Archive for November, 2018


Hurtling toward Black Friday

Posted on Nov 23 2018 | By

Online and local shopping take sting out of the madness

Gird your loins. The dreaded date this year is Friday, November 23. Fittingly, it will also be the advent of a full moon. Howlin’ at the cash registers.

But before we launch into strategies to survive one of the busiest shopping days of the year, how did Black Friday get its name?

Interestingly, the first event occurred 149 years ago. And it had nothing to do with shopping malls.

The forces behind the original use of the moniker were Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, two ruthless Wall Street barons who conspired to buy as much gold as possible, drive the price up and make a killing by selling it off. At least that was the plan.

Unfortunately—or fortunately—the conspiracy collapsed on Friday September 24, 1869 sending the stock market into a nosedive and bankrupting much of the American citizenry, both rich and less so. The first Black Friday was born.

Fast forward to Philadelphia in the 1950s. A pattern emerged of suburban shoppers and tourists swamping the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

Cops had to work long hours to control both the rabid shoppers and the ensuing shoplifting. It was literally a black Friday event. Years later the term spread nationwide but carried with it a negative aura.

But the term itself had appeal to retailers who conjured up a more benign meaning for the label in the late 1980s, deigning the loss of profits as being in the red and successful sales scoring in the black. The “red to black” concept took hold and Black Friday became today’s shopping extravaganza.

Thirty percent of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas. A bonanza for retailers trying to turn a profit and consumers looking for great deals.

Keyboard buying
Remember the early days of when the naysayers claimed the business model wouldn’t prevail? My, my, the power of a determined individual. Today, Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet; from zero to $147 billion in 24 years.

Imagine if Jeff had asked you to invest $50,000 in his little enterprise back then. Your return on that money would have been an incredible 14 million percent. And yes, 22 individuals coughed up the $50k. Lucky ducks.

It’s helpful to highlight Amazon’s success because in 2017 consumers spent $454 billion at their keyboards. Today, online sales rival in-store purchases.

And while Black Friday conjures up hordes of shoppers clawing at each other to score a 55-inch television, millions of shoppers dodge the crowds by peacefully tapping their keyboards.

The top five U.S. online retailers are Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Etsy and Target. Expect to see tens of thousands of items on sale during the four-day weekend by these and a legion of other retailers with online presence.

Monitor the top websites two weeks in advance of Thanksgiving to learn what specials will be offered and exercise your credit card beginning on Turkey Day. You might also consider keeping some of your powder dry until Cyber Monday when the digital world unleashes a second wave of deals.

The keyboard is the easiest and most painless way to start tackling the Christmas gift list.

Going local
Regardless of the growth and popularity of online shopping, carrying plastic bags filled with goodies is an irresistible exercise for millions. The excitement of scoring a deal and walking out of a brick and mortar store with arms full of discounted merchandise can be shopping nirvana.

Dozens of Fauquier County stores will be offering great deals on a wide variety of merchandise so traveling deeper into Northern Virginia to visit malls and big box retailers is not necessary.

Our own Peeples, Marshalls, Warrenton Jewelry & Gifts, Jos. A. Banks, The Town Duck, McClanahan Camera & Sound, Carter & Spence, Tuesday Morning, Hobbies Etc, and many more local shops will be offering discounts.

Walmart will understandably get nationwide press for its deep discounts on electronics, toys, video games and other popular items. Our own Supercenter will be no exception. But balance the temptation of larger stores with the pleasure of a slower paced hunt at smaller businesses.

Thrift shops can also be a source of gently used kids’ toys, sports equipment and more. It’s a given you will not find more attractive prices on merchandise when considering a not new purchase.

If one is tempted to wade deeper into the shopping madness sans a long drive, Prince William County beckons with numerous retailers just 20 minutes away.

Swing by The Shops at Stonewall, Somerset Crossing, Virginia Gateway and other shopping centers scattered around the I-66 corridor. These venues are home to large retailers and smaller, gentler places to pull the credit card out.

And while we’re indulging in our annual buying spree for family and friends, let’s not walk past the The Salvation Army Bell Ringers without dropping some folding green in the red kettles. The Army’s 25,000 “soldiers” will collect over $130 million nationwide this season for the less fortunate.

Let gratitude be your attitude during the Christmas season by contributing to the Army or your favorite charity.

So, how best to prep for Black Friday? Start now to compile your gift list then scour the upcoming avalanche of radio, TV, newspaper and digital ads when they hit.

Plan ahead to save ahead.


Published in the November 21, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Highflyer Arms forged at the edge of space

Posted on Nov 17 2018 | By

Warrenton veteran chambers third career as gun shop owner

Flying for the better part of a day at 70,000 feet qualifies as one remarkable job. Throw in the fact you’re piloting a U2 spy plane in the 60 degree below zero stratosphere on missions worldwide and you’d be hard pressed to lose the, “So what did you do for a living?” contest.

