Friday, February 24, 2017

Bloody Mayhem

In the early 1970s, from ages 10 to 15 or so — I, along with most of my young friends, was a bike-riding maniac, and by maniac I mean a fearless, death-defying, ever-aspiring stuntman with all the good sense of that redneck friend of yours who laughs and says "Hey, watch this!" If you've followed this blog, you've probably read about all kinds of juvenile tomfoolery that I was lucky enough to survive. But this is less about me than about my young friend Robert, a.k.a. "Rufert" (how that moniker came about I can't quite recall) who was far crazier than I when it came to daredevil bicycling.
The approach to the bridge: the ride began at the road,
seen in the upper right of the photo

You see that little bridge in the photo above? In my junior high school years, that was actually a different, even more rickety bridge, and after a long, if not terribly steep hill leading down to the bridge (see the photo on the left), there was a short, sharp incline just before the bridge. On this descent, the determined, energetic bicyclist could actually achieve some serious speed. We'd pedal hard, haul ass down the hill, hit that little incline in front of the bridge, and jump our bikes clear over the creek — at least if we did it properly. I accomplished this feat countless times, with picture-perfect form (I had earned my chops wiping out in spectacular fashion on any number of other makeshift jump ramps), and had there been a Boy Scout merit badge for Jumping Bicycles Over Long Distances, I'd have earned mine many times over.

Bear in mind, this was in the days before bikes were specifically made for rugged, off-road riding. Between Rufert, our friends Charles and Chuck, my brother, and I, we owned (or at least, thanks to our parents, had at our disposal) a fairly massive number of bicycles — mostly of the Stingray or Spyder bike variety — in various stages of repair. We'd ride one till there was little left of it, and either replace it or cannibalize parts from another to make it whole again. At any given time, I had at least two fully functional bicycles, usually built from the best-functioning parts of several. Now, I was pretty conscientious about putting together a solid bicycle, but not all of us paid such thorough attention to detail. More on this shortly.

One day, Rufert, my brother Phred, and I were riding at the area you see in the photos above. Rufert, having built a brand new bike, was keen on showing it off on a major jump over the creek. Now, there was no fault in the bicycle (this time), but one might not say the same for Rufert's situational awareness. He took off, pumping those pedals for all he was worth, and my brother and I, watching in admiration from the top of the hill, figured he was moving faster than we had ever seen him move. He hit the leading edge of that bridge at top speed, flew out into the air in perfect form — standing on the pedals, front wheel angled gracefully upward — and then yelled, "Oh, shiiiitttt!!!!" Little to our knowledge, since the last time we had come out to do some energetic bridge jumping, one of the boards about two-thirds of the way across had gone missing. Rufert's back tire came down squarely in the gap, and as if he had landed on a taut trampoline, his bike went — boiiiinnnng — straight up in the air and over the edge of the bridge. We saw a big explosion of water, heard a crunch-crack-splash, and then... naught but the dispassionate sun staring down through the trees and the peaceful chirping of birds.

Phred and I hauled ass down to the creek bank, looked down into the water, and there, sprawled like a casually tossed GI Joe figure upon a bed of not-so-comfortable-looking rocks, lay Rufert, staring dazedly skyward, the pieces of his bike scattered around him. His eyes rolled toward ours, and in a pained voice, he sputtered, "Wha- happened?"

Well, Rufert recovered just fine — he was bruised and bloodied, but there was nothing broken — and in no time at all, he had his bike put back together and was ready for the next challenge.

That next challenge was The Dirt Hill — a vacant lot up the road that was, as its given name might imply, a big dirt hill, or perhaps more accurately, an array of hills, some steep, some small, some tall. There was this beautiful, 20-foot sheer drop-off leading to a mound (where I now have a geocache called "Rodan's Jump" [GC1GEPF]) that you could ride down and then fly out into the air — far, far farther than the bridge jump. The key here was stopping before you went careening down another drop-off into big, jagged rocks a short distance from the end of the jump. Now, my first trip down this course resulted in me flying out into the air, looking up, and seeing my bicycle way up in the air, coming straight for me. I hit the ground, then got hit by my bike. Oww motherfucker, oww motherfucker, oww. But not unlike a little kid going off the high diving board for the first time, I decided to try again, and my next attempt went perfectly: a beautiful, stylish jump, and from then on, man, I was the master.

