Monday, December 10, 2018

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night!

In front of my house about 9:00 p.m. last night. The wall of snow and ice to the right is over two feet high.
To no one's surprise, after 15+ inches of snow, with sleet on top of it, the power went pow! about 10:30 p.m. last night. I had anticipated this very thing, so I had lanterns, flashlights, candles, extra food & drink, blankets, cats, etc. to get through an indoor cold spell. Sure enough, the house turned frigid overnight, but at least the bed stayed warm (bundles of cats help a lot). Yesterday morning, I had made a huge pot of coffee in case the power went out earlier in the day, but then I neglected to make more later. And irony of ironies, I had just thought to do so when electricity vacated the premises last night.

Happily, not long after I got up this morning, electricity returned to Casa de Rodan, and so far has hung around. Hopefully for the long haul. First order of business: brew bucket loads of coffee. The office is closed for the rest of the day, also happily, since getting out on the road is a virtual impossibility, and even if it were possible, highly unsafe. So, barring another power outage, it'll be a good day to make a prodigious amount of progress in Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, my next entry in Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series.

You people in the affected area stay safe and warm. Things are going to re-freeze tonight.
The Rodan mobile, parked for the duration.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

T'ain't Fit for Man Nor Beast....

I may end up snowbound for some time. The big winter storm that came in last night dropped a good 10 inches overnight, and it's still piling up. Right now, it's mostly sleet, but it keeps changing out there. Eventually, this is supposed to turn to freezing rain, which is when the power is most likely to go out. So far, so good here, although there are reports of outages here and there.

There's no way in hell my little car's going to be getting out of my driveway until there's been plowing and considerable melting, which shan't likely be happening in the next 24 hours. I trust the office powers-that-be will have the decency and good sense to just close the office tomorrow. Nohing our company produces is worth risking life, limb, and property for a day at work. I believe it was three years ago that my car got banged up real good by another vehicle that went out of control—and I narrowly avoided getting banged up myself—due to having to drive in conditions where no person with a lick have sense should have been out there. I love my day job, but only up to a point....

It's getting darker and deeper out there even now. The big old flakes are back. I'm stocked up with supplies, but I so hope to keep power through all these. Else it's gonna be a cold, cold time.
About 11:00 a.m. this morning
About ten inches came down overnight, and it's not supposed to stop till tomorrow.
Shiver me beeches!

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Dweller Goes Missing and States of Confusion

Whenever I know in advance that a geocacher—or group of cachers—intends to hunt one of my night caches, I oftentimes go out walking with them. For my part, I get to check on the general state of things and enjoy a night in the woods; the hunters have the advantage of the cache owner being on hand to steer them completely wrong along the way. Oh, did I say "advantage"? I might have meant "handicap."

Last week, friends Natalie (a.k.a fishdownthestair), Dave (a.k.a. rhodorooter), and Tom (a.k.a. Skyhawk63) had the notion to go after "Dweller in Darkness: The Missing" (GC3G3N7), and, per the norm, I agreed to walkies on the trail with them. Much to his chagrin, Mr. Skyhawk forgot to show up (shame on Mr. Skyhawk!), but Natalie and Dave had their priorities in order. We hit the Reedy Fork trail, the hunters seeking the glowing fire tacks that would lead them to their destination, while I ended up replacing a number of said tacks that had gone missing.

Stage 1 turned out a little worse for wear and needed some work. I made the necessary reparations, and our intrepid adventurers proceeded after the final stage. Or would have, had there been a final stage out there to proceed to.

Holy shit... I knew Hurricane Michael, some weeks back, had brought more water than I had ever seen in this area, but I had no idea how severe the flooding had been along the Greensboro watershed trails. It was... severe. To totally wash out Dr. Zann's final resting place, the water had to have risen at least 10 feet above the norm. Ground zero was a horror show. And the cache was gone.

Having failed to anticipate the extent of the maintenance required, I had not brought any kind of replacement for the final stage. So, after an exhaustive but ultimately futile search for the good Dr. Zann's remains, we cried uncle and made our way back to that hideous train wreck called civilization.

Now, friend Natalie, devout geocacher and fellow Halloweenie, happened to own a few items that might facilitate the repairs of the Dweller in Darkness, and she was kind enough to donate them to the cause. So on last Sunday, she and I went out in a driving rain to recreate the cache, complete with a new resting place for the good Dr. Zann.

