Lifting off in a hot-air balloon

The most suspenseful moments of our hot-air ballooning adventure came a few minutes before our scheduled liftoff.

In the eyes of our pilot, it was a bit too windy to fly. The winds had been diminishing, he said, but if they didn’t come down some more, we might have to scrap the flight. And the window of opportunity was closing rapidly. If our flight didn’t start in the next half-hour, there wouldn’t be enough time to complete it before dark.

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Washington Post, December 20, 2015

Moonshine in Marion


In one block on Main Street in Marion, Va., you can enjoy first-rate barbecue at Wolfe’s, watch live bluegrass performances at the historic Lincoln Theatre and rest your head at the equally venerable General Francis Marion Hotel.

But what drew me here was the opportunity to sample some Virginia moonshine at its source.

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Washington Post, March 19, 2015

Faded Coat of Blue

I first heard this recording of “Faded Coat of Blue” on the radio in California, more than 25 years ago. More than any other song I can think of, it has changed my life.

I was captivated by the singer’s voice, and for years I sought to learn more about her. At first, I knew only her name, Betsy Rutherford. I eventually learned that she was from Galax, Va., that she had recorded an album entitled “Traditional Country Music” in 1970, and that she had died in 1991.

This was the first song on Betsy’s only LP, a wonderful album that beautifully showcased her strong voice and smooth singing style. With the support of Betsy’s family, I made this video and posted it on YouTube almost four years ago. I’m pleased to see that it has now been seen by 4,000 people who otherwise might not have heard her music.

Although she didn’t record any other albums, I have been able to track down some recordings of her performances, and I have posted more than 20 of those songs on YouTube. But this was the first, and it remains my favorite.