Monday, December 31, 2018

It's THAT Time Again...

JUST FOR NEW YEAR'S...

STARTING TODAY1/1/19—and running for the next seven days, you can pick up my novella, The Gods of Moab, for your Kindle at the special discounted price of 99¢ (regular price $2.99).

A pleasant New Year's Eve outing becomes an experience in otherworldly horror when two close-knit couples discover a shocking secret in the darkest corners of the Appalachian mountains. At an opulent mountain inn, Warren Burr, his fiancee, Anne, and their friends, Roger and Kristin Leverman, encounter a religious zealot named John Hanger, who makes it his business to bear witness to them of his peculiar... and disturbing... faith. His efforts rebuffed, Hanger insidiously assumes control of the couples' technological devices, leading them to stumble into unexpected, surreal landscapes... landscapes inhabited by nightmarish beings that defy explanation. To survive, Warren and his friends must not only escape the deadly entities that pursue them but somehow stop John Hanger's nightmare-plague from spreading to the outside world.

"The Gods of Moab is a chilling novella of Lovecraftian horror by Stephen Mark Rainey, acclaimed author of Balak, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Nightmare Frontier, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), and former editor of the award-winning Deathrealm Magazine."

The Gods of Moab is just the ticket to put a little fear in your new year. Check it out from Amazon.com here: The Gods of Moab by Stephen Mark Rainey

Love it or hate it, Amazon.com reviews are always appreciated. Thanks!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Fairy Stone Finale

There's been a relatively new geocache at Fairy Stone Park just about long enough for it no longer be relatively new (October 15). Since I'm at Mum's in Martinsville so frequently, when there's a new cache at Fairy Stone, I'm usually right on it. But circumstances and severe weather—including major snowfall—have prevented me heading to it in timely fashion. At last, the workings of the world came together such that I might get up there this morning. It was my regular weekend to be at Mum's anyway, but I had to get to the bank in Martinsville early yesterday after she was scammed out of sizable amount of money—for the umpteenth time. I took care of as much as I could take care of under the circumstances. The highlight of the evening was an excellent sushi/sashimi dinner at Yamato.

After tackling all of the usual Martinsville business this morning, at long last, I ventured forth to Fairy Stone Park; parked in a beautifully wooded, low-lying picnic area at the base of the campground road; and proceeded to hoof it a half mile or so up the steep Fairy Stone Park landscape. Thanks to perfect coordinates and an explicit hint, I turned up the cache, called Fairy Stone State Park Manager, Mr. John Grooms (GC7Z392), almost immediately. A nicely done hide. At any rate, that'll be my last jaunt to Fairy Stone of 2018. I just hope there will be plenty more opportunities coming up in 2019.

Then I had to debate with myself whether to return to Greensboro via Reidsville, have some fish & chips (the world's best) and perhaps a drink at The Celtic Fringe, and thus settle for boring soup at dinnertime—or—head on home, have a bowl of boring soup for lunch, and then order something a bit more entertaining come suppertime. It was a very short debate. The fish & chips won out easily, and the drink—a refreshing concoction of secret ingredients (including gin, vodka, bitters, mango, sugar, and basil) called "The Fringe"—managed to lift my spirits considerably.

This evening, I have writing, writing, and more writing on the menu. I must—must—make much more forward progress in Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, my forthcoming novel in Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series. Circumstances have held me up far more than with my previous entry (West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman). Still, I'm also feeling inclined to put on one of those wonderful Hitchcock films that Santa Claus left under the tree for me at Christmas. Perhaps Rear Window or North by Northwest. That'll work up some spirit.

Over and out.
An unseasonably warm, pleasant if rather damp morning at Fairy Stone Park
High, fast-moving water after all the recent precipitation
Don't go over that edge!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Thing, The Thing, and Other Things


No matter how hectic, Christmas has generally been a time that I can put the world aside for at least a short time and relax a bit. Not so much this year. Things have been tough enough due to my mom's health issues, and my stress level spiked the other day when I learned she had been scammed again. Not at all a happy way to greet Christmas. As it stands, the next few days are going to be more than a headache. And as happens all too often, my brain latches onto the upcoming challenges and frets over them, no matter how I try to refocus it. Sometimes, I'm pretty sure an emergency shut-off switch would be just the ticket. A temporary shut-off, mind you, not a full-blown, let's-pull-the-plug power-down.

That said, the past couple of days had their shining moments, starting with a new geocache (GC81M5B) coming out just up the road a piece. I got to it in time to snag the FTF (first-to-find) by moments. I had the cache in my hand when friend Bloody Rob (a.k.a. Rob) and his little buddy Bentley arrived on the scene. Being Christmas Eve and all, I felt inclined to share the FTF honors with him. We were just about to part company when another vehicle pulled up. This turned out to be friend Rhodorooter (a.k.a. Dave) and his son-in-law Cruxclimber (a.k.a. Steve). We had an impromptu little geocaching event on the spot—and, apparently, not moments after I left, friend Smashemups (a.k.a. Fred) also showed up. Pity I missed the larger gathering, but I was happy to settle for the FTF.

