All posts by Tom Dills

First-Class Glass

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

No, I’m not talking about camera lenses OR airline travel!  I’m talking about beautiful, hand-crafted glass like that found at Lexington Glassworks in Asheville, North Carolina.

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

I had intended to write this post a while back, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle of fall and the holidays.  During our visit to Asheville for our 40th anniversary, Kathy & I visited Lexington Glassworks during one of our walks around town.  We’ve visited Lexington before, and have acquired only a small amount of their glass, given the number of times we’ve been there, but it is one of those places we just have to visit whenever we are in town.

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

One of the many cool things about Lexington is that they openly encourage picture taking.  I asked anyway, just to be polite, and the girl we talked to was very nice about it.  Sure, she said, let me know if you have any questions or need help.

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

The larger pieces are stunningly beautiful, and the reason we don’t have more is that we just don’t have a suitable place to display things like that.  We have some shelves on order which will hopefully rectify that situation, although after buying the shelves we’ll need to re-stock the souvenir fund to buy more things to put on them! 😉

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

Partially-related question: I post photos to Instagram through my Firefox browser, using a well-known workaround that “fools” Instagram into thinking I am on a mobile device.  I’ve taken the app off all of my mobile devices.  With the app I used to be able to create a post with multiple photographs, but can’t seem to find a way to do it through the browser.  Anyone have any experience with this?  I’d like to be able to share these photos in a single post and tag the company’s page, rather than post them individually, which makes for a really annoying feed!

Lexington Glass on display at Capella on 9 rooftop bar and tapas restaurant at the AC Hotel by Marriott Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glass on display at Capella on 9 rooftop bar and tapas restaurant at the AC Hotel by Marriott Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

Pride and Patriotism

Fourth of July Parade in Belhaven, North Carolina

It’s hard to not be moved by a sense of pride in this great country when our democratic system is permitted to function as it was intended.  I shed a few emotional tears watching the ceremonies today, but I look forward to our future with optimistic and hopeful anticipation.

Fourth of July Parade in Belhaven, North Carolina

I need to go back and re-watch or read Biden’s speech, but the words that keep returning to my head are when he referred to ‘leading not by the example of our strength but by the strength of our example.  Amen to that.

Fourth of July Parade in Belhaven, North Carolina
Edenton, North Carolina

All Used Up

Long-abandoned truck chassis along the Mount Holly Trail

I spotted this old relic during our walk a few days ago.  It might make for an interesting photo study, except for the fact that it sits at the very end of the 1.5-mile trail!

I keep thinking that this would make a decent black & white image, but I haven’t come up with a version I’m happy with.  When I take the color out the tones are all the same and the image looks like a flat, jumbled mess.  I’ll keep working with it to see what I can do, but in the meantime I like the color version just fine!

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

Kathy & I were recently looking for someplace different to walk besides the sidewalk between our neighborhood and the main drag, and decided to explore the Mount Holly Trail at nearby Mountain Island Park.  Walmart and Micky D’s are only so scenic!

Parking area and playground for the Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mountain Island Hydroelectric Facility in Mount Holly, North Carolina

The park is located next to the Mountain Island Hydroelectric plant at the south end of Mountain Island Lake, just outside the town of Mount Holly and only about 8 miles from our neighborhood.  The park contains a large parking lot with fishing area, small playground and hiking/biking trails.  We walked the 1.6-mile trail to the end and back, which made for a nice afternoon.

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

The trail is mostly an easy walk for anyone in reasonably good walking shape.  There are a few hills, mostly on the far end from the parking area.  A portion of the trail surface close to the parking area is pretty coarse gravel, which makes for rough walking for a bit.  This area of the trail is close to the river, and I would guess it floods occasionally, thus the need for heavier base.  We were there on a dry day without a lot of heavy preceding rain, and there were a few muddy places along the trail.  Overall the trail is in very good shape, but I would suggest sturdy shoes.  The woods should be very pretty as the trees and vegetation green up in the spring.

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

We were there on a Wednesday in January, so there was not much traffic, mostly couples and people with dogs.  We saw a few mountain bikers on main trail as well as the adjacent mountain bike trails as it got later in the day, but not too bad.

Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

We’re hoping to explore some more walking & hiking areas over the coming months, and I will report on them here for anyone who is interested.  Or anyone who just wants to see the photos!

