On Top Of The World

Hans Haus

Hi!  This is Archon, your friendly tour guide/travel agent.  If you’ve been reading my stuff long enough, you’ll know that you’re all invited to Oktoberfest, Kitchener’s beer-bash bacchanalia, beginning Oct. 9, 2015.  That’s a long way off though.  If the Eastern section of the U. S. is accessible to you, and you have some free time and are looking for somewhere scenic to go this summer, I have a suggestion for you.

Skyline map

SKYLINE DRIVE 

Skyline trail

Skyline Drive is a part of the Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia.  It is a glorious 105-mile drive along the tops of the mountains.  There is a reasonable day-trip fee to enter the park.  The Drive is a twisty little two-lane paved road that dodges around this side of this mountain, and then swings around that side of that mountain.  The speed limit is 30 MPH, and nobody rushes it.  The views are magnificent.

Skyline panorama

We took the trip several years ago.  Like the Interstates, once you’re on, you’re committed.  There are only three access roads, one at each end, and one about halfway.  There are several pull-off places where you can park and enjoy the views – a couple with a westerly view, and a couple facing east.

Skyline outlook

At one of the outlook spots, I wandered over to the other side of the road, wondering if I could see any of the opposite vista through the trees.  I encountered several graves, with monument stones set flat to the earth.  I briefly wondered what money or political pull it took to be buried in a National Park.  A glance at the burial dates – late 19th/early 20th century – revealed that these were the resting places of Mountain Folk, people who had lived here, hunted and fished, lived and died, and were buried as close to their God as they could get, long before the Government created this Park.

Skyline Cabin

If you want to do more than a day’s drive-through, there are a couple of lodges, and a couple of sets of cabins that you can rent.  They are extremely popular, so you might have to reserve for next year, or even beyond.

Stony Man

At about the ¾ mark, heading south, is Stony Man Mountain, featured in a set of books I used to read.  I’m glad those arrows hang in midair, or I might have missed it.  Finally pulling off the Drive, we headed west to drive back north up the valley between the two chains of mountains.  We decided that we would pull in somewhere to get food and drink.  I’ve often heard that you should never eat at a place called “Mom’s.”  Apparently many others had also heard this admonition.  Mom’s was closed and boarded up.  The Cracker Barrel in the next town was an acceptable alternative.

Moms 1

Moms 2

We came down from the north, and stayed in Front Royal VA, a small city featured in another series of my books. You can go from high to low, because there are also several caves and caverns in the area, that can be toured.  Just south of Front Royal, near the park access road, is Skyline Caverns.

Skyline caverns

It’s a 2.1 mile underground walk in an almost figure-eight, except the cross point doesn’t touch.  Long before it was opened up, a portion of the roof collapsed, creating a vacuum, and crystals found nowhere else on earth.

Skyline crystals

Among several other caves in the area is Luray Caverns.  This is a 2.2 mile stroll in a helix.  At one point along the edge of a large grotto, there are three levels of the path, 10/12 feet above each other.  An organ was hauled down and assembled, and a caver with perfect pitch wandered the place for days, tapping stalactites with a mallet to hear the note each gave off.  Then little rubber hammers with actuators were attached, and connected to the organ.  Nowadays they have been disconnected to prevent damage, and what you hear is a recording of the final performance, still, it’s awesome.

Luray organ

I’d never heard of Skyline Drive until my plant supervisor told me about it.  I’m not so much interested in any compensation from these sites or the area tourist bureau.  I will be more pleased if only one or two of my readers are the back-to-Earth types who can enjoy what we have experienced.  Happy holidaying!  😀

#456

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Cripes!

My wife’s from the Mid-west. Very nice people
there.  Very wholesome.

They use words like ‘Cripes!’  ‘For Cripe’s sake!
Who would that be, Jesus Cripes?  The son of
‘Gosh?’ of the church of ‘Holy Moly’!

I’m not making fun of it. You think I wanna burn
in ‘Heck’?

***

Old age isn’t bad – when you consider the alternative.

***

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding along when
the Lone Ranger puts up his hand and says,
“Whoa.” He then climbs down from his horse
Silver, walks behind the horse, lifts his tail
and kisses the horse on his asshole. He then
remounts and they ride on.

A little while later, the Lone Ranger again
raises his hand and says, “Whoa.” He dismounts,
lifts the tail and kisses Silver on the ass
again, then remounts.

