Our Cruise – January 2020

Friday, January 10th

Our day began by having to take care of a legal matter caused by prior employer. Once that matter was over, we were on our way down interstate 81. The only stop before getting to interstate 77 was breakfast at a Hardee’s. The traffic around Charlotte was rather heavy but flowed all the through. The only other stop for us prior to Charleston S.C. was a quick fuel stop at very sketchy convenience store. Bars on the door and Shell fuel pumps so old the digital numbers were not visible. Stephanie said the first stop in Charleston was to be Tanger Outlet Mall. After finding some shoes on sale, we got wrangled in by this young man that tried very hard to sell us this eye cream, facial scrub, and moisturizer. This package deal supposedly cost several hundred dollars for each product, but today we could have all 3 for $299! Of course we declined. So he removed the eye cream (that really did show results) and made the rest cheaper, but still not affordable. Then he finally got down to just selling the scrub, which was a very nice product that I might pay $20 or $25 for the supposed year supply. This dandy little jar retailed for $150.00 but we could have it for $75.00! That was his cost and he got no commission. We explained that it was still too much, but it if we had any money left after the cruise we might come back and see him with a cookie. (If we bought the full package, we were supposed to promise him 3 things. 1. To use the products as directed, 2. To come see him when we came back to Charleston, and 3. Stephanie was to bring him a pecan pie or a cookie.) He asked us to wait for a business card that turned out to be a receipt paper print with his bosses name on it. But his boss had “just told him we could have that jar for $60.00! Next on our agenda was to find our Air BnB and something to eat. Fortunately the house isn’t too far away and Stephanie is messaging the lady who states that she is about to order pizza! Without even knowing where the pizza would be purchased, we ask to piggyback on her order. She agrees and gets out the menu. Thankfully this is a local establishment. She tells us she has a card on file with them and wants to know how we will be paying. Cash seemed the easiest way for this meal. She places the order and said she was going to watch Fox News and she is very pro second amendment. Fox News was going to have a segment about Virginia trying to ban guns. (She hasn’t realized we are from Virginia and already know this.) While waiting for the pizza, the host has all kind of comments about the stories on Fox News and Stephanie leans over to whisper “she is a female version of granddady”. (Referring to my grandfather.) All the while, the host’s cats are che20200110_190808cking us out, seeking our attention. Two are solid black males, Nike and Mr T. The third is a solid white female cat whose name escapes us. (Possibly Demo) She was beautiful and very docile. All the cats are very sweet, but take care in petting Mr. T, he has sensitive scars from prior abuse. The host had recused him after a vet got him healed up. Our host tried to get us to come back for him after the cruise. The host had very20200110_204445 good WiFi that we had to use decipher our Saturday plans. Just this week, Carnival informed us of a marathon in Charleston and to make travel plans accordingly. Our plans had been to spend some time in Charleston prior to ship embarkment. Due to this race, our day would have to begin a little earlier. Our bed was very comfortable, however rolling over was noisy. This old body has to roll every so often when sleeping. Apparently one of the male cats hid in our room before we shut the door. When he wanted out, he got up on the bed and circled the perimeter twice before going to the door and pawing it. It worked! I let him out.

Saturday, January 11th 2020

Since our day had to begin early, we start out new by just driving around trying to learn 20200111_071653this little city. We find the sea wall walkway and decide to walk on part of it and catch the sunrise. A foggy, overcast morning made for a less than spectacular sunrise. At this point, one item that had been forgotten was discovered. While driving around earlier, a Harris Teeter store was spotted and would have our item. This is a very unique store, on the outside it appears to be an older style building that would be seen in a older coastline city. Inside was a well stocked modern grocery. We found what we needed and Stephanie found some tea leaves she’d not seen at home in a brand we thought belonged to just Kroger. Once at the self checkout (only registers open), Stephanie asked a worker if she had a loyalty card that could be scanned to get the better pricing. The nice lady saved us about $5.00. We moved the car to the side parking and began exploring on foot. During 20200111_083641this process we ran the marathon… well… we ran through the marathon.😁 We found a little hip place serving some slightly expensive breakfast foods. “Running the marathon got us hungry.” Stephanie got a croissant with preserves that she 20200111_090116loved, even keeping the little glass jar. I got a croissant also, but mine had egg soufflé with cheese and bacon in it! Delicious! It came with a fruit cup. I also ordered a sweet tea that turned out to be a raspberry sweet tea. I found it to be only ok, but Stephanie really liked it. I didn’t care for the paper straw. Following breakfast we went to the Historic Market. If you have plenty of extra money, take it and go see the place. If you don’t have any extra money, go see the vendors anyway. Next up is to make our way to the parking area for the ship. The parking line moves along decently and the porter is very nice. Did see one car stiff their porter.😮 It’s only a slightly long walk to the check in building and this process appears a little chaotic but moved along very smoothly. While in that building, I spot someone that looks very familiar. It’s Candace Monaghan, the lady that runs the Sunflower Festival at Beaver Dam Farm in Botetourt County, and her husband. I have yet to meet him. Unfortunately, the process is too efficient to go speak with them. Before we know it, we’re boarding the ship. Because we are on board prior to our room being ready, we get some ice cream and I get to have my first Guy’s Burger! Excellent food! Stephanie eats the fries. And yes, in that order! We’re adults on vacation and can have desert first if we want to. While checking out the ship prior to our room being ready. I look out a window on the Lido deck and see a major bridge Stephanie had talked about from her first time in Charleston. The picture does no20200111_160645_HDRt do it justice. Once the room is ready, we go take our stuff and rest a bit prior to our muster station meeting. This one is more crowded and less informative than our cruise from Tampa on the original version of Paradise. By now, it is becoming apparent that we are most certainly not on the smooth Tampa Bay or Gulf of Mexico! So we go back to the room to rest some more before supper. After resting, we stagger to the dining room. (We do not drink and thus are completely sober.) Something new for us…a table for two! We are blessed to be on a corner also, giving us even more room! While people are still coming in, I see a elderly lady riding a scooter appear in a server only area. As she attempts to transition into the dining area, she quickly accelerates and makes a hard left, just missing Stephanie in the process. After supper, we attempt to do some shopping, but the main shop we wanted to go in was closed and the rocking ship sends us to the room for the night. I get very little sleep while Stephanie snores away! Her snoring is not my issue of not sleeping, it is this rocking ship!

