National Geographic Society's
Summer Geography Institute (June - July 1991)
This document was last updated on 04 April 2001 (Ver. 1.2)
© Greg E. Nelson
18 July 1991 Thursday
Kit said his life has been one long field trip. He then reviewed our activities for the next few days. So far, we've had obscene, gorgeous weather. It's important that you keep a journal, for without it, you're a person without a past. Sketch, interview people, think about the process. A lot of this has to do with getting you committed (to geography that is), and to get your colleagues fired up, too. This group will take on the dynamics of a school of fish. We're not after the extraordinary, but the regular landscape, for we know you won't have the White House on your field trip back home.
I had a quick lunch with Don E, Don C, and Jim M at Hardees, at Connecticut and I (Eye) Streets. We all quickly returned to Everglades, packed and loaded onto our bus. Don E and I sat together on bus # 1. We got underway at 1:14, driving N & W. I had a brief nap, but checked out the scenery, especially at Dickey Ridge picnic grounds, It looked like this:
Beth E shared with me her new purchase, "Listening to Nature: How to Deepen Your Awareness of Nature" by John Hendrickson, author of "Nature with Children", Joseph Cornell, author. One quote I liked was: "I feel Thy presence in this landscape which draws my heart so close to Thee". Hazrat Inayat Khan. It was sunny and hot, people in good spirits. I talked with a local girl who rode her bike up the hill from town. We continued on to Piedmont Vista (Hog Walla Flats) where Jody M (TC from AK) talked about the vista, which looked like:
Effect of gypsy moth on oak deforestation.
After this session, I began reading Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, told by Wesley Dennis, which I received recently from the Alliance Book Plus [ thanks, Mom ]. It's a nice little story so far, has good geography Themes. Kit said he'd autograph it if we didn't find the author. I knew Linda would be thrilled to know we got there and met the author.
We continued West on US 211 through George Washington National Forest, which is gorgeous with so many trees! We drove through Luray, then, I-81 past Harrisonburg to Staunton VA, exit 57 onto US 250. We drove through this interesting town. See other handouts. The City Park is really nice. It's just what I'd expect in a New Harmony Project: how to keep young people in town after graduation, keep unemployment low. There's a nice pool (closed), baseball diamonds in use, a railroad (5 circuits for 50 cents, very popular with our SGI people), a nice picnic area. The bar-b-que included chicken and ribs, beans, potato salad, vegetable salad, juice and ice tea, rolls/butter, homemade apple/peach cobbler. We sat under tents and some by the creek. Sheryl T figured out a way to fall into the creek. We then walked over to the bandshell and listened to part of "An evening of 'Global Jazz'", performed by Tim Reynolds and TR3. A good funky sound.
I was walking around, looking for a place to sit down, when a young man about 9 asked me about the ticket on my hat. It was a Metro ticket. He said it reminded him of a card like a credit card he'd seen at school. We talked about NGS. His eyes popped out and said his granny had thousands of them, so the shelves sagged. I gave him my business card and told him to write and I'd sent him something from NE. He and his mother were very nice, supportive of education, excited about our work with NGS. He said he'd put my business card in his year book. This little event reminded me of a young man meeting a student from Hong Kong, Fong Ching Chan, [whom I] met on the SF-Sidney NE train, 1958. Quite a thrill. We all went to our motel, went completely bonkers in the pool [we did the Coriolis effect] and Jaccuzi until 10:45, then to room 234 and bed after writing/reading 01:45.
19 July 1991 Friday
Augusta County House, Staunton, Virginia
After doing our sketching, we visited the Augusta County Court House.
Bob was looking for wills on his wife's side of the family while I looked for land use maps to use with my students. The honor plaques for WWI soldiers had the "colored" names after the white names. We saw a lot ot "sketching fools" back on Main Street.
Some SGI people were interviewing residents. Some of us had mid-morning break at the Beverley Cafe with Gerry, Nancy, Kathy G., Sheryl, Don, and myself. We visited a bookstore, where a number of us purchased items. We walked up to the wharf, old railway station, where we had our debriefing.
My interview was with Fred H in his 70's from Norton VA. He sold bread and later medical equipment. He said the Union boys put glass in his bread. There was some kind of settlement with John L. Lewis, $1.9 million in the settlement. During WW 2, he [H] was a flight officer, which was unusual only because he had never been a pilot. He also claimed to be the only serviceman to serve in three fronts: Atlantic, Pacific, and Panama. After our debriefing, we walked over to the nearby restaurant in the depot and had lunch: fish soup, house salad with Erie E, Henry D, and Lois W.
