The Beauty Around Us

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

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Year in Review 2020

Bob, Wickett and me at our house on New Years Eve

Amazon Photos made this Year in Review slideshow for me.  Please click on “slideshow” to view the video.  Keep clicking until the slideshow begins.

The slideshow features Bob and me, Stacey and our two granddaughters, my brother and his wife, three great nieces, a few of our local motorcycle riding friends, and some of our friends with whom we were fortunate to spend a week with in the Outer Banks, and lunch with friends in Salisbury MD on our way to Chincoteague VA.

What great memories to remind me that 2020, with all that was bad about it, still had good things!


Thanksgiving Week Vacation Day 2

Today, November 22nd, is the second day of our Thanksgiving week vacation.  Breakfast was from 7:00 am-10:00 am today at our hotel — the Best Western North East Inn, located in North East, MD.  We went downstairs for breakfast a little after 7:00 am.  Because of COVID-19 breakfast wasn’t the hotel’s typical full hot breakfast, served buffet style.  Breakfast was still good, though, with selections individually wrapped.  I had a hot egg and bacon sandwich, applesauce, a banana, orange juice, a chocolate chip muffin, and a cup of tea.  Bob picked up similar selections.  We carried our breakfast to our room on a tray and ate there.

We checked out of the hotel around 8:40 am and began the last leg of our drive.  Today’s destination is Chincoteague, VA.  As was the case yesterday, the GPS is programmed to avoid highways.

We made a bathroom stop in Cambridge MD at the Dorchester County Visitor Center.  A monument caught my eye.

This is the “Flying goose” monument fountain.

You can see the “Flying Goose” from several viewpoints or see it up close.

“Flying Goose” monument fountain

Returning to our car from the “Flying Goose” monument, we spotted a lighthouse off in the distance.

View of Choptank River Lighthouse from Dorchester County Visitor Center

We hopped into the car, drove 1 mile to Long Wharf Park and parked the car.

Bob and I with the Choptank River Lighthouse in the background

Choptank River Lighthouse

Choptank River Lighthouse

and one last photograph of the picturesque lighthouse

Choptank River Lighthouse

At 12:15 pm we met Tom and his girlfriend, Ellen, for lunch at Evolution Craft Brewing Company in Salisbury, MD.  We sat outside and ate our lunch.   

Lunch with friends at EVO Brewery in Salisbury, MD

Bob ordered a pulled pork sandwich with French fries; Tom ordered a brisket sandwich with French fries; and Ellen and I ordered  Brioche French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream. 

Brioche French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream

A little background … Tom graduated with Bob’s brother, John, who is 9 years older than Bob.  When we got together for lunch, I believed that I had never met Tom and that Bob and Tom hadn’t seen each other since high school.  During lunch Tom mentioned John’s 50th birthday, and I had a vague recollection of a photograph taken during John’s 50th birthday celebration.  I found that photograph, upon our return home.

Photograph Taken on the Occasion of John’s 50th Birthday (October 2000)

Apparently in October 2000 Tom, his wife Anne (who died in May 2019), and Bob and I celebrated John’s 50th birthday together.  The four of us are in the back row on the left.  

… Fast forward to 2018 …  

Bob and Tom became Facebook friends in August 2018.  Tom and I became friends on Facebook a few months later, in January 2019.  Tom likes photographs that I share on Facebook.  He has left many complimentary comments over the years.  We message each other occasionally too.  It was via Facebook Messenger that we made plans to meet on our way to Chincoteague, VA.  Tom, Bob and I believed an outdoor setting would be the safest way to meet, given COVID-19.   

… Back to the present …

Our respective lunches were delicious, and we enjoyed our time with both Tom and Ellen (whom we met for the first time today).  We hope to meet up again one day. 


I think it was 2:30 pm when we left the brewery.   We drove to Food Lion in Oak Hall, VA.  We picked up a few groceries and then drove to Tranquil Shores, our Airbnb rental in Chincoteague, VA.  We arrived at the rental shortly before 4:00 pm and got settled in.  Tranquil Shores is home through Saturday, November 28th.   

