Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ending the Year With a Boom and a Clamor

I woke up this morning with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in my head, lord knows why. When I was a youngster, my folks had a Mercury album version, conducted by Antal Dorati, recorded in 1955, I believe. It featured a fabulous orchestration of the piece, followed by a narrated account of how the sound effects (cannon and bells) were compiled for the recording. I used to listen to the album endlessly when I was around four or five, and I probably haven't heard that particular version since I was around ten. I figured I'd look for it on YouTube, on the off chance I might find a decent recording of the music.

The entire Mercury album was the first thing that came up on my search. And what a treat to listen to the narrative for the first time since I was just a wee lad. Sometimes, I really do love the InterWebz...

It's in three parts, so I'm putting the links here. Don't know if you'll enjoy it as much as I do, but it is a brilliant piece, after all.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

May you have a Happy New Year. Or at least one that stops shy of hideous.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Bald Knob for Christmas

Damned Rodan at the crest of Bald Knob, just before sunset

A mighty fine Christmas Day, I have to say. Kimberly and I came to Mum's last night, and this morning, my brother arrived. We exchanged some very nice gifts, including some decent clothes for me (some would say it's about time) and a digital camera for Ms. B. Following the traditional afternoon feast, Kimberly and I headed up toward Rocky Mount, VA, to hike up to Bald Knob Ridge to hunt a relatively old geocache. Not a long hike, but somewhat arduous going up the steep incline. I knew from the cache description that there was supposed to be a decent view of the surrounding countryside from up there, but it far exceeded expectations. We reached the summit just before sunset and discovered steep, craggy rock faces covered in lichen and cacti. We had fantastic views in all directions and took a slew of pictures. The cache itself was fairly challenging because it had been moved from its original coordinates, and making my way up and down the rocky incline was at times rather treacherous. At last, I managed to locate the thing and sign the logbook. Once back at the bottom, we headed off to another nearby cache and then back to Martinsville, where we paid a brief visit to our old friends, the Wickliffes, who made sure we were properly fed (they clearly have not paid attention to the universal admonitions never to feed the Damned thing). I have to say, though, after our exertions on Bald Knob, the chow—and the wine from The Grove Winery—really hit the spot.

Happy horrordays to the lot of you. Niters.

Click on the images to enlarge.

Don't look back, Brugger, it's a long way down!

From the summit: view to the north

From the summit: view to the south

Saturday, December 24, 2011


It probably shouldn't, but this sign at The Grove Winery makes me laugh.

Shopping done...presents wrapped...presents suffer cat damage...presents re-wrapped. Yesterday, caching all day with Mark Case in Burlington; I think I logged eleven. This morning, up with the sun, out to Friendly Center for a couple of last-minute deals. Then...oh Yesu...I'm out of cat litter, so it's off to WalMart. Blech. Next...a quick cache, and then the Grove Winery with Kimberly for a picnic and some wine. All is well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


So here I am down in this underground pipe. What's that sound? A dreaded subterranean bigfoot, perhaps...?

A little while back, I was getting somewhere near finding my 4,000th cache when talk of going after "Triskaphobia" (GC2935M) came up among a number of local cachers, most of them significantly madder than I. So of course I said, "Absolutely." Come last night, I was four shy of 4K, so I went out in the rain and snagged them. Then, early this morning, it was out with a group of cachers from both near and far (well, as far as the NC Triangle), and—armed with what we hoped was the proper equipment—we set out to conquer this dreaded three-headed beast. I didn't quite know what to expect, other than at least a portion of it involved negotiating some extreme terrain. Stage 1, we determined, was a walk in the park. Wait...did I say "park"? Not park. Dark. Stage 2: that's where Audra "Homestyle" Webb comes in. She's bad, she's mad, she's...hitting the heights. Quite literally (see photos below). As she made her way to perform the necessary task, there was much jubilation from the peanut gallery: cheering, singing, and a jovial young voice yelling, "My mom is committing suicide!" Happily—at least for the rest of us, as it would have made proceeding a bit tricky—there was no gory death involved. Onward to Stage 3, where Mr. Ken "Alethiometrist" MacDonald donned the necessary gear and made the descent into the hairiest of heights. (Again, see photos.) But...oh, shock! There's nothing where there ought to be something. One of the previous finders confirmed that we were right where we were supposed to be...but nature or something more insidious has made off with a key puzzle piece, and we must rely on the wisdom of others to acquire the necessary information. Fortunately, we are able to continue, and only a short time later, I'm striking find #4,000 with my hiking stick.

