Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Georgia Covered Bridges

Today I began a quest to visit the fourteen covered bridges in Georgia. My plan was to visit three, but alas, only two were in the cards. Both bridges I visited today are open to traffic, so it was a neat experience riding across them.

I left home around 10:30 and rode US378W into GA, and then got on US78W in Washington. In Lexington I got on GA22N and rode into Watson Mill Bridge state park, where I visited my first bridge. This is a pretty neat park with several hiking trails and camp sites, so I'll have to return sometime and camp.

I then tried my best to find Howard's Bridge, just across GA22. I found what I thought to be the right road and rode up and down a couple of times, as well as explored both directions of where this road ended at a T; one way took me back to the main road, and the other ended in soupy red clay. I wanted no part of that, so I u-turned, which proved to be rather difficult since I was facing downhill, and the road was narrow with deep ditches on both sides, but I finally managed. I then encountered a lady out walking, so I stopped to enquire, and she said that I had gone the right way, toward the dirt road, but that I should see it before the dirt. So, I went down that way again, and once again, performed the difficult u-turn, but never did find the bridge. When I got home and researched further, it turns out you do have to go down the dirt. I don't mind dirt, but soupy red clay is something I don't want to mess with, so I'll have to try for this one again later in my car, or perhaps park my bike and walk the rest of the way.

So I then headed back down GA22 to US78W to Wolfskin Road, which leads to Watkinsville; this was a fun road with some nice sweepers. In Watkinsville I got on GA15S, and after about 4 miles I came to the road leading to Elder Mill Bridge. There were a couple of houses in the vicinity, and I guess one of them is where a beautiful German Shepherd lives; he provided company as I explored this bridge.

Just up GA15 from the bridge I encounted a newly-opened Ducati dealership, N.P.R. Ducati www.nprducati.com I chatted with the owner, Paul, and two employees, as well as a couple of customers; they were all very friendly folks. One of the customers is on his second VFR, as well as a Ducati 748, and one of the employees is currently riding an SV650 but wants to get a VFR. The shop was laid out very nicely, and even had a capucino machine! Those crazy Italians. :-) They had one of the new 1098's, as well as a prototype of the new Hypermotard! Beautiful machines! They're having a grand opening the weekend of March 16, that I hope to make it back for. They plan some good partying Friday night, and demo rides on 19 machines on Saturday.

It was about 5:00 by then, so I just headed south to I-20 and slabbed it back home, arriving around 7:30. I covered about 400 miles in all. Great day! Couldn't have asked for better weather.

One final pic of a highway sign that I thought was pretty funny; it indicated severely bumpy terrain that I guess the DOT thought motorcyclists needed to be especially warned of.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Army Tuba Conference, Washington D.C.

Last week I went with my friend Dave to Washington D.C. for the annual U.S. Army Tuba and Euphonium Conference, held at Ft. Myer Army Base. On our way up we stopped in Richmond, VA and visited the Edgar Allan Poe museum, which featured a number of items that belonged to him, paintings of him and others in his life, and a great deal of history relayed by the tour guide. The museum is housed in the oldest building in Richmond, built in 1737.

We got to D.C. a day before the conference began, and we spent it at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex, adjacent to Dulles Airport. There are around 100 historical aircraft on display, including a space shuttle, the Enola Gay, and the Virgin Atlantic plane that recently circumnavigated the globe nonstop. The number of aircraft and the display design was simply mindblowing. We were there from open until close, taking a short break for lunch at the onsite restaurant, and a break for an IMAX film dealing with a Top Gun-type fighter pilot school held in Nevada.

That evening we headed into Bethesda, MD to visit my friend Becky with whom I used to work at USC. She took us on a great walking tour of downtown Bethesda; that town is certainly not at a shortage for restaurants, so it was a great challenge to decide which one to patronize, but we finally decided on one specializing in Afghan cuisine; I had a vegetarian dish made up of potatoes, tomoatoes, and basmati rice that was quite tasty. It was really good to see her again.

The conference featured many recitals by soloists and ensembles from various universities and military bands from around the nation and beyond (there were several attendees and performing groups from England and Germany.) Nestled in between performances were masterclasses and two reading sessions, in which attendees who brought their horns read pieces written for the tuba-euphonium ensemble; Dave and I both participated in those and had great fun. At the first one I shared a music stand with a Scottish fellow who's in the British navy, and at the second one I shared a stand with a Penn State student. Meeting interesting folks who are just as nutty as me about tubas was a lot of fun.

Ft. Myer is directly adjacent to Arlington Cemetery, so we squeezed in a visit to it. It's very large, so we saw only a small portion, but we did manage to visit the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers and JFK's grave.

Lots of fun! Hearing so many incredible players makes one want to go home and either practice like mad or pitch your tuba over a bridge! :-) Fortunately I've been doing the former and having a great time, feeling really rejuvenated musically.

The Poe Museum:

Bust of Poe:

A Concord:

The Enola Gay:

Me test driving a new horn: