Thursday, May 18, 2017

Geocaching and the Horror of It All


Yeah, this is happening, June 10, at the Glenwood branch of the Greensboro Public Library. A little yakking about writing horror and geocaching. Couldn't be a better pairing, far as I'm concerned.

A couple of years back, at Brewed Awakening's Book Festival in Danville, VA, I met a most enthusiastic young lady named Trena Taylor, who worked for the Danville Public Library. She was familiar with my books, which I thought was nice, but the big surprise to me was that she turned out to be an avid geocacher. She was as keen on talking caching as about my writing, which was fine by me, so we had a long, entertaining conversation about both — which we continued on a couple of subsequent occasions, one when I went to hunt a wonderfully done cache (which, unfortunately, has since been archived) at the Danville library, and another at the next Brewed Awakening Book Festival. Then, relatively recently, I learned that Trena has taken a job with the Greensboro Public Library.

So...friend Trena decided there was no better way to scare the local populace than to invite me to come speak about horror and geocaching. How could I say no? So, on the tenth of June, I'll be there, spinning yarns about my adventures in the field and how they have influenced my writing — and vice-versa. There will be a geocaching mini-tutorial, and in all likelihood a new cache hidden somewhere in the vicinity of the library, which the bravest of the brave attendees might care to hunt.

If you've an interest in geocaching and/or horror, show up at the Greensboro Public Library Glenwood Branch on June 10 at 2:00 PM, and you will be at precisely the right coordinates to get a good lesson in fear.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Two Charity Events, Two Trains, One Kentucky Derby, and a Welsh Dragon

Man, the shit is getting real at the Kentucky Derby.
Nice stud, wot?!

This weekend, I attended two charity events in two days, which I expect is a first for me. On Friday night, Ms. B. and I accompanied our friends Joe and Suzy Albanese to the fund-raising auction & gala at Piedmont Classical High School, where Suzy teaches. A few weeks ago, I went to the school to speak to students about writing (see "The Author Speaks," April 18, 2017), and this weekend, Suzy was kind enough to pick up a copy of Blue Devil Island to offer at the auction. Happily, it commanded a good price for a good cause. The school provided live music, drinks, and a massive spread of excellent hors d'oeuvres, which made for an enjoyable and worthy event.

And last night, Ms. B. and I accompanied our friends Jenny Chapman and Doug Cox to Autumn Creek Vineyards to attend the fancy Run for the Roses Derby Day, their annual fundraiser for Help, Inc., an organization that helps victims of domestic violence. Derby Day is a fairly lavish affair, with a huge auction, raffles for prizes, a catered buffet, Autumn Creek wine, more live music, and the Kentucky Derby on a huge screen TV (my horse did not win, alas). All in all, a most entertaining and worthwhile experience, and I must say I should enjoy making this a regular tradition.
Beth and Suzy at the Piedmont Classical High School Gala
Ms. B. sporting a fancy-ass hat for Kentucky Derby Day
The crowd gathers to watch the Kentucky Derby at Autumn Creek Vineyards
Once again, I spent part of the weekend helping out my mom in Martinsville, while also managing to get in some hiking and geocaching. Yesterday morning, I took a long hike on the trails at Bryan Park North to pick up some of Night-hawk's new hides, and he was kind enough to offer me a first-to-find opportunity on one of them prior to its publication as a birthday bonus for an old, decrepit man. I rather enjoy the trail there that runs near the train tracks because there you are, out in the middle of the woods, and — what do you know — here comes a big old train rumbling past you. While I was out there, two trains came by, one running north, one running south (not at the same time!). I tend to enjoy train-spotting, as long as I'm not sitting endlessly at a railroad crossing while a long one goes creeping by.
The section of trail of Bryan Park North that runs near the train tracks
Tis far better to encounter one of these while hiking in the woods than while sitting at a railroad crossing
This morning, after running some errands in Martinsville, I headed up to Fairy Stone Park in Patrick County, VA, to go after a relatively new cache hidden there. It proved a quick find at a scenic spot near Philpott Lake, making for find #9,419. I quite love that area, I do, as I spent quite a bit of time there from the time I was a little kid through my college days at nearby Ferrum College. And finally, on the way back home, I stopped in Reidsville at The Celtic Fringe to satisfy my craving for their Welsh Dragon burger, which is a third-pound Angus beef patty simmered in their one-and-only Welsh Dragon ghost pepper sauce and topped with pepper jack cheese, candied red cabbage, arugula, and mayonnaise. (I even like to dip my french fries — which are excellent, by the way — in a side cup of the sauce.) Make no mistake, this is pure, delicious, wonderful hellfire! The flavorful, always perfectly cooked burger, the candied red cabbage, and just a veneer of mayo perfectly complement this sweet but fiery ghost pepper concoction. Inevitably, if you order a Welsh Dragon Burger, your server will ask you if you're aware of what you're getting into, and justifiably so, as I can only imagine the folly of some tyro with a passing fondness for hot sauce going all-out with one of these.

