Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Special BLUE DEVIL ISLAND Christmas Bargain


It really is high time I did this, so here it is: specially for Christmas 2011: Get an autographed copy of Blue Devil Island, by ye olde dude, at the special cut-rate price of $10.00 with free shipping. Yes. Ordinarily this book is $15.99, you pay postage, and I haven't devalued the copy with my signature. All that is remedied...for a limited time. Offer valid through the end of December or until the supply is exhausted. There are limited copies available, so it's first-come, first-served. This is a beautifully produced trade paperback from Marietta Books, with stunning cover art by M. Wayne Miller.

Here's the poop:

AUTUMN, 1943: The beginning of the American offensive against the Japanese in the South Pacific. Just west of the Solomon Islands lies a remote, desert island called Conquest, where the U.S. Navy stations a new fighting squadron, led by Lieutenant Commander Drew McLachlan, an ace pilot and veteran of the Battle of Coral Sea.

With his group of air warriors, who call themselves the Blue Devils, McLachlan soars into frequent combat with the Japanese, inflicting serious casualties upon the enemy. However, on the squadron's island home, signs appear that it may not be entirely alone, for in nearby volcanic caves, McLachlan finds evidence of habitation by unknown natives—natives that resemble no known living race, and that may yet exist in the mysterious subterranean catacombs. As the tension on the island mounts, McLachlan is forced to fight on two fronts: against their known enemy, the Japanese, and an unknown, predatory force that leaves mutilated victims as the only evidence of its presence.

As the Solomons campaign enters into its final skirmishes, the Japanese at last turn their attention to Conquest Island. In the final conflict, the Blue Devils find themselves the target of an overwhelming assault by the desperate Imperial Japanese forces—and McLachlan must face the reality that the key to his men’s survival lies deep in the dark and deadly caves of Conquest Island itself.

A few remarks about Blue Devil Island:

"...An enjoyable World War II adventure with a science-fiction plot twist. Readers nostalgic for the era's war movies and pulp fiction will enjoy the ride."
—Publisher's Weekly

"Rainey skillfully mixes military fiction with alien encounters to present a fast-paced tale of wartime heroics and unearthly terrors. Blue Devil Island is a good selection for large science-fiction or horror collections."
—Library Journal

"I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time. I was right there on the edge of my chair during the flight missions, ducking and juking along with the pilots, and I was biting my nails as the more sinister elements of the island itself came into play. Adventure. Great humor. Undercurrents of unsettling suspense and wallops of terror. Blue Devil Island...had everything I wanted from it. And more."
—Scott Falkner, The Daily Cave Reviews...

To order and get more info about the book, visit Blue Devil Island Special Christmas Offer at The Realm of Stephen Mark Rainey.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Sunday


Yeah, Black Sunday. It's back to work tomorrow, and after such a fine—and way too short—long weekend. Today, it was out on the caching trail again with Bridget "Suntigres" Langley and Lonnie "Moncure Bee Dude" Drain. Picked up 19 today, doing everything from park & grabs to terrain & grabs, my favorite being "Tadabailey's Revenge" (GC14AWB), which resides out in the middle of the Deep River, requiring negotiating a narrow rock dam out from the riverbank. In the pic at left, you see a couple of old men digging in the rocks for geotreasure. In the end, we prevailed, and neither of us went splash. Evidently, Alfred Hitchcock's ghost took an interest in our activities, as you may note in the photo below. We determined at "A Deep, Peaceful View" (GC30WGB) that some of us are completely unskilled at mathematics, while others have difficulty with the language arts: a comedy of errors turning what should have been a simple multi-stage cache into a brief trek to nowhere....

The other favorite I found on my way home—"Buckarilla, the Bridge Troll" (GC380PV), a fairly new one in the Forest Oaks area, which is exactly what the title implies. A cool hide, lurking in the darkness beneath a bridge on Woody Lane.

Today's total leaves me 46 caches shy of 4,000. An apt number as I soon go into my fourth year of geocaching. It is to smile.

Photos by Bridget Langley.

Found the little rascal!

Alfred Hitchcock's ghost is alive and well....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Smith Mountain Lake Adventures


It's a pity Ms. B. and I never get out and about finding cool places to hike, picnic, hunt geocaches, drink margaritas, etc., etc. Oh, wait. I guess we sometimes do....