We walked around for a little while. I purchased a copy of "Model Railroads", August 1958, for Frank F. Just before we left, Dan C fell on the cobblestones and hurt his knee. Harris and Kirk went with him to the hospital. He arrived at our hotel, the Ramada Inn, in Richmond, before we did. We left a little after 2:00 and drove to Richmond. I took a little nap part of the way, as were a number of other people, younger and older than I. We were dropped off at the corner of Broad and First Street. Some of the interesting places we visited included: Festival Flags Unlimited Ltd., where lots of pretty flags were for sale. Further down Broad Street, we saw a milk bottle shaped building. In the same block was Theatre VI, where a performance of "The Quilters" was to take place. This is an exciting development as the theatre has been recently reopened after the expenditure of $2.7 million. This building was created for vaudeville, then used by live drama and movies. Kit and Cathy were there and also excited about it. I recall being in Geraldton NZ with Linda and meeting a nice chap, Nigel B, who was renovating the local movie theatre there.
There's a tremendous variety of scenes on Broad Street. It's mostly in a poor black neighborhood with the selling of T shirts, sunglasses, and other wares. One T shirt said, "My heroes aren't on US stamps" and their small photos/labels of Malcolm X, Nelson and Winnie Mandella, Louis Farrakhan, Jessie Jackson and other names I didn't recognize. We saw the African National flag on the side of one building. Woolworths was 100% black, including magazine titles. Soon we arrived at the 6th Street Market, an up-scale series of shops, including a "G'Day Mates" T-shirt/ souvenirs. I asked if he was affiliated with the store in Omaha. With a surprised look on his face, he said, "No". Beth E and some others were there. Beth was at Ayres Rock on 4 July, 1988. We went by bus to VA Commonwealth University where Mary Jean gave a talk on Richmond. It was OK, considering we were tired. We checked into the Raddison for food, talk, TV. I watched SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, and off to bed, 01:15.
20 July 1991 Saturday
Breakfast from 7:15 to 8:15 with Kathy M. We waited about 35 minutes before we got any satisfaction and then decided to do the buffet "to save time." Since Kit and Kathy also were late, so the buses would not leave at 8:15 but at 8:30. The downtown of Richmond is severely blighted around the Radisson. We were advised not to walk around in the neighborhood after dark. We drove on to Old Blanford Church, where Marshall L (TC from MA) had organized an interesting project involving grave stones. We made rubbings of our favorite gravestones and looked around for the oldest grave, [which turned out to be] 1702, Richard Yarborough, 78 years old. His grave is close to the church. The Old Blanford Church, [built in] 1735 was not used much after 1802. The windows were designed and installed by Tiffany of NY. Normally windows of this type cost $5,000 - 15,000 each, but he charged the Ladies Memorial Association $365 plus $20 transportation and installation fee per window. He even donated one window himself. My rubbing was of the woman who founded Memorial Day.
Most of those buried nearest to the cemetery are Scots and English. Slaves were sometimes buried with their Master's family. Most Blacks are buried in their own cemetery near here. Nowadays, there is no segregation in any cemetery.
We then went over to Bacon's Castle where we had a very nice [in spite of the] styrofoam box lunch of chips, chicken or ham salad sandwich, peaches and peanut butter pie. While waiting to go inside, we learned about peanuts, crop rotation, ground water pollution and other things from Dot Ritchie, Administrator of Bacon's Castle, rural Surrey? Co. VA. Some of us toured the garden/vegetable patch, which contains 17-18th century plants. I'd never seen artichokes [growing] before. In a few minutes, we got inside the house built by Arthur Allen in 1665. (See Harting handout). They showed us a brief video on the house and the family. Then we saw the various rooms, most of which are furnished in 17th or 18th century furniture. I was impressed with the condition of the house, surrounding area and the town. Peanuts, soy beans, and corn are the main crops grown here. After our tour we departed for Virginia Beach.
Our bus #1 with Kit and others, was pretty excited about our arrival. After our arrival, we [Angel and I] checked into room 245 with Bob A our additional roommate. We then scoped out [the] boardwalk, with Virginia G whose photo I took on the beach. [We called it her beach.] Had dinner with Paul W and Roberto V. We caught our bus back to Virginia Beach Resort Hotel and Conference Center. We got back just at the stroke of 9:00 for Gary Miller's talk on Virginia Beach. He had us pose questions on major geographic themes. My [two part] question was, (Part 1) "What is the future of public transportation?" and (Part B), "What is being done to solve [the] problem of parking in Virginia Beach?" He showed us slides of some major geographic feature of the area and we discussed these.
