For Frank

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UPDATE: I am saddened to report that we lost Frank at 12:05AM on Saturday Sept 24, 2016. He was in his home surrounded by his wife, Barbara, his sister in law, Carol, and his 3 dogs.
We will miss him greatly.


My brother-in-law, Frank R. Severance, is fighting for his life. I can’t let another moment pass before letting him know what he’s meant to me.

Frank at New River Gorge - 2005

Frank was born in Maine in 1945 and grew up near Kennebunkport. He referred to himself as one of the “Paddy Creek Boys”.

His father worked in the pulp and paper industry so prevalent in Maine back then. He held a management position at a paper converting factory that made part of the soles of high-end shoes. Frank said that no matter how bad things got when he was young, neither he nor his family ever went without nice shoes. His Mom was loved and respected in the community but, died of cancer way before her time.

Frank did well in high school, excelled in several sports and was an accomplished jazz drummer. When he graduated he didn’t feel that college was the right choice for him. He wanted to see the world, embark on some adventures and besides…he needed a job and college was expensive. Pulling lobster pots with Uncle Bozo was ok for part-time work but, not a career. Maybe the US Navy would be a good place to start.

He enlisted into the US Navy right out of high school and began his 34 year adventure. Although he started at the bottom rank of Seaman he knew he’d found a home. Frank worked hard, signed up for all of the extra training he could get and quickly progressed through the ranks. He served during the Vietnam war and was fortunate enough to be assigned to several ships including 3 aircraft carriers; USS America (CV-66), USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). He was a “plank holder” on the Abraham Lincoln and worked closely with Newport News Shipbuilding during the construction, sea trials and early deployments of that ship.

By the time Frank retired from the Navy he had attained the rank of Commander. Needless to say, it’s pretty rare for anyone to reach that rank without a degree from Annapolis…much less a “Paddy Creek Boy” with no degree and just a shit-load of confidence, determination and drive to succeed.

Mae and Frank

Our paths were brought together when I married his wife’s sister, Beth, a year or so after he had married Barbara.

Here’s a shot of Frank with our Mother-in-law, Mae, at Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What an extraordinary lady she is but, that’s another story for another day.

Frank and I hit it off ok from the beginning but, not great. He was focused on his career in the Navy and I was focused on mine at GE. We had some common interests such as fast cars and electronics but, rarely had enough time together to really get to know one other.

Frank reached out first by inviting Beth and I to come visit he and Barbie in California. This was shortly after Beth and I were married in 1985. Included in the invite was an opportunity to spend an entire day at sea on the USS Enterprise. Frank was the EMO, Electronic Maintenance Material Officer, on the Big-E. I’ll never forget cruising under the Golden Gate bridge, watching ear-numbing fighter jet catapult launches and seeing the power of the R2D2 Phalanx close-in weapon system. I was somewhat familiar with the Phalanx since my first job with GE after college was working at GE Ordnance Systems in Pittsfield, MA. GE along with FMC were the only licensed manufacturers of the Phalanx. GE also made 5-inch deck guns for destroyers and Trident missile fire control and guidance systems in Pittsfield. We did lots of work for the US Navy. That gave Frank and I something else in common.

Beth and I returned the favor in 1988 by inviting Frank and Barb to spend a week in the Smokies in a log cabin we’d rented near Gatlinburg, TN. Little did we know that years later we would spend much more time together in the Smokies.

Not to be outdone in 1990, Frank invited Beth’s son, Lee, and myself to take a 4-day cruise on the USS Abraham Lincoln from Florida back up to Norfolk, VA. Lee and I had our own private stateroom and ate, slept and experienced just about everything you can imagine about Navy aircraft carrier life. Frank at this point in his career was the Combat Systems Officer on the Lincoln and got us access everywhere onboard except the reactor area. We saw the secret Combat Information Center and Lee even steered the ship from the bridge as the Lincoln steamed alongside a support ship to offload ordinance. Cat launches and landings, live 500lb bomb drops and supersonic fly-bys. How can you top that??? Hanging with Frank is cool!

