And the road goes on forever...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We're Off!

Things happen very quickly with our employer and today they informed us that our new assignment if we wanted it, would be in Rapid City, SD. Having traveled through this area before and having no difficulties with the environment we immediately said yes. Our supervisor here has given his blessing for us to leave earlier than Friday since we have had weather days and haven’t been able to work anyway so I highly suspect we should be able to pull out tomorrow sometime after returning some equipment and maps to the main office. I will make the run in the morning to do that while Marc does all the pack up and hitch-up. He has spent today making a long drive to the state of Delaware to pick up a new set of tires for the Travel Supreme. I don’t expect him in until very late tonight.

We have a new program on a PDA to learn before arrival so the blog will likely be quiet as we travel. But we’ll be baaaaack!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This has been one of our most uneventful weeks since arriving in Virginia in terms of accomplishing much beyond working. It was another particularly brutal week filled with high heat, hurtin’ feet, dog attacks and even people rashly chewing us out for being in their yards. Marc had to dig so many probe holes looking for leaks, he badly threw his back out so our weekend has been one of quiet relaxation in anticipation of trying to get in shape for one more week in this assignment.

We’re left with two maps, one of which was in such a bad area we stashed it out of sight and out of mind and switched over to the other. It’s a huge area with an eclectic group of homes, old and new (read meters in the back on the old homes) and the James River Marina for our lunch breaks. Both are long commutes from where we’re staying so our hours have become particularly long given an hour’s drive tacked on to each end of our 8.5 hour day.

The company continues to frustrate us with their inability to decide where to send us next since we turned down their third location, Birmingham, AL. (What happened to the first two locations they mentioned to us is a mystery; both of which would have been suitable). They don’t appear to have liked us saying "no" to a location we knew we would be miserable in, so we will have to see what develops. All we know is that our space rent is up on October 5th, so come that morning our wheels will be turning in a new direction and if not one of the company’s choosing, it will be of our own volition as to where we feel like going next! This area has been wonderful but is way too expensive for us if we aren’t making any money.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Leaving Virginia

Leaves are clattering more under my feet now as I walk through the sumptuous yards of Fieldstone. The days have been stunning; bright blue skies and more comfortable temperatures and dry. I have spent many days surveying this lovely area and because we ran out of maps, Marc has even been forced to join me for the last two days. It’s like a walk through Pleasantville and is a night and day contrast to the area we were in last week, with the has-been houses, marginalized has-been population, and a long commute at 40 miles each way through traffic.

But our time here is wrapping up. We will be assigned our final maps today which will cover an area in Newport News, but supposedly closer than the Hampton rush assignment. Maps all have drop-dead deadlines and when one approaches it is common to assign all hands in order to get it surveyed and dealt with. Most of the ones we have finished aren’t technically due until November or December so are well ahead of schedule for the company. A week from Friday will be our last working day for this gas company and from all indications we get to hand back the dreaded PDA’s as we’ll not need them where we’re going next.

Which is? We’re not 100% certain as yet; Mississippi and Louisiana were both mentioned for winter, but are not quite ready as yet, so we may get sent to the middle of Illinois to walk a high pressure transmission line. We have never done a transmission line but it is quite different in that we essentially just hike it daily, through farms, now-razed corn fields, alongside roadways and any place its course takes us. We would employ a leap-frog method, each walking a solitary mile using one car. There aren’t many parts of the Midwest that I like and Illinois is not one of them. What a letdown it will be after glorious Virginia—sassy and vibrant and oh so welcoming. I almost can’t bear to leave. I’m not ready; that will be me you hear screaming all the way across her border. And I’ll miss the fall; something I was really looking forward to. Illinois doesn’t have fall.

We have one free weekend left to think of how we can best spend it to our advantage. Our last weekend will be spent getting ready for our move since some shopping will be required. More as we know it….