Sunday, January 12th 2020

We sleep in! This is the longest Stephanie has slept in a very long time! She was looking queasy last night and she deserves this rest. However, she is still not herself this morning. It’s the Lido deck buffet and continental breakfast for us this morning and a quick check on that shop, but it is still closed. So the rocking ship again sends us to the room until lunch. Bothersome to us since we had told the steward that a morning cleaning would be best for us. We try to get out for lunch and I decide I want another burger, but Stephanie is now not eating. While I was eating, Stephanie quips, there’s a duck! She’s looking toward the Guy’s Burgers sign. I look up and sure enough, there is a20200112_113933 little rubber ducky with a tag attached. He most definitely was not there when I went up to get my burger. Stephanie says, “do you think I can get it?” It is quite high but she is able to swat it down with the tips of her fingers. As she hits it, I hear a girl in a group of sixteen year old girls say, “she knocked it down”. We later see these young ladies and ask them about the duck. The tall one was the person that hid it. They tell us there is another one they found and re-hid. We try to stay out of the room long enough to get it cleaned, but have to go back rather early. Thankfully our crew had cleaned up! Unfortunately, someone would have to return and scrub the bathroom. Stephanie was not well for quite some time. After her episode and another long nap, she was back to her chipper self and at dinner she ate the largest piece of chicken she has eaten in her life! At dinner we met a couple that have a lot of cruise experience and said this trip is the worst she has been on in her experience. Both Stephanie and I had the salad as the appetizer. I got the pork chop. She got the vanilla crème brûlée (another first for her) and I got the malted chocolate hazel nut cake with20200112_185536 warm chocolate sauce. Very rich and very tasty. Tonight was elegant night. So there was a photographer at dinner and we did pictures on the staircase. I would have skipped the staircase (and any other) pictures if it had not been for the singer speaking to us and making over the matching colors of my tie and Stephanie’s dress. Our shop is still not open, so we call it an early night before the rocking ship gets us queasy again.

Monday, January 13th 2020

Today we decide to begin with dining room breakfast. One can easily get used to table service for every meal. I had the broken egg sandwich and Stephanie had the vanilla20200113_073423 French toast. She also had the baked grapefruit. Everything was very good. A last minute check of the Carnival Hub reveals we need a pass to get off the ship at Princess Cays. Some new place to find on the ship. At least the ship is still and not rocking. When we pick up the pass, the gentleman says to listen for an announcement, but he gives the instructions at that moment. His instructions matched the announcement over the speakers, but both were incorrect. I would guess those people in level 1 rooms were not real thrilled to have all those people just outside their door. It was a nice attempt to organize the people wanting to tender in, but they were calling people a little too fast. The trip over was fun and those drivers are very skilled at maneuvering the tight docking area. The island is very beautiful. We purchased some gifts for the kids. Stephanie had to wade in the ocean and find shells. I wondered if 20200113_094038_HDRI would regret not at least getting my feet wet. We walked the rest of the visitor portion of the island and looked at the plants and goods for sale. One lady wanted to braid Stephanie’s hair. As we were leaving the island, the lady in front of us had put a large bag of sand in her purse. It was apparent in the x-ray machine. On the tender back, we sat on the front bottom level of the boat. For lunch we had a meatball sandwich and fries, and grilled cheese and fries. We also had dark chocolate cookies with chocolate chips. It was a nice prelude to our afternoon nap prior to supper. On our way to dinner, we finally run into Candace Monaghan and I get to meet her husband Patrick. As I see them, I speak and call Candace by name. (Although I’ve met her 4 times, it was in either brief or large group type settings, meaning she likely would not recognize me.) The look on their faces when I call her by name was priceless Stephanie says. After an explanation of how I know her name and some small talk, we proceed to find our pictures before dinner. Tonight our dinner mates are back and tell us they went to one of the smaller restaurants for their anniversary. The staff know it is their anniversary and bring them a small but very rich cake shaped into a heart with a candle on it. After the staff sings to them, the lady tries the cake and then wants me to take a bite. This couple is a little younger than us and got in the ocean at the island. After hearing a description of this beach from dinner mates and Stephanie, I am very glad I did not attempt it. Apparently island beaches have very rough terrain and footing is an issue. The next couple down from Tennessee were absent this evening. My appetizer was honey roasted ham with pineapple chutney with ginger bread mustard mayo. The main course was beef lasagna and dessert was melting chocolate cake. Stephanie’s appetizer was a mixed greens salad. She did not care for any of the main dishes and ordered a baked potato and macaroni & cheese with bacon. For dessert, she went out on a limb and go the buttered popcorn pot de crème with salted caramel. Our table mates have determined that the staff do everything by routine. She wants her bread left on the table and two different servers try to take it. She said tomorrow, I will confuse them by switching everything up. By the end of dinner, the ship is back to its swaying so for us it was back to the room for the evening.