Thus, last night, I met Mr. Skyhawk, his memory somewhat recovered, and Dr. Dave back at the Reedy Fork trailhead to attempt another encounter with the Dweller. This time, all was right with the world, our valiant hunters claimed the cache, and we all headed to a very crowded Uptown Charlie's to meet Skyhawk's lovely wife, Linda (a.k.a. Punkins19) for piles and piles of fabulous chicken wings and brew.

That was Phase I of last night's geocaching adventure. I will hereby explain that friend Dave, not only an intrepid hunter, is the creator of several daunting puzzle caches—a series called "States of Confusion"—recently foisted on the local geocaching community. Let it be known I dislike puzzle caches, at least those that require computer time (most do). I am on the computer all day, five days out of seven, at the office. I write my own stuff during the evening. Every evening. I tend to be on the damned computer far more than I care to be. Geocaching is my means of getting the hell off the computer and out in the wild to hunt some entertaining shit. Having to spend computer time prior to that outing makes me ornery. Dave's puzzles are not as bleeping impossible as many, but they aren't exactly simple or obvious. They require computer work. Oy vey.

During our revelries last evening, one of Dave's new puzzle caches published. And lo, it was not far from my route home. There was no way I'd be able to solve the puzzle on my own before spending that dreaded computer time. But I had it in my head that it would sure be entertaining to somehow find that cache.
In my 10+ years of geocaching, I have been known to occasionally find caches via unorthodox means, pure chance, or a combination of both. In an effort to procure useful information vis-à-vis the puzzle, Skyhawk, Punkins, and I threatened our friend, the CO, whacked him mercilessly upside the head, even withheld a plate of chicken wings from him, but he refused to talk. We left dinner without one iota of additional insight, and the CO laughing at our vulgar ineptitude.

From there, I had to make a stop for a groceries, during which time I grumbled to anyone who would listen about the evils of puzzle caches. I figured when I got home, I'd see what kind of forward progress I might make with the puzzle. However, I knew, from the placement of the puzzle cache icon on the map, the physical container had to reside within a two-mile radius. The cache page included an explicit hint, which mirrored one of Dave's previous hides. On a lark, I decided to return to that particular area and examine a handful of appropriate hosts. Mais alas, nada. Well, it was a worthy attempt. Then, as I drove in defeat back toward Casa de Rodan, I saw on the geocaching map another area that might... might... be promising, just off the main road at a somewhat secluded location. I pulled in, and immediately saw a police vehicle parked near just the kind of host I sought. I thought, you know, if I were self-respecting puzzle cache, that was precisely where I might hide myself....


There it was! The cache! Just to be certain I hadn't found some other unpublished hide, I verified with the CO that I was where I was supposed to be. And so... it was done. The perfect combination of well-honed skill, razor-sharp deductive thinking, and pure, blind luck.

Okay, so it was all three of these things except maybe the first two.

I fully expected Officer of the Law to accost me to figure just what the heck I was doing. But nope. Officer of the Law remained parked and left me alone. Go figure. Anyway, for good measure, I determined how to solve the puzzle once I got home. Well, mostly. A couple of niggling details never quite came clear. Damned puzzle caches....

Don't perpetuate these monstrosities, good people. Just don't.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Krud Kometh

Seems like every year, at just about this time, I get hit with a krud bug. It makes for a few miserable days, and then it goes away. This year, Brugger got the krud bug first and passed it to me (as well as the boss at the office, who is rightly peeved with Ms. B.). Fortunately, I have katz to help me konquer the krud (kough kough). You katz, you work. You work, katz.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Team No Dead Weight Rocks, Except....

Team No Dead WeightOld Rodan (a.k.a. me), Old Bloody Rob (a.k.a. Rob), and Ms. Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) ventured forth on the geocaching trail again today, this time around High Rock Lake and Salisbury, NC. Primary target: Eagle Point Preserve at High Rock Lake. We did grab a fair number on the way and then in Salisbury proper afterward. The trail at the preserve tried several times to reach up and drag us under prodigious amounts of water, but we persevered and conquered 25 caches before the end of the day.
Ms. Fish finds something fishy.