Not a good idea, my friends.

Kimberly's birthday is coming up this week, so more festivities loom — as do sixteen tons of work at the office as well as at home. One of these days, I've gotta get some rest.
Bigfoot's latrine? Near "VSP Get L.O.S.T. at Fairy Stone State Park" (GC6YJVW)
The old dude on the hunt at Fairy Stone Park
Arf'ing hot, man.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Another Day Closer to Death, and All That

Tuesday, another birthday came and went, a 57th revolution around the sun finished up, and the old man moved day closer to death. I think I yelled at some kids to get off my lawn, but I don't remember too well. For the first time since I started geocaching in 2008, I didn't take my birthday off to go caching because I was sick last week and missed a bunch of time from work. But Night-hawk (a.k.a. Tom) put out some new ones up at Bryan Park North, not far from here, one of which was in honor of my birthday, so that was cool. I'll go find it this weekend.

All things considered, it was a decent birthday. I went to work and people did some happy birthday things for me, and then Ms. Brugger took me out for treats: Wine Styles for wine and Fleming's for dinner. Fleming's is the about the best not-at-all-cheap place to eat around here, so it's always good when someone else takes you there for a special occasion. I had fried oysters, the best dead raw cow (a.k.a. carpaccio) in the world, some kick-ass roasted asparagus, and carrot cake that rivals Fern Brugger's. (Most of you have not had Kimberly's mom's carrot cake, and thus you might as well have never eaten. Trust me on this.) I've had carpaccio at other places, but Fleming's is the best, served with basil, lemon, black pepper, capers, red onion, and creole mustard sauce on crostini. Even Ms. B., who cares little for beef, finds this stuff irresistible.

Afterward, she was kind enough to give me some loverly presents, and then we watched Lost Highway, one of my favorite David Lynch movies. Then I was tired because I had gotten a year older overnight. Then I got up the next morning and went to work.

I suppose if fortune smiles, or makes fun of me, I'll be around about this time next year. That would be better than, well, other things.
Flemings' beef carpaccio — surely the best raw dead cow to be found anywhere

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hollering, GeoPutting, and The Stokers

Damned Rodan, Yoda Rob, Suntigres, and BigG7777, 2017 Piedmont Triad GeoPutt Champions
(Photo by Robert Isenhour)
Yoda Rob addresses the ball —
"Hellooooo, ball!" (Photo by
Rob Isenhour)

For me, this was another breakneck weekend, having to fit in serious caretaking on the home front while still getting in gatherings with numerous friends, including some geocaching. For the horror community, it was Stoker award weekend — the festivities being held aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA (which I've had the pleasure of visiting in the past) — and while I didn't win a Stoker Award, I was on the winning team at the 2017 Geoputt Event in Burlington, which involved some serious and very solemn hootin' and hollerin'.

