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


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