Victory didn't come easily at a few of the hides. The ones at which we figured we'd spend the least amount of time occasionally proved the toughest for us to find. That doesn't mean they were tough hides; only that we had a hard time finding them. One—a very obvious fake rock—eluded our gaze for lord knows how many passes up and down that particular embankment. Another, in downtown Salisbury, required a PAF (phone-a-friend) to help us find a very obvious real rock. Here we are, three experienced geocachers with nearly 18,000 cache finds between us, and we can't lay our hands without help on a container that screams its location to us. Mercy. At least we weren't alone in this. We received a call from a friend in Martinsville who couldn't find the cache even though he practically had his hands on it. On the other hand, on a few occasions, I spied something very subtle that led us where we needed to be, so at least part of the time, I felt like a real geocacher.

We did, at least, win at choosing a lunch destination. The Smoke Pit BBQ restaurant turned out to have some of the best beef brisket I've discovered since the late, lamented Blues BBQ Company in Roanoke, VA. Their fried okra is the best I've had since my mom's, as well. Highly recommended.

We found a few other cool things. An old church converted into a nice Italian restaurant. The only tree in North Carolina boasting vibrant fall foliage. A little park that provides spray paint cans so you can graffiti the place. After I got done with it, I think a new entry to the Black Lodge may have opened up. Fire walk with me, if you please.

And so, Team No Dead Weight has ridden again. We came, we saw, we rocked, except....
Possibly the only tree in North Carolina boasting brilliant fall foliage
Nice transformation—once an old church, now an Italian restaurant
House from Civil War days near downtown Salisbury
At times, Team No Dead Weight might as well have been hunting like so.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Turkey Dinners and Fishy Caches

Ms. B. and I were up before the crack of dawn this chilly morning to haul ourselves up to Mum's in Martinsville and get the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven. On the way, we made a stop at Sheetz to avail ourselves to a spot of breakfast. I do love Sheetz coffee, I gotta say. Immediately upon arriving at Mum's, we set about preparing the feast: the big honking dead bird, sweet corn, green beans, Ms. B.'s famous stuffing, yeast rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin cheesecake. Plus a bottle of fine Aglianico that we picked up a Villa Appalaccia when we were there just before Halloween. Happily, Brother Phred was able to join us, which made for an excellent family gathering.

After obliterating every scrap of food there was to obliterate, rather than let the triptophan get the better of us, Ms. B. and I trucked ourselves over to the Dick & Willie Trail to burn off a calorie or two and hunt several new geocaches placed by Ms. fishdownthestairs (a.k.a. Natalie). Nice hides these, particularly a rather devious little bison tube—a cache called "My Roots Are Here" (GC80D9N). I performed a little maintenance at a few of my hides as well, which ought make future finders of these happy. A much-needed three-mile hike to round out the day, it was.

Now it's dark.
Old lady and a very young man* out on the Dick & Willie Trail
*Ms. B. probably ought not look upon this caption.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Team No Dead Weight Does Dr. Evil (Almost)

Team No Dead Weight. Bloody Rob is beaming because he is bloody well bright.
The other day, Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) let it be known that there should be beaucoup trail caching this weekend. So, this morning, Ms. Fish, Bloody Rob (a.k.a. Rob), and Old Rodan (yours) joined up to form another incarnation of Team No Dead Weight (the customary moniker for whatever poor, unsuspecting geocachers we can round up for a day of forced hunting). Off we headed to a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail around Falls Lake, just east of Durham, NC. The day started out rather chilly and quite foggy, but by the time we hit the trail, the fog had lifted and the temperature had risen above the 40-degree mark.
Old Rob remains behind, guarding the
entrance to hell

There were an even dozen caches on the trail, and we conquered the lot of them without undue difficulty and in fairly good time. We found ammo cans, camouflaged lock & locks, bison tubes, rubber chickens, and dog chew toys, one of which I swear was an alien dildo screwed to a tree (that one wasn't actually a cache; it was just taking up space for whatever reason). Our favorite, though, was a very small human skeleton sitting in a holly tree. It was.

From there, we ventured forth to Trali Irish Pub, which has been a favorite dining destination both with Ms. Brugger and on various geocaching expeditions. I had a wunnerful, wunnerful lamb burger with fries, and a kick-ass Bloody Mary. Ms. Fish and Bloody Rob tried scotch eggs, which is one of God's most delightful concoctions: a hard-boiled egg encased in spicy Irish sausage, breaded with panko, and deep-fried. They might ought to serve it with a side of defibrillator, but my lord is it tasty.

