Category Archives: adventure

scouting Machicomoco State Park / photos

They have yurts in the campground.

This is the same kind of yurts that are at First Landing State park for those tough campers who don’t need electricity or running water. At First Landing the yurts are more hidden by dune bushes so I never got a good shot of them.


This is a pretty wild field that you walk though to get on the trail. It was cloudy today but I bet this is beautiful in the fall with the sun on it.

kayak launch

This is a pretty spot but probably not practical to do a painting there because I’d have to move out of the way if anyone came down there with their boat.


There are these white bleached looking dead trees all along next to the water, part of the York River. They would be striking on a dark background but I couldn’t find a good place to sketch them.

Oysters in the mud, must have been low tide.

looking the other way from the boat launch

More oysters.

paved path next to the road.

There’s an unpaved path on the other side of the fence. It looks like the paths circle the park which is a huge huge field with some rows of trees through the middle and a circular road. It doesn’t look like you can go into the center. I don’t know if they farm the fields or not. I thought one looked like a crop was mowed but I can’t tell what it was. The park was a farm before but it has a big history with the Native American tribes in the area.

Machicomoco is an Algonquin word meaning “special meeting place”. I don’t know how they pronounce it.

the house is historic.

It’s at the “Interpretive Center” which has great views from up on a hill. The house is circa 1800 and it’s being restored.

They have tiles with little blurbs of historical info down a paved section close to the house. I didn’t read all of it but the first ones say that there was human habitation in the area 16,000 to 8,000 BCE. They found some scientific evidence of it. I need to go back and ask what was found because I didn’t go into the visitor center and on my way home I had some questions.

So, humans were there at the end of the last ice age even before the Chesapeake Bay was formed. One of the plaques said the bay was formed by ice melt runoff. Must have been something to witness the bay being formed. I wonder if that happened fast or slowly.

a view of the water from up on the hill where the house is.

I saw some kind of bird I never saw before running on the ground in the field making a chattery whistle. I tried to find a picture of one but couldn’t. It was around the size of a crow but brown with darker stripes. Maybe a rail, I’m not sure, could be a grouse or something else.


It took an hour to get there and traffic was fast. Coming back to the beach I ran into a traffic jam at the Hampton Roads tunnel. I was glad to find this new park. The signs are there to tell you where to turn off 17 and on the country roads. Then I couldn’t find the park exit and must have driven past it twice but finally found the exit.

I’d have to say it’s worth the drive but it’s too far away to do a painting there since I’d have to go back a lot of times to finish something. I took my sketchbook but after walking for a couple miles on the trail I went back to the car and got my camera because I was too tired to sketch by then.

That was today’s adventure. I’m still exploring tidewater VA.

I signed up for Plein air camp @ Acadia!!

I had a great time at the Ghost Ranch art camp a few years ago and was waiting for the pandemic to end to go on another art adventure. This is a place I saw briefly years ago and always wanted to go back. The camp is put on by Streamline Publishing, the company that publishes Plein Air Magazine.

There’s no pressure, no contest or prizes, no classes, just do your own thing, no drama. The food was great at the Ghost Ranch so it will probably be good in Maine too. It’s included in the price. $1500 for a week.

It’s in Oct. I can’t wait!!

Scouting for plein air inspiration @ Paradise Creek and Stumpy Lake / photos

kayak launch at Paradise Creek park

It’s in Chesapeake. With a name like Paradise Creek I thought it needs a golf course. It backs up to the shipyard and the area doesn’t look very prosperous.

I was surprised to find an art installation.

I think the pieces on the ground are strips of shiny metal but I didn’t go down there to get a closer look. The shiny metal cut outs of figures are to represent man in nature.

the plaque for the art
a view of the wetland at Paradise Creek

I walked on the path around the marsh. They have more paths but I didn’t try them all.

a footbridge in the background

Some other people were walking but I’m not sure if it would be safe for me to hang around alone and paint.

more marsh

At least I found my way over there on the first try without getting lost. I took the roads off the highway because the interstates are a little confusing and I don’t use the GPS. My car has it but you need to hook it up to a bluetooth and I don’t have that. When I want to scout a new place I Google it and try to remember the turns and roads, so I’m often lost. hahaha Well, if you’re an explorer you can’t let that scare you. Now, the interstates, yeah, scary. Why do they confuse me with 64E that doesn’t go East and then there’s 264, 464 and 664 to add to my confusion. Plus, I didn’t take my E-Z Pass and didn’t want to run into a toll.

This was good because since I’ve been at Virginia Beach for around 4 years now, I still have a lot of exploring to do and I need to find more escape routes in case of a flood or hurricane. They’re expanding the Hampton Roads tunnel which is my normal route to higher ground, but the traffic is bad. There’s a jam on that road every day, 64W.

I have no idea what’s in this thing

It’s on the shipyard property, as far as I can tell. There’s a bunch of them. They’re surrounded with piles of sand or stones or maybe metal. It’s an industrial looking area all around with small houses too.

This is Stumpy Lake with a Great Blue Heron. I saw 3 today.