It started on Friday evening, at the end of a long and ugly bout with a sinus bug that kept me out of work for a couple of days. I was scheduled to make a racket at the third Songwriters' Showcase at The Daily Grind in Martinsville, as I have at the past two. I felt a lot better, but my voice was about shot from several days of snorting and hacking. Regardless, I went for it and somehow managed to crank out three songs without choking. Dunno if it scared anyone away permanently, but the audience was loverly, and no one hurled nasty things at me. Score one.
Wailing on "Nova," one of the songs I wrote back in my college days (Photo by Kimberly Brugger)
Saturday, after handling necessary business on the home front, Kimberly and I headed down to Stonefield Cellers in Stokesdale to share some wine and tall geocaching tales with friend Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget) and her S.O. BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry). The wine and company were great, of course, though the prodigious heat and humidity would have had a devastating effect on my hair if I had any. Ms. B. and I eventually made our way back home for dinner and a movie, and I would love to say this was all very relaxing — it actually was — but certain states of affairs about which I won't elaborate online have cost me countless hours of sleep in the past few months, and last night was no exception. Virtually no sleep. Very, very exhausting, it is.
The notorious Night-hawk,
Putt-Putter extraordinaire
(Photo by Robert Isenour)

But sleep deprivation cannot derail certain trains, and thus it was that Old Robgso, Suntigres, and the BigG met up this morning for a day of geocaching and the annual Geoputt event in Burlington. Our first destination was Siler City, where we put in a few miles of trail hiking — again in hair-curling heat and humidity — and snagged somewhere around twenty caches before heading to Burlington for the Putt-Putt event. For the big tournament, which brought thirty or so geocachers out from all around the region, I teamed up with Yoda Rob, BigG, and Suntigres. Now, back in the dark ages, I was an avid golfer — although Putt-Putt and golfing are almost mutually exclusive activities — and my team put in what appeared to be a pretty respectable showing. And at the end of it all, it turned out that we were indeed the winning team of the event. Woohoo! Wahaa! Hooooey! I even brought home a nice trophy for this astounding achievement. The notorious Night-hawk (a.k.a. Tom) won the individual best score, for which he was awarded an entirely too-small orange vest.

And that, ladies and germs, is why we play.

And in the horror fiction category, several authors of my acquaintance and of unspeakable talent took home their own haunted house trophies for superior achievement at the Bram Stoker award ceremony in Long Beach. The winners were:

Novel: The Fisherman, John Langan
First Novel: Haven, Tom Deady
Young Adult Novel: Snowed, Maria Alexander
Long Fiction: The Winter Box, Tim Waggoner
Short Fiction: The Crawl Space,” Joyce Carol Oates
Fiction Collection: The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, Joyce Carol Oates
Anthology: Borderlands 6, Oliva F. Monteleone & Thomas F. Monteleone
Non-Fiction: Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin
Poetry Collection: Brothel, Stephanie M. Wytovich
Graphic Novel: Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe, James Chambers
Screenplay: The Witch

My congratulations to the winners, all quite deserving of the recognition.

For me, tonight's aspiration to actually get a decent night's sleep, for it's going to be another long week. I do turn a whole year older on Tuesday, don't you know.

G'night.
One of the day's most intriguing geocache discoveries, all hand-knitted
and constructed by Sull427 (a.k.a. Jean)
"Go that way. No, THAT way. Dammit, ball." (Photo by Robert Isenhour)
Punkins19 and Skyhawk63 (Photo by Rob Isenhour)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

From Brewed Awakening to Galaxy Express

Extensive road and sidewalk construction in the district, not to mention the ever-present threat of rain, likely kept at least some patrons from Brewed Awakening's Spring Book Festival yesterday in Danville, VA, but it still drew a respectable crowd, and I moved enough scary books to ruin a good night's sleep for any number of folks. Since its early days as Binding Time in Martinsville, the café/bookstore, under the proprietorship of John and Bonnie Hale, has hosted the multi-author book event at least once, usually twice each year. I have missed one or two for various reasons, but as a regular participant, I have always enjoyed attending the festival, and — best of all — it has been, without exception, a profitable venue for me.
Jill Van Horn, author of Sheep Eaters, and friends

While I miss having the café right up the street from Mom's place in Martinsville, I certainly appreciate the newer location, in the restored tobacco district in Danville. There's still a lot of work going on in the area; in fact, until 24 hours prior to the festival, the sidewalk where a number of us set up our tables was non-existent — just a big old patch of mud (and there were plenty of big old patches of mud remaining all around the establishment). Happily, while some serious rain came down both before and after the event, the weather cooperated sufficiently to allow those of us who had set up outside to remain there, although the serious humidity did have a less-than-desirable effect on some copies of our books.