A ridiculously warm November day. Mid 70s in the higher elevations. It confuses a body. But it made for an excellent day for Kimberly and I to visit Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Virginia. There were a few caches a long the way, of course, which I snagged; then we hit the park and found a beautiful little cove where we had a our picnic lunch (leftover turkey from T-day). Then it was some serious hiking after a number of caches on the various trails. One of the hunts led us to the "Moody" wall, an ancient bulwark from the early 19th century that extends along one of the peninsulas. We also came upon some stone ruins (see the old man in the photo at left), the history of which we didn't discover but which certainly set the mind of a certain horror writer all a-buzzing. At the end of the day, we came out several caches richer, a hair smarter, and a little pooped.

Margarita time!

Back to Martinsville—or technically Collinsville—and El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant, where the night's special just happened to be monster margaritas. The drinks turned out to be bigger than our dinners, which were no tiny turkeys themselves. I gotta tell you, their chori pollo—with plenty of extra habanero sauce—is superb.

Afterward, we visited the bar at El Norteno Mexican restaurant just because the margarita spirit had come upon us. We each knocked back another just for good measure, and that was all she wrote for us. A fine Black Friday for us, thank you very much, and—praise ye ghods—the only Walmart we visited was to snag a cache.

One of the scenic coves at Smith Mountain Lake State Park

Brugger hanging out on the "Moody House" wall, a bulwark from the early 1800s

Little thirst-quencher at El Ranchito

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Graveyards, Gravy, and Gravity Hill

Brugger diggin' some graves at "Ruffin Lick a Fork" (GC384QK)

And a happy Thanksgiving to you too. I love the holiday season from Halloween through New Year's...and now it's only 341 more days till Halloween 2012!

Thanksgiving has traditionally been a big family holiday for us, and for me over the past few years, a nice caching holiday. No exception today for the latter; Kimberly and I hit the road this morning bound for Martinsville and turkey dinner with Mum, and—happily—there was a relatively new cache not too far up the road. Even better, it's hidden by a little graveyard near Ruffin, NC, and Kimberly and I were delighted to find the locale very scenic and serene. The graves themselves are quite old, at least one going back to the late 18th century. (Wouldn't you know it, still no sign of the walking dead around the place. What do you have to do to crash a zombie shindig anymore? Jeesh.) I snagged the cache readily, took some pictures of the graveyard, and then realized that we were fairly close to a place called Gravity Hill, which has an interesting little story attached to it. There's a cache there, which I had found a couple of years ago, but I had not availed myself to the experience that lies in store there. We figured today would be a good day to go check it out.

It's like this: In rural Pittsylvania County, VA, at the intersection of Oak Hill and Berry Hill Roads, if you park your car on Oak Hill Road, which very clearly rises northward, and put your car in neutral, it will begin to roll, gradually picking up speed...uphill. Kimberly and I did this thing, and—sure enough—before we knew it, the car was booking up the hill with no engine power whatsoever. Disconcerting to say the least!

Then it was turkey, dressing, gravy, green bean casserole, corn, and Mum's famous cranberry salad, rounded out with Damned Rodan's own pumpkin pie. Sadly, my brother was unable to be here for the holiday, and the house seems a bit vacant without him, and thus a little melancholy. Still and all, it's been a very pleasant day. At the moment, certain other folks have gone off to nap, while I am giving some thought to certain upcoming caching activities.

Hope you have plenty to be thankful for and loved ones to celebrate with.

Click the pics to enlarge.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where the Hell Are the Undead?


Up and going before sunrise yesterday morning, heading up to the Danville, VA, vicinity for a day of biking, hiking, caching, and dining with the right honorable Rob "Maingray" Maile, Audra "Homestyle" Webb, and their respective young'uns. Our first destination was the Richmond and Danville Rail Trail, which runs about 5.5 miles between Ringgold and Sutherlin, VA. We picked up 24 caches along that route in about three hours, all without encountering the first zombie or bigfoot; a little disappointing, granted, but an enjoyable ride nonetheless. That's the Mt. Zion Cemetery behind me in the photo at left and below, and it was almost surprising that no flesh-eating dead came crawling out, since Maingray generally seems to attract such people. Alas. The only cache along the trail that we didn't pick up was one called Triskaphobia (GC2935M) because it requires special equipment we did not have at our disposal (note a certain high place in the photos below; you can guess the rest).

