Charlottesville Breaking News

Melted dream: Simpson's snowmobile race hopes dashed

Russ Simpson, the Nelson County man who vowed to race a snowmobile across the icy wilds of Alaska in search of adventure for himself and money for charity, has returned from more than two weeks in the 49th state with more questions than snow in his teeth.

"I'm not quite sure what happened up there," says Simpson, who'd planned on making a 1,100-mile journey in the Iron Dog race across the Alaskan wilderness. The subject of a recent Hook profile, he returned to Virginia in late February after race officials, having told him he had insufficient equipment, then proceeded to transfer him among teams where the roadside apple merchant-turned-racer says he just didn't feel welcome.

Race organizers ended up refunding his entry fee, but the travel cost of a 16-day journey to Alaska is something Simpson will have to absorb. Along with some positives to temper his disappointment.

"I can't look back on this and say it was a nightmare," says the middle-aged Simpson, reveling in the newfound health that he got from near-daily bicycle training atop the Blue Ridge and the over $5,000 he raised for a UVA team fighting melanoma.

"I'm definitely 100 percent glad I made the effort," says Simpson, who hasn't yet decided whether to try again...

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What do you think of Huguely's sentence?

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Valiant effort: SEALs shine in 'Act of Valor'

Act of Valor contains hard-hitting combat footage, relentless and effective. There is a story behind the film that is no less engrossing. In an introduction at the beginning, its co-directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, speak directly to the audience, describing how they got involved in a film about the Navy SEALs, how they were embedded with an actual SEAL unit – and how, when that project grew into a fiction film, they determined to use real SEALs and not professional actors.

The early version of the film, according to reporting by Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times, was variously intended as a training film or recruitment film, and was made outside the usual Department of Defense guidelines for motion pictures. It now emerges as a thriller involving two (non-factual) scenarios, one about a SEAL mission to free a kidnapped CIA operative (Roselyn Sanchez), the other about a plot to smuggle terrorists into the U.S. through tunnels from Mexico constructed by drug cartels.

The details in both of these scenarios seem realistic – although how would I know? The co-directors and their team have produced an accomplish...

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Siips bows out, McClure and his burgers step in

As you might have already heard, Siips Wine & Champagne Bar closed on February 19 after four years on the Downtown Mall. Siips was known for its impressive wine offerings, music, and art events, and creative marketing– they featured celebrity guest bartenders and once held a happy hour for dogs (and their owners) called Yappy Hour to raise money for the SPCA.

Owner George Benford, and his wife, Pat, informed customers via email that they had sold their "beloved" restaurant to a local restauranteur with "big plans for the space." 

That would be Andy McClure and company, owner of such powerhouses as The Virginian, The Biltmore, No.3, and West Main. Although nothing is set in stone yet, a representative of McClure's restaurant group tells the Hook that the new place is tentatively called the Union Burger Bar, and will likely be "upscale, modern, have lots of TVs, hundreds of beers, and have lots of local products."

Of course, all that could change, as plans to open are at least a few months out.  As the restaurant group rep said, "It's very early in the process." Stay tuned.

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