Rufert mastered this jump even more readily — he got it right the first time down. However, after his little mishap at the bridge, he may not have been as conscientious as he should have been when putting his bike back together. After several successful flights off the ramp, he mounted up again, pumped his way up to the top of the cliff, gave a premature cry of victory, and came barreling down in the grip of several Gs. He hit that mound, flew out in the air, standing on the pedals, looking for all the world like the king of all stuntmen — when his front wheel separated from the forks and went spiraling out into the air. As if in slow motion, Rufert and his bike arced downward, his eyes wider than dinner plates, and the now wheel-less forks burrowed into the ground, tossing him over the handlebars and into the rocks off the edge of the landing area. Phred and I went hauling down to check him out, peered down the hill, and saw him sprawled amid the rocks like a discarded Major Matt Mason figure whose internal wire framework had been twisted all out of shape. His eyes rolled toward ours, and in a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse on helium, he piped, "Wha- happened?"

Well, Rufert recovered just fine. Again, he was bruised and bloodied, but he hadn't broken anything except his bike. I think at this point, he was forced to pressure his folks into buying him a new one because we were by now pretty much out of spare parts.

My understanding is that Rufert grew up to be a sane and reasonably responsible adult, and I don't think he has any weird scars or protruding bits of bone as evidence of our youthful exuberance. It's only a pity that this was in the days before video because, if we could have had videos of these, I'd have worn them out by now.

Oh, to bounce around with impunity the way we used to.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Witch's Woods

On the heels of my most recent geocache hides, "The Curse of Lillian Gadwick" (GC705N3) and "Oren Grey" (GC705P2), I have set up a new night cache, called "The Witch's Woods," based on the same faux legend of witchcraft and deviltry I concocted for the former two caches (see my blog entry, "The Curse of Lillian Gadwick"). It's a fairly lengthy hike — at least three miles round trip — along the Osprey Trail at Lake Townsend in north Greensboro, but unlike at least one of the aforementioned caches, no strenuous and/or hazardous acrobatics are required to retrieve the container. No, the real hazard is venturing into the witch's territory, which begins at a long footbridge across the treacherous marsh and extends along the lake, where taking accurate coordinates is a damn near impossible task, and strange things gibber and leer at you from the deep darkness beyond the water.

Hopefully, this one will be published within the next few days, and any number of daring souls will go forth to meet their fates....

Addendum: Went out after dark to check out my reflector trail and shot a bit of video. Pardon the shaky cam.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"The Curse of Lillian Gadwick"... the name of a geocache (GC705N3) I hid a few days back out on the Osprey Trail, not too far from here, and for which I created some brand-new Guilford County folklore, since hiding a supernatural-themed cache — or two, actually — seemed just the ticket. (If you know anything about my geocaches, you know I never do anything like that.) The second cache, called "Oren Grey" (GC705P2)  follows the same legend. The story from the cache listing page goes as follows:

"One of Guilford County's lesser-known legends involves a woman named Lillian Gadwick (1723–1781), reputedly a practitioner of witchcraft, who resided in the area that is now Lake Townsend in northern Greensboro. The story goes that she lived alone in a cabin in the woods and was suspected of occasionally abducting and slaughtering children from the nearby community, then known as Capefair — though numerous investigations could produce no evidence of such deviltry. However, just prior to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a company of troops from General Cornwallis's advancing army came upon her cabin and caught her 'rendering the fat' of several young children, which she presumably intended to consume as a means to enhance her supernatural abilities. Horrified by such unspeakable wickedness, the troops hung her from a tree and burned her cabin to the ground, then departed to rejoin Cornwallis. However, the troops failed to report and, in fact, were never heard from again — except for one, who came back stark, raving mad. A scout was sent back to find the missing men but, at the site of Lillian Gadwick's cabin, discovered only a number of strange stick figures hanging from trees — forty-two to be precise, the same as the number of troops who had vanished. (Such 'witch symbols' have been referenced in literature and movies, such as in Karl Edward Wagner's short story 'Sticks' and in the films The Blair Witch Project and its sequel, Blair Witch.)

"Little else is known about Lillian Gadwick, but she reportedly kept as a familiar a strange creature called Oren Grey, which resembled a huge possum with a grotesque human face. (The witch Keziah Mason, as recounted in H.P. Lovecraft's story, 'Dreams in the Witch House,' kept a similar creature, named Brown Jenkin). Though no such creature as Oren Grey can be proven to exist, it was said to keep itself hidden in dark, hard-to-reach wooded areas, traditionally avoiding human contact except when it accompanied the witch on her unholy expeditions to abduct local children. Certain curses cast by witches who practice dark magic can supposedly alter time and space, and there were those who said Lillian Gadwick possessed such power.

