Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Big 6K

Old Man and the Tree (one of us is
holding on for dear life)

No, not my weight — or age — you wisenheimer... just a geocaching milestone. Grabbed my 6,000th cache today, in Huntersville, not far from Charlotte. Ms. B. had an art class down that way, so I decided to go along with her and spend the day caching while she was making nice pictures. I tell you, North Carolina is no longer a temperate state; it's subtropical all the way. I don't recall when I've been out in such consistently high heat and humidity. My spectacles steamed up constantly, and even where it hadn't rained for a while, the trees continually dumped water on me. Not to be swayed, of course, I put in several miles of hiking at several different parks before heading to the one called "Wrap Your Legs Around This," which I had targeted for my 6,000th find.

The cache is located in a good-sized tree, not that far off the ground, but such that it's tricky to reach. Getting to the first branch required using the car as a stepping stone, and then I had to scoot out on the limb about fifteen feet or so to grab the container. The cache placement is nowhere near as high as "Up, Up, and Away" (see "Fear Is the Mind-Killer," Sunday, June 2, 2013) but is perhaps more precarious, as there are no supporting branches to hold onto. Some might consider it foolhardy to go after this thing on my own (some did, as a matter of fact), but it was hardly the first time and won't be the last that undertaking the physical challenge is just too much what it's all about.

Several of the other caches I found were quite fun in their own right. One is called "The Bates Motel," and it's at... yes... an abandoned motel along Old Statesville Road. My kind of creepy, it is. Another was a little puzzle hide called "Put Me In, Coach," after the John Fogerty song. I tell you, this is my very least favorite Fogerty song, but now I can't get it out of my head. The only solution, I expect, is to start wailing "I Can't Get It Out of My Head" by ELO.

All in all, Kimberly and I quite enjoyed the day in Huntersville. I picked up 22 caches, bringing my overall count to 6,007. After she was done with her class, we had a couple of glasses of wine at The Corkscrew, a decent-enough wine bar in Birkdale Commons, and then some acceptable sushi at Eez Fusion, just across the way. Happily, there was also a movie theater nearby, and as we'd been wanting to see World War Z, we did exactly this thing. The movie isn't wonderful through and through but proved an enjoyable enough way to spend a couple of hours. Much of it is reminiscent of 28 Days Later, if a bit less gory. The musical score by Marco Beltrami quite stood out for me, which is a rare thing these days.

Back home to Greensboro, and now off to bed, for the old man is tired and sore, but at least not ornery. Not right now, anyway.
The setup.
The cache.                                                               Looking down.
An imposing structure near the cache. It's not much evident in the photo,
but it's high enough to be just about dizzying.

A sprawling greenhouse complex near one of the caches. Pretty sure this is where they grow pod people.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cum Park

Kids what live 600 miles away in New York City don't get to hang out with their mum and dad all that often, so it's nice when the young one graces us with a trip to North Carolina. Allison arrived yesterday and stayed the night at Mrs Death's place; today, she came round to torment... er... visit her old man. Grandma came down from Martinsville, Brugger ventured out from her domicile, and we all went out for bison burgers at Ham's. Well, a couple of us had the bison. Then we migrated eastward to visit GlenMarie and Iron Gate Wineries, which was great fun — particularly the drive back through Burlington, where there's this shopping center called Cum Park, see, and... well, yes. I've passed this place numerous times — there's a geocache there — but this particular trip, with this particular crew of juvenile adults, it's not hard to guess how things devolved. All that and worse, it was. We finished up at Simply Thai in Elon, one of my favorite places for Asian cuisine.

Kimberly and I have been watching Prison Break on DVD from Netflix, which has been mightily entertaining, so after dropping the young one back at her mum's, we spent the rest of the evening thus engaged. That, and being smothered by cats. Many, many cats.

And a good night to you too.
A spot of wine with a visitor from a strange land.
A sign of the alpacalypse at GlenMarie Winery.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dad's Day

Pa on his honeymoon, August 1956; that stance sure looks familiar.
It's Father's Day, and yesterday actually would have been my dad's 83rd birthday. It's been over 12 years since he passed away. There's not a day I don't miss him. After his long decline due to complications from diabetes, it took quite a while for me to be able to look back without the accompanying sadness. Nowadays, though, it's easier to remember all those wonderful times from days past.

In my teenage years, I always enjoyed the time around his birthday and Father's Day because it meant we were going to Myrtle Beach, where we had a time-share apartment at Regency Towers in south Myrtle. I had some of the best times of my life there, and I think those are among the days I'd most like to re-live. (Though I can't say it was quite the happiest thing ever to discover that just this morning a young girl was attacked by a shark at Myrtle Beach!)

At the other end of the whole fatherhood thing, I can't say as I ever had much in the way of paternal instincts. I was kind of thrust into the role of parent when I got married way back when, and it was one hell of an adjustment... not to mention a rigorous, ongoing learning experience. There were lots of trials with the young 'un way back in the day, but even since my divorce, my daughter, Allison, has remained very close and has proven herself a remarkable, wonderful young critter. I'm very proud to be her dad.

