Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Southwest Virginia

November 11th, 2013

Last September I made my annual 12 hour drive to Fries, Virginia’s remote mountain cabin. I made it to the cabin, sans phone service, by 9:30pm. I drove directly to the BP station at the top of the hill, and they’d gotten rid of the pay phone since my last visit. Thankfully an employee allowed me to use her phone in order to let Glen know I made it safely.

Being able to get away to spend time in nature is important me spiritually. I appreciate the level of quiet, and to follow the sounds of leaves rustling in the wind coming down the valley, or the brook babbling as it passes over the river rocks. It’s a special feeling to be away from the world, yet closer than Him. This is time to really commit myself to study the Gospel I lay in bed at the cabin trying to decipher a pounding sound, and after a little while, realized it was my heart beat! It’s also so dark at night that it hurts the eyes seeking to focus on something when they can’t see your hand in front of your nose.

Let me share with you the art of waking in the deep woods. First: open your eyes. If you can’t see your hand in front of your nose, close them again. Second: Once you can see something exhale. If you can’t see your breath, stay in bed. LOL!

Eventually, I got out of bed, and after having my hot chocolate I opened the front door to see a pair of deer looking back at me. They had such a funny look, as if they were saying “It’s about time you got up, we’ve been standing here waiting to welcome you for a good hour.” LOL They weren’t in a rush to run off and just enjoyed the morning dew covered grass while I enjoyed my hot chocolate.

I chose to walk the 1/3 mile through the woods to the New River and hang a left towards Fries Junction Bridge. The river was rushing over the shoals, and Canadian geese were flying down river honking all the way. Some mornings I would wake to wild turkeys in the yard. They took off once I open the door. Imagine the wing power, and sound created, to lift 15-20lbs of turkey into the air and into the trees! It was impressive. Marvelous are His works!!

I hike many miles along Virginia’s New River Trail. At 36-miles long, it’s one of America’s premier rail-to-trails along the oldest river in the United States. The New River Trail is very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. If you hiked it in its entirety, you could expect to see cavernous tunnels, steep dams, the historical Shot Tower and trestle bridges, including the impressive 950-foot Hiawassee trestle. I’m in my glory hiking this trail.

Overlooking the New River is the historic Shot Tower which was built more than 150 years ago to make ammunition for the firearms for the early settlers. Lead from the nearby Austinville Mines was melted in a kettle atop the 75-foot tower and poured through a sieve, falling through the tower and an additional 75-foot shaft beneath the tower into a kettle of water. For a small fee, guests may ascend the tower. But this time I’ve usually done enough walking!

I also enjoy driving to Mabry Mill. Located on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s been photographed and painted many times, and you can see why by the photos. Mabry Mill was originally built in 1910, and the historic water-powered grist mill, sawmill and nearby blacksmith shop provide a good view of pioneer life along the Parkway. Self-guided tours include a sorghum mill, soap making kettle, and an “old time” whiskey still being demonstrated by costumed volunteers.

I came across Mabry Mill by sheer luck on my first visit. I was out driving in search of cell phone service and found it at the mill. Today, as I did the first time, I enjoyed a great day of hiking and visiting the Mill before enjoying a delicious buckwheat cake breakfast at the Mabry Mill Restaurant.

You might be interested in some other places I’ve gone to on previous trips to southwest Virginia that I find interesting.

Virginia City Gem Mine was atop Walker Mountain near Wytheville. Treasure hunters young and old could spend time sifting through the mining past of this 1880s-style frontier town by panning for precious gems. There was sluice mining, picnicking, gift shopping, and exploring the history of gems were all part of the attraction. Sadly, this historic attraction was a victim of the economy and has been foreclosed. The scenery was beautiful and well worth the drive. I had a blast getting to sift through the sand to find minerals, gems and fossils, from a bucket I brought at the store.