Frank and Master Chief Brashear

Here’s Frank with Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl M. Brashear. The movie, Men of Honor, with Cuba Gooding, Jr as Brashear and Robert De Niro as his hard-ass instructor, chronicled his Navy life.

1934 LaSalle - Amelia 2000

 

 

 

Fast forward to 1998 and Frank hears about a new Concours d’Elegance being held at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, FL. 1966 Ford GT-40 - Amelia 2000It started in 1996 and is fashioned somewhat after a similar event out at Pebble Beach in California. Amelia will be the “Pebble Beach of the East” and feature the finest, most expensive classic cars in the world all displayed and judged on the beautiful manicured golf course by the ocean. He says we gotta go there!

 

I think that Amelia was Frank’s evil plan to parlay my known weakness for fast cars with his love of photography. He was starting to get me hooked on cameras…Nikon cameras. 1958 Mercedes 300SL - Amelia 1999

 

During this period, I had started a little website devoted to Mercedes, MercedesShop, and was selling Mercedes parts on the web. I needed content for the website and what could be better than images of beautiful classic and new Mercedes all in a lovely setting.

 

 

 

Frank with Brock Yates

 

We met a ton of interesting people at Amelia over the years. Here’s Frank with Brock Yates of Car and Driver magazine fame, creator of the Cannonball Run race and screenwriter of the Cannonball Run movie. Brock attended Amelia every year from 1998-2000 when I was there. Having a beer with Brock and talking cars was the norm. Frank and Brock became good friends.

Frank with David E. Davis

 

This is Frank with David E. Davis at Amelia. He was an automobile journalist, publisher of Car and Driver magazine and creator of Automobile magazine. He basically created modern automotive journalism. He also hired and fired Brock Yates 3 times over the years. Quite an interesting fellow indeed.

Frank with John Fitch

 

Frank spotted John Fitch at Amelia and struck up a conversation. Fitch was born in 1917 and was really the first American to successfully race cars in Europe. He raced Formula 1, Le Mans, Mille Miglia, Sebring, Carrera Panamerica, Indianapolis…you name it, he did it in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He partnered with Stirling Moss and Briggs Cunningham. Oh, and he piloted a P-51 Mustang in WWII. If it involved going fast and risking your life, John Fitch was the MAN. Even into his 90’s he was still active in the racing world as a consultant.

 

Frank at the 24 Hours of Daytona

 

Ok so Frank and I are talking one day and he says we’ve got to plan a trip down to Daytona in February 2000 to experience the 24 Hours of Daytona. Sounds good to me! We had a BLAST! The only problem was that Daytona had record-setting cold weather that year and I froze my ass off. I didn’t care!

 

Bill with Rob Dyson

I got a chance to meet Rob Dyson at Daytona and get my picture snapped by famous photographer, Frank R. Severance. Dyson was a driver in endurance racing and is currently the team owner of Dyson Racing. Hanging with Frank is fun!

 

Frank at Petit LeMans

 

 

Later in 2000, I invited Frank down to Atlanta so we could attend the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta. Another endurance race. We spent lots of time in the pits and all around the racetrack that weekend taking tons of pictures. Needless to say, I was getting into photography by this time…and Frank and I were really getting to know and appreciate one other.

Frank flying in a B-25 - 2001

 

Yes, Frank loves to photograph planes, trains and automobiles but, he REALLY likes to do much more. Here he is in a WWII era 2-seat airplane flying around Norfolk, VA. Frank in a B-25 bomber

 

 

…and here’s Frank flying around in a WWII B-25 bomber.

How does he manage to find opportunities to DO shit like this??? He’s living the dream!

 

 

In the Fall of 2006 Frank invites me to come to Virginia Beach to see the Blue Angels perform at Naval Air Station Oceana.

Bill in a Yak-52

 

What he didn’t tell me until I arrived was that he had something special in store…

Frank hung a parachute on my ass and stuffed me into the back seat of a Russian Yak-52.

 

 

 

Bill in a Yak-52

 

My pilot was an active F-14/F-18 fighter pilot who loved to do aerobatics. HANG ON and try not to lose your lunch! Yee-Ha!

Hanging with Frank gets the blood pumping!

