Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tiny lady

The Ditch patrol is slow as the flora transition into summer but things are cookin' on the hummer front! Don't know how many we have but they're at the feeders every few minutes and I'm tired of refilling the dang things.

This little female showed up while I was setting up the other day. They aren't shy! I shot this w/o flash with the only lighting being a blazing overhead noon sun, the worst lightning there is. I started to trash it (where 95% of mine go) but it grew on me and I kinda like it. Gives her a sort of mysterious look especially when you factor in the omnipresent beady eye. The shutter speed here is 1/1,000 of a second if I recall which is no where near fast enough to freeze her wings but I like the blur as that is how we usually see them.
I frequently get asked how the heck do you get pics of these tiny guys so I'll put together a tutorial of how I do it and add some links to other sites from which I got the info. They're beyond doubt the toughest nature subject to photograph but there are some tricks and techniques that shift the odds in your favor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Late spring ditch patrol

We are in the mist of a real cool down here in VA which is unusal to say the least! Low 50's at night are right up my alley and it's the latter half of June! As I have a poor tolerance for heat, I didn't have much excuse for not going out except for the omnipresent fatigue. Yesterday I was looking for something different and selected an obscure little evergreen plant called "Spotted Wintergreen" or "Dragon's Tongue". Its scientific name is Chimaphila maculata if you care. It's about 4" tall and I usually find it at the base of Oak or Pine trees. The flowers are pink to white in color, usually in pairs and appear to be made of wax.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Spring Flora- Mountain Laurel

We are now transitioning from spring to summer flora. This is Kalmia, commonly called "Mountain Laural". Other names include: Ivybush, Calico Bush, Spoonwood and Sheep Laurel. All parts of the plant are toxic. It is generally a shrub or small tree and occasionally reaches 10' in height. Often grows in dense thickets in poor, rocky soil and usually blooms in late May thru June. Wilderness battlefield is full of the stuff which is pretty spectacular to see.

Belongs to the family Ericaceae (if you care) which includes Blueberries, Cranberries, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, native to the eastern USA, from southern Maine to northern Florida, and west to Indiana and Louisiana. All plant family names end in "aceae" (if you care). I know memorizing them sure made my life miserable in plant taxonomy.

And finally (again if you care, I sure don't) The plant was first recorded in America in 1624. It was named for Pehr Kalm, who sent samples to England in the 18th century.

Showy and spring loaded

The flowers grow in large clusters that are pretty spectacular and often weigh down the branches. Each of the 10 stamens is "spring loaded" and fits in a notch in the petal. When a bee or insect visits the flower, he "trips" the spring, ejecting pollen into the air and all over the bee which he spreads to the next flower. The stamen in the 9 o'clock position here has been "tripped".


Mt Laural is an evergreen that often grows in large clumps

State flowers

Mountain Laural is the state flower of Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Monday, June 9, 2008

2008 Bike MS 150

Some of Team BRUCE From left: Jeff Wessel, Jodi Anderson-Jones, Debbie Silbert, Mark Santschi, Phil Rice, Cameron Rice, Pam, Va. Governor Tim Kaine (Pam didn't know who he was!), Jacob Charlwood, Randy Charlwood.

As I reflect back on this year's Bike MS, a flood of
emotions come forth. I'll start off with the note I sent Jeff (the
friend who started this all 16 years ago on a miserable cold, windy
rainy weekend) and go from there.

Hey Jeff,

I do hope you are on the mend my friend! We do indeed need to find
the cure quickly before you fall totally apart! ;o) You're gonna
end up like me in that if we were horses they'd have to shoot us!

I'll ask you to pass along the following to the team as Pam says you
have every ones email which I don't.

I always dread the "day after" as I don't know what to say any more
to thank everyone. What an effort! I've been made aware that a couple
of riders had significant health issues but chose to ride anyway.
There really aren't any words for that kind of dedication!

Honestly, Saturday's ride about did me in and I wasn't even doing
anything except acting as a drag chute. It was the heat more than
anything I think. When Pam woke me Sunday AM I could hardly move
(a lot worse than usual) and it took me what seemed like forever to get
going. By the first rest stop I was thinking there was no possible
way I was going to make it but when I saw the enthusiasm of everyone
else and especially the four young riders that joined us, I made up
my mind I'd ride to the end if you all had to strap me on the
bike. I am glad I stuck it out as crossing that finish line was a
real thrill!