A lot of us were trying hard to stay on task, but it was difficult. Some other events and thoughts from today are:
We (Kathy S and others) stumbled on the grave of Judy (Indiana) Allen Henley Robinson at the Old Blanford Church cemetery in Petersburg VA It was a very ornate grave and border. This is important because we were in her house two hours later! See poem. (Bob A was our overnight guest, sort of.)
21 July 1991 Sunday
The best story in town this morning was when I was watching TV and I heard some sizzling noises coming from the TV. Then I began to smell something like burning plastic. The sizzling noise got louder and the odor became more putrid. Angel came back into the lounge area to collect his breakfast in the microwave; his tennis shoes, complete with wet sox! After that excitement, Angel and I went over to the nearby McDonalds and joined Joe F and Kirk E for breakfast. We climbed onto the bus and departed about 8:20 for Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which we reached after driving back down the Strip where we'd been last night. I'm not very happy with this urban life and like beach growth even less than urban life in DC, this was a swamp infected area or Staunton (rural) mountains. In 1959, about 100,000 lived in VA Beach area vs. 400,000 in 1990. There are 7 kinds of military activities in the area. See Brochure.
Kit talked about the view-shed: What you can see on the horizon. I like the natural environment much more than urban! Tony Leger, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, welcomed us (he drank the coffee for us) and had a lot of interesting things to say:
Debriefing at Back Bay NWR
This is a barrier spit formation, not an island. We control 9,000 - 10,000 Acres [... - ... ha] , 4.600 A [.... ha] in water and rest in land. We can lose 40 feet [18 m] of sand in one big storm (or average season). We have to accept change, learn to rearrange it. We get some of our sand back, while in Sandbridge, they don't because the houses block the eastward sand cycle. We're controlling our water levels better to control disease and management of wildlife. Some of our funding comes from private groups such as Ducks' Unlimited. We maintain the corridor for pasarine birds. There's an annual whitetail deer hunt to maintain a stable population. We do a lot with loggerhead sea turtles, which are endangered. Our hatch rate is 99%, but the survival rate to maturity is less than 1%. Our NWR motto is "preserve, enhance, protect". We have people way down the list of groups to help. We are now seeing piping plovers, but they are not yet nesting here. Drum chopping removes island vegetation and influences biomass production. Fire is an important tool in our management plan. People have messed up the process. We have a big environmental education program. Joan Wright, the plan expert, helps us out. We have three platform study sites for kids. Volunteers are used a lot, to install board-walks and other things. Acquisition is slow; we fight real estate developers, big money.
Study site sketch
Further observation of [my] study site: it's located about 100 feet [.. m] above the water line, hot skin is leaking on this page, flies, wind, sounds of surf, bird, people, alight breeze. Deb R ( TC from TX ) lead the debriefing in which we discussed the sights, smells, and noises. Someone asked Tony Leger about the Bush [Administration's] "no net loss" policy and he said it would work, if it would ever get out of the Domestic Policy Council. Lunch was catered and served on the deck nearby picnic area. Lunch [was very good.]
Tony lamented the fact that growth was not an issue in the recent local council election. The no growth people are on the [local city] council. Private property rights are everything now in VA Beach. We used not to get involved politically, but we do now. I'm nervous about some of this, but have to get involved. Kit [whimsically]: we don't get any sense of commitment from you, do we? (Joke) Deb R [speaking about her own teaching situation]: we empower the kids, her students, have the Mayor visit us. Judy H said the local environmental groups can't stop the growth of Cedar Point tourist area. Tony: sometimes we have to close a beach to protect our endangered species act, or we'd lose our credibility. (see notes.)
In our evaluation, Tony said, thanks for your media, energy.
Shortly after noon we departed for Chincoteague / Assateague Islands. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which was interesting. I'm glad to sit near the front of bus, where I can see where we're headed. We stopped at the Farmers Market, where we consumed vast quantities of watermelon, peaches, fresh roasted peanuts, and other things. This stand reminded me of the fruit stands that Linda and I visited near Atherton, Queensland, only Aussie stands are much better in selection and prices. This stand did have VA hams which looked good. We were all in pretty good spirits, considering the late nights we've had.