Tom’s Trail Summary:
Length: 1.6 miles to the end, or 3.2 miles round trip.  There are several options for shorter loops, or out-back for a shorter distance is possible.
Terrain: Mostly flat with occasional hills
Surface: Mostly dirt with a few gravel places.  Recommend sturdy shoes like hiking boots.
Comments: The trail is shared with mountain bikers and dog walkers.  No motorized vehicles.  Pleasant walking along the Catawba River.  Should be pretty in the spring as trees and plants green up.  I tried to find a link to a trail map but could only find a Google Map to the parking area!
Mount Holly Trail at Mountain Island Park in Mount Holly, North Carolina

 

Reflecting On Reflections

Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower and boardwalk, Everglades National Park, Florida

I recently posted a few reflection photos to Instagram, and it got me thinking about how much time I spend looking for reflections.  My conclusion?  Not nearly enough!

Garibaldi Marina in Garibaldi, Oregon

Photos of boats in a marina with still water are pretty low-hanging fruit.  I need to remind myself that while I am looking for lines, pattern and shadows, to keep my eyes peeled for good candidates for reflections.

Garibaldi Marina in Garibaldi, Oregon
Arrival in Grand Cayman aboard Brilliance of the Seas
Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Minds Over Mayhem

Moonrise the night before the official full moon, October 2020. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Like many people, I am astonished and embarrassed by the behavior of my fellow humans, especially over the last 24 hours but indeed over the last what? 24-48-60+ months?  The extent to which people can be deceived, incited and provoked to extremes is frightening.

It’s very popular right now to talk of impeachment, imprisonment and removal from office those who have corrupted and vandalized our democracy.  Whether it happens or not remains to be seen, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that approach.  In fact, in many ways I welcome it as a lesson to those responsible and as a deterrence against continuing such behavior.  What I ultimately hope, however, is that once all the angry words settle down and people go back to their lives, cooler heads can take a look at the problems in our country today and try to come up with meaningful solutions.

The question I keep coming back to is this:  How desperate are the people who are attracted to false hope, lies, deceit and corruption that they so fervently believe in it to the extent that they can be moved to such atrocious actions?  This is more than racial, religious, ideological or political difference.  This more than an undercurrent.  It is a raging river.

Whether by chance or by choice we as a society tend to be attracted to turmoil like moths to a flame.  Thankfully, I spend most of my time doing things that I find calming and rewarding, and don’t get myself too riled up over all of the negativity that has swirled around us for far too long.  I don’t ignore the media, in my opinion that would be irresponsible.  But I have managed to insulate myself and – for the most part my opinions and attitudes – from most of the mayhem so that I’m not living with the anger and angst that many people feel and that I might otherwise be dealing with.  Not everyone is able to do that and I feel fortunate that I can.

I don’t have the answers.  I can only hope that the changes coming over the next few weeks, the next few months and the next few years, can head us in a more positive direction.  One where we can disagree peacefully, work together for the common good to find equitable solutions to problems and to live in peace within our own country and in our world.  Let’s hope for that, and where we personally are able, live that.

Another Sunrise…With A Bonus!

Aerial demonstration of birds over Mountain Island Lake

I had to wait until this morning to have my first sunrise opportunity of the year.  The weather the last few days has basically been crap, but the forecast for this morning held promise.  Rather than set an alarm I told myself that if I woke up in time I would head out to see what I might find.  Usually when I try that approach I either wake up too early or too late, but this morning I woke up at 5:50 which was just about perfect.

Clouds lit by city lights from Mountain Island Lake from the Riverbend Boat Launch.  No, that’s not a fire – Christmas Lights!

I arrived at the boat launch area right at 6:30 and was treated to some amber city-lit clouds low to the horizon and a clear sky with clouds above.  Pretty sweet!  No fog this time, but that was good for better reflections.  I got a few shots of that then aimed my camera at the causeway to catch some light trails.  There is a lot more traffic on a Monday morning than there was on the Sunday morning when I last visited!

Car trails on the causeway over Mountain Island Lake

The parking lot was completely deserted when I arrived, but the first boater showed about about 6:45.  He was well organized and put in quickly, but it was too dark to get anything usable.  The second boater arrived about 7:15, took his time futzing around with this gear and finally left the dock just as the sun was coming up.  That made for some good light on the boat as it putted through the No Wake zone.

