we saw were white. Three sported a red stripe and one was a light blue. None we saw were bright spring green, only ours. Built in 1971, our vessel was obviously made during the age of Aquarius. We had a hippie boat. We started brainstorming slang from the 60’s.  Words like cool, square, peace, man, far out, a gas, stoned, bummer, drag, flower child, funky, pad, right on, groovy.

“Yeah,” I said, “groovy.  I like that.”  I said it again, my mind conjuring visions of bell bottom jeans with hot pink embroidered daisies, a lime green peasant blouse, a peace sign.   How about Groovy Girl?”

“My Groovy Girl,” Bruce said. “Yep, that’s it. My Groovy Girl.”

I floated the name to my group of literary friends. The graphic artist of the bunch drew up some curvy letters and we were hooked. I ordered the marine grade vinyl decals the next day, and my boat name was ready for application by the end of the week.

The boat was in dry dock for winter, covered and stored in the garage. “There’s no hurry,” Bruce said. “We’ve got until spring to apply the decals.”

No amount of whining, cajoling or bribery worked. I’d have to wait until he was ready, or I could attempt the job myself. I’m a weenie. I waited.

I hadn’t thought of the decals since the week after I picked them up from the sign place. Bruce has been cleaning the garage because it’s been too rainy to work outside. “Where’s the boat name?” he asked me yesterday.

“Right here where they’ve been since September,” I said, pointing to the cardboard tube in the corner of the bedroom.

“Bring it down to the garage. Let’s see if we can get it on the boat,” he said.

We cut on the dotted lines, peeled the backing, lined up the letters, pressed, prayed, and peeled the wax covering off the decals.  When we finished, there was “My Groovy Girl”, no longer naked and un-named. She’s official now, and she’s ours. We have the paperwork to prove it.

“All we need is champagne to christen her,” Bruce said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’s all we need; and I’m sure that will be another story.”