Friends in Low Places


Still unpacking from our whirlwind trip to and from Missouri and have a few images to share.

The one above, from a favorite regular dinner stop on the way up. Last time we were there, a guy fell off a bar stool. Made for great entertainment. Not so lucky this time.

But I did grab a shot across the room that doesn’t hold up so well for details of the small sign above the chunky patron. It reads..

Ah the American Heartlands. Gotta love her.

A Time Capsule and Reflection: Dillons of Ireland

In May 2001 we had the opportunity to travel to Ireland, the excuse being to visit our son who was an exchange student at Queens University in Belfast.

The Firsts: Fred, Ann, mother Betty and Nathan in Belfast
The Firsts: Fred, Ann, mother Betty and Nathan in Belfast

We did all the touristy things, including taking the ferry across to Glasgow and the train from there to Edinburgh.

View through the cannon turrets at the Castle.
View through the cannon turrets at the Castle.

Weeks before we set out for our travels, I did some genealogical snooping around because I had a strong sense that there were probably Irish roots somewhere in the family tree.

From my mother’s maiden name, Dillon, I was able to trace her father’s roots back to Henri de Leon. The man had moved from France to Ireland. I just thought to search for the name (some 14 years after my first) and find the man mentioned in Wikipedia:

Dillon is a family name of Irish origin but with Breton-Norman roots. It is first recorded in Ireland with the arrival of Sir Henry de Leon (c.1176 – 1244), of a cadet branch of Viscounty of Léon, Brittany. He arrived in Ireland accompanying Prince John (later King John) of England. The name evolved into the Irish language “Diolun” / English language “Dillon”

Dillons from Ireland, buried in Floyd VA
Dillons from Ireland, buried in Floyd VA

And so when we first moved to Floyd in 1997 and my PT clinic was in the heart of town, I’d often wander through the cemetery across from the Floyd Country Store.

Here buried in tiny Floyd VA lies Henry Dillon, from Ireland, probably connected remotely to my mother’s father’s family from Murphreesboro, TN.

And our first grandson, born to our son, is Henry Dillon First. Some of you will remember the immensely difficult situation of his birth in 2009. Beyond all reasonable expectations, he lives on, loved and cared for at home by his remarkable parents.

Minnewaska: Ulster County NY Catksills

IMG_0450SteveFlyBranch480Sorry, we have house guests and such so only a link to some images from the recent NY trip this morning.

First use of a new “story-telling” app called Grapewise. Maybe I missed some of the potential for this tool on first use, but will need to see more from this to be tempted to use it further.

A few images at Grapewise. Seems you can’t click from one to the next. Meh.

Catskills Part One: Kaaterskill Falls

Upper Kaaterskill Falls
Upper Kaaterskill Falls Creek, a rock cairn accents the view, mid-stream

Kill this. Kill that. Fishkill. Peekskill. Fresh Kills. Say what?

Okay. It’s a Dutch term meaning creek or waterway (a vestige of the area’s colonial past) and found its way into Catskill–ONE name for this dissected assortment of variously protected natural areas in New York State. The geology seemed familiar in places to me as someone familiar with the Ridge and Valley and Allegheny Plateau geology:

Geologically, the Catskills are a mature dissected plateau, a once-flat region subsequently uplifted and eroded into sharp relief by watercourses. The Catskills form the northeastern end of, and highest-elevation portion of, the Allegheny Plateau (also known as the Appalachian Plateau).

Although the Catskills are sometimes compared with the Adirondack Mountains further north, the two mountain ranges are not geologically related, as the Adirondacks are a continuation of the Canadian Shield.

Similarly, the Shawangunk Ridge, which forms the southeastern edge of the Catskills, is part of the geologically distinct Ridge-and-Valley province, and is a continuation of the same ridge known as Kittatinny Mountain in New Jersey and Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania.

The reference to the “CAT” of the region’s name is in some debate, and there have been many who argued for something less Dutch and more distinctive in contrast to the competing mountains in nearby states:

The locals preferred to call them the Blue Mountains, to harmonize with Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was only after Washington Irving’s stories that Catskills won out over Blue Mountains, and several other competitors.

And so Kaaterskill Falls inherited a name early on when the mountain label was still being established. It is the highest waterfall in NY state, and most likely, the most dangerous for the typical tourist to reach, as it requires a death-defying cliff-hugging scamper along a massively-busy Winnebago-traveled highway over the quarter mile that separates the parking lot from the trail at the base of the falls. Caveat emptor.

What we didn’t know until later that day was that traffic was WAY up because an impending major music festival (25k strong) near Tannersville–our original destination, aborted for less-traveled places that evening and the next day. And more on that, anon.

Klingon Devil Pods: Trapa natans

IMG_4349devilpods480And it turns out that the name we gave it– “Devil Pods”– is one of the historically-used “common names” for this plant. It took us a while to finally conclude that it was indeed a plant, since the pods seem to be made of a very hard alien material rather than any botanical matter we’d ever seen.