Tonto, not sure as to what is going on asks,
“Hmph! Kemo Sabe why you get off Silver and kiss
him on asshole?” The Lone Ranger replies,
“Chapped lips.” Tonto then says, “Ugh. That good
for chapped lips?” The Lone ranger replies, “No,
but it keeps you from licking them.”

***

HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS TO HELP YOU
ALLEVIATE THE STRESS OF TODAY’S
FRANTIC MOMENTS

1:  Use your MasterCard to pay off your Visa.
2:  Pop some popcorn without putting the lid on.
3:  Forget Weight-Watchers, and send yourself a Candygram
4:  Make a list of things to do, that you’ve already done.
5:  Get revenge for tax woes by filling out your forms in Roman numerals.
6:  Tattoo “Out to lunch” on your forehead.
7:  Leaf through a National Geographic, and draw underwear on all the natives.
8:  Go shopping!  Buy everything!  Sweat in it!  Return it the next day.
9:  Drive to work in reverse.
10:  Read the dictionary upside-down and look for secret messages.
11:  Bill your doctor for the time spent in his waiting room.
12:  Write a short story using alphabet soup.
13:  Stare at people through the tines of a fork and pretend they’re in jail.
14:  Make up a language and ask for directions.

I know some of you may have already used one or more of these sanity-saving stress reducers.  Feel free to try the rest, before you wind up like this guy.

thank you for holding

#455

Flash Fiction #49

Knowledge

PHOTO PROMPT – © Madison Woods

NOW YOU’RE LEARNING

Arggh, teenagers!  Jennine’s son was complaining, again, about having to go to school.

“I’ll never use anything they’re teaching.”

She surprised him by agreeing – almost.  With the exception of English and basic math, until you get to post-secondary, none of the subjects are really useful.

School is for learning to learn; to marshal your thoughts, to receive and research knowledge, to order and rate it, to work with others, to be an individual – and part of a group.

School teaches about stress, responsibility, persistence, honesty, and deadlines.  School teaches about reality, work, and life.  School can be an ever-flowing fount.

Got to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

#454

Gremlins – The Aftermath

Gremlin

A recent post on BrainRants’ site regarding him preferring old Mustangs to the new ones, brought a comment about missing Commenter-Supreme, John Erickson.  Rants’ all-too-true reply was that our lost Illinois-boy would probably expound on the relative merits of AMC Gremlins.  For those who don’t remember, Gremlins were the car that didn’t have quite the sleek styling and performance capabilities of the Ford Pinto.

All of this takes us to Bob, another of my auto plant co-workers.  Bob was a nice young man, but a bit of an odd duck.  (Who am I to point a finger?)  Handsome, mid-20s, single, earning a good wage – and living at home with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses parents.

Once asked what he was doing/getting for his Mother for Mothers’ Day, he replied, “We honor the Bible, not our Mothers.”  And yet, doesn’t the Bible insist that we all, “Honor thy Father and Mother?”

Not content with the workout he got at work, Bob often frequented a gym.  He had six-pack abs, instead of the keg I lug around.  He met a well-toned female, who he eventually married – a total surprise, because she wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, and his parents did not approve.

Long before that happened though, Bob bought a Gremlin.  In 1985, he bought a 1979 model, the last year they were produced – from a little old lady – yeah, right??!  He purchased a car that someone else was anxious to get rid of, and paid $2000 for something that should have sold for half that – because he wanted that Gremlin.  That was significant money in 1985.

He told several of us that he was “going to soup it up”??  It’s a Gremlin!  That’s like putting soup in a sieve.  Actually, what he did was ‘doll it up.’  He put a bigger, better carburetor on the anemic little sewing-machine, six-cylinder motor, all the rest was cosmetic.

Gremlin, hot

Always a good idea, he had it repainted – in Electric Blue, and then had it pin-striped.  He put on wide rear rims and tires, and fancy wheel discs.  It didn’t need it but, before he painted it, he traded in a hood with an air scoop.  He added a burst-eardrum kick-ass stereo system, and, long before they were common, a decent security system.  All in all, he added another $5000 ($40,000 in today’s dollars) to one of the most sissy cars ever built.

His girlfriend became a fiancé, and finally a wife.  Fun was fun, but she finally told him he’s have to get rid of his boy’s-toy, and get a married car, probably soon a family car, how about one of those new mini-vans that were becoming popular?

Sadly, he listed it for sale – and was outraged that the best of a few offers was only $1500.  “Don’t they see all the improvements I’ve made to it?”  They’re not improvements!  They’re just highly personal customizations to a lunch-box on wheels that was a piece of crap the day it came from the factory.  Take the money and run.  I don’t know if owning a Gremlin made you stupid, or if only stupid people bought Gremlins.