Fairy Stone State Park, the largest of Virginia’s six original state parks, is home to “fairy stones.” These rare mineral crosses and the park’s scenic beauty, rich history and ample recreational opportunities make it a regional favorite. The 4,639 acres that make up the park were donated by the owner of the Roanoke Times newspaper in 1933. The Civilian Conservation Corps originally built the park and its lake and many structures that are still in use today.

The Legend of the Fairy Stone: Many hundreds of years before Chief Powhatan’s reign, fairies were dancing around a spring of water, playing with naiads and wood nymphs, when an elfin messenger arrived from a city far away. He brought news of the death of Christ. When these creatures of the forest heard the story of the crucifixion, they wept. As their tears fell upon the earth, they crystallized to form beautiful crosses.

For years people held superstitions beliefs about these little crosses, firmly believing that they protected the wearer against witchcraft, sickness, accidents and disaster. Fairy stones are staurolite, a combination of silica, iron and aluminum. Staurolite crystallizes at 60 or 90 degree angles, hence the stone’s cross-like structure. Found only in rocks once subjected to great heat and pressure, the mineral was formed long, long ago, during the rise of the Appalachian Mountains. I purchased a couple as gifts when I was there.

At Wolf Creek Indian Village & Museum, in Bastian, VA, I experienced a re-created Village based on an actual archeological site. The village has been carbon dated to be nearly 800 years old, or around the year 1215 A.D. The site was very carefully excavated, mapped, and documented. It’s been recreated so visitors can experience the actual layout of the wigwams and palisade. Knowledgeable interpretive guides lead me through a hands-on exploration of the early living skills and skills that the Indians still use today. Museum displays include artifacts from the site and other artifacts and replicas from not only Southwest Virginia, but also all of North America. There’s a museum Store, picnic areas, picnic shelter, and nature trails. It didn’t take much time to see, but it was interesting how they excavated and the guides were very good at answering questions and demonstrating the skills.

And for my fellow Civil War affectionados, I visited the tranquil and beautiful place known as Laurel Hill. Birthplace of Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart, one of the most celebrated heroes of the Civil War, is nestled beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains in Ararat, NC. General Stuart once wrote in a letter to his brother in 1863 “I would give anything to make a pilgrimage to the old place, and when the war is over quietly spend the rest of my days there.” Tragically, on May 12th, 1864 his dream of returning to Laurel Hill ended with his death as a result of the wound he received during the engagement at Yellow Tavern the previous day.

In celebration of the life of General Stuart, the Trust sponsors a Civil War re-enactment each year on the first full weekend in the month of October. I haven’t been there for it, but I’ve heard it’s very well received.

I try to visit the Big Walker Lookout whenever I’m in the area. At an elevation of 3,405 feet, Big Walker Lookout affords one of the most spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains. Looking out over the patterned farms of Virginia in one direction and the untouched wilderness in another, it’s hard to believe that the views are real. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an 100′ observation tower. On a clear day, you’ll even be able to see five states, and I have, but today was too foggy to see 5 states today so I headed for downtown.

The Edith Bolling Wison Birthplace opened since my previous visits into Wytheville and I was interested in visiting. She was #7 of 11 children. Both grandparents lived with them and 26 canaries and several dogs. Can you imagine the noise?! She is a direct decendant of Pocahontas and Martha Washington. All 11 children went to college. She was married to a jeweler in DC and after her husband died, she bought herself the first electris car in DC and drove herself to work. Even after marrying, and becoming first lady, she kept the store.

When President Wilson took an immediate liking to the intelligent, charming, and pretty widow (and a descendant of Pocahontas) Edith upon their meeting. He proposed to her saying, “in this place time is not measured by weeks, or months, or years, but by deep human experiences …” They were married on December 18, 1915, at her home in Washington, DC, only nine months after their first meeting.

She became the first First Lady to travel to Europe during her incumbency. She accompanied the President on two separate occasions to visit troops and sign the Treaty of Versailles. Her presence among the queens and other women royalty of Europe put the position of First Lady on an equivalent standing, thus helping to define the uniquely American role in an international context.