After lunch, we decided to head after a handful more caches, the most enjoyable of which was one called "Number Two Goes for a Walk" (GC3AAMM). It's one of those "Dr. Evil"-type caches (almost, anyway) — meaning that, to get to it, you're going to want a flashlight or several, and you do NOT want to go after it during or immediately following any substantial rainfall. It rained like the devil the past couple of weeks, but we happily found the culverts reasonably dry and quite comfy. The trip underground wasn't as long or as difficult as most of those "Dr. Evil" hides, but it proved challenging enough to be memorable. What was kind of funny was that, just a short time earlier, both Ms. Fish and I were wishing we might find exactly such a hide at some point during the day. Now, Old Bloody Rob doesn't care for such underground shenanigans, so he guarded the entrance to the underworld while we explored it. Yeah, he knows what he's missing, which I guess is exactly why he is missing it.

Coming home, we drove toward a spectacular blazing sunset. It was a good day on the geocaching trail, the downside of which means it flew by, and next thing you know, it's another flippin' work day. Boogers.

Over and out.
Falls Lake out yonder
Driving into a spooktacular sunset

Sunday, November 11, 2018


There is little better than dinner and wine on a chilly night at the beach with a lovely lady and a tube o' fire.
Some months ago, Ms. B. signed up for a November arts-and-crafts retreat at Myrtle Beach, SC, and asked if I'd like to come along and geocache while she was artsy-fartsying. So I figured, well, why the artsy-farts not? Not only would we both get to indulge in our favorite pastimes, there would also be ample opportunity to spend some quality time together at the beach. Thus, it all seemed a win-win proposition. Even better, it turned out that friends Bridget (a.k.a. Suntigres) and Gerry (a.k.a. BigG7777) would be at their Myrtle Beach condo at the same time. Win, win, and win!

The retreat took place at the Sun & Sun Resort on S. Ocean Blvd., which pleased me intensely, as the hotel is two short blocks down from Regency Towers, where my family used to own a time-share condo, which I visited every summer for almost 25 years. I spent some of the best times of my life at that place. And the building that is now the Sun & Sand Resort used to be the Sheraton Hotel—where, sometime in the early 1990s, two nights running, my brother and I won their bar's karaoke contests (good for $25 bar tabs—not shabby in those days). Win, win, win, and win!

So this past Thursday, Ms. B. and I went to work for half a day and, at noon, set out in the Ms. B. Mobile for parts known and unknown. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Compadres Mexican Restaurant in Randleman—a favorite from many caching adventures over the years—and, yes, a handful of caches. We arrived in Myrtle Beach just after dark, checked in at the Sun & Sand Resort, and then made our way down to Russell's Seafood Grill in Murrell's Inslet, which has been a favorite of ours in years past. While enjoyed our dinners—oysters on the half shell and fried crawfish tails for the old man, broiled scallops for nice lady—I fear neither quite reached the excellent quality we have previously enjoyed. Way too much breading on the crawfish and rather fishy-flavored scallops. Perhaps on another visit....

That said, November, my friends, is the time to hit Myrtle Beach, especially on weekdays. The crowds are relatively slim, the temperature is cool but not frigid, and the geocaching is virtually muggle-free. On Friday morning, Ms. B. and I  had a light breakfast in our hotel room and then went our separate ways for the morning—she to the conference area for her artsy-fartsy thingy, and I to Myrtle Beach State Park, just a mile or so down the road to hunt the baker's dozen geocaches lying in wait there. It actually turned out to be a warm, muggy morning, and the mosquitoes attacked in merciless schwarms, leaving me itching and drained of blood. I found all but one of the caches I sought, that one by all evidence missing. Brugger and I got together again for a light lunch, and afterward, while she returned to her artsing, I plopped down to relax for a bit, as I had no more blood left in me. I spent much of the rest of the afternoon logging all the caches I had found.
Boggy Creek monster?
Mosquito heaven at Myrtle Beach State Park
Friday evening, Brugger and I met Gerry and Bridget for some liquid refreshment at Coastal Wine Boutique at 21st Avenue North. We had enjoyed visiting their other location in North Myrtle Beach on our May beach trip, and this one was equally enjoyable. The night was pleasant enough to sit outside, firepit blazing, and both spirits and service proved excellent. Once done here, we all wandered (wandered, I said, not staggered) across the street and reveled in a seafood feeding frenzy at Dirty Don's Oyster Bar. Fried shrimp for Brugger, spicy steamed shrimp for the hungry old dude. I think Gerry and Bridget also ended up with shrimp. Fantastic all around, and damn if I don't think we've found a new favorite seafood feeding frenzy establishment on the Grand Strand....