And yet, in a quiet gun shop on 5th street in Old Town Warrenton, there is a certified gunsmith selling high-end firearms whose resume belies a career that is the envy of many a wannabe adventurer.

Meet Dave Russell, 53, sans helmet and flight suit, who would argue his 24 years in the United States Air force was never thrill seeking but dedicated service to the Nation.

Dave Russell

“My father was in the Air Force and retired from Luke Air Force base from where we settled in 1983. I attended the Air Force Academy graduating in 1987,” said Russell.

He went on to pilot training in Miss. and became a T-38 instructor for four years. “I was a second lieutenant teaching other second lieutenants. That was interesting.” It was also an early signal of a man on the move.

From there he spent seven years flying AWACs, the Air Force’s long-range radar surveillance and control center aircraft. Think of a modified Boeing 707 with a huge pancake mounted on the rear of the fuselage. A plane with eyes and ears.

“I flew in the Middle East, Central America, the Pacific and a lot of places in between. It involved service from Desert Storm to Operation Southern Watch to three missions tracking Russia bombers flying in American airspace. I held all the pilot positions during that period with a crew of 40 on board,” said Russell.

In a big jump up the career ladder he was then accepted into the U2 program and spent a decade piloting the sophisticated aircraft based out of Calif.

For the more “experienced” among us, the U2 is associated with the dramatic downing of the spy plane in 1960 piloted by Francis Gary Powers. Today, there are some 33 such aircraft in operation with at least one flying somewhere round the clock.

Missions can span a wide range of objectives, including combating ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The high-tech cameras and sensors on board can detect a human figure at 70,000 feet.

Asked to describe a notable U2 assignment he said there were many but not enough time to describe them. Pushed further, he offered as a brief example the surveillance of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“After Karina, I flew the first sortie over New Orleans sending imagery film back to FEMA and other disaster relief people. The images showed the extent of damage and what roads weren’t flooded so relief workers could find clear avenues of approach,” said Russell.

To emphasize the technology used, film was again shot as 70,000 feet. Why not closer? Because the camera equipment is focused for use at high altitude and can achieve the broadest area of coverage.

His last U2 flight was in 2007 and after military retirement he went on to other work in the intel community spending six years as a defense contractor.

Gun shop
After circling the globe for three decades, Russell chose to settle down in Warrenton and turned an avocation into a small business. Highflyer Arms is aptly named after his sky-high career.

Why gun sales? “When I was a young man in high school I was on the rifle team and in the ROTC.  I shot every day through my high school years. I picked up an affection for firearms and for working on them,” said Russell.

During his years at the Air Force Academy he also instructed cadets on firearms use. If ever a job after his military career was foreordained, it was in gun sales and repair.

He opened his shop, located at 17 S. 5th St. Suite #O, in April 2004. “I’m certified in gunsmithing so we also have a smithing operation”, that enables customers to have repairs done on their firearms in addition to purchasing a wide selection of guns. His four employees are all veterans.

While rifles and shotguns are part of the shop’s stock, they are not a big segment of he business. Today, many buyers are interested in handguns for home and personal defense.

Russell is aware of the controversial role handguns play in today’s society but makes a case of their use in law and order.

“Virginia is a welcoming environment for concealed carry weapons and the vast majority of citizens are doing so safely and lawfully. There are studies showing where lawfully armed citizens engaged an active shooter, the situation was resolved faster than if there had been no one to intervene and counterattack.

“We have seen a growth in concealed firearms because Virginia allows it,” said Russell.

A natural outgrowth of the gun shop is a new business both he and his wife Angie recently opened called Flying High Engraving. Again, his U2 career provides the name for the new shop located across the hall from the gun shop.

“Instead of sending engraving jobs out we now can do the work ourselves.”

The idea for the new venture came because Angie and her parents and brothers had been involved in engraving. The Russells were looking to expand their business and engraving both firearms and a host of other items was a natural fit.

Almost any object can be highly personalized by the professional engraving available at the shop, including trophies, coffee mugs, coasters, mementoes and more.

So, what’s next for the Russell family who seemingly have not slowed their pace of achievements since the beginning? “We are going to continue to run both these shops for a while and at some point, retire and spend time with our kids and grandkids,” said Russell.

The couple have two daughters and three grandchildren who live out of state. Both are married to military men so it’s obvious the rest of this story is yet to be written.

To learn more about the products and services of these high-flying enterprises visit the Russells at their website and on Facebook at: and


Published in the November 14, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Let’s Rumble!

Posted on Nov 17 2018 | By

VDOT saving lives one rumble strip at a time

What if every vehicle in Fauquier County could magically possess a lifesaving safety feature? With no direct cost to the owner.

“Sign me up,” would echo countywide.

Well rest easy and take no action. Over the next three years driving throughout the Piedmont will be safer than ever before. We have the Virginia Department of Transportation to thank for this gift of life.