The first time I tried to find Stumpy Lake I was lost and gave up and went home. The second time I did find it in the late afternoon and it was real pretty and looks safe. Today it was cloudy and not too cold. When I was there before it was sunny and the trees were lit up kind of orange in the afternoon sun.

The other day Stumpy Lake had a ton of egrets in the trees. I counted at least 20. Today I only saw a few along the shore.

I saw a lot of ducks. I think they were cormorants, mallards and mergansers but I wouldn’t bet money those are the correct names.

Stumpy Lake backs up to a golf course so you can’t walk along the shore from the parking lot but they do have a trail through the woods that is very much covered by tree roots and runs next to a swamp.

I found a few places to sketch in my recent scouting expeditions. Normally I don’t take my camera when I go out driving around to do recon but today I did. I can’t use any of these photos for a drawing or painting. As you can see, they’re a little boring as far as photos go. I’m sure a pro photographer could show you the beauty much better but I’m planning on going back to Stumpy Lake to sketch this week. It’s going to get cold again. I’ll have it to myself.

Interdimensional Tossed Salad @ Milliways collage

It’s served with their own secret recipe house dressing called “Infinity Ranch.” The dressing is more than just regular ranch dressing with purple food coloring. I couldn’t identify the secret ingredient. The shiny salad toppings are crunchy.

The menu has so many of the favorite foods of the galaxy and I didn’t know what any of them were, except they did have pizza but we wanted to try new foods so we ordered the Super Nova Pu-Pu platter for two and inter dimensional tossed salads. It’s a 5 star restaurant so you know everything on the menu would be approved by Gordon Ramsey.

When I stuck my fork in for the first bite I heard a screeching sound and didn’t know what it was. I thought it could have been the weird fork scraping on the weird plate so I took a bite and when I chomped down on it I heard a voice say, “Not again!” I stopped chewing and looked at my boyfriend. He was enjoying his salad. He said, ” Everything ok, Babe?”

It was real tasty and I didn’t want to spit it out because that would be rude so I swallowed it and I heard it cry, “What are the odds?!”

I said, “Yeah,” Then I got a box to take it home and finish it later.

exploring is important to your plein air artist

It’s another nice day. I think I’ll go out for a drive.

Hampton Roads is a large heavily populated area with a lot of access to natural places and a lot of bridges across the rivers. I know my way North across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. (13) That’s a pretty drive but I think the toll is $12 so I don’t go that way very often and it would cost too much to go to the Eastern Shore to work on a painting since I go back again and again to paint.

264 to 64 is the way I usually go West but they’re expanding the Hampton Roads Tunnel and there’s a lot of traffic jams there. That construction will take a few years. What if there’s a hurricane and I get stuck in a traffic jam? That would be scary.

Years ago I drove 460 from Petersburg to Norfolk to avoid traffic jams on 64. They’re doing a lot of construction on 64 too. Sometimes traffic is flying but it’s usually heavy and you can run into a jam that will stop you for a half hour. Sometimes I run into 2 traffic jams and a trip to Richmond which should take 1.5 hours turns into 2 or 2.5 hours.

There are a lot of pretty drives West of here that I remember but I didn’t drive East to West. I was driving West to East.

Smithfield is pretty. Hog Island is pretty. The James River ferry is real nice to take. Rt. 10 is pretty. I need to try to find my way to Smithfield from here. It’s not too far. I’d like to explore Ragged Island but I’m afraid to go alone since it has a reputation and I’m not sure if it’s safe for an old girl.

Then there’s the Colonial Parkway which I drove a few times and that is also very pretty with nice places to park and look at the river. Jamestown is pretty, Williamsburg is pretty. And so is Yorktown. Not all of those towns are considered Hampton Roads.

It could take the rest of my life to paint all the nice places I’ve seen in Southeast VA. Sometimes I just explore and try to figure out alternate escape routes, times, distances, traffic, where to park for maximum beautiful scenery etc. I can look it up on maps but I have to drive it in real life so I can remember it. Plus, I enjoy driving.

a car like this knows the story of my life

1972 TR6

Last night I dreamt I saw the car. It belonged to my best friend, Dick Clayman of York PA who died in 2001. He left the car to me and I kept it for years but eventually sold it because keeping an antique car running can be too expensive.

The car was the symbol of our friendship. He was an old man, I was a young chick. He talked constantly but he was trying to impart his wisdom to me since he and his wife didn’t have any kids. They kind of adopted me. His wife was very kind. They had me over to eat every day when I was in art school. They were my neighbors. Dick drove me all around PA. MD. and VA. in the TR6. We enjoyed each others company. He was an opera singer, a tenor, and he often sang arias while we were driving around in the country with the top down. La Boheme was his favorite. He’d sing in Italian then ask me if I knew what it meant. I didn’t but he told me what the words meant. He brainwashed me on how to be an artist. He taught me more than anyone else. That’s where I got my attitude. (from a tenor)

In my dream, I was going to the mall with another friend and when I saw the car I ran back inside looking for Dick. He was in the bathroom. I called in, “Can I come in, Dick?” He said, ” Wait a minute.”.