Tuesday, January 14th 2020

We get to sleep a little later this morning because today is another day off the boat and starts later as does breakfast. We return to the dining room for breakfast and I get the short stack of pancakes, but they do not bring the toppings listed nor my apple juice I ordered. I also ordered a sausage link, but got four links. The food was good, but just not what I was expecting. Stephanie got her apple juice as ordered. She ordered a waffle that did not come as she expected also, but she decided it was her fault for not ordering properly. It seems you must have to specify that you want it how it is listed in the menu. We have come to the conclusion that the people serving the breakfast in the dining room are really just in training to work the dinner dining rooms. Someone is watching the people actually taking the orders and bringing the food. As we leave the ship, I notice a empty dock beside our dock and a bigger ship in the next dock over. Nassau seems to have more people hustling than I remember from our first cruise that went to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. As you leave the ship, you are handed a map that has coupons attached for free stuff from the jewelry stores. Stephanie starts the process at Diamonds International. They talk her into trying on a necklace that was $2800.00. On our way out, our friends the Monaghans come in with a tour group from the ship. Stephanie informs them of her experience and I wish Patrick good luck. As we work our way down the street collecting the free trinkets, a person outside of a jewelry store not this map hands Stephanie a flyer offering a free gift and decent deal on a necklace and earrings that match a ring she bought five years ago in Nassau. She has decided that she will buy that deal before he pulls out a matching bracelet. Not a regular bracelet either, a very cool adjusting bracelet that is easily removed by the wearer without any assistance. He then tells her that the bracelet is only $199.00, but that will include the package deal of the necklace and earrings also. She explains that is more than we can afford, but she will take the smaller package. He then counters that he wanted her to have it and if she promised to come back later, she could have the entire package for $150.00. As she is saying that is still too much, I tell her to give him the money. It will be an anniversary present. We later see the Monaghans again. Candace has now tried on a set of earring studs that Patrick did not buy for her. They were only $10,000.00. As we continue on down the street, Stephanie tells me that I have to do the purchases requiring ID to avoid tax as she left hers on the ship. We spend more money on some neat things and gifts for family members. After we turn around to begin working our way back toward the ship, we come across this fellow sitting on the curb doing paintings on little scrap pieces of paneling or fiber board, just whatever. Stephanie recognized him from her trip here five years ago. She asks if he can customize one of his completed ones for her. He agrees and begins to work on it. These essentially 8×10 inch paintings are $10.00. I told her to give him $15.00 since he fulfilled her request. All of his paintings are just beautiful. He has been doing this for over twenty years. He signed this one. His name is Jeff! We now just want to go to the ship and put the stuff in the room before lunch. As we are walking along, this young lady asks if we are going to the straw market. I reply “maybe” and she says “come with me, I’ll show you my shop”. Basically a trinket shop she ran. She starts showing us different things and then pulls out these two wooden couple carvings. She will engrave them with our names and it is only $20.00. Of course I’m not paying that much. So she asks what is my price, so I say $15.00. She counters with $18.00. So I give in and before she leaves to get the engraving done, she introduces her “sister”. Who will take us to her shop once our transaction is complete. We have to disappoint this one. As we start to head out, I tell Stephanie to not make eye contact with anyone else. As we approach the docks, I remember Stephanie’s earlier comment about the purchases with ID. Both the ship card and a government ID are required to leave the port. She only has her ship card. So we approach the young lady checking IDs and I give her mine first. Stephanie explains her situation and I am thinking I may have to go retrieve her ID. The lady then asks if we are husband and wife. She double checks my ID and ship card and then Stephanie’s ship card and lets us proceed. The one empty dock is now occupied by a 20200114_120107_HDRDisney ship. The dude backed that big boat into the dock! By the time we get to our room to unload our purchases, I am not feeling the best. Likely from the heat. After resting a bit, I feel like some fruit might be good. Once on the Lido deck, I think maybe a small salad with my fruit would be tasty. This actually worked so well, by the time Stephanie got back with her pizza, I wanted some of that too. She shares, but has to go back for more. Now I am full again and time for a nap. We rest until it is time to go look for our new pictures and our elegant night that we had not found yet. This time we find all our pictures and make some purchases just before dinner. As we get to our dinner table, I have noticed that she has begun her plan. They have switched seats. She will later move the water flask to the opposite side of the table, which almost backfired. While serving the next couple down, he bumps the water! As we sat down, Stephanie noticed her napkin is not flat on the table. When she picks it up, there is another rubber ducky under it. (Now we have something else to do, good thing the ship is more stable tonight.) 20200114_180604I immediately know who put that there. She again asks for more bread and keeps giving Stephanie the piece she doesn’t like. The waiter notices this bread and offers a paper napkin to put it in. The only problem is all this bread is too big for the little paper napkins. So the girls scheme to wrap the paper napkins around the cloth napkin and bring the cloth back tomorrow. The only problem is the paper won’t stay in place and reveals the cloth underneath while sitting on the table. So now I have to sit the bread on the bench beside me and hide it with our pictures. This works decently well. I hope she remembers to return the napkin tomorrow. We take the bread and pictures back to the room and set out to hide the duck and get a picture Stephanie wants by some windows that our daughter did a picture in five years ago. On our way, we run into the Monaghans again and update each other on our day. We get the picture done and go to get some lemonade. At the beverage station, I see a good spot for the duck. It is an old Chevy truck grill used as a wall decoration near Guy’s Burgers. I squeeze this duck up into the grill, get my lemonade and we go through the sliding doors to the air conditioned seating. As I sit down, I can see a man looking at the duck already. He takes it down, looks at it, but puts it back. We sit and watch for a while, but no one else even glances at it. So we head back to the room for the night. Thankfully the ship is still much smoother than prior days on the open water.