And in October of 1919, when President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. It was during this time that Edith Bolling Wilson was referred to as “The Secret President” and “The First Woman President.” Very interesting!

By this time I was hungry enough to venture into Skeeter’s World Famous Hot Dogs. Skeeter’s is a very old restaurant in downtown Wytheville. As you can see from the photo, there are interesting signs and pictures that provide an interesting glimpse of what the restaurant looked like 60 or 70 years ago. Honestly, the hot dogs are average, as is the service, but I go for the experience.

I hadn’t been to Beagle Ridge Herb Farm. Last time I was in the area I wasn’t there on the right day of the week as they are open only Thursday- Sunday. Sadly, I’m just missing the Monarch Tagging event by 1 week. That would have been fun. I understood they had vegetable gardens, herbs, and hiking trails, but it was a glorified garden. Their farm building houses their herbal line of products including soap, lotions and a variety of dried flowers, tea, potpourri and of course, Lavender. Getting there was awful, the road was a rough dirt road so bad I think I need a chiropractic adjustment now.

On previous visits I had eaten at the historic Log House 1776 Restaurant while in Wytheville. It’s a charming and unique restaurant set in an authentic log house. The oldest room dates from 1776, when the owner had to interrupt construction to go fight the Revolutionary war. It was home to a freed slave and a furniture factory before it became a restaurant. I’ve spent time exploring the many rooms decorated with everything from local Indian relics to log cabin quilts to contemporary kitsch. Little gardens even appear unexpectedly. Stopping for dinner at the Log House is a painless history lesson served up with good food.

I hope you have a chance to appreciate some of the beautiful, historical places America has to offer. (See photos on http://emiling.com/photos/southwest-virginia/ )




Four Football Fans

November 10th, 2013

A Redskins fan, an Eagles fan, a Cowboys fan, and a Giants fan are climbing a mountain and arguing about who loves his team more.

The Redskins fan insists he is the most loyal. ‘This is for the Redskins!” he yells, and jumps off the side of the mountain.

Not to be outdone, the Eagles fan shouts, ‘This is for the Eagles!’ and throws himself off the mountain.

The Giants fan is next to profess his love for his team. He yells, ‘This is for everyone!’ and pushed the Cowboys fan off the mountain.

Those Crazy Christians

November 10th, 2013

Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17

As I’m getting ready for church this morning I have TBN on in the background and heard the song “Those Crazy Christians.” The song is written from the point of view of someone baffled by people of faith. It caught my interest.

Most puzzling to the skeptic in the song is not faith itself, but the actions that such faith produces. Things such as mission trips to dangerous regions, baptism, hospital visits to strangers, sobriety, forgiveness of atrocities, etc. It must look insane, yet inspiring to watch, to someone who is agnostic.

The most powerful examples of someone’s faith in action that I can think of aren’t hands raised in the air, or shouts of hallelujah. It’s the church members gathered around my patient’s bedside as he breathed his last, and how they took shifts around the clock with his family in the last week while he fought for his life and lost.

It’s the family, who donate the majority of their time to charity. It’s my sister, who found her purpose in fighting for the cause of relief in Haiti, taking multiple trips there to co-found Haitian Artisans for Peace International to lift up the poor. It’s my brother dedicating his life to pastor according to God’s will.

These are only a few the people who inspire me. Not someone telling me how they think it is. No fire and brimstone sermon ever did diddly-squat to strengthen my faith. It’s all about the action.

Spirit of Thankfulness

November 8th, 2013

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Philippians 4:12

Imagine visiting a man who was wealthy and successful, the envy of all his friends and business associates. But as you talked, he broke down in tears, confessing that he was miserable inside.