Every car maker has had a cosmic failure or two.  Ford survived the Edsel, and later the fire-bomb-on-wheels, the Pinto.  GM had the Chevy Nova, which they couldn’t sell to Chicanos, because the name Nova, in Spanish, means, ‘It won’t go’.

Poor little AMC already had one foot in the grave, and the other on a banana peel.  It wasn’t long after they stopped making this Cracker Jack toy, that they were gobbled up by a bigger fish.

#453

Leftovers

In my recent My First Time post, I showed pictures of a little three-finger skinner knife I won.  My chiropractor also has an interest in knives, especially the expensive Art Knives.  I let him read my Knives Illustrated magazines after I am finished with them.

He also regularly reads my posts, so I knew that he had seen the photos of the knife, but the next time we went to see him, I took along the knife and sheath for him to handle.  When I went to put it back in the night-table drawer it came out of, I took a close look, and realized how many odd knives I had tucked away over the years.

SDC10789

This is a hunter/skinner made by Queen Cutlery of Titusville PA.  Knowing of my interest in knives, my Father picked this out at random at a flea market in Florida one winter.

SDC10790

Walking through a small park one day, I came upon this cheap Pakistani dagger just lying on the ground with no-one anywhere near.  Ensuring that there was no blood on it, indicating that it wasn’t involved in a crime, I picked it up and brought it home.

SDC10791

This is the little kitchen/paring knife that the wife purchased at the Fall Knife Show in Detroit about two years ago.  It came with the sheath, which hides in the drawer, but it resides in the knife block.  Its blade is made of 5100 tool steel – the alloy that many ball bearings are made from.  This one started as a 1 inch diameter ball.  The extra-thick handle which helps the wife’s weak grip is Rosewood, and the belly of the blade makes cutting easier.

SDC10792

SDC10793

This knife is Japanese-made for the North American tourist trade.  The brass handle is molded to show Indians hunting wolves from a canoe with a bow and arrow on one side, and a white explorer shooting moose on the other.  Heavy as original sin, I wouldn’t want to carry it in a pocket, and it won’t take or hold an edge any better than the piece of Paki crap above.

SDC10794

This was sold as an ‘Airport Knife’ after 9/11.  Made from rigid thermoplastic, it will not set off metal detectors.  It has a flat ‘grind’ on one side only.  One edge is plain, while the other has serrations.  The circle at the haft has thumb-ridges to prevent slipping and increase control.   While not razor-sharp, it will inflict a lot of damage.

SDC10795

This is a bartender’s knife, with a bottle opener, a lid pryer, a corkscrew, and a small blade for opening boxes and cutting seals and corks.

SDC10796

This is a small two-blade, advertising, pen knife.  While this type of knife holds no interest for me, I have seen people’s collections with hundreds of brands on these things.

SDC10797

This is a trick knife.  You can’t open it unless you know the secret.  The blade has no thumb nick.  Where the blade joins the handle, there is a small indent and a ball bearing.  The blade closes as far as you see in the photo, then you invert it and squeeze it closed.  The ball bearing rolls into the slot and locks the blade closed.  Even if you can grasp it tightly enough, it will not release.  Turn it up the other way and squeeze again, and it pops open.

SDC10798

This is a small box-cutter type knife.  I should have photographed it next to a ruler, to show size.  It’s about as big as your little finger.  It has a plastic snap at the end of its lanyard, indicating it may have come on a carry-bag or piece of luggage, but after 9/11 it can’t fly on airplanes, even though it’s dangerous only to creatures smaller than a bumblebee.  I think someone disconnected it and dropped it.  I found it on a floor.

SDC10799

This is the smallest knife I own – even though it’s the wife’s.  She got it at a Detroit knife show about five years ago, the first time we took the grandson with us.  I was smart enough to photograph this one beside a ruler, and the Queen hunter, to show size, about an inch long, closed, with a chain and ring for wallet or key chain.   This one is factory made.  Some makers build miniatures, both straight knives and folders like this.  They can be made from scrap pieces, but the amount of labor is at least as much as with a full-sized knife.  They can cost as much as their big brothers, so there’s a small market for small knives.

SDC10800

This is a railway spike knife, and a spike like the one it was made from.  They are sold as paperweights/letter openers, because the percentage of carbon in the steel is so low that, like the crap above, they won’t take or hold an edge.  These weren’t hidden in the drawer.  I keep them out on display.  I have several other knives on display but….perhaps another day.

#452