We had a presentation at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which was interesting. The fellow who gave us the talk was Lee Westernberg. He had been with the Interior Dept. in AK last year, and is making the adjustment to E[astern] VA summers. No one complained [at] having our lecture in an A/C building. The RR [toilet] was across the parking lot, but later after seeing the que decided to forgo the luxury. Lee spoke about (see film data sheet) environmental education and the complex usage here. Beach is managed by NPS, but is part of FWS. He teaches teachers [as it provides] more information for the dollars. He knew NE's NPS/Crescent Lake.
After that, we returned to the bus and went to Back Bay and Chincoteague, where we checked in our motel. Everyone was pretty excited to get there. I had no idea of what to expect, but found it to be an interesting little town, if somewhat too commercial.
It was very hot, nearly 100 F [.. C]. After a while, a bus load of us drove out to the seashore. Enroute, we saw the small deer, mother and twins, all fawns, ran across the road. Harris P had prepared a series of questions to ask people we saw on the beach and in the parking lot. Don E was my partner and our questions to ask were: A. "How many times have you been to the beach?" and 2, "How many times have you been to see the marshlands?"
We're at Tom's Cove Visitor Center. Our research found that (see film data sheet for details) All had been here to see the beach and everyone had planned to see the marshes while there. For some people, they'd been here up to six times. One fellow, Herman W, was a native. He was in his 70's had a down east accent, and told us he first lived here before the bridge was built, came over to the island by row boat. His Uncle '"Clarence and Aunt Ida" are in the children's book Misty" of Chincoteague. He'll be in Omaha in the fall for a U.S. Boggs Pearl Harbor reunion. There was a little bit of complaining about the survey cutting into our beach time. But Don and I got ours done quickly/efficiently, and then did the beach thing. First, the U.S. beaches are not the same as in Australia. The Aussie beaches are cleaner, less crowded, have prettier sand and bigger waves. Nevertheless, no one in our group including myself sat in the bus. Some in our group just walked along the beach, went body surfing, picked up shells, rocks, or just sat and soaked in the atmosphere. I think Harris and Deb R. were in charge and our beach time was extended to 7:45.
On the beach at Assateague
See slides for journal ideas. On the way back to town, we drove past the pony pens but didn't stop. Kit said we'd have time in the morning. We didn't see any [endangered] squirrels, in spite of the sign. It took about 15 minutes to get back to town, across the bridges. We quickly showered and changed into appropriate dinner attire. We'd heard that the Chincoteague Inn was a good place to eat, so I walked over there with Lois W, Julie Z, Rosemary B, Don E, Regina B, and Peggy S. On our way to the restaurant, we walked past the red brick firestation, which members caused the running of the ponies as a fund raiser. I'm glad I finished reading the Misty book yesterday! My meal was fishermans stew, big chunks of fish and veg. nicely seasoned, soft shelled crab sauteed in light butter. I couldn't eat much [of the crab]. It was very disappointing, [although the] salad and corn bread [were fine]. We had to pay extra for more bread and when someone (Rosemary I think) found a fly in her drink, she still had to pay for it. [The drink, not the fly]. On the whole an underwhelming meal. I believe Dot E and 2 others sat at a nearby table. We did get to meet Nancy V's husband and 2 year old son, while at the restaurant.
We were looking out on the Chincoteague Harbor, but didn't explore it much. I wanted to call the family and tell them how much fun we were having, but walked by the phone near the firestation [without stopping]. We stopped at the Muller ice-cream shop; my flavor was coffee and it was delicious. A bunch of our SGI group chose not to go to the beach, but were instead engaged in pool activities, checking out local shops and generally having fun. I went back to the Mariner Motel, talked with people. Then I went to our room and called Linda. This was 11:30-midnight. Let me tell you what happened the next morning. I had just returned from the sunrise beach trip and had asked Harris P how he spent Sunday night. He said there had been an announcement on his bus that the little girl, Maureen Beebe, from Misty would be signing autographs at her shop, only one block from our motel. Apparently, she was doing just that during the time I was on the telephone talking with Linda. Shock!
22 July 1991 Monday
Shock was not the only feeling I had this morning. We'd all tried to get to bed early (which is why I am catching up on this journal days later). Angel and I had a standing joke [on] how he was trying to get me to bed at a reasonable time. Good luck.
