– Blacksburg, Virginia –

Today was a pretty quiet day. I wish I could tell you Ripley and I had fantastic adventures while Mark was working all day, but we were somewhat boring for reasonable portions of the day. Our day started pretty early, since Mark needed to be ready to leave by 8:15am, so we got up to go run before it was quite light outside.

We did our run on the Huckleberry Trail, which is in the New River Valley. The trail is a total of 7.5 miles, all paved, and follows along the railroad. It’s a pretty area, mostly shady, and runs roughly between Blacksburg and nearby Christianburg. Given that our hotel for the night is closer to Christianburg, that worked out great. It was almost cool this morning, so our run was particularly nice. Tomorrow we are planning to do a different section, so we can see more of it.

Worst dog park ever?

Ripley and I saw Mark off to work on schedule, then spent the morning watching videos about mountaineering disasters on Everest and K2, the two tallest mountains in the world. I don’t think we will be getting into mountaineering anytime soon, but the videos are interesting and exciting. I bet this sudden fascination sticks around for a little while, even after we finish our mountaineering book. There’s something really cool about how crazy those people are.

With a few mountain documentaries down, we decided we’d seen enough of the hotel room. I packed Ripley up to head out on the town. We drove first over to the Blacksburg dog park, which is ten or fifteen minutes away. Ripley was immediately excited. I can never tell how she knows before we are even there.

PetSmart. More puppy joy.

Unfortunately, the Blacksburg dog park is not very nice. It’s partly covered in concrete, partly in unmowed grass, and partly with dark, muddy mulch. It’s small and cramped, and needs maintenance. It didn’t offend Ripley, since she will take any chance she can get to run around off leash when we are on trips, but I was pretty disappointed. If you’re going to have one, why not make it a nice one?

We also had some trouble with the other two dogs there, who were way too aggressive for Ripley’s liking. They also kept trying to jump on me, and I was tired of having to brush mud and dogs off of myself and my camera bag. Thus, we had to transfer to the small dog area, where she could be alone. It was even smaller, so she couldn’t run around as well. All in all, not an enjoyable trip.

Best new toy ever.

To make up for it, I took her to Petco, where she had so much fun looking around and smelling things. We looked at food, toys, treats, and everything in between. RIpley’s favorite hobby while in dog stores is searching for fallen kibble, which can often be found underneath aisles. You’ll see her cruising down the aisle beside me, head stuck half under a shelf as she tries desperately to find something edible. It’s definitely a hoot.

We found a toy she liked so much she tried to steal it. It’s a ball of rope with a loop handle for playing tug. The handle is threaded through a short, thick piece of animal bone, and that was what drew her attention. She so rarely asks for anything, I had to get it for her. I also got her a treat, because I’m a sucker.

Hotel room sushi

The new toy was a success, as she was already chewing on the bone when I tossed it into the backseat of the truck with her when we got in. I worry a little about how hard the bones are, especially since we have a few friends who’ve had dogs chip teeth, but I’m relatively comfortable with this one, since it is too short for her to put her feet on to really get any leverage. I’ll watch her, just the same.

When we made it back to the hotel, I had some lunch in the room. I ended up working on the laptop for the rest of the afternoon, until it was time to go pick Mark up from the university. He was done right around 5pm, which is of course rush hour pretty much everywhere, though that just means slightly longer lights in Blacksburg. Not bad at all.

Mark’s tofu reuben

For dinner, we went out to a vegetarian restaurant on the university campus with some friends of Mark and his dad. I won’t mention any names, as they didn’t seem too keen on being included in the blog, but this friend worked for Mark’s dad at OSU when she was in college. We had a lot of fun talking with her and her family, and she and Mark reminisced about the weird things they do in Oklahoma. I guess elementary school kids in Oklahoma reenact the land grab that famously named them “sooners?” This is why Texans make fun of you, Oklahoma.

The menu at Gillie’s, the restaurant, is pretty eclectic, so while Mark had a tofu reuben, my dinner was a Thai curry stir-fry. It’s not bad at all. It’s certainly nice having so many dinner options. Blacksburg is a cute little town.

Tired Ripley

Tomorrow, we are off again and headed for Virginia Beach. We have some parks planned along the way, which should be fun. We’ll also get to do the next portion of the Huckleberry Trail. I’m looking forward to it, and oddly looking forward to being on the road again. I guess I just don’t do relaxing vacations where you sit in one place.

– Trip Total : ??? miles

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