Monday, April 30, 2012

April SWAC Breakfast update with Rep. Goodlatte

Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Dr. Kurt Michael, Maryellen Goodlatte review SWAC Political Breakfast agenda.

Supervisor David Karaffa (I-Beverley Manor) addresses the crowd.
Larry Weeks and Debbie Garrett listen to Congressman Goodlatte.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-6th)

Reporter Bob Stuarts at the News Virginian attended breakfast and wrote "Goodlatte confronted by opposition at local political breakfast."

For more information, check out the SWAC Political Breakfast website.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
28 April 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Grace Christian School Boots & Bandana Auction today

Today is perfect to don your your boots, tie a bandana around your neck, and head out for a fun evening with friends and neighbors for the 12th annual Boots & Bandana Benefit Auction at Grace Christian School in Staunton.

A favorite event year after year, the proceeds benefit the school while providing bargains for those who bid on donated items. Mix in some lively bluegrass music, a silent auction, fellowship with friends, and a BBQ supper followed by the live auction that runs into the night, and you have the makings for an entertaining day.

Hundreds of folks attend every year. Located in the Grace Christian Activities Center on Middlebrook Road, registration begins at 3:00. Cost is $15 per person (18 and older) which buys a ticket into the event and BBQ supper. The silent auction will open at that time for browsing and bidding.

Beginning at 4:00 and for every 15 minutes until 5:00, silent auction tables will be shut down; i.e., 4:00 signals the end of bidding for the RED tables, 4:15 WHITE tables, 4:30 BLUE tables, 4:45 GREEN & ART tables, 5:00 YELLOW tables which contain the Super Silent Items.

At 5:00 they begin serving the BBQ with all the fixings while entertainment is provided by a local blue grass band.

At 6:00 the Live Auction starts ... and that's when the fun begins. Be ready with your bidding skills ... there are some sharp shoppers ready to bid you down on an item they have their eye on! Don't leave early ... door prizes are drawn before the live auction and you have to be there to win.

Come on out to the auction and be prepared to have a good time while supporting a good cause ... Grace Christian School.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Monday in Staunton: Susan Allen will be at Wright's Dairy Rite

You are invited to a dutch-treat lunch with

Mrs. Susan Allen

Wife of U.S. Senate Candidate
George Allen

Wright's Dairy Rite
Staunton's nostalgic 1950s diner that was

chosen one of the Top Ten Drive-Ins in America
Monday, April 30, 2012
12:00 Noon - 1:30 p.m.

Please invite your neighbors and friends!

On Monday, Susan Allen will join residents for lunch and talk about her husband's campaign for U.S. Senate.  Come on our to talk with Mrs. Allen while enjoying the 1950s diner atmosphere at Wright's, owned by the same family since 1952 and a favored hangout for local recording artists, the Statler Brothers, when they were growing up. Governor and then U.S. Senator George Allen liked to stop by whenever in the area.

Choose from a wide variety of yummy diner goodies such as cheeseburgers, onion rings, BLTs,  milkshakes, and other ice cream treats. Check out Wright's website for the menu and other information. Parking is on the premises at 346 Greenville Avenue, Staunton, VA 24401.

Susan and George Allen on their deck overlooking the Potomac River in Mt. Vernon, Va.
Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Stuarts Draft: Milmont Garden Center

It's spring buying season at Milmont Garden Center in the Stuarts Draft area of Augusta County.

Previous posts:
- Flowers and veggies from Milmont
- Mennonite-run Milmont Nursery

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
27 April 2012

Downtown Staunton: Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center

 Looking west from the south garden of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center in historic downtown Staunton, Virginia. This 124-room hotel captures the spirit, history and charm of the old South. Originally built in 1924 and a member of Historic Hotels of America, this modern yet refined Virginia gem underwent a complete top-to-bottom renovation in 2005 and has been lovingly restored to it's original grandeur.

Staunton was recently named as one of the top 20 Small Towns in America by Smithsonian Magazine. Click here to see the article. The Stonewall Jackson Hotel features an indoor heated pool, fitness center and a business center, and showcases 8,500 square feet of meeting space with accommodations of up to 400.

 One of Staunton's free trollies passed by on Market Street as we stood at the front entrance to the hotel. Hop on board and ride to a favored destination, getting on and off wherever needed. Walk the downtown streets and visit restaurants, shops, and businesses catering to the many needs of residents and visitors alike.

 Next door to the Stonewall is the Blackfriars Playhouse, home of the American Shakespeare Theater, where performances can be watched year-round. From their website: "Situated in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in historic Staunton, Virginia, the 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse -- the world's only re-creation of Shakespeare's original indoor theatre -- opened its doors in September 2001 and has already delighted tens of thousands of enthusiastic audience members from around the world. The product of years of research, this unique, historically accurate performance space provides the perfect backdrop for the ASC's Elizabethan staging practices, and has already been called one of the most historically important theatres in the world."