 

Cass Scenic Railroad - 2008

 

The next year he calls and tells me we need to drive up to West Virginia to see some trains. Not just any trains but real honest-to-God coal burning STEAM trains. Count me in!

 

 

Cass Scenic Railroad - 2008

 

We hopped on board and rode up the mountain from Cass to Spruce. But, that wasn’t good enough for Frank. Oh no…

 

 

Cass Scenic Railroad - 2007

 

He made friends with the Engineers and Firemen and got to DRIVE the train. Typical Frank.

I went to Cass with him in 2007 and 2008 but, he continued to go up there for several more years.

 

Frank in Valley of the Eagles - Haines, AK

 

Unfortunately, I missed out on Frank’s “bucket list” trip to Alaska in 2007 to shoot eagles and his 2009 trip to England to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed. But, we took many many memorable trips together from 2008 until the present.

 

Cataloochee 2009

 

 

The “consummate professional” honing his craft. Shooting Elk at Cataloochee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 2009.

 

 

Thunder Hole at Acadia NP, Maine - 2009

 

Frank gave us a tour of his beautiful and unforgettable home state of Maine in 2009.

 

 

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia NP, Maine - 2009

 

 

 

Lining up his shot atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine.

 

 

 

Frank ar Alligator River NWR - 2009

 

We’re freezing our butts off at Alligator River NWR in 2009. Anything for the shot, right?

 

 

 

Frank at Cades Cove - GSMNP 2010

 

Frank has the ability to go where no-one else is allowed but, convince the park rangers that he NEEDS to be there. He’s ‘splaining that right here at Cades Cove in 2010. The ranger tells him it’s ok but, she needs to make it look like she’s reading him the riot act.

 

 

Conowingo Dam, MD - 2014

Beth and I would go to Virginia to visit her family around Thanksgiving or Christmas. I would be there about one day and Frank would say we need to drive up the Eastern Shore and go to Conowingo Dam to shoot eagles or Blackwater NWR or Bombay Hook NWR or …

Hanging with Frank is a sure bet that things will not be boring. He always makes certain I am having a good time.

Frank at Barnegat Light - 2012

 

We made a run up to Barnegat Light in NJ just to shoot some Harlequin ducks. It was cold and breezy but, better than sitting on the sofa watching NCIS.

 

 

Harlequin Ducks at Barnegat Light - 2012

 

 

Harlequin Ducks at Barnegat Light – 2012

 

 

Our most audacious and grand trip was in 2013. Frank, Barbie and I drove out to:

Frank and Barb at Badlands NP - 2013

 

 

Badlands National Park

 

 

 

Frank and Bill at Yellowstone NP - 2013

 

 

Yellowstone National Park

 

 

 

Frank and Bill at Grand Teton NP - 2013

 

 

Grand Teton National Park

 

 

 

Frank and Bill at Grand Teton NP - 2013

 

It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Here we are in the Tetons clowning it up as Barbie captures the fun.

 

 

Grand Teton NP - 2013

 

We’re shooting moose in the Tetons. Somewhere in that crowd is Frank chatting up some stranger. The only thing he loves better than photography is finding someone to share a story with. I think it’s a Navy thing…he loves to meet new people.

 

Frank and Ranger in the Tetons - 2013

 

 

Another day, another park, another Ranger meets Frank. We’re shooting Moose again in the Tetons and Frank is ‘splaining to the Ranger why he NEEDS to be there. He’s certainly got a way with those female rangers!

 

The trips I have mentioned here only scratch the surface. We’ve taken more journeys together than one can imagine. It’s been one hell of a ride! Along the way, our relationship has solidified. Frank is much more than just my brother-in-law. He’s my friend. He’s my close friend. He’s my BROTHER!

Frank is a strong man but, cancer is taking him down. A cruel brain tumor has robbed him of his two most precious gifts…sight and speech. He’s lived life his own way and experienced things that others can only dream about. I am honored and privileged to have shared part of our lives together.

