Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Dragon boat racing comes to Rocketts Landing

Dragon Boat Festival in Richmond, Va. Richmonders just acquired one more great reason to love living in the River City: Dragon boat racing at Rocketts Landing.

View from Rocketts Landing of the Dragon Boat Festival in Richmond, Va. The heat was a factor as shade was hard to come by Saturday, but the Richmond Sports Backers teamed up with several sponsors to bring the first Dragon Boat Festival to the James River.  It was a charity event for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation.

It was fun, active and brought many Richmonders out to a part of town that probably most had never seen. The crews mostly consisted of corporate teams from around Richmond, but there were also “ringer” teams from cities like Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte. Great for Rocketts Landing and the Shockoe Bottom area to have so many people having a great time.

What is Dragon Boat Racing? From the Great White North Dragon Boat Racing website:

Twenty paddlers move in unison, combining strength with teamwork in a boat whose elaborate design originates in ancient China… Dragon boats are 40-foot human-powered canoes decorated with ornate Chinese dragon heads. Led by the rhythmic beat of a drum, teams consisting of 20 synchronized paddlers, one drummer, and one steersperson race the canoes 500m down the river.

Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing in Richmond, Va. Teams were guaranteed three races and had plenty of time to relax and socialize in between heats. Several teams held organized cheers and calisthenics — obvious attempts to intimidate any challengers. I didn’t participate, but had many friends on a few teams. If it comes back next year, I will certainly find a team to join and do my best.

Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing in Richmond, Va. My kids enjoyed watching some of the dance teams, tai chi and karate exhibitions and explored the surroundings a little.

We finally got to take in the view of the James River and the Richmond skyline from deck at the Boat House at the top of the Rocketts Landing development.

Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing in Richmond, Va.

An ode to the James River Railway Bridge

James River Railway Bridge, also known as the Atlantic Coast Line Railway BridgeMy favorite place to stop on a paddle trip down the James River is the area around the James River Railway Bridge.

The bridge, also known as the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Bridge or Belt Line Bridge, is located between the Boulevard Bridge and the Powhite Parkway. The areas east of the bridge on the south shores of the James are part of the Main Section of the James River Parks System. [See a slideshow]

People can see the bridge from many angles, but the best way to view this entire area of the James is from the many huge exposed granite boulders that surround the bridge. The feeling of solitude and serenity is a place surrounded by the sounds of commerce is a unique pleasure.

CSX train crosses the James River Railway BridgeListening to the roar of the river; watching birds soar above; catching glimpses of wildlife and looking for the perfect photo — contrasted by the train horn blasts and hum of diesel engines; the droning of the cars on the Powhite Parkway.

There are unofficial hiking trails from Riverside Drive, but parking is limited. Access to these areas includes crossing railroad tracks and the trails are not maintained for high traffic, so read the signs and proceed with caution. The northern portion of the area is accessed from trails that lead from North Bank Park and the bridge is in view from Pumphouse Park, though not accessible due to fenced-in CSX tracks.

Exploring in this area is a treat. There are many nooks and shallow pools of water to explore when the water is low. I fell in love with this area during a hike in late summer of 2007 when the water level was absurdly low. The rocks looked so unique, smooth and odd — a complete landscape change.

I now drive by this area almost every day on my commute to work on the Powhite or the Boulevard Bridge and longingly steal glances of the beautiful arches and the river.  I’ve had many conversations with readers, friends and fellow James river lovers that feel the same way about the bridge.

Kayakers stop at the Choo Choo Rapids just below the James River Railway BridgeThe remains of Grant’s Dam are nearby, and what’s left of that dam helped create the whitewater run known as Choo Choo Rapids. There is a nice beach right after the rapids and multiple places to stop for a food break or just to relax. These rapids can be run over and over again if you carry your kayak back up the rocks on either side.

The Lower Arch of the Kanawha Canal isn’t much further along the north bank of the James, just below Pumphouse Park. The famed George Washington’s arch is there, though the entrance from the river is blocked.

There are two main islands just east of the James River Railway Bridge that have areas worthy of picnic spots as well. At times you might find a picnic table left on the southernmost island (Cedar Island) though on my last visit, it seemed to have been washed away.

Stone pillars at James River Railway BridgeThere are many 25-foot granite piers left from the previous railway bridge. A couple of them have ropes and ladders to allow for a climb to the top. Use your best judgement if you dare climb, but let me just say…the view is worth it.

HISTORY: The railroad bridge was completed in 1919 for the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, and used by the RF&P and the Atlantic Coast Line, which are now part of CSX.

David D. Ryan wrote in The Falls of the James about the term “Falls of the James” and to what it refers:

Majestically arched stone and concrete Seaboard Coast Line Railway Bridge and the remains of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad Bridge. The SCL Bridge was opened for rail traffic in 1919; the RF&P Bridge was constructed in 1891 and razed twenty-eight years later.

Remains of the RF&P bridge are still standing below the arches of the James River bridge. The James River Bridge project was among the earliest major projects to rely on poured concrete, Portland cement. Up to that point, railway bridges were made of heavy timbers, iron or stone. In the early 1900’s, concrete was introduced as a new material for bridge construction.

The purpose of the James River crossing was to provide a straight route through Richmond for passenger & perishables trains running between Florida and the Northeast.

James River Railway Bridge, viewed from Riverside Drive

Very Richmond #9: Grand Kugel at Science Museum of Virginia

Granite globe Grand Kugel at Science Museum of VirginiaWHAT: Mary Morton Parsons Earth-Moon Sculpture (or Grand Kugel) in Richmond, Virginia.