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Waterman of the Chesapeake

About 66 miles by car from our current RV park, there is a water wonderland of Virginia known as the Middle Neck; a place smattered with proper British names like Northumberland County, Middlesex County, King and Queen County and village names like White Stone, West Point, Burgess and Kilmarnock (Irish in descent). The land gently undulates with soy and now-razed corn fields; the hardwood forests remain thick elsewhere and we cross many bridges; one very long and narrow across the mighty Rappahannock River. On this sparkling and vividly sunny fall-feeling day, we are headed to one little spot known as Reedville and more specifically Buzzard’s Point Marina. There’s a boat waiting for us.

It is from this tiny burg that the only passenger ferry in this part of Virginia leaves daily to Tangier Island. For $25 rt Marc and I will get to experience a day on the water and more specially a step back in time to the Waterman’s culture on the tiny speck of land five miles long, one mile wide (three fourths of which is salt-marsh) and four foot in elevation. By ten o’clock the Chesapeake Breeze is loaded and we’re moving slowly away from the backwater dock. Marc and I are sitting on the rooftop deck to allow for the best picture-taking.

The cruise begins spectacularly with its winding pathway through the fingers of a back bay and we sit enthralled to view the lovely homes, each with its own boat and dock attached as life here revolves around the water. The countryside is tree-lined and tranquil; the sun warms us as a brisk breeze pops up as we near the much more open Chesapeake Bay. We begin to see many sailboats. Middle Neck: you have already stolen my heart; I could easily live here!

About one third of the way into the cruise, we encounter much more motion on the deck top so everyone sits down. I sit towards the front and watch the horizon, knowing from our previous sailing days this is the best trick for preventing seasickness. Swells are running about three feet with barely a break over of white foam. Ships pass.

The approximately 16 mile trip across the open water lasts for about an hour and a half as Tangier slowly appears on the horizon. We power down and gently cruise in to a different world, looking as if it sprang out of the 1950’s. The channel is lined with crab shacks and the specific type of boat used by the waterman.

Once disembarked we will have about two and a half hours to tour what we can of the island—an island which uses bicycles and golf carts as the main means of transportation on the tiny streets. We start by having a crab cake sandwich lunch and then do the standard tourist thing of viewing, photographing, and trying to catch the vibe. The locals speak with a strange lilt and slight English accent.

The homes are simple and typically done salt box style with lots of yard ornaments. A strange anomaly due to the high water table is that people were typically buried in front yards so many homes sport graves. There are a few common small cemeteries but it’s also perfectly acceptable that old Aunt Meg be buried right next to the house! Now this works fine when the home remains in the same family but what happens when a stranger buys it next?

The time to enjoy island life is short but sweet; we re-board right after we are joined by another ferry arriving from Maryland and make our way back across the Chesapeake and an end to another fabulous day exploring Virginia. Virginia, you keep stealing my heart!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Chance, part 3

Now knowing a little more to the history behind the plantation, I am not so amazed it has a national park quality museum hidden amongst its treasures. The purpose of the museum is not to showcase life on the plantation, but actually to predate even that old history farther back to the initial settlement on this property, called Martin’s 100, in the early 1600’s.

I must say, it was very exciting to gain entry to such a building and have it, once again, all to ourselves. No pictures of other tourists; no having to crane our necks around groups of others to see objects or read the displays. A singular experience for sure!

I always figure it’s a little boring when blogs go into endless history about a place; I like my blog to focus more on the photos and my impressions of the experience so if you want the exacting history behind the plantation and museum its but a click away at Google.

We had recently viewed the artifact museum at Jamestown National Park (which does not allow any cameras) and this one was every bit as thorough and well done, but probably to be expected with Rockefellers name on it. What follows are just a smattering of pictures with the important thing being that many artifacts shown were dug on the property as archeologists researched the history of the original settlement known as Wolstenholme Towne, an original land grant given to investor’s of the Virginia Company of London. Once again, some of the original photographs we found inside the mansion brought light to some of the excavations.

In summary, we greatly enjoyed our day exploring Carter’s Grove Plantation. Yes, at one point for numerous years this plantation was open to the public, but hasn’t been since 2007. We felt very privileged to be granted the opportunity for our totally private tour and run of the place, and it will always remain a stellar highlight of our travel memories!