Daily Archives: April 29, 2006

Battlefield and Lumber Yard

Up early, but not for working out, not today. I drop off Dawn and then head south to pick up Dad for a boys’ day. I choose the HOV lanes by the Pentagon, even though it’s Saturday morning, feeling like the last time I passed up the chance to use them I ended up stuck in horrible traffic. And just a couple miles down I see that traffic in the regular lanes is stopped. Completely stopped. I’m really glad I took the HOV lanes.

Some ways up they’re letting cars go one by one through a break in the guard rail from the regular lanes into the HOV lanes. That’s going to take a while. Interstate 395 south is then completely closed and empty past this. I sail on by, wondering what the deal is. A little further down are a ton of cops, both county and state. Then, finally, off to the left, against the guard rail, is a charter bus. There’s a sheet covering the front left corner, but you can still see a great deal of blood splashed down the side. God, it looks like the bus hit somebody.

There’s a lot of that going around lately, people getting hit by cars. A lot of immigrants in the area are from places without a lot of traffic, or if there’s a lot of traffic it isn’t particularly regulated, so they’re crossing like Route 50 in Seven Corners not at the lights or crosswalks but just anywhere in between. And they’re getting hit. Lately there are ads on billboards and the sides of buses reminding pedestrians to look both ways and be aware of traffic. So I figure that the bus has hit someone who was, dangerously, trying to cross the interstate.

(Later I find out that something happened to the driver of the bus, something bizarre, that it was he himself who was the accident victim.)

I get to Dad’s about 9:30 and have a cup of coffee with Sharon while Dad gets some pants on and finds various gear for our outing today. We leave about 10:00 and get to Manassas National Battlefield Park about 10:30. Rob’s supposed to have been meeting us here between 10:00 and 10:30, so I’m sheepish when we arrive that maybe we’ve kept him waiting. But he’s nowhere to be found. Finally I call him on his cell, and I find that he’s still at home. He says he’s leaving and on his way, but it takes him like forty-five minutes to arrive. Dad’s quite antsy as we sit on the Jetta tailgate until Rob finally pulls up.

We walk the Henry Hill Loop Trail, about a mile long, which starts and ends at the Visitor Center. This gives us a fairly good sense of the first battle; the second battle was apparently much bigger and is better seen with a driving tour. The first battle started with some diversion type deal down at the Stone Bridge, which we can’t see from here, and then there was the main attack over to our north on Matthews Hill. The Confederate lines broke down and they retreated to Henry Hill. It was on Henry Hill, as the southern forces rallied, that Gen. Barnard Bee shouted out the thing about Gen. Thomas Jackson standing like a stone wall, before Bee was mortally wounded.

The trail starts at the line of cannon from Capt. Rickett’s battery into the face of which the South’s rally began. Dad and I had time before Rob arrived to see the exhibit in the Visitor’s Center about how guns like these were manned and moved and set up during battle. We argue over what’s a caisson and what’s a limber. Rob’s been playing some computer game that’s some sort of simulation game of the First Battle of Manassas, so he tells us how deadly guns like these were. They look so funny to my modern eyes, so small compared to like the giant howitzers of nowadays, or like the 16-inch guns on battleships that shoot shells the size of VW Bugs. But Rob says that these cannons have a range of about 200 yards. Every time he gets off a shot in the game with one of these he kills about 90 guys. Call them the weapons of mass destruction of their day.

Next to the north is the actual Henry House itself, which Judith Henry refused to leave, and then where she was shot and killed. The house that we see is some sort of recreation and is itself being restored somehow. We see inside all sorts of construction and equipment; it looks like my house some weekends.

We go next a little further north to see Matthews Hill in the distance. Then east downhill to some cut of water, some branch maybe of Bull Run or Catharpin Run, then back uphill to Robinson House. All that’s left of Robinson House is a rock foundation. I’ve been noticing the really rustic split rail fencing that’s all around, and here Dad and I grab and shake some fence to see how strong it is. And it’s really strong. There’s no mechanical fasteners at all. It’s all held together by the weight of the rails. It’s really cool. And the rails themselves look like split logs, hewn rather than ripped, although they’ve clearly been crosscut to length.

Back along the southeast of the battlefield are a length of Confederate cannon. We spend some time trying to figure out what part of the guns and assembly were originally made of wood and what was made of iron. Everything in the displays we see is metal, with some of it textured to look like wood. I guess real wood needs a lot more maintenance and attention than these iron reproductions. Even the wheels are metal.

Almost back to the Visitors Center there’s a marker that notes a point where some assemblage of Confederate soldiers were under bombardment and then made a charge at two guns about 100 yards away. Dad marks off and counts the steps/yards to the two cannon, declaring it to be about right despite having judged it much closer initially. I think it’s the way that it sort of crests a hill that way, makes it look shorter maybe. For some reason the Confederates were able to make the 100-yard dash without the cannons firing and ripping them apart. A marker at the guns notes that further investigations never could determine why the Union soldiers never fired.