So had concluded at first that these were actually baby Klingons, dropped at Kingston Point Park along the Hudson. But then I knew that I had seen images of this bizarre thing from the web on Planet Earth, so as we drove towards our next destination (Massawaska State Park) I attempted to ID the six (empty non-viable) pods we brought with us.

And in this I failed. But my friend’s daughter back home that evening googled “Catskills black seed” and it was the first item listed. Go figure: the range extends from Virginia to Canada. And a friend for dinner that night–a kayaker–recognized the pods immediately and with some loathing as “Water Chestnut.” And it has both a good and a bad reputation–the former, back in Asia from which this invasive derived, the latter among those who fancy open surfaces on  waterways.

Also called water caltrop, water chestnut, buffalo nut, bat nut, devil pod, and ling nut, this water-rooted plant can quickly choke waterways.

“Water chestnut was first observed in North America near Concord, Massachusetts in 1859. The exact path for the introduction is unknown. It has been declared a noxious weed in Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Carolina and its sale is prohibited in most southern states.

“Water chestnut can grow in any freshwater setting, from intertidal waters to 12 feet deep, although it prefers nutrient-rich lakes and rivers. Presently, the plant is found in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, with most problematic populations occurring in the Connecticut River valley, Lake Champlain region, Hudson River, Potomac River and the upper Delaware River.”

I should mention that we found these botanical land mines on a sandy beach near the volleyball nets. I still think they were dropped on our planet with sinister intent. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Water Chestnut (Trapa natans)

The Creature (Dis)comforts of Air Travel

It had been months in the planning. A college buddy invited me to his home in Westchester County, NY. On Saturday I would speak at the Pound Ridge Reservation Trailside Museum. On Thursday and Friday he and I would hike in the Catskills. But there were issues at both airports that made getting there an ordeal.

First there was the altercation with TSA that resulted in the letter below, crudely typed in flight while I was still fuming and indignant. Then at my destination, I suffered the consequences of the airline cavalierly moving my flight FOUR HOURS earlier than scheduled less than 24 hours in advance of departure. My friend’s day did not let him blow off planned meetings to fetch me home. So I sat and waited. Sort of.

I got to spend three hours like a street person at LaGuardia, where when you pick up your baggage, they want you OUTTA THERE and provide no place to sit except where you see me splayed out in the window. Color me disgusted with air travel at that point.

But in spite of some other glitches, we landed on our feet in the Catskills, and perhaps more about that soon. I offer my letter, just as a way of venting, and can’t imagine I’ll bother to pretend that sending it would do anything more than add all my personal details to a database watch-list and risk of future harassment, should, God forbid, I EVER have to get on an airplane again.

To Whom if May (or May Not) Concern at TSA

A micro leather man tool on my keychain was confiscated by TSA. It included a blade maybe an inch long and this was deemed a sufficient threat to do what? Somebody could do more damage with a large paper clip. Are paper clips “illegal”? Hair pins? Please offer some common sense maximum-permissible blade length that is determined by potential lethality.

I find it hard to believe that no effort has been made to provide convenient  access to prepaid mailers at public airports. If available these could be purchased quickly so that when small items of great personal value are confiscated at check-in they do not end up for sale. I was told taken items are sold, and this is disturbing.

Taken items should be incinerated so that opportunists with government contracts do not profit. Found items are one thing. TAKEN items should not benefit anyone–especially any entity doing business with the government.

This Leatherman tool was a special gift from my daughter and when it was taken I was given no real option other than to miss my flight to prevent this from being held and sold. That is unacceptable. Please arrange additional options for mailing personally valuable items to our homes rather than having the only choice be  “you can run it back to your car” parked a half mile across the blistering asphalt with 20 minutes before boarding. I am not O J Simpson. My checked luggage was by then already out of the terminal.

I saw your sign asking for input to TSA and have the faint hope that our tax dollars pay for someone at the other end who both listens and has the will and the authority to respond appropriately to disturbing experiences like what has just happened to me on June 10 at 115pm at the Roanoke VA airport.

I encourage TSA to rethink their rules to avoid making airports into increasingly threatening, obnoxious places for peaceful travelers while doing less than necessary to protect us from true threats. Please devote more of your time to consistently detecting truly lethal items and less to the harassment of law-abiding passengers for such low-threat items as a one-inch fingernail-pick.

Vote – Floyd, Va. – Best Southern Small Town Nominee: 2015 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards

Image courtesy Woody Crenshaw
Image courtesy Woody Crenshaw

Floyd, Va.: Vote for Your Favorite Southern Small Town!!

Source: Vote – Floyd, Va. – Best Southern Small Town Nominee: 2015 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards

We want people to know about Floyd, visit Floyd, enjoy Floyd and buy goods (arts, crafts and entertainment) and service (meals, lodging) in Floyd and come again.

We want to avoid Floyd being loved to death. It’s a bit of a tightrope.