Once done with the trail, we met up with fellow cacher Larry "HD JP" to hunt some other caches scattered around the nearby Pittsylvania County countryside. Again, no menacing supernatural entities (what's up with that, anyway?), though we enjoyed a few darkly atmospheric settings, particularly around the old Reeve's Mill-Anderson Bridge area, where Audra got to climb a tree. Nearby barbed wire and gun shots suggested that we were either near deer-hunting grounds or a zombie killing field (I'd lay even odds), but we cleared the area before either hunters or the walking dead came our way—and we did snag the caches.

Mt. Zion Cemetery: There are dead people here, though none of them seemed
to be wandering about at the time. Dammit.


The caching party: Zachary "Homekid" Webb, Rob "Maingray" Maile,
and Audra "Homestyle" Webb


House of the Rising Sun

"Hallllooooooooo, down there!" (photo by Audra Buchanan Webb)

"Don't look down, Audra!"

End of the line?

A couple of favorite caches were provided by the mysterious stranger known as Klaussinator: Insight (GC37X4C) and At the End of Your Rope (GC37CYP), neither of which were difficult but were unique and thus memorable. One particular cache, "Shortcut Micro" (GC37128), also a Klaussinator hide, located just north of Danville, proved to be painfully difficult, due to a previous finder who shall remain nameless (Christopher "Ranger Fox" Hall) re-hiding it a bit more deviously than was originally intended. Audra again showed her dexterity by crawling under a wire fence, which ended up getting fresh with her and extricating a fair quantity of her hair. Rotten bastard fence. Having accomplished all these things, we headed back out to the Ringgold-Kentuck area for the caching event, "Turkey's Last Days" (GC366KC), at the Corner Cafe, hosted by cachers Keith and Laura McCoy. Neither Maingray nor myself had bothered to eat anything all day—not even a nibble on the heart of a small child—so we were famished. Fortunately, there was a monstrous pile of food at the event, so we satiated ourselves in very short order.

Right after the feeding frenzy, I received a message that my old college friend, Doug Craft, was passing through Greensboro and could use a place to crash. I haven't seen him in way too many years, so I immediately hit the road and met him at my place, where we tossed back a few drinks and shot the shit until one of us (won't say whom, except that it was Doug Craft) pretty much passed out.

Thus ended an exhausting but ultimately satisfying day of exercise and camaraderie—and 33 caches under my belt. Today...maybe I'll run into a few walking dead. Hell, I'll probably be one of them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Fugazy Fireball


Oh, lord, yeah...I've made me a Fugazy Fireball. Technically, times two....

This was the specialty of the house at The Holiday Cocktail Lounge, where young Shogunmouse, Mr. Andy Callander, and I myself planted our corporeal envelopes last Sunday night while I was visiting NYC. Enamored and intrigued, I decided to give this little concoction a shot on my own. While I haven't quite reproduced the original...yet...I've managed a reasonable facsimile thereof, and it's one loud, rocking drink, easily as fiery as my original Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini, and as thirst-quenching as one of Don Juan's (my favorite Mexican restaurant) margaritas. I altered the recipe in that, on top of the spicy Tabasco tequila, I added a habanero pepper. For God's sake, if you attempt this, do not light up a cigarette, your gas oven, or anything else with combustible properties; you may take out your entire town.

The Fugazy Fireball, like Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini, is simple as all get-out. I don't know if The Holiday Cocktail Lounge does it like this, but here's what I did. And it worked.

The Fugazy Fireball
(The original, to the best of my knowledge, is unique to The Holiday Cocktail Lounge.)

What You Need:
3 measures gold tequila (the spicy Tabasco variety is optional)
1 measure Pama (pomegranate liqueur)
1/2 habanero pepper
Lemon juice
Salt

What You Do:
Pour your tequila and Pama into shaker; add your habanero half and a generous splash of lemon juice. Throw in a pinch of salt. Shake like a motherfucker. Pour all contents into glass. Savor and explode.

Hat's off to The Holiday Cocktail Lounge for a dynamite original.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Manhattan Mayhem

An early morning moon over Lake Anna, VA, viewed from 25,000 ft.