Father-daughter morning fishing expedition
Sunrise over Mountain Island Lake from the Riverbend Boat Launch

The bonus though was that, all of a sudden, I heard birds, lots of them.  Then overhead came a huge cloud of some kind of small black birds, probably starlings, grackles or similar black birds – hundreds of them!  And that cloud was followed by another, then another.  I have no idea how many of them there were, but there were a bunch.  Fortunately I had my camera set up for a wide angle shot of the water and sky, so I was able to catch a few frames with the birds, even though they were a bit blurry.  They were moving fast!

Sunrise over Mountain Island Lake from the Riverbend Boat Launch

So in addition to a pretty sunrise I got an impromptu air show! All in all it was a worthwhile visit and I got a few shots to start off the new year.  The weather looks like might deteriorate again the next few days but I’ll keep a lookout for another opportunity!

Sunrise over Mountain Island Lake from the Riverbend Boat Launch

After The Demolition Derby That Was 2020, We’re “Still Running!”

St John, USVI

When I was growing up, my family would regularly attend stock car races at a couple of local race tracks.  A few times a year the tracks would have events called Demolition Derbies, where a bunch of stripped-down cars would start out running around the track and purposely wreck each other, with the last car running declared the winner.  I’m recalling this through 50+ years of possibly (likely!) faulty memory, but as I recall, somewhere near the end when there were only 2 or 3 cars running, the announcer providing the blow-by-blow commentary would say something like “CAR 83 IS SMOKING BADLY, HAS A COUPLE OF FLAT TIRES BUT IT’S STIIIIIILLLLL RUNNING.”  I have to say that after the demolition derby that was 2020, we’re badly damaged but STILL RUNNING.  And hopefully running well enough to hang on through 2021.

Tom and Katy at the beach!

Somewhat counter to the rest of society (contrarians? us?) and despite the various impacts of the virus, Kathy & I look back on 2020 as overall a very good year.  We made some important changes that we possibly would/should have made anyway, but the arrival of Covid made them imperative.  It worked out, and WE”RE STILL RUNNING!  Believe me though, I am quite sensitive to the fact that not everyone can say the same about 2020.  For way too many folks, 2020 was a very ugly year.  A disastrous year.  A demolition derby with not everyone escaping unscathed.  From where I sit, however, life has been pretty darned good and I am thankful for that.

Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

But we traveled.  We traveled a bit differently than in past years, with a little more attention paid to places and conditions, avoiding the famous places with big crowds, carrying more of our food and water than we might have taken otherwise, but the country was open and we went.  In fact, we traveled more in 2020 than we ever have.  We spent 90+ days away from home, crossed off 5 new states and visited friends and family in locations far & wide.  Despite only driving 426 miles in March, April & May, we’ve put over 18,000 miles on the Subie since 12/31/19, mostly in the second half of the year and including our 8,000-mile road trip to the Oregon coast and back in September.  And we did it safely, staying away from popular places like National Parks and sticking mostly to sparsely-visited National Monuments, National Historic Parks, State Parks and Wildlife Refuges.  A number of places were not open so we made do by seeing just the outside.  Yes, we traveled!

“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington

With exceptional (in hindsight) timing we took three cruises in January-February before the virus hit but have stuck to car travel since then.  Staying off airplanes and cruise ships has saved us a bunch of money and allowed us to see parts of the country we might have put off if we had continued to fly places.  It looks like that trend will continue in 2021, since the question of when we might expect to receive a vaccine remains a bit of a mystery.  That assumes that the vaccines are actually effective, that we can eventually actually get one and that the virus begins to subside.  Cruises and air travel will likely need to wait until 2022 for us, but there is still a lot of this country to see and we’re ready to go.

Haystack Rock at sunset over the Pacific Ocean from Cannon Beach, Oregon

Staying out of restaurants has been very good for our waistlines and for our budget.  Kathy & I have never been and will never be skinny, but there is a lot less of each of us to haul around these days.  We’ve been making regular donations of too-large clothes to our local Goodwill.  Even now when restaurants have mostly re-opened, we’re finding that we like our own cooking just fine and we continue to lose weight at a reasonable and sustainable pace without “dieting.”  Interestingly, our reaction to a lot of restaurant food now is that it is over-seasoned, over-portioned, overly meat-centric and over-priced.  We’ve got a great source for fresh fish, a nice selection of our own wine, and find that we can dine in for a fraction of the cost of a fancy meal out.  We love our restaurant people and have many friends in the business, but it is an estranged relationship these days.  We weaned ourselves off of junk food years ago and didn’t succumb to the temptation of “comfort food” during the pandemic.