Back again to the Sun & Sand. For nice lady, more arts & crafts. For me, out into the night for more geocaches and a little roam around Regency Towers to reminisce about some of life's most wonderful moments. Done, done, and done.

Saturday morning, following a longstanding Rainey beach tradition, we sought out a pancake house for breakfast, which turned out to be the nearby Woodhaven Pancake House, where I think the Rainey family had enjoyed pancake breakfasts way back in the dawn of man. Ms. B. had a big old plate of pancakes with sausage, and I had a big old plate of... not just French toast... but Paris toast, which was a fancy first-rate bread, butter, and egg combination, accompanied by bacon, the lot of which about sent this old man to the moon. Lord have mercy, we are talking good.

From there, guess where Brugger went. Yep. Guess where I went. Yep, I joined Gerry and Bridget to reactivate Team Beach Hounds from our previous Myrtle Beach geocaching venture last May. We trucked ourselves over to a big shopping area off Highway 17, and then, once we'd cleaned it up, set off on foot after a nearby series of caches called "A Walk Around the Block," which gave us a couple of miles of opportunity to burn off a portion of breakfast. We found all but one of the 15 or so caches, that one again by all evidence missing. We hunted and killed lunch at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant, an ostensibly upscale but pretty much standard Mexican establishment. I enjoyed the chile relleno and margaritas, but I have to tell you, the "spicy" salsa didn't even reach Tabasco on the Scoville scale, and when I asked for something in the habanero vein, they had only Cholula hot sauce to offer. That's like red-colored water. My friends, as I said, the fare here was tasty, but to me, it ain't proper Mexican unless I'm consuming molten magma. The far less expensive fare back at Compadres in Randleman more than hit that sweet spot.

No matter, this is all about the experience and the fun, and that it was. Following lunch, we made our way out to Pine Lakes International Country Club—where my dad and I had played golf back in the late 1970s—to claim a relatively new virtual geocache ("What Happened Here" [GC7B64Y]). Here, we ran into some geocachers from Illinois, which was cool. Then Team Beach Hounds split up for the day, and I returned to the Sun & Sand, after stopping for another cache along the way.

Come evening time, Ms. B. and I opted to find some Asian food, which we did at CO Sushi, in a self-contained little village built within the confines of what used to be Myrtle Beach Air Force Base (the planes from which I used watch from the balcony of Regency Towers). It was chilly outside, but they had a tube o' fire burning on their terrace (see the photo up top), and we enjoyed sushi, beef, and banh mi in reasonable comfort. An altogether pleasing experience.

Back at the hotel, while Ms. B. artsed and fartsed some more, I put on Hunting Grounds (a.k.a. Valley of the Sasquatch), a cheesy Bigfoot movie (because I've been on a cheesy Bigfoot movie kick recently). Fun enough shit. Now, lord knows why, but down at yonder retreat, Brugger participated in an ugly Christmas outfit contest, and dang... how she didn't win, I'm sure I'll never know. See for yourself, if you please....
Not the cache

And this morning, sadly, it came time to depart. Beforehand, I did get to snag a few more nearby caches, most notably a daunting bridge hide called "Trolling for Smilies" (GC124VE), which I almost ended up giving up on, but perseverance paid off. Thankfully, low temperatures had enervated the inhabitants of a wasp nest damn near as big as my noggin up under that bridge. At another nearby cache, I was blessed with the opportunity to view, remarkably close up, a vintage B-17 passing overhead at only a few hundred feet as it came into MYB—almost certainly for a Veterans Day to-do. I wish I'd had an opportunity to get a photo, but it wasn't in view long enough for me to activate my phone camera. As today is Veterans Day, I ought indeed take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those who have served in our armed forces. You are, from this quarter, more than appreciated.

Sadly, come noontime, Ms. B.'s retreat, and our most enjoyable stay at Sun & Sand, came to an end. We did go out with a bang by having a fine lunch at LuLu's Restaurant in North Myrtle with Gerry and Bridget. On the way home, as one might guess, we stopped for a few last caches. Then, once back home, I wrote this little chronicle for posterity's sake.