In addition to reading material, Brewed Awakening offers a fine selection of sandwiches, soups, coffees, sweets, and other treats that have earned them the 2016 Best of Virginia award, among others. For lunch, I had a delicious roast beef on naan sandwich, with BBQ mayo and jalapeno jack cheese, called The Dibrell, with literally the best potato salad I've ever tasted. And their coffee... oh yeah, it rocks.
Photo by Bonne Helms-Hale

The nice thing about the location in Danville is that it's close to a number of other attractions for both Ms. Brugger and I — namely, 2 Witches Winery and Brewery, which we enjoyed sampling; Vintages by the Dan, a classy little wine shop offering a fine selection of spirits and free wine and beer tastings; the extensive Lou's Antique Mall, where Ms. B. can get lost for hours; and Golden Leaf Bistro, where we had an excellent dinner last night and which we have enjoyed on any number of visits.

After all this, Kimberly and I returned to my place for a showing of Galaxy Express 999, which likely remains my all-time favorite example of classic animé. I've been a fan of Leiji Matsumoto's creations since discovering them via Space Cruiser Yamato (a.k.a. Star Blazers) in the late 1970s, and I've recently been watching the 2002 animé series, Captain Harlock: The Endless Odyssey, which I'd not seen before. While it may not be the best of the series, it has served to reignite my somewhat dormant interest in all things Harlock.

A much-needed good day, and we thank you.
Preparing for the opening (photo by Bonnie Helms-Hale)
Author Tom Perry, who specializes in volumes of Virginia and North Carolina history
A busy alley!
For me, tasty flight of local brew from 2 Witches: a sour wheat ale, a triple IPA, a coffee stout,
and a scotch ale; and for Ms. B., a glass of traminette

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"The Author Speaks" (or "How to Drive Dozens of Young Innocents into the Pit of Despair")

The author offers words of wisdom to prospective young writers: "I hear there's a lot of money
to be made servicing HVAC systems." (Photo by Stephen Varsi)

My good friend and educator par excellence, Suzy Albanese, recently invited me to speak on the subject of writing to her English and Creative Writing classes at Greensboro's Piedmont Classical High School. Now, I'm always honored when someone considers me worthy of sharing some wit and wisdom to a class full of impressionable young minds, but I will admit to having some trepidation about the prospect, for at various times in the past, I have taught and/or given presentations to human people of all age groups, from elementary school through college. It's not always pretty. There was that nine-year-old girl in a class at the local art center many years ago whose dad was a lawyer, and she assured me that he would sue the pants off me if I made her complete any assignment she didn't consider fun. To this day, I'm not sure how I managed to keep my pants. On the other hand, when I taught an art course for adults at a community college once long ago, one of my students turned out to be my toughest high school English teacher, and the payback was sweet delight. As often as not, though, I've had to nurse that continual worry about losing my pants, particularly when the students are of junior high to high-school age.

Happily, this most recent adventure rendered my concerns moot, for the crew of students attending my (totally improvised) talk proved intelligent, attentive, courteous, and personally engaging. (I suspect they have some good teachers and — clearly — more than a dash of home training.) Many of them were able to converse knowledgeably about not only the fundamentals of writing in general but about horror in particular. Now, some of them might have been disappointed to learn that I do not hang out regularly with Stephen King, or live in a huge haunted house overlooking an ancient graveyard, or write a bestseller every night so I might travel the world in luxury, but no one appeared to be discouraged from diving into the pit and exploring the various shadowy corridors of their own creative minds. Try as I might, I don't believe I convinced anyone to abandon their literary aspirations for more secure and exhilarating adventures in the world of certified public accountancy. More's the pity, for surely we need more accountants; I certainly do come tax time.