"While creating this cache, I found taking coordinates in this area to be worse than problematic. Ten or so readings at exactly the same spot, taken over a period of 30 minutes, resulted in variations of hundreds of feet, and in one case, in a nonsensical set of numbers that appeared to be no coordinates that could actually be found on Earth. I left the area and returned an hour or so later, took another set of coordinates, and averaged what appeared to be the best — which I hope will get you reasonably close to the hide. While at ground zero, I took a number of photos of the area, and in some of them, a strange stick figure appeared, one of which I will post on this page. If you see such a construct on your hunt, you may be sure that you are close to the cache."

"The Curse of Lillian Gadwick" cache is, in fact, rather dangerous to retrieve (especially if you suffer from acrophobia), and I did have considerable difficulty getting good coordinates for the hide, doubtlessly due to strange, supernatural influences. But hey, if you're a geocacher and you're fearless, come visit these caches. You might even come back alive. At least a few have... so far.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Well, that was a hoot. Four Old Farts gathered early this morning for geocaching on and around the American Tobacco Trail in Durham. Bloody Rob, Yoda Rob, Diefenbaker, and Old Rodan began with a couple of quick traditional caches in a crazy busy shopping area, but then we had to adjust our elevation to go after one of Vortexecho's (a.k.a. "Gone 2 Far") ubiquitous underground culvert hides. Just to get to the entrance, we had to hack our way through a veritable jungle of briers — that nasty, tiny, barbed type that cling to you like Velcro, shredding your skin and clothes until you somehow separate yourself from the little bastards. Bloody Rob was not the bloody one today, though, because I went first and did most of the clearing of the passage to the tunnel entrance. This resulted in considerable bloodletting and the occasional hollering for Mom that would have surely prompted Mom to clap her hands over her ears and sing "La, la, la, la, la!"

Naturally, no sooner had we cut our trail through this field of natural barbed wire than we saw Diefenbaker waltzing down the hill off to our right, which he cheerfully proclaimed free of briers. This was a really rotten thing to do, but we did use his route to go back out once we had completed our errand.

Then, for us, it was a delicate dance to get across a few rocks and into the pipe without drenching our boots. Done and done. The pipe wasn't too tight, and we could walk by bending over slightly — this was encouraging. We did notice raccoon tracks and droppings along the way, and I recalled a log indicating that a previous cache hunter had encountered a coon in the pipe. Mainly, though, since it was (and is) ridiculously warm out, around 80 freaking degrees, I was more concerned about encountering Copperheads, which tend to be fond of the environment we were occupying.

At the next junction, the pipe got narrower, resulting in more than a few conked noggins, and the going became a bit slower. Then, stepping into the chamber at the next junction, I glanced up and, sure enough, there was our raccoon friend lounging on the rungs of the ladder. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and I wanted to name him George and hug him and pet him and squeeze him, but mean old Uncle Bloody Rob said no. C'mon, jeez, just because the little fellow had sharp teeth and claws...? I took a couple of photos of George, but they ended up blurry because I was also trying to hold the flashlight and keep from slipping and falling in the cramped chamber. That's him hanging out at the manhole cover in the accompanying image. (You can click on these to enlarge.)
"Hello? Is it me you're looking for?"

Anyhow, we still had a ways to go, and this pipe was the smallest of all, necessitating either crawling or — as I did — lowering to one's haunches and shuffling along a hundred feet or so through shallow water.

At last, mission accomplished. Back through the pipe, wave to George as we pass, and finally reach sunlight — and few more briers, just for good measure.

From there we began our hike on the American Tobacco Trail, found a fair number of mostly traditional hides (an old telephone in the woods was something of a favorite), and eventually made our way to Ted's Montana Grill, which specializes in bison and is thus one of my favorite establishments to frequent. Service was very slow today, but the food was incredible, as always. I figure that will pretty much take care of today's vittles, and if I actually do care to eat to anything more tonight, I can go outside and nibble on some grass.

Ta ta!
L: Old Fart #1 (scary). R: Old Fart #2 (scarier).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bottoms Up

Too busy to blog much recently, but I did want to add a personal entry since I do enjoy having some written/visual record of certain occasions. Last night, headed up to Martinsville with Ms. B., had a nice dinner at The Third Bay, where we ran into old friend Rod Berry, as is fairly traditional. Then sank some wine — even Mum joined in for a little — and watched The Blair Witch Project, which I had watched not long ago, though it had been many years for Ms. Brugger. I do rather enjoy it, apart from the annoying characters.

After the usual morning errands with Mum, Brugger and I headed down to Autumn Creek Vineyards, where we met Joe & Suzy Albanese for another happy spot of wine and stimulating conversation (a bit political, but spirited rather than ugly). One of the highlights here was a visit by Winery Duck, who made quite a few friends out on the patio. Autumn Creek's logo is a graphic of a duck butt with "Bottoms Up" imprinted on it.

Tomorrow, there will be much hiking and geocaching. Yay!