Wednesday, January 15th 2020

We sleep in even later today as Day at Sea Brunch does not start until 8:30 this morning. The ship is back to swaying, but not nearly as bad as the initial Day at Sea. I am still confused by breakfast ordering as I read the menu exactly as I wanted, but still got things I did not expect. Especially the sausage. The menu appeared that we could choose either pork or chicken sausage links. I specified the pork sausage, but received one of each. I did not care for the chicken sausage. I had the heuvos rancheros and also a side honey butter biscuit. Stephanie ordered the featured item. I forget the name, but it looked like a real thick pancake with whipped ricotta and some caramel crunchy toppings. When we were about half way through, she offers me a bite of hers. I offered her to trade what we had left. Even though we had about equal servings, she refused. (Though she did thoughtfully save me a couple of bites of hers. She would not like mine.) As we were about to leave, a gentleman approaches us wearing a white uniform like those operating the ship would wear. He asks if we had dessert yet. We both respond that we are too full for dessert. He has a strong accent and asks about some specific dessert. Then says can I bring you one? So, without even knowing what I was getting, I say ok. After he leaves, I ask Stephanie what he said. She said she wasn’t sure, but thought he said something “crème”. Sure enough, he returns with a slice of banana crème pie on a dish with these three dollops of semi-solid crème surrounding a raspberry compote. The pie is delicious, but Stephanie does not care for it. The raspberry stuff was real good too. She does like that. The restaurant is filling up more than the previous days of the open seating breakfast. As we exit, there is a great deal more people trying to enter also. Cruise tip, Day at Sea Brunch is worth it, but go early, like right at opening. After breakfast, we went to the debarkation information meeting, catching the last few minutes of The Morning Show with cruise director Christian, aka Mr. Chicago. His side kick Houston is just plain crazy. Our dinner mates show up to the meeting and sit just behind us. After the meeting they are going on to lunch. I’m not really feeling like eating as the ship is swaying again some, but some fruit sounds good again. I get some fruit and melon in a bowl as does Stephanie. Bud is not happy when Amanda brings back a half a wrap. After finishing that, he decides to go get the other half and Stephanie goes for a wrap and pizza. I do drink some lemonade. Our friends finish their lunch prior to Stephanie finishing hers and head on to start preparing for debarkation. Once Stephanie is done eating, we head on also. I am needing some rest and Stephanie is hoping to get information on deals for future cruises. When she gets back to the room, she has papers on future cruises, but missed the information session. She does however have a story to tell. When she gets in line at the guest services desk, she is behind a lady who is behind a guy. The lady asks the man if he is there with a question about debarkation. The guy turns to the lady and states “they had a meeting about that this morning.” She replies “I was in no shape to be out of my room.” He returns with “they said if you miss the meeting, you’ll become an indentured servant for the next cruise to earn your way off the ship.” She completely does not understand. So he repeats himself. This poor lady still does not get it. Our menu is not showing correctly on the Carnival Hub app, so we make our way to the dining room entrance early to look at the missing portions. (I threatened to carry me a Guy’s burger into the dining room if I did not care for any of the main courses.) There were a couple of options that I figure I can choose from once we are seated. We have about 45 minutes to kill prior to dinner. Our dining room is just off the atrium main floor which means we are forced through the photographers when we exit the dining room, but one side is already set up prior to our early dinner time. Just behind their backdrop is a couple of empty chairs. The stairs on this side is also the staircase 20200115_173031photo and thus the top is blocked. This is not a elegant night, so action for the photographers is slow. The entertainment for Stephanie and I sitting in these chairs is not slow. In the twenty or so minutes we sat there, there were several people who left the bar and started up the stairs. The photographer would call out to them that the staircase is closed. Younger people in a hurry did not listen and would make it nearly to the top. Older people likely could not hear them would make about midway. And occasionally, some would start up and look to the top and realize the barrier is blocking the top. (If memory serves me correctly, Stephanie and I may or may not have done this on our first cruise.) A few minutes prior to the doors opening to the dining room, I spot the couple that sit on the other side of our new friends next to us. We have spoken some and I know that they are from Tennessee, but that is it. So we go over to speak with them until the doors open. As it turns out, these folks are from Knoxville. So now on this cruise, we have made friends from home that live approximately a half hour from our house. We have made friends with folks who live about a half hour from the beach we like to vacation. And now we have gotten to know a little about another nice couple who live about a half hour from our other vacation spot in the Smokey Mountains. She had overheard a conversation about this blog and wanted to know where to read it. After dinner I am able to give her our contact information. Stephanie’s appetizer was the heart of iceberg salad and again she ordered sides instead of a main dish. She got Mac and cheese with bacon, baked potato, and ratatouille. She did not eat much of the ratatouille except the squash. Her dessert was a cheese plate. My appetizer 20200115_191604was peach soup. Delicious! I ordered the spare ribs and a side of mac and cheese, but Stephanie got most of that because those delicious ribs filed me up. But I did still eat my melting chocolate cake. After dinner, we decide to finalize our packing and be ready to go when our floor is called for the early debarkation. It appears we have everything in or on our two rolling suitcases. We may or may not eat on the ship in the morning, that will be determined in the morning.