LOCATION: Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 West Broad Street.

ARTIST: Kusser Granite Works, Germany.

DEDICATION: January 2003, rededicated October 2005.

DESCRIPTION: The the $1.25 million sculpture represents the Earth and the moon at a scale of about 1 foot to 1,000 miles.

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Grand Kugel is a Guinness World Record holderThe 29-ton Tarn granite globe Mary Morton Parsons Earth-Moon Sculpture — better known as the Grand Kugel (kugel is German for ball) — is recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest floating-ball sculpture, thanks to a jet of water. Even little children can move the sculptures, which is a never-ending crowd pleaser for the little ones.

The Earth is a solid granite ball almost 9 feet in diameter. A proportionately smaller moon is 250 feet from the Earth. It is 2.3 feet in diameter and weighs about 1,100 pounds. There is a brick path between the two, and it provides a great opportunity to demonstrate distances and proportional size.

Another great thing about this feature: Free. It only takes 10-15 minutes to drop by this excellent Very Richmond attraction and never ceases to amaze — at any age.

The original Grand Kugel was carved from an 86-ton block of South African black granite. It was 8 feet, 8.7 inches in diameter, and it floated on a base of granite. Soon after installation in 2003, the first Grand Kugel began to crack and was shutdown in 2004. It was replaced in 2005 at no cost the museum, thanks to insurance coverage.

What makes something that isn’t even a decade old Very Richmond?

  • One: Guinness World Record.
  • Two: Because of its record-holding status, it brings notoriety and much-needed attention to Richmond, Virginia.
  • Three: Didn’t you just read that the first one broke?

Kugel Moon at Science Museum of Virginia
Statistical information came from the Science Museum of Virginia and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Ghost hunting at the Pump House

Foundation for Paranormal Research at the Pump HouseOn Saturday, the Foundation for Paranormal Research demonstrated “cutting edge technology involving paranormal capture and containment of ghosts or foreign entity’s within our personal world” with an event titled “The 3 Mile Lock Experiment – Conquest.” 

We watched for ghosts and had a great time getting to see the inside of the Byrd Park Pump House — filled with at least 100 people who seemed to be enjoying themselves. 

City of Richmond parks director J.R. Pope said he hoped that if nothing else, he hoped that visitors would come away with a good impression on the Pump House facility. 

The City is making progress on making the classic multi-purpose building the new home of the James River Park System visitor center. Giving more people a chance to see the interior of the Pump House — which is closed to the public except only the most unique of opportunities — can only help with effort to raise funds and encourage volunteers to help out the park system and the Friends of the James River Park. 

I was there and didn’t see anything paranormal — at least not to my untrained eye — but did see plenty of interested onlookers at the Victorian Gothic Style, gray granite Pump House. It is still a marvelously attractive building, and the perfect setting for a ghost hunt. 

The Foundation used something called the “Parabot,” which they promote as having been seen on Ghost Adventures Live, the 7 hour lock down at Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia shown on The Travel Channel. 

It also demonstrated its latest invention, “The Tesla Tower.” There were two fully active Tesla coils firing during the demonstration, which they promoted would produce “over 2.6 million volts of raw uncontrolled energy — wild and attractive arcs from the coils.” It was quite a show. 

Friends of the James River Park: SUV Swallowed By Sinkhole As Spirits Are Stirred




Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at Capitol Square

Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.

WHAT: Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va. See and listen to a slideshow.

LOCATION: Capitol Square, Northeast Corner near Governor Street entrance.

ARTIST: Stanley Bleifeld.

DEDICATED: July 21, 2008.

DESCRIPTION: Cast in bronze, the 18 figures are slightly larger than life. The wall the statues back up to is 12 feet long, 8 feet high and about 5 feet wide. The $2.6 million granite and bronze memorial was privately financed.

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The following was culled from excerpts of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s coverage of the statue’s unveiling:

Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson in the Virginia Civil Rights MemorialA Commonwealth once synonymous with defiance of court-ordered school integration celebrated the latest symbol of its often-difficult embrace of equality with the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial in 2008.

It represents a key moment in the history of the civil-rights movement in Virginia.

The statue spotlights the African-American students in rural Prince Edward County whose 1951 walkout to protest their run-down school led to a lawsuit that was folded into the challenge that triggered the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court banning segregated public schools.

Among the figures in the memorial is Oliver W. Hill Sr. holding a rumpled legal brief aloft as he stands shoulder to shoulder with law partner Spottswood W. Robinson III. They took on the case of the Prince Edward County students who protested the shabby condition of their school.

Barbara Johns in the Virginia Civil Rights MemorialBarbara Johns was the one who called the school strike in 1951 and she is a key figure in the sculpture. Her statement “it seemed like reaching for the moon” is boldly featured.

The student protests garnered support from the local community, benefiting from the moral leadership of the Rev. L. Francis Griffin, known as the “Fighting Preacher” and is also featured in the memorial.

A plaque in front of Virginia Civil Rights Memorial reads:

On April 23, 1951, 16-year-old Barbara Johns and several fellow students led a strike to protest the deplorable conditions at their racially segregated Prince Edward County school. The Rev. L. Francis Griffin united parents in support of the strike and encouraged the students to contact NAACP attorneys Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson. The lawsuit that followed was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court and joined with four other cases as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), in which the Court ruled that racially separate educational systems are inherently unequal and unconstitutional.

This memorial is dedicated to these Virginians and countless others who courageously fought for the principles upon which the nation and this Commonwealth were founded.

Virginia Civil Rights Memorial at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.