Damn, that artsy-fartsy stuff is some kinda fun. Hey, Brugger, let's do it again. Tomorrow.
That's Russians out there, it's just gotta be.
Martian heat ray narrowly misses Ms. B. in a little graveyard, where we stopped to grab a cache.
Damned Martians.
Nighttime view from our twelfth-floor lodgings
Regency Towers on S. Ocean Blvd, where my family had a time-share condo for nearly 25 years

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Game of Bones

L: Cersei and Tywin Lannister; R: Mad Moo Cow and Dr. Butcher

Party time, party people! Helluva Halloween gathering at the castle of BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry) and Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget) last night. A buncha geocachers, winos, and miscreants of all stripes descended on the place, wreaked havoc, and made merry. Ms. B. and I put together a little Game of Thrones motif, while friends Terry and Beth made the most convincing Negan and Lucille from The Walking Dead since the dead ever started walking. We had BigG's frightening doppelganger, a Chick Filet Moo Cow, a menacing butcher, a vampire, Marie Antoinette (head still attached, at least as of last night), a rodeo clown with an inflated ego (and bull), Red Riding Hood with accompanying Big Bad Wolf, and other assorted creepy critters.

Thanks to Gerry & Bridget for hosting, and to everyone who came around. Here's to a hellishly happy Halloween to one and all.
Slightly Dead Lucille, Lucille, and Negan from The Walking Dead; a couple of wicked buccaneers
Mad rodeo clown has an inflated opinion of himself
Ooeey-gooey icky delicious spider
The Lannisters always pay their debts. Poor Negan!
L:Slightly dead Lucille feeling slightly dead; R: Bovines of feather flock together
"Put the damned bat down, and go wash up for dinner."
Delicious fare for our Walking Dead guests

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Creature From Black Lake

For me, the Halloween season is the time of year for nightly horror/monster movies, and this year, I have gone to town. Cryptozoological thrillers always make for favorites, so I've put on several in the past couple of weeks. Since I saw it at the drive-in theater on its initial run, 1976's Creature From Black Lake has been a perennial favorite. So I'm gonna give it the quick treatment here at what we're gonna call—at least for this Halloween week—the Drive-in Where Horror Dwells,.

I haven't had many lazy Saturday mornings recently, so this a.m., I figured it was about time for one. The coffee had barely hit the mug when it struck me that that Creature From Black Lake ought to accompany breakfast. So, along with a yogurt-stuffed crepe, three strips of bacon, and my third mug of coffee, on goes the DVD. It's an old pan-&-scan, less-than-beautiful print of the film, but in its way, this sort of brings back the old air of drive-in from the mid-1970s. (A much better, letterboxed print is available on Amazon Prime.)

The Story: Two grad students from Chicago—Rives (John David Carson) and Pahoo (Dennis Fimple)—travel down to Oil City, LA, to check out reported sightings of a direful "Bigfoot Creature" for their anthropology research project. Upon their arrival, they attempt to track down an old trapper named Joe Canton (Jack Elam), whose partner was reportedly killed in the swamps by a big hairy beast. However, as the locals don't have much interest in discussing their cryptozoological neighbor, they give the young men the chilliest of receptions. In particular, Sheriff Billy Carter (Bill Thurman) takes a dislike to the fellows and tells them not to go nosing around where they don't belong, i.e., anywhere in town.

However, a young gentleman named Orville Bridges (Jim McCullough, the movie's screenwriter), having overheard their exchange with the sheriff, tells them that, when he was a wee tot, the creature killed his parents, and he invites them out to the family place on the edge of the lake so they can have an in-depth conversation. Orville's Grandpa Bridges (Dub Taylor), at first suspicious of their intentions, eventually warms up to them and invites them to family dinner. He does give them a very stern warning to avoid bringing up the creature, since this would upset Grandma Bridges (Evelyn Hindricks). But upon hearing the braying of the family mule, an overly excitable Pahoo hollers out, believing it to be the creature on the rampage.