 The front portico of the Stonewall offers a welcoming entry to visitors.
On Market Street beside Shakespeare Theater looking at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel.
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
27 April 2012

Bustling downtown Staunton on a Friday afternoon

Downtown Staunton's Beverley Street was bustling this afternoon with shoppers and tourists.

 It's spring in the Shenandoah Valley.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Staunton, Virginia
27 April 2012

Saturday: Rep. Bob Goodlatte to be keynote speaker at SWAC Political Breakfast

We will continue the 6th District Congressional Candidate Series this month by hearing from Congressman Bob Goodlatte on Saturday, April 28, at Golden Corral in Waynesboro. Bring your questions and come hear Rep. Goodlatte's vision for the future of the 6th District. 

Speaker: Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Date:  Tomorrow -- Saturday, April 28, 2012
Time:  8:30 a.m.
Place:  Golden Corral
Location: 51 Apple Tree Lane, Waynesboro, VA 22980 (I-64, Exit 94)
Dutch-treat: Buffet breakfast $10.25 includes coffee & juice

About Our Guest Speaker

Bob Goodlatte came to the United States House of Representatives in 1993, bringing with him valuable knowledge and working experience of one of the largest and most diverse Congressional Districts in Virginia.

Bob's service to the Sixth District began in 1977, when he became District Director for former Congressman M. Caldwell Butler. In that position, he was responsible for providing assistance to citizens as related to solving issues with various federal agencies. In 1979, he founded a private law practice; and later became a partner in the law firm of Bird, Kinder and Huffman, working there from 1981, until his election to Congress.

While in Congress, his leadership abilities earned him a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, where he currently serves as the Vice Ranking Member. He also serves on the Courts and Competition Policy Subcommittee and the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee. Bob's work on the Judiciary Committee aids many of his legislative priorities including ending the Immigration Visa Lottery, cracking down on spammers, curbing illegal Internet gambling, stemming the abuse of frivolous class action lawsuits, and reducing wasteful government spending by requiring a federal Balanced Budget Amendment.

In 2003, Bob was named Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, the first from Virginia since 1947. In that role he promoted healthy forest initiatives, and worked to provide programs to rural Americans who are in need of a stable farm economy, while providing for the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world. He now serves as the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research.

Bob serves as Chairman of the House Republican High Technology Working Group; Co-Chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus; and is a member of the Republican Policy Committee.

Bob, 57, is a graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law, and his undergraduate degree in Government was earned at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Bob and Maryellen have been married for 34 years, live in Roanoke, and have two children, Jennifer and Rob.

SWAC Political Breakfast is fashioned after the popular “town hall meeting” venue. It is non-partisan and open to everybody in the community. SWAC Breakfast does not promote or endorse any particular party and/or point of view. It serves as a social forum for politically-minded people who like to share and discuss ideas with their neighbors. It also allows citizens an opportunity to hear from public figures, elected officials, and candidates running for public office. SWAC Political Breakfast is held at various locations throughout the community.

Staunton City Council votes to raise real estate, personal property taxes

With a vote of 5-2, Staunton City Council voted Thursday night to hike taxes. Mayor Lacey King and Councilwoman Andrea Oakes votes no.

Real estate taxes will be raised from $0.90 per $100 to $0.95 while personal property taxes will be hiked from $2.40 to $2.75. Business personal property will jump from $2.00 to $2.75.

As with other localities around the Commonwealth, unfunded state mandates has put pressure on Staunton's government, according to reporter Calvin Trice with the News Leader:

Declining real estate values and mandates from the state government meant that the city needed to close a $1.4 million shortfall in its projected $45.4 million local budget for the next fiscal year.
Neighboring Rockingham County voted last week to raise their personal property and real estate taxes, something Augusta County supervisors are currently considering to make up for shortfalls in the county and school board budgets. All have noted unfunded mandates passed along to localities from the state legislature as reasons for such a crunch this year.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

George Allen: 'It's time for America to make a grand comeback'

By George Allen
Thursday, April 26, 2012

America has always been energized by the power of ideas, the decency of its people, and the unifying passion of a purpose in our lives and blessed country. Although we've faced many challenges, we have always risen to overcome them.

As a result, America is known throughout the world for its extraordinary courage: To come together. To stand in harm's way. To speak out. To reach for new heights. And to never, ever give up.

With millions unemployed and an economy sputtering, many people today have seen their dreams diminished. Parents don't know if their children will enjoy the same opportunities they had growing up. And entrepreneurs are worried Washington will make it impossible for their business to survive or be passed on to their children.

These stories are being told all across Virginia and the nation. And though they're very real stories of our present, they don't have to be prevalent stories in our future.

