Thursday, December 31, 2020

JUST FOR NEW YEAR’S...


STARTING TODAY—12/31/2020and 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.”

Put a little fear in your new year. Get The Gods of Moab by Stephen Mark Rainey for your Kindle here.

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

Monday, December 28, 2020

Can’t Hold Me Back

Thingummies overlooking my parking spot across US 70 at Haw River. Nah, I’ve no idea.

Why, yes I did need a rigorous geocaching adventure for today. There was a relatively new cache — “Can’t Hold Me Back” (GC93Y4W) — along the Haw River in Alamance County, just north of Burlington that looked promising, so I decided to make my way over yonder. The cache listing shows a set of parking coordinates, but they are quite remote, and I knew that legitimate roadside parking exists nearer the trailhead. However, that area turned out to be so muddy I feared I might end up needing AAA if I dared plant the Rodan Mobile there. When caching in this area a few years back, I had parked along US 70, near the southern end of the Haw River Trail, so I drove down to that location to see whether it appeared usable. It did, so I went for it. Across the road, there were thingummies watching me. No idea what they are about. Anyway, parking there shaves a wee bit of mileage off the hike, but what I saved in distance, I more than made up for in terrain difficulty....

Do you remember drought? At times like this, I recollect it fondly. The Haw is running high, fast, and hard, and there is flooding all around the trail. Before I even reached Boyd’s Creek, a fair-size stream that intersects the trail — today quite swollen — I had achieved the rank of Major Muddy Mess. The creek looked to be about waist-deep, so I went upstream a quarter mile or so and found a big log to use as a makeshift bridge. I stayed dry, but given the added distance, I resolved that, on the way back, I would attempt the water crossing. 

My makeshift bridge across Boyd’s Creek

At ground zero, I found the cache in good order. My pen didn’t much want to write, but I managed to get my signature on the log. About the time I started back toward the Rodan Mobile, I saw several deer grazing nearby. Then began the gunshots at frighteningly close range. I hadn’t thought to wear blaze orange (something to consider in this area during hunting season), so I made my egress from the area wildly waving my hiking stick and whistling Ennio Morricone’s “Ecstasy of the Gold” from The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly soundtrack at very high volume.

Back at Boyd’s Creek, I bit the bullet and made the water crossing. Someone had been kind enough to tie a rope across the creek, which is the only reason I didn’t end up totally submerged, for those unseen rocks down there are slickery. Happily, the water was only knee-deep, rather than waist-deep.

Boyd’s Creek water crossing, outbound; nice that someone has tied a rope across the water
Boyd’s Creek water crossing, inbound: chilly!

I was relieved to finally reach the Rodan Mobile, although it was not at all happy to see me, since I was covered in more mud than Lon Chaney as the mummy after sinking in quicksand at the end of The Mummy’s Ghost.

So, this outing proved rather more invigorating than I had expected. Although I did let loose a colorful metaphor or two along my trek, I can’t say I didn’t have fun. So, to the cache owner, all my appreciation for the new geocache and the opportunity for another adventure!

The Haw River: very high, very fast
An awful lot of this...
...and very few of these.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Little River Regional Park

It was just friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and a grumpy old fart (a.k.a. me) on the geocaching trail today. We headed out this morning in fairly frigid temperatures, bound for Little River Regional Park & Natural Area, a few miles north of Hillsborough. The park lies half in Orange County, half in Durham County; the dividing line is clearly marked on the trails through the woods. Thanks to friend Maingray (a.k.a. Rob), eleven relatively new caches at the park, which neither of us had visited before, awaited our attention. The temperature warmed up to about 50 over the course of the day, so it turned out better than tolerable.

The trails here are quite nice, both for hiking and biking, with beginner, intermediate, and advanced trail difficulty levels for the cyclists. Scott and I put in somewhere between three and four miles on foot. We encountered a handful of folks on the trails, but for the most part, we found ourselves mostly isolated in the woods, which I particularly appreciated. We did find all the caches we hunted, so happy day.

