Mini-Vacation: Atlanta and Maggie Valley

After the almost single minded focus on the November election with it’s exciting conclusion, it was time for a getaway.

First stop: Atlanta and a quick visit with Andrew and Jon.

And Tela and Wilson, too.

We attended the Virginia Tech / Georgia Tech football game (my team lost …) but we also enjoyed site seeing, a little shopping (a very little), and lots of good food and drink.  Surprisingly, I didn’t take many photos, but I was pretty happy with the few shots that I did take.

After leaving Georgia, I hit the road for Maggie Valley.  Set in the mountains of North Carolina, the town is situated near the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

We enjoyed visiting the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum

and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

It was wonderful to have unplanned time to explore without a specific agenda,

and to enjoy the beauty of nature’s gifts.

Happiness!

The Perfect Recipe

The photos and stories from my trip to Atlanta are not quite ready for prime time posting, but the photos from an incredible day on the motorcycle are.  It was the perfect recipe for a day ride: great weather, good roads, and wonderful friends.

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This past Sunday I rode a little over 200 miles through the back roads of Virginia and North Carolina with three of my favs.

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We also spent some time on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) which offers wide sweeping curves and great views.  The BRP which is America’s longest linear park, runs for 469 miles (755 km) through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.

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The BRP celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary in 2010 and while I do not know for sure, I believe these stone walls have been around since the parkway was constructed.

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 You may remember that I celebrated my 50th birthday that same year with a solo ride on the BRP, the first of several solo rides.

 5 Days / 3 States / 925 Miles.

You can see photos from that incredible trip here and here.

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Despite the various stops along the way, which offer the chance to bring out the camera, it is the riding that makes the day so great.  The bike and I rolled smoothly over the miles, and we flowed through the curves with ease.  I was completely content.

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Seriously, wouldn’t you be?

It Really IS About the Bike!

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Life on the Bike and Other FabThings has been about much more than motorcycles, especially through this very cold, icy winter.  Thankfully, photography and travel are a big part of this blog, too.  Now that warmer temperatures are finally here, I can once again combine all three.

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Photo Credit: Cherie Yost

Seven bikes with ten friends riding, set out yesterday morning for Burnt Chimney, Virginia, a small community in Franklin, VA, near Smith Mountain Lake.  Led by Dave, we rode 150 miles on back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway, where this view was our reward for the ride.  You’ve heard me praise the beauty of this part of the world many times, and this photo is just a bit more evidence to support the claim.

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The next stop was Sunken City Brewing Company, a small, fairly new craft brewery near Smith Mountain Lake.

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We were all so happy to be out of the house, out of the routine, and enjoying time with friends and on the bike.

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Next stop: Mangos Bar and Grill at Smith Mountain Lake.

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We toasted a return to warm weather riding, live music, good pub food, and friendship.

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I wished I’d gotten this guy’s name.  He sure entertained the crowd, and gave me the opportunity to play with my camera.

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(this is an advanced peek at my Monochromia post for Saturday … shhhhh)

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What a great day on the bike!

We’ve built a Sunday ride into the weekend campaign schedule.  Saturdays are for knocking doors, and I’ll be on the phone making calls for four hours on Sunday evenings.

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Photo Credit: Cherie Yost

But Sunday daytime?  It’s all about the ride!

Thunder Ridge

The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is a 469 mile drive that connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and I’ve ridden every one of those miles on the bike.  In fact, I took my first solo ride on the BRP, celebrating my 50th Birthday, 4 years, and 2 cameras, ago. You can read about that ride here and here if you’d like.

Even though I’ve ridden on the BRP many times, I still see something new with each visit.

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 Yesterday’s 230 mile ride, part of which was on the BRP, included a stop at Thunder Ridge, at Milepost 75.

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A very short hike reveals a view of the Allegheny Mountains and Arnold’s Valley, elevation 3485 ft.

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The view made me think of a blanket made of mountains.

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We stood there admiring this incredible view, feeling the sun on our faces while the wind blew with gusto, and then took the trail back to the bikes.

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What an incredible gift it is to live right near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2010, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a product of the New Deal’s efforts to provide jobs to the unemployed of the Great Depression. Construction began in September 1935 at Cumberland Knob near the North Carolina and Virginia state line.

The idea was to create a link between the Shenandoah National Park to the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Completed in 1983, the Parkway’s history has been highlighted by documentarian Ken Burns in the six-part “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” series originally aired on PBS”.

Above and Below

A week or so ago, I was able to ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway with a couple friends.  It was a bright, summer day and clouds filled the sky.  What a joy it is to ride along that curvy parkway, feeling the wind and the sun, and to view this incredible scenery.

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We stopped at the Peaks of Otter Lodge for a short break and this time saw the clouds reflected in the water of the lake.

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Clouds above.  Clouds below.