The power of our nation's purpose remains as strong as ever and that fight for America's future is ours to win. We need people in Washington who share America's vision for the three ideals most of us still want our nation to be: free, strong, and a beacon.

In many ways, this election is about the freedom that made America great and prosperous. Freedom to start and grow a small business. Freedom to choose the doctors and medical care we want. Freedom to practice our religion and uphold our moral traditions. Freedom to use our plentiful energy resources to control our destiny for job growth and more affordable fuel, food and electricity. Freedom to make local decisions. Freedom from a bloated, debt-ridden intrusive government that not even the richest country on Earth can afford.

We are currently on a dangerous path for our nation and our families. With every new tax, regulation and mandate our country grows less free and less prosperous.

America's citizens — not a distant, unaccountable government — are most capable of making the decisions for ourselves and our families.

Washington powers are wrong — and this November, we must stand together to tell them so. …

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kaine feels the heat of campaign ad

Crossroads GPS = Karl Rove + partners = anti-Tim Kaine ads that criticize Kaine and Barack Obama for “reckless spending” and “higher taxes.”

A taste of their own medicine?  Good job, Mr. Rove.

Crozet Trestle Mural

Talent comes in many forms.

Obama to campaign in Richmond

Oh, joy.

Cantor supports keeping student loans affordable

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th) today confirmed his belief that student loans should remain affordable. In a statement released to the press about the Internet Rate Reduction Act, HR 4628, to keep student loans affordable, he noted:
“The House is committed to making sure student loan rates remain affordable, especially with rising tuition costs and college graduates facing an uphill climb in the job market. Rather than letting student loans become a pawn in the latest political fight, the House will show our commitment to our nation’s students and extend the current rates without adding a dime to the deficit. We must ensure that young people have the opportunity to go to college, receive a quality education, work hard and earn their success. I look forward to a bipartisan vote in support of this common-sense measure to help college students and recent graduates.”

Monday: Susan Allen to visit Staunton

You are invited to a dutch-treat lunch with

Mrs. Susan Allen

Wife of U.S. Senate Candidate
George Allen

Wright's Dairy Rite
Staunton's nostalgic 1950s diner that was

chosen one of the Top Ten Drive-Ins in America
Monday, April 30, 2012
12:00 Noon - 1:30 p.m.

Please invite your neighbors and friends!
On Monday, Susan Allen will join residents for lunch and talk about her husband's campaign for U.S. Senate.  Come on our to talk with Mrs. Allen while enjoying the 1950s diner atmosphere at Wright's, owned by the same family since 1952 and a favored hangout for local recording artists, the Statler Brothers, when they were growing up. Governor and then U.S. Senator George Allen liked to stop by whenever in the area.

Choose from a wide variety of yummy diner goodies such as cheeseburgers, onion rings, BLTs,  milkshakes, and other ice cream treats. Check out Wright's website for the menu and other information. Parking is on the premises at 346 Greenville Avenue, Staunton, VA 24401.

Susan and George Allen on their deck overlooking the Potomac River in Mt. Vernon, Va.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Newt to suspend presidential campaign


Mitt Romney sweeps 5 primaries Tuesday ... 'A better America begins tonight'

~ "It's still about the economy – and we're not stupid." -- Mitt Romney (4/24/12) ~

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a very good Tuesday night. In the five northeastern primaries that included Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, and Deleware, Romney swept them all on his way to the Republican nomination. Follow last night's happenings with Richard Adams' entertaining live-blogging comments.  Byron York at the Washington Examiner has more.

While the votes were being counted, Romney thanked America at a gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he encouraged Americans to not lose hope by encouraging, "A better America begins tonight":

Thank you Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York!  And tonight I can say thank you, America.  After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence – and gratitude – that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility.  And, together, we will win on November 6th!

We launched this campaign not far from here on a beautiful June day. It has been an extraordinarily journey.

Americans have always been eternal optimists.  But over the last three and a half years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership. Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired, and many of those who are fortunate enough to have a job are working harder for less.

For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer.  A better America begins tonight.

Tonight is the start of a new campaign to unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better! The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best America can do!

Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years and the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together.

This has already been a long campaign, but many Americans are just now beginning to focus on the choice before the country. In the days ahead, I look forward to spending time with many of you personally. I want to hear what’s on your mind, hear about your concerns, and learn about your families. I want to know what you think we can do to make this country better…and what you expect from your next President.

And I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. I’ll probably start out talking about my wonderful wife Ann – I usually do – and I’ll probably bore you with stories about our kids and grandkids. I’ll tell you about how much I love this country, where someone like my dad, who grew up poor and never graduated from college, could pursue his dreams and work his way up to running a great car company.  Only in America could a man like my dad become governor of the state in which he once sold paint from the trunk of his car.

