Author Archive: Tom

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

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Winter Solstice on the Indian River-016

Winter Solstice on the Indian River

The shortest day of the year. When I can, it’s gotten to be my tradition to celebrate the winter solstice by paddling out to watch the sunrise. I had just driven ten hours on Saturday and arrived in Fort Pierce so that I can do my dawn paddle on Sunday. I was not disappointed.

Knowing that I’d be heading back down here in a couple of weeks, I left one of my kayaks when we came down at Christmas. It was waiting and ready when I got up at 5:30 am. Sunrise was at 7:09, so I had time to enjoy a bit of paddling in the dark. (more…)

Winter at the SC Botanical Gardens

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South Carolina Botanical Garden-007

Wednesday was my one day this week without a singing engagement. I had originally planned to drive down to Columbia with Ken to see this Norman Rockwell exhibit, but we had some family business that needed tending. I was able to see my niece, Olivia, in her kindergarten Christmas play, and they didn’t have a single lobster.

I was able to wrap things up by lunch time, and I wanted to get out and do some photography. Even though we didn’t have time for Columbia, I called Ken to see if we could do something local. We decided to check out the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson. (more…)

Birthday Hike to the Top of the World

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Whiteside Mountain-33

View from Whiteside Mountain

Sunday was my birthday, and it was going to be tough. In addition to the realization that age is rapidly advancing, Laura had to leave last week to go assist with her mom, which meant I was on my own. This was also the first birthday without my own mother, and her usual phone call would be sorely missed. I decided that rather than mope around the house, I was going to head out on an adventure.

If you’re approaching Greenville along I-385 on a clear day, off in the distance is a striking angular peak. At 4390 ft above sea level, Whiteside Mountain isn’t the tallest peak in the Appalachians by any stretch of the imagination. However, it does boast the largest exposed granite cliffs of any in the Blue Ridge. Back in my rock-climbing/rappelling days the sharp peak always intrigued me, and always seemed slightly out of reach. While I did lots of climbing and rappelling along Glassy Mountain (before the desecration of The Cliffs), Devil’s Courthouse, and other points in the Blue Ridge, I never made it to Whiteside Mountain. I decided that would be my goal for the day. (more…)

So You’re Considering a GoPro

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GoPro Hero 3 Black

GoPro Hero 3 Black

This morning I got a message from a friend considering a GoPro camera as a Christmas present. Since I’ve gotten that question several times, I decided to put together a blog post with what I’ve been telling folks who might be thinking about getting one, either for themselves or as a present.

I’ll state up front that I love my GoPro, but sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship. Even though I (and lots of other people) come up with different ways to use the camera, it’s a niche product, and you have to know its limitations. TL;DR version, I wouldn’t recommend it as your sole camera, but if you’re an active, creative photographer, you’ll find yourself using it in all sorts of ways you never imagined when you first got it. (more…)

The New Modern Prophets

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TL;DR jump to audio file. Also, see the note at the end for disclaimer regarding names mentioned in this post.

Flashback – Summer, 1981

I was in-between semesters at Furman and was trying to earn a bit of cash for school by working maintenance for Laurens School District 55. This particular summer I was painting Sanders Middle School with an older guy (and by older, I mean probably in his mid-30s) whose first name I could only remember – Willie. Willie was a hard worker, and taught me lots about commercial painting, most of which I’ve long since forgotten. I liked Willie, and enjoyed my work with him that summer.

Willie was a devout Christian, and enjoyed listening to a local Black Gospel station on AM radio. I got into it, too, listening jealously to some of the piano chops these guys had. However, the one thing that made my day were the advertisements for Reverend Yuri. At precisely 11:25 am and 2:25 pm these would air.