Assateague Island debriefing
We journeyed by bus back to Assateague Island for our sunrise discussion on the beach. It was cool and breezy, quite pleasant actually. Kit asked us to debrief our beach surveys of last evening. Harris P asked for our results: there was fishing only 50 yards away, some said sharks were there. Over 100 dolphins were sighted here recently. The parking lot survey revealed that states and a % of visitors were: VA 33%, MD 30%, PA 15%, DE, IN, DC, MA, IL GA 1 plate each and CT and QU had 3 plates each. Should federal dollars be used to manage the beach? Should beach be developed? Most who were surveyed said "No". That's why they came here. Some people wanted food stands on the dunes. Will the marsh lands behind the dunes become flooded? NJ people said no; the locals who understand the process said yes. Visitors wanted mass transport to the beach, locals opposed the idea, except on pony penning day, [which is] this week. People surveyed said most would close the beach to protect the wildlife, but for different reasons. Some locals didn't like education opportunities here, but appreciated the simple life, few jobs. One local teenager, 16, said this was a boring place, especially in winter, [he] didn't go to the beach much, didn't like school, was glad to see teachers had homework! Jim got some 'Save Assateague' brochures from a woman. Some shop keepers said it would be OK to close the beach; one person said "Move the beach!" One of Cheryl T persons said she'd be brokenhearted if they closed the beach because of the [loss of] wildlife. One old man said [it was] OK to close beach, but [he wanted them] to build a $1 million bridge to allow people who don't contribute to local economy, doesn't make sense. 44 people said don't close the beach, 35 said OK.
Kit made his final talk while we were there. He made references to Chesapeake and some things we'd studied in class! There were pictures of friends to be taken, lots of hugs, some tears. Land-lubbers Jeff M and Kathy S jumped into the surf for one last time. I was thinking about all the wonderful people I'd met at the SGI and my family. We walked slowly up over dunes back to the parking lot. At about that time we saw a single mare with colt run by [the] parking lot in [the] direction of [the] pens and town. A few minutes later with an eastern cowboy/fireman as guards, we saw the Chincoteague pony herd being moved closer to the pens, the water, and the town of Chincoteague. It was grand to see the ponies! I wished that Lin had been there, too.
The running of the Chincoteague ponies
We mounted our NGS buses and slowly made our way across the sand dunes, marsh (Turlock swamp?) and pine forest to the bridge and back to town. There, we organized our luggage, checked out of the motel, had coffee/juice, milk, and donuts by the pool. It was then that I learned that the little girl from Misty, Maureen, had been in her family art gallery signing autographs, not more than a block away! I was pretty upset and wandered around for about thirty minutes. The efforts of Joe F and Kirk E from NGS to obtain an autograph later in the day also proved unsuccessful. This turned out to be the most upsetting experience of the entire SGI adventure [for me], for I knew how badly Linda wanted to meet the author of Misty. I had been misled by some people that Marguerite Henry came back to Chincoteague each summer to watch the ponies swim. Kit told us this morning that she was dead. Others in town said only that she hadn't been back since the 1950's.
We departed about 9:15, drove north to highway 175, then 13 and 50 back to Washington. We had lunch at Wendy's, [on the outskirts of] Annapolis MD. It rained in the city, and it was cool and reflective. We washed clothes, talked.
After our return to Washington and GWU /Everglades, Don E and I decided to go down to the Mall and see the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum, the world's most popular museum: thanks to Douglass Kemp for that news, American Student Travel to DC, May-June 1991. To save time, Don and I took the Metro from GWU/Foggy Bottom, (I love that name) to L'Enfant Plaza stop, walked north to Air and Space. It was packed, of course. We were fortunate to get a good place in line to see the IMAX program, BLUE EARTH, which I saw on 31 May and planned to see again, if possible. It's a wonderful film, partly photographed by astronauts, ground film in Africa, compare LS from Space Shuttle of red lake with CU from aircraft. Don and I visited the bookstore, where I purchased a few gifts. That's where I saw the Japanese kid with six $100 bills in his wallet. How does one become Japanese? We wandered around NASM and then out to the Mall and across to National American History Museum, where I spent more time in the shop than museum itself. The Star Spangled Banner is unveiled several times daily, but we missed it. After a while, Don took the elevator upstairs, and I returned to the Everglades to accept a prior dinner date with Norma G, Angel R, and others. [We went to a Greek restaurant where ] I had Garides Saganaki (shrimp, feta cheese, tomatoes, garlic, herbs), coffee, Baklava.
Thanks to Marie Nelson for typing up these notes on her Apple //e, summer 1991.
(WQsgi910718.html)gen 04 April 2001