At the end of the scheduled talk, several of the students came to converse with me one-on-one, which I must say I appreciated. All in all, I came out of the school with a bit more faith in at least some members of the younger generation than I had going in.

Thank you, Mrs. Albanese, for the experience was a pleasure.
These young folks are actually listening and taking notes, not fiddling with their phones.
C'est magnifique! (Photo by Stephen Varsi)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

From Burger Warfare to Round Peak and Beyond


It's been one of those nonstop, on-the-go weekends involving lots of socializing, some wine, a bit of travel, occasional geocaching, and plenty of good food — not to mention making considerable progress on my current work-in-progress, the deadline for which is rapidly approaching. All very gratifying, but in the end more exhausting than relaxing, and damn if I don't need some time to rest and recuperate, for I am old.

It began on Friday evening, when Ms. B. and I met our friends Doug and Jenny for dinner at Greensboro's Burger Warefare, a reasonably decent joint with an entertaining military theme that includes numerous giant battle robots situated both within and without. Before we knew it, we were doing the middle-aged barhopping thing, stopping in at the nearby Tap Room to sample their wares, and finally 1618 Midtown, which Kimberly and I had visited several Halloweens ago, only to find ourselves not overly enthused by its fare or ambience. Things have changed there, however, all for the better, and we were both quite taken with the improvements. We shall no doubt return.
A couple of grumpy old people
A somewhat less grumpy couple
Saturday, it was up bright and early to meet our friends Terry and Beth for a picnic lunch at Round Peak Vineyard and Brewery out beyond Mount Airy, home of the beautifully named "Skull Camp" brands, which we enjoyed sampling. Here we found great atmosphere, beautiful views, and good wine, at least by North Carolina standards. From there, it was on to Mount Airy and Old North State Winery, which we've visited a number of times, though in the past we've been more taken with their offerings than the current. Only three dry reds available this time around, one of less-than-stellar taste, two of better but hardly superlative quality. After all that, we headed to Winston-Salem and a pizza dinner at The Mellow Mushroom. Well-stuffed, that would be us.

The geocaching, while not extensive on our western outing, was gratifying, at least. I was most taken with a cache called "Freeman Homeplace" (GC4P3ER), the search for which led us out to a wonderful old cabin on the lonely back roads not far from Round Peak. Years and years back, this was a favorite location for Round Peak musicians to gather and play their old-time music and hold weekly square dances. I can certainly see setting a good, old-time horror tale out in that area....

Today's geocaching outing with Bloody Rob took us out to the Union Cross/Wallburg area, southeast of Winston, where we picked up about a dozen mostly park & grab caches, with a couple of slightly more involved hides thrown in for good measure.

I figure if World War III is on the way, we may as well get in the good stuff now. But I tell you, it's tiring, this socializing thing.

Next week... the Brewed Awakening Spring Book Festival. Hope to see you there.
The Freeman Homeplace
A nice ride for Ms. B.
The view from the porch at Round Peak Vineyard
Terry, Beth, Old Man, and Ms. B. at Old North State in Mt. Airy

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2017 Spring Book Festival at Brewed Awakening

COMING UP: Brewed Awakening's Spring Book Festival, on Saturday, April 22, at the store, located at 610 Craghead St., Danville, VA 24541 I'll be on location to sell and sign books (yes, my own; I get fussed at for signing other writers' books). I plan to have copies of The Monarchs, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Gaki, and possibly others on hand, so if you are in traveling distance and possessed of exceptional intestinal fortitude, by all means, stop by. I'd love to see you.