If we’re lucky (or not), perhaps one or more of the short women will accompany us on next weekend’s outing. It’s nice to feel tall now and again.
Scott demonstrates his "I'm not really sleeping" approach to finding geocaches.
Our track (in purple) through the park. The smiley icons denote the caches we found.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Pleasant Hill Christmas


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Last Christmas was the first I had ever spent without my mom being present. In the fall of 2019, she moved to a nursing home, so Kim and I made for ourselves a mellow Christmas at the old homestead in Martinsville — “Pleasant Hill,” as Mom loved to call it (see “Damned Rodan’s Christmas Special, December 25, 2019”). Now that Mom is no longer with us, Kim and I are once again celebrating Christmas at Pleasant Hill, just the two of us. In some ways, I feel Mom’s presence now more than when she was still alive but debilitated. Over a period of years, as dementia took an increasing toll on her memory, her identity, gathering as a family became more and more emotionally difficult, especially at holidays. Now that she is at rest, I find that I feel closer to her (as well as to my dad) because time and distance have somewhat dulled the pain of experiencing her physical and mental deterioration at close range for such a long time.

This afternoon, Kim and I got off work at lunchtime, so we opted to see if we might be able to continue one of our longstanding Christmas Eve traditions: visiting Grove Winery on our way to Martinsville. Happily, the winery was open, and — even more happily, at least for us — the few patrons on the premises were soon to leave, giving us plenty of space to ourselves out on the extensive patio. We enjoyed a tasting and a glass each of their wonderful Nebbiolo. We then hit the road for the old homestead.

We had hoped to spend a nice evening outdoors in the company of our friends Stephen & Samaire, but inclement weather forced us to postpone the gathering. None of us are comfortable spending any length of time together indoors, so we’ll be hoping for better circumstances in the near future. Failing Plan A, our Plan B was to cook up a pot of chili (which we did); make some mulled wine (which we also did); bake a pumpkin pie (done); wrap presents and place them under the tree (done); and watch our traditional Christmas Eve movies, A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (done and done). As it turned out, we had so much to do, trying to also fit in a social gathering would have kept us up even later than it is (currently 2:00 AM). Now that I’ve managed to crank out this portion of a blog entry, I think I will retire for the night. What’s left of it. Until later....

Ms. B. and Old Scrooge enjoying a windy afternoon at Grove Winery

Friday, December 25, 2020
For the past decade and some change, there has generally been geocaching on Christmas Day. Over the years, though, I have cached out such a radius that no caches remain for me to hunt in reasonably close range. But this weekend — and the upcoming week, since I am off work — may offer some decent geocaching opportunities. Here’s hoping.

Since it was a very late (or very early) Christmas Eve for Ms. B. and me, we slept far in excess of our normal hours this morning. Well, I did, anyway; sleeping late tends to be Ms. B.’s typical M.O. We opened our gifts — a wonderful haul! — and enjoyed some mighty fine apple fritters for breakfast. Coffee. Coffee! COFFEE! COFFEE!! I need more....

Then, right as we sat down to an excellent dinner... boom! Migraine. I’ve had far fewer of these damned things this past year than any out of the past eight or so, but the timing for this one sure sucked. Fortunately, the headache turned out to be relatively mild.

Upon arrival back home in Greensboro, I discovered what might be a troubling issue regarding Mom’s estate. But maybe not. I hope to have it sorted out shortly.

And so, I figure it’ll be a quiet evening but a busy week coming up, with quite a few activities on the docket, some fun, some less so.

I hope you’re having a fine time of it, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. G’day and g’night.

Dad is home. Woopee.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

If Jupiter and Saturn Meet...


I couldn’t get the greatest photo of Jupiter and Saturn all but touching each other this evening, but even with the barrier of trees partially obscuring the western sky, I managed to catch a pretty good view of the planets with the naked eye. It was a beautiful, if chilly, early evening, and somehow, seeing this relatively rare event — as well as having a fine view of Mars in close proximity to the Moon (at least from our perspective) — made me inordinately happy. Of all the sciences, astronomy most intrigued me as a youngster, and I still find myself getting a bit excited over intriguing celestial events.

And of course it’s not even a little bit cool, that — according to Twin Peaks lore — when Jupiter and Saturn meet, the door to the Black Lodge swings open. I suppose this is why my arm went completely dead and I could smell the odor of scorched engine oil around the house tonight.

“Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness called the White Lodge. Fawns gamboled there amidst happy laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and laughter filled the air. When it rained, it rained sweet nectar that paralyzed the heart with the desire to live one's life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place. But, I am pleased to note, our story does not end in this place of saccharine excess. For there is another place, its opposite, of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. Spirits there care not for good deeds and priestly invocations. They are as like to rip the flesh from your bones as greet you with a happy g’day. And, if harnessed, these spirits, this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts, will offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the earth itself to his liking. This place I speak of is known as the Black Lodge. And I intend to find it.” — Former FBI Special Agent Windom Earle

I hope you get a chance to view this rare event amid the heavens, and may it make you as happy as it makes me.

“He is BOB, eager for fun. He wears a smile, everybody run.”

Decipher the Owl Cave painting, discover the way to the Black Lodge.
Tonight might be a fine night to try.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Geocaching Is Foundational

So intimated the hints on a couple of different geocaches I hunted this weekend. One in Winston-Salem, the other at Cedarock Park, in Alamance County, just south of Burlington. Yesterday, I went on a solo run around Winston, going more for caches that involved hoofing it than stopping and grabbing. I’ve become rather taken with Adventure Lab caches, which, unlike traditional caches, don’t offer hidden containers to hunt. Instead, they take you to various points of interest, where you must answer questions about specific landmarks while at the location. Usually, Adventure Labs have five separate stages, and you get credit for one cache for each stage of the Lab you complete. It’s a fun way to go after “virtual” caches while discovering cool locations. Yesterday’s Lab in downtown Winston took me to a number of historical points, some featuring statues, that I would have never otherwise discovered — which, for me, rates among the most desirable aspects of geocaching in general.

Statue of a young R. J. Reynolds, tobacco baron,
in downtown Winston-Salem

Another of the many joys of geocaching is finding great places for food and drink. Some time back, I discovered King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar, which I have enjoyed immensely any number of times now. Happily, they’re still open during the pandemic. They have outdoor seating, but as it was rather chilly yesterday, I opted for indoors — which suited me fine because, until I was ready to leave, I was the only patron in the place. A few came in just as I was leaving, but there was plenty of room to spread out, and everyone was wearing masks except when actually dining. I ordered my customary steamed oysters on the half shell, which were, as always, fantastic.

My favorite cache yesterday, apart from the Lab, was one out in an expansive area of woods; a rare commodity in the Triad, I can tell you. I had to hike a most of a mile out a semi-flooded sewer line cut through the woods, and then find an old concrete foundation where the cache was supposed to be hidden. The cache was rated only medium difficulty, but I was unable to locate it — until, just before I was ready to give up, I spied the container some distance away in the woods. Clearly, it had washed out of its hiding place. So, that turned out to be a successful venture, and I most enjoyed having all those woods to myself. Well, except maybe for Bigfoot. I’m pretty sure Bigfoot was lurking back there.

I also hunted and found a couple of caches on the grounds of Reynolda House, which is one of Winston-Salem’s most picturesque attractions. I’ve never actually been into the house, which is now a museum, but I’ve roamed the extensive grounds and wooded trails many times on my geocaching adventures. Yesterday’s visit didn’t involve a particularly long hike, but I did get to check out some beautiful areas around the gardens I hadn’t seen before. So my Winston-Salem outing made for a productive and highly enjoyable geocaching experience, even if I didn’t add a considerable number to my overall cache find count (which currently stands at 12,441).

Strollway Bridge, over US 421, in downtown Winston-Salem
A nice little wooded passage in downtown Winston
Garden House on the Reynolda House grounds
The gardens at Reynolda House
A cottage on the Reynolda House Grounds, where — if you are observant — you might find a geocache.

This morning, nasty weather dissuaded me from joining up with the Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight Irregulars for a typical Sunday outing, which usually involves a full day of it on the geocaching trail. Instead, since the rain let up early in the afternoon, three of us — friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and friend Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) — met at a brand new cache, published only this morning, at Cedarock Park. We all found it surprising that no one had logged it earlier in the day, since adverse weather rarely stymies many of the local cachers. As it turned out, we did snag the coveted (read utterly meaningless) first-to-find honors, thanks entirely to Natalie, who turned up the container in a spot I had already checked. Sometimes it is to wonder how I manage to find anything that isn’t right in front of my nose (sometimes it actually is).

After the geocaching, I turned my attention to the second season of The Mandalorian, now playing on Disney+. I had very much enjoyed the first season, and all the recent glowing commentary on social media prompted me to go ahead and splurge on Disney+ again. And boy howdy, am I glad I did. I binge-watched all eight episodes over two days, and I can safely say, this series is everything Star Wars should be. It’s got its whimsical moments, to be sure, but on the whole, it’s gritty, grim, and, most appealingly, made more for grown-ups than little people.