Our Airbnb rental was cleaned to COVID-19 standards.  We could smell the disinfectant, when we walked into the house.  The house was spotless.  When we stayed here before, pre-COVID, the refrigerator wasn’t completely emptied out in between guests.  The refrigerator was completely emptied, when we arrived today.  The empty refrigerator, in and of itself, gave me that little extra feeling of safety.

Tonight’s dinner was Sloppy Joes, coleslaw and, for dessert, cheesecake.  We purchased a small platter that contains 8 slices of cheesecake, four different flavors.  We will enjoy cheesecake for a few days this week. 



Outside is Safer

According to medical experts COVID-19 transmits more easily when inside closed areas, where there is less ventilation or room for airflow.  Generally, your risk of contracting the virus is remarkably lower when you are outside. This is because there is more space to separate from others and there is more natural airflow.

Bob and I went for a walk in our neighborhood this afternoon.  A neighbor’s backyard scene caught my eye.

What a great way to watch TV (golf in this instance) with friends!  

The temperature was around 45 degrees.  These two men look toasty warm, don’t they?

Brian and Deborah’s Wedding Day

This past Saturday (June 24) I photographed Brian and  Deborah’s wedding.   Brian is our friends’ Sheila and Doyle’s oldest son. The last wedding I photographed was in September 2014. I vowed then that it would be the last time I was the official photographer for a wedding. I was “retiring” from photographing weddings for family and friends. Well, after a little arm twisting by Sheila, I agreed to photograph Brian and Deborah’s wedding.  Thank you, Brian and Deborah, for choosing me.  It was an honor to serve as your wedding photographer.

I created a collage of some of the pictures that I took at the wedding.

Brian and Deborah had a beautiful wedding.

Congratulations Brian and Deborah!  May all of your days together be as beautiful and cherished as your wedding day – here’s to your future together as Husband and Wife!


Our vacation in May was planned around the South East Vulcan Riders and Owners Club (SEVROC) motorcycle rally in Maggie Valley, NC.  The motorcycle rally was a 4-day event (May 18-21).  Our vacation began on Sunday, May 14.  We drove from Warren, PA to Front Royal, VA, where we spent the night.  On Monday, May 15, we drove from Front Royal, VA to Waynesboro, VA, via Skyline Drive.  We drove from Waynesboro, VA to Maggie Valley on Tuesday, May 16.  For the next 5 nights we were lodged at A Holiday Motel, which was home base for SEVROC 2017.

SEVROC is an annual event.  This year marked its 19th year.  Since 2006 the rally has been held in Maggie Valley.  Prior to 2006 the rally was held at two other south east locations: at Suches, GA for 2 years and at Lake Lure, NC for 5 years. (Thank you “Skid”, of Skid and Sandy on the Road, for information about rally locations prior to 2006.) From 2006 through 2013 the Applecover Inn in Maggie Valley served as home base for SEVROC, with innkeepers Derrick and Amy Cole catering to the club needs.  SEVROC 2014 had a change of venue due to Derrick and Amy not being at the Applecover Inn any longer.  Since 2014 A Holiday Motel has served as home base for SEVROC, with owners Gabi and Rob Edwards catering to the club needs.  This is our fourth SEVROC rally. Bob and I attended the rally previously in 2008, 2014, and 2015. This was the first year that we didn’t take the motorcycle to the motorcycle rally.  Our mode of transportation in the prior years was by motorcycle AND car.  I have never been able to ride long distances on the motorcycle, but I have been able to make the drive.  I was uncertain if I would be able to drive this year, as the arthritis in my right knee appears to have worsened in the past year or so.  Therefore, we opted to travel by car only.  Because VROC rallies are more about the PEOPLE than the bikes, it doesn’t really matter how you travel to a rally.  What is important is that you come to the rally!  Over the years I have come to think of a VROC rally as a family reunion.

A Holiday Motel
SEVROC 2017 Rally Headquarters

An enjoyable part of the SEVROC rally is to meet new people and to get reacquainted with friends whom you have met at other rallies.  In between rallies we stay in touch with our friends via the VROC web forum and Facebook.

