Michabelle Inn

Operation Caracal, Part 4

Days 9-10, December 29-30

I’ve been saying that this trip was largely free form, and with no advance planning. That isn’t entirely true. Lisa and I have been wanting to have a weekend away, as a belated anniversary celebration. The opportunity to set up such a trip didn’t present itself until now. After discussing it with Lisa’s parents, we arranged to leave Caitlin and Michael with them, so Lisa and I could spend an overnight at a regional hotel, inn, or bed & breakfast.

After doing some research, we settled on the Michabelle Inn, a historic house within Hammond. This was perfect, because we didn’t want a long drive. We already had another one of those approaching, and didn’t need another.

Our little getaway started on the afternoon of December 29, when we went to lunch at a local restaurant, Café Nola. We were advised to not let the appearance of the place fool us. We had passed this place earlier in the week, and from the outside it doesn’t look like much. On the inside it looks like a sports bar. But the smell of food was enticing, so we ordered. Lisa had the grilled shrimp Alfredo, and I had the pasta fazula. The food was great, and even the lunch sized portions were generous. If you’re ever in this area, check this place out. Trust me.

After lunch, we did some sight seeing around Ponchatoula. It was a cloudy day, but the temperature was pleasant, and we took some photos of the historic buildings.

We were surprised to see a statue of G. K. Chesterton, because as far as we know the man had no connection to this area. This little mystery warrants further investigation.

Ponchatoula was an important railroad town in the past. If you look at a map of the area, you’ll see that many of the major streets run parallel to the railroad tracks. Today, the railroad is still an important freight handler. But for passenger and other commercial traffic, it is now second fiddle to the regional Interstate highways (I-12 and I-55). Even so, the earlier importance of the railroad is evident.

In the photo below is Old Hardhide, an alligator that lives in an enclosure near the Ponchatoula country market building. He is sort of the town mascot. Apparently he “writes” a column for one of the local newspapers. I would hate to be his stenographer.

After this, we ran a few short errands, then headed back to Hammond to check into Michabelle.

Statue, front fountain


This place was built in 1907 as a private home, and was converted into an inn in 1998. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982, and is often referred to as “McGehee House” after the original residents. The current owners include a descendant of this family.



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Country Roads


On October 24, we attended the wedding of my cousin Derek in Charleston, West Virginia. The following day became a foliage trip, as we took the scenic route home.




These three photos were actually taken just before the wedding. Some interesting boats were traversing the river, so while waiting for the ceremony to begin, I took a few snapshots. The sailing ship is actually a replica of one of Christopher Columbus’ ships, the Niña.

We wanted to make a few stops on the way back. One was the New River Gorge Bridge. This bridge was built in the 1970’s, and for a time it was the highest span bridge in the world. It may still be the highest and longest in the western hemisphere. At one time, crossing this part of the New River could take up to three hours. The image at the top of the page is of the old bridge, down at the base. Today the gorge can be crossed in just under a minute.




We saw some amazing views of the regional topography. But as you can see, Michael wasn’t impressed.

Our second stop was for a late lunch in Hinton, West Virginia. You may find this hard to believe, but one of the best views of the New River, or at least this part of it, can be seen from the dining room of a Dairy Queen! Yes, it’s a bit out of the way, but the view is amazing.




These three photos were all taken from the dining room of this restaurant. The first time I visited this place was in 1995, when the family had a reunion at nearby Bluestone State Park. My brother, mom and I found this place sort of by accident, but never forgot it.

It’s a very popular place for bird watchers. At certain times of the year there are all types of bird feeders and bird houses attracting all manner of feathered visitor. The dining room has one way glass, so most of the visiting birds are unaware of the human spectators.



These last two photos were taken on I-66, in Virginia, as we crossed the Shenandoah Valley. This highway traverses the region from Covington to Staunton, and finally Charlottesville. Our final stop for this foliage trip was a restaurant in Staunton, Mrs. Rowes restaurant and bakery. I was introduced to this restaurant several years ago by some friends, and I’ve stopped here several times since. Sometimes we stop for a meal, while other times we pick up some things from their freezer. This time we did both. The view isn’t as nice as the place in Hinton, but the food is amazing. Most tour books describe the food as “Americana.” That is to say, it’s not exotic, and most of the dishes are familiar. That doesn’t make it any less delicious. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it. Check their web site for hours and exact directions.

By the time we reached Staunton the frequent changes in altitude were starting to cause us sinus problems. We arrived home around nine in the evening, and all went straight to sleep. We didn’t unpack our bags until the next day.


Derek and Leslie


Back in October, we took a short trip to Charleston, West Virginia, to attend the wedding of my cousin Derek and his fiance, Leslie Edwards. This short trip was both a family reunion, and a nice foliage trip, as the West Virginia mountains were wearing their fall colors.

The wedding itself was on October 24.

The wedding party, under the park pavilion.
Photo by Richard Pugh

From left to right: Michael, James, Jeanne, Connor, William, Caitlin, and Lisa.
Photo by Richard Pugh

Derek and Leslie, after the ceremony.
Photo by James Pugh


Linda, Michael, and Caitlin, and the reception.
Photos by Richard Pugh

Photo by Richard Pugh

Photo by James Pugh

Derek and his mom, Linda.
Photo by James Pugh

Photo by James Pugh

Photo by Emily Ferguson Photography

During the reception, cousin Josh performed his fire dance. Yes, he actually knows how to do a Tahitian fire dance! That’s a funny story for another time.

The next morning, before we all scattered to our various corners of the world, we got together for breakfast at a local restaurant. Pugh’s and O’Connors from all over the East coast!

Front row, left to right: Connor, William, Me, Michael, Caitlin, Jennifer, and Carlton.

Back row, left to right: Gretta, Tom, Jeanne, James, Lisa, Chip, Josh, Muri, and Linda.

Photo produced by Jennifer O’Connor

And that concluded an enjoyable, but all-too-short, family reunion.


Happy Birthday, Michael!


Today is Michael Vincent’s third birthday. That means he is now out of the terrible twos, and into the terrorizing threes. He’s had a big year! He’s finally starting to communicate, mostly by pointing and by using pictures. He even started preschool in August!

Here are some images of My Son the Cyborg, from 2015.

From my birthday dinner at the Park Lane Tavern in Fredericksburg, back in February.

Playing at Yowell Meadow Park, in March.

Hanging out at Mountain Run Lake Park, in April.

At the Fireman’s Carnival, in May.

Being a boxtroll, in June.

Strolling down the road near our house, in early July.

During the Chicago trip, in July.

Hanging out with the family at Lenn Park, near Culpeper, in September. His mom and grandparents are in the background.


Two views from a school field trip to Round Hill Farm, in early October.


Halloween, 2015, as Captain America!

Caitlin, meanwhile, was Black Widow. Avengers assemble!