And I am getting down to the final stretch of my latest Ameri-Scares novel, New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies. I am hoping to have this one put to bed by New Year’s, if not sooner.

That is all.

A little fixer-upper at Cedarock Park

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday the Thirteenth

Geocaching has long been my exercise of choice. It gives me the opportunity to hike, bike, run, walk, paddle, and hunt cool shit in some of the most intriguing locations I have ever discovered. Sometimes there are car caches, sure, but my favorite hides are the ones that take me places, mostly in the woods, where I can combine the joy of the hunt with a rigorous workout. Lately, I haven’t had enough of these, but this weekend made up for some of that deficiency.

Yesterday, on my return to Greensboro from Martinsville, I detoured over to the Knight Brown Preserve, near Belews Lake, to hunt a relatively new cache, located at the farthest northern reaches of the trail system. The terrain here is moderately rugged, with significant ups and downs as well as rocky, root-laced, natural surface trails. The preserve lies a fair distance out in the sticks, but during the pandemic, people have been flocking to trails, however remote, to get that much-needed exercise. Not unexpectedly, I encountered quite a few vehicles parked at the trailhead, and a good many folks on the trails themselves. Happily, the cache took me far enough out to avoid most of the population.

Back home, Ms. B. and I set to work on the kitchen, scraping off the popcorn ceiling, removing light fixtures, and patching and sanding walls. Things are coming together, but there is still a ton of work to be done for the full renovation. That was far from as much fun as geocaching, but there was, in fact, yet more workout involved, so I ended the day pretty well exhausted.

Told Scott to look unpleasant, so he did.

This morning, I met friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) — the only other member of the Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight Irregulars available today — at the Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area, a short distance south of Burlington. We had hunted a crop of new caches there a few weeks ago, but a handful of new ones had popped up a short time back, as well as at nearby Saxapahaw. We made those our targets for today. As with the Knight Brown Preserve, we encountered a good number of hikers on the trail, but we ended up far enough off the trails to hunt the geocaches in solitude. Happily, our hunts were successful. The trails here take you up and down many steep, rock-strewn hillsides, and after finding the last of our targets, we opted to forego the trail and bushwhack down one the steepest of the steep inclines. It cut off some distance, to be sure, but increased our cardio exercise three-fold, I would wager.

After Cane Creek, we set a course for Saxapahaw and a couple of new caches along the Haw River. The hikes here were short and easy, but the locations were scenic. The first one in particular, which led us to a Boy Scout camp along the river, bore an agreeable Camp Crystal Lake-ish atmosphere. We never did see Jason Voorhees (or his mum), but I think I made Scott nervous during our outing there, so my work was done.

A nice view of Saxapahaw Dam from the trail
After finding both the caches along the trail, we made our way to the Saxapahaw General Store, which — fortunately — wasn’t very crowded and offered decently spaced outdoor seating. So, we opted to grab lunch here, which, as is generally the case, turned out to be mighty satisfying. By the time we left, the crowd was getting larger, so our timing proved propitious.
 
The weather was all too summery for December, but at least the day turned out right pretty after some rain last night. Here’s hoping next weekend will offer another good cardio/caching opportunity.

Adieu.
The Haw River seen from the trail in Saxapahaw
Boy Scout camp near one of the caches. A bit of Camp Crystal Lake atmosphere going on here....
Scott nervously signs the log, fearing some frightful fiend doth close behind him tread.
Yeah, there was something fearsome watching us from the vicinity of the river. I think it was a duck.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A Random Driver’s Ed Memory


Back in high school, my driver's ed instructor was the late, great Coach Robert C. "Husky" Hall, who passed away back in April. He was, to me, a bona fide folk hero. Champion basketball coach, golf team coach (in my senior year, I graced — or disgraced — the golf team with my presence), and quite possibly the most notorious driver's ed instructor in the history of driver's ed. Coach Hall took no guff, and you usually had exactly one shot at performing to his satisfaction. He had a big old class ring with which he would happily thump you on the head if you displeased him. Thankfully, I never got thumped — or if I did, the blow was sufficient to erase my memory of the event.