“Boomer” and Mikey greet each other.
“Jax” greets Hang and “Zeke”.

The rocking chairs in front of your room provided a good location, too, for meeting new people and getting reacquainted with old friends.

We enjoyed a campfire each night of the rally.

Campfire at A Holiday Motel

The SEVROC Meet & Greet was held at the Rendezvous Restaurant at the Maggie Valley Inn, located approximately 3 miles north of A Holiday Motel. The Meet & Greet began at 6:00 pm and was over around 7:00 pm. Dinner was served family style. We had tossed salad and rolls, fish, coleslaw, ham, fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. For dessert we had Oreo chocolate pudding with whipped topping.  The food was good; the company was exceptional.

Bob and I sat at this table.

“Willie Wonka”, Carlene, “Pappy” and Cheri sat opposite Bob and me.

“Willie Wonka” and Carlene
“Pappy” and Cheri

I took pictures of those at other tables as well.  I heard that our dinner party totaled 51 people.

And just as I was ready to return to my table, “Judge” and Cindy arrive at the Meet & Greet.

In the center, “Judge” and Cindy

After dinner, back at A Holiday Motel, “Southern Draw” and Carolyn’s son, their daughter-in-law and granddaughter entertained us with music.

“Southern Draw” and Carolyn’s son and daughter-in-law
Somebody’s Child

SEVROC 2017 wrapped up the evening of Saturday, May 20, with a raffle and 50/50 drawing.

Gathering for Saturday’s Raffle and 50/50 Drawing

Riders of Kawasaki (ROK) sent “Jax”, the organizer of the SEVROC motorcycle rally, a number of prizes to be drawn for.  ROK also sent Kawaski-branded merchandise to be handed out to rally attendees.

Thank you, ROK, for the Kawasaki-branded lanyards,
water bottles and travel mugs!
The raffle begins, with the first ticket drawn

The raffle resulted in 12 merchandise winners. Bob was one of the twelve winners.  He won 6 quarts of oil.

Next up was to draw the ticket for the money.  The winner would receive 50% of the proceeds.  The balance would go to the local police department K9 unit.

The winning ticket for the 50/50 was drawn
by one of the K9 officers.

“Blondy” won the 50/50 drawing.

“Blondy” with “Jax”, Mikey and the local K9 office

The total amount of money collected for the 50/50 drawing was $696.00.  Therefore, “Blondy” won $348.00, and the local K9 unit received $348.00.  “Blondy” handed over her entire winnings to the local K9 officer.  The giving didn’t stop there.  Individual rally attendees came forward and contributed more money to the K9 program. When the money was tallied up, we had contributed $1,200.00 to the K9 program!

“Jax”, Mikey, the two K9 officers and one of their two dogs

The next order of business was the presentation of a quilt to “Jax”, in recognition of all the years that he has organized the SEVROC rally.

Presentation of Quilt to “Jax”

The quilt was made of SEVROC shirts from 15 different rallies.  The shirts were donated by various members.  Mikey’s wife, Linda, was responsible for the quilt’s preparation.  She and Mikey had each of us come secretively to their room and autograph the back of the quilt.  What a wonderful gift for “Jax”!

After the quilt presentation, the K9 officers showed their dogs.  One of the K9 officers showed us what last year’s SEVROC contribution to the K9 program purchased for the K9 unit.  The black box and yellow ball in the picture displayed below is used in training K9 drug sniffing dogs.

K9 officer explaining use of black box and yellow ball
in training of K9 drug sniffing dogs

What a wonderful time we had with our VROC “family”.

our VROC “family”

I love each and every one of them and look forward to the next time we meet in person!

A “No Sightseeing Day”

We spent the week of May 14th on vacation in Virginia and North Carolina. I have been uploading blog posts about our vacation since May 29th. This blog post is about our seventh day of vacation.

We ate breakfast on Saturday, May 20 at Joey’s Pancake House.  Bob and I each ordered an omelet, hash brown casserole, and toast.  Breakfast was delicious, especially the hash brown casserole.  Joey’s is one of our breakfast stops, while in Maggie Valley.  According to Joey’s web page the pancake house is closing as of today Tuesday, June 13th.