I’d say that you might have heard that I was successful in business.  And that rumor is true.  But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people.  You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons. And I’d tell you that not every business made it and there were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson.  And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!

Four years ago Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change.  But after we came down to earth, after the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one?  Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job?  Do you have a better chance to get a better job?  Do you pay less at the pump?

If the answer were “yes” to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his achievements…and rightly so.  But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions.  That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time.  But not here and not now.  It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.

People are hurting in America. And we know that something is wrong, terribly wrong with the direction of the country.

We know that this election is about the kind of America we will live in and the kind of America we will leave to future generations.  When it comes to the character of America, President Obama and I have very different visions.

Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it cannot take, and consumes a greater and greater share of the economy. With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society.

This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars.  He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.

We’ve already seen where this path leads.  It erodes freedom.  It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit.  And it hurts the very people it’s supposed to help.  Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty.  Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.

I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents - some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.

This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.

In the America I see, character and choices matter.  And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded.  And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.

This is the America that was won for us by the nation’s Founders, and earned for us by the Greatest Generation.  It is the America that has produced the most innovative, most productive, and the most powerful economy in the world.

As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, the graduates who can't get a job, the soldiers who return home to an unemployment line, it breaks my heart. This does not have to be. It is the result of failed leadership and of a faulty vision. We will restore the promise of America only if we restore the principles of freedom and opportunity that made America the greatest nation on earth.

Today, the hill before us is a little steep but we have always been a nation of big steppers.  Many Americans have given up on this President but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America.

In the days ahead, join me in the next step toward that destination of November 6th, when across America we can give a sigh of relief and know that the Promise of America has been kept. The dreamers can dream a little bigger, the help wanted signs can be dusted off, and we can start again.
And this time we’ll get it right. We’ll stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again apologize for America abroad.

There was a time – not so long ago – when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared. We were Americans. That meant something different to each of us but it meant something special to all of us. We knew it without question. And so did the world.

Those days are coming back. That’s our destiny.

We believe in America. We believe in ourselves. Our greatest days are still ahead. We are, after all, Americans!

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
What an uplifting speech for an America hungry for uplifting words. On to Tampa and then November.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Over 1,000 witness Weekday Religious Education graduation

Another successful year with the Staunton-Beverley Manor Weekday Religious Educaton (WRE) program concluded Tuesday night with a ceremony for children in grades K-4.

With more than 1,000 spectators that included parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, friends, and community members, there was musical entertainment and testimonies and gratitude expressed to all staff involved in this extracurricular activity.

Fifty students received leather-bound Bibles, presented by WRE President John Hart, as a symbol of their graduation. Pictures were taken and the ceremony ended with all praying the Lord's Prayer. Other WRE board members attended including Staunton Councilwoman Andrea Oakes whose son was one of the graduates.

WRE, under attack in 2005 when the Staunton School Board threatened to discontinue it, was saved when the late Jack Hinton, then WRE president, along with WRE State Board trustee  Kurt Michael who was Augusta County Republican Committee chairman at the time, and an organization of churches helped turn out over 500 members of the community who attended a February 9, 2005, school board meeting to show support for the program. Attorney Gil Davis took the case pro bono and religious freedom was saved in the Central Shenandoah Valley.

Staunton School Board forum tonight

Candidates for Staunton's School Board will take part in a public forum to be held tonight at Lee High School Auditorium from 6-8:00 p.m.  Sponsored by the Staunton Education Association (SEA), the format will include prepared questions as well as those from the audience. 

Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, May 1, 2012, to vote for three positions.

Free entry to Shenandoah National Park through Sunday

As part of their fee-free days, Shenandoah National Park will waive entry fees now through Sunday, April 29. Take advantage of all they have to offer ... hiking, picnicking, biking, bird watching, and enjoy a scenic drive through some of Virginia's most beautiful public lands.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah National Park

Rasmussen poll: Allen 46%, Kaine 45%

Rasmussen is out today with a new poll that has Republican George Allen leading 46 percent over Democrat Tim Kaine's 45 percent of likely voters with 9 percent of voters voicing support for another candidate or undecided. 

Jim Hoeft has good analysis over at Bearing Drift. He notes how little support Jamie Radtke, Bob Marshall, and E.W. Jackson have garnered against George Allen even though they have been campaigning all over the Commonwealth and speaking at tea party events. On April 14, both Radtke and Jackson addressed this Tax Day Tea Party Rally in Harrisonburg. 

The survey of 500 likely voters in Virginia was conducted on Monday, April 23.

