October 19th, 2009

snorkel me

The New Newport News News: Virginia Beach edition


          We went to Virginia Beach, much changed and civilized since our honeymoon there in March 1972.  Ron got a hotel with a balcony, right on the beach.  It was cold, but we left the French doors open a bit at night to hear the surf.

          Our first stop was the Virginia Aquarium.  Although under construction in some parts, we enjoyed learning about our riparian/ tidal environs.  There is an exhibit which takes you “underwater” along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  You walk down a ramp next to a huge fish tank, which gets deeper and deeper, simulating walking on the seafloor as it deepens.  Sea critters living in each level are easy to see.  This opens into a room with a petting tank of rays.  These are much smoother and smaller than the bat rays of Sea World in CA.

          There are volunteers throughout the museum with touchy-feely exhibits, e.g., a sting ray tail.  It has hooks like teeth around the tip.

          We also enjoyed an Imax 3-D movie about creatures of the seas around the world, narrated by Johnny Depp, of all people.  He’s everywhere these days.  The 3-D was actually quite good.  As we get older, we take in more sit-down stuff like Imax, as well as taking tea in the afternoon.  Sometimes coffee in the morning.  We just need more sit-down time, alas.  But so civilized.

          All-in-all, the exhibits are well displayed, so you can get close-up.  There are many hands-on parts as well as places to sit and stare at the huge fish tanks.  The lunch room is reasonably priced; we had fish and chips.  We did wonder if we were eating the deceased from the tanks.

          We finished up around 4 pm and went on to the hotel, where we looked out over the ocean as the sun set behind us.  Fishing/pleasure boats were racing in to port before dark and a few brave souls were walking on the frigid sand.

          We were brave enough to walk the boardwalk to go to supper.  Ron had done research on TripAdvisor.com, so we went to Timbuktu, right on the beach.  He had roast duck in plum sauce and I had fresh Penne Primavera.  We started with crab dip and had yummy bread too.

          We noted the broad beach, as opposed to the amount of beach we remember from 1972.  VA Beach dredges the shallows and brings the sand up to the broad concrete “boardwalk.”  They maintain this as a buffer for hurricanes, so that the hotels can build tall without so much risk of being destroyed.  The boardwalk dates from 1981.  I can remember stories from my high school days, when one of my teachers told us how her front porch had been carried off by a hurricane.  There are no houses that close to the beach now.  And the hotels are no longer allowed to keep large swaths of the beach as private for their guests only.  We used to have to search long and hard for the public beach access when I was a girl.  (It used to be a 3 hour drive to VA Beach in my youth; thanks, Mom, for all that driving and patience.  Some of my grandest memories are of the ocean.)

          Walking to the hotel after dinner, we stopped into a gas station and bought baked sugar-and-grease in various forms for breakfast.

          Next morning, we ate the above with in-room coffee and dozed around awhile.  We then walked down the beach to the Seatack Life-saving Station—now Coast Guard.  Seatack either comes from people yelling “Sea attack!” or from sailors who counted the Chesapeake as the place where they had to tack to get out to sea. 

(Tacking consists of sailing back and forth toward the direction of the wind.  You catch the wind on either side in turn, allowing the wind to draw the boat along with the lift created by the shape of the sails.  Square rigged vessels must tack frequently to sail toward the wind, as they cannot sail closer than as much as 90 degrees.  By contrast, a fore-and-aft rig like ours can go as close as 35 degrees.)

We had a very detailed tour of the facility by a retired Naval officer, who had much information to tell us, but did not want to listen to the things we had to teach him. 

With our brains full, and short of sleep, we headed home for a nap, feeling like we’d been gone a week, not a day and a half.

cMarch 2009 Carol Kerr Buckles




Geese V

The New Newport News News: Newport News in Winter edition


Ron bought me a nice easel for my birthday and then we found a really fancy wood one in an antique store for not too much $$, so he bought me that one too.  For Christmas, he got me wonderful water colors from
Germany (you know the Germans; they always make good stuff.)  The only problem is that his guitars are crowding my art studio.  He says my easels are crowding his music studio.  It IS the library.  Cashmere and Tanger like this room when we're in here and say that, since BOF (Bringer of Food) is not an artist and POP (Provider of Play) is not a musician, then we should sit down and make laps.
          A blue heron just flew by, inches above the water.  We have Mersanger ducks, which are considered rare, but there are many here locally.  Last night, we saw 2 deer out in the poquoson, which explains how they get from shore to shore.  I thought their sharp little feet might sink into the swamp mud, but there are enough reeds and roots for them to leap about.

This morning, there is ice on the banks of the creek and a cold wind blowing.  We have a fire in the library.  Today, we’re on our way up to Richmond for art supplies and music stores. 