Boom. Next thing you know, Rives and Pahoo are relegated to the barn. And after dark, guess-what comes roaming around. Rives is able to record its cry on his tape recorder. After an uncomfortable night, they return to town, where they meet a couple of young women, Michelle (Michelle Willingham) and Becky (Becky Smiser)—the latter of whom turns out to be Sheriff Carter's daughter. Smitten and not to be dissuaded, the gentlemen invite the ladies to their campsite for the evening. Not only do Becky and Michelle oblige them, so does the creature, at least briefly, as does Becky's irate, badge-wearing dad, who pulls our heroes into the jailhouse. There they meet friend Joe Canton, who has also been pulled in, drunker than hell after another Bigfoot encounter of his own.

Once let go, Rives and Pahoo, disregarding the sheriff's admonition to leave town, return to the woods for a last attempt to find our direful creature. This time, find it they do, and the ensuing meeting proves anything but pleasant for all parties involved....
Our protags, Pahoo (Dennis Fimple) and Rives (John David Carson)
Orville Bridges (Jim McCullough) invites Pahoo and Rives out to the family place
to discuss Bigfeet over dinner.
Crusty but lovable Grandpa Bridges (Dub Taylor)
Creature From Black Lake came out at the height of the 1970's crypto-horror era, amid such luminaries as The Legend of Boggy Creek (last night's Halloween treat); Bigfoot; The Legend of Bigfoot; Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot; Mysterious Monsters; and numerous others. Although Creature From Black Lake is not presented as a documentary in the way of The Legend of Boggy Creek, the two movies could almost be considered companion pieces, with their settings being only 50 miles apart, and their styles, tones, and pacing remarkably similar. Both movies are set and filmed in actual locations — Boggy Creek in Fouke, AK, and Black Lake in Oil City, LA, and both use actual residents of their respective towns as characters. Like most such movies of its day, Black Lake is a slow burn, focusing on character development and playing up the creepiness of the setting—two elements too often missing from their contemporary counterparts. While some might consider the slow pacing a drawback, I find it relaxed without being dull, the characters well-drawn and engaging, unlike the cardboard, stereotypical teenage clowns that have populated all too many horror flicks, both then and now.

Indeed, actors Jack Elam and Dub Taylor, known for their exaggerated features and mannerisms, turn in appealing performances, both exhibiting humor and pathos in equal measure. As Pahoo, recognizable character actor Dennis Fimple—who appeared in virtually every TV show from the 1970s and 80s, as well as movies such as King Kong (1976), Maverick, and House of 1,000 Corpses—turns out to be quirky and likeable, while pretty boy Rives, played by John David Carson (also recognizable from countless 1970s and 80s flicks), starts out too cocky and smart-mouthed for his own good. As the story progresses, though, Rives learns he is not the self-assured, capable soul he believed himself to be. At the end, consumed by grief for his missteps, Rives breaks down with remorse, and Carson delivers a poignant performance. The focus on characters one can actually care about makes the difference between life and death for this film's pacing. Happily, it does live.

No movie about a monster is complete without the monster, but sometimes the reveal can be a movie's downfall. Films such as Boggy Creek kept views of the creature sparse, with little detail shown, which, given the threadbare budget, proved a wise move. Black Lake comes perilously close to giving us too much, as the few close-ups of the critter are, unsurprisingly, not convincing. However, for most of the movie, we see our Bigfoot in silhouette, in the distance, or in the quickest of cuts. A haunting shot of the thing partially backlit on a hillside after it has had a little tangle with Rives and Pahoo's van is the standout image from my first drive-in viewing of the film in the 70s. It's a matte shot, given away by a slight jiggle just before the camera cuts away, but this hardly spoils the impressive effect. A special-effects extravaganza this movie is not, but expecting one would be unrealistic. Where the monster is concerned, we do get mostly solid cinematography and effective use of suspense.

Some "old" movies that made an impression in my youth simply don't hold up to later viewings. Creature From Black Lake, however, is not one of those. It may be somewhat cruder than my first impressions of it all those years ago, and it most assuredly plays as a product of its time. Yet its solidity as a character-driven, atmospheric piece holds its own against so many later and contemporary horror stories, and I rate it among the ranks of damn-near perfect drive-in movies from those heralded days of yore.

Especially at Halloween time, this one gets 4.5 out of 5 Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis.
Crusty but lovable Sheriff Billy Carter (Bill Thurman) gives crusty but lovable trapper
Joe Canton (Jack Elam) a sobriety test. Epic fail.
There's trouble afoot for Rives and Pahoo!
What the HELL is that thing!?
Hey, kid! Don't put your lips on that thing!