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Thanks so much for stopping by today.  I’m very much looking forward to my vacation, which is coming up in just 6 days!

The Chesapeake Bay.  The Delaware Coast.   Kentucky.

Very different destinations and different modes of transportation.  There will be stories to tell and photos to share and I cannot wait. These past 9 months have not found me traveling much.  It is time to get back out there!

Be sure to visit Monochromia and check out some incredible B&W Photography!

Blowing in the Wind

After riding 125 miles, much of it along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you might expect me to post photos of the changing fall leaves.

While I did see many beautiful sites as I followed along behind my friend Dave, we didn’t stop for photos because we had a destination in mind.

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Raps is a full service 1950’s / 60’s Renaissance Store and Ice Cream Shop adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Raps also has a restaurant / bar and grill and features live music on the weekends.

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The beer was cold, the music was classic rock, and several in the crowd were dancing.  What really attracted my eye though, were the bright flags flapping in the wind against the brilliant blue sky.

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You must be thinking: “really, LB, a post about flags?  The kind that can easily be found flying at any car dealership”.  What can I say?  They made me happy!

Eleven days ’til the Fall Bike Trip!!  Now THAT really makes me happy!

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Hangin’ With the Big Dogs: A 500 Mile Weekend

I just LOVE the first long rides of the summer!

Those who truly love riding motorcycles, will ride all year long.  Even on cold winter days, as long as the sun is shining.  Winter rides are incredibly satisfying but they’re often shorter in duration, with far fewer miles covered.   So when the warm weather arrives, the long riding begins, and there is nothing like it!

This past Saturday, during the middle of an early morning hair appointment, I got the call to ride.  My two favorite bikers, Dave and Michael (My Guys) are great friends, awesome mentors, and have taught me so much about riding these past 5 years.  They told me I had 10 minutes to be ready (I made it in 15) and off we went!

We rode 350 miles,  through 8 counties, and on too many country roads to count.

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This bridge was built in 1896 and was just closed to traffic this past year.

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I’m told that this tower was used to measure river water levels.

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It was a glorious day for riding!

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Lunch at Devils Backbone Brewery offered much needed fuel for our bodies, and then we turned and headed for home.

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We hit the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) and pulled back into Radford around 8pm that evening.

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Sunday morning found us back on the bikes, this time joined by our good (and fun!) friends Cherie, Tim, Diana, and Jeff. Dave always leads the way and while I may not always know where we are headed, I am always confident that the ride will be a blast!

Total mileage today was  145 miles.

After a brief stop at Tuggles Gap, a restaurant and motel serving BRP customers for over 70 years, we took off in earnest.

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Wide sweeping curves on the BRP and much tighter curves on Rt 8 in Floyd and Patrick Counties, eventually took us to Squirrel Spur.

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Our final stop was the Kanawha Valley Arena.  The arena “was formed in the interest of Equestrian Enthusiasts” and in addition to the professional arena, barn, and corrals, Kanawha has a Carriage House Museum and a Carriage House Saloon.

And a covered bridge!

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This scene just made me chuckle and I had to take a picture!

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What a weekend on the bike!  I simply can’t wait for the next one!

50th Birthday Solo Ride Part 2 – The Tail of the Dragon

This is the second of a two part post about my 50th Birthday Solo Motorcycle Ride (2010).  All pictures were taken with my old point and shoot camera.  Part 1 can be found here:

https://lifeonthebikeandotherfabthings.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/50th-birthday-solo-ride-the-blue-ridge-parkway-part-1/

Day 3 – The End of the BRP and the Folks Along the Way

Hello from Bryson City, NC, located at the southern end of the BRP.

I rode the last 78 miles of parkway today and it took me a long time because I kept stopping to stare at the beautiful mountains!  The section between milepost 400 and 425 is stunning with the elevation between 4500 and 5500 ft and the highest point of the BRP at 6053 ft. I have taken so many pictures, always thinking “THIS is the best one”.

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I had hoped to be able to say I was writing from the Gearhead Motel outside Bryson City as recommended by a couple bikers I met, BUT when I went to check it out, it just didn’t feel right – no one was there and it seemed deserted. So, I headed on down the road and checked into the Sleep Inn instead.  Later that evening, I rode back by The Gearhead and it was full of bikes and people and it looked like fun!  I’d made a mistake by passing on it earlier.

The lively folks outside the motel reminded me that I haven’t said anything about the great people I have been meeting along the way. I met two bikers from Indiana (the ones who recommended the Gearhead) who used brute strength to adjust my highway pegs (which got out of position when I dropped the bike yesterday – yeah, I didn’t tell you that, did I?).

I also loved the folks, about my parents age, who said “if you were my daughter I’d kill you for riding alone”, to which I replied “why do you think I haven’t told my parents?”