U.S. House schedule for April 24, 2012

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 12:00 p.m. morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.
One Minute Speeches
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 1038 - To authorize the conveyance of two small parcels of land within the boundaries of the Coconino National Forest containing private improvements that were developed based upon the reliance of the landowners in an erroneous survey conducted in May 1960 (Sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 2050
- Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act (Sponsored by Rep. Michael Simpson / Natural Resources Committee)

3) H.R. 2157
- To facilitate a land exchange involving certain National Forest System lands in the Inyo National Forest, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Buck McKeon / Natural Resources Committee)

4) H.R. 2947
- To provide for the release of the reversionary interest held by the United States in certain land conveyed by the United States in 1950 for the establishment of an airport in Cook County, Minnesota (Sponsored by Rep. Chip Cravaack / Natural Resources Committee)

5) H.R. 491
- To modify the boundaries of Cibola National Forest in the State of New Mexico, to transfer certain Bureau of Land Management land for inclusion in the national forest, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Martin Heinrich / Natural Resources Committee)

6) H.R. 2240
- Lowell National Historical Park Land Exchange Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Niki Tsongas / Natural Resources Committee)
Special Order Speeches

Energy and Commerce Committee Markup on “Committee Prints: Proposed Matters for Inclusion in Reconciliation Recommendations, Gasoline Regulations Act of 2012, and Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012” (Tuesday, April 24th, at 4:00 p.m.)
Printable PDF

Murder on the Appalachian Trail ... $10,000 reward for info

The 30-year-old Appalachian Trail hiker who was found dead last summer in Amherst County was murdered, according to investigators. WINA reported:
The hiker found murdered along the Appalachian Trial in Amherst County in June died of asphyxiation. That's according to investigators in the case, who have also revealed that 30-year-old Scott Lilly's body was buried after he was killed. FBI Agent Steven Duenas says they are very interested in talking to anyone that had come across any of Lilly's stuff, including a pair of brown and orange Ozark Trail hiking shoes. Officials announced a $10,000 reward for information about Lilly's death.
With the FBI searching for clues, Scott Lilly's sister has pleaded for help in finding who was responsible for his death.

A number of murders have occurred along the trail throughout the years, some that remain unsolved. One of the most notable was the deaths of two women hikers whose throats were slashed in Shenandoah National Park in 1996 but the case has gone cold despite much publicity in the following years. Less than a year later, a skeleton was found in the Park.

The AT hiking community stays aware through Communities along the Appalachian Trail rely on news reports to be informed of progress on murder cases and any disturbing information about crimes that may happen along the mountain tops, a reminder that the outside world can intrude in the national parks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Big Meadows webcam shows snow in Shenandoah National Park

This is the webcam today at Big Meadows Visitor Center on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and, as you can see, it's snowing!

Today is our wedding anniversary and it's always fun to drive to Big Meadows but this year SWAC Husband and I will have to pass since they've closed the gates to visitors.

Meanwhile, cold overcast conditions continue in the Shenandoah Valley where temperatures are hovering in the mid-30s and there's a possibility of stray snowflakes. It's been snowing at Snowshoe Resort in nearby West Virginia since yesterday. April snowstorms ... they're a surprise but they're brief because warmer spring temperatures will return by mid-week. Enjoy your day!

Photo courtesy of National Park Service webcame - Big Meadows, Virginia

Three years later ... where is the Homestead Resort murderer?

Three years ago the quiet of the night was shattered in the mountains of western Virginia when two employees of the historic Homestead Resort were murdered and another employee, suspected of committing the crime, disappeared into the dark, never to be seen again.

It was a busy Saturday night on March 21, 2009, in the tiny town of Hot Springs that has been frequented by generations of visitors for its healing mineral springs and rural beauty. The stately formal dining room of the Homestead was bustling that evening as the band entertained and guests dined while, next door in the kitchen, staff hustled to prepare dinner requests.

It was around 8:00 when a 59-year-old loner named Beacher Hackney, a janitor at the resort who did not associate with co-workers and was described by some as a ticking time bomb, allegedly released his pent-up anger at supervisors Ronnie Stinnett, 60, and Dwight Kerr, 39. According to police, he reportedly shot and killed the two men in the kitchen, then calmly walked out the back door and disappeared into the night. He has not been seen since.

In the days that followed, a massive manhunt had local authorities as well as Virginia State Police, the U.S. Forest Service, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and neighboring Highland County authorities searching the surrounding rugged Alleghany Mountains as well as roadways in and out of the county. Bringing in a helicopter, tracking dogs, and all-terrain vehicles, they closed public schools as a precaution in pursuit of the fugitive who was considered armed and dangerous.

Shortly after the crime, an arrest warrant was issued for Hackney for capital murder. His spartan apartment, and the vehicle he left at the resort's parking lot, were searched but held no clues to help authorities. Bath County Sheriff Larry Norfleet said on the first year anniversary of the murder in 2010 that he thought Hackney was still alive. The crime has been featured several times on America's Most Wanted television show, most recently updated in December 2011.