VDOT has started a rumble fight that’s opposite of a word associated with harm. Instead, the department is saving lives and winning the opening rounds of an important roadway skirmish.

Rumble strips have been around for over half a century having first been installed on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey in 1952. Typically embedded on the side of interstate highways, they alert inattentive drivers with a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the vehicle wheels to the driver.

If rumble strips could talk, their message would be, “You’re leaving your lane and headed for disaster.”

The safety feature goes by numerous nicknames including sleeper lines, alert strips, audible lines, sleepy bumps, wake up calls, drift lines, and most graphically, drunk lines. Call them what you may, but “guardian angels” might be the best moniker.

A case could be made that for the last several decades installation of rumble strips on interstate highways was the reverse of where they first should have been installed. Why?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises twice as many highway deaths occur on rural roads than urban and suburban streets and highways. Nearly 55 percent of all on-road fatalities occur on rural roads yet fewer than 20 percent of the U. S. population resides in small towns and rural areas.

One of the most dangerous acts any of us perform each day is getting behind the wheel and cruising through our scenic countryside.

“Some of the things that make Virginia beautiful can also make our roadways fairly dangerous,” said Nathan Umberger. Umberger is VDOT’s Culpeper District traffic engineer and tasked with managing the district’s highway safety improvement program.

“We look very closely at the amount of fatal crashes and crashes overall. We ascribe to vision zero deaths. We want all road users to arrive safely at their final destination.”  Residents will notice with greater frequency either centerline or roadside rumble strips appearing on county roads in an effort to achieve that goal.

From 2014 to 2018, there were 255 fatal crashes in the nine-county Culpeper District that stretches from Fauquier County to Albemarle County; virtually all of the Piedmont. During that same period there were 67 fatalities in Fauquier County.

Cost & safety
There are numerous ways to improve roadway safety. These include widening pavement, clearing tree lines, grading and flattening slopes and other roadbed redesigns. But it comes with a high price tag. The cost-benefit-ratio of rumble strips is dramatic.

“I can cover 40 or 50 miles of roads with rumble strips for $100,000. But $100,000 doesn’t even pay for a tenth of a mile for paving or other road changes,” said Umberger. “It’s a very cheap countermeasure. Our goal is to cover the entire Culpeper district over the next three years for somewhere between $2 and $3 million.”

VDOT contractors perform the installation of the strips. At a price of 50 cents a foot, the installation cost covers traffic control, striping and any needed repainting of the road surface.

The machine used to lay down the strips is a modified version of what is used to mill worn roadbeds in preparation for repaving. The machine has a similar grinding head that can be adjusted to a specific width, depth and spacing.

Picture a custom-designed ice cream scooper with rotating teeth carving out dips in the roadbed that will produce the, “May I have your attention please” sound.

The machines are capable of covering up to 20 miles a day.

Umberger points out the three-year program will proceed with roadbeds that are in good surface condition. Application will not be undertaken with roads awaiting resurfacing since to do so would require reapplying the striping after the new paving occurred.

In the Culpeper district there are 70 miles of interstate highways, 732 miles of primary roads and 4,153 miles of secondary roads. The interstates have had the strips for years and the goal is to have all targeted roads stripped by 2022. There will be no installation of rumble strips on residential streets or in neighborhoods.

Results & concerns
Umberger underscores it’s still too early in the program to guarantee what the final outcome will be. But the past is prologue.

One dramatic early example of success is on Route 211 as it leaves Sperryville and ascends upward toward the Page County line to the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park.

From 2005 to 2010, there were 75 non-animal crashes on that stretch of roadway with an injury crash rate of 420 per 100 million vehicle miles travelled and a fatal crash rate of 39 per 100 million miles travelled.

From 2012 to 2017, after the rumble strips were installed, the same roadway experienced 44 crashes, or a 41 percent reduction, and injury crash rate reduction of 56% and a 100 percent reduction in fatalities.

A similar reduction of all parameters of highway safety occurred after the strips where in installed on Route 20 in Albemarle County north of Irish Road to the Orange County line.

Clearly, the promise of significantly saving lives and reducing injuries in the Piedmont is impressive. However, Umberger stresses he’s only into the first year of the accelerated program and the overall numbers are not yet where he wants them to be.

“The early results have been very good and we hope we can continue to see the success grow.”

Notwithstanding the obvious benefits of the program, Umberer opines there are some complaints associated with the strips.

“Some people don’t like the noise when their vehicle run over the strips. Others hear occasional road sound from their residences. We really need people to understand we are trying to get people to stay on the road and increasing drive awareness,” said Umberger.

The leadership and employees of VDOT are to be commended for aggressively pursuing policies that protect the lives of loved ones and friends.

Our part of the compact is to keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Safe journey.

Published in the November 14, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.   

Categories : HAGARTY TALES