Godspeed CDR Frank R. Severance, USN(RET)

The Lord is my pilot, I shall not drift.
He guides me across the dark waters.
He steers me through deep channels.
He keeps my log.
Yea, though I sail ‘mid the thunders and tempest of life,
I shall dread no anger, for He is with me;
His love and His care, shelter me.
He prepares a quiet harbor before me.
He anoints the waves with oil
My ship rides calmly.
Surely sunlight and starlight shall guide me on the voyage I take,
And I will rest in the heaven’s port forever.

(THE PILOT’S PSALM)

More Baby Bears!

By popular demand we have even more baby bears!!!

A couple of years ago I joined the Georgia Nature Photographers Association (GNPA). At my very first meeting I met Steve and Connie White. We struck up a friendship. Later we met out in Yellowstone and the Tetons when they helped me pull my friend, Jim Palmer, out of a ditch. True friends don’t let their friend’s friends lay helpless in a ditch out beside some deserted gravel road. They offer up their friend’s tow strap. That says a lot about our friendship!

Well, since we got our cabin in the Smokies, I haven’t been a regular attendee at the GNPA meetings. Steve & Connie were tracking me on my blog but, we hadn’t gotten together in a while. It was time.

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Beth and I invited Steve & Connie up to the Smokies with the promise of bears. They were a little skeptical at first about the bears but, came anyway.

 

 

Eastern Phoebe - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Naturally, I laid down the law on the first day. This time of year must be devoted to baby bears. Any images taken of little birds like this Eastern Phoebe must only be done when no baby bears are present.

 

Carter Shields Cabin - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

As we all know there are several old structures in Cades Cove that are just screaming to be photographed. I took this image simply to demonstrate what NOT to do. Black and white was used so as not to waste color.

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

We started out by visiting some of the areas in the park where I had seen baby bears last month. While we were driving down Forge Creek Road, Steve calls out “STOP there’s a bear!”. Sure enough. It’s the mother bear with the white “V” on her chest.

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

After a few moments she’s joined by her two tiny cubs.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

We pretty much kept our distance because I knew this mother bear was quite protective and had “bluff charged” some people last month.

 

 

Good job Steve for spotting the bear! At this point, they’re starting to think that maybe they WILL see several baby bears on this trip. We’ll see…

Pileated Woodpecker - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

As a reward for spotting the bear I relented to their pleas and allowed Steve & Connie to shoot a handful of Pileated Woodpecker images before we resumed our hunt for baby bears. You can’t just roll over!

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

We found this cub with its mother on the loop road near the north end of Hyatt Lane.

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

This little guy was a ham and quite the performer. He danced up and down three different trees while we watched him do everything in the baby bear repertoire.

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

 

No limb was to go unexplored.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

 

No trees were too wide nor too tall for this baby bear.

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Some trees had to be climbed on both the left and right sides to make sure nothing was missed.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Just to show how big and mighty he was, he takes a bite out of this twig. Chomp Chomp.

We couldn’t wait for him to walk out on the end of that barren limb so we could get some killer images! Naturally, he knew that and never did it.

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

 

Several times he climbed WAY up to the top. No fear of heights with this one!

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Very briefly he would pause and strike a nice pose. Mostly he was a perpetual motion machine.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Several times he would be hidden on the back side of the tree only to pop out in view. Where’s Waldo?

We saw several other baby bears but, this little guy was just too cute.

 

Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

I think Steve & Connie had a super trip to Cades Cove and our cabin in the Smokies. They saw more bears than they’d ever seen before and got to meet our dog, Paddy.

 

 

What can be better than good food and good friends mixed in with a heaping helping of lots of bears and a great dog. Sounds like a recipe for fun!

Baby Bears!

It’s late April – early May. For the past 8 years that means only one thing to me… BABY BEARS in Cades Cove!!!

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen or photographed these critters. They’re just too cute. Something about the whole Spring awakening thing just draws me back. I have to photograph and observe BABY BEARS!

Elk - Great Smoky Mountains NP, NC

 

Other animals in the park like this Elk in the Oconaluftee River try to divert my attention from baby bears. I must be strong in my resolve!

 

 

 

Barn Swallow - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Even small birdies like this Barn Swallow are hanging on the fence wires in Cades Cove. They would have you use up precious space on your camera’s memory cards that could be used for baby bears.