It's been a long while since I've spent some quality time with the young 'un, so early Friday morning, long before dawn reared its sleepy head, it was off to the Greensboro airport to catch a plane for New York City (via Washington-Dulles). A couple of relatively brief hops later, I was on the ground at La Guardia, where I soon met Allison, though not without a wee bit of confusion. Note to kid: passengers on United Airlines usually disembark at the United Terminal. We cabbed it back to her Manhattan apartment, where she introduced me to my grandcat, Sutton, and promptly put on some episodes of Dexter, a show I've never seen, and made me watch them. Sometime later, I discovered I was completely hooked. For the rest of the long weekend, Dexter was playing constantly anytime we were not out and about. Then the nefarious child got me playing Angry Birds on her iPad, and it was at that point we began to fear there would be no leaving the apartment for several days.


The bully and the troublemaker: Allison "Shogunmouse" and Sutton Rainey

Leave we did, however—for some geocaching. There are a few not far from her place, so we went out around the neighborhood and did a little hunting (and finding) as well as grocery shopping. Since we're both operating on a fairly tight budget, we opted do most of our dining in. The kid is not a half-bad cook and, that evening, provided us with some fabulous beer-butt chicken. Last night, we had some of her homemade buffalo wings, which completely rocked (I kicked them up a notch with some habanero sauce, of course). We also discovered at her nearby grocery store these little individually packaged Table Talk pies, which we determined are delicious beyond the bounds of reason. The chocolate eclair and blueberry varieties are especially noteworthy.

Several times over the weekend, I discovered I could not shift from this position.

Saturday evening, we lit out for midtown Manhattan, met Allison's friend Andy, and paid a visit to New Hane Sushi in Midtown East, an unassuming, very small, and absolutely wonderful little joint that made us all holler a bit. I ordered the fusion sushi plate, which was a dozen different types of sushi, all served with different sauces—every one fabulous. From there, we grabbed a few caches and then headed to the Empire State Building, for a late-night visit to the observation decks. I've been to NYC a number of times, and I'd visited the top of the World Trade Center back in 1999, but this was my first Empire State Building experience. I really, really enjoyed it, particularly the 86th floor, where you can go outdoors...and claim a virtual geocache—"The Empire Strikes Back" (GC4D7F). Your ticket to the observation deck entitles you to a free drink at the ground-floor Empire Room bar, but it was closed for a private function. Thus, Shogunmouse, Andy, and I decided to discover some nearby watering holes. We tried one called The Mason Jar, which specializes in bourbon. I opted for a dirty martini; I probably should have sampled the bourbon. From there, we found a little restaurant called The Barking Dog (where a very friendly dog named Wilson actually did attempt to get service but was permitted to sit only in the outside seating area); I have no idea how good their food is, but the bartender— whose name was Sonia, I believe—treated us more than right, and we enjoyed a number of happy concoctions.

Afterward, Andy went his way, and the child and I caught a cab back to her place. Hard to recall for sure, but I think we watched some more Dexter.

New Hane Sushi restaurant on 3rd Ave.

View north from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building


L: Andy Callander and Damned Rodan at The Barking Dog;
R: There's no cache here, but there ought to be.


Last night, it was out to the Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Mark's Place, where Andy regularly plays guitar and sings at open-mic night. It's a decent little dive bar in the East Village, and it was here I discovered the Fugazy Fireball, a powerful little formula of jalapeno-infused tequila, lemon juice, and pama (pomegranate liqueur). A dynamite drink, to be sure. Spicy and tangy, with a lingering pepper burn. It was also here that I succumbed to irresistible pressure from my daughter, borrowed a guitar, and belted out a song ("Love My Way," by The Psychedelic Furs, or something akin to it). Most enjoyable. During a break, I went out for a walk through the Village and soothed my caching fever.

Today, the flights back home. All smooth, except for there being no air conditioning inside La Guardia, and the heat was bad enough to give me a case of the near swoons. Unhappy Rodan!

A couple of random New York moments. Seen from the bus while heading down to Midtown: some guy walking down 2nd Avenue carrying a car door. Today in a restroom at La Guardia: a dude farted so hard it shook the whole row of stalls. Potent wind!