Thursday, January 16th 2020

Debarkation Day. The saddest day of any cruise. Thankfully things have changed since our last cruise. Unless you purchase and disembark with more than 1 liter of alcohol or 1 carton of cigarettes or spend more than $800.00, you do not have to declare anything for customs. We do not drink or smoke, and did not have $800.00 to take with us, so customs was quick for us once we reached the interview point. For the debarkation of the Carnival Sunshine ship, it was a rainy drizzly day. Rain was coming down even while on the gangway. However, by the time we are through customs and off the shuttle bus, the rain had stopped for the walk to the car. We only had a little drizzle for the first hour or so on the road. After that it was dry and we watched the temperature drop as we drove north. Again, the traffic around Charlotte was heavy, but flowed all the way trough. I am impressed with North Carolina’s innovativeness in where they build their interstate rest stops. One of them is in the interstate median area and is accessible by north and southbound traffic. Another is sort of back up in a hollow and the buildings are not really visible until you are well off the highway. This one had a picnic area in a grove of crepe Myrtle trees. The trees form a canopy over the tables and in warmer seasons will provide a great shade for the tables. For lunch, we found an Arby’s in North Carolina. While we are eating, there are other travelers coming in. One family with a daughter that I believe is deaf came in the store. I am fairly certain they were on the ship with us. I regret not asking them. By this time the wind is really whipping, bringing in cold temperatures. (Family has told us of the warm nice temperatures at home while we were gone.) Stephanie has informed me we cannot go home before stopping in Christiansburg to go to the Hobby Lobby. Christiansburg is quite cold and windy. We find a product that works for our purpose. On the way home, Stephanie uses the dominoes app to order pizza for supper so the most we have to do once home is to unload the car and dig out our necessities like device chargers and medicines. We are now home and our cruise vacation is officially over. It was a wonderful time, but it is also good to be home.

Not Abandoned

A good friend sent me a facebook message asking if I lost my log in information for this blog. Well…no, but I did lose the time that I could occasionally devote to it. Anyone that has read the posts know that I typically devote some time in the fall to tell about my harvest. Since there was no harvest, I spent every free moment hunting. I was fortunate enough to receive some venison from a good friend. Not quite the same as obtaining it myself, but it sure beats store bought stuff. It even beats only getting the protein from the hens out back.

The picture is from early squirrel season. My son took the picture while attempted a video.

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings


A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

The Hunter Recounts Two Special Harvests

This story is a follow up of sorts of the prior story The Best of Times, the Worst of Times which remembered two recent hunts in the fall of 2016. Now two special times in the woods on Thanksgiving Day, but separated by about ten years. The first story compared the ups and downs of two different hunting days in one season. This story will compare two hunting days separated by approximately a decade.

The hunter had hunted from about the age of seven to about seventeen, but stopped hunting during college and the first twelve years of married life. Then the hunter’s younger brother lured the elder back into the woods. Now the hunter had a son old enough to hunt also. The hunter was blessed in the first season back in the field to harvest his first deer and do it using archery equipment. The second season the hunter came close to being skunked but in a last day hunt with his grandfather, the hunter scored a second deer. Interestingly enough, both harvests were antler-less deer, but were bucks. The first was a young button buck, the second was a more mature deer, but it had appeared to have scrubbed off his antlers during the growth period. Now on to the third year back hunting for the hunter.

The hunter did not have any success in the first couple of days and was looking forward to hunting on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day hunting was typically a big hunting day for the hunter’s family but usually hunting only a half day to make it to the family gatherings to over stuff the bellies. The weather forecast for this Thanksgiving Day was cold and a little wind. Everyone bailed on the hunter who ended up going hunting alone. (A practice the hunter discourages, but recommends to all hunting alone to carry a cell phone and only hunt in areas with a strong cell phone connection.)

The hunter made his way to the stand just before daybreak. This stand required a great deal of walking as the access road was closed due to a logging operation. (This is likely another factor causing the hunter to be alone in the woods.) The hunter had carried in two coats to add to his layering as he cooled down after the walk. The wind was not a major factor in the gully being hunted this morning. Despite the the there only being a light wind, the temperatures were cold enough to cause the hunter to put on the first jacket about 8:30 a.m. By 9:00 a.m. the heavy coat was adorned. This coat had not seen use yet as it had been a gift from the hunter’s in law’s. Before the hunter could zip the heavy coat, movement in the gully caught his eye. An antlered buck was coming right up the gully. After hunting about 10 years as a young person and now in the third year back hunting, this is the first antlered deer the hunter has had in front him while hunting. The hunter raised his Revelation 30-30 that he had purchased from his great uncle Lester more than twenty years prior. As the hunter looked through the old Redfield Tracker 4X (a Christmas present from the hunter’s father), he was able to place the cross hairs directly on the vitals of the broadside buck. Upon squeezing the trigger, the recoil caused the hunter to lose sight of the deer through the scope. As the hunter focuses on the deer, it high-tails it on up the gully before turning hard right and going up a ridge. Initially the hunter fears the worst. It appears he may lose a shirt tail at Thanksgiving dinner. As the deer goes up the ridge it falls right next a log. Being in behind the log, the beast is now difficult to see. There is now a little work to do to get to the fallen animal.

There is a great deal of wdscf2954ork to get it to the vehicle, but the hunter won’t be losing his shirttail. At this point, the hunter really has no idea of the rack size or the deer size. The hunter has driven to the woods in a Kia Rio. The hunter decides to call his uncle Mike to hopefully haul (and maybe help drag) the deer. Thankfully, uncle Mike is available to help. Also thankfully, this is a young buck and the small rack makes perfect dragging handles without adding extra weight to the head. By the time the hunter’s uncle is able to get to the hunter, the drag is nearly over. The hunter and his uncle soon discover how good it is that he brought a larger vehicle. This little buck has now stiffened while being dragged. This deer barely fit in the trunk of a Buick LeSabre. It surely wouldn’t have made it into the small Korean car. Except for resting a bit and getting a few pictures prior to loading the deer, this is the last of the memories the hunter can recall from Thanksgiving Day, approximately ten years ago.