A native of West Virginia and described by his step-daughter Loretta Robbins as a survivalist, some speculate that Hackney may be living somewhere in the mountains. Others suggested he could have committed suicide in a remote location. With Bath County's proximity to Interstate 64 and the West Virginia state line, there is even the possibility he escaped beyond the immediate vicinity.

Memories of the tragedy linger. Employees at the Homestead, Bath County's largest employer, are like family as generations spend their lives working its historic corridors and expansive grounds so losing two of their own was difficult for this close-knit group.

Since the murders, life has slowly returned to normal in Hot Springs and the surrounding area but people still look over their shoulders three years later and ask, "Where is Beacher Hackney?"

Updated from the Washington Examiner article, 'Two years later ... where is the Homestead Reosrt murderer?' by Lynn R. Mitchell

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Sunday, April 22, 2012

President Bush to participate in Second Annual Warrior 100K ride

Amarillo, Texas, will be a-buzz with activity this week when former President George W. Bush arrives in town for the Second Annual Warrior 100K mountain bike ride. Taking place April 26-28, the President will join 20 wounded warriors from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

The ride is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Military Service Initiative.

What: The Bush Center Second Annual Warrior 100K Ride
When: Thursday through Saturday
Where: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Information: Former President George W. Bush will ride with 20 military personnel from across the U.S. who were significantly injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event is invitation-only. Palo Duro will remain open, but there will be periodic trail closures.

Heavy wet snow may cause power outages along Appalachians

 Heavy, wet snow in Augusta County, Va. -- October 2011.

Weather forecasters have been talking about it for a few days, adding the "s" word into predictions for the next few days in West Virginia and western  Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Snow. Yes, we know ... it's April 22. After a mild winter and an exceptionally warm spring, after weeks of blooming and grass mowing and days enjoying the sun, the possibility of snow has been inserted into the forecast. Even for a cold weather lover like me, it's past time. Some have planted gardens and outdoor annuals and are truly not looking forward to a late burst of winter weather.

AccuWeather, trying to prepare folks for what may be a heavy, wet snow, has offered up some suggestions for what to do before and after the storm:

An April storm tracking north along the eastern coast of the U.S. will bring heavy, wet snow from the Appalachians of West Virginia, across western Pennsylvania and into southwestern New York.

There is a potential for the snow to bring down tree branches, which in turn could drag down power lines.

"In some places the power will be out for days," said Expert Meteorologist Henry Margusity.

People residing in the mountain regions of West Virginia to Pennsylvania and western New York should prepare for the possibility of no electricity for days.

Get your generators set up and be sure to have plenty of gasoline to keep them running. Remember, do not put generators inside your house.
Thankfully those preparations are for folks west and north of us so we don't have much to worry about but we've been warned that we may seen a few snowflakes during that time. One thing's for sure with Mother Nature: she's in control. Be safe out there....

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 2011

Gingrich secret service detail costs $40,000 a day

Newt Gingrich. Remember him? He had his brief moment in the sun in South Carolina during the Republican presidential primary process, relishing the chance to share his vision for the future of America.

However, his 15 minutes of fame quickly burned out as he lost primary after primary after primary, and his campaign wasn't even organized enough to get his name placed on his home state of Virginia's ballot on Super Tuesday.

Now as others have dropped out realizing Mitt Romney has the number of delegates and the time and money left to win the Republican nomination, only Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich remain as challengers although all contests have them trailing far, far behind and there's hardly any press associated with them. Indeed, Gingrich lost his press detail a while back as they shifted their attention to those who had a better chance of winning.

Now, as Gingrich lingers almost forgotten, comes disturbing word that his secret service agents who still accompany him are costing taxpayers upward of $40,000 a day. Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race until the Tampa GOP national convention where he wants a brokered convention.

Many consider Gingrich's continued use of secret service protection a waste of taxpayer money. Perhaps they should have exited when the press abandoned Gingrich. Is it a necessity, or it is a heady trip of self-importance for a fading GOP star? Either way, the costs are adding up and Gingrich, of all people, should understand why some may be upset at what they consider a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer money.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Flowers, woods, and rain clouds

As some spring trees, flowers, and bushes have finished blooming, others are beginning including our rhododendron that's blooming a month early.

Spiraea ...

... snowball bush ...

... iris.

SWAC Husband mowed and trimmed the yard before the expected rainy weekend began. The back yard goes into the woods where all kind of woodland critters live and entertain us throughout the year.

Buttercups are blooming way early.

By mid-afternoon, the predicted clouds began rolling in and, not long after I took this photo from the back deck, the wind picked up, temperature started dropping, and the thunder rolled off the Appalachian Mountains. Raindrops began to hit the window and we settled in for a family weekend. I love rainy days.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
21 April 2012

George & Susan Allen praise military veterans at forum

Henrico, VA – Today, George and Susan Allen hosted a Veterans Issues Forum at the Paul & Phyllis Galanti Education Center at the Virginia War Memorial, where they each listened to shared concerns from Richmond-area Veterans and spoke about their respect for the service and sacrifice of all military families. 