Reverend Yuri was a spiritual advisor and reader located on Cedar Lane in Greenville. To this day I can point out his former establishment, which still looks rather weird. (I only know it was the place because there was a large billboard proclaiming it as Yuri’s, and not from any actual visits to the establishment.) His advertisements featured him using the vernacular, and started like this…

Is you tired? Is you lonely? Has your friends let you down? Reverend Yuri can help…

In the following years I’d tune in every now and then to listen to the ads, simply because I loved the use of the lilting vernacular. A couple of years later Reverend Yuri was replaced by “Sister Yuri.” I don’t know what happened. Sex change? Had I misunderstood the gender from the get-go, and the voice I was appreciating was that of the announcer? Who knows? Eventually Yuri closed shop and the ads ended. (more…)

More Thanksgiving Escapes

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Island Kayak

NOTE: After a week, Thanksgiving turkey is probably getting old and not something you want to eat. I’m about a week late with this post, and I’m hoping it’s not quite as stale.

It was a week of lots of home health care visits. The nurse who will be staying with Laura’s mom on a regular basis dropped by a couple of times over the holidays. Another nurse came by a couple of times, and there were two different physical therapists in multiple times to work with her. Laura and I were tasked with heading out to get various items necessary for all of these pursuits. Add to that the desire for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and things could get stressful very quickly.

Even so, we managed to have a traditional Wright family turkey gathering, and I was able to spend some time with my family. I even managed a couple more escapes on my kayak. (more…)

Indian River Escape

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Indian River Grunge

Been a tough couple of weeks, and I seem to be suffering from writer’s block. I just haven’t been too inspired to research or photograph anything. Even when I have subject material, such as my long urban walk, or research on my grandfather’s churches, or a dozen other things I could be pursuing, I seem to lose interest about halfway through the post or project. So, I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep writing on a regular schedule.

And with that, we’re here in Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays. Laura’s mom was just released from three months in a skilled nursing rehab center after breaking both legs in a fall. Our job was to help her get re-established at Laura’s sister’s home and situated with home health-care, etc. I needed an occasional escape, so I brought a kayak down with me.

Escape #1 – Night Paddling

We arrived later Sunday evening than I had planned. Monday was spent running errands and getting supplies for the house. By Monday evening I was ready for an escape. I headed out for an after-dark paddling trip.

Indian River Paddling-013 (more…)

Taking a Break

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Gulf and Public Telephone

I’ve been taking time to deal with several household and family matters lately, so updates here have been sparse. Doesn’t look like that trend will change over the next week or so, so here are a couple of quick teasers.

First up, a couple of weeks ago I had to put my car into the shop. When it was ready I decided to walk to pick it up – 4.5 miles along some of Greenville’s busiest roads. It was an interesting experience. Of course I had my camera with me. I was working on a detailed blog post with descriptions of each shot, but kept getting interrupted, then lost interest. Here’s a slide show from that trip on November 5th…

Last week we paid another visit to the Pickens Flea Market. The only camera I used was my discreet GoPro. I managed to get quite a few shots. Here’s that slideshow…

Thanksgiving holidays will be tie up with travel and other family affairs, but I’m hoping to get in at least a little kayaking and photography. We’ll see.

Grave Matters at the Savannah River

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Savannah River from Stokes Bluff with LCU Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM Nov 8, 2014, 9-039

Headstone in the Rip Rap at Stokes Bluff

Yesterday when we were kayaking on the Savannah River we found something rather disturbing. About a half mile south of Stokes Bluff Landing on the South Carolina side of the river several headstones were embedded in the rip rap along the bank.

DCIM107GOPRO
DCIM107GOPRO (more…)

A November Paddle on the Savannah River

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Savannah River from Stokes Bluff with LCU Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM Nov 8, 2014, 2-058

Cypresses at Kennedy Lake on the Savannah River

It was a second Saturday, and we were long overdue for a Lowcountry Unfiltered paddling trip. We missed last month, and the two months before that our schedule had been somewhat off. I really needed to get back on the water and it seemed that the Savannah River was just the ticket.

Savannah River from Stokes Bluff with LCU Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM Nov 7, 2014, 4-18 PM

I drove down Friday afternoon and stayed overnight in Walterboro. Alan and I met up for breakfast there, then we headed on toward our put-in at Stokes Bluff in Hampton County. The section we would be floating wasn’t as long as some of our other trips, but we would have opportunities for several side excursions.

Savannah from Stokes Bluff (more…)

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