Fast forward about ten years to hunting season 2016. The hunter hunts as much as possible with his brother Greg this fall. Greg has had some success and some frustrating hunts. By the opening day afternoon of the general firearms season, the hunter has taken over the spot causing his brother’s frustration. (A doe got away from him first thing this day.) This opening Saturday is cold and the afternoon becomes windy. This is the first opportunity the hunter has to use his new insulated camouflaged coveralls. Even with a cold front moving through, the hunter has only seen squirrels. At least until about 4:00 p.m. when the hunter glances to his left and spots a large bodied deer coming across the a ridge with its nose to the ground. The monster stops behind some trees and the hunter raises his Ruger M77 to look through the Redfield Frontier 4X. The only visible portion the deer is the top of it’s shoulder. The hunter waits waits for the buck to take another step or two to be in the clear. Suddenly, the deer disappears from the scope. The buck now is making its way down a swag that is just deep enough to hide the deer from the hunter’s view. The buck lifts its head for a second allowing the hunter to see the bone moving down the little valley. This large animal stops about thirty yards downhill from the hunter. The deer is very large and the legs are still not visible due to the terrain. As the hunter attempts to pick a lethal spot, the beast makes the hunter and bolts. The hunter attempts a bleat call while trying keep an eye on the deer. It runs up into the thick, makes one blow and continues across the top of the ridge.

The hunter is now quite frustrated. The largest deer the hunter has ever encountered had just come within bow range. The hunter is holding a .308 rifle in his hands and is unable to bring down the critter. The hunter has nearly one hour of light left but is so frustrated, he packs his gear and begins to head to the Jeep. After just a moment, the hunter calms down, comes to his senses and returns to the stand. The hunter stays until dark, seeing only one more squirrel.

The next chance the hunter will get to be in the woods is Thanksgiving Day. Unlike the Thanksgiving from a decade ago, the hunter is joined by his son Jeffrey, his nephew Brandon, and his brother Greg. Before they part ways, time is taken to thank God for the opportunity of time in the woods, ask for protection while in His creation, and to help the hunters to do their best with what is provided them. The young ones decide to share the buddy tree stand on one end of the property, the hunter takes the very frustrating spot at the other end of the the property and Greg gets in the middle. All three stands are occupied well before day light. As the light increases, the hunter notices a stranger coming up a hollow on a neighboring property.

The hunter takes out extra blaze orange and attempts to quietly make himself known to the new hunter in the area. The neighbor turns and goes about half way up a ridge and stops for quite a while before proceeding up and out of view of the hunter. The hunter later learns the neighbor had occupied an old tree stand.

With the intruder out of sight, the hunter can concentrate on spotting deer again. About 7:40 a.m., the hunter hears sounds he hasn’t heard for several years – multiple deer running and some grunting. The last time the hunter had this happen, he was carrying a bow and used the wrong sight pin and overshot. This time the hunter is carrying the highly accurate Ruger. This buck does not come as close as the buck from opening day. The hunter is able to spot the head gear of the grunt producer. The hunter is able to drop the deer in the scope from about seventy yards. The hunter keeps the scope on the deer as it kicks some. The hunter’s phone begins to ring. Unwilling to let the gun down in case the deer gets up, the hunter lets the phone go to voice-mail.

Once the hunter is fifty percent satisfied the animal will no get up again, he checks his phone. The hunter discovers his brother had attempted to call. While keeping one eye on the deer, the hunter returns the call, knowing assistance will be needed to get the carcass out of the triangular hollow. Once the help is summoned, the hunter returns to watching through the scope. As the others move into earshot of the deer and it does not move, the hunter is able to relax a little. The four hunters proceed toward the harvest. As they arrive, the hunter graciously offers to let someone to field dress the buck before the dragging begins. No one accepts this very generous offer. After getting the new coveralls bloodstained, the hunter’s son helps his dad by putting the harness drag rope around the antlers. The son then also assists with the drag. After getting only a portion the steep climb completed, the son puts on the harness. For some reason, the belt portion of the harness has lots of leftover length. The hill being climbed is steep enough that the son is nearly crawling, using hands and feet to ascend the hillside. Now the hunter is now the assistant. Once the steep section is conquered, the son takes off the harness as the nephew has offered to put it on. As the nephew (the biggest of the four hunters) begins to walk, it becomes apparent that he will easily make it to the road. The last leg of the drag is a very steep decent. The son decides to keep the deer from rolling into his cousin. The attempt is futile as the weight of the deer nearly pulls Jeffrey’s six foot four inch, one hundred forty pound frame to the ground. Jeffrey lets go of the hind leg he had grabbed. The carcass just rolls right over small trees and fallen branches. Even lightly rotted stumps are no match for the weight of this creature. The brother has taken the hunter’s gear to the house and is bringing the Jeep to haul the harvest home.

The rest of the work is contacted to Harris Meat Processing in Buchanan, Virginia and Head Hunter’s Taxidermy in Troutville, Virginia. Despite a successful hunt, the hunter has concerns about the harvest that will not be shared here. Anyone wanting to discuss the hunt or the hunter’s concerns may do so in person. We cannot properly live in an electronic only environment. Let’s do a dutch treat dinner or meet for a hike, what ever you like.