George Allen also discussed his Compact with Veterans to honor the men and women who stand strong for freedom and his continued commitment to ensuring our nation keeps its promises to those who have served and sacrificed and those who are currently serving.

“It is an honor to gather here at the Virginia War Memorial, a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said George Allen.  “We owe it to those who have fallen to remember their selfless acts and carry on their spirit by keeping America strong for freedom.  Veterans and their families have my personal commitment to steadfastly advocate for their concerns and America keeping her promises to our veterans and their families for the benefits they've honorably earned in service to our country."

Susan Allen, whose father was a Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps and did two tours in Vietnam, spoke about her experiences growing up in a military family and how all military families are involved in the same service and sacrifice.

“I grew up in a military family and George and I understand the sacrifice and emotional strain isn’t just limited to the person on active duty,” said Susan Allen. “We were all part of the military community. We were tied together with strong bonds of friendship, as well as the daily stress for loved ones who may have been in harm’s way.  When George pledges his commitment to Veterans, he is also speaking about family members and dependents who are making their own sacrifices for our nation.”

“George Allen has stood strong for the concerns of Veterans and military families before and I know he will be a committed partner and advocate for our voices in Washington again,” said Bob Sussan, American Legion and VFW life member. “He understands and shares the same concerns that Veterans and military families throughout Virginia and America are facing.  Whether it’s the steep increases in fees in Tricare or the drastic and devastating cuts to national defense, I know George Allen will fight for our values in Washington and make sure America never breaks those sacred promises made to our men and women in uniform and our families.”

Click Here to Read George Allen’s Compact With Veterans: Honoring the Men and Women Who Stand Strong for Freedom

Happy Birthday, Jason Bibeau!

Today was SWAC area blogger and friend Jason Bibeau's birthday. This thirty-something and I got an early start on the celebration when we met two days ago for lunch in Staunton. Afterward, we drove to Wright's Dairy Rite and ordered birthday ice cream treats curbside, enjoying the yummy treats while we talked talked talked. One thing's for sure: when you're with friends, you never run out of conversation! Happy Birthday, Jason ... and wishing you many more!

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
19 April 2012

Augusta County: 400 turn out for tax hike, 30 speak against

It's been a busy week and I'm still working on my post from Wednesday night's Augusta County public hearing to consider raising taxes, but some things have stood out. The lack of protesters showing up at this meeting and an earlier town hall meeting (five citizens attended) appears to indicate people realize backs are to the wall and there needs to be a tax increase.

Sure, there were twenty-two at Wednesday's meeting who spoke out against the tax increase. But in a room of sixty citizens, about half were tea party people and older folks who protested taxes of any kind, and the other half were made up of those who felt taxes were necessary, the media, fire and rescue folks, and government center staffers. (Background info and links are here.)

The SOS (Save Our Schools) group came out on February 22, 2012 -- an overflow crowd of 400 teachers, parents, students, and members of the community asking that their taxes be raised to be sure and cover core services. They followed that up by attending school board meetings, and then a school budget was adopted. Their voices had been heard. Wednesday night was when a handful of tea partiers came out to make their case.

Members of the community -- farmers, small business owners, insurance agents, neighbors -- have voiced that they realize the price of everything has gone up. Noticed the price of gas at the pump lately? Groceries? Costs have risen for local governments, too, and numerous citizens have told their supervisors that they understand the need for a tax increase.

After years of making cuts and laying off employees, many localities -- including Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg, and Rockingham -- have hit the wall. They can either dip into their rainy day funds or raise taxes or start cutting off core services such as law enforcement, schools, and fire and emergency (in the past two weeks, Augusta County has had three total-loss house fires, one each in Stuarts Draft, Mt. Sidney, and Crimora).

Even Shaun Kenney, an extremely conservative leader who is chairman of the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors, has been faced with the writing on the wall and is supporting tax increases with his board.

The bills are due. What is the fiscally conservative thing to do? Should we kick the can down the road to the next board or city council and let them worry about it, or do we take personal responsibility and face the problem square-on?

At my house, we face it square-on. We need to pay our bills. How we do it is the question: dip into savings or raise taxes? Either way, something has to be done.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Eminent defeat for Democrats in November

"The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be a battle between right and wrong
instead of right and left. Democratic Party stalwarts smell victory in the air,
but it's not their victory that they smell."

-- Neil Snyder, American Thinker

Tea Party favorite Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) endorses George Allen

From Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson on his endorsement of Republican George Allen for U.S. Senate:
I spent 31 years helping build a manufacturing business from the ground up.  Today we make every ounce of our product in the USA and sell it across America and in over two dozen nations.  We are proud to say, we don't export jobs, we export plastic.