Last Friday, my nephews [Sam and Jim Kerr] and I went to Norfolk on the trail of art and music.  Norfolk is not a driver friendly town, being built on rivers, lakes and inlets, and we found navigation a nightmare.  First, when we finally got to the art store of Sam’s dreams, it was permanently closed.  We were unable to find a way to come back around to see if they had a note on the door.  Abandoning hope, we decided to have lunch, but when we tried to turn into a Popeye’s chicken place, there was a no-left-turn sign and the road veered to the right and went over a bridge with no hope of turning back.  Eventually, we got turned around, but could not find that street; we drove past a Burger King—not the boy’s fave—and Sam’s car began to overheat, needing oil.  We came back to BK, parked and walked in.  A big banner sign said “Angry Burger” --perfect for Sam’s mood.  We sat an hour, drinking heavily, and talking.  When the car was cool, Sam added the oil he’d brought with, and we set out for the music store.  It was closed forever as well.  Grateful that we’d had this chance to drive 50 miles to have lunch, we headed home.

Wednesday, we three went to the Virginia Living Museum (VLM).  Jim heads back to VA Tech this Sunday, so we’re packing in as much fun as we can before he goes.  VLM is a wonderful museum full of living dioramas of VA wildlife by zone—ocean, tidal, fall line and mountain.  Jim used to work there as a volunteer and is full of information.  They have just reopened the planetarium there and we went to a show “Oasis in Space” re: water in the Solar system.  There’s more water out there than I realized.  I would have called the show “Oasis in Spaces” because I cannot resist a rhyme.

The museum also has outdoor trails, with habitat for gray wolves, gray and red foxes, coyotes (bigger than I have ever seen them; zoo life agrees with them, I guess), eagles (unable to live in the wild), as well as an aviary for all types of shore birds.  For some reason, zoo animals always “go” when I walk up.  The herons were particularly impressive, since they eat fish.  We also saw a beaver swimming about, but we could not find the otters.  I guess they are in an otter hut for the winter, but it did give me the chance to remind Jim to “do unto otters as you would have them do unto you.”

I really hate wolves.  They scare me on a visceral level and I take phrases like “wolves in the streets” seriously.  So did Dr. Zhivago.  The pack at VLM kept looking at ME thinking how wonderful it would be to kill me and rip me to pieces and snarl over the remains.  I know that was what they were thinking.  Yes, they were so thinking that.

Hanging out with my nephews is the next best thing to being with Andrew and Simon.  Blood is thicker than water and sense of humor is genetic. 

cCarol Kerr Buckles, Winter 2009

Ocean Wake




My white sails fly

Among the gallant shapes above.

Sea gulls cry

Like us they like to sail.

Blue meets blue

Along the distant line ahead.

Tears are forgotten, if ever they were shed.


We love the sea

As others glory in their homes.

Them and me—

We’ll sail forevermore!

And when we die,

Our death will be upon the sea:

Our lives- the sea life;

Our death’s so free from strife.


The wind may blow;

Our sails will billow in the breeze.

Then we’ll go

Where e’re the wind may lead.

We’ll follow on

Across the wild and restless sea.

We’ll follow always

For all our restless days.

snorkel me

New Newport News News: New Year 2009 edition


Mercifully, most of what we did on this trip was visit with family and friends over the New Year’s holiday week.  And, for most of you, that would be tedious torture indeed.

But I do want to tell you about the Gray [TN] Fossil Museum and dig site.  During road construction a few years back, the backhoes turned up some ancient fossil bones.  They turned out to be 4-7 million years old.  The governor got $8 million and also had the road diverted and the dig began.  It was discovered that the animals had been trapped in a pit made when a cave collapsed and created a lake.  The lake held alligators, turtles, fish, that have been uncovered so far.  Tennessee was obviously a great deal warmer then than now; it’s that global warming.

East Tennessee State University—incidentally, where Ron started his college career—developed a paleontology program.  Students and volunteers now dig throughout the summer season and do lab work through the winter, in the time honored tradition.  So far, only 5-10% of the site has been excavated and they are still working in a test trench.  They have discovered 2 new species, a tapir and a red panda.  Ironically, the Knoxville zoo 100 miles down the road specializes in modern red pandas.

The museum is state of the art, especially set up for school age children, but appealing also to the rest of us.  They often have traveling exhibits and docents will take tours to the dig site, when it is active.  And there is a first rate store, with T-shirts for sale unusually inexpensively.  Also, one of the volunteers makes tiny tapirs out of Fimo and sells them for $3.

The other thing I have to report is the existence, just down the road from Gray, the S&M Amusement Co.  I kid you not.


cJan 2009 Carol Kerr Buckles