To be sure, "Triskaphobia" ("The Fear of Three") is not a cache for the faint of heart, small animals (including wallabies, wombats, and woosels), or badly drawn cartoon characters. Those of us who made the journey today must sincerely thank the members of the first-to-find group who shared essential wisdom with us, or we would never have managed to reach stage 1, much less any stages that followed. Compared to what they went through to get the smiley, ours was a picnic at the beach (minus the ocean, sand, food, etc.). But the adventure made this one of my most memorable caches, and surely a fitting object for my 4,000th find. Granted, had it been my 333rd, I would have surely captured the kharmic energy of the entire universe, but since it wasn't, I didn't, and just never you mind.

Click on the pics to enlarge.

In the men's room at the Corner Cafe. Here is wisdom.

Audra makes her way toward one of the stages of "Triskaphobia" (GC2935M).
Don't look down, Audra!

Onto the dangling ladder. Definitely don't look down, Audra!

Audra doing what she does best: singing karaoke in very strange settings.

Ken "Mr. Alethiometrist" MacDonald getting fitted to hunt for another stage.
"Don't you have this in pink and blue?"

Damned Rodan hits 4,000 finds. We R Team "R We Stoopid?"

After all this, Audra, Lonnie "Moncure Bee Dude" Drain, Larry "HDJP" Roach, and I went out and about into the wilds of Pittsylvania County to hunt some more unsuspecting caches. We found a few, all very nice...encountering several other friendly neighborhood cachers on more than one occasion. Alas and alack! At one particularly scenic spot—right amid a sea of squishy soft mud—Larry ends up with a flat tire. It's quite the job to make reparations here, as jacks sink and collapse, spare tires fail to cooperate, and a dead deer lying nearby keeps giving us very hard stares. Eventually, however, we prevail and are back on the road again. A couple more highly entertaining caches—more for the surrounding scenery than the caches themselves. An old delivery truck rusting away peacefully in the woods (at least until Audra tries to drive it away). A haunted house that suddenly comes alive with the sounds of demonic laughter...oh, wait, that's just Audra's young'uns, Zachary and Amanda. But no...oh, lord, they're way over yonder, and the mad wailing is coming from within the old, abandoned ruin. Oh, dear, it's just Lonnie, as giddy as a ghoul in a house of a thousand corpses. Getting him out of the place is harder than changing Larry's tire.

Then it's off to the Happy Holidays event (GC366M4) at the Corner Cafe in Ringgold, where we have sixteen tons of fabulous food and a bunch of cache containers for the Dirty Santa exchange. Yay! It's unbelievably good stuff, since I haven't eaten in a month. Or at least since this morning, which is just like being a month ago, given all that we fit in today.

Martini time. And where's my damned masseuse?

Near "A Permanent High" (GC2ZY2K): Cache on delivery!

At first, just ghostly.

Good Christ! Zombies! Would you go caching with these creeple people?
If you said "yes"...ten points from Hufflepuff.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Special BLUE DEVIL ISLAND Christmas Bargain...Kaput

Thanks to a flurry of orders, my stock of autographed copies of Blue Devil Island is now sold out, so that's all she wrote, at least for now. I appreciate all who picked up copies, and I hope you enjoy the book—or, if it's a gift, that the recipient won't curse your name (and mine) for all eternity.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


With Ms. B. at Wine Styles. The young'un is the photographer. We're not laughing with her,
which can only mean....

December 9 to December 11: Daughter here, working on short story, office Christmas fest (and feast), Wine Styles, working on short story, Zen sushi, Chapel Hill, working on short story, RDU, daughter gone, Benjamin Winery, working on short story, Hyco Lake, Piedmont College Trails... Holy ghods, was there a weekend?