 

 

Deer - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Yes, even the deer are in on the plot. They start doing trick jumps over the fences that are hard to ignore.

 

 

 

Wild Turkey - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Next come the Wild Turkeys doing their displays and chasing the females. If the little birds didn’t get your attention then maybe the big ones will. I’m not falling for it!

 

 

Coyote - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Now the animals are bringing out the “big guns”… It’s a Coyote in the early morning mist on Hyatt Lane. I’m sensing the dark side of the force just pulling me away from my baby bear objective. Must be strong!

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

In my confused state, anything might crawl out of the weeds and try to change my priorities.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

But, at the end of the day, an adult bear is just that…an ADULT bear, NOT a baby bear.

Don’t be fooled!

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Now THIS is more like it! A tiny baby bear so young and small that his eyes are still blue. That’s what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

If you’re a baby bear then climbing is an important skill to acquire. It’s good to start with a smaller tree before attempting to scale one of the old-growth monsters in the park.

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

You can count on Mom to hand out some gentile coaching when you’re headed in the wrong direction. It’s not her first rodeo.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Momma bear will get right in there to show her baby the ropes. Besides, she can’t eat unless she knows her baby is safely tucked away on a high limb and away from predators. She’s behind her little guy all the way.

 

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Even when they know what to do it’s still a daunting challenge.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

In times like these it’s great to have a little brother or sister who can offer a boost or word of encouragement. What is family for?

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

This one’s starting to get the hang of it but, still looks back to Mom for reassurance. Looking good!

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Sibling rivalry means “Let’s race to the top!”

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Once you get up there it’s spectacular to look down on the world below.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Beware the pushy sister when she dares you to walk out on some high limb. It’s a LONG way down!

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

It’s better to just find a comfy spot on the tree somewhere and chill while Mom grazes for food below.

 

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

But, the best part about climbing trees is when Mom calls you down and plants a warm mushy kiss on your cheek. Baby bear life is pretty good!

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

This little fellow is watching Mom eat below him and decides to try his new teeth on a small twig. Yuck! Great for teething but, not very tasty.

It’s time to climb down and get some REAL food.

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Might as well face it… These baby bears have one heck of a Mom. Look at that beautiful black coat.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

The dinner bell has rung and these two babies have found the spigots.

 

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

We were simply in awe that this Mother bear allowed us to quietly and calmly photograph her feeding her young. I’m still amazed when I look at my images from that day.

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

After dinner it’s time to play!

 

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Well, it’s about time to wrap up this special Baby Bear blog post so I’ll leave you with a few more shots of baby bears.

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

You gotta love this little guy searching for his foot hold.

 

 

 

Black Bear - Cades Cove - GSMNP, TN

 

Finally, I’ll close with this tiny little guy boldly walking down a log. Maximum cuteness factor!

 

 

 

In our nearly 2 week trip to Cades Cove this year we were fortunate to see lots of bears. One day I counted 18. That’s my record for a single day. We thought we would be blessed with several baby bears because there was a record acorn crop in the Smokies this winter.

Most bears were distant, hidden behind brush or in poor light. You have to be patient, stay focused, know where to go and understand bear behavior to get decent shots. I’m quite pleased with what I got! Hope you enjoy the images as much as I enjoyed making them.

Paving Lone Ridge Drive

This blog post is for all of my fellow cabin and lot owners in Gold Leaf Mountain Estates. As you know, our main road, Lone Ridge Drive, has settled and cracked over the years. Since this is a private road we were unable to get Sevier County to take any responsibility for repairs.

All of us decided to pool our funds and get the worst areas repaired before we experienced any costly catastrophic failures. A big shout out and thanks to Chris Rehmann for all of his work on this project. He did all of the research, identified areas needing repair and procured quotes from contractors. Beth and I volunteered to travel up here and oversee the work. I brought my camera so each of you could see what you are getting for your hard-earned cash.

Gold Leaf Mountain Estates

This is a satellite image of our subdivision showing the problem areas. Those in red are to be completely dug out and repaved. Those in yellow will only be crack-filled. The one in orange will get partially dug out and partially crack-filled.