I admired Coach Hall and felt fiercely loyal to him. He was my kind of curmudgeon, even when I was on the receiving end of his ire. I have quite a few memories of him, but the most vivid was my first time out on the highway behind the wheel, with him keeping an eagle eye on my every move.

I was heading out US 58 eastbound, just beyond the Martinsville city limits. I'm doing 53 mph, hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, feeling very comfortable driving, as my dad taught me a year or so before I started driver's ed.

"How fast are you going?" Coach Hall asks.

"About 53."

"Son, what's the speed limit?"

"55 miles per hour."

Coach Hall reaches over, shoves down on my knee, so I end up flooring the accelerator.

"Son, what's the speed limit?"

"55 miles per hour."

"How fast are you going?"

"80 miles per hour."

"Going a bit fast, aren't you?"

I point to his hand, still pushing down on my knee.

"Ah!" he says. "Don't make me do that again."

"Yes, Coach Hall."
 
So that might have been damn near traumatic, but later, he gave me his official "best driver in the class" endorsement by dragging me out of a class I didn't much want to be in to drive him to Bassett, about 20 minutes from Martinsville. He apparently had business at the school there and figured it was a good opportunity to give me some additional experience. That sure made me proud, and this time around, he was as nice and cordial and not-at-all curmudgeonly as a gentleman could be. And that was how he continued to be with me — until I joined the golf team.

How I managed to escape the thump to the head during that spell remains an unsolvable mystery.

Friday, December 4, 2020

More Sweet Than Bitter

Tonight, I made a drink and put the Christmas tree up at the old homestead — which I hope I can do for a long time to come. Last year, Mom was in the nursing home, so she wasn't here with us for the holidays; putting up the tree then held a special significance for me. It was even more so tonight, now that she is gone. I found a bunch of old ornaments that she had made by hand many years ago, and this reduced me to a big old weepy mess. But in its way, it was a sweet and wonderful mess. It’s kind of a weird feeling, but I am feeling things other than anger, frustration, and bitterness. That’s bloody beautiful to me.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Geocache Adventures Podcast


A while back, the proprietor of geocacheadventures.org, Ms. Amie Tilk, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in appearing on the Geocache Adventures Podcast to talk about geocaching and my first Ameri-Scares novel, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman. Well, what do you think? Geocaching, the Mothman, yakking with another avid geocacher... well, yeah. I jumped on that.

So, if you can stand the exuberant goings-on, hop on over and give it a listen.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Happy Fogsgiving

I think it’s safe to say I have never seen — or at least driven in — fog as thick as what’s out there tonight. I damn near got lost in my own neighborhood. I mean, I couldn’t even see my own driveway as I drove up to it. A fog advisory came in on my phone earlier this evening, and it was apparently no joke.

While Thanksgiving Day was mellow and relaxing, it wouldn’t have been any different for Brugger and me even if there were no pandemic. After several years of gatherings with Mom in the grip of dementia, which made for some measure of stress during the holidays, Ms. B. and I were all about enjoying some special time for the two of us. Last year at this time, we had just moved Mom into a nursing home, so it was the first Thanksgiving in several years that we were able to truly relax. And now, with Mom gone, it’s actually easier to feel some of the warmth we all shared during happier times in the past.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday tend to offer up geocaching opportunities, and today was no exception. A couple of newer hides on the university campus over in Elon awaited my attention, so I headed out mid-morning to see what I might make of them. One was a find, the other was not, which surprised me not at all, as the coordinates are apparently some distance off-target, and after having been live for over a week, no one has yet found it. I did enjoy the hunt, though, especially as the campus was deserted and I could search unimpeded in what would have otherwise been a very busy location.

Brugger and I shared dinner prep duties, augmented with some exceptionally good mulled wine she concocted. Dinner was the very traditional turkey, stuffing, smashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and Toblerone cheesecake. I fixed up some killer deviled eggs for starters. It were a damn fine feast, that’s what it were!