Lunch stop during our tour of Roatan, Honduras during our February 2020 cruise aboard Norwegian Dawn

I took nearly 17,000 photos this year.  Not as many as 2019 when I took over 21,000, but still a lot!  Why so many?  I take a lot of our grandson Edison, and he moves so fast most of them are blurry!  The number of photos that are actually worth keeping will be far less but remains to be seen as I’m still working on them.  I did get a new camera this year, which was fun, and I have enjoyed working with it and the constantly updated software to process the files.

Perrine Memorial Bridge over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho

We have a lot to be thankful for from 2020 despite all of the negative happenings, and we have plenty of reason to look forward to 2021.  I don’t know how it will all shake out, but the best we can hope for is to get to 12/31/21 in at least as good a shape as we got to the finish line of 12/31/20.  My primary goal is to keep a positive outlook, to find the silver lining in every situation and seek out the positive wherever I need to go to find it!

Shoshone Falls on the Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho

The photos here are just a selection from the friends and family we were able to visit with this past year and who we look forward to seeing again this coming year!

Boat cruise on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with Jeff and Mary Pat
Jeff Curto and Mary Pat Larue during our cruise on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Jim & Lisa at Seneca Point in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania
Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bill & Cathy aboard Carnival Breeze
Bill & Cathy, Tom & Kathy in the dining room aboard Carnival Breeze
Jim & Tom atop the Historic Fire Tower #9 in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania
Breakfast with Monte at The Chicken Coop Restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado
Edison loves Grandma!
Pine cone inspection
World’s Largest Barber Pole in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
Grandma & Edison reading Cars & Trucks & Things That Go
Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in eastern Nevada near Elko
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Roatan Rum Shop in Roatan, Honduras
Roatan Rum Shop in Roatan, Honduras during our February 2020 cruise aboard Norwegian Dawn
Scott and Edison on Mother’s Day 2020
Quarry Exhibit Hall and the wall of dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah
Monte taking Kathy’s picture sitting on “his” rock along the Foothills Trail at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado
North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina
Fall along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Licklog Ridge Overlook MP 349
Capella on 9 rooftop bar and tapas restaurant at the AC Hotel by Marriott Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Nike Missile Base Historic Area in Everglades National Park, Florida
Wine tasting at Ken Wright Cellars tasting room in Carlton, Oregon

 

It’s A Wrap – Our Pacific Northwest Road Trip

Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas

I’ve finally finished processing all of my picks from our Pacific Northwest road trip!

The last two stops were Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas and George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri.

Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas

The two things we most wanted to do in Fort Scott were (1) visit the fort and (2) visit the Gordon Parks Museum.  The trip from Fort Larned took longer than we expected, so we arrived at the fort just as they were shutting down for the day.  Fortunately, a kind ranger was able to arrange for Kathy to get her Passport book stamped, and we were only able to see the outsides of the buildings.

Fort Scott, Kansas

The Gordon Parks Museum is part of Fort Scott Community College, and the college was closed at the time we passed through.  So that will need to be reserved for a future trip.  The town of Fort Scott was very quaint with a number of interesting looking shops and restaurants, so it’s likely that we’ll make a point of getting back there at some point.

Old train station in Fort Scott, Kansas
Fort Scott, Kansas

After spending the night in Joplin, MO we stopped at George Washington Carver National Monument the next day enroute to our last overnight in Clarksville, TN.  We had always thought of Carver as the “peanut guy” but he did far more than that.  It was another unexpectedly educational visit.  After our night in Clarksville we “took the last train” and drove home through Tennessee while (unsuccessfully) dodging heavy thunderstorms!

George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri
George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri
George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri
George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri
George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri

All in all we drove a total of 8,230 miles over 25 days, and I took nearly 4,500 photos.  My picks brought the total down to 1,745 and there are just over 800 photos in the 10 online galleries.

I now have a complete collection of photos from our road trip in my Adobe Portfolio page here.