We're truly blessed to have a circle of friends such as this and we
couldn't ask for anything more! From that bad day in March of 1992
when we found out what we were dealing with, we've never felt like
we were in this fight alone. The Lord has met our every need and our
many friends have been there for us without fail! Although it seems
so inadequate, we want to say thank you again for everything!

We love you all!

bruce and pam

We want to thank all the riders again who come out every year and
ride in whatever nature throws at them, the many volunteers who do
whatever chores need to be done, a great compassionate staff who
spend hours in planning and finally the sponsors who donate countless
items and the rider sponsors who give their hard earned money to the
MS cause.

As I mentioned above, Jeff rode in what was then called the Va. Dare Bike
Tour in 1992, a couple months after we got the dismal diagnosis of MS.
The next year, he formed a bike team of two with another friend Ed Koch. They
called themselves "Team BRUCE" (Bikers Ride Until a Cure Exists). Jeff
has been captain ever since and has continued to add riders every year.
Am not sure exactly how many miles he's ridden on behalf of MS
but it exceeds 2000 and he has raised thousands in donations! WOW!
He keeps telling me "we gotta cure you fast or this is gonna kill me"!
In any event, you could never wish for a better friend or finer guy!
As some of you know, Jeff will be deployed overseas later
this year with the Va. National Guard so will miss the 09 ride
and I'm already in depression :-( Am sure he will be with us in spirit!

Then there's Phil who came up with a way for me to ride along over
the beautiful back roads of the Commonwealth. What a thrill! He was
able to obtain virtually everything via donation: the adult trike from
Olde Towne Bicycles in Fredericksburg and the steel with which to
make the drawbar from City Welding Service also in Fredericksburg.
He fabricated the strange looking rig in his auto body shop and, after
a little tweaking, she rides like a Cadillac! You don't have to be
around Phil and his family long to be totally overwhelmed by their love!

And there is the rest of Team BRUCE! Another WOW! I feel like
royalty as they swarm around me often at cruise speed. Jodi Anderson-
Jones and Deb Silbert making me drink that nasty sports drink,
smearing me with slimy sun bloc and dumping on ice water to cool me
down. Nettie McDougal was watching the "back door" for
traffic while Randy and Jacob Charlwood rode ahead to watch the "front door", looking for
cars, pot holes and loose gravel which are all hazards to
cyclists. And how 'bout the "engines"? Phil Rice,
Mark Santschi and Cameron Rice took turns at this very difficult
task! Other riders included Andy "the jet" Rush (this is year 10 for
him!) who can cover 20 miles in the time it takes me to get in and
out of a port-a-pottie, Bob Fogg (an old college roommate), Clay
Calvert, Ed and Glenda Robinson, Mike Foreman plus the four riders
that linked up with us on day two: Leigh Meyer, Terrance DeGray,
Eric DeGray, and Clay Tharrington. I even had a personal SAG wagon
driven by Gary and Brian Norman! How cool is that?!!
Whenever one starts naming names, there is always the danger of
missing someone but I'll do my best not to.
Rest Stop workers included the Brooks family, Bea, Robert, and
Chandra. The Armstrong's, Jack, Daneille and Robert, Jeff
Humphrey, Joanne Piper, Nancy Norman, Kathy Charlwood, Tina
Lewis, Marilyn Fogg, Phil's mom "Nana", Randy and Kay, and Ed Jones
(Jodi's husband) who donates his expertise every year as a bike mechanic. Brent and
Sherrie Hartzell came down to the finish line from Fredericksburg!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Headin' out!

We head out of rest stop #1 on day one headed for Williamsburg. Mark Santschi will pull this leg. Cycling is difficult enough on hills and against the wind in hot weather much less pulling me at 175 plus 50 #'s of bike and a steel drawbar!

2008 MS 150

Hard to imagine it took this many people to move me down the road! The four riders in yellow joined us about 45 minutes into day two and rode with us all way to Richmond! Truly angels sent from above! Phil is pulling this leg.

Richmond bound!

Underway on day two headed for Richmond about 75 miles away with two "pushers" helping out the "engine" up front against a stiff headwind. One of the givens in cycling, besides flats, is there is no such thing as a tail wind. My face is covered with zinc oxide because some idiot (me) forgot to sun screen his face. We made record time both ways this year! These guys were strokin'!