For the afternoon and evening, we entertained ourselves with a triple-feature film festival: 1917, The Hidden, and Return of the Living Dead. A fine progression it turned out to be — from serious brilliance to silly alien shoot-’em-up action to hysterically funny fluff. Believe you me, I will take it.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day proved as satisfying. I know many are struggling with the inability to enjoy traditional holiday gatherings with friends and family. But if you are, please know you are doing the right thing for yourselves and others. I know too many people who have suffered from the effects of COVID-19, either themselves or their loved ones. You must know I lost my mom to COVID-19. I personally know many health professionals who are on the front lines. My daughter is a medical researcher at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC. The people who understand this threat best, who are putting themselves out there to get us through it, deserve to be respected. To be honored. Do the right things. Protect yourselves and your neighbors. Please.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Borderlands 7 Is in the House

It is no exaggeration to say that placing a tale in Borderlands has been one of my longest-held aspirations as a writer. And this turned out to be the year. My surreal, grim, ever-so-cheerful (or not) tale, “Escalation,” can be found in Borderlands #7, hot off the press — my contributor copy arrived yesterday. It’s a gorgeous hardback edition, signed by all the authors in the anthology. For all its putrescence, 2020 can claim at least one shining moment (there have been several, actually, but those are not the point here).
 
Borderlands is a continuing anthology series that has garnered awards and praise for its contributors and editors for more than twenty-five years. Each volume is a non-themed gathering of stories that push the boundaries of genre fiction with provocative tales of the surreal and the weird. Edited by Tom and Olivia Monteleone, this edition includes fiction by the following authors:

Meghan Arcuri
Michael Bailey
Gary A. Braunbeck
Michael Scott Bricker
Cory Cone
Roby Davies
John DeChancie
Louis Dixon
CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
Felicia Lee
Bentley Little
Lisa Mannetti
Richard Christian Matheson
Robert McCammon
Donna J. W. Munro
Stephanie Pendley Paul
Bill Pronzini
Stephen Mark Rainey
Lucy A. Snyder
Daniel Waters
Tim Waggoner
Paul Wilson
Leo Zaccari

For your consideration, here is a little teaser from “Escalation”:

The elevator doors slid open, revealing paneled walls the same dark color as the guestroom doors. Greg stepped in. After hesitating a moment, Hager followed.

Inside, there were only two buttons — one for up and one for down. None for individual floors.

The doors slid shut. The car did not move.

Hager glanced up, saw no floor indicator above the door. He pushed the up button. With a smooth whir, the car slid into motion, and Hager felt his stomach lurch. They were going up, all right. And fast.

“How many floors are in this hotel?”

“I’m not sure. Twenty, maybe.”

“Jesus. We're really moving.”

The car kept going, and Hager felt his knees going wobbly. "How the hell high can this thing go?”

“We can't be moving as fast as it feels.”

“But we are. We are.”

“This is fucked up.”

The car kept going.

#

Visit Borderlands Press here.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Divine Llama or Bust

Sometimes, you get et by the tree

For geocaching numbers, yesterday made for couple of fun ones. A pair of new caches published in Danville on Friday evening, while I was in Martinsville. I figured I could swing over to Danville and pick them up on my way back to Greensboro on Saturday morning. As luck would have it, a new geoart series came out near Reidsville, also close to my route home. One of the Danville caches lurks at a pretty awesome spot: a Monacan Indian burial mound. Chalk up another location I would never have discovered if not for geocaching. Anyway, I snagged the coveted first-to-find slot at 11:21 a.m. on 11/21, which I found kinda cool. And after grabbing a bunch of the new series, my cache find count came in at 12,345. Also kinda cool. WELL, IT IS FOR SOME OF US GEEKS! (Note that I am really not a geek. No. Really.)

Today’s Sunday geocaching crew wasn’t much of a crew — just friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) and this old man. Bright and early, we set a course for Winston-Salem, figuring we would hit Bethania and C. G. Hill Memorial Park for geocaches, then wander toward Divine Llama Winery, a short distance northwest, for refreshments. Sadly, Bethania turned out to be a bust. Due to massive flooding from the heavy rains a couple of weeks back, it was clear the entire trail system had been underwater. All the caches there — four of them — had gone missing. By now, they may be floating around in Cape Fear or someplace. Most disappointing.
Scott finds a big honking
nano in the woods

However, at our next port of call — C. G. Hill Memorial Park in nearby Pfafftown — we experienced no such misfortune. All the caches there turned out to be present and accounted for. We also discovered an impressive work of nature: a massive poplar tree some 600 years old, hollowed out due to a lightning strike unknown centuries ago. That tree has seen a lot of history, including sheltering a farmer's livestock during a northern raid in Civil War days. Intriguing stuff.