Shortly afterward, Ms. Brugger arrived at my place. We packed up all our necessities, including scads of Christmas goodies, and headed out to the Grove Winery for a tasting and a glass—a Christmas Eve tradition we have observed for several years now. Then we hit the road for Martinsville and my mom's place. Once there, we threw a gift-wrapping party and partook of a very light supper (chicken salad sandwiches and chips) since we had a little social event to attend a short time later.

That event was a visit with authors Stephen and Samaire Provost, whom I've known via social media for quite some time and who recently—quite coincidentally—moved not only to Martinsville but to my old neighborhood. They live, as the crow flies, about 500 feet from our place. Of course, in Martinsville, you don't get anywhere as the crow flies, so we set out on foot and hoofed it a half mile or so up the street. This little gathering turned out to be the highlight of the holiday for me. Ms. B. and I got there at 7:45 p.m. and didn't end up leaving till after 1:00 a.m. For this, we can blame stimulating conversation, first-rate spirits, and some incredible vittles Samaire put together (I ate more than my fill, but I feel a little bad there was still quite a bit left after we all finished). When we left their place, it had gotten quite a bit colder than when we had arrived. In fact, a sheen of frost now blanketed the neighborhood. Our little jog back to Mom's through the still, silent night, with Christmas lights still burning all around us, proved to be at least as enjoyable as anything else we did yesterday.

For years now, on Christmas Eve, Kimberly and I have planted ourselves in Mom's sunroom to watch A Christmas Story, but our unexpectedly lengthy night out forced an alteration of this tradition. At least the annual marathon was still in full swing, so we watched the last 45 minutes or so of the midnight showing, and the first few minutes of the 2:00 a.m. showing. Sometime thereafter, we made our ways to bed.

A spell of that accursed anxiety woke me before dawn, and I never made it back to sound sleep territory. Kimberly got up before the sun as well to start the main course of our Christmas dinner—a big-ass London broil cooked in the crock pot—and then went back to bed. So, once we did manage to haul our asses out of bed, we were a bit slow to get moving. Still, things all came together. My brother, Phred, arrived about 11:30 a.m., and we proceeded to tear into the gifts that Santa had so kindly piled under the tree. For me, there were movies galore—John Carpenter's The Thing; the 2011 sequel, also titled The Thing; Shin Godzilla; and a nice Alfred Hitchock set featuring several of his best titles: Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. My brother got me the 50th anniversary CD/DVD of The Moody Blues' In Search of the Lost Chord, which is my favorite (or perhaps second favorite) of all their albums. I also got some clothes and a slew of edible treats. Materially, I think we all made out like bandits this year.
There are wine bottle stoppers, and then
there are wine bottle stoppers.

Brugger and I then set about preparing the day's feast, which we enjoyed no end. At the end of this proverbial banquet, the house showed every possible sign that festivities had occurred here, so, for us young whippersnappers, there followed a protracted period of cleanup, since Mom is unable to pitch in as she used to.

At last, we all said our goodbyes, and Brugger and I returned to Casa de Rodan in Greensboro. Also following what has become a Christmas tradition, we doctored up a Red Baron frozen pizza with a shit-ton of extra ingredients and cooked it for a most enjoyable supper. Just for shits and giggles, we watched a very lame yet reasonably entertaining horror flick called Don't Hang Up on Amazon Prime.

And that was about as far as my dwindling energy stores would take me this evening. I did manage to knock out this verbiage from under a pile of cats, but I'm pretty sure that, for today, this is about all she wrote. Thankfully, I've got tomorrow off, and I expect it to be a productive, much-needed writing day. If a bit of geocaching happens as well, then that'll be a desirable bonus.

Y'all send positive vibes my way as there's still a spell of stress and strife lying in wait for me in the coming days.

Hope you've had the merriest of Christmases, if Christmas you celebrate. Till later....
At the Provost place, a.k.a. Dragon Crown Books. Dunno what I was carrying on about here. Somethin'.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Fear in Fearrington


After a week of precipitation that pushed this part of NC into all-time record territory, we finally had a day of sunshine. So, the usual suspects of Team No Dead WeightOld Bloody Rob (a.k.a. Rob) and Ms. fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie)—packed ourselves off to the almost-wilderness of Orange and Chatham Counties, NC, just south of Chapel Hill. There were geocaches aplenty on the menu, and we intended to grab our fill of them.

We didn't exactly get off to a rip-roaring start. The first one we stopped for, at the Morgan Creek Trail, turned out to be missing, so we had to log a dreaded DNF (Did Not Find). Womp-waah.