 

 

Volunteer Paving and Concrete based out of Knoxville, TN is doing the work. They elected to begin today on areas E, F, G, and H as shown on the left side of the satellite image.

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-E

 

As a point of reference, here are some “before” images of the areas of focus today.

The portion of Area-E that will be dug out is in the foreground.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-F

 

 

Area-F

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-G

 

 

Area-G

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-H

 

 

Area-H

 

 

 

At approximately 10:30am today (April 13, 2015) I met with the two owners of Volunteer Paving, Greg and Stanley. We walked the entire job site to verify the scope of work as they marked each area in orange paint. Areas to be dug out were encircled in orange paint. Areas needing only crack-fill were simply marked with an orange letter.

Lone Ridge Drive - Saw Cuts

 

The crew then basically pulled a string to define the saw cut lines.

All of the saw cuts for the entire project were completed today. (Areas B, E, F, G, H, I and J)

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Saw Cuts

 

The saw was set to cleanly and completely separate the full depth of the existing asphalt down to the gravel base.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Old Asphalt Removal

 

 

All of the old damaged asphalt was dug away with a Bobcat.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Old Asphalt Removal

 

 

It was then loaded into a dump truck and hauled to the asphalt plant to be recycled.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Gravel Base Leveling

 

The gravel base was smoothed and leveled by hand.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Gravel Base Compaction

 

Once the base was leveled it was compacted with a heavy roller to ensure a solid foundation.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Gravel Base Compaction

 

Close-up image after gravel compaction. Greg indicated that we had ample gravel under our existing road so no additional gravel was added.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

Now we’re ready to load up the paving machine and start laying some blacktop.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

The paving machine lays down a layer that only approximates the size of the area to be filled. It has to be worked by hand tools to attain the proper width and depth.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

Repair work is significantly more labor-intensive than new construction. It’s critical to build up the shoulders to sufficient height and angle while making a smooth and complete transition from existing to new surfaces.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Rolling

 

Asphalt was laid higher than the existing surface so that it compacts flush with the old asphalt.

The rolling machine makes multiple trips over the new asphalt to make it smooth and even.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

Small areas were worked at a time to ensure the asphalt remained hot and pliable. Here you can see the approximate depth to be filled. Looks like 4″ to me.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

After smoothing and rolling you cannot tell where one small section ends and the next one begins. It’s one continuous ribbon of asphalt.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

 

Unfortunately, there was not quite enough asphalt on hand to complete Area-H.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

The plan was to complete as much of Area-H as possible and place a thin layer over the remaining section to prevent any rainwater from wetting the gravel base below. We’re supposed to get rain the next two days.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Paving

 

This is the area that was filled with a temporary 1″ layer of asphalt. It will be redone correctly when the crew returns on Thursday with more asphalt.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Day-1 Completion

 

This is the finished product of today’s work. The new blacktop will be soft until it cools so cones were placed to prevent anyone from driving on it.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Old/New Boundary

 

 

Closeup showing the smooth boundary between the old and new asphalt.

 

 

 

DAY-2

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Old Asphalt Removal

 

All of the remaining areas that needed to be dug out were dug out and compacted.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

 

Area-B is one of the largest areas needing to be repaved.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

We got 2 full days of rain prior to today and then intermittent showers again today. As a result, the base layer of gravel and dirt was pretty moist. I voiced my concern about compaction issues but, the crew didn’t think it was a problem.

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

The asphalt seems to be going in without issue.

 

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

This large area is sucking up the asphalt.

 

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

 

Rolling it down.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

 

Area-B is complete!

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-J

 

 

On to areas I & J.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-J

 

We came up approximately 3 tons short of enough asphalt to complete the final 2 areas and the short section of Area-H. I spoke with Greg and he plans to finish these sections on Monday.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Crack Fill

 

This is the crack-fill material that will be used.
At this point we’re not sure when the crack filling will be done. Possibly Saturday.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Crack Fill

 

This is the tool that will be used to do the crack filling. It has a propane tank that provides heat to melt the filler material.

 

 

 

It’s a bit frustrating that we’re so close to the finish line but, we’re not there yet. However, there’s nobody to blame except the weather. It’s tough to pave in the driving rain. Volunteer Paving assures me that they are just as anxious to get this job done as we are.