Not only does Brewed Awakening sell books, they serve first-class sandwiches, wraps, and beverages (I'm especially fond of their hazelnut latte). And for you intrepid souls who enjoy geocaching as much as braving Rainey's terror tales, Danville offers plenty of caches — in fact, there's one ("The Crossing," GC1BR2C) directly across the street from the café. Good books, good refreshments, good geocaching.

Mark your calendar and join us.

Brewed Awakening Book Festival 
Saturday, April 22, 2016 • 10 AM–2 PM
610 Craghead St., Danville, VA 24541
(434) 483-2138

Friday, April 7, 2017

Softly Whispering I Love You

I did, I told you the other day that if you weren't good, there was more where "Soul Coaxing" came from. Well, I've been wondering about some of you, as the goings-on among my congregation of kindred souls have been somewhat suspicious. Thus I am posting another old "bad" favorite from my youthful days, and don't say I didn't warn you.

"Softly Whispering I Love You" by the English Congregation (1971) may be one of the most overwrought, saccharine pieces of music that anyone ever came up with, but when I was in seventh grade, I heard it on the radio from time to time, and it struck some meaningful chord in my then-lovesick little self. I was just discovering the crushing heartbreak of unrequited puppy love, and something about this song made me feel a little weepy (probably not for the same reasons it might make you feel weepy). Bear in mind, for my personal music library I have collected just about every 1970s hit that ever existed, good, bad, and bloody awful; there are worse things than this. Pray I don't foist them upon you.

But I did, I warned you. So here it is.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Damned Rodan's Buffalo Scorpion Wings

What You Need (for ten pieces):
For sauce:
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (Frank's, Texas Pete, Tabasco, etc.)
  • 1/4 to 3/4 tsp scorpion pepper sauce (Tropical Pepper Co.'s is good, though not as hot as some; adjust amount to desired heat level)
For chicken:
  • 10 wing pieces (I prefer all drummies to flats)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
What You Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 250°. While waiting, thoroughly mix the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
  2. Drizzle the wings with the olive oil and rub to coat evenly. Pour the flour, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and lemon pepper into a lunch-size paper bag. Dump the wings into the bag, close securely, and shake vigorously until the wings are evenly coated.
  3. Place a wire rack in your baking tray and give it a good shot of cooking spray. Arrange the wings on the rack so air will circulate beneath the chicken. Bake at 250° for 30 minutes.
  4. Crank up the oven temperature to 450° and bake for 40 minutes. You may want to turn the wings about halfway through. These will be good and crispy.
  5. Just before the wings are done, pour the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then drop each wing piece into the boiling sauce (two or three at a time is okay) for about a minute, turning with tongs every few seconds. Boiling the sauce allows the sugar in the honey to bond the sauce to the wings.
  6. Place the dead bird on a plate, devour, and holler.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hanging with Bigfoot, and Other Amish Tales


Back home from a trip to the Ohio Amish country with Ms. Brugger, where we went for a few days to spend time with her parents, who enjoy visiting that area. I don't usually hear things like, "I'd like to visit Ohio" or even "Ohio doesn't suck," but I gotta tell you, in central Ohio, we found abundant beautiful scenery, with extensive flatlands that ended abruptly at dark, looming hills, laced with shadowy, winding country roads; numerous quaint, picturesque communities; and plenty of colorful characters, even though they dressed in black. Not to mention Bigfoot. Yes, he was there! Note the photo to the left. I can't say I had ever seriously considered going to visit Amish country, but when the Bruggers invited us to meet them there for a few days, taking them up on it seemed just the ticket.