A tale of two days in the woods.

Day 1
The following story tells about two different days of hunting in the woods of Craig County, Virginia. Hopefully the reader will enjoy the stories, but will also come to understand what truly makes a good day of hunting. Many hunters will already be cognizant of a true good day in the woods; but new and non-hunters may learn to what really appreciate in life.

The first day in this story takes place in mid-October 2016, the middle of Virginia’s early archery season. This day begins in a tree stand right at the dawn of a perfect hunting day weather wise. It was clear and cool, but not cold. Nearly no wind all day as it warmed a bit, but it did not get too hot. Even if no wildlife had presented itself, to be comfortable sitting in a tree stand for an entire day with the hunter’s brother brother (Greg) hunting nearby makes for a great day in the woods.

Not too long after settling in the stand, a few squirrels begin to appear. Then, suddenly, a young deer comes down a ridge followed by ten more! Later in the day while the hunter is sitting on a log with Greg, a noise is heard off to the right. After several minutes of waiting without seeing, Greg stays at the log as a circular hike is undertaken to attempt an investigation of the noise. Two large gobblers are viewed running off. Greg hears them, but is unable to spot them. There was also a discovery of an abundance of bear scat and big buck sign in the same area. This is the first observance of bear


Big Buck Sign

sign in the area the brothers hunt. After a lunch break, Greg decides to rest during the afternoon. Just after the tree stand is re-occupied, something is heard behind the hunter and a turkey is spotted. As the bow is raised to draw on the bird, the bow hits a metal hanger Greg had installed to hang his bow when he uses the stand. The noise causes the bird to fly off, followed by five more. Many, many squirrels are seen gathering nuts and chasing each other up, down and around trees. As the sun sets, the hunter reflects on of the events of the day.

If a hunter’s single day involves time with a brother, beautiful weather, eleven deer, two big gobblers, six more turkeys in a different spot, many squirrels, and plenteous bear scat; one could say that hunter had a great day hunting even if there were no harvest. As Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”. Remember the first young deer? An arrow was launched, but it flew over the little deer. Strangely, it ran back the way it had come from, but only a short distance. A second about face led to the deer returning to exact same spot an arrow had flown over it’s back. In the short time period the deer was out of range, a laser range finder revealed the distance was shorter than previously perceived. The second shot sounded as if it was a complete pass-through, usually a good thing. This arrow held the only blood or fur that would be found. This is a hunter’s nightmare. Injuring an animal is about as bad as it gets. The hunter is frustrated, but knows that if a person hunts long enough, this will happen to all hunters of all skill levels.

Day 2
This second day is the opening day of the Virginia general firearms season in 2016. This day begins seasonable cool. Cold enough to test out recently acquired insulated coveralls. This time the hunting party grows by adding the hunter’s son (Jeffrey). Jeffrey did not hunt last year or any this year prior to this day. Greg begins shooting prior to 8:00 a.m. Jeffrey walks from one end of the hunting property to the other end to assist Greg in tracking the deer (disrupting the hunter in the middle). Their quest did not end as hoped. Greg is now frustrated with injuring, but not recovering a deer.

Greg had a mid-day errand, so a lunch break is taken. While Greg is away, the stands on each end of the property are re-occupied, leaving the stand in the middle for Greg to use if he wants. (He could reach it without disturbing the other stands.) He decides to stay in the house for a bit to get over his frustration of injuring a deer.
The afternoon hunt is much tougher weather-wise. A cold front brings high winds, sprinkles and a little sleet. The hunter had observed no game at all from the middle stand during the more thing hunt. During the afternoon hunt, no game is observed from the stand Greg had occupied during the morning. At least not until about 4:00 p.m. when a large-bodied, wide-racked buck is spotted heading across a ridge drawing closer to the stand. With a sudden turn, the buck goes down a hollow where only a glimpse of the antlers is observable for just a second. The buck is then only partially visible when it stops, but is only about thirty yards away. This is bow range and the hunter is carrying a old Ruger M77 chambered with in .308 Winchester, topped with a Redfield Tracker 4X that is just as old. The hunter is made by the deer before it presents a clean shot. Any experienced hunter reading this now knows that the deer is now gone. The hunter is now highly frustrated and begins to leave before calming down, coming to his senses and returning to the stand. Finishing out the day the Lord provides is only proper. The only game spotted for the rest of the day is a tiny gray squirrel.
With the tough weather, almost no game presenting itself, and no harvest with a prize buck running off, it would seem it was a bad day hunting. However, the hunter got to spend time with a brother and a son. The hunter realized that having seen only four “wall-hangers” during his hunting career, two of the four were spotted on very windy days. Just the opportunity of seeing a buck that large in the wild is a true blessing in itself.
It is an old saying, but a good one: “A bad day in the woods is better than a good at work!” Which really means, if you can be in the woods hunting, you are truly blessed!

P.S. The next morning the large deer is still haunting the hunter. He went to bed thinking about the deer and awoke thinking about the deer!

Way Back Throwback (even though it is not Thursday!)