Then imagine visiting another man who lived only a few miles away from the wealthy man. His small home was humble, and he had almost nothing in the way of this world’s possessions. Yet his face was radiant as he told about the work he was doing for Christ and how Christ had filled his life with meaning and purpose. Wouldn’t you walk away convinced that the second man was really the richer man? Although he had very little, he had learned to be thankful for everything God had given him.

A Spirit of thankfulness makes all the difference. This month is Thanksgiving, why not make a list of something you’re thankful for each day.

Sister Barbara

November 8th, 2013

Sitting by the window of her convent, Sister Barbara opened a letter from home one evening. Inside the letter was a $100 bill her parents had sent.

Sister Barbara smiled at the gesture. As she read the letter by the window, she noticed a shabbily dressed stranger leaning against the lamp post below.

Quickly, she wrote, “Don’t despair. Sister Barbara,” on a piece of paper, wrapped the $100 bill in it, got the man’s attention and tossed it out the window to him.

The stranger picked it up, and with a puzzled expression and a tip of his hat, went off down the street.

The next day, Sister Barbara was told that a man was at their door, insisting on seeing her. She went down, and found the stranger waiting. Without a word, he handed her a huge wad of $100 bills.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“That’s the $8,000 you have coming, Sister,” he replied. “Don’t Despair paid 80-to-1.”


Loveable loser Delivery Man

November 7th, 2013

Last night I attended an advanced screening of Delivery Man, the story of affable underachiever David Wozniak, whose mundane life is turned upside down when he finds out he fathered 533 children through sperm donations he made 20 years ago. In debt to the mob and rejected by his pregnant girlfriend, things couldn’t get much worse when he’s hit with a lawsuit from 142 of the 533 children who want to know the identity of the donor. As David struggles with whether or not he should reveal his identity, he embarks on a journey that leads him to discover how he is and the father he could become.

Delivery Man tries to be a feel-good movie with ample sentiment, yet parts of it come off as manipulative with unrealistic silly plotlines, the movie comes to an ending straight out of a Disney movie. The movie indulges in clichés and Vaughn’s typical crude slacker humor a bit heavily in the beginning. That made it a bit difficult for me to believe in his ultimate transformation.

Whatever success Delivery Man has will be attributed to the lead performance by Vince Vaughn who plays David with a balance of good-natured loser, sarcastic New Yorker and eventually troubled guy trying to do the right thing.

With appealing actors, and a handful of scenes that will tug at heartstrings, Delivery Man will leave audiences with a grin. It’s not a movie that’s made to change your view on life or anything like that, but if you need a cheesy feel-good, and you don’t mind some crude language, you’ll have fun watching Delivery Man.

This movie is rated PG-13 due to brief violence and language, as well as some drug content.


The Book Thief Will Steal Your Heart

November 6th, 2013

Last night I attended the “The Book Thief” movie premier. Narrated by Death, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken at age 9 to live with a foster family in a German working-class neighborhood. Liesel arrives having just stolen her first book, “The Gravediggers Handbook” which will be the beginning of a love affair with books.

Built around the external drama of the war and its consequences, is Lisel’s discovery of reading and books. Words are a valuable commodity in her ravaged society, and the care paid by the filmmakers and actors to accentuate the importance of stories to Lisel’s survival makes this movie all the more compelling. The cinematography, editing, and script are all excellent as well. John Williams’ soundtrack flowed seamlessly throughout, as it did with War Horse and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Sophie Melisse gives a terrific first time performance as young Liesel. Her blonde hair, wide blue eyes and ability to speak English and German create a truly outstanding, and heart-warming performance. I’m certain we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future. Geoffrey Rush, as her father, is absolutely fantastic. Rush worked extremely well with the new up and coming actress, their chemistry is flawless and the scenes they were onscreen together were mesmerizing. Emily Watson is also superb as the mother working to suppress emotion while holding everything together. Her character reminded me a lot of Watson’s character in War Horse, and is worthy of an Academy Award for Supporting Actress.