I met a guy who hauled his bike from Missouri so that he could ride the BRP while his wife went shopping in Asheville.  Smart man!

There have been lots of other fun people along the way … and I’m grateful that some have been willing to take a few pictures of me along the ride.

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After checking into the hotel, I rode back down to town and had a great taco salad and a couple micro brews at a local dive bar (located in a 70 year old WWII quonset hut with no A/C).  I followed that with a quick dip in the hotel pool and am now so ready for sleep.

Across the Tracks Bar and Restaurant Bryson City, NC

Across The Tracks Bar and Restaurant, Bryson City, NC

I’ve ridden about 500 miles so far … not much compared to my friends who ride cross country but I’m proud and happy.

Tomorrow … The Dragon.

Day 4 – Curves

If you’ve been following along so far, you know that I’ve written about some of the fun curves and elevation changes that I’ve experienced during this trip.  Those curves were nothing like the ones I have ridden all day today!!

The Tail of the Dragon is known world wide for its 318 curves in 11 miles.  You get to put a sticker on your helmet and your bike if you finish (you have to ride it both ways), but your broken bike parts go on the Tree of Shame if you don’t.

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Well, I am proud to say I have a sticker on both the bike and the helmet!!  Woo hoo!!  So proud! And just like when you raft a river, there are professional photographers posted along the way taking your picture.

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The road is a blast to ride – even though I went at granny pace- 30 miles/hr – but the route to get to The Dragon was fun, too.  Rt 28 is just as curvy and I loved riding through the lush, green Nantahala National Forest.

I rode by signs like this all day long.

 One of many signs like this along Rt 58 in VA

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After 8 hours on the bike, I checked into the Iron Horse Station in Hot Springs, NC.  The road to get to Hot Springs (Rt 209) was just as curvy as the Dragon and runs for 30 miles, a lot of it through the Pisgah National Forest.  Beautiful!  I was often entirely alone on that road, and I am grateful I had no problems.

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The Iron Horse Station Inn and Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

http://www.theironhorsestation.com/

Hot Springs is a cool little (very little) historic train town.  I am staying in a restored train depot and my room is perfect!  The “tourists” are an interesting mix of bikers, river runners, AT hikers and those seeking a getaway from as far away as Atlanta, Knoxville and Asheville.  As always I had a cold beer and a shower, and after that, I enjoyed a wonderful glass of red wine with some delicious white bean & chicken chili.  Yum!!  I am soooo content.  How perfect that the train came through as a fitting end to a wonderful evening.

Almost 700 miles so far!  I’m supposed to hit the road for home tomorrow … I am really not ready for that!

Day 5 – What a Ride!!

A huge storm woke me during the night and I wondered how wet my bike would be.  The sun was shining brightly this morning though and I thought all was well.  I am not sure why I didn’t think about all the water that the seat had absorbed during the storm – I rode with a wet ass all day!   Lessons learned!  🙂

I truly enjoyed my stay in Hot Springs.  I loved the fact that every single person wished me a good morning as I walked to the Smokey Mountain Diner for breakfast.  I passed several buses loaded down with rafts and tubes and I kind of wish I had stayed and spent some time floating the French BroadRiver.

But … it was time to ride on.

I rode 275 miles today (a record for me) and I spent almost all of it on back roads.  I rode through parts of the Cherokee National Forest, the Jefferson National Forest and the Mt Rogers Recreation Area.  I rode on a long stretch of road that passed through multiple “no stop light” towns  in Tennessee.  I loved the names – Minneapolis, Cranberry, Plumtree (which had flower boxes on the bridge through town), and one place called Lick Log.  Really?  Who names a town Lick Log?

Plumtree, NC along Rt 19

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I’ve been really lucky in terms of weather on this trip, but today was the best day yet!  An “Idaho sky” for sure!  I have loved these past 5 days – no plan and the freedom to spontaneously pick my route.  Today I literally went from one town to the next, choosing the roads as I went along. The folks I met, who helped to guide me, were wonderful.

I often hear bikers talk about the wind in the face and the freedom of the road … I feel like I finally get it!

It has been such an amazing trip and I really was not ready to come home.   Even still, I was glad to cross over the New River for the first time in 5 days.  Thanks to Fred and Cindy for welcoming me back home with a glass of wine, and to Amy for sharing my traditional end of the day beer with me.

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What a ride!! 925 miles over 5 days and 3 states. What a great way to celebrate my 50th Birthday!!

50th Birthday Solo Ride – The Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 1

“To some, turning 50 is anticipated with dread.  Me?  I started planning my 50th birthday celebration a year or two before I even reached that age.  I considered 50 a milestone to celebrate; a time to revel in the joy of feeling young and alive with endless possibilities!”

Day 1 - 50th Birthday Solo Bike Trip!