Ok folks, the picture on my website goes way back!. Please use the form at the bottom of the page on my website, or e-mail, or “message”, or text me the names of the people in the picture. Bonus points if you can tell me where the picture is taken! Please do not comment on FB the answers so others can guess. I will comment to let you know who got all answers right. Have fun! crowders.info

My Easter Experience

Dear First Church Family,
I just want to let the church family know my experience from Easter Sunday Morning. Last year at this time I had only been able to attend on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. Easter Sunday Morning 2015, we were pleasantly surprised to be free to attend our first Sunday morning service at First Church. By this time last year I had become close to pastor and Bob Young (who introduced Stephanie and I to First Church). This year Stephanie and I have been blessed make friends with many in the church.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking forward to attending all the Easter Services at First Church. I was blessed be in a footwashing service with men that have been in the Church of God longer than I have been alive and we had a young man participate that had never even observed a footwashing service previously! I also was asked to sing with the choir and reluctantly accepted Judy’s invitation. More on that later.

On Good Friday, I was able to observe the re-enactment of the crucifixion. Pastor noted that many involved were not even at First Church last Easter. God is working in First Church. Also this week, Stephanie discovered that the neighbors she had as a child, were long time members of First Church. On Good Friday, she and the pastor showed me their picture in the Unity room.
Remember I stated I was looking forward to “attending” the Easter services? I showed up to “attend” the sunrise service. I was very honored to be a part of the service by reading the Easter morning passage found in John 20. I received an unexpected lesson in this sunrise service. As we went out, we could hear roofing work from across the street. It seemed irritating, but with the forecast, it was likely needing to be finished. Then Pastor actually used the “irritating” sound to enhance his message! So as a person desiring a job in the ministry, I was taught on Easter morning to always look for God’s provision in everything. We then got to fellowship over a delicious breakfast. Stephanie and I were blessed to get to know two couples a little better. If I explained how much I was blessed by conversing with these two couples, it would triple this writing.

Now back to Judy’s invitation to sing with the choir. Not having worn a choir robe for over 30 years, I really did not know what to expect. My intentions were only to help add a bass voice since Brother Wingo was unable to sing this year. I am not a strong singer. The reason God had me in the choir loft had little to do with the singing. Just look at what I was able to observe from the back row of the choir. I was able to see one of the couples I had just got to truly meet at breakfast. I was able to see some people that have not been physically able to be in church for a while, two that stand out are Bunny Wingo and Phyllis Campbell. (Ms. Campbell even made it to the sunrise service!) I was able to see children of all ages, which blesses me as my own children are now grown and on their own. I was able to see Roger and Linda Oake’s family and think, maybe one day my children will bring some grandchildren to church. I was able to see people that were celebrating their first Easter with out their spouse (the first I think of is Pat Dickens, but we do have others). I was able to see a beautiful friend that First Church had brought back into our lives. When Stephanie and I first got married 25 years ago, we lived in an apartment for five years next to Joyce Cotton. In the choir I was standing between two long term Church of God men. One is 44 years my senior and been in multiple churches, but at First Church of God Roanoke for many years. The man on my other side is a life long member of the Church of God, but is 11 years my junior. First Church lured him over with one of the pretty young ladies. I was standing behind a lady that is planning to marry my friend that first invited me to First Church. They both seem happy and excited. I felt a little sad for him because he was sick and unable to be at church today. I also could look out and see a lady that is no longer able to live in her home of many years, but what makes it special to me is that when I walk out my front door, I can see the back of that home. First Church allowed me to meet this lady for the first time only a few months ago! (Why don’t we know our neighbors anymore?) One more thing happened while attempting to sing this Easter Sunday morning. I looked out and see a face I have not seen since 10th grade! I had mentioned his name to pastor once and Jim said if I speak to him, tell him to come see the Pastor some time. I had to nearly run to the back to get to speak to him!

After church, I got to spend some time with my family. I asked my mom if she remembered the Boitnott’s from Burlington Elementary. I then showed her the picture directory. Mom said “yes, and she works at Sam’s Club!” Mom had been seeing her there and thought she knew her from some place. First Church helped her make the memory connection.

I have driven past First Church for many years. I am real curious as to why I had not at least made a prior contact. I am very thankful for getting to know the ones I have now met. I also look forward to getting to know even more in the future. First Church is a loving caring place and I am excited to see what God is going to do here in the future.
Thank you for making us feel so much a part of this family!

Jeff Crowder

Check out this guy!

If the Lord doesn’t return before then, I hope I am doing as good as this guy when I am 80!

Spending a Day Afield with Clyde Roberts, 102 Year-Old Hunter

Traditional Opening Day!

Today would be the traditional opening day of the general firearms deer season (before they added the extra Saturday). I have never had success on opening day of Archery or General Firearms seasons. This means that today is the earliest I have been blessed to put meat in the freezer this early in the general season! Praise the Lord! This is the best I could do as this is a real selfie using an old camera. Fujifilm S5100. For the hunters, I could not actually see the antlers before getting to the deer. As I got there, I thought I had a spike. As I got closer, I could see it was a 3 pointer. Not really visible in this picture is a small little spike off the base of the antler that makes it a 3 pointer. He dropped where he was hit. Saw it fall through the scope. Ruger M77 chambered at .308win.


Trail Cam Story

So I had to take my trail camera down for a few days to take home and learn the settings better. While it is down, my brother finds this:

We decide that this might be a great spot for the camera to placed. While we are working on hanging the camera, I jokingly tell my brother “that big boy is over on the hill watching us! He is saying to himself “I’m going to go over and smile for that camera this evening!” I set the camera to take two consecutive pictures then start a 30 second video recording. I’ll only post the second picture of me walking away. Notice the date and time at the bottom:

Now, look at the very next two pictures pictures taken on the camera. Date and time are on the bottom:

It almost appears that he is looking around a corner to see if the camera is ready for him!I_00005b To get a better look at him, please check out the video: Trail Cam Video

Squirrel Hunting Gets Real Interesting!

Check out what happened on our squirrel hunt this morning!