The Book Thief is a serious drama, not meant for young children. I feel it was excellently crafted and perhaps a good movie to see with older children as a way to begin a discussion of World War II and the Holocaust.

I haven’t read the book. I overheard a few people talking afterwards how the book had so much more detail for their imagination to fill in the blanks, and the film does not. But what do you expect when you’re adapting a five hundred and fifty page book into a two hour movie? I was not disappointed at all, I just wish I’d taken tissues.


Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park

November 5th, 2013

This morning I uploaded photos from my recent trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.  For those that haven’t visited before, Acadia National Park is located on the rugged coastline of Maine and is the only national park in the New England area. It’s unique because the 47,000 acre park encompasses ocean, forest, lakes as well as the tallest mountain on the east coast of the US. There are also many small towns within the confines of the park to explore. (www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm)

I fell for the seaside mystique of Bar Harbor right away. There’s something for everyone, but it’s not over-run with cheesy tourism either. In Bar Harbor (I didn’t get to) you can check the tide schedules and walk across to Bar Island, – just make sure you don’t get stranded once the tide comes in! Instead I had the obligatory lobster roll, walked the beach, walked the Shore Path and enjoyed discovering Bar Harbor until I caught the Island Explorer bus that would take me to Acadia National Park. (The Island Explorer is a FREE shuttle service. The eight routes link visitors from hotels and campgrounds to  hiking trails,        carriage  roads, island beaches, and in-town shops and restaurants. If you visit Acadia this is a must, if I had driven I would have missed some of what I saw by riding this shuttle.)

I rode past Sand Beach to see the drama of Thunder Hole. I then made a connection on the Southwest Harbor bus to take the Ship Harbor and Bass Harbor Lighthouse hike. It was a VERY long, hot hike. The bus rode past a lot of small towns that would be interesting to explore if I’d had the time.

Sunday morning I drove into town early to get my ticket for the whale watching cruise, but it was canceled due to weather. So I hopped on the Island Explorer Park Loop. I stopped at Wildwood stables just long enough to get a couple pictures of the beautiful horses getting ready for carriage rides. If It didn’t start raining I would have hiked some of the carriage trails. Instead, I went to Jordan Pond Path to hike and hoped for better weather.

The Jordan Pond House (www.thejordanpondhouse.com) is a lakeside dining tradition dating back to the 1800’s and is famous for the popovers. I didn’t have a reservation, therefore I didn’t get a popover. They smelled good! The Jordan Pond Path was 3.3 miles around the circumference of Jordan Pond. It offered amazing views, but also the challenge of climbing over boulders and balancing on narrow log plank boardwalk. I highly recommend good footwear.

The weather started to turn so I only made one more stop and that was to take the hike to Bubble Rock. It was a little more steep and I wouldn’t recommend you do it when it’s raining. But the view was breathtaking. To see the rock perched perfectly after being deposited by a glacier and it’s just sitting there. I’m glad I got the picture.   But, the temperature was dropping quickly along with the rain so I made the decision to come home. After stopping for a bite at Mainely Meat, of course. If you go to Bar Harbor stop for the BBQ … YUM!

Hope you enjoyed this addition of my journey.


Birthday Special

November 4th, 2013

A man turning 100 decided to do something special for himself. So Saul booked himself a first class ticket to San Francisco, and booked a suite in the fanciest hotel in on the waterfront. Upon his arrival the concierge met him at the door and walked him to the suite. The concierge told Saul to feel free to contact him for any special birthday needs. A couple hours after getting settled, Saul heard a knock on the door. He opened the door and there was a lovely woman standing there. Saul asked, “May I help you?” The woman replied, “The concierge sent me to offer you super sex for your birthday.” “GREAT” Saul exclaimed, “please tell him I’ll have the soup!”

Splendor of Fall

November 4th, 2013

Valley colors.jpg

Like myself, many people are drawn to fall colors. Fall colors are warm, vibrant,  and inviting. It makes me  wonder how appealing I am as a Christian?  Do other people gravitate to me because I am a warm, vibrant, and inviting  person?