Finally back at the Visitors Center we check out the bookstore/giftshop. I find a Marvel Comics series on Civil War battles and so check out the one on First Manassas. I show it to Rob and declare the comic book format a great way to display information about events like this. Pictures are the best, I say. Pictures and maps. Rob says maps do it for him. And they’re graphic novels, he says.

We head out together down 234 looking for a place to eat. The woman at the cash register had suggested Cracker Barrel, but I’ve never eaten at a Cracker Barrel, and now I don’t want to break my streak. Rob says there’s a Damons a little ways down. We ate at a Damons back in January when we went to the Air & Space Museum, so I declare that we’ll always go to a Damons, we’ll make it our place, and so we go there. When we get there it’s closed.

So Rob says there’s a Mikes further down, and Dad says he loves Mikes so we go looking for Mikes. But we never find Mikes. Rob says that if we get to the hospital we’ve gone too far, and then we get to the hospital and we still haven’t found it. Finally we get to a shopping center where a sign says they’ve got a sports bar, so Dad and I decide that we’re eating there. And so we do.

But it also turns out that Rob’s played here in his band. And the one time I saw the band they played at the Roadhouse and then Rob & Chris & I came to eat here, at the Clubhouse Sports Bar. I order a Yuengling on draft to go with the pulled pork barbecue sandwich they’ve got on special, Dad gets a can of Guinness and the special as well, and Rob gets a Coke and chicken wings and fries.

I had been planning to go to a lumber yard if I had time, beforehand, but now we’re actually only a couple blocks away now that we’ve come so far south for lunch, so we all go there after finishing eating. The place is called Northland Forest Products. I’d been trying to get to Vienna Hardwoods the last couple weeks and just haven’t found the time, but I’m glad now to go to NFP since they and/or what they sell is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC was set up after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio to establish standards for sustainable harvesting of forests. The cabinet maker I had met last year, Curt Barger, had recommended NFP because of their certification.

I was a little nervous about how things would work, but I feel like I do okay. When we first walk in there’s all the wood to the left and like a little office building to the right, all of this inside a small warehouse, and I wasn’t sure if I should check in at the office. But then I thought that maybe they were conducting some business in there and I should wait outside until someone came out. We wandered around looking at and for wood for a little while, since there wasn’t like anywhere we could disappear to and you can’t exactly boost boards by slipping them in your jacket or pocket or anything. I was looking for about eight board feet of 6/4 southern yellow pine and about 3 board feet of a 3/4 softish hardwood like aspen or butternut. It seemed like the wood was labeled in actual thickness rather than nominal. I found 1/2″ S2S poplar, which was perfect, and I set aside a straight board of that.

About that time a guy comes out of the office. I introduce myself, as does he, name of Warren, and I explain that I’m not sure how things work, and he’s very helpful. He only has eastern white pine in 5/4″, but he suggests that will work better than southern yellow pine anyway. And he helpfully suggests two of the 7′ boards, when I think that I could probably get away with one. (When I get home and do some better measuring of the wood, I figure that I can get from the boards 20 spindles, when I need 18. Only one board clearly would have left me way short.)

Warren goes into the office to write up the order after telling me that I can crosscut the boards myself to fit them in the car. I do so using this nifty Ryobi 8 1/2″ sliding miter saw. The pine boards are ten inches wide, but with the sliding saw it’s fun and easy to cut them. I put the boards aside and follow Warren into the office. In there, while he’s processing my credit card, he invites me to look through a photo album of furniture and other projects that customers have made with wood from here. Lots of stuff that’s way beyond what I’ll ever be able to do, but he tells me that everybody has to start somewhere. He also suggests classes taught by the local counties.

When I tell him that I’ve taken classes at Woodcraft in Springfield, he notes that they get all the wood that they sell from him. I say that I haven’t taken the plunge yet to joining the club there, what with the initial and monthly fees. He suggests the Reston Community Center woodshop, where non-residents can use the shop for seven bucks. He gives me a flyer.

Make the Cut at RCC’s Open Woodshop

Do you want to do woodworking projects,but have no place to work or lack essential woodworking tools? RCC has the answer! You are invited to use RCC’s open woodshop. The woodshop offers ample workspace and has equipment such as table saws, sanders, drills, worktables and a lathe.

In addition to a large and well-lit workspace and access to professional tools, the open woodshop enables crafters at all levels of skill to draw inspiration and advice from their fellow woodworkers.

The woodshop is located at the Reston Community Center, Hunters Woods. The woodshop fee is $5 for people who live or work in Reston and $7 for all others. Woodshop hours are Tuesday, 6-10 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration is not required for this program.

It sounds too good to be true, but I’m definitely giving them a call.