Old dude is a little sore after a lot of hiking and caching today with Audra "Homestyle" Webb and her daughter in Person County, NC—at Hyco Lake and then at the Piedmont Community College nature trail. Nothing terribly menacing to life and limb, just a fair bit of up and down over a few miles of terrain. Another 14 caches under my belt, and I'm seven shy of 4,000.

Mark has a teachable moment. Way back, a while back, I was hiking along the Haw River and photographed an odd device that I thought might be a Martian fighting machine. Found one at Hyco Lake and got to examine it at close range. It's just a critter feeder with a camera mounted on it. Go figure! Of course, this does not mean the Martians are not invading.

And now back to writing. Must...finish...short story.

L: Audra taking a picture of the photographer, with the Martian fighting machine looking on.
R: A marker for the Frisbee golf course, or a talisman to hold spells for all kinds of unspeakable rites in the dark forest? You decide.

L: Audra discovered Wilson!
R: The tree grew around the cache container, popped the lid off, and made it
a permanent fixture. We signed the container itself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dirty Santa!

Now and again, you just have to offer a special tip of the hat to somebody, and I'm going to tip mine to cachers Jeff and Annette "Rhett and Scarlett" Campbell for placing "Dirty Santa" (GC38QY7) over in High Point. It's a big honking Tupperware bin full of wrapped presents for the first fifty finders, there or about, and I went out after the thing last night, shortly after it was published. Turns out, I was the second to arrive on the scene, and based on the logs, several other cachers came out shortly after I left. I ended up snagging a ready-to-go lock-n-lock cache container, which comes in particularly handy, as I'm looking to put out a few new hides in the not-so-distant future. Just to give a little something back, I left an autographed copy of Other Gods...hmm...which might end up scaring away some cachers, who knows....

I did kind of get run off from the greenway parking lot by a ranger, since I had parked there after dark, and this is apparently a big no-no. Okay, so I won't do that again. At least he was cordial enough, so it didn't spoil the evening—particularly since I managed a couple of first-to-finds on other caches, hid a new urban micro, and grabbed some sushi for dinner. I tell you, this is the stuff that makes caching extra rewarding; "Dirty Santa" couldn't have been cheap to put together, as there's evidently some mighty nice goodies in that bin! I reckon Rhett and Scarlett are pretty much okay for a couple of mean old grinches.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


That there is Noah Stonefield—resident Bengal cat at Stonefield Cellars Winery in Stokesdale, NC. Went out that way last evening with Kimberly and the young 'un, who is in town helping to look after her mother following some fairly serious surgery. Stonefield's not a very large place, but they've got a decent catalog of wines, with some particularly good red varieties (my color of choice). Last night was their holiday open house, which meant free tastings and 15% off purchases; needless to say, this made for some mighty attractive bait, and we laid into it.

Without question, Stonefield's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and their Reserve Malbec are the best they have to offer. I'm also very partial to their Sangiovese and "Barrel X" varieties. Not quite as much to my liking but still most interesting are "Mountain Mama Madness" (available in both white and red) and "Dread Pirate Robert's Bloody Red" (which I usually cannot resist purchasing, even if it's not my favorite of the flavors, just because the packaging is awesome).

Stonefield is a scenic enough little spot, particularly now with their abundant Christmas decorations about the property. They have a rather charming little outdoor area with a fire pit and several tables, so since the weather has been unseasonably warm (in shirt sleeves in December), we sat outside after the tasting and each drank a glass—their warm mulled spice wine, which was indeed delicious.

After this little venture, we made our way over to Winston-Salem for another little wine event at our friends Terry and Beth Nelson's place—snagging a few caches en route, of course. Lots of food, drink, and good company. A Chilean Cabernet, a brand called Calina, also caught our attention here.

Today, it was out on the geocaching trail for most of the day; added a few more to the total, so now I'm 32 shy of 4,000. Lots of flesh wounds from hacking through brier hell today. I might need a spot of wine to recuperate....

Young'un with the old man. Apparently, her face is stuck like that.

Hmm. Looks like she might have gotten it unstuck, but I'm not sure it's going to last.