This blog entry is based on my 50th Birthday Solo Ride journals and emails.  Each summer when I take my solo ride, I send an email to the folks back home – to let them know I’m okay (they worry) and to share the joy of the ride.  I was not blogging back then and have been wanting to post about the ride ever since I started this blog in June of 2012.  Since 2010, I have taken two other solo rides.  I rode to, from, and along the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2011 and in 2012, I rode through Tennessee.  The Tennessee story can be found in the August 2012 archives. 

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I have used journal entries and publications to write this post.  My ride was featured in The Roanoke Times http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/community/wb/258574,  WomensRidersNow (http://www.womenridersnow.com), and my local HOG chapter.  

All pictures were taken with my old Canon power shot.  This is the first of two posts about the 2010 trip.

I decided to simultaneously celebrate my big 5-0 and the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway by riding the North Carolina portion of “America’s Favorite Drive”.  This route offered me the spontaneity I longed for while never being more than 400 miles from home … the perfect way for an intermediate rider to venture into solo riding.  Yes, other women have gone farther and stayed out longer, but my 925 mile / 5 day / 3 state ride were perfect for me and one that I think any woman would feel comfortable attempting.

T-Minus one day “til the 50th Birthday Solo Ride

Tomorrow morning I leave on my very first solo motorcycle trip (and actually only my second long distance trip altogether).  I am so excited … mostly because of the trip, but also because I have two weeks off of work.  I know that some are nervous about me traveling on the bike on my own, but I am taking every precaution and I am well prepared.  I’ll only be gone for 5 days and will never be more than 400 miles away.

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My plan is to tour many of the places along the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I have no specific schedule nor do I have any hotel reservations … I’m looking for a bit of spontaneity!  I do know that I want to ride a lot, eat some good local food, enjoy a cold beer in the evenings, hike and swim along the way, and end it all by riding the Tail of the Dragon on the NC/Tenn border … 319 curves over 11 miles!

Day 1 – The Adventure Begins

I can’t believe that the first day of riding is done!

I was wide awake at 6am – so ready for vacation and this long planned ride.  Michael and I pulled out of Radford at 9am (after taking pictures and making sure that my bags were tied down well).  He also rode behind me for quite awhile to make sure things stayed tied down.  I’m so glad I had such a great friend to ride part of the first day with!

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We rode to Stations Inn in Laurel Springs, NC where I ate a “Harley Dog” (hot dog, bacon and cheese – no calories there, huh?).  That is where we parted and I have to confess to a few tears as I headed off on my own.  But within 5 minutes I was fine and ready for my adventure.

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I got caught in my first rain storm and spent 20 minutes hanging out under an overpass.  Guess I’m a real biker now – ha!  The rest of the ride went smoothly and the NC portion of the BRP is beautiful!

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I rode on to Blowing Rock, NC (200 miles the first day).  What a cool place!  There are lots of shops and restaurants in this little mountain town.  I found a cute little motel where the owner offered to bring out towels to wipe down the bike in the morning.  My clean comfortable little room , with a porch out front, only cost me $69!  How cool is that?

I just finished a couple of cold beers and some Fish and Chips at a local pub.  I plan to read a bit on my little porch and then I promise you, this woman will sleep well tonight!

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Day 2 – Exploring the BRP on Bike and on Foot 

I slept better than I have in weeks!! And started the day by enjoying scrambled eggs on the porch of a cute little coffee shop … And for only $2!  I really enjoyed my short time in Blowing Rock.

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I was on the BRP by 9am and rode back and forth several times across the Linn Cove Viaduct, a part of the parkway that swings out adjacent to the mountain.  It was designed to preserve the scenery and the fragile environment and I just laughed and hooted out loud as I rode, it was so cool!!

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From there I headed to GrandfatherMountain and walked over the mile high swinging bridge.

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I followed that by hiking to LinvilleFalls. It was overcast all day so the pictures won’t be great but my memories are wonderful.

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I knew that today would find me stopping a lot but when 1p came and I’d only gone 40 miles I decided I’d better head on down the road.  The NC part of the BRP is beautiful – so much different than VA.  The route is full of constant elevation changes, curves, tunnels and gorgeous views.  Makes for very fun riding!!

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Next stop was 40 miles later at Mount Mitchell, where the elevation is over 6500 ft.  Even though I couldn’t see far, it was neat to have the fog swirl around me as I walked around up there.  From that point it was a curvy ride back down out of the mountains.

Highest Elevation in North Carolina - Mt Michell

Mt Mitchell

I checked into a hotel in Asheville (where I was able to talk down the price by telling the desk clerk about my 50th birthday solo ride – my friend Dave told me never to accept first price and it worked!!).  I enjoyed beer, fried pickles and bluegrass in a place called the Fiddlin Pig. They even played the Hokie Pokey!  And I just happened to have a VT shirt on! Life is good!