We returned to A Holiday Motel, after breakfast. We decided to stay close to the hotel, taking it easy in preparation for our long drive home the next day.

We watched ‘Blindspot” on Hulu. We are able to get Hulu via the Amazon Fire TV Stick that we brought with us on vacation.

After watching “Blindspot”, we walked around the hotel grounds, socializing with some of our motorcycling friends.  I mistook one of our friends for his brother.  Lonnie arrived at A Holiday Motel on Tuesday, the same day as we did. It was uncertain if Lonnie’s brother Carl would attend this year’s SEVROC, as he had just returned home from a cruise. As we were passing by Lonnie’s room, I saw someone at a motorcycle.  It looked like someone had just arrived. I quickly took note of whom I thought was Lonnie, standing near the motorcycle.  I walked up to whom I thought was Carl, at the motorcycle, and gave him a big hug, saying that I was happy that he made it. Well I hugged Lonnie, not Carl…not that he minded. After hugging Lonnie, the man standing on the opposite side of me, who I thought was Lonnie, said “it’s me. I’m Carl.” It was at that moment I realized I had mistaken Lonnie for Carl. I gave Carl a hug, everyone including me laughing about my blunder.

Carl (on the left) and Lonnie

The annual trek to Seven Silver Seas, commonly referred to as the Purple Store, happened at 11:00 am. I didn’t go this year, not wanting to be tempted to buy something that I don’t need.

While some of the ladies were shopping at the Purple Store, I did some reading. I started reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” before leaving on vacation. I hadn’t picked up the book since.  By the way I am STILL reading “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  I am enjoying the book; however, I keep finding something to do to take me away from my reading!

In the middle of the afternoon Bob and I walked to Market Square, where we stopped at Rock-N-Robins for ice cream and then did some window shopping.

The ice cream at Rock-N-Robins is delicious.

While window shopping, a promotion for T-shirts caught my eye.  We ended up purchasing two Magic T-shirts for each of our granddaughters.  Magic T-Shirts have designs that are black and white indoors and burst into color in the sun. They return to black and white without the sun.  The design we chose was butterfly wings.  We gave the T-Shirts to the girls at their 5th birthday party on May 27th.

We ate dinner at Bogarts Restaurant in Waynesville. It was our first time at this restaurant. Our rib-eye steak sandwiches were very good, as was the sweet potato fries (for me) and onion rings (for Bob). This restaurant (and the ribeye steak sandwiches) were recommended to us by “Skid”, one of our motorcycling friends.  Thank you, “Skid”.  Dinner was delicious!

The Southeast Vulcan Riders and Owners Club (SEVROC) motorcycle rally wrapped up in the evening with a raffle and 50/50.  I will share photographs from the raffle in a later blog post.

We said goodbye to everyone before turning in early for the night. We plan to begin our drive home the next day no later than 7:00 am.

Maggie Valley, NC to Townsend, TN and Back

We spent the week of May 14th on vacation in Virginia and North Carolina. I have been uploading blog posts about our vacation since May 29th. This blog post is about our fifth day of vacation.

I awakened at 6:15 am on Thursday, May 18, and was showered and dressed for the day by 6:50 am.

At 7:30 am we went to breakfast at Pop’s Grits & Eggs, which is located next door to A Holiday Motel.  This was our second breakfast at Pop’s in as many days. As we entered the restaurant two of our VROC friends, Lonnie and Rick,  saw Bob and me and invited us to join them at their table. Bob and I ordered Western Omelets for breakfast. The food and conversation was great. As we were leaving the restaurant three more VROC friends — Jim, Tim and Paul, came in for breakfast. We chatted briefly, before exiting the restaurant.

Bob and I made plans the previous night to join “Skid” in a group ride.