There’s just something about the trees that are full  of extraordinary red leaves glistening in the sun. They stick out and  you notice them. Red brings up the thought of passion. No matter where we  are in our Christian walk, we should stick out in a good way. We should reflect all that  brilliance of Christ.

The color orange is so beautiful in the fall leaves, but in those beautiful pumpkins as well.  Orange reflects warmth and symbolizes thoughtfulness and sincerity. As  Christians we should be that warm inviting  person that cares about others.

But when I think about the colors of Fall, yellow is my favorite. The yellow color of  fall just makes me happy. I really like yellow/gold. Yellow conjures up joy and cheerfulness. If we aren’t cheerful as Christians, other people won’t want what we  have. If we have Christ, we should have joy in our hearts and that joy  should reflect out through us.

There’s also a lot of brown in the midst of the  bright fall colors. If there wasn’t, I doubt if the other colors would be so brilliant. Brown represents  stability and it anchors the other beautiful colors of fall. Christ is our anchor. Others can see if we are living for Christ and depending on Him  in our lives. It comes out in our actions and behavior.

Our “colors” matter. How we act  and behave is what people see when they look at us. I hope I portray vibrancy and warmth so that  people will want to get to know me and learn about Christ through me.


Let’s Hit Vegas!

November 4th, 2013

Last week I went to an advanced screening of Last Vegas. It’s about three sixty-something friends taking a break from their day-to-day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. 

Billy (Michael Douglas), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) have been best friends since childhood. Fifty-eight years later, the inseparable Flatbush Four had gone their owns ways. But when Billy, the group’s sworn bachelor, finally proposes to his girlfriend, the four head to Las Vegas with a plan to stop acting their age and relive their glory days. However, the four quickly realize that the decades have transformed Vegas and tests their friendship in ways they never imagined. The Rat Pack may have once played the Sands, Cirque du Soleil may now rule the Strip, but it’s these four who are take over Vegas!

Sometimes when a movie loads up with a lot of big name stars, it usually is compensating for something the film is lacking. I’m happy to say that this isn’t the case for this film. I left the theater surprised at how charming and sweet it was. It’s not only a celebration of friendship, but sets a great example that just because someone is growing old, they aren’t dead.

Michael Douglas plays Billy. He looks like the typical rich Californian with his expensive house and wardrobe. He has a ridiculously younger gorgeous girlfriend. The only thing I didn’t like about Douglas’ character was his awful orange spray tan, but I think it was the film’s point because his buddies were commenting on it. Paddy, played by Robert De Niro, has lingering issues with Billy. This is the major conflict in the movie. Billy has to redeem himself and Paddy has to forgive him.

Along for the ride is Kevin Kline as Sam and Morgan Freeman as Archie. To me, these guys really stole the show. Sam was a bit awkward and naive, but he was a sweet guy.  Morgan Freeman is the last of the Flatbush Four. He plays Archie. He’s a retired Air Force veteran that lives with his overbearing son. He has to live on a strict regimen of medication schedules. Like a lot of older people, he can’t drink, eat salt, or enjoy a lot of things. Freeman plays Archie great as he finally gets to live life like his younger self and uses Vegas as an excuse. All the characters learn valuable life lessons that only this trip could teach them.

What makes Last Vegas such a nice movie is that instead of making fun of older people it shows respect. Last Vegas doesn’t depict them as dumb or burdens to society. Instead it shows that just because people’s bodies have grown old, their hearts and minds are still young.  It’s a funny movie for all age groups. Adults will love the honest depiction and probably relate to a lot of things like the loss of a spouse or the relationships with their grown kids. Younger audiences will simply love the story and hope they grow up to be as cool as the Flatbush Four.

I recommend Last Vegas as a funny, charming movie with a lot of heart that celebrates what it means to get older. Enjoy!

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.