We headed out at the ass-crack of dawn on Wednesday morning, bound for Zinck's Inn in Berlin, Ohio, where we planned to meet the Bruggers. Things started on a rather ominous note because, not long after we hit the interstate, we found ourselves behind a big old logging truck, whose trailer began swaying perilously in the wind, so that scenes from Final Destination 2 came flying fast and furious. It was quite the relief when we put some distance between that beast and us, and if it took out a slew of obnoxious young adults somewhere on the road, we were not around to bear witness. Or participate.
Oh, shit.
The Inn provided comfortable lodgings, very convenient to the central business district and other places of interest to antique treasure hunters, which comprised the majority of our party. I am hardly what one could call an aficionado of antiques, though I do rather enjoy wandering through antique shops and finding intriguing items from days of yore. And while this was not primarily a geocaching trip, you can bet I set my sights on all kinds of caches, which often kept me occupied during our antiquing trips. Oh, yes — there were a handful of wineries in the area, a couple of which we visited and enjoyed, particularly Silver Moon winery, near Dover.
Don't step too far backward, Ms. B!
Now, even though Ms. Brugger is anything but an avid geocacher, she does appreciate the unusual destinations to which geocaching often takes us. In this area of Ohio, oh, my lord, there are dead people everywhere, going back years and years, even centuries, and thus there are graveyards scattered all over the landscape, and at many of them, yes, caches to hunt. Geographically, this region is not all that far from the setting of the original Night of the Living Dead, so at most of the graveyards we visited, the landscapes appeared eerily (and agreeably) familiar. I didn't exactly see any walking dead at close range, but at one old church graveyard we explored this morning, I did notice a strange, shambling zombie wearing fluorescent tennis shoes and a fleece jacket from our workplace in Greensboro. Funny, that.
I had a hard time restraining myself at Lehman's,
so they did it for me.

Yesterday, we took a little road trip up to Kidron, a few miles north of Berlin, which is home to Lehman's Hardware, a huge, damn-near Lowe's-sized installation stocked mostly with old-fashioned hardware implements appropriate to the Amish way of life, not to mention all kinds of just plain cool specialty items (and caches on the premises). I even found a stock of Kickapoo Joy Juice (based on the moonshine in the old "Lil Abner" comics), actually a citrus soda kind of like Mountain Dew, which I enjoyed when I was a little kid. Apparently, it's still being produced.

And yes, there were Amish folks everywhere, their horses and buggies clip-clopping up and down the country roads, the men farming the land everywhere you looked beyond the limits of the little town, and all going about their lives almost as if the myriad tourists around them didn't even exist. In the darker reaches of Holmes and Stark counties where we ventured, I couldn't help but recall T.E.D. Klein's novella, "The Events at Poroth Farm" (and his novel, The Ceremonies, based on that work), which chronicled some frightening goings-on in a quaint, religion-based community — not Amish but similar enough in aspect that comparisons are inevitable. I doubt any such supernatural horrors simmered beneath the surface of mundane life here, but by God, there was Bigfoot, and that simply cannot be denied. Remember the photographic evidence, people!
Sunset over the Old Berlin Cemetery, March 29, 2017
I did find it amusing that, one night, I haphazardly left a copy of Stephen King's Salem's Lot on top of the Bible in our room at the Inn, and the next morning, after breakfast, I discovered that our housekeeper had moved the King novel elsewhere and placed the Bible prominently on a tabletop. Touché.
Ms. B. goes to church.

The only thing that might have spoiled our enjoyment of the trip was a barrage of physical infirmities — primarily age-related — that befell both Kimberly and I, which in some respects left us in less vigorous condition than her parents, which they no doubt found rather amusing. None of it was really funny, but hopefully all temporary, so that the lady and I will both be back to our typical, young-at-heart selves in the nearest of futures, barring trips to see back specialists, X-ray techs, and other related medical personnel. This getting older crap does get in the way of living sometimes, it really does.

The lot of us are safely back to our respective homes, with all kinds of wonderful memories of great company and experiences, and at least one of us twenty-some geocaches richer. I'm thinking a long soak in a hot bath might help relieve some of these blasted old-people pains.

Doncha just hate it when the older generation runs you ragged?

Click on the photos to enlarge.
There's a geocache in that photo.
Old gravestones in a cemetery off the Winklepleck Road
More graves in the cemetery off the Winklepleck Road
Hans is watching you!
A bridge, leading to nowhere, at which I located a nice little cache
Another bridge, leading to not quite nowhere, at which I also located a nice little cache
One of the most common sights on our trip