“Skid”, at A Holiday Motel, preparing for the group ride

We departed A Holiday Motel around 9:30 am en route Townsend TN.  The ride that we left on is referred to as “the Townsend Loop”.  The Townsend Loop ride originates in Maggie Valley NC and travels via Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Route 441), Old TN-73 and Lamar Alexander Parkway to Townsend.  Townsend is a lunch stop.  Then the ride continues to (and on) the Tail of the Dragon and back to Maggie Valley.  When we attended SEVROC in 2015, Bob and I went on this ride.  More than 20 people participated in the ride in 2015.  This year our group ride consisted of only five people: “Skid” and Sandy, “Bass Man”, and Bob and I.  “Skid” and “Bass Man” rode their motorcycles, with “Skid” in the lead.  Sandy rode in the car with Bob and me.  I drove; Bob sat in the backseat.

Our first stop was at Newfound Gap, on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

Newfound Gap is a mountain pass located near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the state line crosses the gap.
Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap
Taking in the scenic view from Newfound Gap
What a gorgeous view from Newfound Gap!
Our Townsend Loop group, minus one — Me!

Our second stop was at Smokin’ Joe’s Bar-B-Que in Townsend TN.  We arrived at the restaurant shortly before noon.  The restaurant wasn’t busy.  We were seated immediately and lunch orders taken.  I remembered how good the hush puppies were from lunch 2 years ago, so we asked for a large order of hush puppies.  Bob ordered a salad with some kind of meat BBQ.  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich.  Our main lunch entrees were OK; the hush puppies were just as good as I remembered them.

After lunch Bob, Sandy and I parted ways with “Skid” and “Bass Man”. The motorcyclists left to ride The Tail of the Dragon, before returning to Maggie Valley. Bob, Sandy and I went to Gatlinburg and then returned to Maggie Valley via U.S. Route 441.  If we had spotted somewhere to park in Gatlinburg, we would have stopped and walked around a bit.  We didn’t see any parking, so we didn’t stop.  As we drove through the city, we did see some damage from the November 2016 wildfires.  We saw more fire damage from U.S. Route 441.

Fire Damage from Nov. 2016 Wildfires
U.S. Route 441 (TN)
Fire Damage from Nov. 2016 Wildfires
This is the same stop as above, but a close-up of the mountain on the right is shown.
Sandy and I at Chimney Tops Overlook
U.S. Route 441 (TN)

According to the Nashville Public Radio website article , the November 2016 wildfires started November 23 in the Chimney Tops area and turned deadly five days later.  Fourteen people were killed; more than 175 people were injured; and at least 2,400 structures were damaged.  Two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson in connection with the wildfires.

We made one additional stop before returning to Maggie Valley.  Less than 1/2 mile south of Newfound Gap, we turned off U.S. Route 441 onto Clingmans Dome Road.  We followed Clingmans Dome Road to a parking lot.

Clingmans Dome Informational Sign

We were not willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the observation tower shown on the informational sign.  I did take a picture, though, that looked like Bob and Sandy were on their way up the trail to the observation tower.  I took this photograph to tease “Skid”, to let him think that Sandy climbed that trail.  “Skid” wasn’t fooled.

Bob and Sandy on the trail leading to Clingmans Dome

We didn’t have to climb that steep trail, though, to enjoy scenic vistas.

View from Clingmans Dome parking lot
View from Clingmans Dome parking lot
View from Clingmans Dome parking lot

Bob, Sandy and I made it back to A Holiday Motel (home base for the Southeast Vulcan Riders and Owners (SEVROC) motorcycle rally) shortly after “Skid” and “Bass Man” made it back from their ride on the Tail of the Dragon.

Rather than go out, Bob and I ate leftovers for dinner.  Later in the evening we socialized with our VROC friends, before calling it a night.  I called it a night much sooner than Bob did!

Unique places to visit

Day trips, hiking, biking, vacations

Chambers on the Road

RV, other Travels and Home Life in Retirement


A safari to (re)discover Strasbourg

Enjoying Life In New Ways

The Frog and PenguINN

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Bicycling the beauty around us

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The World according to Dina

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My Mommy's Place

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Deep Thoughts

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Rambling On

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Talk and Chatter

Reviews, talk, and fun

Senior Moments

The random musings of a fairly active Tennessee retiree

Pics & Pieces

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