Beth and I have to head back home this weekend so we’re not going to be able to hang around until everything is complete. I’ve got a lot of confidence in James, the crew boss, and expect the rest of the job to be done right.

FINAL REPORT

We returned to Gold Leaf on April 26 and were pleased to find that all of the road repairs were completed.

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

The final result looks great!

The 3 partially filled areas are completely filled and there’s even an extra sealing patch between new and old asphalt.

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-B

 

 

Closeup view of the seal between old and new pavement.

 

 

 

Lone Ridge Drive - Area-A

 

Area-A was crack filled only per our contract but, they also crack filled a few extra areas as well.

 

 

 

 

Overall, I’m very pleased with the final result. Volunteer Paving did everything they said they would do and a bit more. Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about Lone Ridge road repairs for a long time!

Winter on Hatcher Mountain

Beth asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday this February. Well, I said, there’s a forecast for 7 to 10 inches of snow up in the Smoky Mountains. Let’s go to our cabin for a few days! She granted my wish but, things didn’t turn out exactly as planed.

Our Cabin - Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

The big storm was going to be Saturday night so we drove up on Friday and stocked up on provisions Saturday morning. The good news is we got plenty of precipitation. The bad news is that it all came in the form of ice. LOTS of ice!

 

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

Everything in the area was coated with a thick and heavy layer of ice.

 

 

 

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

Usually in the South, ice and snow don’t linger. The weather warms up and it goes away.

Not this time. The temps dropped to the teens during the day and below zero at night.

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

Even though we’ve got a big 4×4 vehicle, it’s pretty useless on solid ice.

The roads were so slick and steep that I couldn’t even walk on the pavement. Our remote location is private so nobody salts or plows out here. We were on our own.

 

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

Oh well, we’ve got plenty of food and there’s nobody else up here. How nice!

Then we lost electricity. An ice loaded tree must have taken out the power lines somewhere. Oh great, no lights, no water, no heat and we can’t drive down the mountain.

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

Things weren’t totally bleak. I had planned that we might lose power and had filled a bathtub with water in case our well pump lost power. Also, I had made sure our gas grill had a full bottle of propane for cooking. In addition, the main level of our cabin has gas logs that work fine without electricity. Bring it on!

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

Immediately after we lost electricity I put in a trouble call to the local electric company. A little over 6 hours later we got power back. YAY!

We were lucky because many homes were without power for over a week.

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

Now we’re counting our blessings…

We have food, water, heat, lights and the beautiful serenity of the Smokies in winter.

But, we came up here for snow…not ice. Queue the snow!

 

 

 

 

Our Cabin - Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

What do you know. Another weather system came in and delivered my birthday snow.

Hurray! Now I can get some snow pictures. Maybe some in whiteout conditions. Cool.

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

I’m loving it. Running around like a crazy person snapping shots of everything. Even an artsy B&W image of the front porch on our neighbor’s cabin. Groovy.

 

 

 

 

Our Cabin - Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

Now that’s more like it! Heavy snow you can barely see through. THIS is winter in the Smokies by golly.

 

 

 

Paddy - Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

 

Once the snow had stopped it was time to hike around the mountain. Paddy, the wonder dog, and I are hot on the trail of 2 bears. The tracks are fresh and appear to be a mother and cub.

 

 

Paddy - Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

The ice was still everywhere but the snow actually added enough friction that I could somewhat walk on the roads without falling. After a while Paddy and I break off our hunt. We’re approaching a blind curve in the road and don’t want to round the corner and surprise the bears.

 

 

Hatcher Mountain - Wears Valley, TN

I love seeing how the birds stay warm by puffing out their feathers and finding a place out of the wind.

Speaking of wind, towards the end of our stay we got 50 mph sustained winds and 70 mph gusts. It was downright scary! I had to lash the grill to the side of our cabin to keep it from blowing through the deck railing.

I wanted to experience the full Smoky Mountain winter weather treatment and we certainly got it. Just like some reality TV show. At times it was a little too realistic though. Our short planned visit ended up being about 10 days until we could safely drive down the mountain. What a fantastic adventure and great birthday!