We then set our sights on Divine Llama Winery, by way of a puzzle cache, the coordinates to which I had solved a few weeks ago, along the Yadkin River. At the cache site, however, we again met with ill fortune. The flooding here exceeded any I think I have seen in this area. A layer of sand and silt several feet deep now covers god knows how many acres around the river. The area in question is where a group of us, Scott included, put our kayaks in the river a few years back, when I went after my 7,000th cache (“No Acercarse,” May 18, 2014). Due to the flooding, the whole place is unrecognizable, and I wonder if the parking area will ever be restored. Or will it simply be allowed to return to nature? I can’t help but think that excavating the parking area would be prohibitively expensive.

Anyway, at last, we made it to Divine Llama. A crowd was already gathering, and it grew prodigious to what would have been a disconcerting degree had they not done such a good job spacing out seating and such. Everything was done outside, and people were very good about wearing masks and taking the proper precautions. As I always do, I kept plenty of distance between the Randolph County Rabble (i.e., Scott) and me.

We finished things up by grabbing a couple of newer hides in Bethabara Park, and I stopped for a lone  hide in High Point, not far from the office (which I hope to NOT have to return to once the pandemic subsides). Anyway, it’s been a fine weekend for geocaching, quality time with Brugger, writing, and getting some necessary business taken care of. Lordy knows, tomorrow it’s back to ye old salt mines. Happily, for a while yet, the salt mines are still just downstairs, rather than twenty freaking miles out Interstate 40.

Laters.

About the ancient poplar

New sand dunes along the Yadkin River
Keeping a respectable distance from the Randolph County Rabble
Old feller at Monacan Indian burial mound

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Monster Stars, KVegas, and Korner’s Folly

The Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight IrregularsMs. Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Sir Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), and a way-out old dude — managed to regroup today after too long a separation due to factors beyond reasonable human beings’ control (note that only one of us is reasonable). Since our last outing at Tanglewood Park, near Winston-Salem, NC, a few months back, a number of newer geocaches have been published, so we decided to dare the forecast for rain this morning and undertake a near-six-mile hike through the park. Hike we did, find caches we did, and get wet we did not. Well, not very, anyway. The only rain was a few drops that spat on us for about 30 seconds. Fortunately for us, that was the extent of it, for we had reached the farthest point of our hike when the dribble began.

A touch of fall color

Every year, Tanglewood Park puts on an extensive Christmas festival of lights, which draws crowds from all over the state and beyond. I have never experienced this spectacle for fear that the human multitudes would send me into a fatal apoplectic fit. However, as the show begins this coming week, the park has been fully decorated, the framework for bunches of impressive light sculptures erected. I can’t say I wouldn’t love to see the event as it was meant to be, but I would kind of like to survive the experience.

Following our scouring of the park, we moved back eastward to Kernersville, where a new-ish Adventure Lab cache — “The Hot Spots of KVegas” (GC923TV) — had come out a couple of weeks back. Kernersville is an attractive, pleasant community halfway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem — or would be pleasant if not for the goddamn over-saturation of humanity that has resulted in almost perpetual gridlock, even on off days such as Sunday during a pandemic. On the plus side, we got to re-visit some of the areas that Ms. B. and I have frequented over the years. When we were still working in the office, we were close enough to Kernersville to spend a fair amount of time there, since they had several nice dining/wine and eclectic shopping options (not to mention geocaches). Today, our hunt began at Korner’s Folly, Kernersville’s most notable historic building. From there, we hoofed it to several other stops in town before moving on to the final stage.

Triad Park, just east of Kernersville, turned out to be our ultimate destination. To locate the physical bonus cache, we had to gather information from the Carolina Field of Honor, which is an impressive tribute to NC veterans. We found the cache, all right, and that turned out to be a fitting end to the day’s adventure.

And what a week I have coming up, workwise and otherwise, as I am now going hard about the duties of being executor to my mom’s estate. For every hurdle I cross, two more pop up. A long, slow, frustrating process this is. But everyone warned me it would be. Everyone spoke truly.

Till another day.

Monster Moravian star at Tanglewood about to devour two unsuspecting victims
A charming little church at the park
An old graveyard in the middle of the park, which was built around it.
Another nay-sayer. What a poor attitude!
Korner’s Folly in Kernersville, one of the town’s most attractive historic buildings
A nice little corner behind Korner’s Folly