I have experienced first-hand the burdens Washington places on small business and the American people.  The 1.75 trillion dollars a year of federal regulation, the trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see and the massive debt.

Washington is broken and bankrupting America.

We must change the spending and debt culture in Washington.  It is why I ran.  It is the fight I fight every day.

It will take people who exhibit a special kind of strength to change Washington.

It is why I'm proud to support George Allen for US Senate, and I wanted you to be one of the first to know.

It was an easy decision for me.

George Allen was one of only 15 Senators who voted against the Bridge to Nowhere and pushed for a Balanced Budget Amendment and a Line-Item Veto, two things he's running on today.

We need more allies in Congress like him, willing to fight to get our country back on the right track.

But I know George's election won't be easy - taking on President Obama's handpicked DNC Chairman is a steep challenge.

They will stop at nothing to reward his loyal service supporting all of the President's significant policies.

Even running for Senate, Tim Kaine calls himself an "unabashed" supporter of the President and remains one of Obamacare's biggest supporters - calling it one of President Obama's "great achievements."

The last thing we need in the U.S. Senate is a blindly loyal follower of President Obama and his failed policies that are threatening the American Dream.

What we do need are more leaders like George Allen.

I'm hoping you'll join me in supporting him today.

He needs all our help, and I think this is a race worth investing in.
Check out George Allen's website -- -- to make a contribution to the campaign and for more information about how to become involved in this very important election.

News and Advance: Senate Dems 'Ineptitude Bordering on Malfeasance'

~ Editorial rips Senate Democrats for acting 'like spoiled little brats' ~

The editorial board of the Lynchburg News and Advance was not pleased with the behavior of Senate Democrats in regard to the state budget. Excerpts from the editorial follow, but I encourage you to read the entire piece.

"... Once again, it was the 20 Democratic members of the Virginia Senate who gave nightmares and migraines to local government officials from Tidewater to Southwest, from Northern Virginia to Southside and all regions in between...

... The 20 Democrats whined from Day One about being on the short end of the stick. They lost in court, when they filed suit earlier this year to force power sharing, and ever since, they've been using the all-important budget process to squeeze concessions from the Republican caucus...

... First, they said they would only vote for a budget if Republicans agreed to power sharing on committees. That brazen grab at power flamed out as Virginians across the state heaped scorn on the Democrats.

So then, they cloaked their intransigence and lust for power in the mantle of public education. Gov. Bob McDonnell and the GOP scraped together more money for the schools, and still the Democrats balked. Then they said they were fighting for commuters who were averse to paying tolls on major highway projects. Again, McDonnell massaged the numbers to put off the toll blow for a year, and again Democrats balked.

Now, Democrats then said they were fighting for highway dollars in Northern Virginia. What a load of horse manure..."

Find the entire piece here.

H/T to Garren

George Allen, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) host small business roundtable

From the George Allen for U.S. Senate campaign....

Henrico, VA – Today, George Allen and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) met with small business leaders at a roundtable discussion at Bill’s Barbecue in Richmond, where Allen outlined his positive vision for Virginia and his Blueprint for America’s Comeback. This is the latest in a series of town hall-style meetings where George Allen heard from local business leaders about their concerns and discussed his proven solutions to create jobs, reduce gasoline prices and make America competitive again.

In opening remarks, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced his endorsement of George Allen and spoke from his perspective as a small business owner why he’s looking forward to working with him as a partner in the U.S. Senate.

“After spending 31 years in the manufacturing business, I have experienced first-hand the burden Washington places on small businesses,” said Senator Ron Johnson. “We need more like-minded allies in Washington who know we can’t borrow, tax and spend our way to prosperity. George Allen has a record of standing up for job-creators and fighting against Washington’s job-destroying regulations and overspending that is threatening the survival of small businesses in Virginia and across the country. I look forward to having George Allen as a partner in the U.S. Senate.”

“It’s time for Washington to start listening to the small business owners and entrepreneurs here in Virginia and come together to eliminate the burdensome regulations stifling the very job-creators we need to reinvigorate our economy,” said George Allen. “Massive tax hikes, burdensome regulations and Washington political gimmicks won’t do anything to help create jobs or families fill up their gas tanks — it will only make things worse. We need a positive vision and proven, pro-job growth solutions to empower small businesses to invest, expand and hire, unleash our energy resources and make America competitive again. I want to see a hassle-free government serving and helping small business owners and letting consumers decide who has the best product or service rather than hindering and impeding us.”

Rhoda Elliot, owner of several Bill’s Barbecue restaurants in the greater-Richmond area said, “I thank George Allen and Senator Ron Johnson for coming to Bill’s Barbecue and listening to the concerns and challenges of small business leaders in our area.”