Happy happy day to all the fathers. Be a good one.

A rough-looking bunch! 1973, I believe.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dark Shadows: Dark Decades

On the way to "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" (GC18NT4)
Mercy, this week has been too busy to blog. A short while back, I posted that I was starting a retrospective article on Dark Shadows ("It's Business Time," May 23, 2013), which, as of tonight, is done and sent out. It proved a big one — over 7K words. Assuming it gets the green light, I'll be hollering all about it, so watch out.

Didn't even get much geocaching in this week. The only day I made it out on the trail, I decided to go for as many stages as I could of one of the few nearby multi-caches I haven't already found — "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha" (GC18NT4) — knowing full well I wouldn't be able to complete it, since even at the best of times you need a boat to reach the final stage. However, with all the rain that's swept through here recently, I couldn't even access the penultimate stage without going wading. Snakes, mosquitoes, and other creepy crawlies, which I witnessed in abundance, added no appeal to this idea. Now, last night, big old storm drove through the region, knocking down trees and cutting power all over the place, and I was without electricity for seven hours (small beans compared to a bunch of nearby areas, some of which are still out). Since I couldn't do much about cooking my own dinner, I was forced to go have delicious Thai food at Thai Garden on Tate Street. I spent the rest of the evening placing a couple of caches. Even  after that, I had to wait a fair while for power to come back on, but I'm mighty thankful it did, since the house was getting hot and muggy, and the stuff in the freezer and refrigerator was getting perilously near critical mass.

Next up is a new Lovecraftian story to start plotting. Maybe I'll head back out toward Marsha for some inspiration.
Yep, a stage of the cache is out there. I think I heard it laughing at me.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dwellers in Darkness

Trail caching is always fun, especially at night, and especially when it's an honest-to-god night cache, set up with reflectors, multiple stages, and a few surprises along the way. I put together one such cache last year, out on one of the Greensboro watershed trails, and I periodically like to go out and make sure the reflector tacks and physical stages are in good shape. When I do, it's fun to take some hapless victims along with me, just to see if they can complete the cache and get out of the woods alive. This evening, my friends Shannon (a.k.a. 3Newsomes) and Jeanne (a.k.a. Cantergirl) met me at the trail head to try their luck. Happily, most of the reflectors remained in place, and the stages were in good shape. After surviving "Dweller in Darkness," they thought it might be nice to seek out "Hellraiser," which lurks not very far away. So, off we went to the neighboring trail and hiked out to ground zero. Once there, they made fairly short work of the cache while I went to investigate what looked like reflector tacks along the trail. I was pretty sure the glowing lights weren't tacks but spider eyes, and... sure enough... they belonged to one of the biggest eight-legged critters I've ever seen.

The thing was eating a Hummer.

Good night!
Cantergirl and 3Newsomes signing the log at "Dweller in Darkness"
I saw one eat a rocking chair once.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fear Is the Mind-Killer...

There's a geocache — and a geocacher — up in the tree.
Can you see her?

...To quote Dune. Or perhaps it's that a little dose of fear is merely a useful... necessary... instrument for self-preservation. A wall, of sorts, where remaining on one side of it might be considered healthy and sane, crossing it might not.

A bit of all of these things, I would say.

I'm all about some tree climbing — within reason, of course. I have hidden lots of my geocaches in trees, some that are fairly challenging to negotiate. I have also gone after quite a few, and quite happily, that seriously stretched the limits of my physical abilities.

For a couple of them, I just decided to say, "I'm not that crazy." There is this wonderful cache just up the road that, at the very least, challenges one's physical abilities, and is, in its way, educational ("Up, Up, and Away," GC4CB1N). For example, I learned that my comfort level for going up a sturdy, very vertical tree is about forty to fifty feet. In this tree, however, the cache resides at a point some sixty to seventy feet straight up. Now, I've done many more difficult climbs, but generally within that forty to fifty foot threshold. I have to credit the cache hider, Mr. Rich "Night-Ranger" Colter, with either considerable bravery or outright lunacy — as I do Ms. Debbie "Cupdaisy" Shoffner, who went all the way up to the hide this morning and signed our names to the log.

About 11 AM, we headed out to ground zero and started up that big sucker. The climbing wasn't bad, but sure enough, about forty feet or so up there, my arm muscles started sending me distinct signals that proceeding farther might be foolhardy; a little disheartening, but I opted to take them seriously. Anyway, the last time retrieving a cache required some climbing, I did the honors — much to her dismay, since Cupdaisy is an accomplished tree-monkey and it riles her when someone steals her thunder. In no uncertain terms, she put forth that I owed her a bleeping tree. So, today proved to be the perfect time to graciously pay my debt to her. I opted to make my way earthward and take some pictures while she was still high up there in the sky.

That is my story, and I am sticking to it.

Click the images to enlarge.
In the tree, about 30 feet up, looking up
You can actually see Cupdaisy in this shot; she's about fifteen feet below the cache.
Cupdaisy coming down, here about ten feet above the ground — home free, log successfully signed.