On a happier note, the next one we went after, which had several DNFs logged on it, turned out to still be there. We were just about to give up on it when Ms. Fish gave that joyous cry, "Found it!" Yay for Ms. Fish!
A jolly old fellow in the woods

We then deployed to a little southern village called Southern Village, just off U.S. 501. Here, we found several nice caches and a very old, certainly haunted graveyard, around which the village has been built. After clearing this area of unfound caches, we hunted down vittles at Town Hall Grill, which proved satisfying in the extreme. A very spicy bloody mary and a turkey burger served Greek-style in a pita made for a helluva fine lunch.

For afters, we rode five miles or so down the road to Fearrington Village, where a fairly extensive trail system offered a number of nice caches. Here among the woods, we found a trove of artistic treasures, many of which appealed to my creepy nature. I don't know who the artist(s) are, but I heartily approve of the adornments to this pleasant, expansive wooded acreage. We finished out the day with no more DNFs and some very fun hides under our belts.

One thing I discovered—which I had totally forgotten about (because I might be a little old)—was that Fearrington Village is known for its belted cows. They're tubby bovines with stubby little legs. Very cute. And the signage around the place was more than a little familiar. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, when I worked for (long-defunct) Precision Typographers here in Greensboro, the ad agency that designed the Fearrington logo and associated typographic materials was one of our clients. I had typeset that stuff way back when, and here it all was again, right in front of me. What an unexpected rush of memories.

The holiday season has already been busy, and the next few days will be even busier. But hopefully relaxing as well. For the sake of my sanity, I must—must, I tell you—work in some more geocaching before it's time to go back to the office on Thursday. I must, I must, or I shall bust.

Happy horrordays.
There were thingummies watching us everywhere we went.
The sprawling, bustling Fearrington Village Post Office
Two-thirds of Team No Dead Weight killing time amid the graves
Leave the sheep alone, Rob.
Bagged a ten-pointer.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

My Memories of Donald Moffat—R.I.P.


Donald Moffat, who played Commander Garry in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), among many other noteworthy roles, has passed away at age 87. It strikes me as particularly sad since I had met him in person—quite unexpectedly—at a restaurant in Atlanta some years ago.

It was around 1990, and my (now ex-)wife Peg and my brother Phred were visiting Atlanta on one of our regular trips to Georgia. The three of us were having dinner at a sushi bar on the north side of Atlanta when a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman wandered in and sat down at the bar next to my brother, who was seated on the other side of my wife. I recognized the man immediately, and though I knew exactly who he was, my brain let out an exceptionally powerful fart, and his name simply would not come to me. I very subtly nudged Peg and said, "Look, that's an actor from The Thing. He's been in a bunch of stuff. He played President Johnson in The Right Stuff. I can't think of his name!" Peg looked at the man and shook her head. "I think you're right," she said. "But I don't know his name either."

My brother, who could sort of hear what we were talking about, shook his head and softly said, "No, it's not. You're full of it."

"But it is!" I insisted. "You know, he's in a bazillion movies—a character actor."

"No. Not him."

"Is too."

Finally, a little exasperated, Phred turned to the gentleman and said, "Excuse me, but my brother is convinced you're a familiar actor, but can't think of your name."

The man smiled and said, "Donald Moffat."

At the same volume and level of excitement as Charlie Brown responding to Lucy's diagnosis of Pantophobia, I hollered out, "THAT'S IT!"

My brother's face kind of fell, but all proved well. We sat and chatted with Donald Moffat for quite a while, finding him quite amiable and full of entertaining stories. He informed us he was in Atlanta filming a movie with "that blond kid—Ricky Schroder." (I later determined the movie must have been A Son's Promise, which I have never seen, though I suppose I should check it out someday.) We did discuss The Thing in some detail, as it was even then probably my favorite horror flick. I asked him if people often recognized him when he was out in public.

"All the time," he said, "but they think I'm their insurance man."

At that time—Deathrealm was in its heyday, so I was frequently going to conventions all over the country—I had met plenty of big-name authors, a number of movie stars, and a few other persons of note (when I lived in Chicago, I once literally ran into Tommy LaSorda—he was coming out a revolving door while I was going in. BOOM. At least he laughed about it), but more often than not it was at a con or someplace where you might expect to encounter such folks. I think this was the first time I'd met a "star" just having dinner, and, as you might expect, for the rest of that evening, I was floating on Cloud Nine.

I do still have a memento of that evening—a chopsticks wrapper that Mr. Moffat very kindly autographed, since, at the time, it was the only piece of paper I had on hand.

I have enjoyed Donald Moffat's performances in many films over the years, but to me, he will always stand out as Commander Garry in The Thing. R.I.P.

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."

PHASE I
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 go 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.
PHASE II
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, rien. Well, it was a worthy attempt. Then, as I drove in defeat back toward Chez 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....

Aaaand.....

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

Geo-Artsy-Fartsying

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