I guess I was in the land of the dead in my dream and he didn’t want me to go in too soon.

I’m not afraid of dying. There’s a chance I could see Dick again. I might live a long time. My Mom’s 98 but she has dementia now and is being well taken care of in a luxurious old folks home. She didn’t want me to live with her and take care of her. Now I know it would have been too hard for me to do that. She needs professional care givers. Anyway, I hope I don’t live to be 98 because I won’t be able to drive. And I love driving thanks to Dick.

This is just a little snippet of my weird life. It was always weird and I thought of starting to write it down when I knew Dick but he told me not to. He said. “That path is yours alone and it might not be a good idea to write it down.” It’s for me to learn from and no one else will get the lessons from it. So this is all I’m writing.

He’s dead 20 years now. I had a lot of other friends but none like Dick.

They’re trying to lure me to Texas

I don’t know if I’d get accepted. I’d be up against real plein air professionals. Their art pays the bills.

I had a great time at Fall Color Week at the Ghost Ranch in 2019. This Texas thing is a contest and I’m not real hot on competitions . The Ghost Ranch was like art camp for 1 week, not a contest. It was beautiful and they fed us well. Both events are from the Plein Air magazine.

When plein air contests got popular maybe 15 years ago or something like that, I entered when they came to Richmond but didn’t get in. I never heard why. And back in those days I entered the contests this magazine has but I never even heard from them if they received my entry which was a little discouraging to keep on entering. I got my daughter to help me with the entries to be sure it wouldn’t get hung up on some filing error. So, I don’t know why I never heard back.

I said I wasn’t going to enter anymore but this could be another great adventure like the Ghost Ranch. This Texas thing would be an expensive vacation but fun. I like the part about the artists can stay at the ranches before the event starts. At least I’d have time to decide where to paint.

I heard that they stamp the back of your blank canvases at the start so no-one can have more time to paint than the others. I’m kinda slow but might be able to finish something in a week if I work on it every day.

Should I enter? If I send them my swamp painting in the entry they might reject me because they’ll see it took me a long time to paint it and that’s against their preferred style, but the swamp painting is one of my favorites.

I might trade the Taurus for a Bronco if I take this trip. I need more clearance on dirt roads. I like my Fords. They have the most comfortable seats and they’re strong cars.

Ghost Ranch paintings by Gary Alsum


Gary is from Loveland CO. These paintings are small, there’s a shine on the right. It’s still wet oil paint.

Darn it, my computer is telling me WordPress is taking up too much space. I hope I can keep posting until I get home and get this puppy to Best Buy where they will fix it for free.IMG_2368

I checked out of the Ghost Ranch and drove all day on a high desert plain. I had the open road for hours. It’s pretty much unpopulated from Santa Fe to Roswell.

I shopped in Roswell for ET souvenirs then decided to head east. Now I’m in Clovis New Mexico.

Got a new phone in Roswell, finally, after my old one died a week or so ago.

It’s hot with a strong dry wind out there. I enjoyed looking at the desert. Not many trees until I got almost here.

I missed my turn onto 60 into Texas by a couple blocks, not too bad for a long fast easy drive through a vast desert, to only be a couple blocks off the route. So, I got a room at the Holiday Inn Express. I remember Clovis is famous. They have a natural history museum with a fossil of a saber tooth tiger, and they also have a history of being a music town. Led Zeppelin played here and so did Buddy Holly to name a couple famous acts. I wonder if the music place or the museum is open on Mon.

travel log


I taped this cartoon inside the cover of my travel log one time when I drove out west. That trip was kind of therapeutic  because my mind was in a turmoil back then. I was totally amazed by the great vast staggering beauty of the country. If I flew over it to my  destination it would be impossible to see the country on the way and every 50 miles is something else, especially when I took the scenic route off the interstate.

My Ford Taurus has a huge trunk and the most comfortable seats. That’s why I bought it, for a road trip. It’ll go up a mountain, no problem.

I can’t decide if I should take my camera and computer or not. I did my road trips without them before.

The Ghost Ranch is at 7000 ft. and I live at sea level. I want to leave plenty early so I can spend a couple days in Colorado and try to get used to the altitude before I go up to the Ghost Ranch which is in New Mexico.

I’m taking 3 primed canvases and oil painting supplies and also my watercolors and paper, easel, and everything I usually take to paint in Plein air. I’d never be able to take all that on a plane. Not to mention clothes with a coat and jacket. The weather up there could be cold or hot. It changes drastically, I think.

I’ll leave tomorrow and might get as far as Kentucky in one day. I’m not driving more than 8 hours a day but I’ll probably do more like 7 hours a day until I get out west.

I can’t take anyone with me, but that’s ok.

I’ll start writing in the back of the old travel log  because I filled in the front  part of it in 2005 when I drove Route 66 from Springfield MO. to Santa Monica, CA. then came back east on 50, “the loneliest road in America”. They are some beautiful roads, and as a taxpayer, they’re mine.