Finally, a strange case of synchronicity—or cats texting each other. Sutton, Allison's special needs (and thoroughly sweet) cat, has a habit of sticking his feet in his water bowl and then jumping on people. I experienced this a couple of times, and yes, you get some kind of wet. Although Frazier has been known to dip his paw in the water bowl to test the temperature, Sutton's brand of gratuitous paw-soaking has never been among my cats' bad habits. It wasn't, I should say...until I came home. This evening, Chester and Frazier have both soaked their feet and gotten me—not to mention the floors and furniture—quite damp. Yes, I've already called Allison to air my grievances, but I'm not sure any felines were listening.

I leave now to dry off. G'night.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Plenty to Wine About

A lady of my acquaintance adding a little class to Chinqua Penn.

The Chinqua Penn Plantation in Rockingham County, NC, built in the 1920s by tobacco and cattle baron Thomas Jefferson ("Jeff") Penn, isn't far up the road from here; I've gone geocaching on the estate's nature trail numerous times over the last couple of years, but I haven't actually toured the place since I was in high school. Back in those days, visiting local wineries wasn't very high on my list of personal leisure activities, but if you frequent this blog, you've probably noted that Kimberly B. and I have taken some interest in local winemakers. Since 2005, Chinqua Penn has been making a brand of its own. A while back, we picked up a Groupon for a tour of the house and winery, so yesterday we headed up that way to give the place a look-see. Evidently, there was a fall festival of sorts going on, with numerous vendors on the grounds selling random goodies, passels of people meandering about, and a house on fire across the road. We decided to forgo watching the fire in favor of taking the tour and drinking some wine, which, for the most part, we enjoyed. Our tour guide was Calvin Phelps, the owner of Chinqua Penn his own self; an interesting enough character, though he made some news last year that wasn't exactly flattering ("NC Estate, Tourist Site Yanked in Bankruptcy Fight"; I don't know how things have actually panned out for him at this point). As yet, Chinqua Penn doesn't have many wines in their catalog, and a couple of them were underwhelming, to put it politely. They did make a decent dry red—Lenox Castle, it's called—though I'd call it overpriced ($16.99/bottle). Before heading out, we tore into some barbecued ribs from one of the vendors, which I, at least, found pretty damned satisfying. All in all, a fine enough day on the ol' plantation.

From Chinqua Penn, it was up to Martinsville to visit Mum. A very pleasant time, until we discovered early this morning that my vehicle had a flat tire. I promptly yanked it off the car and determined that an offensive screw had violated it; thus, I installed the spare tire and ventured forth to pick up a tire patching kit. I had only gone a short distance up the road, however, when I determined that the damned spare tire was also flat. Since the original tire still had a bit of air in it, I put it back on the car, drove to Wal-Fucking-Mart (at which, on principle, I refuse to shop, barring an emergency such as this one), picked up a tire patching kit, headed to the nearest gas station, pulled the tire back off the car, plugged it, pumped the irritating bastard full of air, and put it back on car. Finally...a balm in Gilead. Thus balmed, Kimberly and I made our way to El Norteno, one of Martinsville's several decent Mexican restaurants, so that we might cauterize our cares with chori pollo, taco locos, and habanero sauce.

Done.

All that was left now was to grab a couple of geocaches and then head out to Chatham Heights Park to hide a new one. A fun little fellow, it turned out to be—"Little Monster," I call it (GC37ADW; you must be a premium member to view the page)—because, well, it's little, monstrous, and mean. Kind of like the screw that violated my tire.

All righty then. On to another week in the coal mine. Dig it.

View to the east from "Little Monster"

View to the west from "Little Monster"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day of the Dead

So, after work, I went out to Northeast Park to hide a new cache, which I figured I'd title "Day of the Dead," given it's about that time of the season, and all. Imagine my surprise when I got out to the trail and ran into the fellow you see pictured above.

I also ran into this:

And this:

And this:
I've listed the new cache, a nice little two-stage multi, indeed titled "Day of the Dead" (GC371JE), which I expect will be published at geocaching.com in the next day or two. You really just don't know what you're going to find in the woods sometimes. Me, I could hardly have been more pleased.

Since all this good stuff kicked my Halloween spirit into high gear—a day late—I went on and watched Curse (Night) of the Demon, my favorite horror film, just to make it official. I can't tell you how glad I am that I decided to go hide that cache rather than just head home and cook bison burgers. Of course, after the job was done, I did go and cook those burgers. The bison were almost dead....

And here's a little spoiler I left at ground zero for stage 1 that might help those who go hunting the cache: THE DEAD WALK